Entries in Iraq (26)


Ariz. Cardinals Cheerleader Arrested for Allegedly Attacking Boyfriend

Arizona Cardinals | Scottsdale Police Department - Obtained by ABC News(SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.) -- An Iraq War veteran turned NFL cheerleader was arrested for aggravated assault and disorderly conduct after she allegedly attacked her boyfriend, who captured the incident on his cell phone.

Megan Welter, 29, of Scottsdale, Ariz., is seen on cell phone video obtained by ABC News angrily questioning her boyfriend about text messages between him and a female friend.

"Who is she!" Welter is heard screaming in the footage as her boyfriend, who has not been identified, tries to calm her down.

Police were called to the couple's home after Welter placed a 911 call and accused her boyfriend of attacking her.

"He smashed my head into tile," she is heard saying on the recording.

Video footage released by the Scottsdale Police Department that was shot at the scene of the alleged domestic dispute shows Welter pleading with officers to get her boyfriend out of the home.

But it was Welter who ended up being taken into custody on July 20 after her boyfriend countered with his side of the story. "I was asking her to stop, I was trying to leave, she was pulling out my hair, she was scratching me, she was punching me in my face and I have everything on tape," her boyfriend said.

Authorities said both parties admit to drinking heavily on the night of the argument. Welter was reportedly so drunk she could not say what had happened.

Welter has cheered for the Arizona Cardinals for two years, according to the team's website. But she's recently made headlines for her service in the Iraq War, where she spent 16 months.

"Our country has given us so many freedoms and to be a part of fighting for that and maintaining that, it means a lot," she told ABC's Phoenix affiliate KNXV-TV.

Welter's boyfriend told ABC's Good Morning America that he hopes the incident "doesn't take away from the good things she's done for the NFL and for her country."

"I want people to know that she's a wonderful, beautiful woman who had a momentary lapse of judgment," he said.

A representative for the Arizona Cardinals did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Volunteers Work to Provide Wounded Iraq Vet with Custom Home

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MCLEAN, Va.) -- After months of renovations, a wounded Iraq War veteran and his wife are ready to move into their new home, thanks to the efforts of a volunteer project that customizes homes for wounded veterans.

Capt. Patrick Horan was serving in Iraq in 2007 when he was struck by a bullet that penetrated his skull and exploded.  Horan was airlifted from Iraq to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where doctors removed half his skull, said his wife, Patty Horan.

"He had trouble speaking, but he also had trouble with the motor function of his mouth, just forming the words," she said.

For the past five years, Horan and his wife have moved around the country to get Horan the care he needs.  At last, they have a permanent home of their own, near family members and care givers, in McLean, Va.

"This house symbolizes enjoying life and just starting anew," said Patty Horan.  "We can actually live life again instead of living 10 hours a day in a hospital.  That's what we've been doing for five years."

Funding for the renovations came from a $10 million grant the Sears' Heroes at Home program gave to Rebuilding Together, a national volunteer home rehabilitation organization, specifically for veterans' housing, said Lee-Berkely Shaw, director of development at the Montgomery County, Va., chapter of Rebuilding Together.

Skilled and unskilled volunteers worked together from May until Tuesday morning to help rebuild the Horans' home, Shaw said.

"The family becomes probably the single greatest part of a veterans' recovery," said Tom Aiello, division vice president for Sears' Heroes at Home.  "And Patty is Patrick's lifeline.  She is his care giver, and she is his sense of normalcy."

The Horans had been looking for a home since the summer of 2011.  They were outbid on a house in Bethesda, Md., but found the McLean house in February.  But it had to be redesigned so that Patrick Horan could get around on his own, said project manager John Lowe.

"When you're working on a house, it's really important to know who you're accommodating, and in this case, what their injuries are," he said.

Lowe said that since Patrick Horan had been shot on the left side of his head, the right side of his body was extremely compromised.  The remodeling had to take this into account.

They had to add an elevator, make the master bathroom handicap accessible, lower the counter tops in the kitchen, widen doorways and swap door knobs for levers.

"It cost tens of thousands of dollars just to do the elevator, and then another $20,000 to do the bathroom," said Shaw.

Shaw said Monday was the first time that Patrick Horan had seen the home since the work began so many months ago.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Victim of Possible Hate Crime Buried in Iraq

Comstock/Thinkstock(EL CAJON, California)  -- An Iraqi woman who was found slain in her California home last month was buried Saturday in her native country.

While mourners laid to rest Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old mother of five, in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, police in El Cajon continued their investigation that her murder was the result of a hate crime.

Alawadi was found beaten unconscious by her teenage daughter at her family's home on March 21. A few days later, the woman was taken off life-support.

Lt. Mark Coit of the El Cajon police said, "During the initial stages of this investigation, a threatening note was discovered very close to where the victim was found."

While investigators did not discuss the exact nature of the note, the dead woman's daughter said it threatened her family and demanded that they return to Iraq.

The teen also claimed they received a similar warning earlier in the month, but did not report it to police. Fatima Al Himidi said that note read, "This is our country, not yours, you terrorists," but her mother ignored it, believing it was just a prank. El Cajon has a large Iraqi community.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Family of Civilian Killed in Iraq Sues Military Contractor

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(FALLS CHURCH, Va.) -- Three years ago, at a party thrown by U.S. civilian contractors in Iraq, a young ex-Marine named Jason Pope was shot to death by a drunken co-worker. Now, his family has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming the military contractor, DynCorp International, and 12 of its employees conspired to cover up exactly how Pope died.

At first, news media in Detroit -- Pope’s hometown -- reported that he was killed while protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq. But investigations by the State and Justice Departments found that, during a party at a U.S. embassy office in Erbil, Iraq, Pope and a fellow contractor, 27-year-old Kyle Palmer, were horsing around with Pope’s 9-millimeter Glock-19 handgun.

Federal prosecutors say, at various times, the two were actually pointing the gun at each other. Then Palmer, who was “considerably intoxicated,” according to the Justice Department, fired the gun without checking whether it was loaded. The bullet struck and killed Pope, then 25 years old.

Both men had been working as security specialists, assigned to protect diplomats, dignitaries and civilian workers in Iraq. Pope joined the company after serving two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2010, after a plea deal with prosecutors, a federal judge in Mississippi sentenced Palmer to 36 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter and ordered him to pay $6,000 in restitution and fines. But the lawsuit filed by Pope’s family accuses DynCorp International and its employees of concocting a different story, falsely suggesting that Pope was drunk and shot himself.

The family’s attorney, William Goodman, tells ABC News, “the autopsy showed that Justin had not a drop of alcohol or any other intoxicant in him.”

What motive would DynCorp or its employees have for a cover-up? According to Goodman, the episode was deeply embarrassing to the company -- one of only three major U.S. contractors operating in Iraq at the time. “They didn’t want the American public to know its money was being spent on criminal and lethal behavior,” Goodman said.

DynCorp International, based in Falls Church, Va., told ABC News in a statement: “This was an extremely tragic accident that occurred several years ago, after working hours, when certain personnel were drinking alcohol in violation of Company policy. Although our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Pope’s family and loved ones, the allegations contained within the suit are without merit.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House Dinner Honors Iraq War Vets

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama hosted a White House dinner Wednesday evening for some 200 Iraq veterans and their families as a way of paying tribute to the sacrifices they've made during the 8-year-long war.

A White House statement said, "This dinner [is] an expression of the nation’s gratitude for the achievements and enormous sacrifices of the brave Americans who served” in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.

The president saluted the soldiers as did Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Members from all branches of the military were invited, including those who served in the National Guard and Army Reserves.

Former Marine Eric Alva was one of several highly decorated Iraq veterans honored.  Alva was the first member of U.S. forces to be injured in Iraq following the American-led invasion in March 2003.

Others attending the dinner included Army Col. Peter Newell, who won the Silver and Bronze Stars and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Nelson Visaya,  winner of the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with Valor awards.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iraq War Vets to Be Honored with White House Dinner

Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will formally express the nation's gratitude for the thousands of Iraq War veterans with a state dinner in their honor at the White House Wednesday night.

The event, themed "A Nation's Gratitude," is the first of its kind to mark the end of a major war and comes just two-and-a-half months after the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq.

"A state dinner is the greatest honor a president can convey upon a head of state, and it was felt that the men and women who served in Iraq merited the same kind of honor and respect that you would give to a head of state," said Douglas Wilson, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.

A hand-picked group of 78 service members selected proportionally from across all military branches, ranks and states will attend, officials say, joined by members of military families, Gold Star families and wounded warriors.

While more than 1.5 million Americans served in Iraq during the nearly nine-year war, the mix of guests is meant to reflect and honor the diversity of the entire fighting force, officials said.

The dinner's limited size and profile is also seen as a nod to the nearly 100,000 U.S. troops still fighting in Afghanistan.

While some veterans and military advocates have called for a ticker-tape parade to celebrate the end of the war in Iraq, Wilson said the White House dinner is merely a "first national recognition" of veterans' service; not a substitute for a formal parade.

"People here have said that they certainly support a national-level parade when the circumstances are appropriate to do so," he said. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


No Parade, But White House Plans Formal Dinner for Iraq War Vets

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will host a black-tie, state-dinner-style event at the White House to honor Iraq War veterans, administration officials announced Monday.

“It’s really focused on the men and women who served in Iraq, in all stations within the armed services,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. The celebration will occur Feb. 29, two and a half months after the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq.

The evening will be themed “A Nation’s Gratitude” and is believed to be the first such event of its kind at the White House to mark the end of a major war, a Pentagon official said.

A hand-picked group of roughly 200 attendees selected proportionally from across all service branches and ranks are expected to attend.

At its height, nearly 170,000 troops served during the war there.

Still, some veterans groups and advocates have pressed for a parade in New York City or Washington, D.C., and launched an online petition drive to make the case to the president.

Late last month, St. Louis became the first U.S. city to throw a parade for returned Iraq War veterans -- an event that drew more than 100,000 who lined the streets to show their support, according to organizers.

Veterans groups in 10 other cities, including Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Seattle are said to be considering hosting similar events.

More than 1.5 million Americans fought in the nearly nine-year war that cost an estimated $800 billion. The fighting left almost 4,500 Americans dead, 32,000 wounded and an estimated 100,000 Iraqis killed.

About 90,000 U.S. troops are still fighting in Afghanistan.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Welcomes Home US Commander in Iraq

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Marking the end of the nearly nine-year war, President Obama Tuesday welcomed home the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. Lloyd Austin, and witnessed the return of the command flag that flew over Baghdad.

“It is great to be back in the United States of America,” Austin said in an understated ceremony at Joint Base Andrews. “We have honored our commitment  and our military-led mission has come to a successful conclusion, and today I am proud to safely return our colors to their rightful place, the United States of America.”

While the president did not deliver formal remarks, both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden greeted Austin and his top command staff on the tarmac.

With his commander-in-chief sitting close by, Austin praised the troops who served in Iraq and highlighted their successes. “I could not be more proud of our men and women in uniform who are unquestionably the pre-eminent military force in the world,” he said. “What our troops achieved in Iraq over the course of nearly nine years is truly remarkable. Together with our coalition partners and core of dedicated civilians, they removed a brutal dictator and gave the Iraqi people their freedom.”

Tuesday’s event came only two days after the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq. “Today, we bring home the colors to United States soil, at the same time we embrace many of our own back into the fold just in time for the holidays,” chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said. “Welcome home.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Former POW Jessica Lynch Receives Education Degree

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(PARKERSBURG, W.Va.) -- Jessica Lynch has made her peace over the years with being in the spotlight, so she doesn't mind that it shines brightly on her Friday as the former POW graduates from college with a degree in elementary education.

In the audience is her daughter, Dakota Ann, 5 -- living memory of Lynch's friend, Army Pfc. Lori Ann Piestawa, 23, who was killed along with 10 other soldiers in the March 23, 2003, attack in Nasiriyah, Iraq, in which Lynch was captured. The name Dakota honors Piestawa's Native American heritage.

Lynch was only 18 when she joined the Army from the tiny town of Palestine, W.V., and only 19 when the truck she was driving came under attack after it took a wrong turn into enemy territory in Iraq. She still has damaged legs and a painful foot  -- injuries she apparently suffered when the Humvee crashed -- but that won't stop her from accepting her diploma from West Virginia University in Parkersburg.

Lynch , now 28, became America's darling when U.S. forces rescued her from a hospital in Iraq and the U.S. government -- displaying footage of her being carried out on a stretcher -- portrayed her as a fearless heroine who had gone down fighting. In fact, as she told ABC's Diane Sawyer in a searing 2003 interview, her weapon jammed and "I did not shoot … not a round."

"Did you go down like somebody said, Rambo?" Sawyer asked.

"No. No. I went down, praying to my knees. And then, that's the last I remember," Lynch replied.

She told the reality of her wartime experience in a book "I Am a Soldier Too," written with journalist Rick Bragg.

Her truthfulness sparked a lot of hate mail, but she has refused to hide away -- making public appearances to speak to veteran's groups and kids and raising money for her charity, Jessi's Pals.

She lives in her home state with Dakota's dad, Wes Robinson, and is still in regular touch with another of the captured POWs, cook Shoshana Johnson, 38, of El Paso, Texas.

Johnson, who was shot in both legs in the attack, still has pain, but she told ABC: "Considering that other soldiers got missing limbs, I'm doing OK. They still work, I can still stand on them."

The country's first black female POW, she has never been in the limelight to the degree Lynch has been. "I still got to pay the mortgage, make the car payment. I'm not Kim Kardashian," she says. "Every once in a while I do get a speaking engagement and that affords me certain luxuries for my daughter," Jenelle, 12.

She completed studies in culinary arts in May and now is studying health science with a culinary concentration at the University of Texas at El Paso. Johnson battles depression and PTSD and says: I hope to be 'normal,' but it's a work in progress. Just because we leave Iraq physically, some of us are still mentally there."

She is in contact with all the former POWs, especially Lynch, and also keeps in close touch with Melissa Coleman, who spent 33 days in captivity during the Gulf War in 1991.

"There are very few people who understand what it was like for me. My fellow POWs are those individuals. I can tell them anything and they understand," Johnson said. "My connection to them keeps me more grounded."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama to Thank Fort Bragg Troops Ahead of Iraq Withdrawal

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will travel with the first lady to Fort Bragg Wednesday morning, where he will deliver a speech to troops and their families, thanking them for their service.

The Obamas' visit to the North Carolina military base comes as America's involvement in the near nine-year war in Iraq comes to an end later this month. Just over 5,000 U.S. troops remain there in advance of the Dec. 31 withdraw deadline, down from the peak of 170,000, during the successful "surge" in 2007.

The White House says the president, "will speak about the enormous sacrifices and achievements of the brave Americans who served in the Iraq War, and he will speak about the extraordinary milestone of bringing the war in Iraq to an end."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio