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Gen. James L. Jones Talks China, 5G
Sunday, July 8, 2018


A retired Marine Corps general cautioned a Sun Valley audience to be vigilant when it comes to China.

“Russia wants to disrupt us,” retired Gen. James L. Jones told 500 people attending Higher Ground Sun Valley’s Hero’s Journey benefit Thursday night. “China has loftier ambitions. China wants to replace us.”

And China’s popular and economy give the one-time “Sleeping Giant” the wherewithal to do it, he added.

Jones, who has served in a variety of capacities including that of a National Security Advisor since retiring, took his place at the speaker’s podium in the indoor riding arena of Tom and Elizabeth Tierney’s River Grove Ranch.

Flags befitting the various military units lined the stage and a Missing Man Table sat off to one side, an empty chair leaning against the table reserved for servicemen and women who couldn’t be there.

Jones told listeners that the country that wins the global race for 5G technology—a technology that producers say will revolutionize how cities work and how healthcare and education gets delivered—will have enormous benefits over the others.

“When our country puts it mind to it, no one--and I mean no one--can beat us,” he said.

Jones pressed for more veterans running for Congress.

In 1980, he said, 60 of this country’s 100 U.S. senators were veterans. Currently, there are 21. Engaging veterans in political leadership could go a long way towards mitigating the deep political divide in the nation’s Capitol, he said, because veterans understand some things, such as how awful war is, in a way no one else can.

“Veterans bring something to the table no one else does,” he added. “That’s what’s missing in Congress today.”

Likewise, American businesses need to hire vets, he said, noting that veterans have a higher rate of joblessness.

“This is not charity,” he said. “Loyalty, honesty, a penchant for hard work--these are the things that veterans bring to the work force.”

Kate There are 19.3 million veterans in the United States and a quarter return home with challenges such as PTSD and traumatic brain injury that are, for the most part, invisible, said Kate Weihe, executive director of Higher Ground.

Some become reclusive—their rate of depression five times higher that of civilians. Some feel they no longer have purpose, that they no longer belong.

Higher Ground, which started in Sun Valley but has expanded to Los Angeles and New York, offers these veterans such therapy through recreational opportunities such as sledge hockey, off-road cycling, paragliding, horse riding, and group work, such as trust building exercises.

 “I’ve always given to the military—these guys have put their lives at risk for our country,” said Michael Leach, honorary commander of the Mountain Home Air Force Base 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron. “We’ve raised funds so that the children of servicemen and women can go to camp. And, as someone whose family has been in the food business for five generations, I’ve been able to check the produce and make changes to make sure the guys get the freshest and the best.”

Those attending Thursday’s benefit were presented with an array of auction items to bid on, including an overnight in the Sun Valley Ski Patrol Shack, a ticket to a Stagecoach Festival, an African safari—laundry included, an electric guitar signed by Keith Urban and a bird hunt at Hagerman’s Wings Farm.

Other lots included a chance to fly over the Pacific in a World War II P-51 Mustang and a chance to train like the elite special forces, complete with an all-terrain vehicle, mission brief and target practice augmented by camouflage gear.

The money raised during Hero’s Journey allows Higher Ground to provide the best programs, bar none, said Jeff Burley, who directs the ski program.

“We even get guys like Randy Flynn, who are some of the best fly tiers there are, to show how to tie flies,” he said.

One of those who learned from the best is Dennis Coleman, who just returned from a Higher Ground trip to Flaming Gorge Reservoir and Green River, Utah, where his wife hooked a 3.5-pound kokanee to take second in a fishing contest despite having done little fishing until now.

“We moved here from Wisconsin two years ago because our son lived here. And Higher Ground helped us find a sense of belonging,” said Coleman, a disabled veteran.

“Higher Ground taught me now to build a fly rod and tie flies,” he added pointing out one he had made and donated to the silent auction. “Higher Ground makes a difference—they’ve made us a part of the community. And the fish know I’m here, too.”


Tom and Elizabeth Tierney, who have owned a home in Gimlet and Busterback Ranch for nearly 30 years, have long been involved with veterans.

Tierney is a Vietnam veteran who was involved in the Tet Offensive. Elizabeth provided career counseling at military bases for transitioning veterans. Together they gave $1 million to Goodwill of Orange County to provide support for veterans’ physical rehabilitation, housing and employment.

“It’s only natural I would support Higher Ground,” said Tom Tierney. “They’ve distinguished themselves with so many vets.”

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