A North Idaho woman's tales of battlefield heroics in Iraq may be too heroic to be true.
According to this morning's Coeur d'Alene Press, Christina Axtman was profiled in a front-page Veteran's Day feature in which, among other things, she told the reporter that she shot a woman armed with a bomb and a baby strapped to her chest, and was seriously injured when a Humvee she was driving struck an improvised explosive device.
Following publication of the story, the Shoshone News-Press—which also ran the story as part of the newspaper chain that owns the Press—started receiving tips from readers in the area of Axtman's hometown of Mullan that the 31-year-old wasn't all she was claiming to be. After checking with military officials, the News-Press found that Axtman served in the Idaho Army National Guard from April 2003-September 2003, and was discharged after suffering broken ribs in a training accident. She was never deployed, and the closest she ever got to Iraq was Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.
National Guard officials told the paper that if Axtman "subsequently enlisted in the active-duty U.S. Army, we have no record of it."
According to the Press, Axtman is sticking to her story.
The case of U.S. Air Force Airman Kelsey Anderson has come to a close.
The Associated Press reported Friday that parents of the 19-year-old Orofino girl, who military officials say killed herself on an Air Force base in Guam in 2011, have settled in a lawsuit demanding information related to her death, receiving $6,500 to cover attorney fees.
Parents Chris and Sue Anderson filed the suit this summer, claiming the Air Force failed to comply with Freedom of Information Act statutes related to disclosure of an investigation into the apparent June 9, 2011, suicide of their daughter, who was stationed at Andersen Air Force Base. Anderson, who joined the service as a security officer shortly after graduation from Orofino High School, was found dead of a gunshot wound in a bathroom stall on the base.
According to the AP, the Air Force settled with the Andersons in U.S. District Court on Nov. 13, admitting no liability or fault in the death. The case was officially dismissed by Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Nov. 14.
Boise Weekly traveled to Orofino in July to visit with the Andersons, who felt the Air Force had been less than forthcoming about events leading up to their daughter's death. According to official records released to them following reporting by BW and the Associated Press, Kelsey Anderson had been deeply unhappy following deployment to Guam—to the degree that her weapons privileges had been suspended on concerns over her mental state.
A man has been named the shooter in a spree shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., that left at least 13 dead and several others wounded Sept. 16.
Aaron Alexis, 34, the presumed shooter, was killed in a gun battle, reports the Washington Post.
Alexis was a four-year Navy reservist, though his career with the Navy was checkered by disorderly conduct charges, unauthorized absences and administrative punishments and sanctions. He received an honorable discharge Jan. 31, 2011, though upon his discharge he was granted a military contractor card, which may have granted him access to the Navy Yard at the time of the shootings.
The Post also reports that the names of the dead have been released.
The death of Kelsey Anderson defied reason. The 19-year-old Orofino High School graduate was well loved by her family and close-knit community; known for her ambition, hard work and competitive spirit. That's why her death—apparently from suicide at Andersen Air Force Base, where she was stationed as an airman in 2011—came as such a shock.
Her mother and father, Chris and Sue Anderson, with whom Boise Weekly spent time at their Orofino home this summer, were shattered as well as mystified, then increasingly angry as the U.S. Air Force dodged questions about the events leading up to their daughter's death. Two years after her death and countless failed attempts to get answers from officials about why their daughter might have taken her own life, the Andersons took the matter to court—suing the Air Force in U.S. District Court to release files related to the investigation of Kelsey's death.
Apparently, the Andersons finally got a response.
According to the Associated Press, the couple received documents in July—around the time they were contacted by Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh—including hundreds of pages from military investigators. AP received the same files after a records request and released a report of the findings Sept. 13.
From the AP report, Kelsey Anderson was very unhappy with her assignment to Andersen Air Force Base and made repeated attempts and requests for reassignment—even to be discharged.
Seven Idaho soldiers have fallen in the last year, and in the third-annual memorial service at the Idaho Fallen Soldier Memorial on Tuesday, Sept. 11, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and First Lady Lori Otter will recite the names of all 62 fallen Idaho soliders.
The seven Idaho soliders who gave their lives in service this year are:
• Robert Dyas Jr., 21, of Nampa was killed by small-arms fire in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, Sept. 21, 2011.
• Ryan Sharp, 28, died Dec. 3, 2011, in a German hospital from injuries caused by an IED blast in Afghanistan.
• Kenneth Cochran, 20, of Wilder, died on Jan. 15, during combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
• Daniel Brown, 27, of Jerome, was killed March 24, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.
• Chris Workman, a 33-year-old native of Rupert and recent resident of Boise, was killed April 19. Boise Weekly reported that Workman was killed "with three other soldiers when their Black Hawk helicopter, responding to a call to evacuate Afghan police officers, went down in the Gamsir District of Helmand Province. The New York Times reports that four Afghan police officers were killed and seven others wounded in a suicide attack at a police checkpoint, and that the American helicopter was flying to the scene to take the wounded to a nearby hospital."
• Cody Moosman, 24, of Preston, was killed in Afghanistan July 3, when enemy forces attacked his unit with small-arms fire.
• Ethan J. Martin, 22, of Lewsiton, died Aug. 7 in Koragay, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered when his combat team encountered enemy fire.
Tuesday's service at the Idaho Fallen Soldier Memorial (at the Idaho Law Center) will include a special ceremony for the seven soliders.
A group of 24 veterans of World War II took flight this morning at the Boise Airport, headed to Washington, D.C.
This time, the aircraft was a Southwest Airlines passenger jet instead of a troop carrier. The men on board Idaho's World War II Veterans' Honor Flight were greeted by Maj. Gen. Gary Saylor of the Idaho Air National Guard, members of the Boise Police Department and Military Honor Guard to escort the veterans onto the plane.
The Honor Flight Program began in 2005, when six chartered planes from Springfield, Ohio, carried 12 World War II vets to national memorials in the nation's capital. According to the Honor Flight Network, the United States loses approximately 900 World War II veterans per day.
To honor their service, the inaugural flight of the Honor Flight of Idaho chapter takes those vets on a free ride to D.C., where they will tour the national WWII Memorial. According to Honor Flight of Idaho, many of Idaho's veterans have not had a chance to see the memorial.
In 2011, the Honor Flight Network transported more than 18,200 WWII veterans to D.C.
A colonel in the Army Reserve has filed suit against the Idaho Board of Medicine, alleging she was bullied out her position as executive director of the state agency.
The Idaho Business Review reports that Imelda Weddington, who reached the rank of colonel in the Army Reserve Nurse Corps in 2005, claims her career was threatened by two Idaho physicians, Leo Harf and David McCluskey.
"[McClusky] told her that as 'vice-chair,' Dr. Harf would 'control the vote' of the board if [Weddington] took her concerns to the board, that the only way to protect her professional reputation was for her to resign quietly and without complaining," said Weddington's complaint.
IBR's Sean Olson reports that Weddington said she was told that Harf had concerns "about her time off" after performing her duties as Army Reserve emergency preparedness liaison officer for the state.
Weddington's monetary recovery request is not specified in her suit.
Weddington has since found other employment.
In 2005, Weddington was selected as Military Alumni of the Year by the Jacksonville (Ala.) State University ROTC.
Air Force officials announced late Wednesday what most had suspected for some time, that Boise wouldn't be the new pilot training center for F-35 fighter jets. Instead, the Department of Defense chose Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz., for the operation.
Boise's Gowen Field was competing with bases in Arizona (Glendale and Tucson) and New Mexico for the F-35 mission.
Air Force officials said that Luke AFB was chosen because of the facility's ramp capacity, range access, weather and potential for growth.
Pentagon officials tout the F-35, made by Lockheed Martin, as "the most advanced aircraft being added to the military arsenal." The F-35s could land at Luke as early as fall 2013.