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Military K9 gets final honor as partner drapes remains in American flag

An unsung military hero has received a final honor

Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Smith found out that his former partner-turned-pet was going to have to be put down.

Bodza was paired with Smith during a deployment in 2012 to Kyrgyzstan. But while Bodza was a working dog, meant to keep his partner and national interests safe, Smith considered his partner a gentle giant.

"He was trained to bite, but I swear he only did it to make people happy. He had no interest in the world of hurting anyone," Smith told Inside Edition.

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When Bodza was retired from service two years later, Smith's superior had a surprise for him.

"They went out and put a bowl, a brand-new leash and two collars, and they put (Bodza) at the back of my Jeep. I got to take him home the same day he retired," Smith said.

Smith noticed last year that his companion wasn't doing well. 

He thought a case of hip dysplasia prevented the dog from being able to jump into his vehicle. But he eventually realized that Bodza was in pain and wasn't able to easily walk, Inside Edition reported.

Bodza was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy. Smith made the decision to put Bodza out of his misery.

That day came last week.

"I just kept holding him, rubbing and kissing his head, telling him, 'I'm going to miss you'," Smith said.

When his bosses found out what was happening at the veterinarian’s office, they went there to give Smith and Bodza their support.

Then asked staff for a special honor: the building’s American flag to drape over Bodza to honor him for his service. 

A soldier drapes an American flag over his former military dog partner's body after he is put down. https://t.co/hw7m0UNQqT pic.twitter.com/VFRw9PU6lq— Inside Edition (@InsideEdition) March 7, 2017

"The worst thing you can do is not to recognize these dogs for what they are. For these guys to do this for a dog they've never even met... he got a good sendoff that day," Smith told Inside Edition.

Marines accused of sharing nude photos of female colleagues, reports say

Hundreds of United States Marines are under investigation after allegedly sharing photos of nude service women and veterans, multiple media outlets are reporting.

According to the New York Daily News, the Marines may have shared hundreds or even thousands of nude photos in a private Facebook group since Jan. 30. The Center for Investigative Reporting reported that "more than 2 dozen women" were featured in the photos, which included their names and ranks.

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“There is no place for this type of demeaning or degrading behavior in our corps,” Sgt. Major Ronald Green told CBS News. “Let me be perfectly clear: No person should be treated this way. It is inconsistent with our core values, and it impedes our ability to perform our mission.”

The War Horse is the first organization to make the news of the photos public. According to reports, a female corporal was photographed bending over to pick up equipment, and the photos drew several explicit comments on the Facebook group.

Some of the photos reportedly were shared with consent, while many were intended to be private.

The Marine Corps reportedly has fired a government contractor who shared the initial link to the images.

Photo appears to show veteran lying on ground while waiting at North Carolina VA

A couple posted photos on Facebook and said veterans waited for hours in pain inside the Durham VA Medical Center.

Stephen McMenamin, a former U.S. Marine, was there for treatment, and said his wife took the pictures because she "found it upsetting."

McMenamin said a veteran who was lying on the ground was using his bag of medication for a pillow after being denied an available reclining chair.

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"The nurse started yelling at him, telling him he can't do that," McMenamin said. "He's, like, 'I can't get up and I won't get up. I will be here until you can see me. Can I please have a blanket?'"

The Facebook post from McMenamin's wife, Hanna McMenamin', was shared more than 80,000 times.

McMenamin said they started hearing from other veterans and their families.

"All these people, and it was, you know, it's been kind of heartbreaking," he said.

The hospital's chief executive nurse responded and told McMenamin that the matter is being investigated.

Rep. Robert Pittenger said this just reaffirms his push to hold Veterans Affairs employees more accountable.

"It’s absolutely tragic,” he said. "It’s frankly reflective of what we've seen from the VA, and that’s why I sponsored last year and this year, the VA Accountability Act."

The commander of the Veterans Foreign Wars North said things in the state have improved drastically, but if an investigation confirms what is depicted in these photos, then the staff responsible should be fired.

"There's no question about it. I mean, there's no acceptable reason why this should have happened," Cmdr. Doug Blevins said.

Hanna McMenamin said in an update to her original Facebook post that "the VA is very unhappy that we have posted this photo and it has been seen around the country. They have asked us again to remove this photo, claiming one of the participants does not want this posted. They claim to have told him his face is blocked out. I am not sure that they actually told him that, and I am sure they did not mention he is not identifiable."

Durham VA Medical Center Director DeAnne Seekins issued the following statement Monday:

We take seriously any allegation of poor service. I was made aware of a regrettable incident that occurred in our Emergency Department over the weekend and am thankful someone cared enough to share the incident with us. Our mission is to provide the highest level of health care to Veterans, so upon learning of the incident, I took swift action. The employee was immediately removed from patient care pending the results of an internal review. It is an honor to serve America's heroes and actions that do not align with our core values will not be tolerated. We pride ourselves on providing the highest quality care to the Veterans we serve and being responsive to our patient's needs. Veterans deserve nothing less.

On Tuesday, it was reported that Seekins said he picture is not a reflection of the care her hospital provides. 

"We really do everything that we can to ensure that our veterans are treated with dignity and respect," Seekins said.

She has worked for the VA for more than 30 years and said that when she heard about the post, she immediately took action, reaching out to two of the three veterans in the photo.

"One veteran specifically said to me, 'I don't want anything to harm the Durham VA because they care for me,'" Seekins said. 

Seekins said the staff member involved will return to work but will be moved to administration, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Remains of missing Marine killed in Vietnam War heading home after 48 years

After almost 50 years, the remains of a missing Marine who was shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War are coming home.

The remains of Marine Corps Reserve 1st Lt. William Ryan, known as Billy, were found last year after a decades-long search and they were positively identified through DNA testing, according to the Bergen Record.

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The New Jersey native’s plane was hit by enemy fire on May 11, 1969 and crashed along the southern border of Laos.

Ryan held one of the most dangerous jobs in the military as a radio intercept officer on an F-4B fighter jet, and after two years of training, he deployed to Vietnam in August 1968, according the newspaper.

Ryan’s son was just 3 months old when he left for Vietnam.

“I always knew my dad died in the crash, and that’s what my mom told me,” Michael Ryan, 48, told the paper.

“What she didn’t tell me is that part of her held out hope that maybe she’d see his face again.”

>> Got a question about the news? See our explainers here 

The family was notified last month of the identification of Ryan’s remains by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency at the Pentagon.

Ryan will be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery in a ceremony scheduled for May 10.

Soldiers told they are losing child care because of hiring freeze

Some U.S. soldiers serving overseas have been told that they are losing their child care.

A letter sent Wednesday to servicemen and women at Army Garrison Wiesbaden in Germany said all part-day preschool and day-care programs would close. The letter from the base’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Todd Fish, said: "This closure is a result of staff shortage due to the federal hiring freeze."

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"President Trump should be embarrassed about the way his actions are impacting our men and women in uniform," said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

A government-wide hiring freeze was one of Trump’s first actions in office. There are supposed to be exemptions for critical positions. In a Feb. 1 memo, the Pentagon singled out child care for military personnel as being eligible for exemptions.

Kelly Hruska of the National Military Family Association said parents at Fort Knox received a similar letter.

"No parent wants to worry about their child," Hruska said. "And so this just adds additional stress." An Army spokesman said that after those letters were sent to service members, the Pentagon approved exemptions for child-care workers at the bases. 

"With those approved exemptions, hiring actions to fill those child care vacancies can begin," said Nate Allen, an Army spokesman.

Allen said his office has not heard of any other bases or installations that have cut or eliminated child-care services because of the hiring freeze.

Former Army major general demoted, used government card for strip clubs, investigators say

A senior military aide who was fired during an investigation into allegations that he used his government credit card to pay four-figure bills at foreign strip clubs has been demoted and will retire as a one-star general, U.S. Army officials said last week.

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Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter fired his senior military assistant, Lt. Gen. Ron Lewis, in November 2015 after allegations of misconduct surfaced. In a statement released to the Army Times, Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said Lewis misused his government and travel credit card to pay for personal expenses, lied to officials about the misuse and "engaged in conduct unbecoming of an officer on multiple occasions."

He was demoted to brigadier general, the Army Times reported.

In a 50-page report released in October 2016, Army officials said they found evidence that Lewis charged more than $1,000 on his government card at a club in Seoul, South Korea, from which military personnel had been forbidden because of its ties to underage drinking. The club, Candy Bar, is in an area known as "Hooker Hill," officials said.

When confronted with the expense reports, Lewis said he had no explanation for the charges, according to the report. After he returned from Seoul in April 2015, officials said he lied to military authorities and the bank and claimed that the charges were fraudulent and unauthorized.

He again used his government-issued expense card in October 2015 while visiting the Cica Cica Boom club in Rome. The club was described as "an establishment with signage advertising 'sexy show,' 'fans club' and 'lap dance,'" in the DODIG's report.

Lewis admitted that he drank "more than moderation" over a 3-hour span and said that after he danced with several local women he was unable to use his personal debit card to pay the $1,755 bill he had racked up. He went back to his hotel room with a Cica Cica Boom club employee to get his government card.

"I left (the club) with a big bill and they wanted to make sure I came back and paid it," Lewis said, according to investigators said. "It had to be put on my government card in order to have this bill cleared."

The report also detailed several inappropriate interactions Lewis had with women, including one late-night incident in his hotel room when he was drinking with a female enlisted service member who later told investigators he tried to kiss her.

Lewis denied the bulk of the allegations in a rebuttal through his attorney.

Lewis had shot up the promotional ladder, and his job with Carter stemmed from their close professional relationship. He had served as an aide to Carter when Carter was deputy defense secretary.

The IG report portrayed Lewis as a senior officer who often went out alone on overseas trips. It said his behavior concerned some staff members and at times was a topic of conversation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

President Trump slams Chelsea Manning for remarks about President Obama

President Donald Trump called Chelsea Manning an “ungrateful traitor” on Twitter early Thursday, after a column by Manning criticized former President Barack Obama.

"Ungrateful TRAITOR Chelsea Manning, who should never have been released from prison, is now calling President Obama a weak leader. Terrible!" Trump tweeted.

Before leaving office, Obama commuted Manning’s 35-year sentence for sharing classified information to WikiLeaks when he was a U.S. Army private known then as Bradley Manning.

"The one simple lesson to draw from President Obama's legacy: do not start off with a compromise," Manning wrote in an op-ed in The Guardian. "They won't meet you in the middle. Instead, what we need is an unapologetic progressive leader."

The column went on to say, "Barack Obama left behind hints of a progressive legacy. Unfortunately, despite his faith in our system and his positive track record on many issues over the last eight years, there have been very few permanent accomplishments."

Manning was convicted in July 2013, of violations of the Espionage Act, among other offenses.

Air Force loosens tattoo restrictions for airmen

A rule that required airmen to have no more than 25 percent of their body parts covered with tattoos has been amended by the Air Force.

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The previous rule said "Air Force members (were) not allowed to display excessive tattoos that would detract from an appropriate professional image while in uniform," but the armed forces branch announced updated guidelines Tuesday.

"As part of our effort to attract and retain as many qualified airmen as possible, we periodically review our accessions policies," said Air Force secretary Deborah Lee James. "In this instance, we identified specific changes we can make to allow more members of our nation to serve without compromising quality. As a next step in this evolution, we are opening the aperture on certain medical accession criteria and tattoos while taking into account our needs for worldwide deployability and our commitment to the profession of arms."

The Air Force lifted the 25 percent coverage rule for the chests, backs, arms and legs for airmen and prospective servicemen. They'll also be allowed one single-band ring tattoo on one finger on one hand.

Air Force field recruiters said recent data shows that almost half of contacts, applicants and recruits as having tattoos, according to the official U.S. Air Force website.

"We are always looking at our policies and, when appropriate, adjusting them to ensure a broad scope of individuals are eligible to serve. These changes allow the Air Force to aggressively recruit talented and capable Americans who until now might not have been able to serve our country in uniform," said Chief Master Sgt. James A. Cody.

All tattoos that are obscene or associated with sexual, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination are still prohibited, as are tattoos on the head, neck, face, tongue, lips and/or scalp.

The new tattoo policy will be effective beginning Feb. 1.

A new #Tattoo policy is here! We are also taking other steps to continue to allow the best to become #Airmen. https://t.co/XP9z0ABK4f pic.twitter.com/byicmZxKfz— U.S. Air Force (@usairforce) January 10, 2017

Teen falls to his death sledding down slide at closed Wisconsin water park

A Florida teenager has died in a bizarre accident at a closed water park in a resort area in the Wisconsin Dells.

The teen and two other juveniles snuck into the Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park Wednesday night, according to Lake Delton police. The trio then slipped into a restricted area and climbed to the top of a water slide. While trying to sled down the snow-covered slide, the boy got caught in the snow and tumbled off the ride while trying to free himself, police said.

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He fell 35 feet to the ground and died at the scene.

The teen’s family was vacationing in the area, staying at a nearby resort for the holidays.

 

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Fall of Aleppo: Why are they fighting in Syria?

Officials from Russia, Turkey and Syrian rebel groups have reportedly reached an agreement for the rebels to leave the beleaguered  city of Aleppo in war-torn Syria, as pro-government forces have retaken an estimated 95 percent of the city.

In what a U.N. official called a “complete meltdown of humanity,” the forces of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad killed civilians in the streets Monday as they pushed forward in their final offensive to retake the eastern half of the city.

As of 9:49 p.m. local time, Russia says all military action in eastern Aleppo has stopped and the Syrian government is now in control.

U.N. and Russian officials both said that evacuations of the eastern portion of the city could begin as early as Tuesday evening. According to the Russians, the rebel forces are being allow to leave the city with their families to “destinations of their choice.”

The city of more than 2 million people has been virtually dismantled after more than five years of fighting.

Here’s what’s the conflict in Aleppo is about.

Where is Aleppo?

Aleppo is a city in Syria. It was once Syria's largest city, and was named a Unesco World Heritage site because of its importance to the world’s culture and the history of the Middle East. There are about 2.3 million people living there.

Why is Aleppo in the news?

Syria has been embroiled in a civil war for more than five years. The fighting, which began in March 2011 in Deraa, moved to the area in and around Aleppo in 2012 and has been fierce and constant there since then.

Why is there a civil war going on?

Syrians have long complained about corruption in their government, the lack of freedom, high unemployment, and the reign of the ruling al-Assad family. The current president, Bashar al-Assad, has been ruling the country since he succeeded his father, Hafez, when Hafez died in 2000.

Many believe the Arab Spring movements in other Middle East countries inspired the uprising in Deraa. When the government used overwhelming force to combat demonstrations in Deraa, the rebel movement gained support from Syrians opposed to Assad.

Who is fighting?

The troops of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are fighting insurgent troops known as rebels who are trying to overthrow Assad’s government. In Aleppo, rebel forces have been centered in the eastern portion of the city. The government forces are in the western half.

Why hasn’t the government been able to defeat the rebels?       

For a number of reasons – the main one being the intervention of other countries and groups. Russia, the United States, Iran and Saudi Arabia have all played large roles in the war as has the Islamic State terror organization. 

Russia and Iran support Assad’s Shia government, while the United States and Saudi Arabia have – to some degree or another – backed rebel Sunni forces. 

How bad has the fighting been in Aleppo?

About as bad as it can be with anywhere from 250,000 to 270,000 people dead, according to humanitarian organizations and United Nation estimates. One monitoring group says the number is closer to 470,000 dead. The U.N. stopped counting casualties in August of 2015.

Nearly 5 million people have fled the country, many of them women and children. They have tried to relocate in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and other Western countries, including the United States. The U.N. says 6.5 million people are internally displaced, meaning they are trying to find a safe haven from the fighting inside Syria, itself.

The United States and other countries have charged Assad with horrific acts during the civil war, ranging from the use of chemical weapons to mass slayings in the streets.

What happened today?

A last brutal push into Aleppo happened on Tuesday as pro-government forces reportedly retook the city, killing 82 civilians "on the spot" as they closed in on the last rebel enclave, The Associated Press reported.

According to the AP: “U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says opposition forces control just 5 percent of eastern Aleppo and the U.N. has received "credible reports" of civilians killed by intense bombing and summary executions by pro-government forces.”

In the past few days there have been reports of other mass killings, including reports that children were burned alive. These reports have not been independently confirmed.

At 8 p.m. local time, the U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura,  said discussions of a planned cease-fire in eastern Aleppo and the safe withdrawal of people from the besieged area is now "imminent."

At 9:24 p.m. local time, Russian officials said the Syrian-led 'counterterrorism operation' in eastern Aleppo will “end in a few hours,” and that "all militants are leaving eastern Aleppo with their families to destinations of their choice.”

Will this end the civil war?

No, it will not end the civil war because there are still pockets of resistance in other areas of the country.

When the government gains control over Aleppo, they will have control of the four major cities in Syria. 

Sources: The BBC; The New York Times; The Associated Press

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