Archive for February, 2013

Military Order of the Purple Heart Condemns SECDEF Decision as “Degrading and Insulting”

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Distinguished Warfare Medal The Military Order of the Purple Heart, an independent advocacy organization representing combat-wounded veterans, has condemned the Pentagon’s decision to place the new Distinguished Warfare Medal above the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal in the order of precedence list as “degrading and insulting.” “The Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) adamantly opposes the Department of Defense decision to recognize military personnel whose extraordinary achievements may indirectly impact combat operations while they remain safely away from the battlefield, with an award whose order of precedence would place it above other awards for heroism on the battlefield, such as the Bronze Star for Valor,” the MOPH announced today.   

“…To rank what is basically an award for meritorious service higher than any award for heroism is degrading and insulting to every American Combat Soldier, Airman, Sailor or Marine who risks his or her life and endures the daily rigors of combat in a hostile environment.”

The MOPH’s sentiments were echoed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which issued an unusually strong condemnation of the Pentagon’s order of precedence decision. “America’s largest combat veterans’ organization is in total disagreement with the Pentagon’s decision to have its new Distinguished Warfare Medal outrank the Bronze Star and Purple Heart,” said John E. Hamilton, national commander of the 2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries. “It is very important to properly recognize all who faithfully serve and excel, but this new medal — no matter how well intended — could quickly deteriorate into a morale issue.

 “The VFW fully concurs that those far from the fight are having an immediate impact on the battlefield in real-time,” said Hamilton, a combat-wounded Marine Corps rifleman in Vietnam, “but medals that can only be earned in direct combat must mean more than medals awarded in the rear. The VFW urges the Department of Defense to reconsider the new medal’s placement in the military order of precedence.”

In other news, a Stars & Stripes correspondent reports that U.S. Air Force public affairs officials forbade the paper from seeking comment about the medal from airmen stationed at Kandahar Air Force Base.

Motivation for 2013

Posted by Kelli McKinney

Motivation for 2013We are now six weeks into the new year. Are you making the most of it?

Everyone has off days, even seemingly tireless military spouses or service members. On those days when there aren’t enough hours to get everything done, the chapters seem too long to read (or write) and the dreams seem too lofty to accomplish, it helps to remember that others have walked the rocky path before you.

I keep a couple of lists of inspirational quotes in strategic places around my house (tacked to the fridge, by the mail, and next to my computer) to help keep me moving during those times when I feel stagnant.

This Friday, I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you…

“When you think you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.” —Thomas Edison

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.” George Washington Carver

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson

“Freedom, privileges, options, must constantly be exercised, even at the risk of inconvenience.” Jack Vance

“The number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I can fail and keep on trying.” Tom Hopkins

“You have everything you need to build something far bigger than yourself.”
Seth Godin

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” Eckhart Tolle

“Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.” Stephen Covey

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Aristotle

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” –Albert Schweitzer

“Study while others are sleeping; work while others are loafing; prepare while others are playing; and dream while others are wishing.” William Arthur Ward

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” Norman Vincent Peale

“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinion drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition; they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Steve Jobs

“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Albert Einstein

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.” Lyndon Johnson

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” Harriet Beecher Stowe


Now that you’re psyched up and ready to take on the day, what are you going to accomplish? What aren’t you going to accomplish is the better question, right? Ready to get that degree you’ve always wanted, or start that military-to-civilan job search?

What motivates you to keep going when times get tough? Share with us in the comments below.

 

As US Draws Down in Afghanistan, All Eyes Go to Supply Lines

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Enduring FreedomWhite House sources are indicating that the U.S. will be cutting its boots-on-the-ground presence in Afghanistan by about 50 percent over the next 12 months. By this time next year, our presence in Afghanistan will be reduced by about 34,000 troops, the Administration said.

The Department of Defense is now engaged in a large-scale refrad operation, moving large amounts of materiel mostly by truck into Pakistan for transport back to U.S. soil and our forward-deployment operating bases at places like Diego Garcia.

The long supply lines expose our materiel – and the American and Afghani troops guarding them – to ambush in tough, restrictive terrain through the mountain passes that mark the Afghani-Pakistan border – a region that has been a flashpoint for battling armies for centuries. It is the most vulnerable point along the difficult supply route from the Pakistani port city of Karachi to the Afghan interior.

If Afghani insurgents attempt to interdict the massive retrograde movement, the key terrain will be the ancient Khyber Pass – a narrow gap in the mountain range separating Afghanistan from Pakistan, which has been a traditional trade route going back to the days of the Silk Road.

The very same pass was the point of entry for invading armies dating back to Alexander the Great, Darius, and Ghenghis Khan.

From 2001 until about 2007, the pass was a reasonably secure throughpoint for allied vehicle traffic. The surrounding tribesmen charged protection money to ensure safe passage through the region, and they were generally willing to deal with U.S. and allied agents. The Taliban was able to begin making inroads into the region more recently – and Taliban insurgents managed to blow up an important bridge in 2009 – all but blocking the pass. 

Further, the pass became a flashpoint between the United States and the Pakistan government when a botched U.S. helicopter attack in the immediate vicinity of the pass killed three Pakistani troops. The Pakistani government responded by closing the pass to traffic – which resulted in an allied convoy getting stuck on the road through the pass.

It was a sitting duck – and chewed up and spit out by the Taliban, who destroyed 29 fuel trucks and killed a number of U.S. and Afghan soldiers.

But the battle to secure the withdrawal of American troops and materiel will not end at the mouth of the pass. The Taliban have also demonstrated the capacity to strike at the extended allied line of communication well into Pakistan – including one 2010 incident where a team of Taliban insurgents managed to destroy 28 fuel tankers in a staging area in Islamabad.

They also destroyed 36 fuel trucks in a separate attack in the Pakistani city of Shikarpur, just a few days prior.

Pakistani Taliban have been conducting a lethal guerrilla campaign throughout the tribal areas of Waziristan and well into the Pakistani interior. Just last month, a Taliban bomb killed 14 Pakistani soldiers and wounded 25 more in North Waziristan.

The ISI – the Pakistani security agency – is widely thought to have been thoroughly infiltrated with Taliban sympathizers, which will make the fight to protect the route of egress that much more difficult.

Meanwhile, other surrounding countries are bidding on offering themselves as a staging area for the retrograde movement of equipment. Pakistan has long been charging the U.S. billions of dollars per year in foreign aid for the use of Karachi and their road and rail networks through the Afghan passes, including the key pass from Quetta to Kandahar, the first major Afghan road intersection after crossing the pass and a city named after Alexander, the Macedonian general who invaded Afghanistan thousands of years ago.

The truck and rail lines from Afghanistan to Karachi are the easiest and cheapest routes. But since the Pakistanis have had a hard time keeping them secure, Uzbekistan has offered itself as a transit station – a move that could net them billions of dollars and thousands of jobs providing security and logistical support to a movement that could include up to 70,000 vehicles, according to a New York Times report. Both the Uzbeks and the Pakistanis would like to inherit any military equipment the U.S. can be persuaded to leave behind.

But with the NATO withdrawal now common knowledge, the US and its allies will no longer be the strong horse as far as the Afghani and Pakistani villagers are concerned. They know that the US is leaving – and the Taliban will remain. They will have no loyalty to NATO, nor will they owe us any favors after we depart. The Taliban, meanwhile, stand ready to cut the heads off of any elders they view as collaborators. It will be difficult indeed for the central government in Kabul to exercise its authority in the provinces. It always has been – prompting some to joke that the President of Afghanistan is, in reality, little more than the Mayor of Kabul.

Meanwhile, though, the Taliban have little to gain but headlines in a direct attack against NATO troops, who can summon massive amounts of helicopter and fixed wing support flying top cover for their convoys. The Taliban know they can simply wait, and the NATO forces will soon evaporate – leaving the villages to them.

The decisive point in the campaign will likely not be at a remote road juncture on the Pakistani frontier or in a mountain pass. The critical event will likely be a meeting over tea and tobacco, a handshake and the passing of money from an American agent to a tribal elder and perhaps some key Pakistani security officials for safe passage back to Karachi. In the shadow war in the mountains of Pakistan, bribes count for more than bullets. 

DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Crail, U.S. Army.

In Heartwarming Display of Austerity and Restraint, Army Adds Another 4-Star Billet

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

In this new era of threatening furloughs for schoolteachers and slashing funding for the training of brigade combat teams, the Army has made a heartwarming gesture of solidarity with troops making do with less by creating an additional four-star billet – with the attendant headquarters and staff.

Lieutenant General Michael Brooks – a 1980 West Point graduate – has been tapped to take command of U.S. Army forces in the Pacific. He will receive a promotion to the four-star rank – the equivalent of a combatant command billet such as SOUTHCOM, CENTCOM and EUROCOM.

General Brooks will command about 65,000 troops – roughly the equivalent of a corps – which normally justifies three stars. U.S. Army Pacific currently includes the 25th Division in Hawaii and Alaska, U.S. Army Korea, U.S. Army Japan, and the 9th Regional Support Command.

Even more curiously, General Brooks will assume his post this summer at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, just a short distance away from Camp Smith, the home of USPACOM, or US Pacific Command, a unified combatant command currently headed by a full four-star Admiral, Samuel J. Locklear.

General Brooks would be senior to the deputy commander of the unified combatant that oversees his own troops, Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas Conant. 

Troop General ratio

The chart shows the steadily increasing ratio of general and flag officers per 10,000 troops since WWII. Source.

DoD Announces New Medal for Outstanding REMFs

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Distinguished Warfare MedalRear echelon troops, PX rangers, pogues and desk jockeys rejoice! Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced that you, too, will qualify for a snazzy new decoration: The Distinguished Warfare Medal.

Tired of the combat veterans returned from their deployments shoving you against your locker in the post gym? Sick of hearing the trigger-pullers who actually risked their lives overseas, braving Moojie bullets, roadside bombs, mortar shells, dysentery, camel spiders, 120-degree-plus weather, weeks at a time in sub-freezing temperatures, and long hours training Iraqi and Afghan troops brag incessantly about their pathetic contribution to the war effort? 

Those days are over. With the new Distinguished Warfare Medal, you can finally pin something to your chest that even trumps those pesky bronze star medals with “V” devices and the wizened combat veterans who wear them. That’s right: The DWM will rank higher on the decoration order of merit list (OML) than the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. It will fall just below the Distinguished Flying Cross on the OML – a sure indicator that Air Force brass was behind this medal but they weren’t willing to trump their own flyboy awards. 

Tired of getting lorded over in the locker room or teased in the coffee area by troops with Bronze Stars and valor devices? The Distinguished Warfare Medal finally lets you one-up these guys – all without having to suffer the inconvenience and indignity of actually showing up in a combat zone.

In fact, you can win one of these babies right in your office in Tampa, Miami, or even Washington, D.C.!

Finally, you’ll get some respect from those foul-mouthed, uppity infantry, MPs, artillerymen, combat engineers, aviators, fuel truck divers, HUMINT operators and other warriors who sullied their hands with foreign soil.

Are they giving you a hard time? Teasing you in the post Baskin-Robbins? Simply pull out your medal, flash one of these babies, and they will totally look at you with newfound respect.

Promise.

DoD Extends Benefits to Unmarried Same-Sex Partners

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

describe the imageIn a strange twist, the DoD has elected to extend certain military benefits to unmarried partners of same-sex servicemembers.

The DoD announced this week that same-sex partners of servicemembers can now get post access, a military ID card, access to commissaries, visit their partners in military hospitals and fly Space-A – all without the requirement of marriage that heterosexual couples must meet.

That’s the upshot of this week’s DoD announcement extending these benefits to same-sex couples. Previously, it was thought that these benefits would accrue solely to those same-sex couples who were legally married in one of several states that recognized same-sex marriages.

However, the Pentagon announced that it was not necessary for same sex couples to be legally married to get an ID card, commissary access or travel Space-A. All they need do is sign a Declaration of Domestic Partnership – an option not available to heterosexual couples.

The Declaration of Domestic Partnership is already in use at the Office of Personnel Management, since the federal government extended most benefits to same-sex couples for civilian employees. The form requires signees to affirm the following:

  1. We are each other’s sole domestic partner and intend to remain so indefinitely;
  2. We have a common residence and intend to continue the arrangement indefinitely;
  3. We are at least 18 years of age and mentally competent to consent to contract;
  4. We share responsibility for a significant measure of each other’s financial obligations;
  5. Neither of us is married (legally or by common law) to, or legally separated from, anyone else.
  6. Neither of us is a domestic partner of anyone else; and
  7. We are not related in a way that, if we were of opposite sexes, would prohibit legal marriage in the State in which we reside.

The curious state of affairs is the DoD’s way of shoehorning in benefits for domestic partners despite a law – the Defense of Marriage Act – that makes it illegal for the federal government to spend money providing benefits for same-sex couples, and despite the fact that the vast majority of states have thus far rejected same sex marriage, despite referendum after referendum.

The federal law banning the recognition of same-sex marriage at the federal level is still in effect, although it faces a challenge before the Supreme Court this summer. The Obama Administration has declined to defend the law in the courts – departing from the traditional role of the solicitor general.

Further, according to the governments’ own forms, there is no penalty of perjury for creating a sham same-sex partnership of convenience. The form states only the possibility of administrative discipline, the loss of insurance coverage (for federal employees. Military same-sex partners still do not qualify for TRICARE benefits at this stage. However, the DoD is looking into whether they can extend scarce military housing to same-sex couples without violating DOMA), or the recoupment of funds already paid on a sham partners’ behalf.

The potential for adverse selection is obvious. An enterprising servicemember can sign on with a roommate for benefits at any time, with no marriage license and very little screening.

If the military extends TRICARE benefits to same-sex partners without the requirement of a marriage certificate from a state that will grant it, the incentives are obvious: Someone with a severe medical condition could find a friend in the service and conspire to live as roommates, presenting the public appearance of partnership, while sticking the taxpayer with the cost of care. Once treatment is complete, there is no divorce proceeding necessary. The servicemember simply notifies the government that they are no longer in a partnership. Same-sex couples, on the other hand, must still go through a marriage and divorce proceeding – and face perjury penalties if they are fond to have lied under oath during a divorce proceeding. Under the rules in place, same-sex couples face no such hurdles – and the recoupment of funds may not be practical.

On the other hand, this has been the case for civilian federal employees for some time – and there is little evidence thus far that this has been pervasive. It is a common practice among those trying to circumvent immigration rules, however.

The bottom line: DOMA must go. It should not be struck down by the Supreme Court, though. It should be repealed by Congress, acting as the representatives of the people. Similarly, states should move to enact same-sex marriages or equivalent registered domestic partnerships, recognizable under both state law and easily incorporated under federal law. These partnerships should be subject to the same divorce procedures as heterosexual marriages.

The DoD is trying to build a house with no foundation. The result is a confusing mishmash of benefit rules, inequities, and the creation of second-class military families, living a separate-but-equal status on military bases. The repeal of DADT prior to the legal foundation being in place to support it was premature. The cart is before the horse. The gay and lesbian community must first win the argument in state legislatures. Anything else is a hollow victory for the equality of same-sex relationships under the law – and creates a legal Frankenstein within the military.

 

Dogs and Cats Living Together! DoD to Extend Some Benefits to Same-Sex Military Couples

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

ghostbusters 2It’s an announcement that many thought they would never see.

The Department of Defense will be extending some benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed servicemembers, and will make a formal announcement this week, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The military will likely not be able to extend the full spectrum of military benefits enjoyed by those in traditional marriages, due to the Defense of Marriage Act. In part, this law prohibits the military from spending federal money to provide benefits to same-sex couples.

The current Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, however, believes he has identified a number of benefits that can be extended to same-sex partners without running afoul of the law.

The military already conducts casualty notification to same sex spouses, however, and allows same-sex partners to be listed as beneficiaries for SGLI life insurance.

The Supreme Court, however, is scheduled to hear a challenge to the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act this spring in U.S. v. Winsor. It is expected to issue a ruling on the constitutionality of the law by June of 2013. The Obama Administration has elected not to defend the U.S.’s position in the federal court system. If the entirety of the law is determined to be unconstitutional, it may allow the Department of Defense to grant benefits to same-sex couples on par with those in traditional marriages.

What Benefits are Currently Available to Same-Sex Partners of Servicemembers?

While the government cannot generally grant federally-funded benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed servicemembers, the servicemembers themselves may designate beneficiaries of either sex for a variety of programs. These include:

  • Benefits under the Post Vietnam-Era Veterans Assistance Program
  • The All-Volunteer Force Educational Assistance Program – Active Duty, Death Benefit
  • Becoming a Wounded Warrior Designated Caregiver – for recovery periods of longer than 45 days during a 1-year period
  • Travel and Transportation Allowance: Attendance of Members and Other Persons at Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program events
  • Travel and Transportation Allowances: Transportation of Designated Individuals Incident to Hospitalization of Members for Treatment of Wounds, Illness, Injury
  • Presentation of the Flag of the United States
  • Designation as an escort for dependents of deceased or missing members
  • Transportation for Survivors of Deceased Member to Attend the Member’s Burial Ceremony or Memorial Service
  • Designation of Persons Authorized to Direct Disposition (PADD) of Remains of Members of the Armed Forces

Additionally, servicemembers may list same-sex partners as beneficiaries under the following programs:

  • Thrift Savings Plan
  • Survivor Benefit Plan
  • Designation as a Person Having an Interest in Status of a Missing Servicemember
  • Veterans Group Life Insurance
  • Designation as a Person Eligible to Receive Effects (PERE) of deceased persons  

The Congressional Budget Office released a study last November estimating that the broad extension of federal benefits to same sex partners of federal employees would not have a significant impact on the budget, as they expect the number of federal employees who would participate to be small – on the order of 1 percent. That study was limited to looking at the budgeting ramifications of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2011, however, and did not extend its analysis to the military.

Adopt-A-Hero

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

Adopt a hero In 2004, 12-year-old Ryan Rust faced his grandfather’s deployment overseas by sending grandpa 13 care packages over the course of a year. Then he thought about all those other Marines who may not have been fortunate enough to have someone to send them a letter or care package, and Adopt-A-Marine was born. Then Adopt-A- Sailor, Airman, Coast Guard, and Soldier came along, all consolidated under the website Adopt-A-Hero.

Adopt-A-Hero (AAH) directly links together service members who wish to be “adopted” with individuals and families who wish to “adopt.” Acting as an intermediary, AAH maintains a list of service members waiting to be adopted and matches them with volunteers who agree to send letters and care packages on a regular basis. Volunteers then send their items directly to their overseas service members.

If you are a service member, you, you and your family, or you and your platoon can register here to “be adopted.” If you would like to adopt a service member, register here. AAH takes approximately one week to link sponsors and adoptees.

Adopt-A-Hero simply asks both sponsors and adoptees to let the organization know if either party can no longer participate, to make sure as many heroes and volunteers are linked together as possible at all times. They don’t act as intermediaries on the mailing front; they simply link troops with sponsors.

Nine years later, Ryan and his family continue to run this non-profit organization without accepting any donations. Over 100,000 individuals and families have volunteered their time and energy in helping over 2000 service members receive more than 62,000 pieces of mail (both letters and care packages). That’s 62,000 smiles.

Ryan, now a young adult, races trucks in NASCAR and uses his visibility to help promote Adopt-A-Hero.  The Rust Family nor any of the numerous volunteers have accepted any pay; all donations and sponsorships go directly to maintaining the troop database and advertising.

Those 62,000 smiles? All started by one 12-year-old missing his grandpa. Why don’t you make the smile count 62,001?

In Preparation for Valentine’s Day: A Cautionary Tale

Posted by Kelli McKinney

military cupidsWhether you are firmly lodged in Camp Romance or you think Valentine’s Day is a trumped-up excuse to sell greeting cards, there’s no getting around that date on the calendar. Like it or not, Valentine’s Day is big business for a lot of people and has been since the first cards were mass produced in the 1840s. Not 1940s, friends, 1840s.*

I still don’t know what I’m getting my love to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year. Playing the numbers, the odds are that I’ll possibly buy candy (58 million pounds of chocolate are sold in the week leading up to Feb 14) or indulge in a little sparkling wine (174,000 gallons of the stuff are sold during the week of Valentine’s Day).* But I’ve done that before, and it didn’t end well.

There’s a little story I’d like to share with you a story of a Valentine’s Day gone horribly wrong. Once upon a time, there was a young woman who was smitten by a young man. We’ll call him Carl (not his real name). Carl asked her to have dinner with him on Valentine’s Day. She was very excited, as she had recently experienced a bitter breakup of a previous relationship and was ready to move on. Plus, she had developed a substantial crush on Carl after they became study buddies in their Introduction to Introductions class in college (not the real class).

Well, this young woman spent an entire part-time bookstore clerk’s paycheck on chocolate, a tasteful plush bear, and an even more tasteful bottle of wine for said Carl, in hopes of wooing him to return her affection. Carl was very smart, and very handsome, and also had a part-time job.

But Carl did not have any common sense. Because Carl showed up at her doorstep bearing a dead fish in a bag. A whole, dead, fish. As a gift. On Valentine’s Day. Oh yes, he did.

When she looked at him quizzically, taking the stinky bag from his proudly extended arms, he smiled and said “As in, there are others in the sea.” Oh, Carl. You really shouldn’t have. It went downhill from there. You probably already know that that was their first and last date.

In the end, it all worked out fine, because only a year or two later the young lady met her best friend, and fell in love, and he proposed and it has been an adventure ever since. But I digress.

So if you’re ready to aim and fire a love bazooka at your servicemember or military spouse like our pair of cupids up there, I’d like to suggest, right underneath “Dead Fish in a Brown Paper Bag,” a few other gift ideas that you should NEVER give your valentine. I’m just looking out for you.

For example:

A gym membership:

gym membership 

Nothing says “we need to talk” quite like a gym membership. Except maybe this next gift idea…

 

A gift card for Dental Whitening

dental whitening 

But honey, I thought you loved my smile?

 

Really, personal hygiene products of any kind are not big libido boosters. So avoid gift wrapping these:

nose clippers

 

And unless your valentine specifically asks for one, do not get him or her any gift that requires feeding, grooming, walking or litter box training.

dog in box

I’m as much of a sucker for a furry face as anybody, but pets are big time responsibilities, not last-minute gifts.

If you know your love at all, you know what gifts would be off limits and what would be welcome, and odds are good that if you’re not sure, you can ask for ideas. That’s a sign of concern, not of weakness, my friends. Hey, maybe this is the year you can invest in yourself and take a class or two?

However you celebrate – or don’t – here’s wishing you all the happiness your hearts can hold on Valentine’s Day. And unless you’re actually going fishing (which would also be awesome), or you are a cat (which would be weird) I hope no one brings you a dead trout.

 

*sources: history.com, US Census Bureau

Flap Over Chris Kyle’s Death Snares Innocent Party

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

identity theftThere’s an old saying among journalists: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

In the process of reporting yesterday’s story on liberal reactions (and Ron Paul’s reaction!) to the murder of former Navy SEAL and author Chris Kyle, we found a number of offensive tweets from “Patricia” under the Twitter account “onepoliceplazza.”

A number of blog commenters and other Twitter users claimed that the account was really run by Alyson Seligman, a principal at Seligman Brand Strategies, a public relations and communications firm in Palm Beach, Florida.

We weren’t sure, so we didn’t run with it, even though the onepoliceplazza Twitter account appeared to be using a picture of Alyson. The writing style on Alyson’s blog and business website, and her set of interests had nothing to do with “Patricia’s” so we decided not to run with anything connecting her to the Chris Kyle controversy until we were able to confirm or deny the connection.

We checked it out. Alyson had nothing to do with it. Her photograph and identity was stolen. She has no idea who did it. Alyson was mortified by the comments made by “Patricia.” Additionally, she was the target of a great deal of hate mail and vitriol. Some people contacted her clients, attempting to disrupt her business relationships because of the Twitter posting.

Alyson is innocent, and describes herself as very pro-American. “I’m the granddaughter of a veteran!” she exclaims.

It is ironic that Seligman became the locus of a stolen identity in a controversy such as this: One of the services she provides her clients is Internet reputation management. Her reaction was textbook: She got out in front of the controversy, and was proactive about calling her clients and others in the industry to let them know what was going on. She also posted a prominent notice on her company’s home page, explaining the situation to new visitors. And lastly, like a good public relations professional, she returned our call within 24 hours asking whether she was, in fact, the person behind the account.

She was not.

We are posting this to help her set the record straight and get back to business.

Jason

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