TIME White House

Obama Honors Fallen Soldiers on Memorial Day

Marks first Memorial Day since 9/11 without ground troops in combat

President Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day to honor the men and women who have died serving in the U.S. military. Their sacrifice, he said, is “a debt we will never repay.”

Speaking in front of more than 5,000 attendees, Obama marked the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the U.S. hasn’t been involved in a major ground war, though a smaller American military presence remains in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This hallowed ground is more than a final resting place of heroes” Obama said. “It is a reflection of America itself. It is a reflection of our history.”

He specifically mentioned Spec. Wyatt Martin and Sgt. 1st Class Ramon Morris, who were the last two U.S. soldiers to die during combat missions in Afghanistan.

“These two men, these two heroes, if you passed them on the street you wouldn’t know that they were brothers,” Obama said. “They were bonded together to secure our liberty and keep us safe.”

More than 6,500 Americans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in military operations that began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Additional reporting by Maya Rhodan

TIME Military

The New Head of the U.S. Pacific Command Talks to TIME About the Pivot to Asia and His Asian Roots

SINGAPORE-ASIA-MILITARY-US-CHINA
Roslan Rahman—AFP/Getty Images U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Harry Harris, left, speaks to journalists during his visit to U.S.S. Spruance (DDG 111), Arleigh Burke–class guided-missile destroyer, docking in Sembawang wharves in Singapore on Jan. 22, 2014

Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. sees his background as an Asian American as useful in helping the U.S. forge better relationships with its allies and other powers

On May 27 Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. becomes the U.S. Navy’s highest-ranking Asian American ever when he assumes leadership of the U.S. Pacific Command at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Harris will be responsible for all military operations in a region stretching from California to the Indian Ocean, and from the Arctic Sea to Antarctica. He takes over at a critical time, as the U.S. “rebalances” to Asia and confronts an erratic and nuclear-armed North Korea and an increasingly powerful and assertive China.

It’s a job that takes Harris, 59, full circle. He was born in Japan to a Navy-enlisted man and Japanese mother, and raised on a subsistence farm in Tennessee. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Harris did postgraduate studies at Harvard, Georgetown and Oxford and spent much of his career as a naval flight officer aboard P-3 patrol planes, including three tours in Japan. Affable, direct and with a confessed weakness for “both kinds of music — country and western,” Harris talks to TIME contributor Kirk Spitzer about taking on one of the most challenging jobs in the U.S. military.

You’ve said that the most important event in your life was World War II, yet you weren’t even born then. What do you mean by that?
My dad had four brothers and all of them served in World War II, mostly in the Navy, in the Pacific theater. In fact, my dad was on the aircraft carrier Lexington just a couple of days before Pearl Harbor. They pulled out O.K., but the Lexington was sunk at the Battle of Coral Sea. Growing up in Tennessee, where he and all his brothers lived, they told sea stories about the war throughout my whole life. So I just knew that I was going to serve in the military.

The other thing is, in this job and living in Hawaii, World War II is all around you. I live in the Nimitz House, which was built for Admiral Husband E. Kimmel. He was in charge on Dec. 7, 1941. So not a day goes by that I don’t remember that one of the primary lessons of World War II is to be ready to fight and win the nation’s wars — and to be ready to fight tonight.

You’ve said that your mother had a great influence on your life. She was born into a wealthy family in Kobe, Japan, but ended up living on a small farm in America. How did that happen, and how much of an influence did she have on you?
I learned a lot from her. She lost her home, her school, members of her family and friends to bombing raids. After surviving that, she had nothing and she went to live with an aunt in Yokohama who helped her get a job on the big American naval base in Yokosuka. My dad was posted in Japan and Korea from 1946 until he retired in 1958. They met sometime in the early 1950s and got married and then I came along and they moved to Tennessee.

My dad bought a subsistence farm, with no running water or electricity. So that was pretty rough. But she adapted, and she adapted with a lot of grace. She became an American citizen in the mid-1970s and she always told me that her proudest moments were voting and jury duty. She was really thrilled that I went to the Naval Academy, of course. She never taught me the Japanese language because we had moved to a tiny town in the South, and she didn’t want me to be any more different than I already was. She wanted me to focus on being an American. But she taught me to be proud of both my Japanese roots and my Southern roots. And she taught me about the Japanese concept of giri, which means duty. I carry this with me to this very day.

You are the first Asian American to reach four-star rank in the Navy and the first to head U.S. Pacific Command. Did you have role models when you were young?
I can tell you that being a Japanese-American kid in Tennessee in the late 1950s and early ’60s, there weren’t a lot of role models out there. So that’s when my mother started telling me about the American nisei soldiers during World War II. They left a segregated nation — to fight for a segregated nation. They had no guarantee that when they got back home the things they had fought for would be returned to them. We’ve come a long way in the past six or seven decades because of them and folks like them who fought for what’s right. Their courage made a great difference in the lives of a whole bunch of people at that time, and even today. I’ve always said that I stand on the shoulders of giants, and I mean it.

Before being named commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in 2013, you worked as a military representative to two Secretaries of State: Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. What did you learn in that job?
I got to visit and meet with leaders from about 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region and that’s really important to me in my present job and even more so in my next job. It reinforced something that I already knew, and that is that American leadership matters and it matters greatly to our friends, partners, allies and competitors abroad.

Your appointment as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and more recently as head of Pacific Command, was met with great approval in Japan, but perhaps not so much in China, where there still seems suspicion of all things Japanese. Will it be difficult for you to manage expectations, on both sides?
People know when they look at me that I’m an American first, last and everything in between. I’m only ethnically [Eurasian] or ethnically [half-]Japanese. Protecting American interests is my focus. No doubt, Japan is a great ally of the United States and I do hope that my personal background has helped me enhance our relationship. But I think my background has also helped me forge critical relationships with South Korea, another important ally. My father served in the Korean War and I grew up with a deep appreciation for Korean culture.

And I can tell you that I was warmly received in China when I went there last year to finalize a new agreement among navies of the region to help communications at sea during unplanned encounters. This was an important step forward to help reduce tensions at sea and help avoid miscalculations. I’ve always tried to give China credit when they act in responsible ways that adhere to international law and norms, and enhance stability.

The Obama Administration has talked about an economic, diplomatic and military “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific region. Some skeptics wonder if it’s real, or just rhetoric.
Not only is the rebalance real, but the military part is well on its way. We’ve strengthened our security alliances and partnerships throughout the region. The Navy has already brought our newest and most capable platforms to the area, like the P-8 surveillance airplane, the Littoral Combat Ship, the Virginia-class submarine and new amphibious ships like the U.S.S. America. The Marine Corps has brought the V-22 Osprey out here to great effect and we’ll have the Joint Strike Fighter out here soon. The Navy has set a goal of moving 60% of the Navy out here by 2020 and we’re at about 55% in terms of surface ships now. So I can tell you the rebalance is real.

In your new job you’ll be responsible for an immense and diverse region: “From Bollywood to Hollywood, from polar bears to penguins,” as Pacific Command puts it. What are your priorities?
Our war-fighting readiness, our ability to fight tonight, will always be my top priority. We have to be ready for the unexpected. We have to be ready to prevent strategic surprises. When you are responsible for an area that covers half the worlds’ surface, you need friends. So building stronger relationships and working with our allies and partners, to foster a collective to the security challenges — that’s important.

You’ve expressed deep concern about recent Chinese actions, including construction of a string of artificial islands in the South China Sea — a “great wall of sand,” as you put it. Why should the U.S. be concerned?
I have been critical of China for a pattern of provocative actions that they’ve begun in the recent past. Like unilaterally declaring an air-defense identification zone over the East China Sea, parking a mobile oil platform off the Vietnam coast, and their lack of clarity on their outrageous claim — preposterous claim, really — to 90% of the South China Sea. All these examples, I think, are inconsistent with international laws and norms. They make China’s neighbors nervous, it increases tensions in the region, and I think they are destabilizing for peace in the region.

More than $5 trillion — that’s trillion with a t — of shipborne trade passes through the South China Sea annually. Freedom of navigation is critical. That’s why what China is doing in the South China Sea is troubling. They have manufactured land there at a staggering pace just in the last months. They’ve created about 2,000 acres of these man-made islands. That’s equivalent to about 1,500 football fields, if I get my math right, and they’re still going. They’ve also made massive construction projects on artificial islands for what are clearly, in my point of view, military purposes, including large airstrips and ports.

What do you worry about most? What keeps you awake at night?
The greatest threat we face is North Korea. They have an unpredictable leader who is poised, in my view, to attack our allies in South Korea and Japan. He is on a quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them intercontinentally. He kills people around him who disagree with him, and that’s something we should always keep in mind. North Korea keeps me up at night.

TIME Military

Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?

This is the real meaning of the holiday

It’s easy to forget what Memorial Day actually means while you’re sitting by the pool and looking ahead at summer vacation—but the day signifies much more than just a three-day weekend.

Memorial Day is a solemn day of remembrance for everyone who has died serving in the American armed forces. The holiday, originally known as Decoration Day, started after the Civil War to honor the Union and Confederate dead.

It’s unclear exactly where the holiday originated—Charleston, S.C., Waterloo, N.Y., Columbus, Ga. and other towns all claim to be the birthplace of the holiday. The event in Charleston that may have precipitated the holiday offers poignant evidence of a country struggling to rebuild itself after a bloody war: 257 Union soldiers died in prison in Charleston during the Civil War and were buried in unmarked graves, and the town’s black residents organized a May Day ceremony in which they landscaped a burial ground to properly honor the soldiers.

In the years following the Civil War, Memorial Day celebrations were scattered and, perhaps unsurprisingly, took root differently in the North and South. It wasn’t until after World War II that the holiday gained a strong following and national identity, and it wasn’t officially named Memorial Day until 1967.

The final event that cemented the modern culture of Memorial Day in America was in 1968 when Congress passed the Uniform Holiday Act, designating Memorial Day as the last Monday in May rather than May 30, as it had previously been observed. This ensured a three-day weekend and gave the day its current status as the unofficial beginning of summer, mixing serious reflection with more lighthearted fun.

TIME Military

Pentagon Rhetoric About Ramadi’s Fall Risks U.S. Credibility

IRAQ-CONFLICT-ANBAR
Sabah Arar—AFP/Getty Images Ramadi residents flee their city after ISIS fighters took control of it on Saturday.

Sometimes it’s best to keep quiet if you're not winning

When generals start playing with syntax, hold on to your wallets. “The ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) was not driven out of Ramadi,” Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday. “They drove out of Ramadi.”

That grammatical shift from the passive to the active voice—Dempsey boasts a master’s degree in literature from Duke, after all—highlights just how badly Iraq’s U.S.-backed war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is now going.

“We saw this movie—it was called Vietnam,” says Anthony Zinni, a retired four-star Marine general who began his career in that country in 1967, advising South Vietnamese marines. “They are losing credibility. We went through this in Vietnam where we touted pacification and winning all these battles while strategically losing the war.”

The growing disconnect between what’s happening on the ground, and what U.S. military leaders say is happening on the ground, has consequences. “For the last 13 years, even though we have not done well in either Iraq or Afghanistan, the American people have stayed with the military,” Bing West, a one-time Marine infantryman and former assistant defense secretary, says. “But if the American people now see a gap between the reality and what the military is telling them, then you end up with the corrosiveness that we saw in Vietnam.”

Dempsey’s verbal twist—implying that ISIS didn’t force some of Iraq’s best troops out of the city, but, thanks in part to American training, they left in a crafty and bold military move—comes on the heels of a Friday briefing at the Pentagon that Saturday revealed to be close to fiction.

“We firmly believe [ISIS] is on the defensive throughout Iraq and Syria,” Marine Brigadier General Thomas Weidley told Pentagon reporters in a teleconference from the region. “The Iraqis, with coalition support, are making sound progress,” Weidley, chief of staff of Operation Inherent Resolve, the anti-ISIS operation, added. “The coalition will continue to support the government of Iraq as they conduct operations in Ramadi.”

The next day, after a series of bombings, ISIS fighters took over Ramadi after Iraqi troops fled, collecting a half-dozen U.S.-provided tanks and 100 vehicles abandoned by the Iraqis in their rush to drive out of the capital of Anbar province. ISIS forces killed an estimated 500 Iraqi troops and civilians, while 25,000 residents fled the city. In addition to Ramadi, they now occupy the major Iraqi cities of Mosul and Fallujah.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 11.23.52 AM

Pentagon officials argue that the long-term U.S. strategy—stepped-up (re)training of Iraqi troops, backed by U.S. and allied air power—ultimately will prevail. They note that they have said from the start that the anti-ISIS campaign could take three years. The U.S. joined the fight last August, and has been flying nearly-daily air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. There’s a push “for a narrative about success, and that the strategy is fine, that influences different echelons of our government and military to not go outside that narrative,” says Derek Harvey, a one-time Army intelligence officer now at the University of South Florida. “That disconnect risks undermining their credibility.” The retired colonel, who worked for Army general David Petraeus, believes the U.S. focus on vehicles destroyed “measures progress by elements that are irrelevant and meaningless.” The U.S.-led effort is additionally handicapped because it has been done half-heartedly. “A bad strategy that is not properly resourced has a zero chance of success,” he says.

The Pentagon has deployed about 3,000 U.S. troops to train Iraqi forces, although President Obama has restricted their efforts to areas well behind the front lines. That means they can’t call in air strikes and gather front-line intelligence that could give Iraqi forces a critical advantage. Zinni contends a relatively small U.S. combat force on the ground inside Iraq could destroy ISIS, but Obama’s aversion to casualties has ruled that out. “Everybody with any kind of military experience in the Pentagon knows damn right well that this strategy isn’t going to work because you’re counting on breaking his will and there’s no sign of that happening,” he adds. “This strategy has got to bring up Vietnam, where they were saying, `Give us time, we’ll kill enough of them and hit a tipping point.’ The problem is they have not found the tipping point.”

The American people, following more than a decade of war, may not be in the mood for another two years of fighting with an unreliable ally. The Pentagon is doing what it can despite the restrictions the White House has imposed. But the over-selling of military progress in battling ISIS is the first step in a treacherous march toward disillusionment that the U.S. military has now begun.

“If the battle is going against you—and it is—do not put yourself in the position where the credibility of the U.S. military is undermined,” West says of Dempsey’s drive-time comment. “If it doesn’t look good, say nothing.”

TIME Military

Second U.S. Marine Dies After Military Plane Crash

The plane crash took place during a training exercise

(HONOLULU)—The U.S. military says a second Marine has died of injuries he received after an Osprey aircraft crashed during a training exercise last weekend in Hawaii.

Marine Corps Capt. Brian Block said in a Wednesday statement that two other Marines remain hospitalized in stable condition. The crash also killed 24-year-old Lance Cpl. Joshua Barron, of Spokane, Washington.

The MV-22B Osprey, a hybrid aircraft that can fly like a helicopter and a fixed-wing airplane, went down Sunday at a military base outside Honolulu with 21 Marines and a Navy corpsman on board.

Block says the second fallen Marine’s family has been notified, and his identity will be released later.

TIME National Security

Obama Calls Climate Change a National Security Threat

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a commencement ceremony at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, S.D. on May 8, 2015.
Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a commencement ceremony at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, S.D. on May 8, 2015.

Obama says the global change in climate will pose a direct threat to our military

President Obama is once again arguing that climate change is a threat to national security.

In a commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Wednesday, Obama noted the problems created by extreme weather, which scientists believe can be exacerbated by climate change. Members of the Coast Guard are often among the first responders during natural disasters such as hurricanes.

“You are part of the first generation of officers to begin your service in a world where the effects of climate change are so clearly upon us,” Obama told the class of 2015. “Climate change will shape how every one of our services plan, operate, train, equip, and protect their infrastructure, today and for the long term.”

During the speech in Connecticut, Obama said that an increase in natural disasters will lead to more humanitarian crises that pose direct threats to a nation’s stability. “More extreme storms will mean more humanitarian missions to deliver lifesaving help,” he said. “Our forces will have to be ready.”

The speech echoed statements presented in the White House National Security Strategy, which said extreme weather, rising tides and temperature shifts fights over scarce resources and diminishing coast lines that will have a stark impact on the global economy.

According to a White House report released Wednesday, the Department of Defense is currently examining the impact climate change can have on U.S. military bases. The Pentagon is also considering how much strain extreme weather places on the Coast Guard.

Wednesday’s speech is the latest Obama administration push to focus the nation’s attention on the threats of climate change. Obama has often said climate change is the greatest threat facing the world’s future generations. It was a sentiment he stressed during an Earth Day trip to the Florida Everglades where he said, “This is not a problem for another generation. It has serious implications for the way we live right now.”

Facing a skeptical Congress, Obama has relied on executive action in efforts to curb the effects of changing temperatures and rising seas. The U.S. has also pledged to a 28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

“Some warming is now inevitable,” Obama said Wednesday. “But there comes a point when the worst effects will be irreversible. And time is running out. And we all know what needs to happen. It’s no secret.”

TIME indonesia

Indonesia’s ‘Virginity Tests’ Obsession Highlights Its Truly Rotten Armed Forces

Indonesian Air Force female soldiers par
AFP/Getty Images Indonesian air-force female soldiers parade during a ceremony in Jakarta on April 9, 2007

Institutions grounded in sense and equality would never employ such a ghastly procedure, say activists

For decades, Indonesian women wishing to join the armed forces and police force, and also those planning to marry military officers, have had to quietly undergo a humiliating procedure known as the “virginity test.”

It’s a dirty secret that wasn’t made public — until Human Rights Watch began highlighting the practice. In a report released last week, the New York City–based advocacy group called for Indonesia’s military to stop imposing virginity tests on female recruits and fiancées of military officers — six months after revealing that Indonesia female police candidates were required to take the test.

“They argue that they want the physically and mentally best candidates to join the armed forces,” Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher at HRW, tells TIME. “It’s the same logic in seeking military wives. They consider a virgin is mentally healthier than a nonvirgin. They reportedly often say, ‘How could you defend the honor of our nation if you cannot defend your own honor?’”

General Moeldoko, the military commander, sees nothing wrong with the practice. “It’s a good thing, why criticize it?” he told journalists last Friday. The virginity test “is a measure of morality. There’s no other way,” he added.

His reaction echoed that of a high-ranking police officer. The head of the national police law division, Inspector General Moechgiyarto, said the test was necessary to maintain the police force’s moral standards. “If she [a candidate] turns out to be a prostitute, how could we accept her for the job?” he said last November. (Other police officials denied the practice, though. Then national police chief General Sutarman said that same month that female recruits were required to undergo medical examinations, not virginity tests.)

The invasive two-finger virginity test, which the World Health Organization slams as having “no scientific validity” and which Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence Against Women condemns as a form of sexual violence, is a recurring topic in Indonesia. Public officials and legislators frequently float an idea to impose virginity tests, particularly on schoolgirls.

Last February, a city councilor of Jember, in eastern Java, suggested that graduating middle-school students should be required to take virginity tests. “If she is not a virgin, she can’t graduate,” he said. In late 2013, the education chief of Prabumulih, in South Sumatra province, proposed the test as a requirement for female students to enter high school. Both ideas, as with others, were shelved following public outcry.

But why is Indonesia so enamored of the idea of virginity? The authoritarian New Order regime may be gone, but its idea of women as a symbol of the nation’s moral guardian is still very much alive, says Lies Marcoes, a women’s-rights activist and medical anthropologist. In the democratic reform era, the rise of religious conservatism and the sense that moral values are under siege have made the idea even stronger. “Virginity has become more sacred,” Lies says. “For state institutions like the military, virginity test is a ‘moral’ symbol to cover up what is rotten.”

It is estimated that female officers comprise just 3% and 2% of the police and the armed forces, respectively. Male police and military officers far outnumber their female counterparts, but no officials have ever mentioned what test is required to gauge the men’s morality.

The use of virginity testing has been documented in several other countries. In Afghanistan, women and girls accused of “moral crimes,” such as running away (often from an abusive home or forced marriage) or extramarital affairs, are often subjected to the test. Despite a court ruling condemning the practice, virginity tests are still illegally used in Egyptian detention facilities. India has not yet systematically put in place a new protocol banning the test on rape survivors across the country.

It is unclear when Indonesia’s police and armed forces began conducting the virginity test, but HRW interviewed women who took the tests from as far back as the 1960s. Female military candidates are usually tested en masse at military hospitals, in large halls that are divided into curtain-separated examination rooms. “Those who defend the virginity test believe in junk science,” says Harsono of HRW. “They believe if [a woman’s hymen] is torn between 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock, it’s due to accidents. If it’s torn at 6 o’clock, they believe the woman has had active sexual activities.”

Irawati Harsono, commissioner at the women’s commission and a retired police officer, had to take the test when she joined the police force three decades ago. “As a woman who experienced it, I felt the test was very discriminatory and degrading,” she says. “Nobody could forget it, which means it is a traumatic experience.”

One retired air-force officer recalled she couldn’t have sex with her newlywed husband during their honeymoon, four years after she took the test. “My body was so stiff. I couldn’t open my legs,” she said, as quoted by HRW. “It was because of the trauma that I had with that ‘virginity test.’”

Following the HRW report last week, several lawmakers called for an end to the virginity test, saying there is no connection between virginity and morals. Interior Minister Tjahjo Kumolo had promised in December that he would scrap virginity tests for women joining the civil-service colleges.

Activists urge President Joko Widodo to abolish it, but the Indonesian leader, a social conservative, has so far been reticent on the issue. And there is little expectation of a major reversal on the attitude or policy. “The more the public thinks the nation’s morals are in disarray,” Lies says, “the stronger is the pressure on women to guard the symbol of purity, which is measured with the most ancient parameter that lies in the subconsciousness of patriarchal men: ‘virginity.’”

TIME Chris Christie

Chris Christie to Call For Larger Military, Defend Intelligence Collection

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Olivier Douliery—Getty Images New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

He'll call for more warships and military planes in a speech Monday

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will call for an expanded military and defend American intelligence programs Monday in a speech laying out his foreign policy vision in New Hampshire.

The all-but-certain Republican presidential candidate is set to criticize the emerging Iran nuclear agreement as well as President Obama’s handling of the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), according to prepared remarks released by his political action committee.

“With Iran, the President’s eagerness for a deal on their nuclear program has him ready to accept a bad deal,” Christie will say.

Christie will issue a full-throated defense of American spying efforts, seeking to draw contrast with more dovish members of his own party, as well as many Democrats, who have unified against the National Security Agency since the Edward Snowden revelations in 2013.

“They want you to think that there’s a government spook listening in every time you pick up the phone or Skype with your grandkids,” Christie will say. “They want you to think of our intelligence community as the bad guys, straight out of the Bourne Identity or a Hollywood thriller. And they want you to think that if we weakened our capabilities, the rest of the world would love us more.”

“Let me be clear: all these fears are baloney,” Christie will add. “When it comes to fighting terrorism, our government is not the enemy. And we shouldn’t listen to people like Edward Snowden, a criminal who hurt our country and now enjoys the hospitality of President Putin—while sending us messages about the dangers of authoritarian government.”

Christie will also propose an expansion of federal defense spending, including a repeal of the mandatory budgetary caps known as sequestration.

“The Army and Marines should not be reduced below their pre-9/11 strength, and our active duty forces should be at 500,000 Army soldiers and 185,000 Marines,” he will say, drumming the call of the nation’s defense hawks. “Our Navy should have more ships,” adding the Navy needs at least 350 vessels. The Air Force, Christie will say, should have 2,000 combat aircraft and a total strength of 6,000 aircraft.

Christie’s call for an expanded military mirrors the plans of other Republicans, even the more dovish Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who earlier this year called for an expansion of the military budget.

Read more: Rand Paul Proposes Boosting Defense Spending

Christie has seen his path to the presidency narrow amid a troubled fiscal situation in his state and the continued fallout of the politically motivated closures of approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge by former aides in 2013. Monday’s remarks are the third in a series of addresses designed to restart his presidential efforts, as he prepares to make his candidacy official in the coming months.

Casting himself as a decisive leader in contrast to Obama, whom he says has not defined a strategy for America in the world, Christie will argue that the current administration is alienating American allies. One piece of evidence he’ll cite: Last week, Obama was set to host Gulf leaders, but several, including Saudi King Salman, pulled out in an apparent snub to the White House.

“The price of inaction is steadily rising,” he will say. “Just last week we saw the embarrassment of almost all the Gulf leaders, including the Saudi king, pulling out of President Obama’s summit at Camp David. Our allies want policies, not photo ops, and we’re not listening to them.”

Christie will call for the linkage between the sanctions on Iran stemming from its nuclear program to that country’s efforts to destabilize the Middle East, including its support for Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen. Such suggestions have been rejected by the Obama Administration as an effort to undermine the nuclear deal.

TIME psychology

How Dogs Are Giving Veterans a Reason to Live

jack-russell-terrier-jumping
Getty Images

A dog's love can cure anything — including PTSD

Phil Ruddock had trouble adjusting when he returned home to rural Louisiana, disabled by a traumatic brain injury he received during an Air Force tour of duty during Desert Storm. He had all the classic symptoms of PTSD: “I drank all the time, I couldn’t get along with anyone, I kept checking every room in the house to make sure it was clear every time I came home, I got up and checked the locks on the doors and windows too many times to count, I was always depressed and pissed at the world, and I never slept. I drove my family so crazy that they wanted to leave,” he says with a country twang. “I still do some of those things,” he adds, “but it’s getting better.”

Sit. Stay. Lie down. They’re the words that helped him through his recovery.

Ruddock’s now assisting other veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan the same way he survived his night terrors and flashbacks — with service dogs. His nonprofit Brothers and Sisters in Arms is a boot camp of sorts based out of central Louisiana, where he’s teaching veterans to train their own service dogs, all adopted from shelters. The repetitive learning of commands works like physical therapy for disabled vets and gives them something to work towards. Once they’ve completed the program, they gain a loyal companion and a sense of accomplishment, “a pride that you can’t imagine,” Ruddock says.

“When a soldier is deployed or on base, they feel secure because they have all the other soldiers there watching their back. But when they are out of the military, when their spouse goes to work, their kids go to school and they’re left alone, they have nobody watching their back,” Ruddock says. “It makes them very anxious, paranoid. A dog turns out to be their battle buddy and watches their back. It never leaves them, it never judges them, it never asks questions that they don’t want to answer. It gives them unconditional love,” Ruddock explains.

A program connecting veterans and rescue dogs may sound cutesy, almost saccharine, but for Ruddock, it’s serious — vital even. He asks the veterans to list Brothers and Sisters in Arms as the primary contact associated with the animal’s microchip, rather than the owner’s home phone. “The suicide rate for veterans is 22 per day,” Ruddock says, about 8,000 every year. “If that dog would show up at a shelter and they ran the microchip, chances are that veteran is not going to answer his phone.”

Ruddock started the nonprofit in November 2012 after his personal experience with an abandoned pit bull. Following a nervous breakdown, he lost his job as lead clerk at the local VA outpatient clinic. His spent his days walled alone up on his remote property, until a friend arrived with a pit bull for him to train. “She was as beat up and as messed up as I was,” he remembers of his white-faced, brown-eared dog, Mia. “She kind of rescued me.” The dog sat in the passenger seat of his truck on rides into a nearby village and eventually gave him confidence to travel farther.

Within the past couple months, Ruddock logged more than 20,000 miles in his sojourns across the Sugar State, from Slidell, a town across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans that butts up against Mississippi, all the way out west to Fort Polk, an Army installation near the Texas border. Last year, he certified 31 service dogs, which are specially licensed after 120 hours in public, and 15 companion dogs.

At the pound, Ruddock seeks out the calmest dogs. “We look for dogs with a good disposition. We don’t want the ones that jump and bark and get with the other dogs,” he says. He generally avoids puppies — too much added stress — and certain breeds like German shepherds that can become overprotective if they’re not socialized regularly, but otherwise he’ll take every breed from a 20-pound Jack Russell terrier to a 200-pound mastiff.

Training sessions run one hour a week for roughly eight weeks, though he’s come to expect a few absences. “A veteran may have problems one day. Some demons may come up and he may not be able to show up. It may take a little longer,” he says.

Besides the essentials — what Ruddock calls good citizenship for canines (think: table manners for children) — the service dogs learn three main commands that are unique for handlers who still carry wounds from the battlefield. The dog learns to “block,” inserting itself into the space between the owner and somebody else so that a person keeps their distance. “Cover” sends the pup to its owner’s back or side, facing away as a kind of lookout that allows a vet to relax at, say, a counter or cash register. The last is “grounded.” If the soldier faints or has a nightmare, the dog lays on top of the owner and licks his face, prompting a welcome (if wet) return to reality.

Brothers and Sisters in Arms is different from many other groups that provide service dogs. For one, Ruddock doesn’t charge for his services or the animal. His operation is funded entirely by donations; the bill from other groups can run as high as $25,000. (“These guys get out of the military, and they’re just above poverty level. They can’t afford that,” he says.) His classes are all one-on-one, making it easier for vets who can be skittish around crowds, nervous about competition and failure. And every instructor is a former soldier, because, as Ruddock says, “There’s no better therapy than a veteran talking to another veteran.”

Ruddock wants to see the program expand across Louisiana. He’s already processing five to 10 applications a week, and he’s starting to get referrals from VA psychiatrists who can’t officially recommend a service dog but still send warriors his way. “It’s not about the fame or fortune. It’s about that feeling you get when you help somebody. The warm fuzzies, the goosebumps, whatever you want to call it,” he says of his motivations. “It’s about doing what’s right.”

It’s for the men and women, his brothers and sisters, that Ruddock keeps trekking across the bayous, working with soldiers, like the young man he met last month. “You can tell he’s had it rough,” Ruddock says. “He couldn’t even stand the sound of a loud car going by. He kept moving around and shaking. He couldn’t look you in the eye. He constantly looked down, and if he did catch your eye, it was a white stare like he could see right through you.” The man expressed no emotion, until Ruddock brought out a puppy. As if he was emerging from a daze, the man started petting the dog. He smiled, and Ruddock knew another soldier was safe.

This article originally appeared on NationSwell.

More from NationSwell:

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME isis

U.S.-Led Airstrike Kills Senior ISIS Commander, Iraq Official Says

Smoke rises after an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition on Islamic State group positions in an eastern neighborhood of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq on May 9, 2015.
AP Smoke rises after an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition on Islamic State group positions in an eastern neighborhood of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq on May 9, 2015.

No confirmation available from American officials

(BAGHDAD) — The Iraqi Defense Ministry says a senior Islamic State commander has been killed in a U.S.-led airstrike in country’s north. While the U.S.-led coalition says it carried out a strike there in the last 24 hours, American officials could not be immediately reached about the statement by Iraq, which has made incorrect claims before.

The Defense Ministry statement said the strike killed Abu Alaa al-Afari and others in Tal Afar.

A Defense Ministry official told The Associated Press that the airstrike late Tuesday hit a mosque. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

The U.S.-led coalition said Wednesday it carried out a strike in the past day near Tal Afar, destroying a “militant fighting position and a heavy machine gun.”

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com