Why 'American Sniper' Is For Military Wives - We Are The Mighty
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Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Photo: American Sniper/ IMDb


When the husband of one of my close friends was killed in Iraq, she slipped an E. E. Cummings poem into his casket before he was buried at Arlington. That poem ran through my mind, in verses and lines, like a skipping CD, the whole time I watched “American Sniper” in the theater this past weekend.

the boys i mean are not refined

they go with girls who buck and bite

I’ve read many commentaries about this movie in the past week, most of them heralding it for telling the wife and family side of war.

It’s true. More than any war movie I’ve seen – and loving a man who lives at the ‘tip of the spear’ means that I’ve seen most of them – “American Sniper” touches on what war was like for Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s wife.  It tells what war is like for all the wives.

I do mean wives.

I say ‘wives’ and not ‘spouses’ intentionally, though I’ve been conditioned to correct myself on this, because most, if not all, of the spouses of military operators are women.

That this is the first movie to humanize the wives of warriors – to make us out to be more than ribbon-festooned cheerleaders – is almost offensive. It is, or should be, obvious to everyone that combat exposure is not the sum total of a warrior, and that war does not only affect the warrior.

But – and I think Taya Kyle would agree with me on this – to say that the movie tells the whole family story would be like saying that ping pong at the Rec Center tells you all you need to know about Wimbledon. There is no way a movie can truly show the family side of war, but at least this one tried.

one hangs a hat upon her tit

one carves a cross on her behind

they do not give a s— for wit

the boys i mean are not refined

These are the people we sacrifice to save.

My husband and I watched the movie together, sitting in a packed theater in a town that has few veterans and even fewer – if any – operators. I glanced around at our fellow moviegoers, many overweight, most missing the inside jokes sprinkled throughout the film. I smiled to myself, proud of my husband, knowing that none of the others in the theater knew that the guy in the third row had lived through encounters exactly like the ones on the screen; knowing that these are the people we sacrifice to save.

A couple sitting behind us brought their children, who looked to be about two and four years old. My husband and I — parents of young children ourselves — were disgusted with that couple.

Only someone who has no concept of how awful war can really be would choose to force visions of it onto the innocent. Their innocent. Our own children were one block away, at a drop in childcare center. Playing. Laughing. Being kids. He goes away to war, and I make do without him, so that our kids won’t have to see it here.

We signed on for this war together.

We signed on for this war together. He, to fight it. Me, to hold his life together so that he can leave. He, to keep the bad guys ‘over there.’ Me, to give him a life to come home to. He, to place himself directly in front of the worst the world has to offer. Me, to be the place where he can go to rest.

It takes a special kind of man to volunteer to run toward the ugliest of fights. It takes a special kind of woman to let him.

In the movie, when Chris and Taya first meet, she tells him that she would never date a SEAL. When my husband and I first met and he told me he was in the Army, I told him, “So long as you aren’t one of those psycho killers.” We laugh about that now.

the boys i mean are not refined

they cannot chat of that and this

they do not give a fart for art

they kill like you would take a piss

I got my college minor in studio art. I can chat expertly about “that and this.” I was a Journalism major and well into a career as a newspaper reporter when I met my soldier. I harbored no visions of deployments or camouflage back then. I did not want to be a warrior’s wife.

I never imagined that my vacuum cleaner would break because it sucked up a brass shell casing or that my dryer’s lint screen would be dotted with orange foam ear plugs.

I did not know that I would come to find the smell of Army – dirt, sweat and metal – sexy. That the sound of ripping velcro would become a turn-on. It had never before occurred to me that I could love someone whose job might involve killing. Killing people.

In an early scene, Taya and Chris Kyle lie together in bed, her hair long and dark like mine, fanned out across her pillow as his arm is slung across her body, his wrist near her face.

“I wonder if her hair will get caught in his G-Shock?” I whispered to my husband, laughing. The watch was an excellent, accurate, detail that was probably lost on most of the movie goers.

“Maybe,” he replied. “But I bet she won’t bitch about it.”

I shuddered both times in the movie when Taya was on a satellite phone call with Chris and combat erupted around him, turning war into a conference call. I have been on that call.

The movie didn’t show what came next.

The movie didn’t show what came next. I wished it would have. The throwing up, reflexively, again and again, out of pure fear. The dry heaves, streams of snot, and the feeling of your own body temperature dropping as you curl into a fetal position and stay like that for hours.

The movie didn’t show how you must use every ounce of energy just to exist through the two days of wondering if you’re a widow yet, and then relaxing a bit on the third day because the casualty notification team has not come. If he were dead, they would have been here by now.

That friend who put the poem in her husband’s casket, she and I used to talk about casualties a lot. In one of our conversations she said, “You’re strong. When it happens, you’ll be okay. It will make you sad, but it won’t destroy you.”

“When,” not “if.”

She corrected herself immediately, but it had already been said. It felt like a “when” to me in those days. I attended so many memorial services for friends then. It seemed like there was at least one every month. It seems like those days are behind us now. Like we are the lucky ones. The ones who got away. But I’m sure it felt like that to Taya Kyle, too.

“American Sniper” is a excellent film, deserving of all the praise it is receiving. It has started a long overdue conversation, about warriors, and family, and life after war. About PTSD and what it really means. About the nature of people who will give absolutely everything they have – their arms, their legs, their minds, their years, their families, their memories, their lives – for something bigger than themselves. For their friends. For their country. For their childrens’ futures.

the boys i mean are not refined

they shake the mountains when they dance

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. She writes the Must Have Parent column for Military.com. Her work has been published nationwide including in The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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Here are 5 things the ‘Harlem Hellfighters’ did that cemented their place in history

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Wikimedia commons


The 369th Infantry Regiment isn’t a fixture in history textbooks. It should be. Nicknamed the “Harlem Hellfighters” by the Germans, they were the first African-American infantry unit to fight in World War I. They were also one of the most decorated. Here are 5 reasons why the “Harlem Hellfighters” are the ultimate American heroes:

1. They were the first African-American infantry unit to fight in World War I

Approximately 380,000 African-Americans served in the U.S. Army during the Great War. Although there was no specific segregation policy outlined in the draft legislation, African-American volunteers were told to “tear off one corner of their registration cards so they could easily be identified and inducted separate.” Translation: The military was willing to accept black troops as long as they didn’t mix with the white population. Most of the African-American soldiers who volunteered were confined to labor battalions. Shipped to France in December 1917, the 369th Infantry Regiment was initially going to be kept on the sidelines. Their fortunes changed when Gen. John Pershing assigned them to the16th Division of the French Army. Unlike their American allies, the French were happy to accept any soldier willing to fight on the front lines, regardless of race.

2. The got their nickname from the Germans

The 369th soon became one of the most feared units in the Allied forces. Famous for never ceding an inch of ground, they were nicknamed the “Harlem Hellfighters” by the Germans. Since over 70 percent of the unit hailed from Harlem, the name stuck. That wasn’t the only nickname they earned during the war: The French were so impressed by their general badassery that they dubbed them the “Men of Bronze.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLcbAgrwkIQ

3. They introduced the French to American Jazz

Bet you didn’t see this one coming. When they weren’t scaring the bejesus out of the Germans, the369th made some pretty boss music. Led by James Reese Europe, the 369th Infantry Jazz Band, also known as the “Hellfighters,” introduced the French to the sweet stylings of American ragtime. Largely forgotten now, Europe became an international sensation. After the war, the Hellfighters performed for more then a million people when they marched up Fifth Avenue during the World War I victory parade.

4. They saw more combat than any other American unit

The 369th spent 191 consecutive days on the front lines. Which means they saw more action than any other American regiment. They were also the first Allied unit to reach the Rhine.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
YouTube

5. They broke down racial barriers

The “Harlem Hellfighters” helped combat racial stereotypes at home and abroad. When they returned home, the soldiers were welcomed as heroes. Unfortunately for America, this new period of racial tolerance didn’t last. During the “Red Summer” of 1919, anti-black race riots erupted in twenty-six cities across America. Tragically, lynching increased from fifty-eight in 1918 to seventy-seven in 1919. At least ten of the victims were war veterans, and some were lynched while in uniform. The U.S. military remained segregated until 1948.

Interested in learning more about the “Harlem Hellfighters”? Make sure to watch William Miles’s Men of Bronze. Filmed in 1977, the eye-opening documentary features interviews with four veterans of the 369th.

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This athlete left the NFL to serve. Now he wants back in

Glen Coffee was a superstar at Alabama — an SEC First Team running back in 2008, Coffee decided to skip his senior year with the Crimson Tide and throw his name into the NFL draft.


He was picked up by the San Francisco 49ers in 2009 in the third round of the draft and played a decent season there, rushing for 226 yards with 11 receptions for 76 yards and one touchdown.


But according to a Washington Post profile, Coffee quickly fell out of love with the gridiron and wanted to something more with his life.

“I just felt like the league and that path wasn’t for me,” he told the Washington Post. “I just knew that I didn’t want to waste, for me, my younger years doing something that I didn’t want to do. That was kind of my viewpoint on the situation.”

In 2013, Coffee enlisted in the Army with the intent to become a Ranger. He didn’t make it into special operations, but he was assigned to the 6th Ranger Training Battalion in Florida to help America’s commandos hone their craft. But now Coffee wants back into the NFL — a tall task for a player who’s been out of the game for nearly a decade.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Glen Coffee during parachute training. (Photo from AL.com)

The closest analogy would be Deion Sanders, who sat out four NFL seasons before returning to the Baltimore Ravens in 2004.

“I can tell you, he’s in great shape,” Coffee’s agent Ray Oubre told a Bay Area news outlet. “The man doesn’t have a six-pack, he’s got a 12-pack. He’s been waiting for the right time to hopefully get a workout with someone and show what he can do.”

The 30-year-old free agent might have a tough time attracting a team given this year’s crop of talented young running backs who are eligible for the draft on April 30. But with his Army training and military focus, this “squared away” soldier might have what it takes to get back in.

“My cardio and endurance is definitely a lot better right now,” Coffee said during an interview with The Post in 2015. “Because in football, you’re not really in shape. People think you’re in shape, but you’re really not. Not like that.”

 

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This WWII commander avenged his fallen shipmates

There is nothing like a good revenge story. From Paul Kersey’s vigilante rampage in in “Death Wish” to Eric Cartman’s diabolical payback in the South Park Episode “Scott Tenorman Must Die,” revenge tales are deeply satisfying.


Here is one from World War II involving the revenge one naval officer took upon Japan for his fallen shipmates.

It started during the earliest days of America’s involvement in World War II. On Dec. 10, 1941, the Sargo-class submarine USS Sealion (SS 195) was hit by Japanese bombs during a strike on the American naval base in Cavite where it sunk pier-side.

Four of her crew — Sterling C. Foster, Melvin D. O’Connell, Ernest E. Ogilvie, and Vallentyne L. Paul — were killed. Eli T. Reich, the submarine’s executive officer, was among those evacuated.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
USS Sealion II (SS 315). (US Navy photo)

According to retired Navy Vice Admiral Charles Lockwood’s book, “Sink `Em All,” when Reich was due for a command of his own, he asked if Lockwood could get him the new USS Sealion (SS 315), a Balao-class vessel. Lockwood, who was the commander of the Pacific Fleet’s submarines, arranged for that assignment – and Reich was soon out, seeking revenge.

Four of the torpedoes USS Sealion II carried were stamped with the names Foster, O’Connell, Ogilvie, and Paul.

On Nov. 21, 1944, while the Sealion was patrolling in the Formosa Strait, Reich then came across a Japanese surface that included the battleship HIJMS Kongo (in reality, a re-built battle cruiser). Reich moved his submarine into position, then fired a spread of six torpedoes from his bow tubes — including the ones with the names of his fallen shipmates.

He then fired a second spread from his stern tubes.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Two views of HIJMS Kongo as she looked in 1944, the year she was sunk by USS Sealion (SS 315). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Accounts differ as to the exact sequence of events after the two spreads of torpedoes were fired.

According to “Leyte,” the tenth book in Samuel Eliot Morison’s 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, the first spread Reich fired was intercepted by a Japanese destroyer that blew up and sank as a result, and the second spread scored one hit that eventually sank the Kongo.

At CombinedFleet.com, Anthony Tully relates a different version, with Kongo taking multiple hits from one of the spreads.

Lockwood claims Reich’s first spread scored three hits.

No matter what version, the Kongo eventually blew up and sank. Reich had avenged his shipmates. He would receive three awards of the Navy Cross, among other decorations, for his service, and died in 1999. His command, USS Sealion, would serve in the Navy until 1970, then was sunk as a target in 1978.

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This is how the Germans beat the British in one of the biggest naval battles of WWI

The First World War was the peak of the age of the battleship as dreadnoughts from Germany and the United Kingdom, including the actual HMS Dreadnought that all similar ships are named for, faced each other across the North Sea and the world’s greatest empires duked it out on land.


In the 1916 Battle of Jutland, the German and English fleets fought in what was — when measured by the tonnage of the ships involved — the largest naval battle in history. Approximately 100,000 sailors and 250 ships took part.

And, though the British fleet was larger and enjoyed training and technological advantages, the Germans achieved a clear tactical victory.

In May 1916, the British and German fleets were each looking for a major triumph over the other. An ongoing British blockade of Germany was damaging, but neither side had clear control of the North Sea.

The Germans devised an ambush a few hundred miles off the coast of Denmark, but the British intercepted the plans.

So a massive British fleet with 151 ships, including 28 battleships and nine battlecruisers, set forth on May 30 with knowledge of the German positions and intent. The next afternoon, the scouting parties from each force sighted each other and began a running gun battle.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
The battle cruiser scouting parties clash at the opening of the Battle of Jutland. (Screenshot: Vimeo/NIck)

Five German battlecruisers fired on six British ships and the two raced in parallel lines while maintaining fire on one another. But the British had made two big mistakes.

First, they waited to fire even though they had a range advantage. Second, they allowed the Germans to set the conditions of the fight.

The German scouting party sank two of the British cruisers while drawing the British scouts towards the main German fleet with another 94 ships. The British ships realized their error just in time, turning back north while suffering fierce fire from German pursuers.

The British had already lost thousands of sailors and two large ships, but they were about to hold the advantage. The British cruisers fleeing north failed to properly communicate with the main fleet, but they were still drawing the German ships towards the larger British concentration.

And while the British main fleet commander wasn’t given the needed intelligence to properly prepare, he was able to swing his ships into a single line that he curved into an ambush position that the Germans sailed right into. The British semi-circle saturated the German fleet with fire.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
The SMS Seydlitz limps home after the Battle of Jutland. (Photo: Naval Historical Center)

The Germans broke contact and circled back around, but the British were again able to position themselves “crossing the T,” where a line of British ships presented their broadsides with their main guns towards the front of a German line which could only present a few guns in response.

And the British were positioned to prevent a German escape while they also enjoyed a visibility advantage thanks to the sun behind the German ships.

But the desperate Germans had already inflicted heavy damage, causing fires and leaks that would sink more ships throughout the evening. And the German commander managed to turn the fleet about and escape west.

But the Germans needed to get east and south. One attempt to break east failed under heavy British fire, so the Germans launched a massive torpedo barrage that forced the British to turn away and allowed the Germans to escape. None of the torpedoes hit, though.

Still, Germany held the advantage at night, as the darkness would limit Britain’s range advantage and allow German torpedo ships to draw close.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
The HMS Queen Mary sinks during the Battle of Jutland. (Photo: Public Domain)

Throughout the night, Germany tried to fight its way home, frequently winning small clashes and eventually punching through to head home.

The Germans had inflicted losses of over 6,000 sailors and 14 ships in less than 24 hours of fighting, while suffering 2,551 sailors and 11 ships lost. Germany claimed its tactical victory, but the strategic situation was dire.

Many more German ships had been heavily damaged and would need weeks for repairs while plenty of British ships remained to enforce the blockade. Germany was forced to turn to submarine warfare to break down British supply lines across the Atlantic.

But even that strategy would fail when America entered the war with new technologies and equipment for hunting submarines.

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How a 500-mile cavalry charge helped end World War I

France takes a lot of jokes these days because of its performance in the early days of World War II. The greater military history of France, however, is nothing to laugh about. While the great armies of Germany, Britain, the United States and even France were languishing in the trenches of World War I’s Western Front, one French army in the East was sacking up and getting the job done. 

After serving dutifully on the Western Front of the war for two years, French Gen. Louis Franchet d’Espèrey was transferred to the East, where he took command of an army of French, Greek, Serbian, British and Italian forces. He would use these troops to force an end to World War I. 

Before World War I, Gen. d’Espèrey was a longtime cavalry officer. The cavalry was in his blood. His father was a cavalry officer in Africa before him, and when the young man came of age, he too served in the cavalry. Even before the Great War began, d’Espèrey was a veteran of French Indochina, Algeria, the Boxer Rebellion in China, and in French Morocco. 

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
(Wikimedia Commons)

When the “War to End All Wars” did break out, d’Espèrey was elevated to a corps commander fighting for his homeland. He did so well he was promoted to command the French Fifth Army later that same year, 1914. Upon his taking command, a cultural shift happened in the Fifth Army. At the Battle of the Marne, the man who “physically resembled a Howitzer shell” helped the French stop the Germans cold in their tracks before they could reach Paris.  

By 1918, the war in the West had turned into the bloody stalemate of trench warfare we remember World War I for today. But d’Espèrey wasn’t on the Western Front. He had been transferred to the East, where he was leading a combined army on the Macedonian Front. There, his force met a combined Central Powers force of Germans, Austrians and Bulgarians. 

In September 1918, d’Espèrey launched a massive attack on the Macedonian Front, an area of the war Germany was less inclined to support after Russia dropped out of the war. But it was here that the terms of the Armistice would be decided. When d’Espèrey attacked, there was a substantial force of 3,000 cavalry missing from the Entente lines. 

The cavalry was discovered nine days later, near what is today Skopje, North Macedonia, some 500 miles away. They were set to charge on the city which was heavily defended by 50,000 Bulgarians armed with rifles and machine guns. The cavalry had only their weapons and lances. Outnumbered, the French horsemen, led by another cavalry officer from North Africa, Gen. Jouinot-Gambetta, attacked the city and won, forcing the Bulgarians to flee. 

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
This map shows the effect of the daring attack that ultimately broke the Axis (Wikimedia Commons)

Skopje was well behind the lines of the Central Powers’ combined eastern army and when the Bulgarians discovered Skopje had fallen to the French, it led them to believe that a large army had somehow made its way deep into their territory. Bulgarian units started surrendering their positions without a fight and the government of Bulgaria sued for an armistice the next day. 

German troops in the area were ordered to counterattack and retake the city, but without their Bulgarian allies, the chances of a successful, sustained counterattack were slim. They began to retreat back to Germany. 

The Germans and Ottomans were now cut off from each other. British forces moved east toward Constantinople, and with no significant force able to challenge their approach, the Ottoman Empire sued for peace on Oct. 26. Austria-Hungary submitted after the Italian victory at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto on Nov. 28, 1918 and Germany, unable to sustain the war by itself, submitted on November 11, 1918.

Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

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See why the Cold War-era B-1B Lancer is still a threat to America’s foes

As tensions with North Korea escalate in the wake of that country’s sixth nuclear test, the United States is also flexing its military muscle.


One of the primary systems being spun up is the B-1B Lancer.

This Cold War-era bomber is a very powerful system – it carries 84 500-pound bombs internally, and also could carry another 44 externally. Should Russia try to take the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the Lancer is very likely to take out their ground forces with weapons like the CBU-97.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions. The B-1B uses radar and inertial navigation equipment enabling aircrews to globally navigate, update mission profiles and target coordinates in-flight, and precision bomb without the need for ground-based navigation aids. (U.S. Air Force photo)

That sort of deadly precision can also apply to Kim Jong Un’s massed artillery. The preferred weapon in this case would be more along the lines of the GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition. Each B-1 can carry up to 24 of these weapons, enabling it to knock out hardened artillery bunkers. The B-1B can also use smaller GBU-38 JDAMs, based on the Mk 82 bomb, to hit other positions.

According to airforce-technology.com, the B-1B is equipped with powerful jammers and the Federation of American Scientists web site notes that the plane was designed as a low-altitude high-speed penetrator.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
A B-1B bomber deploys a LRASM. | Public Domain photo

The B-1B has recently been demonstrating its capabilities over South Korea. North Korea has denounced those test flights, claiming that the United States is preparing for nuclear war (although most reports indicate that the B-1B no longer carries nukes).

According to an Air Force fact sheet, the B-1B Lancer entered service in 1986. It has a top speed of Mach 1.2 at sea level, and “intercontinental” range. Among the other weapons it can carry are the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile. A Navy release noted that the B-1B recently tested an anti-ship version of the JASSM.

You can see the B-1B carry out one of its recent training missions over Korea in the video below. Note the heavy F-15 escort. These are valuable bombers – and only 66 are in the active Air Force inventory.

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Here are the vet groups that shared Trump’s $5.6 million donation

The first time during this campaign cycle that presidential candidate Donald Trump dealt with veteran groups, he accepted an endorsement from a “veterans charity” during the Republican primaries that turned out to be a funnel for Super PAC money. In spite of the low-level controversy, he more than survived the hit; he is now the presumptive GOP nominee for President.


Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives

At the end of January of this year, Trump declined to participate in the debate against his Republican primary opponents. Instead, he held what his campaign called a “special event to benefit veterans organizations.” When it was all over the Trump campaign claimed to have raised almost $6 million in donations to veterans groups. Today, the candidate finally announced how the money was distributed and to which groups.

 

 

The almost four-month delay was due a need to vet the groups that would receive funds, Trump said at a press conference at the Trump Tower in New York. The total amount raised from the fundraiser was $5.6 million, including one million from Trump himself.

“I had teams of people reviewing statistics, reviewing numbers and also talking to people in the military to find out whether or not the group was deserving of the money,” he told the gathered press.

The groups on the list have not yet released statements or receipts for the funds, but here’s a list of them and how much they will receive from the benefit. Most of them can be found on the non-profit evaluation site Charity Navigator, and most have three- and four-star ratings.

22Kill – $200,000

22KILL is a global movement bridging the gap between veterans and civilians to build a community of support. 22KILL works to raise awareness to the suicide epidemic and educate the public on mental health issues.

Achilles International, Inc. – $200,000

The mission of Achilles International is to enable people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream running events to promote personal achievement.

American Hero Adventures – $100,000

Non-profit providing veterans who sustained trauma in the line of duty with “adventures aimed at healing, hope, and camaraderie.”

Americans for Equal Living – $100,000

America’s VetDogs- The Veterans K9 Corps, Inc. – $75,000

Founded by the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and serves the needs of disabled veterans and active duty personnel.

AMVETS – $75,000

The AMVETS mission is to enhance and safeguard the entitlements for all American Veterans who have served honorably and to improve the quality of life for them, their families, and the communities where they live through leadership, advocacy, and services.

Armed Services YMCA of the USA – $75,000

The Armed Services YMCA makes military life easier by providing programs and services to the young men and women of all five armed services.

Bob Woodruff Family Foundation, Inc. – $75,000

“We ask people to stand up for heroes so that we can find, fund, and shape innovative programs that help our impacted veterans, service members, and their families thrive.”

Central Iowa Shelter and Services – $100,000

Provides low-barrier shelter, meals, and support services at no cost to adults experiencing homelessness to facilitate their move toward self-sufficiency.

Connected Warriors, Inc. – $75,000

The largest community-based volunteer organization in the United States, offering evidence-based trauma-conscious Yoga therapy to servicemembers, veterans, and their families at no cost.

Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust – $115,000

DAV provides more than 700,000 rides for veterans attending medical appointments and assists veterans with more than 300,000 benefit claims annually. In 2015, DAV helped attain more than $4 billion in new and retroactive benefits to care for veterans, their families, and survivors. DAV is also a leader in connecting veterans with meaningful employment, hosting job fairs and providing resources to veterans seeking employment.

Fisher House Foundation – $115,000

Fisher House Foundation is best known for a network of comfort homes where families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment.

Folds of Honor Foundation – $200,000

The Folds of Honor Foundation provides scholarships to the spouses and children of soldiers killed or disabled in service.

Foundation for American Veterans – $75,000

“Established to provide various benefits for all veterans, either through Veterans Hospitals, homeless programs, educational programs, crisis programs, etc., where the local, state, and federal governments leave off.”

Freedom Alliance – $75,000

Freedom Alliance supports our troops and their families through educational scholarships, recreational therapy, and activities that help injured heroes heal.

Green Beret Foundation – $350,000

The Green Beret Foundation provides direct and continuous support to the Green Beret Community and its families. The Green Beret Foundation facilitates the transition of Green Berets and their families whether that transition is from wounds sustained in combat, illness, injury or “merely” from numerous deployments and/or retirement.

Hire Heroes USA – $75,000

“Hire Heroes USA help veterans find jobs at the rate of more than 100 veterans confirmed hired every week.”

Homes for Our Troops – $50,000

Builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes nationwide for severely injured Veterans Post- 9/11, to enable them to rebuild their lives.

Honoring America’s Warriors – $100,000

“This organization was created to assist families who upon the death of their loved one who has served our country, the opportunity to have augmented military honors when the family deems that the legislated two man flag fold is not enough.”

Hope for the Warriors – $65,000

“Hope For The Warriors provides comprehensive support programs for service members, veterans, and military families that are focused on transition, health and wellness, peer engagement, and connections to community resources.”

Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund – $175,000

“Serves United States military personnel wounded or injured in service to our nation, and their families.  Supporting these heroes helps repay the debt all Americans owe them for the sacrifices they have made.”

K9s For Warriors – $50,000

“K9s For Warriors is dedicated to providing service canines to our warriors suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disability, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma as a result of military service post 9/11.”

Liberty House – $100,000

Liberty House is a sober living home that caters to post alcohol rehab and drug rehab patients with an  82% success rate.

Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation – $1,100,000

Provides a $30,000 scholarship account for every child who loses a parent serving in the United State Marine Corps or any Federal Law Enforcement Agency.

Navy SEAL Foundation – $465,000

The Navy SEAL Foundation provides immediate and ongoing support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare Community and its families.

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society – $75,000

The purpose of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is to provide emergency financial assistance to active duty and retired Navy and Marine Corps personnel and their families.

New England’s Wounded Veterans, Inc. – $75,000

Operation Homefront – $65,000

Assists military families during difficult financial times by providing food assistance, auto and home repair, vision care, travel and transportation, moving assistance, essential home items, and financial assistance.

Partners for Patriots – $100,000

Helping Veterans Get Service Dogs for Assistance with PTSD and TBI disabilities.

Project for Patriots – $100,000

A non-profit to help make housing more accommodating for veterans.

Puppy Jake Foundation – $100,000

“Puppy Jake Foundation selects, trains, and places service dogs to assist wounded veterans. Help us help our American heroes.”

Racing for Heroes, Inc. – $200,000

“Aims to help fill the gap left by inadequate resources for Disabled Veterans through advocacy, engagement, and racing.”

Support Siouxland Soldiers – $100,000

Provides food for veterans, emergency relief grants and rent assistance for homeless and near-homeless veterans, sends care packages to deployed troops, and provides Christmas presents to military children.

Task Force Dagger Foundation – $50,000

Provides assistance to wounded, ill, or injured US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) members and their families

The Mission Continues – $75,000

The Mission Continues empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. TMC deploys veterans on new missions in their communities so their actions will inspire future generations to serve.

The National Military Family Association, Inc. – $75,000

NMFA is a private, non-profit association organized to improve the quality of family life of all military personnel. Started in 1969 as the National Military Wives Association by a group of wives and widows, responsible for the Survivor Benefit Plan.

Veterans Airlift Command – $100,000

VAC provides free air transportation to post 9/11 combat wounded and their families for medical and other compassionate purposes through a national network of volunteer aircraft owners and pilots.

Veterans Count – $25,000

The philanthropic arm of Easter Seals Military and Veterans Services provides resources and services to veterans, service members and their families with a wide range of family, personal, and financial needs.

Veterans In Command, Inc. – $150,000

Provides housing for veterans, their families, and a variety of other disadvantaged or transitioning groups.

Vietnam Veterans Workshop, Inc. – $75,000

The Vietnam Veterans Workshop is doing business as the New England Center and Home for Veterans (NECHV). The Mission of the NECHV is to help homeless veterans who have served the United States honorably in peace and war who are addressing the challenges of addiction, trauma, and severe persistent mental health issues.

Warriors for Freedom Foundation – $50,000

Warriors for Freedom Foundation (WFF) is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that provides support to our nation’s heroes and their families in the areas of recreational and social activities, scholarships, veteran suicide and mental health awareness

 

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Women who saw combat star in new play

It was less than two years ago — December 2015 — that the last barriers barring women from certain combat positions finally fell. Now, the new play “Bullet Catchers” envisions a not-so-distant future where women and men officially serve together in the same infantry unit.


“It’s been a 70-year journey for women to fully integrate into all branches, units, and occupations of the military,” said Lory Manning, who served in the Navy for 25 years, starting in the late 1960s.

For Manning, the armed forces offered a different path at a time where options were limited for women. “I did not want to be a schoolteacher and I wanted out of New Jersey,” she recalled by phone. “The Navy seemed like a good opportunity – for travel especially.”

Also read: This is how the military is integrating women

She explained that it has been a piecemeal process to lift the restrictions. For example, in 1992 women were allowed into combat aviation, said Manning, a fellow at the Service Women’s Action Network, known as SWAN. According to the organization’s website, there are “nearly 2.5 million service women in the US.”

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
USMC photo by Sgt. Tyler L. Main

The nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the sheer number of women deployed during those two conflicts means women (and men) who were not in combat roles saw combat, she said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, over “300,000 women have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq,” according to a SWAN report dated Feb. 1, 2017. More than 1,000 women were wounded, and 166 were killed during combat operations, the report noted.

“Now, even though they fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are officially allowed to fight,” Manning said.

Sandra W. Lee, who plays two roles in “Bullet Catchers,” saw combat in Iraq although she was assigned to civil affairs, she told Chelsea Now in a phone interview. Lee joined the army in response to 9/11, she said, and served from 2002 to 2010.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Army photo by Cpl. Mariah Best

Civil affairs focuses broadly on rebuilding a country’s infrastructure, and in Iraq, Lee explained she worked on rebuilding schools. Her unit did train in combat, and Lee said she went along with another division as they conducted security sweeps and raids, and looked for weapons caches.

“We would fill in a lot,” she recalled. “We did a lot of missions that were not part of our job description. But being a solider, that is in the job description.”

Lee, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said that while driving in the country, her convoy was hit four different times by roadside bombs. She said she has a brain injury that stems from those incidents. She was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PSTD. Lee said she was raped by another solider during her deployment.

Her experiences inform how she plays Até, which in the play is the goddess of war and a warrior. Being a woman in the military, Lee explained, there is a perception that females are not good enough and “you have to prove yourself in order to join their ranks.”

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
DoD Photo by Spc. Crystal Davis

Due to her brain injury, Lee was somewhat apprehensive about contributing to the writing of the play but said she put her voice into Até, whose character was a “shell” when she joined the production last December.

“The nice thing about this process it was a group effort,” she said.

Indeed, the co-creators of “Bullet Catchers,” Maggie Moore and Julia Sears, sought input from the actors for the play, which was a collaborative endeavor. “It felt like a writer’s room for a lot of the process,” Sears, who is also the play’s director, said by phone.

Related: First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

The actors were given writing assignments, Sears said, such as writing the fairytale version of their character’s arc in the play, or being challenged to write five minutes of theater within a half hour. “They have so much ownership over what they’re making,” Sears said.

Moore and Sears were the final editors but the actors had a part in shaping their characters, like Lee with Até. Moore, who is also the play’s associate director, said the actors found their voices as writers. While Moore and Sears were honored to be the leaders, she said, the play belongs to the collective. “We all jumped off the cliff together,” Moore said by phone.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Staff Sgt. April Spilde, a pallbearer with the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, is one of two women serving in the elite unit during ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Paul Bello.

Neither Moore nor Sears served in the military. The genesis of the project stems from when Moore was working at the Washington, DC-based Truman National Security Project in early 2015, she explained. Sears and Moore have been friends since college, and followed the news of whether the last restrictions on combat positions would be lifted. Sears thought the story of women fighting for recognition in combat would be an excellent story, Moore said.

Sears and Moore interviewed 35 veterans and current service members – an about even mix of women and men. The veterans had fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Sears said. The interview process took about three months, Sears said, with Moore and her then listening and transcribing the interviews. From there, they started to narrow down stories and characters, Sears said.

A bullet catcher is “army slang for an infantryman,” according to the play’s website, and Moore said, “It’s kind of a badge of honor to be a bullet catcher.”

Some women are going through infantry training right now, she said, and “we’re seeing the movement towards the world we built in the play becoming a reality.”

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
USMC photo by Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken

“Bullet Catchers” follows the journey of “the first official mixed gender infantry unit in the US Army, from training to deployment,” according to the play’s website. Moore said it was important to highlight a diversity of experience and so the play’s characters run the gamut from private to lieutenant colonel.

Women in the Fight: 15 women who helped pave the way in the Army

Jessica Vera plays Maya de los Santos, who, in the play, is a lieutenant colonel and the first female commander of a forward operating base, Vera explained by phone. Vera described Maya as a leader, someone who not only sees the opportunity before her, but also the weight of that level of responsibility.

While Vera has no military experience, her father was an Army Ranger, her older brother was in the Army Cavalry and is currently serving in the Air Force. Growing up in a military household has informed how she plays Maya, she said.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Sailors participating in the Riverine Combat Skills course prepare for a field training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 24, 2012. Navy photo by Specialist Seaman Heather M. Paape

One of the play’s first scenes is Maya picking up her wife, Jordan, a civilian, and taking her over the threshold after getting married. Lee, the veteran, also plays Jordan in the play, and said Vera helped to shape Jordan’s character. While the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been officially abandoned, Lee said, “There’s still a stigma. It depends on who your command is.”

On the other end of the military spectrum is character Joan Boudica, played by Emma Walton. Joan is a private and is brand new to the experience, Walton explained by phone. Joan is part of the reserves and is randomly picked for special training and is deployed, she said. “It’s a coming of age story for her,” Walton, who has no military experience, said.

Walton said women have been in the military for a long time – flying planes and protecting the country like men are. “We’re excited to show it,” she said. “The rest of America thinks that they’re nurses, they’re doing paperwork. That’s just not true.”

Sears, the director, said she hopes the play spurs a myriad of conversations for the audience, including a larger discussion of women in leadership roles. “We’re hoping that this story — as specific and nuanced [as it is] – can still have reverberations for woman and anyone who has tried to move the needle of gender integration in general,” she said.

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Combat Marine and double amputee just became a Long Island cop

Matias Ferreira is a combat Marine who graduated from the Suffolk County Police Academy on March 24, 2017. Prior to the graduation, he was elected as president of his academy class, and a recruit platoon leader. All of this while walking on two prosthetic legs.


You read that right. Matias Ferreira is a double-amputee.

According to a report by Newsday, Ferreira lost both of his legs after he was wounded by an improvised explosive device during the fighting in Musa Qala, Afghanistan.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Ferreira recovering after losing both his legs in an IED blast in Afghanistan (Screenshot from PIX11.com video).

Ferreira is not the only double amputee serving in law enforcement — PIX11.com reported that one other is serving as a state trooper in the western United States.

Ferreira’s roundabout journey to being a police officer involved playing on a select softball team with other amputees, and a moment of heroism in October 2015.

According to the New York Daily News, the ex-Marine leapt into action with his brother and future father-in-law while leaving his wedding rehearsal to rescue an infant from a burning car.

“Instinctively you just react, you don’t freeze, and thankfully we were able to make a difference,” Ferreira said at the time.

Now, he will do so again. After 29 weeks of intensive training in the gym, the classroom, and the swimming pool, during which Ferreira refused offers of special treatment.

Below is an interview that he did with Fox and Friends. Semper Fi.

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Here’s who would win if US Marines went up against Russian naval infantry

The United States Marine Corps: 245 years of butt-kicking and tradition.


Russian Naval Infantry: A Russian military force with 315 years of victory — and defeat.

Which is the deadlier unit in a matchup of the U.S. versus Russia when it comes to naval infantry?

In a major crisis, the U.S. would likely send a Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Perhaps the most notable example was its use in 1990 after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Using a force of five pre-positioned vessels, the U.S. delivered the gear and supplies needed for the 4th MEB to operate for 30 days as additional heavy forces arrived. It wasn’t anyone’s idea of a slouch: It brought a reinforced regiment of Marines (three battalions of Marine infantry, a battalion of artillery, and companies of AAV-7A1 Amphibious Assault Vehicles, Light Armored Vehicles, and tanks) for ground combat, and also featured three squadrons of AV-8B+ Harriers, two squadrons of F/A-18C Hornets, a squadron of EA-6B Prowlers, and seven squadrons of helicopters.

A Russian Naval Infantry Brigade is also quite powerful. For the sake of this discussion, let’s look at the forces of Red Banner Northern Fleet, centered on the 61st Kirkinesskaya Red Banner Marine Brigade.

 

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
030612-N-3725V-001Ustka, Poland (Jun. 12, 2003) — A Russian Naval Infantryman provides cover for his counterparts from Denmark, Lithuania, Poland and United States during an exercise at Ustka, Poland as part of Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2003. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Chadwick Vann)

The Red Banner Northern Fleet’s naval infantry force has three battalions of naval infantry, one air-assault battalion, one “reconnaissance” battalion, one “armored” battalion, two artillery battalions, and an air-defense battalion.

If things were to come to blows in Norway during the Cold War (or today, for that matter), these units would go head-to-head. In fact, ironically, the 4th MEB was diverted from preparations for a deployment exercise to Norway to respond to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. So, who would win that face-off?

With what is effectively four battalions of infantry, a reconnaissance battalion, a tank battalion, two artillery battalions, and the other attachments, the Russians have a slight numerical edge in ground firepower. The air-defense battalion can somewhat negate the air power that a Marine Expeditionary Brigade would bring to a fight.

That said, some of the equipment is older, like the PT-76 light tank and the BRDM-2 armored car. The BMP-2 is equipping some units, but many still use BTR-80 and MT-LB armored personnel carriers. Very few BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles or T-90 main battle tanks have arrived.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Marines with Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, fire down range during a CS gas attack during a live fire range August 18, 2016, at Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia. The range was the final training evolution of Exercise Koolendong 16, a trilateral exercise between the U.S. Marine Corps, Australian Defence Force and French Armed Forces New Caledonia. Marines held a defensive position while engaging targets and working through the CS gas, which simulated a chemical attack. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

That said, the American Marines have potent firepower of their own. Perhaps the most potent ground firepower would come from the company of M1A1 Abrams tanks. Don’t be fooled by their 1980s lineage — these tanks have been heavily upgraded, and are on par with the M1A2 SEP tanks in Army service.

Marine Corps LAV-25s and LAV-ATs can also kill the armored vehicles attached to the Red Banner Northern Fleet. This does not include man-portable anti-tank missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin or the BGM-71 TOW.

What will really ruin the day for the Russian Naval Infantry is the Marine aviation. Marine aviation specifically trains to support Marines on the ground, and the close-air support — particularly from the AV-8B+ Harrier — will prove to be very decisive.

In short, the Marines might be spotting Russian Naval Infantry seven decades of tradition, but they will show the Russians why they were called “devil dogs.”

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

These are the 13 funniest military memes that supply didn’t keep for themselves. Check them out below:


1. Seriously sir, just a peek (via Funker 530).

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives

2. Lightweight, plenty of space, climate control.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
What’s the problem, Army? Marines would literally kill for this.

SEE ALSO: That time a Navy squadron bombed North Vietnam with a toilet

3. Operators gotta operate (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Not sure where that camouflage mix works. Maybe an underwater sandbar?

4. You could put them in your pockets (via The Salty Soldier).

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Well, if it weren’t for first sergeant.

5. Invisible tanks cause more crashes than texting while driving (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives

6. Better hope you’re not doing partner assisted exercises (via The Salty Soldier).

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Good news is: that guy usually falls out of runs pretty quickly.

7. Air Force basic training is serious.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Don’t make it before lights out, don’t get a stuffed bear.

8. The Marines like stuffed bears* as well.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
*Bears stuffed with cougars stuffed with wolves stuffed with coyotes stuffed with badgers.

9. This is a Navy corpsman acting like there are tests:

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
We all know the socks/Motrin dilemma is decided by how much Motrin you happen to have.

10. Stand real still and listen very closely …

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
… or run as fast as you can. It doesn’t matter much.

11. The process is slow, but will get you every time (via Enlisted Problems).

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Got ’em!

12. Coast Guard: Part military branch, part law enforcement agency …

(via Coast Guard Memes)

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
… part leisure activity.

13. Remember to dive at the end of the run (via Awesome Sh-t My Drill Sergeant Says).

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Otherwise, this still ends badly.

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This is what an air-to-air war between Russia and the US in Syria would look like

After the US downed a Syrian jet making a bombing run on US-backed forces fighting ISIS, Russia threatened to target US and US-led coalition planes West of the Euphrates river in Syria.


But while Russia has some advanced surface-to-air missile systems and very agile fighter aircraft in Syria, it wouldn’t fare well in what would be a short, brutal air war against the US.

The US keeps an aircraft carrier with dozens of F/A-18E fighters aboard in the Mediterranean about all the time and hundreds of F-15s and F-16s scattered around Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan.

According to Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, Russia has “about 25 planes, only about ten of which are dedicated to air superiority (Su-35s and Su-30s), and against that they’ll have to face fifth-gen stealth fighters, dozens of strike fighters, F-15s, F-16s, as well as B-1 and B-52 bombers. And of course the vast US Navy and pretty much hundreds of Tomahawks.”

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
USS George H.W. Bush. Photo courtesy of the US Navy

“Russians have a lot of air defenses, they’re not exactly defenseless by any means,” Lamrani told Business Insider, “But the US has very heavy air superiority.” Even though individual Russian platforms come close to matching, and in some ways exceed the capability of US jets, it comes down to numbers.

So if Russia did follow through with its threat, and target a US aircraft that did not back down West of the Euphrates in Syria, and somehow managed to shoot it down, then what?

“The US coalition is very cautious,” said Lamrani. “The whole US coalition is on edge for any moves from Russia at this point.”

Lamrani also said that while F/A-18Es are more visible and doing most of the work, the US keeps a buffer of F-22 stealth jets between its forces and Russia’s. If Russia did somehow manage to shoot down a US or US-led coalition plane, a US stealth jet would probably return fire before it ever reached the base.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
USAF photo by Greg L. Davis

At that point the Russians would have a moment to think very critically if they wanted to engage with the full might of the US Air Force after the eye-for-an-eye shoot downs.

If US surveillance detected a mass mobilization of Russian jets in response to the back-and-forth, the US wouldn’t just wait politely for Russians to get their planes in the sky so they can fight back.

Instead, a giant salvo of cruise missiles would pour in from the USS George H. W. Bush carrier strike group, much like the April 7 strike on Syria’s Sharyat air base. But this time, the missiles would have to saturate and defeat Russia’s missile defenses first, which they could do by sheer numbers if not using electronic attack craft.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

Then, after neutering Russia’s defenses, the ships could target the air base, not only destroying planes on the ground but also tearing up the runways, so no planes could take off. At this point US and Coalition aircraft would have free reign to pass overhead and completely devastate Russian forces.

Russia would likely manage to score a couple intercepts and even shoot down some US assets, but overall the Russian contingent in Syria cannot stand up to the US, let alone the entire coalition of nations fighting ISIS.

Russia also has a strong Navy that could target US air bases in the region, but that would require Russia to fire on Turkey, Jordan, and Qatar, which would be politically and technically difficult for them.

This scenario of a hypothetical air war is exceedingly unlikely. Russia knows the numbers are against them and it would “not [be] so easy for the Russians to decide to shoot down a US aircraft,” according to Lamrani.

Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives
Photo courtesy of Russian state media

And Russia wouldn’t risk so much over Syria, which is not an existential defense interest for them, but a foreign adventure to distract from Russia’s stalled economy and social problems, according to Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russia’s foreign policy in the Middle East at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Russia is not a great power by most measures, like GDP, population, living standard,” Borshchevskaya told Business Insider. “Russia has steadily declined. It’s still a nuclear power, but not world power.”

In Syria, “a lot of what Putin is doing is about domestic policies,” said Borshchevskaya, and to have many Russian servicemen killed in a battle with a US-led coalition fighting ISIS wouldn’t serve his purposes domestically or abroad.

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