Metro-East News

Roger That: Veterans discharged for being gay are appealing in record numbers

As many as 100,000 service members who were discharged for being gay between World War II and the 2011 repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy are appealing the nature of their discharges, according to the New York Times.

Many were given less-than-honorable discharges that became official scarlet letters — barring them from veterans’ benefits, costing them government jobs and other employment, and leaving many grappling with shame for decades, the newspaper said.

Commanders at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point are vowing to take “appropriate disciplinary measures,” after a pillow fight turned violent and sent at least 24 first-year cadets to the emergency room with concussions, lacerations and broken bones.

The event is an annual tradition meant to build camaraderie among freshmen, but some cadets filled their pillow cases with more than just feathers, CBS News reports.

More than 1,200 “plebes” were admitted into the class of 2019, and they spent much of the summer completing cadet basic training, also known as “Beast Barracks.”At the end of that grueling six-and-a-half-week program, freshmen unofficially celebrate with a massive pillow fight.

The cadets streamed into the quad by the hundreds, armed with pillows and let each other have it. As upper classmen looked on and cheered, glow sticks rained down from above. The event is supposed to bring the cadets closer together, but according to the New York Times, some plebes were swinging pillow cases containing helmets, body armor and other weighted objects.

As China and Russia boost their military presence in the resource-rich far north, U.S. intelligence agencies are scrambling to study potential threats in the Arctic for the first time since the Cold War, a sign of the region’s growing strategic importance, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Over the last 14 months, most of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have assigned analysts to work full time on the Arctic. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence recently convened a "strategy board" to bring the analysts together to share their findings.

In addition to relying on U.S. spy satellites orbiting overhead and Navy sensors deep in the frigid waters, the analysts process raw intelligence from a recently overhauled Canadian listening post near the North Pole and a Norwegian surveillance ship called the Marjata, which is now being upgraded at a U.S. Navy shipyard in southern Virginia.

Seventy-five years ago, on Monday, the German Air Force launched “The Blitz,” Hitler’s nine-month campaign of terror air bombing against Great Britain that aimed to demoralize the British population and force them into a negotiated peace. Ultimately, Hitler’s campaign failed, but it claimed the lives of more than 40,000 civilians and set the stage for the Allies’ own terror air bombing campaign that culminated with the incineration of the German cities of Dresden, Hamburg and others later in the war.

During the previous two months, the Luftwaffe had targeted Royal Air Force airfields and radar stations for destruction in preparation for the German invasion of the island. That campaign failed, so Hitler chose to smash the resistance of the British population. London was tops on his list. At around 4 p.m. on Sept. 7, 1940, nearly 350 German bombers escorted by 617 fighters blasted London until 6 p.m. Two hours later, guided by the fires set by the first air raids, a second group of bombers commenced another attack that lasted until 4:30 a.m.

For the next 57 days in a row, London was bombed day and night. Fires consumed much of the city. Many residents fled to the Underground stations, the subway system that sheltered nearly 200,000 people during the night. In the worst single incident, 450 were killed when a bomb destroyed a school being used as an air-raid shelter. The Blitz ended on May 11, 1941, when Hitler called off the raids to move his bombers east in preparation for the invasion of Russia.

By1945, the Luftwaffe was a shell of its former self, giving the RAF and the American Army Air Corps a free hand to launch their own version of The Blitz against Germany, using newly devised fire bombing technology that turned population centers into lethal infernos. On the evening of Feb. 13, 1945, the Allies launched a series of firebombing raids against Dresden, reducing the “Florence of the Elbe” to rubble and flames, and killing as many as 135,000 people. It was the single-most destructive bombing of the war — including Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at or 618-239-2533.