Two of America’s Finest Tragically Lose Their Lives


By Debbie Gregory.

Two men, both of whom served their country, one a veteran and one an active duty servicemember, lost their lives just days apart, both under tragic circumstances.

On Friday, May 26th, Army veteran Ricky Best was stabbed when he stood up to Jeremy Joseph Christian in defense of a girl wearing a hijab and her friend, as Christian launched a slur-filled diatribe at the two aboard a MAX Green Line train in Oregon.

Then on Sunday, May 28th, a tragic parachute malfunction sent a member of the Navy’s elite SEAL parachute team plunging into the Hudson River.

Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Remington J. Peters was taking part in a performance with the elite Leap Frogs skydiving demonstration team during New York Fleet Week.  He landed in the river near Liberty State Park in New Jersey, and was pulled out of the water by the Coast Guard. Peters was sent to the Jersey City Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The Navy is continuing to investigate the accident.

Best, a 23-year retired Army veteran, died on the train from stab wounds inflicted by Christian. Two other men, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, were also stabbed. Namkai-Meche later died at the hospital. Fletcher is expected to recover.  The three men tried to talk Christian down from his agitated state.

According to the Navy Special Warfare Center, Peters had completed two combat deployments and had more than 900 parachute jumps. He enlisted in September, 2009, and arrived in Coronado, CA shortly after recruit and preliminary training in Illinois.

Our hearts and thoughts go out to the families and loved ones of these two men who proudly served their country. We thank them both for their service, their bravery and their sacrifices.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Will Air Force Personnel Shortage Have Critical Impacts?


By Debbie Gregory.

Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff , said the service is critically short of personnel and needs to expand by more than 30,000 active-duty service members. Otherwise, the service branch may face challenges in meeting its security obligations, including an air war against Islamic State militants.

Goldfein said he will recommend expanding the size of the active duty Air Force from its current size of about 317,000 to 350,000. It would probably take five or six years to reach the higher level. Under current plans, the Air Force had planned to grow to 321,000.

At the start of the Gulf War, the Air Force had 134 fighter squadrons. Over the past few decades, that number has been cut to 55.

Yet, the Air Force is conducting nearly 70 percent of the strike missions against ISIS and conducting 90 percent of midair refueling missions over Iraq and Syria since August 2014.

Goldfein, who is described as a pilot’s pilot, has not just flown F-16s and F-117As, the kind of warplanes associated with an Air Force officer. He has also piloted the MQ-9 Reaper.

The Air Force is delivering weapons and ammunition to Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State, and has air-dropped supplies to a rebel force marching on Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria. It is also responding to other global crises.

Russia and China are emerging as potential threats that could challenge the U.S. military in ways the Islamic State has not. China is expanding its presence in the South China Sea and Russia has become a major player in Syria’s civil war, siding with the regime of President Bashar Assad.

The U.S. Air Force has rarely been challenged in the skies during its campaign against the Islamic State. That could change if the United States were to face another nation’s military capable of challenging the U.S. military’s technological advantages.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

U.S. Troops Infected With Zika


By Debbie Gregory.

More than 40 members of the U.S. military have contracted the Zika virus this year in countries where it is present, government officials said; among them a pregnant woman, for whom Zika can be particularly dangerous.

The cases, which include active duty, National Guard and reserve personnel, were acquired outside of the continental United States.

Nonetheless, the Defense Department is continuing to monitor U.S. military installations at risk for mosquito-borne diseases, according to Pentagon spokesman Air Force Maj. Benjamin Sakrisson.

DoD did not provide details on the status of the expectant mother or her unborn baby. Zika has been linked to birth defects such as microcephaly; one study released in May by the Centers of Diseases Control and Prevention and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health estimated that fetuses of mothers infected with Zika in their first trimester face up to a 13 percent chance of being born with severe brain abnormalities.

As of July 27, 1,658 cases of Zika infection have been reported in the continental U.S. and 4,750 in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, according to the CDC. The cases include 433 pregnant women in the U.S., and 422 in the territories..

U.S. military installation managers began aggressively monitoring for the species of mosquitoes that can carry Zika and other diseases in March. There are almost  200 military installations in areas where mosquitoes capable of carrying Zika are also found.

Zika is primarily transmitted through Aedes mosquitoes, the same insects that spread the dengue and Chikungunya viruses.

Those infected with the virus who will get sick will experience flu-like symptoms, fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes that last up to a week. But for pregnant women, the virus carries far worse outcomes: Zika can cause microcephaly in babies born to infected mothers, a condition that stunts the growth of babies’ heads and can result in serious cognitive, neurological, and motor disabilities.

In addition to the troops diagnosed with Zika, seven military family members also have tested positive, also contracting the disease outside the continental U.S.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Tax Perks for Serving Uncle Sam


By Debbie Gregory.

The government does offer some special tax perks so that those who serve don’t have to add income taxes to their list of worries.

When it comes to filing tax returns, military service members have circumstances that differ from civilian tax payers. Due to the varied types of pay service members receive, it is important to identify the types of pay and allowances that are not considered gross income. These exclusions generally include allowances for housing, travel, relocating, combat  pay and death allowances. While not subject to tax, they still may have to be detailed when filing the tax return.

Work-related travel expenses (such as business-related meals, lodging, laundry, and business phone calls) that have not been reimbursed are deductible when you are traveling away from your permanent duty station for longer than an ordinary day’s work and you need sleep or food

Armed Forces Reservists who travel more than 100 miles away from home in connection with their service can deduct travel expenses as an adjustment to income.

Service members on active duty who move due to a permanent change of station are entitled to a deduction for reasonable non-reimbursed moving expenses related to travel and the cost of moving household goods and personal effects.

If you are a member of the Armed Forces serving in a designated combat zone, then you can exclude certain pay from your income. The month for which you receive this pay must be a month in which you either served in a combat zone or were hospitalized as a result of wounds, disease, or injury obtained while serving in the combat zone. You need only serve for one or more days in a month to qualify for exclusion for the entire month.

Members of the military serving in combat zones get an automatic 180-day extension from the IRS for filing tax returns, paying taxes and filing refund claims. The automatic extension also applies to making qualified contributions to an IRA. However, this exception does not apply to Social Security and Medicare taxes.

And one final tax perk: free tax preparation is available through MyFreeTaxes for qualified Veterans, active-duty military, and their families. In addition to e-filing, MyFreeTaxes also provides in-person help to individuals and families earning $20,000 or less in 2015. For more information, please visit: