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Fallen Wyoming Marine’s Father Explains Why He Wouldn’t Meet With Biden

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Appearing on Fox and Friends Tuesday morning, the father of fallen Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum explained to host Brian Kilmeade why he avoided a meeting with President Joe Biden over the weekend.

McCollum’s father, Jim, and his daughters were in Dover, Delaware, to receive the body of his slain son, one of the 13 servicemen killed in a terrorist attack at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan last week.

When President Biden walked into the room where the ceremony was being held, Mr. McCollum walked out.

“I had no desire to meet with the president,” McCollum said.  “Everything he’s done [with the withdrawal from Afghanistan], every step along the way has been absolutely backwards.”

“A high school kid could make better decisions than they’ve made in this,” he said.

Originally it was reported that only the late Marine’s wife had stayed in the room to meet with Biden but McCollum’s sister, Cheyenne McCollum, also stuck around briefly.

“I chose to stay with my brother’s wife,” Cheyenne said. “She wanted the chance to look him in the eye and see if it was going to be a sincere conversation or apology. And I was able to stand about 15 seconds of his fake, scripted apology and I had to walk out.”

She said Biden wouldn’t at look her or at McCollum’s wife in the eye. Instead, she said, he looked down and showed no sympathy.

“It was more about his son,” Mr. McCollum said. “My son wasn’t mentioned. It was his son and about him.”

Mr. McCollum’s ex-wife, who lives in Montrose, Colorado, was much more caustic in her remarks about President Biden, telling interviewers that he was a “dementia-ridden piece of crap.”

Between sobs, she told talk show host Andrew Wilkow that her son “died in vain.”

“This was as unnecessary debacle which could have been handled properly,” she said.

The McCollum family was welcomed back to Jackson, Wyoming, on Monday afternoon by hundreds of well-wishers who lined Broadway Avenue in Jackson to watch the emotional motorcade.

“Welcome home to a hero’s family,” U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis said on Twitter. “My heart hurts for your family. My prayers join the chorus. I don’t have the right words so just thank you from me, Wyoming, and from an eternally grateful nation.”

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Crowds Welcome Slain Wyoming Marine’s Family Back to Jackson

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Video: Courtesy The Wort Hotel

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Hundreds of people lined Broadway Avenue in Jackson on Monday afternoon to welcome the family of a Wyoming Marine who died in a terrorist attack at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan on Thursday.

Members of the Jackson Police Department, the Teton County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marine Corps escorted the father of Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, Jim, and Rylee’s two sisters, Cheyenne and Roice, through the community at 3:40 p.m. after their trip to Washington, DC over the weekend.

The family was attending a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where the bodies of the 13 servicemen killed in the attacks were returned to the U.S. in a military service called a “dignified transfer.”

Onlookers waved flags and applauded in an effort to show support for the family.

Earlier in the day, Jim McCollum told a Facebook friend that his son would be returned to the Jackson area “for his last trip home” sometime in the immediate future.

“The process has started but no definitive time-line yet,” Mr. McCollum said.

The elder McCollum also posted a tribute video made for his son by a friend on his Facebook page. The video showed many pictures of Rylee and his sisters growing up in the Jackson area.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso told FOX News on Monday evening that he spoke with Jim McCollum earlier in the day and was told Rylee was “red, white, and blue from the beginning.”

“He joined the Marines on his 18th birthday,” Barrasso said.  “He leaves behind a wife who is pregnant with their first child next month.”

“His Dad ended our conversation by saying, ‘Tonight, Rylee is guarding the gates of Heaven,'” he added.

Jim McCollum, however, did not speak with President Joe Biden, who attended the transfer ceremony in Dover, Massachusetts. McCollum and his family walked out when Biden entered the room.

McCollum’s daughter, Roice, told the Washington Post that this was because they blamed the president for her brother’s death.

“You can’t f— up as bad as he did and say you’re sorry,” Roice McCollum said. “This did not need to happen, and every life is on his hands.”

Jiennah McCollum, the wife of the late Marine, did meet with Biden briefly but reportedly left disappointed because she felt he was following a script.

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Slain Wyoming Marine’s Family Walked Out on Meeting With Biden

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The family of the Wyoming Marine killed in a terrorist attack on Thursday refused to meet with President Joe Biden following a solemn ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Sunday.

Roice McCollum, sister of Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, said the family did attend the ceremony — known as the “dignified transfer” — but ultimately decided not to meet with the president because they held him responsible for the Marine’s death.

“You can’t f— up as bad as he did and say you’re sorry,” Roice McCollum told the Washington Post. “This did not need to happen, and every life is on his hands.”

Jiennah McCollum, the wife of the late Marine, did meet with Biden briefly but reportedly left disappointed because she felt he was following a script.

FOX News reported that “the family felt the president’s conversation with Jiennah was hollow and lacking meaning, and said Biden appeared to show a ‘total disregard to the loss of our Marine.’”

The White House would not comment on the private conversations the president had with the families.

Meanwhile, McCollum’s father on Sunday posted an original poem on his Facebook page, which reads:

Where do I find the answers 
Where do I go from here 
When the heart is filled with sorrow 
When eyes are filled with tears
When will it be OK 
To smile once again 
Without feeling bad 
For feeling something 
About the memories held within 
Today I start that journey 
My son has made it home
Thankful for you and the love that you share
I know I’m not alone

Mr. McCollum signed the poem “wykid”.

One of Mr. McCollum’s Facebook friends encouraged him to keep writing.

“Please keep writing your poetry. It’s therapeutic for you! Keeping you in my thoughts & prayers!” Kari Mulinix wrote.

McCollumn concurred: “Thank you…it truly is.”

Mr. McCollum told another friend that he and his family will return to Wyoming late Monday and his late son will arrive soon after.

“It will be a few days before he makes his last trip home. There are some things that need to be taken care of before that can happen. The process has started but no definitive time-line yet,” he said.

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Heartbroken Mother of Killed Wyoming Marine Blames Biden Voters For Son’s Death

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The grief-stricken mother of the Wyoming Marine who was killed in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan on Friday blamed President Joe Biden and his voters for her son’s death.

Kathy McCollum, a resident of Montrose, Colorado, called a Sirius XM political talk show on Friday afternoon to discuss her son Lance Cpl. Rylee MCCollum’s death.

Not mincing words on the segment, McCollum said she called the talk show to “process [the grief] through anger instead of tears”.

“I just want all you Democrats who cheated in the election, or who voted for him legitimately, to know that you just killed my son,” McCollum said. “With a dementia-ridden piece of crap who doesn’t even know he’s in the White House, who still thinks he’s a senator.

McCollum said she was awakened at her door at 4am by two Marines telling her that her son was one of 13 serviceman killed in the attacks.

She told talk show host Andrew Wilkow that her representative Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-CO) will be visiting her house on Monday and “will be able to convey my message to the rest of the United States.”

“She said my son did not die in vain but guess what? My son did die in vain. This was unnecessary debacle which could have been handled properly,” she said.

McCollum’s son, a former resident of Bondurant, Wyoming and a 2019 graduate of Jackson High School, was married on February 14 and was expecting his first child with wife Gigi in three weeks.

“They had months and months to remove everyone from Afghanistan and they chose not to,” she said.  “My son was, through the laws of statistics, was one of the ones who just got blown up in a terrorist bomb yesterday.”

“I’m just going to stay pissed-off and that’s the only way I’m going to be able to do this,” she said. “Every Democrat that’s listening, you did this to my son.”

Meanwhile in Jackson, Wyoming, McCollum’s father and two sisters appeared at the Jackson High School football game on Friday night.

The family walked out to the middle of the football field for a moment of silence followed by the national anthem.

“Rylee McCollum gave his life defending freedom around the world, our country, and the lives of many yesterday. We will be forever grateful for Rylee’s service and sacrifice to our country,” the announcer said.

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Over $500,000 Raised For Family Of Wyoming Marine Killed In Afghanistan

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Outpourings of support continued over the weekend for the family of a Wyoming marine who was killed in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan on Friday.

Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, a former resident of Bondurant, Wyoming, and a 2019 graduate of Jackson Hole High School, was one of 13 servicemen killed in two separate blasts at the Kabul airport.

McCollum was married and his wife is expecting a child in three weeks.

Donations over $500,000 have been generated on two GoFundMe sites.

One page set up by McCollum’s mother-in-law, Jill Crayton, has raised more than $160,000 while the other, set-up by an unknown organizer, has topped $350,000.

“My heart is incredibly heavy today, in the wee hours of the morning my beautiful daughter got that knock on her door that no military spouse wants to get,” Crayton, the mother of McCollum’s wife Gigi, said.

Crayton said the couple had been married less than a year and said Gigi is 36 weeks pregnant.

“I never got to meet him, but I will meet his baby, and I will love and spoil that baby forever. please hold her in your heart and soul because she needs it, this mama knows exactly what that feels like,” she wrote on the page.

Holding back tears, Crayton told a Charlotte TV station that she learned the news from her daughter at 6 a.m. EDT Friday after Marines showed up at her daughter’s door.

“He brought out the best of her. He did,” she said.

Crayton lost her husband when Gigi was five years old and said she remembered hoping that her children would never have to go through something like that.

“It’s not just losing your spouse,” she said. “But something you were so excited to share with somebody and that person isn’t there anymore.”

The other page said the purpose of the fundraiser is toward the education and upbringing of McCollum’s child,

“His sacrifice at HKIA [Hamid Karzai International Airport] to protect the lives of those who cannot themselves will not be forgotten,” the page said. “Once we close off donations, withdrawals will be directed directly to an account chosen by her and her mother.”

McCollum’s sister, Roice, said her brother had wanted to be a Marine his entire life and as a toddler, he carried around a toy rifle while wearing diapers and his cowboy boots.

“Rylee wanted to be a history teacher and a wrestling coach when he finished serving his country,” she said. “Rylee will always be a hero, not just for the ultimate sacrifice he made for our country but for the way he impacted every life around him for the better. Making us stronger, kinder, teaching us to love deeper. We love you Rylee.”

His father, Jim, told the New York Times that he could track his son through a messaging app that displayed a green dot when he was online.

When Jim got word of the terrorist attacks, he checked the app but there was no green light.

“In my heart yesterday afternoon, I knew,” he said.

“He was a beautiful soul,” Mr. McCollum said.

Wyoming’s congressional delegation was quick to offer condolences to McCollum’s family.

“His bravery and patriotism will never be forgotten,” Rep. Liz Cheney said, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and perhaps the most-outspoken critic of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. “His willingness to put himself in harm’s way to keep our country safe and defend our freedom represents a level of selflessness and heroism that embodies the best of America.”

“There are no words sufficient to comfort a family after hearing news like this, but I want to express my deepest condolences to Rylee McCollum’s family and friends,” U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis said.

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Military Members Must Be Vaccinated By Sept. 15, If Not Sooner

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The U.S. military will require service members to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by mid-September, the U.S. Department of Defense announced on Monday.

Currently, 73% of active duty personnel have at least one dose of the vaccine, DOD officials said. 

The deadline has been endorsed by President Joe Biden, who recently asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III to consider how and when the COVID vaccine could be added to the list of required vaccines for all service members. The question came in response to a spike in cases caused by the Delta variant.

“Our men and women in uniform who protect this country from grave threats should be protected as much as possible from getting COVID-19,” Biden said during a July 29 speech.

Austin consulted with Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the service secretaries and the rest of the Joint Chiefs in making his decision.

“Based on these consultations and on additional discussions with leaders of the White House COVID-19 Task Force, I want you to know that I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon the U.S. Food and Drug Administration licensure, whichever comes first,” Austin said in a memo to all service members.

All DOD leaders will be involved in expanding the program.

“I have every confidence that service leadership and your commanders will implement this new vaccination program with professionalism, skill and compassion,” Austin wrote in the memo. “We will have more to say about this as implementation plans are fully developed.”

Austin also said the department will comply with the president’s direction regarding additional restrictions and requirements for unvaccinated federal personnel. These requirements cover military and civilian personnel. 

The DOD will keep a close eye on infection rates “and the impact these rates might have on our readiness,” Austin said. “I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the president if I feel the need to do so.”

More and more employers across the nation are now requiring employees to be vaccinated against the virus or face severe consequences, including termination.

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40th Anniversary of “Stripes” This Week; Could ‘Razzle-Dazzle Scene Actually Happen?

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

As movie-goers celebrate the 40th anniversary this week of the Bill Murray classic comedy “Stripes,” some civilians — naively — wonder if any parts of the movie could actually happen in real life.

Like the boot camp graduation scene where perhaps the worst-ever group of soldiers show off the skills they taught themselves after their sergeant was blown up in an unfortunate accident.

The result is a fabulously choreographed dance that the misfits somehow learned overnight. They’re even late to the graduation with their shirts hanging out and loosely buttoned — if buttoned at all — which makes the whole scene more outrageous and memorable.

Is there any chance this could happen in real-life?

The former commander of Cheyenne’s F.E. Warren Air Force Base (or the 90th Wing as it is called) laughed at the notion but was kind enough to address the question.

“Boot camp is hard enough, calling attention to you self is utterly self-destructive, and if you don’t figure that in the first 24 hours, you’re probably going home anyway,” said retired Col. Tucker Fagan.

“However, I’m sure everyone who has gone through boot camp probably had dreams that someone else, not them, would do something crazy,” Fagan said.

The former commander said the soldiers shown in “Stripes” would never get to perform their routine for officers because as soon as something looked askew in the proceedings, the participants would be thrown-out.

“Notice the General and officers are aghast; however every TI (training instructor) on the parade field would be all over them in a second, getting them off the parade field,” he said.

Fagan, however, was impressed with the choreography — although he did note it was unrealistic.

“Notice they all are in step and properly spaced – that takes a lot of training, so they must have practiced; an improbability,” he said.

Fagan said no one would applaud at such a scene for fear of retribution. Further, if the troops actually pulled this off, hell would break loose.

“People there would be like, ‘OMG those guys are in for the worst boot camp you can imagine, the worst will be out of the Army faster than you can turn around,” Fagan said laughing.

The lack of realism — the escapism — is what makes it fun and what makes the movie “Stripes” so endearing to this day.

40 years later, it still holds up.

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Wyoming National Guard Makes History With Artillery Test

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Members of the Wyoming Army National Guard made history last month by conducting its first test of a weapon deployment system.

Members of the Wyoming Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 300th Field Artillery unit conducted its first live-fire of HIMARS Rapid Infiltration artillery at the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah in late January.

The exercise involved transporting a portable artillery launching system, the HIMARS, by airplane to a point near the target.

“For the 2-300th, it’s kind of historic for us,” said Lt. Col. Robert Lemay Lejeune, commander of the 2-300th.

Missions in which artillery launchers are flown to specific areas, called HIRAIN missions, have been around for a long time in the military and are a staple of combat in the Middle East, which the 2-300th consistently trains for.

“This is one of our mission essential tasks,” Training Officer Maj. Shawn Stensaas said. “It will help us improve and maintain our proficiencies and relevancy to support missions around the world, wherever they may be.”

The unit first began practice for the live fire exercise in 2015. For the January exercise, it used a C-130 Hercules aircraft provided by the National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing out of Cheyenne.

Using the aircraft allows the artillery greater mobility and a substantial increase in the overall range. This tactic makes HIRAIN missions very flexible.

“It can be used in any theatre where you can land a C-17 or a C-130,” Lejeune said.

The normal method the soldiers of the 2-300th unit use to fire their artillery is to drive their rockets to a set point on the battlefield and then fire from that location.

While this method can be highly effective, it is limited by the range of the artillery used, usually 18-42 miles. This range can be extended by conducting a HIRAIN mission.

“I can conduct a raid but it’s as far as I can drive and secure myself forward on the battlefield,” Lejeune said. “Which is relatively short when you compare the distance to an aircraft. So by working with the Air Force, we add this great new capability in terms of range.”

This exercise that took place Jan. 21-22 saw the 2-300th load two HIMARS and one Humvee onto the C-17 Globemaster III. The airplane then took off from Cheyenne and flew to Hill Air Force Base in northern Utah.

The following day, the C-17 crew flew the members of the 2-300th to Dugway Proving Grounds where the HIMARS were removed the aircraft, guard members obtained a good firing position and then fired the payload.

The soldiers then returned to Wyoming.

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Barrasso Backs Bipartisan Military Spouses Licensing Bill

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso is joining 22 other senators in supporting a bill that would make it easier for the spouses of members of the military to practice their professions where their spouses are stationed.

On Thursday, the senators introduced the bipartisan Military Spouse Licensing Relief Act, which gives military spouses with valid professional licenses in one state reciprocity in the state where their spouse is currently serving on military orders, according to a news release.

For example, if a military spouse has a cosmetology license in Colorado, but his or her spouse is serving in Wyoming, their license would be valid in both states.

“In Wyoming, we recognize the sacrifice that our service members and their families make every day,” Barrasso said in the release. “Military families often move every two to three years. The last thing they need to worry about is spending time and money trying to maintain their careers in a new state.

“Our bipartisan bill will make it easier for military spouses to transition the professional licenses they’ve already worked hard to obtain when they move to a new duty station,” he continued.

The bill would amend the Service Members Civil Relief Act of 2003. The SCRA already provides a number of protections for active duty service members and their families, including rental agreements, civil judicial proceedings, installment contracts and credit card and mortgage interest rates.

This legislation wouldn’t preempt state law on how the licenses are used, as military spouses would still be required to comply with standards of practice, discipline and continuing education requirements.

Some of the senators co-sponsoring the bill alongside Barrasso include Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California.

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Wyoming Highway Patrol Recognizes Wyoming Military Serving Abroad

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The Wyoming Highway Patrol on Friday recognized and thanked Wyoming military members who are serving overseas.

In recognition of Remember Everyone Deployed (R.E.D.) Friday, the patrol posted a photograph of members of the Wyoming Air Guard who came together at an undisclosed location in southwest Asia.

The photo shows about 20 members of the Wyoming 153rd Air Wing gathered on a flight line, holding a “Welcome to Wyoming” sign made by Guard Master Sgt. Mike Simmons, a Wyoming Highway Patrol employee.

“This is the first time the Wyoming Air Guard has deployed with a ‘WELCOME TO WYOMING’ sign, borrowing the tradition from the Wyoming Army National Guard’s deployment from the Korean War,” the Highway Patrol’s post said.

The guardsmen have been in the country for a little more than one month supporting military operations in the 332nd Expeditionary Air Wing (also known as the “Red Tails”), the post said. They are expected to be deployed well into the new year and will miss the holiday season with their families.

R.E.D. was created to urge people to show some form of support for deployed service members every Friday until they can return home.

The goal of R.E.D. is to carry the message to national levels, serve the military community, and help their families by showing them that they are never forgotten.

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