Fear of losing benefits keeps many military spouses from exposing sexual misconduct or other offenses committed by their partners, say many people familiar with the military criminal justice system.
"You’re advised to keep your mouth shut and let him retire because you could lose everything," Kris Johnson, whose now ex-husband, an Army colonel, pleaded guilty in 2012 to adultery, bigamy and other charges, told The Times.
Now the Pentagon is studying changes to protect families even if a member of the military is punished harshly for misconduct.
Photo: Col. James H. Johnson and then-wife Kris in Bamberg, Germany, in 2009. Photo courtesy of Kris Johnson.
Boston University professor and editorial contributor Andrew J. Bacevich has a harsh evaluation of the U.S. military’s actions in recent years:
“The U.S. military is like the highly skilled, gadget-toting contractor who promises to give your kitchen a nifty makeover in no time whatsoever…
Yet by the time he drives off months later, the kitchen’s a shambles and you’re stuck with a bill several times larger than the initial estimate.”
Image: Edel Rodriguez / For The Times
Why are so many young Californian veterans dying?
The death rate for California veterans below the age of 35 is above that of active-duty soldiers and civilians, with 1,363 passing away between 2006 and 2011 alone.
Possible causes for that trend were all too apparent after a careful look into state records.
Veterans were more than twice as likely as other civilians to commit suicide. They were twice as likely to be a victim of a fatal motor vehicle crash and a quarter more likely to suffer other deadly accidents.
This isn’t the first time death rates for veterans returning home from war have spiked. Those who served during Vietnam and the Persian Gulf Wars were more likely to die after coming home - but studying and solving the phenomenon has largely been far from the government’s top priority.
Photos: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times
Honoring Veterans Day 2013
Today, a nation gives thanks to its men and women in uniform, thanking them for their service and paying respects to those who have since passed on.
President Obama took part in the traditional laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery earlier today, emphasizing the need to honor veterans even when they’ve put their uniforms aside:
"As a nation, we make sure we have the best-led, best-trained, best-equipped military in the world. We have to devote just as much energy and passion to making sure we have the best-cared for, best-treated, best-respected veterans in the world."
We have a whole suite of Veterans Day coverage, from the nation’s oldest veteran, the efforts of one Iraq War veteran’s mission to heal to the bond between a World War II veteran and his granddaughter.
Photos: Mark Wilson / AFP/Getty Images, J. David Ake / Associated Press
As ridiculous as it seems, the U.S. military wants an Iron Man
The metal suit the Pentagon wants would be all but impervious to bullets and shrapnel, and be able to continuously download and display live video feeds from overhead drones. Relying on tiny motors, the exoskeleton would enable a soldier to run and jump without strain while carrying 100 or more pounds.
Healing Sgt. Warren
A man driven to war by outrage over 9/11 after a reckless youth, Jonathan Warren rose through the ranks during his tenure in Iraq, but his greatest test left him crippled by self-doubt and cast him adrift once he left the rigors of military life.
He kept thinking of how he failed to charge into the flaming truck to pull his buddy out. Was it vanity that stopped him? Was he worried about his looks?
And why had he crawled away as his friend burned?
The Army gave Warren a Purple Heart and put him back on patrol. His eyes were hypersensitive. Daylight speared into his brain. He fought through headaches so painful they brought tears. At night his heart beat so hard he thought he felt his bed shaking.
Follow along with Warren’s struggle to come to terms with his blame for his close friend’s horrific injuries, his efforts to put his life back together, in reporter Christopher Goffard’s incredible story.
Photos: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times
Obama delays military action against Syria to pursue diplomacy
President Obama addressed the nation just moments ago to provide an update on the latest in the ongoing debate on how to react to alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government.
“When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other day until those horrifying pictures fade from memory. But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied.
The question now is what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do about it, because what happened to those people, to those children, is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security.”
While calling new negotiations with the Syrian government about the removal of its chemical weapons stockpiles promising, Obama didn’t halt his military options entirely. Instead, he called for a delay on congressional approval of military strikes while diplomatic talks progress.
You can read through a transcript of Obama’s remarks here, or keep tabs on World Now for more as the story develops.
Photo: Evan Vucci / AFP/Getty Images
Her husband came home, and the war came with him
Candace Desmond-Woods told herself everything would be fine, now that he was out of the Army. Their lives as husband and wife would really begin in this white-fenced rental home in Irvine, a master-planned city where every manicured block was an argument against uncertainty.
The war would crash through her careful plans in a hundred ways, large and small. She watched it empty her refrigerator and shut off her gas. She came to feel like one of its strangest casualties, a widow with a living husband.
Reporter Christopher Goffard chronicles the hardship and heartbreak of one veteran’s return home, as attempts by both Tom Woods and his wife Candace to bridge the gap between the front lines and domestic life were sidetracked by the ravages of PTSD and alcoholism.
Photos: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times
Previewing the presidential pitch on Syria
Obama administration officials have tried to make the case for military action against Syria for over a week now, but with the public largely against intervention and congressional approval looking shaky, the president himself will address the nation tonight.
Complicating the issue is a Russian proposal, first suggested by Secretary of State John Kerry in an off-the-cuff remark, that Syria avoid an attack by giving up its chemical weapons for eventual dismantling.
And though Obama has said that a “credible” military threat to Syria must be maintained, he did tell CBS News yesterday that the weapons deal could be “a potentially significant breakthrough.”
So can Obama convince the nearly 6 in 10 Americans who oppose military strikes? It doesn’t appear likely: As reported by our own Evan Halper, presidential addresses are historically ineffective at shaping public opinion.
Even Franklin D. Roosevelt found that speeches could fall flat. He took on the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1937 national radio address after it struck down a big part of his New Deal program. He touted a plan to increase the size of the court so he could appoint more justices. The plan failed in Congress nonetheless.
Photos: Sana, CBS News / Associated Press, Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images
Army Spc. James Christian Paquette walked into the benefits office at Ft. Wainwright, Alaska, with a question: Did his military life insurance policy pay in cases of suicide? He was assured that it did.
Less than two weeks later, he shot and killed himself — and his family collected $400,000.
U.S. to take ‘limited action’ in response to Syrian chemical attack
But what that action will be has yet to be decided by President Obama. Following Secretary of State John Kerry’s call to action and condemnation of the Aug. 21 attack, Obama spoke to reporters about his considerations.
"There is a certain weariness, given Afghanistan. There is a certain suspicion of any military action post-Iraq. And I very much appreciate that," Obama said "…It’s important for us to recognize that when over a thousand people are killed, including hundreds of innocent children, through the use of a weapon that 98 or 99 percent of humanity says should not be used even in war, and there is no action, then we’re sending a signal."
Kerry claimed earlier that 1,429 people had died in the attack, with at least 426 of them children. Calling the attack a “crime against humanity,” Kerry echoed Obama’s commitment to limited action, but action nonetheless.
Photos: EPA, Saul Loeb / AFP Photo, Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press
The truth is finally out there on Area 51
After years of wild speculation about the existence and true nature of Area 51, and frequent appearances in all sorts of alien-themed works of pop culture, the CIA has revealed details of the secretive military base. In a 400-page document dump, the agency has officially confirmed the existence of the base, and confirmed that it played host to secretive U-2 stealth plane testing.
“There is a section on the relationship between the U-2 program being responsible for UFO sightings,” National Security Archive senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson told the Los Angeles Times on Friday. “But if people are looking for sections on dead aliens and inter-species contact, they’ll be disappointed. It’s just not there.”
That is, of course, unless you think there are still extraterrestrial secrets locked away somewhere, kept under the close watch of the Smoking Man.
Photos: CIA, Laura Rauch / Associated Press