As the wife of an active-duty Navy pilot preparing for his third combat deployment, I have heard my husband thanked for his service many times, but at this point in the nation’s history that expression of gratitude has been overused. These days automatically telling a veteran “thank you for your service” can come off as obligatory, or worse, insincere. (Think “have a nice day.”)
Here are five more meaningful ways to thank those who have served the nation this Veterans Day:
1. HONOR THE FALLEN BY HELPING THOSE LEFT BEHIND
Veterans Day is not Memorial Day. Memorial Day, celebrated in May, honors those who have died serving their country. Veterans Day pays tribute to all veterans—living or dead—but is generally intended to honor living Americans who have served in the military. However, one of the best ways to thank a living veteran is to do something for the friends he or she has lost. The Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors is instrumental in providing aid and support to families in the aftermath of a military member’s death. They connect families with grief counselors, financial resources, seminars and retreats, peer mentors, and a community of other survivors. Nicole Van Dorn, whose husband J. Wesley Van Dorn died after a Navy helicopter crash last year, says the program was invaluable in helping her and her two young boys through a horrific time. “One woman called me twice a week just to let me know she was thinking about me. The fact that she continued to reach out even when I didn’t respond made me feel a little less alone.” TAPS paid for her oldest son to attend a camp where he could meet other children who had lost parents. “Sometimes people don’t know what to do,” she says. “But one way to help is to go through organizations like this one.”
2. HELP A VETERAN MAKE A SMOOTH TRANSITION
When soldiers are injured or disabled in service, they are thrust out of the lives they have known in an instant; most cannot return to the units they left behind. Sometimes the psychological consequences are harder to deal with than the physical ones. The Mission Continues, founded by former Navy Seal Eric Greitens, helps all veterans—not just the wounded—adjust to life at home by finding new missions of service. The organization harnesses veterans’ skills to connect them with volunteer opportunities in their communities.
3. DO SOMETHING FOR MILITARY FAMILIES IN YOUR COMMUNITY
When a soldier is deployed, sometimes for up to a year, daily life for spouses can be challenging. If you know the spouse of a veteran, through your community, church or social group, don’t ask how you can help. Instead, be proactive. When my husband was deployed, a neighbor took my garbage can to the street every week before I had the chance to do it. Offer to come by once a month to mow the lawn or fix what’s broken. Offer babysitting so a mother can run errands or go to a movie. Perform a random act of kindness, however small, for military families. “A woman used to send cards to my house that said, ‘I’m thinking of you,’ or ‘I’m proud of you,’ says Van Dorn of the months after her husband’s death. “She signed them ‘Secret Sister’ so I didn’t have to worry about thanking her.”
… Not just the newest ones. Andrew Lumish, a carpet cleaner from Florida, made the news recently when it was reported that he spends every Sunday cleaning veterans’ gravestones. This Veterans Day, bring flowers to a cemetery. Help a senior veteran visit his memorial in Washington DC by donating to the Honor Flight Network. Or volunteer at a shelter that helps homeless veterans, nearly half of whom served during Vietnam.
Victoria Kelly’s poetry collection, “When the Men Go Off to War,” was published this September by the Naval Institute Press, their first publication of original poetry. She holds degrees from Harvard University, Trinity College Dublin, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her debut novel, “Mrs. Houdini,” will be published in March by Simon Schuster/Atria Books. She is the spouse of a Navy fighter pilot and the mother of two young daughters.
The Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013 killed three and wounded 264 others. The attack was committed by two American brothers of Chechen descent who set off a couple of pressure cooker explosives they learned to make from an English language al-Qaeda magazine. One of the brothers died after the other brother ran him over with a stolen SUV following a shootout with law enforcement. The other brother is in prison, awaiting execution.
At least 14 of the the bombing victims required amputations. Anyone who undergoes amputations of limbs for any reason will go through the five psychological stages of grief, but 20-22 percent of all amputees will experience some form of post-traumatic stress, according to studies from the National Institute of Health. For the civilian victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing, their stress is coupled by the two explosions, just 12 seconds apart, that killed three, injured scores more, and took one or more of their limbs.
The aforementioned studies show the ability to cope with an amputation be affected by pain, level of disability, the look of the amputated limb and associated prosthetics, and the presence of social supports. The 14 amputee survivors of the bombing received a ready network of support from wounded warriors, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who lost limbs during their service. Within days of the attack, injured veterans arrived in Boston to meet the survivors.
“We felt as amputees compelled to get out here,” said Captain Cameron West, a Marine who lost a leg in Afghanistan. “It won’t define them as a person … soon all of them will be able to do everything they could before the terror attack.”
“Military combat veterans are not the only victims of PTSD,” said Dr. Philip Leveque, a pharmacology researcher, WWII veteran, and author of “General Patton’s Dogface Soldier of WWII.” “Civilians in a horrific event like those in Boston will not only be victims of these events but may be mistreated by their physicians with morphine-like drugs, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs, which can cause adverse side effects, including suicide.”
Chris Claude is a 33-year-old Marine Corps veteran from Pennsylvania. He met with marathon amputees and told the Associated Press it was his chance to provide the kind of support he got after the amputation of his right leg following a 2005 bomb blast in Iraq. B.J. Ganem, a Marine who lost his left leg in Afghanistan, said all he saw was resilience. The two groups came together again later in 2013, at the New England Patriots home opener. They were honored on the field together before the game.
“I like the idea of the amputees coming out on the field together,” Claude said. “It’s another way for people in the crowd to see the human spirit can’t be broken.”
The rise of Nazism in Germany was for many Germans a terrifyingly swift deviation in the nation’s moral compass.
The most famous example of Hitler’s attempt to make his plans for the establishment of a master race a little more commercial is undoubtedly the Hitler Youth program. In 1935, over 60% of the country’s young people were involved in the program, and in 1936, all other youth groups were banned, making the Fuhrer’s brainchild the best kids’ club by default. Awesome.
Program membership was mandatory for kids over 17, but Hitler knew that if he wanted to shape the younger generation, he would have to start small. Kids as young as ten years old were encouraged to join the movement, which was similar to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, except instead of teaching valuable skills about friendship and forest survival, Hitler was making sure the kids became bigoted military minions.
An entire generation of ordinary people was seduced by this mythos, and parents eagerly sent their children to become young men and women of the “Thousand Year Reich“, excited to watch their sons become soldiers and their daughters demure, obedient mothers who would populate the master race.
Not all kids were down with this idea, however. And because the program was compulsory and very restrictive, they had to get creative with their rebellion. Enter the Edelweiss Pirates — a teenage protest group with the classiest rebel name ever.
Comprised mostly of working class boys, the gang was not shy about it’s anti-authority, down-with-Hitler ideologies. The Pirates refused to wear the military-inspired uniforms of the Hitler Youth, opting instead for bohemian ensembles with a ton of fringe and cool-factor. Their defiance extended to all aspects of their lives, and the rebel kids could be heard singing banned songs, playing banned jazz music and dancing with the opposite sex — completely unapproved by the Nazi party.
These song lyrics, which served as the groups anthem, were particularly unwelcome:
Hitler’s power may lay us low,
And keep us locked in chains,
But we will smash the chains one day,
We’ll be free again.
We’ve got the fists and we can fight,
We’ve got the knives and we’ll get them out.
We want freedom, don’t we boys?
At first they were just considered an annoyance that needed to be weeded out and further indoctrinated into the party, nothing a fifteenth reading of “Mein Kempf” couldn’t fix.
Once WWII began, however, the teens started to appear like more and more of a legitimate threat to the state.
In 1942 Heinrich Himmler, the head of SS operations, wrote Reinhard Heydrich to discuss the rebellious boys and “worthless girls” who formed the resistance group:
“The youth should first be given thrashings and then [be] put through the severest drill and set to work. It must be made clear that they will never be allowed to go back to their studies. We must investigate how much encouragement they have had from their parents. If they have encouraged them, then they should also be put into a concentration camp and [have] their property confiscated.”
This didn’t stop the Pirates, but disdain for their antics was not limited to the higher ups of the Nazi regime. The Hitler Youth Patrol Service, made up of the same kids who participated in the Nazi group, were particularly brutal towards these rebellious outliers. The mini-police force, who were literally above the law, raided movie theaters, coffee shops and billiard halls looking to bust the Edelweiss Pirates and beat them up in the streets.
The Pirates existed in several different cities under different names, but their desire to undermine the fascism was uniform.
As the war raged on, many of the Pirates, now adults, joined the underground resistance movement. In Cologne, Edelweiss Pirates members offered aid and shelter to Nazi deserters and refugees who had escaped from concentration camps. Members even went so far as to raid military depots and supply reserves, sabotaging war production. They also continued their usual hi-jinks, graffitiing bridges and walls with the words “Down with Hitler”.
In response, the Nazis intensified their opposition to the fringe group. Pirates who were caught were sent to jail, reform schools, labor camps and psych wards, all in an effort to stamp out resistance. If caught in public, “defectors” were often humiliated in front of a crowd, and were beaten and shaved before being taken away. In 1944 Heinrich Himmler even ordered the public execution of thirteen Pirate members in Cologne, pictured below.
For the duration of the war these brave young people continued to stand firm in the face of overwhelming resistance and power, and continued to fight for the freedoms they believed in.
The Air Force F-22 has been refining it dog-fighting skills, assessing technical upgrades and testing air to air combat tactics during a recent Red Flag exercise in Nevada – designed to improve attack maneuvers and solidify emerging communications technologies and sensors, service officials said.
The aircraft, from the 27th Fighter Squadron, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, have been performing air interdiction, combat search and rescue, close air support, dynamic targeting and defensive counter air operations in mock combat scenarios.
“Red Flag incorporates all spectrums of warfare to include command and control, real-time intelligence, analysis and exploitation, and electronic warfare,” MSgt. Sanjay Allen, 57th Wing Public Affairs, Nellis Air Force Base, told Warrior Maven.
While Allen said the F-22s in particular are performing primarily air-to-air support, the aircraft is also shown to be effective as a close air support platform; it has performed close air support in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Confronting simulated “Red” force ground and air threats, F-22s attacked targets such as mock airfields, vehicle convoys, tanks, parked aircraft, bunkered defensive positions and missile sites, added.
Although modern weapons such as long-range air-to-air missiles, and the lack of near-peer warfare in recent years, means dogfighting itself is less likely these days. However, as the service prepares for future contingencies against technologically advanced adversaries – maintaining a need to dogfight is of great significance. For instance, the emerging Chinese J-10 and Russian 5th Gen PAK-50 clearly underscore the importance of this.
Advanced dogfighting ability can greatly expedite completion of the Air Force’s long-discussed OODA-loop phenomenon, wherein pilots seek to quickly complete a decision-making cycle – Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action – faster than an enemy fighter. The concept, dating back decades to former Air Force pilot and theorist John Boyd, has long informed fighter-pilot training and combat preparation.
If pilots can complete the OODA loop more quickly than an enemy during an air-to-air combat engagement, described as “getting inside an enemy’s decision-making process,” they can destroy an enemy and prevail. Faster processing of information, empowering better pilot decisions, it naturally stands to reason, makes a big difference when it comes to the OODA loop.
Connectivity with air and ground combat assets, drawing upon emerging data-link technology, has been a key part of the exercise as the Air Force strengthens efforts to work with other services on cross-domain fires operations.
The Air Force plans to actualize key aspects of this with, for instance, LINK 16 upgrades to the F-22 that enable it to improve data-sharing with the F-35 and 4th-generation aircraft in real-time in combat.
“The F-22 program is developing enhanced “5th-to-5th” generation and “5th-to-4th” generation aircraft communications via the TACLink 16 program,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
Grabowski added that this program includes hardware and software modifications to field LINK 16 transmit on the F-22. While not eliminating the need for voice communication, transmitting and receiving via LINK 16 datalinks can expedite data- and video-sharing, target coordination and more secure non-voice connectivity.
”If somebody broke our encryption they could listen to our conversation. LINK 16 transit allows us to share our screen without having any voice pass,” Ken Merchant, Vice President, F-22 Programs, Lockheed, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Merchant added that F-35-F-22 LINK 16 connectivity should be operational by 2020.
“This new philosophy will allow us to set an aggressive target for ourselves. Pilots will be better able to see an enemy or air-to-air asset coming their way,” Merchant said.
Once fielded, the F-22 TACLink 16 will enable the F-22 to receive and transmit with other platforms, such as the F-35, F-16, F-15
and others, Grabowski said.
Additional F-35-F-22 LINK 16 tests are planned for 2019 and 2020.
First operational in 2005, the F-22 is a multi-role fighter designed with stealth technology to evade enemy radar detection and speeds able to reach Mach 2 with what is called “super-cruise” capability. Supercruise is the ability to cruise at supersonic airspeeds such as 1.5 Mach without needing afterburner, a capability attributed to the engine thrust and aerodynamic configuration of the F-22.
The F-22 is built with two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners, Air Force statements said.
The aircraft has a 44-foot wingspan and a maximum take-off weight of more than 83,000 pounds.
Famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. Some of the tech the Army and other scientists are working on aren’t quite in the realm of magic, but given the incredible nature of the work they’re doing, there are many reasons to be excited about the future if you’re a U.S. servicemember. There’s no telling how long it will take to apply these ideas to military life, but the possibilities seem endless.
The U.S. Army is working on a new airdrop system it calls JPADS – Joint Precision Airdrop System. JPADS is intended to be used to drop critical supplies to troops in dangerous locations without endangering more troops by using a truck convoy. Current systems use GPS guidance systems that are prone to the same errors as any satellite system, such as satellites being out of place and their vulnerability to hacking. The new JPADS doesn’t use GPS. It drops the pallet from 25,000 feet at distances up to 20 miles. The JPADS optical sensors analyze the local terrain and compare it to preprogrammed satellite imagery so the chutes move the cargo to its programmed destination.
2. Stealth Coating
It turns out stealth aircraft technology isn’t 100 percent fail proof. Radar works by bouncing electromagnetic waves off of objects to pinpoint their locations. Original stealth technology scrambled the returning waves using “destructive interference,” solid layers of material that would amplify the waves so that they effectively cancel out the returning waves. It doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, however. Scientists have created a polarized crystal material that absorbs radar waves to prevent them from bouncing back instead. Hexagonal boron nitride captures 99.99 percent of radar waves and prevents refraction. Researchers will now need to create a thin coating to be able to apply it to current aircraft.
3. Smart Tanks
DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military’s premier think-tank for future weapons, is developing a light armor all-terrain tech for vehicles called “Ground X-Vehicle Technology.” This next-gen tank is lightweight, highly mobile, and hard for the enemy to spot on any spectrum, visual, infrared, or electromagnetic. The “crew augmentation” system on the X-Vehicle gives the tank “semi-autonomous driver assistance and automation of key crew functions.” The external sensors on the vehicle allow for the tank not only to avoid being spotted by enemy tanks but to dodge incoming fire if they are.
4. Space Drones
DARPA strikes again. The new XS-1 space shuttle doesn’t go into space but rather boosts a payload into low-Earth orbit as it flies to the edge of space. The new shuttle has no pilots, but will be so reusable that it could fly ten times in ten days. A flight to boost something into space will still run as high as $5 million, but DARPA is working with private contractors Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, Northrop Grumman, and the Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin to make the trips faster, smoother, and cheaper. DARPA already developed a space drone for military purposes, the X37-B, but few details are available, as the X37-B is classified.
5. Jetpack-Assisted Running
The Wearable Robotics Association conference opened in Phoenix last Wednesday and featured there were Arizona State University students who developed a jetpack that enhances a troop’s ability to run in combat. Using compressed air, the pack can boost running speeds up to 15 mph.
Richard Painter, the former chief White House ethics lawyer for the George W. Bush administration, blasted the prospect of former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton replacing General H. R. McMaster as President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor.
“John Bolton was, by far, the most dangerous man we had in the entire eight years of the Bush Administration,” Painter tweeted on March 16, 2018. “Hiring him as the president’s top national security advisor is an invitation to war, perhaps nuclear war.”
Painter ended his post with a blunt and stark sentence: “this must be stopped at all costs.” He also linked to an article in the Atlantic titled “Hiring John Bolton Would Be a Betrayal of Donald Trump’s Base.”
“The people who say, ‘Oh, things would have been much better if you didn’t overthrow Saddam,’ miss the point that today’s Middle East does not flow totally and unchangeably from the decision to overthrow Saddam alone.”
Bolton has also been very hawkish on Iran, writing an article for the National Review titled “How to Get Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal.” The article was, according to Bolton, originally a gameplan for Trump that Bolton had drawn up and given to former White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon.
A real-life Captain America saved the day after a car crash in North Carolina on Tuesday.
Capt. Steve Voglezon was driving down the road when he noticed a car on fire, so he did like any soldier/superhero would do: He sprang into action, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and helped rescue three people from the wreck.
The catastrophic scene unfolded on a rural road. Heavy smoke and flames filled the air when three people were trapped inside two vehicles. John Spurrell lives nearby, and helped rescue one driver before shooting video on his smartphone.
“That’s the Army guy, Steve. He’s quite a hero,” Spurrell said as he points at his phone.
Quite fittingly, Voglezon can be seen in the video wearing a Captain America t-shirt. Because, of course he would.
“I grabbed one of the fire extinguishers and we smashed out on the back window and the driver’s side window. …. there wasn’t a real plan, I just had tunnel vision,” Voglezon told ABC News. “If I had not been a soldier, I would not have known what to do. The Army has helped a lot. I was just at the right place at the right time. People do this every day at the fire department. I wasn’t alone out there, there were at least 10 of us in the community working together.”
The three people who escaped the accident suffered only minor injuries.
The idea of turning “swords into ploughshares” — that is to say, converting military technology and/or equipment into materials with a peaceful civilian purpose — is a very old concept. The phrase comes from the Bible’s Book of Isaiah 2:3-4:
And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
This is where Sword Plough draws its name. The company sells unique designer handbags and accessories made from discarded military surplus items. Co-founded by the daughters of a 30-year U.S. Army veteran, Col. (ret.) Joseph Núñez, Sword Plough is a veteran-owned-and-operated business, dedicated to hiring and supporting veterans.
One daughter, Emily Núñez Cavness, is SP’s CEO, and is also an active duty Army 1st. Lt. serving with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Emily co-founded Sword Plough with her sister Betsy Núñez, who is the Chief Operations Officer.
“We have received such an incredibly positive and supportive response from our community,” Núñez Cavness says. “We’re still a young company, but we’re growing fast and we have a lot happening in the new year. In addition to expanding our product line, we have a number of exciting brand partnerships in the works and we’re planning to grow our wholesale business to brick and mortar shops throughout the country.”
“What sets Sword Plough apart is our commitment to a quadruple bottom line,” she continues. “People, Purpose, Planet, Profit. This means that we are simultaneously focused on improving veteran employment and supporting American jobs, bridging the civilian-military gap, repurposing surplus material, and donating 10% of our profits back to veteran organizations.”
One of their biggest passions is supporting veteran entrepreneurship.
“Betsy and I grew up on Army posts across the country and we couldn’t be more excited to be able to give back to the military and veteran community,” Núñez Cavness says. “One of the most rewarding parts of both serving in the Army and leading Sword Plough is the ability I have to bring the knowledge of starting a business to the veteran community. Many soldiers and veterans approach me with exciting ideas and ask for advice on how to start. Mentoring aspiring veteran entrepreneurs is one of my favorite things to do. Veterans already have so many of the leadership and management skills necessary to be successful in entrepreneurship or business. It is such an energizing experience to help chart realistic pathways to bring their ideas to reality.”
Since launching in 2013, Sword Plough repurposed over 35,000 pounds of military surplus, supported 38 veteran jobs, donated 10 percent of profits annually, and shipped over 10,000 products globally. Not a bad startup period.
Their father commanded Army forces at the company and battalion level, taught political science at West Point, and deployed to Haiti in 1994 in support of Operations Restore Democracy and Uphold Democracy. Their uncle, Kenneth Cameron, served in the Marine Corps. Cameron is a retired Colonel and was an aviator, test pilot, engineer, and NASA astronaut who piloted three missions to outer space.
Being from such a strong military family, Emily Núñez Cavness is herself an ROTC graduate of Middlebury College. She recalls her introduction to the civilian-military divide, which happened as she walked to a military science class one morning.
“I was abruptly stopped when an upperclassman walked out of the fine arts building,” she says. “He meandered toward me and asked, ‘Hi there, What play are you in?! I’ve never seen you around here.’ I didn’t have a lot of time to talk since I’d be late for my class, so I quickly explained that my uniform was not in fact a costume, but my actual government issued uniform for Army ROTC.”
This would be the first of many instances to leave an impression on her. They would come to help influence Sword Plough’s mission to empower veteran employment and bridge that divide in any way they can. But it doesn’t stop there. The summer after her sophomore year at Middlebury, Núñez Cavness found herself at the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“Even though I grew up in a military family on several Army Posts, this was the first time I was training next to Soldiers as a fellow service member rather than as a military kid,” she recalls. “We would spend almost every day quickly running from place to place in our helmets and boots, only to wait for hours under the hot sun until it was our turn to practice the parachute landing fall or how to properly pull a slip.”
1st Lt. Emily Núñez Cavness
“It didn’t take long for these periods of downtime to become some of my favorite moments of the course because it was then that the students to my left and right would open up to me about their past experiences in the Army and their goals and hopes for the future. Some expressed an interest in leaving the military in the near future but were seriously worried about their job prospects after talking to veteran friends who had been unemployed for a long time after leaving military service. At the time, I didn’t always know what to say, but I never forgot those conversations. It seemed like such an injustice to me that a group of people who had sacrificed so much and become such proven leaders would face this type of adversity.”
Fast forward one and a half years and Núñez Cavness is listening to Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder and CEO of Acumen, give her keynote speech during Middlebury’s first Social Entrepreneurship Symposium. She was talking about a business which incorporated recycling into its business model. The talk had young Núñez Cavness’ mind running 100 miles per hour.
“The way she described it immediately made me reflect on my own life,” Núñez Cavness said. “I asked myself, ‘what in my life is wasted on daily basis that could be harnessed and made into something beautiful?’ Having grown up on Army posts, I immediately thought back to the huge piles of military surplus I used to see that were going to be buried in a landfill or burned. As I looked around the audience, I noticed that every student had a backpack or bag of some kind propped up next to them. And then… it clicked! Why don’t I take the military surplus that would otherwise be discarded and turn it into stylish bags?”
Their newer Wool Handbag and Wool Crossbody are also very popular items.
As part of its dedication to giving back to veterans, Sword Plough makes financial contributions to veteran-focused organizations like Rocky Mountain Human Services, Feeding Our Vets, and Got Your 6. They support charitable organizations by donating their products for fundraisers.
These donations have helped recipients raise thousands of dollars through blind and live auctions. They also donate products to events which can raise general public awareness about veterans’ issues and the civil-military divide. To date, they have made more than $10,000 worth of product donations to organizations like the Navy SEAL Foundation, the 3rd and Goal Foundation, the Headstrong Project, and more.
Núñez Cavness designed the first three bags herself, but Sword Plough now has a creative director to design products. They also have a number of products designed by veterans.
“The military relies on cutting edge gear and technology to carry out its missions,” Núñez Cavness says. “This relationship with their equipment has definitely influenced the way we think about design and fashion. We repurpose military surplus equipment not only for the environmental benefits and vintage appeal, but also for its durability. Our team draws inspiration from cities that we live in, the people that we interact with, the feedback from the SP community of supporters, the history of the materials we use, and we try to honor tradition by constantly innovating and keeping functionality in mind.”
It was an early morning in Smoaks, South Carolina, and humidity hung in the air. A truck pulled into the Valley Forge Flag driveway, a facility whose sole purpose is flag production. Valley Forge has been producing since World War I, and their flags have seen a number of fates, from being draped across the caskets of presidents to landing on Omaha Beach to navigating the jungles of Vietnam. Some say it’s one of their flags that is planted on the cold surface of the moon.
The truck began offloading countless rolls of an off-white fabric. The delivery man called them “greige goods,” and he was on his way as soon as he was unloaded.
Rolls of fabric used in flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo courtesy of Valley Forge Flags)
The Valley Forge material handler sent the greige goods to be dyed, and when the rolls returned, some were white and others had become a deep, brilliant red. They were cut into strips, and six white strips joined seven red strips, making a total of 13 stripes arranged into one neat pile.
A seamstress approached the pile and set herself to sewing. The sewing machines in this facility were automated, and three or four machines would be running at any given time under the watchful eye of Valley Forge employees. This woman watched them carefully as they stitched the strips of cloth together; she watched as the strips became stripes, the needle pressing into the fabric and joining them together with a firm bond.
The facility floor was filled with the sound of these sewing machines as each one was pieced together, beginning to resemble an American flag.
Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo by Tetteroo Media)
Rolls of blue cloth with embroidered stars were already waiting to join the stripes. The facility workers cut them to size and fit them next to the stripes, emplacing the final piece of the puzzle.
Another seamstress expertly sewed the fly-end of the flag, and yet another sewed on the white header. The real brass grommets were next, and soon the flags were sent for inspection. The inspector eyed them carefully as they were placed along the table in front of her. Her eye was impeccable; with pride she trimmed excess pieces of thread, and even the most minor defect would be quickly detected and remedied. When complete, she proudly placed a label on the flag indicating that she made sure this flag was of superior quality.
After being properly folded, the flags were placed into packages and taken out the large door in the side of the facility awaiting shipment to their final destination.
Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo by Tetteroo Media)
Of these flags, one sat among the rest, heading out to somewhere in the U.S. It looked identical to the others, but its fate was quite different. It would not fly during an American summer nor would passing soldiers salute it.
It wasn’t long before that flag was sitting on the shelf at the PX in Fort Benning, Georgia. It lay there still, amidst the bustle of basic trainees, airborne students, and the throngs of other transient service members in the area.
Eventually, a hand extended from amongst the countless uniforms and took it. After an exchange at the PX checkout counter, the flag was again on the move.
That hand belonged to a man named Patrick. He was of medium height with a strong build, a quiet demeanor, rough hands, and kind eyes.
He took it home to his wife. She had just moved to the area after their wedding; Fort Benning sat on the line dividing Georgia from Alabama, and they lived in the latter in a small apartment complex. Outside, he was an Army Ranger whose country demanded the most difficult tasks of him; here, he was a husband and a friend, a young man fixated on finding happiness in the four walls of a one-bedroom apartment. And he found it, for a while.
This was the home that American flag had been brought into.
Patrick Hawkins during a training exercise in Fort Benning, Georgia.
(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)
Patrick had a reverence for a precious few of his own valuables. A rosary hung nearby — he lamented when people wore rosaries around their necks, saying it was improper. He cherished his wedding ring as a sign of dedication to his beloved. And he felt that the flag, though it was merely a combination of cloth and stitching, represented the things he had fought so hard for during his last three deployments to Afghanistan, the freedoms he enjoyed as he grew from a boy to a Ranger.
Patrick was, for all his calluses and no-excuses leadership, a deeply sentimental man.
He unpacked the flag, but he knew it would not hang on his wall or be displayed on a flagpole. It had a purpose closer to his heart.
He folded it properly and brought it with him to work. He presented his military ID as he passed into Fort Benning, and then drove through the brown fence onto the Ranger compound. Patrick arrived early that day, and he entered the bowels of B Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment — a maze of lockers and bags neatly stowed to the side. Flags of all types were displayed above and the pictures of fallen Rangers lined the walls. Folded flag in hand, Patrick passed them by.
He heaved out a large duffel bag filled with the tools he would need to carry out a war in a far away place. It still had dust embedded into its canvas shell from the last deployment. Patrick placed the flag snugly next to his gear — his cold-weather jacket and extra boots, a laptop and hard drive filled with movies.
The bag containing the flag was loaded onto a pallet, ratcheted down, and covered in plastic sheeting to protect it from the weather. The pallet lay outside under the sun next to Patrick when he kissed his wife and embraced his parents. He was always a momma’s boy, and he hugged her for a few extra seconds; his father was career military, and their touch resonated with mutual respect as well as love.
Bagram Honor Guard members fold the American flag during a Memorial Day ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 29, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)
It seemed only moments later that Patrick and his flag stepped onto Kandahar Air Field (KAF), Afghanistan.
Upon arrival, Patrick retrieved the flag and carried it to the ready room. It was lined with small, plywood cubbyholes, a hardy wooden table in the center. Zip ties in hand, Patrick grabbed his body armor out of his cubby and placed it on the table. He carefully unfolded the flag and rolled it tightly. He zip tied it onto the outside of his armor, what he called his “kit,” and then placed it back in the wooden cubby.
The flag stayed with him as he donned his kit and grasped his rifle, as he stepped onto the MH-47 helicopter and barreled toward Taliban strongholds. It remained with him as he bolted across the Afghan countryside and dragged Taliban leadership back onto the helicopter and to American lines.
This U.S. Air Force PJ displays the American flag on his kit in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)
There came a moment when the stars on that flag had seen more stars in the Afghan sky than the American sky. It was rolled on Patrick’s back, and it was not properly folded — yet it could not have been in a more perfect state at a more perfect time. He was honored to carry it, and it was in carrying it that he defined why such things have value.
Then one night, Patrick stepped off the helicopter for the last time. A woman exited a small, dirt building, and his Ranger brother went to ensure that she was properly cleared and safely escorted off the battlefield. Instead, the night lit up as she exploded, a suicide vest detonating and sending Patrick’s friend careening back, severely wounded. Other Rangers were knocked off their feet. Smoke and debris hung in the air.
Patrick and the Ranger in his charge, Cody, leapt forward without regard to their own safety. The threat appeared to have been eliminated, and they sought to help their Ranger brethren who were bleeding out in the Afghan dirt.
With another step and a series of flashes, Patrick and Cody were gone. The blasts from several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried just beneath the surface ripped upward and tore through them both, searing through the flag strapped to Patrick’s back.
The night continued, fraught with chaos, but Patrick’s body remained still. The flag on his back, parts of it shredded and other parts covered in his blood, remained next to him.
An eternity of stillness passed in those moments of fire and shadow.
A hand appeared through the darkness. Patrick’s brothers grabbed what they could; they would not leave him in that place, even if the life had left his body. They were shaken and bleeding, but they gritted their teeth and carried him out with the flag on his back.
Patrick Hawkins’ flag, after being cleaned as well as possible, now awaits another deployment.
(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)
As Patrick was dragged away, the flag remained on the ground. Once it had been still for long enough, another hand extended from the darkness, picked it up, and stuffed it into a pouch on the belt of another Ranger, just as he left for the exfil helicopter.
The hand belonged to Patrick’s squad leader and mentor, Kellan. The wounded were many, and they had long since run out of litters — Kellan was using another flag to pick up the remains of another fallen soldier. In the pouch on his belt, Patrick’s flag returned to KAF. Tears mixed into the blood on its fabric, which had been stitched together those months ago in South Carolina.
Kellan would look at the flag often, sometimes in sorrow, sometimes with that familiar guilt of survival, and often in gratitude for having the opportunity to know a man like Patrick. To live together in the most extreme of circumstances.
That was not Kellan’s last deployment. He rolled up his sleeves, and he rolled up the flag. He put his kit on the hardwood table in a far away country, zip ties in hand, and secured Patrick’s flag to it. Then he stepped back into the war.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.
The United States started to deliver weapons to Kurdish fighters closing in on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, the Pentagon said.
Spokesman Eric Pahon said the May 31 weapons delivery to the Syrian Kurds included small arms and ammunition. It marks the beginning of a campaign to better equip Kurdish allies that the U.S.-led coalition believes are the best fighting force against the Islamic State, even though arming them has infuriated NATO ally Turkey.
Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters to be terrorists. The U.S. has promised to mete out the equipment incrementally, based on the mission, to ensure weapons aren’t used by Kurdish groups in Turkey.
On May 30, Kurdish-led fighters in Syria closed within about 2 miles (three kilometers) of Raqqa, where they expect to face a long and deadly battle. Roadside bombs and other explosive devices are believed to be planted along their routes and inside the city.
U.S. officials have said the weapons deliveries will include heavy machine guns, ammunition, 120mm mortars, armored vehicles and possibly TOW anti-tank missiles. They said the U.S. would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.
Separately May 30, the Pentagon ratcheted up threats against pro-Syrian government forces patrolling an area near the Jordanian border where the U.S.-led coalition is training allied rebels. Officials described the pro-government forces as Iranian-backed.
The U.S. dropped leaflets warning the forces to leave the area and American military officials said the same message was conveyed in recent calls with Russian commanders. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the leaflets told the pro-government forces to leave the established protected zone, which is about 55 kilometers around an area where U.S. and coalition forces have been operating.
Less than two weeks ago, the U.S. bombed Iranian-backed troops who were in that same area of Syria and didn’t heed similar warnings to leave.
According to Syrian and U.S. officials, the bombing killed several soldiers and destroyed vehicles and other weapons and equipment.
Davis said the U.S. has seen the militias operating in the desert around Tanf. The area has been considered a “deconflicted” zone under a U.S.-Russian understanding.
“Hundreds” of pro-government forces are in the region, Davis said, but he was unsure how many are actually inside the zone.
Pentagon officials said they were not certain if those troops are Syrian, Iranian, Hezbollah or from other militias fighting on Assad’s behalf. At the Tanf military camp near the Jordanian border, U.S. special operations forces have been working with a Syrian opposition group in operations against IS.
The term “Navy SEALs” is a household phrase in America today — one that brings forth images of America’s finest breaching Osama bin Laden’s compound in Zero Dark Thirty, or training in iconic green face paint. Because of the anti-terror unit’s lethal combat skills incredible military record, many people forget that the SEALs actually came from very humble beginnings. The PBS documentary “Navy Seals: The Untold Story,” details the history of this iconic military force that many civilians — and even military veterans — know little about, despite their popularity in film, literature and pop culture today.
Only about 2,000 men serve today on active-duty as Navy SEALs. All are volunteers.
Recruits go through vigorous Navy SEAL training Photo: YouTube
But long before they earn the title, they need to make it through Hell Week, “a non-stop, grueling set of obstacles that pushes the human body — and spirit — to the breaking point.”
Retired UDT/SEAL Vice Admiral Joe Maguire says of Hell Week: “We do hell week, first and foremost, so you can have confidence in yourself. You stay up for 120 hours during the week , and you get about three or four hours of sleep. The reason you get three or four hours of sleep is because we’ve done studies and we’ve found that if you don’t get that amount of sleep, you’ll die if you’re up for 120 hours.”
Their elite status among special ops is very elite: Less than 10,000 men in history have ever been Navy SEALs.
And especially in a post-9/11 world, small groups of SEALs have taken on terrorist enemies like the Taliban, Iraqi insurgents, Al Quada, and Osama bin Laden.
But how’d they start? Their forefathers were naval special warfare swimmers, better known as frogmen.
The nickname apparently comes from their British colleagues, and how they “looked in their newly fashioned green wet suits.”
SEAL is an acronym, meaning SEA, AIR, and LAND, which “is how and where they operate,” the narrator says.
He continues: “The SEALs were born in World War II, of two oceans, for two kinds of demolition work. In the Pacific, their predecessors swam in in advance of US Marines and Army troops, removing underwater obstacles to make amphibious landings possible. In the Atlantic teams were needed on the beaches of France to blow open the gateway to Europe for D-Day.”
After the NCDU’s success at D-Day, the Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) was created in the Pacific. These men would work entirely underwater, and were dubbed the “Naked Warriors.”
UDT men would swim to the beach wearing only swim trunks, a K-bar knife, a slate, and a pencil to take reconnaissance and depth soundings of the beach. They would then swim back to their watercraft and relay the information they obtained. These men made a huge impact on the success of missions such as Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
News of the heroic and daring “Frog Men” soon reached civilian ears, and Hollywood was quick to create lighthearted propaganda films such as “The Frogmen”, shown above, which in turn encouraged hundreds of young men to pursue a life of service with this elite new American squadron.
To learn more about the formation of this legendary military force, watch the full documentary below:
Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson died in a hail of gunfire, hit as many as 18 times as he took cover in thick brush, fighting to the end after fleeing militants who had just killed three comrades in an October ambush in Niger, The Associated Press has learned.
A military investigation has concluded that Johnson wasn’t captured alive or killed at close range, dispelling a swirl of rumors about how he died.
The report has determined that Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, was killed by enemy rifle and machine gun fire from members of an Islamic State offshoot, according to U.S. officials familiar with the findings. The Oct. 4 ambush took place about 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Niamey, the African nation’s capital. Johnson’s body was recovered two days later.
U.S. officials familiar with the findings spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to describe details of an investigation that has not been finalized or publicly released.
A 12-member Army special forces unit was accompanying 30 Nigerien forces when they were attacked in a densely wooded area by as many as 50 militants traveling by vehicle and carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Johnson was struck as many as 18 times from a distance by a volley of machine gun rounds, according to the U.S. officials, who said he was firing back as he and two Nigerien soldiers tried to escape.
All told, four U.S. soldiers and four Nigerien troops were killed in the ambush. Two U.S. and eight Nigerien troops were wounded.
The bodies of three U.S. Green Berets were located on the day of the attack, but not Johnson’s remains. The gap in time led to questions about whether Johnson was killed in the assault and not found, or if he was taken away by the enemy.
According to the officials, a medical examination concluded that Johnson was hit by fire from M-4 rifles — probably stolen by the insurgents — and Soviet-made heavy machine guns. It is believed he died in the attack.
The officials said Johnson was found under thick scrub brush where he tried to take cover. There were no indications he was shot at close range, or had been bound or taken prisoner, as several media reports have suggested.
A U.S. Africa Command began its investigation with a team headed by Army Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, the command’s chief of staff. The team visited locations in Niger to collect evidence and information about the attack, and will soon submit a draft of Cloutier’s report to Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of Africa Command. Waldhauser could ask for additional information. The final report is expected to be released next month.
The officials familiar with the report’s conclusions said that during the attack, Johnson and two Nigerien soldiers tried to get to a vehicle to escape, but were unable to do so, became separated from the others and were shot as they were running for safety.
The report concluded that Johnson, who was athletic and a runner, was in the lead and got the farthest away, seeking cover in the brush. Officials said there were a number of enemy shells around Johnson, and evidence that he appeared to fight to the end. His boots and other equipment were later stolen, but he was still wearing his uniform.
As news of the ambush came out, the U.S. military sent in rescue teams to search for Johnson, not making his status public in the hope he might have gotten away and was still alive and hiding. The Pentagon only acknowledged that he was missing after his body was located two days later by local forces.
The Pentagon has declined to release details about the exact mission of the commando team. U.S. officials have previously said that the joint U.S.-Niger patrol had been asked to assist a second American commando team hunting for a senior Islamic State member, who also had former ties to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The team had been asked to go to a location where the insurgent had last been seen, and collect intelligence.
After completing that mission, the troops stopped in a village for a short time to get food and water, then left. The U.S. military believes someone in the village may have tipped off attackers to the presence of U.S. commandoes and Nigerien forces in the area, setting in motion the ambush.
U.S. special operations forces have been routinely working with Niger’s forces, helping them to improve their abilities to fight extremists in the region. That effort has increased in recent years, the Pentagon said.
The three other Americans killed were Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia. Black and Wright were Army Special Forces. Johnson and Johnson were not commandos.
Johnson’s combat death led to a political squabble between President Donald Trump and a Democratic congresswoman from Florida after Trump told Johnson’s pregnant widow in a phone call that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” Rep. Frederica Wilson was riding with Johnson’s family to meet the body and heard the call on speakerphone. The spat grew to include Trump’s chief of staff, who called Wilson an “empty barrel” making noise.
The U.S. Army has dropped Smith Wesson from its Modular Handgun System competition, according to a Sept. 23 report Smith Wesson Holding Corporation made to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Smith Wesson, which was partnered with General Dynamics, was one of five gun makers competing to replace the Army’s M9 9mm pistol.
“We and our partner in the pursuit of the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, or MHS, solicitation to replace the M9 standard Army sidearm have been notified by the Department of the Army that our proposal was not selected to advance to the next phase of the competition,” according to the SEC report.
TheFirearmBlog.com was the first to report the news about Smith Wesson.
As far as we know, the Army is still evaluating striker-fired pistols from Glock, Sig Sauer, Beretta and FN Herstal, according to a source familiar with the competition.
It will be interesting to find out why Smith Wesson didn’t make it to the next round of MHS.
“We are assessing our options in response to the notification and remain focused on achieving our long-term strategy of organically and inorganically expanding our product offerings in the consumer market for shooting, hunting, and rugged outdoor enthusiasts,” Smith Wesson officials said in the SEC report.