Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War - We Are The Mighty
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Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was the first American war broadcast on TV, something that profoundly changed the way we see expeditionary warfare. For the first time ever, Americans at home saw young men crawling through dense jungles thousands of miles away. And it wasn’t like the newsreel footage of the ’40s, scrubbed clean and careful to show the good guys fighting the good fight. The news coverage in Vietnam showed young American men out on patrol in a strange, foreign land in what was a bitterly controversial war back at home. But less well-known are the paintings created by dedicated teams of army painters tasked with depicting the war in Vietnam as they saw it, with unlimited creative license and no travel restrictions.


Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
“Swamp Patrol” – Roger Blum, 1966

The Vietnam Combat Art Program was created in 1966 as a way to create a record of the war as seen through soldiers’ eyes (a similar program existed in WWII). Applications were solicited from soldiers through the U.S. Army Arts and Crafts Program, a separate program originally set up to boost morale in the mobilization leading up to WWII. But unlike the Arts and Crafts Program, which decorated barracks, hosted art classes and sought to fill the long periods of downtime of a life at war, this new Combat Art Program dedicated artist teams to observe and depict the war in Vietnam.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
“Wounded” – Robert C. Knight, 1966

In a departure from the army’s caginess towards news media coverage of the war, the program sought out artists looking to depict scenes in Vietnam that were both honest and compelling. In the U.S. Army’s announcement of the program, it called for “competent artist-illustrators who have a sound foundation in life drawing, composition and color. They must be able to record military events and experiences pictorially and with strong emotional impact.” The teams were to spend 60 days traveling through Vietnam, following units on patrol while making sketches and doing preliminary research. The teams would later finish their work during a 75-day stay in Hawaii.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
“Killed In Action” – Burdell Moody, 1967

The army assembled nine Combat Artist Teams (CATs) from 1966-1970. Each team consisted of about 5 artists who were given the freedom to travel wherever they wished in Vietnam. “We had open Category Z Air and Military Travel orders, which meant we could hitch a ride anywhere in Vietnam. It was a letter-sized sheet of paper with written and signed orders,” explained James Pollack, who was a member of CAT IV, which operated in late 1967. “We usually just walked up to a pilot or someone in charge and flashed the orders. We guarded these papers closely – if we lost them it would have been difficult trying to explain why we were hitchhiking around Vietnam.” Pollack described his experiences in the Vietnam Combat Art Program in an essay published in 2009 in War, Literature the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
“Looking Down the Trail” – James Pollack, 1967

“Were we propaganda machines for the army? Absolutely not,” Pollack told The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2011. “I was drafted and didn’t even want to be in the army.”

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
“Unreal Realities” – Ronald A. Wilson, 1967

 

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
“Last Stand” – Phillip W. Jones, 1967-68

 

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
“Cobra” – Stephen H. Randall, 1968

 

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
“The Ladies” – David Fairrington, 1968

 

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
“Saturday Uptown” – James R. Drake, 1969

 

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
“Rice Mill, My Tho” – William R. Hoettels, 1969-70

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This War of 1812 veteran saw the Battle of Gettysburg from his porch – then joined it

These days it’s hard to think of a veteran who could have served from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. It’s happened, of course.


But imagine a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War fighting in the Civil War. That’s a span of more than 60 years — much longer than the 24 years that separated the beginning of WWII and the Vietnam War. Then again, during the 20th century, pivotal battles weren’t literally in our front yard.

An average 69-year-old might be happy to ride out his golden years from a rocking chair.

But not John Burns.

He fought in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War and even tried to work as a supply driver for the Union Army but was sent back to his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

He wasn’t too happy to be excluded from the war.

See, Burns already lived twice as long as the average American of the time and was ready to do more for his country. But Gettysburg was much further north than the Confederates could ever attack – or so he thought.

Burns was considered “eccentric” by the rest of the town. That’s what happens when you’re fighting wars for longer than most people at the time spent in school.

When Confederate Gen. Jubal Early captured the town, Burns was the constable and was jailed for trying to interfere with Confederate military operations. When the Confederates were pushed out of Gettysburg by the Union, Burns began arresting Confederate stragglers for treason.

His contributions to the Union didn’t end there.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, Burns watched as the Battle of Gettysburg began to unfold near his home. Like a true American hero, he picked up his rifle – a flintlock musket, which required the use of a powder horn – and calmly walked over to the battle to see how he could help.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War

He “borrowed” a more modern musket (now a long-standing Army tradition) from a wounded Union soldier, picked up some cartridges, then walked over to the commander of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry and asked to join the regiment.

This time, he wasn’t turned away; but the 150th Pennsylvania commanders did send Burns to Herbst Woods, away from where the officers believed the main area of fighting would be.

They were wrong.

Herbst Woods was the site of the first Confederate offensive of the battle. Burns, sharpshooting for the Iron Brigade, helped repel this offensive as part of a surprise counterattack.

John Burns was mocked by other troops for showing up to fight with his antiquated weapon and “swallowtail coat with brass buttons, yellow vest, and tall hat.” But when the bullets started to fly, he calmly took cover behind a tree and started to shoot back with his modern rifle.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War

He also fought alongside the 7th Wisconsin Infantry and then moved to support the 24th Michigan. He was wounded in the arm, legs, and chest and was left on the field when the Union forces had to fall back.

He ditched his rifle and buried his ammo and then passed out from blood loss. He tried to convince the Rebels he was an old man looking to find help for his wife, but accounts of how well that story worked vary. Anyone fighting in an army outside of a uniform could be executed, but the ruse must have worked on some level–he survived his wounds and lived for another 9 years.

The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the Civil War. The Confederates would spend the rest of the war – two years – on the defensive.

As the poem “John Burns of Gettysburg,” written after the war by Francis Bret Harte, goes:

“So raged the battle. You know the rest. How the rebels, beaten and backward pressed, Broke at the final charge and ran. At which John Burns — a practical man — Shouldered his rifle, unbent his brows, And then went back to his bees and cows.”

Burns became a national hero after the battle. When President Lincoln stopped in the Pennsylvania town to deliver the Gettysburg Address, he asked to speak with Burns and met the veteran at his home.

He was photographed – a big deal at the time – and a poem was written about his life. A statue of Burns was erected at Gettysburg National Military Park in 1903, where it stands today.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War

The base reads “My thanks are specially due to a citizen of Gettysburg named John Burns who although over seventy years of age shouldered his musket and offered his services to Colonel Wister One Hundred and Fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Colonel Wister advised him to fight in the woods as there was more shelter there but he preferred to join our line of skirmishers in the open fields when the troops retired he fought with the Iron Brigade. He was wounded in three places. – Gettysburg report of Maj.-Gen. Doubleday.”

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7 Interesting Facts About The Javelin Missile System


The FGM-148 Javelin is portable and cheap when it is relatively compared to the targets it was designed to destroy: tanks. Developed in the 80s and implemented in the 90s, it’s one of the most devastating anti-tank field missiles. Here are seven cool facts about the shoulder anti-tank missile system:

Texas Instruments – the same company known for their scientific calculators – developed the Javelin.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Texas Instruments calculator (Photo: Wikimedia), Javelin (Wikimedia)

To be precise, two companies developed the Javelin: Texas Instruments and Martin Marietta (now Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin).

A Javelin launcher costs $126,000, roughly the same price of a new Porsche 911 GT3.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Javelin (Photo: Wikimedia), Porsche 911 GT3 (Photo: m7snal7arbi/Instagram)

The Javelin is a fire-and-forget missile; it locks onto targets and self-guides in mid-flight.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Photo: YouTube

The gunner identifies the target with the Command Launch Unit (CLU) – the reusable targeting component of the Javelin system – which passes an infrared image to the missile’s onboard seeker system. The seeker hones in on the image despite the missile’s flight path, angle of attack, or target’s movement.

The CLU may be used without a missile as a portable thermal sight.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Photo: Staff Sgt. Bret Mill/US Army

The Army is working on a new CLU that will be 70 percent smaller, 40 percent lighter, and have a 50 percent battery life increase.

The Javelin has two attack modes: direct attack and top attack.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Photo: Wikimedia

In direct attack mode – think fastball – the missile engages the target head-on. This is the ideal mode for attacking buildings and helicopters.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Photo: Wikimedia

In top attack mode – think curveball – the missile sharply climbs up to a cruising altitude, sustains, and sharply dives onto the target. This is the mode used for attacking tanks. A tank’s armor is usually most vulnerable on its top side.

The main rocket ignites after achieving about a five to ten yard clearance from the operator.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Photo: USMC

The Javelin system ejects the missile from the launcher using a conventional motor and rocket propellant that stops burning before it clears the tube. After a short delay – just enough time to clear the operator – the flight motor ignites propelling the missile to the target.

A Javelin missile costs approximately $78,000; about the same price of a base model Range Rover.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Javelin (Photo: Wikimedia), Range Rover (Photo: eriq_adams/Instagram)

Because launching a Javelin missile is about the equivalent of throwing away a Range Rover, most operators never get the opportunity to fire a live Javelin round.

NOW: This Sniper Round Can Change Direction In Mid-Flight

AND: DARPA Is Building A Drone That Can Tell What Color Shirt You’re Wearing From 17,500 Feet

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The complete hater’s guide to the F-16 Fighting Falcon

We all know the services love to hate on each other. But believe it or not, the pilots within the services tend to hate on any plane they don’t fly.


Don’t believe me? Have you heard that band Dos Gringos? They rock, but those two Viper drivers also touch upon the intra-service hating in “I Wish I had a Gun Just Like the A-10.” You can listen to it as we hate on their mount – the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Don’t take all the hating as license to go after them. They may enjoy razzing each other — saying mean things about the other mounts. But they will all come after you if you try to pick on one of them.

Why making fun of the F-16 is easy

Where do we start? It’s a single-engine plane. Not much range. Offensive payload? Probably the lowest among air force combat jets. In fact, really, if you ask any A-10, F-15, F-15E, F-22, or F-35 jock, the fact older F-16s are becoming target drones is appropriate somehow.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
The first QF-16 target aircraft seen at Tyndall Air Force Base in 2012. | US Air Force photo by Chris Cokeing

The A-10, of course, laughs at the notion the F-16 can do close-air support. With that 20mm popgun, how do they expect to blow up a tank?

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
A U.S. Air Force A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II from the 355th Fighter Squadron is surrounded by a cloud of gun smoke as it fires a 30mm GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex in Alaska on May 29, 2007. The seven-barrel Gatling gun can be fired at a rate of 3,900 rounds per minute. DoD photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

Why you should actually hate it

Because it got to play parts in “Iron Eagle” and three sequels. Because that Doug Masters kid made flying it look easy – and even rigged a sound system.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
(Youtube Screenshot)

Because being single-engine means that if something goes bad, the pilot goes sky-diving. Like that poor Jordanian guy who got captured by ISIS. Oh, and that short range, means it has some kind of drinking problem. It’s always hogging the tankers.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Once again, the F-16s are hogging the tanker. (Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jerry Fleshman)

Not to mention, they’re everywhere. It seems like every country gets its hands on these planes.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Turkish F-16 taxis for takeoff at Incirlik Air Base. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Why you ought to love the F-16

This is one versatile fighter. You need to scramble up to say hello to a prowling Russian? F-16s can do that. Want to blast the hell out of enemy forces in close contact with friendlies? The “Viper” variant can do that. Dogfight with MiGs? The F-16 can do that, too. Hit an enemy installation? Can do.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Three U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 30 aircraft from the 80th Fighter Squadron fly in formation over South Korea during a training mission on Jan. 9, 2008. The squadron will be upgrading to F-16 Block 40 aircraft under the common configuration implementation program, which increases mission capability and combat readiness by utilizing newer airframes and avionics. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Quinton T. Burris, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

There’s a lot of them. Many NATO allies have them. So do American allies in the Far East and Middle East. It’s even had growth potential. Japan’s F-2, the Israeli F-16I, and the F-16E/F for the UAE all have proven themselves. When China wanted a new multi-role fighter for the PLAAF, they had to knock off the Israeli knock-off of the F-16.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It’s also around a lot. You see, the U.S. didn’t buy that many F-22s. The F-35 is just coming on line. The A-10 needs new wings, or a lot will retire. They just chopped up a bunch of perfectly good B-52s. But the F-16s are around and there are a lot of them – over 1,000 of them on inventory. And that doesn’t count what is in the boneyard.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War

And with what we saw with the F-4 Phantom, the F-16 will be around for a long time. In fact, the last Viper driver has probably not even been born yet.

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Train hero Spencer Stone gets promoted — twice

In a very special three-minute ceremony, Spencer Stone, one of the heroes of this summer’s thwarted train attack in France, received a promotion to Senior Airman (E-4 for you military types), holding that rank for a very effective one minute, before his subsequent promotion to Staff Sergeant (E-5).


Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Staff Sgt. Spencer Stone, 60th Medical Operations Squadron medical technician, listens as the responsibilities of non-commissioned offers are read during a promotion ceremony at Travis Air Force Base, California, Oct. 30, 2015.  Stone was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant by order of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. According to Air Force Instruction 36-502, the chief of staff of the Air Force has the authority to promote any enlisted member to the next higher grade. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken Wright)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III decided to promote Stone to E-5 because Stone already had a date to put on E-4. Stone’s promotion was not without controversy from some within the Air Force.

“I’m not going to give it the time of day,” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody said during a recent USAF town hall meeting. “If someone wants to personally come up to me and be educated about how we came to that decision and why, I’m happy to do so in a professional manner.”

Stone and friends (Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos and civilian Anthony Saddler) stopped Moroccan-born Ayoub El-Khazzani from carried out an alleged mass shooting with an AK-47 on a Paris-bound train. Stone was stabbed in that incident. For his actions, Stone received the Purple Heart and Airman’s Medal as well as France and Belgium’s highest honors. The Airman’s Medal is the USAF’s highest non-combat decoration.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War

Stone was until recently recovering from serious wounds sustained during a late-night altercation outside of a Sacramento, California night club. He was stabbed four times in this most recent attack, in the heart, left lung,  liver, and in the back. He had to have open heart surgery to save his life from the knife wound to his heart.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War

“It is an honor to be promoted to Staff Sergeant,” Stone said in a statement provided by the Air Force. “And I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to lead my fellow Airmen. I am ready for the growth and challenges that are ahead of me.”

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Beware of the 19-year-old pissed off Marine

On January 30, 1968, John Ligato and about 150 fellow Marines from Alpha Company experienced hell on Earth.


They were awakened in the middle of the night by their company commander and sent to nearby Hue City in Vietnam to help the troops of an overrun compound.

Related: 8 of the most terrifying Vietnam War booby traps

When they finally arrived, they were greeted with cheers. The troops of the MACV Compound had just repelled an enemy surge within their walls.

“They had been through hell, and they thought we were there to save the day, but little did we know the numerical numbers of NVA there,” Ligato said in the video below.

Ligato and his ill-equipped company were walking into a deathtrap against nine battalions of highly-trained North Vietamese soldiers, outnumbering each man by a few hundred.

“Most of us thought we’d never get out,” Ligato said.

The odds were against them, but miraculously, they pulled through. Ligato sums up the company’s success with this quote:

Americans Adapt. We Improvise. The most ferocious fighting machine the world has ever seen is a 19-year-old pissed off Marine. Because you’ll take that kid from Detroit or Mississippi and you’ll train him in Marine Corps boot camp, and you’ll put him in a situation that’s foreign to him, and he will adapt and improvise and become that situation and deal with it.

Watch John Ligato tell his harrowing experience in this 3-minute American Heroes Channel video:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube
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This Air Force family won a Super Bowl trip and they’re psyched

A Saber family will be heading to the “Lone Star State” to watch Super Bowl LI live on Feb. 5, after winning the Air Force Clubs’ Football Frenzy contest grand prize package.


Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Crites, 52nd Maintenance Squadron senior munitions inspector, with his family are presented with the grand prize from the Football Frenzy contest by 52nd Fighter Wing leadership and 52nd Force Support Squadron at Club Eifel on Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Jan. 10, 2017. The grand prize is two tickets to Super Bowl LI with airfare and hotel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

Staff Sgt. Richard Crites, 52nd Maintenance Squadron senior munitions inspector, and his wife, Stephanie, participated in the annual Football Frenzy promotion at their local club, and was randomly selected by the Air Force Clubs’ grand prize winner during the final drawing of the 2016 Football Frenzy season.

“It feels amazing, almost surreal like a dream,” said Stephanie Crites. “I’ve told my husband for so many years that one day I would get him to the Super Bowl, so here we go!”

Col. Joe Mcfall, 52nd Fighter Wing commander, along with 52nd FW leadership and Jarrod Garceau, 52nd Force Support Squadron Club Eifel programmer, presented the prize to Stephanie and her husband Jan. 10, at Club Eifel.

The package includes free airfare, rental car, and hotel accommodations to attend the Super Bowl in Houston, Texas.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Colton Crites, right, son of U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Crites, 52nd Maintenance Squadron senior munitions inspector, holds the giant ticket from the Football Frenzy contest at Club Eifel on Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Jan. 10, 2017. The grand prize is two tickets to Super Bowl LI with airfare and hotel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

During Football Frenzy season, club members have the opportunity to win weekly prizes such as a $100 gift card or National Football League game tickets.

Spangdahlem also had two additional winners of the $100 gift card during the Football Frenzy season going on from Sept. 2016 to Jan. 2017.

“Club Eifel does about 300 programs a year,” said Garceau. ‘We gave back over $200,000 in free stuff last year to club members, and this is one of those things that proves that club membership has its benefits.”

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 13 edition)

Sorry, it’s Monday. But WATM is here to help. Here’s what you need to know about to start your week right:


Now: The most important military leaders in world history

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These giant African rodents are used to sniff out land mines

A Belgian NGO is doing some incredible things with rats. The non-governmental organization, Apopo is dedicated to training African Giant Pouched Rats for land mine and tuberculosis detection. The critters make for very good pets because they are easily trained. This, with their sense of smell, said to be finer than a dog’s, make them perfectly suited for the job.


One rat can evaluate 100 samples in 20 minutes, equal to what a skilled lab technician, using microscopy, can do in two days. As of 2005, the rats were able to find 5 to 10 TB patients per week that were missed by microscopes.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Photo by Apopo

More importantly for sub-Saharan Africa, a heavily mined region, the rats are able to smell explosives just as easily. Here, they are used effectively to uncover land mines in these areas. Whenever they find a mine, they are rewarded with a treat. The rats are so good at the search, they’re able to clear more than 650 square feet of earth in twenty minutes. According to handling teams interviewed by The Guardian, the rats are very accurate.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Photo by Apopo

In Mozambique, heavily mined during the the country’s subsequent 15-year civil war, rat teams have found and destroyed more than 13,000 mines, reclaiming more than 11 million square meters.

If you’re worried about the rats setting off the explosives, rest easy. The rats weigh less than two pounds, not enough to set off the pressure-triggered anti-personnel mines.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Photo by Apopo

Training starts at four weeks old, when the rats become accustomed to humans and then desensitized to sights and sounds. They associate a clicker with a food reward and are then trained to indicate the holes that contain explosive substances by put their noses against the holes.  Finally, they’re trained to wear harnesses and find inactive mines under soil. After a blind test with a real handler, the animals become full-fledged minesweepers.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Photo by Apopo

The rats, once considered a pest animal, get more than just their food reward for good work. They are fed a steady, good diet of fruits and veggies and even get sunscreen to protect their ears and tails from the harsh sun.

Read more and donate to Apopo here.

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This Ranger-veteran Santa granted a dying child’s final wish

An Army Ranger veteran who plays Santa was called for an emergency visit to a dying child in Tennessee, arriving just in time to present the boy with a present and hold him as he passed away.


Eric Schmitt-Matzen is a 60-year-old engineer and the president of Packing Seals Engineering, according to Fox News. He carefully cultivates Saint Nicholas’s appearance and performs at approximately 80 events throughout each year.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Photo: Facebook/Eric Schmitt-Matzen

A nurse contacted him from a hospital near his home in Tennessee to ask that he rush over and comfort a dying child. According to the BBC, he was given a PAW Patrol toy by the child’s mother.

“She’d bought a toy from [the TV show] ‘PAW Patrol’ and wanted me to give it to him,” he told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I sized up the situation and told everyone, ‘If you think you’re going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I’ll break down and can’t do my job.’ ”

Schmitt-Matzen told the sick boy that he was Santa’s “Number One Elf” and that no matter where the boy went next, that title would get him in. Schmitt-Matzen gave the boy the gift and the child asked, “Santa, can you help me?”

“I wrapped my arms around him,” Schmitt-Matzen said, according to the Independent. “Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.”

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Photo: Facebook/Eric Schmitt-Matzen

The Ranger veteran left the hospital in tears that any soldier could easily understand. Rangers Lead The Way.

The first reference to this story that WATM has been able to find comes from Sam Venable at the Knoxville News Sentinel. You can learn more about Eric Schmitt-Matzen and his visits as Santa Claus there.

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US wants to issue special operators a new personal defense weapon

It’s the caliber that’s beloved by the commando crowd for its close-in ballistics and smooth shooting through a short-barreled, suppressed rifle. And what was once a weapon for the secret squirrel types has now gone high-profile with a new solicitation from U.S. Special Operations Command asking industry for options to outfit spec ops troops with a new personal defense weapon.


Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Special Operations Command wants a new close-in battle weapons with nearly impossible specs. (Photo: Army Special Operations Command)

In a formal Request for Information, SOCOM is asking for options to equip its commandos with an M4A1-compatible upper receiver group that fires the .300 Blackout cartridge and configures the weapon into a short-barreled rifle no longer than 26 inches with the stock fully extended.

The whole PDW with the upper can’t weigh any more than 5.5 pounds and has to have a collapsed or folded length of a tick over 17 inches.

Also Read: Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 want these new weapons

Those dimensions will be tough to meet, firearms experts say, and combined with the requirement that the weapon be able to fire with the stock collapsed or folded narrows the current options significantly.

And, oh, the upper has to convert from a .300 BLK barrel to a 5.56 one in less than three minutes.

(Could a variation of the Honey Badger be the only real option out there? Ah, the sweet irony!)

Aside from the dimensions, weight and conversion time, the selection of the .300 BLK cartridge for the new kit is one of the first public acknowledgements of special operators’ preference for the caliber in its close-quarters combat arsenal.

Developed about five years ago by the now Remington-owned Advanced Armament Corp. for SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force types who wanted a replacement of the MP-5 submachine gun, the .300 BLK is essentially a 7.62 bullet in a cut down 5.56 case. That gives it good short-range ballistics and allows operators to use the same magazines, lower receivers and bolts of standard-issue rifles but with a different barrel.

Because of the shortened case, the .300 BLK also performs better than 5.56 in rifles with extremely short barrels (under 9 inches) and when shooting with a suppressor, ammo experts say, which aligns with special operations troops’ preference for suppressed rifles in close-in shootouts.

The SOCOM request states that companies have until April 10 to respond with their options.

 

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This is what happens when your father was your drill instructor’s drill instructor

If Marine Corps boot camp is a bitter slice of hell, then drill instructors are the demons who dish it.


Now imagine what basic training would be like if your drill instructor was your father’s recruit and knew it. That’s exactly what happened to Reddit user hygemaii.

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Gunnery Sergeant Shawn D. Angell gently corrects a trainee. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

You’d expect one of two things to happen: you get favorable treatment because your father treated your DI to a rose garden — highly unlikely — or you become your DI’s reprisal punching bag for everything your father put him through as a recruit — probably more realistic. Here’s how the story played out, according to hygemaii (mildly edited for grammar and curse words):

“My best military story is my own boot camp story. I decided to join the Marine Corps almost on a whim after planning to join the Air Force for most of my senior year in high school.

Related: 5 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard

Same old story of AF recruiters seeming like they didn’t give a sh-t about their appearance or job and the Marine recruiter putting out max effort all the time and always being presentable. I was a pretty easy mark for the USMC because my dad was in the USMC; I grew up on bases all over the U.S. until we moved to the little farm town in North Florida where I went to high school.

Since I was 18, I basically did all the paperwork myself, found a job series I liked, signed, the whole nine yards, my dad didn’t know anything until I told him I was going to MEPS and joining the Marines. He was overjoyed, obviously. He loved the Corps and regretted getting out after 12 years.

Now the story gets funny. My dad was a drill instructor when he was in the Marines. I remembered living on Parris Island but didn’t think much of it. When I got my ship date for boot camp, my dad called some old friends and I ended up in a Company who’s First Sergeant was an old friend of my dad’s — they served on the drill field together all those years ago. So through some sort of crazy coincidence, I end up in a platoon with a drill instructor who was a recruit under my dad (6-7 years prior to me going to boot camp).

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
A Drill Instructor whispers loving words of encouragement to Marines who needed some motivation. (U.S. Marine Corps)

I have a very distinct name, and on the second day after we got our real drill instructors, as he was going through roll call, the drill instructor suddenly fell quiet. After a couple of seconds, he said my name, perfectly pronounced, and I knew I was f-cked.

He said “Lastname, I bet there aren’t too many Lastnames in the world like that, are there?” Sir, no sir. “Was your daddy a Marine in the 90’s Lastname?” Sir, yes sir. “F-cking good, Lastname, good. Get on my quarterdeck now.”

I spent the rest of boot camp unable to make myself invisible. It spread from my drill instructor to drill instructors from other platoons, even other Companies. It was f-cking miserable. I felt bad for my rack mate, because at one point for about three days I had to move my entire rack to the quarterdeck and he was just along for the ride, so he caught a lot of it, too.

It made graduating really special, in retrospect, to finally get the kind words from that drill instructor, but man that sucked. I’m pretty sure this entire thing was set up by my dad and his buddy, but they both deny it, and there’s no way to prove it.

It was funny seeing my drill instructor stand a little straighter when he saw my dad at graduation.”

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Thousands of troops overseas won’t know if their votes were counted on election day

Soldiers created these hauntingly beautiful paintings during the Vietnam War
Service member fills out an absentee ballot during the 2008 presidential race. (Photo: DVIDS)


One of the presidential candidates has been on the campaign trail making claims about how the election is “a rigged deal.” And while Donald Trump tries to make a linkage between perceived media bias against him and his declining poll numbers as evidence of this so-called “rigging,” history shows that the American voting process is not as much rigged as it is flawed in some ways.

And nowhere is this truer than with military absentee ballots.

Absentee ballots started during the Civil War when Union soldiers complained that they couldn’t exercise their right to vote because they were stationed along battle lines far away from their home states. President Lincoln, knowing it was going to be a close election and sensing he enjoyed the support of the troops because he was commander-in-chief, pushed to make absentee voting possible. States responded along party lines; Republicans passed laws allowing soldiers to mail ballots home from the war, and Democrats resisted such laws.

The idea died after the war but came back to the attention of lawmakers some 85 years later during World War II. Both Democrats and Republicans figured GIs would support President Roosevelt, which is why Democrats liked the idea and Republicans did not. Most states passed a law allowing absentee ballots, and as a result, nearly 2.6 million service members voted during the 1944 election, according to Donald S. Inbody of The Washington Post.

Demand grew in the decades that followed and processes for absentee ballots, including those used by the military, varied from state to state. Finally, Congress passed overarching guidance in the form of the Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986.

That guidance was imperfect, however. States often mailed ballots out too close to the election to be returned from overseas in time to be counted. As a result, service members grew disenfranchised and often chose not to participate fearing that to do so would be a waste of time.

This sense came to a head during the controversial presidential election of 2000 between Bush and Gore. Gore, the Democratic candidate, conceded only to take it back after discovering that he was actually winning the popular vote and the count in the crucial state of Florida was only separated by several hundred votes. The Democrats demanded a recount, and lawyers sprang into action across polling places statewide. Suddenly words like “hanging chads” (referring to stuck cut-outs on punch cards used to tally votes on antiquated machines) were part of the national lexicon.

Several thousand military absentee ballots came into play in this winner-take-all scenario. Once again lawmakers came down along party lines. Democrats — fearing the military voters were mostly Republican — tried to have the ballots thrown out because they had arrived past the deadline or weren’t postmarked. The Bush campaign ultimately got the ballots counted, which allowed W. to win the election and become the 43rd president.

Because of that chaos, Congress created the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to better provide information about elections and passed the Military and Overseas Voting Empowerment Act of 2009, which forced states to overhaul election laws to allow troops to request ballots and register to vote electronically. States were also required to have ballots ready to mail 45 days before an election to ensure enough time for the service member to get it back to be counted.

But these actions have far from fixed the problem. As Eric Eversole wrote in The Washington Times, during the 2010 election cycle many local officials missed the 45-day-prior deadline by more than two weeks. The result was upwards of 40,000 military absentee ballots sent only 25 days before election day, not enough time to make it out to ships at sea or forward operating bases and then back to the U.S.

And that’s not the only problem. Military absentee ballots are supposed to be tallied by home states and sent to the EAC, which is charged with reporting the results to Congress, but an independent study of EAC data conducted by the Walter Cronkite School’s News21 national reporting project found that 1 in 8 jurisdictions reported receiving more ballots than they sent, counting more ballots than they received, or rejecting more ballots than they received.

According to News21, some local voting officials think the EAC’s forms for recording military overseas participation are confusing.

“How am I supposed to account for ballots that are sent to domestic addresses but are returned from overseas?” asked Paul Lux, the supervisor of elections in a Florida county with a large population of active duty Air Force personnel. “There are just too many potential anomalies in the way we have to provide service to these voters.”

The process is also complicated on the service member’s side, mostly because of the inherent challenges of the mail systems at the far reaches of America’s military presence around the world but also because the availability of voting information varies between commands.

Matt Boehmer, the director of DoD’s Federal Voting Assistance Program, told News21 that service member confusion “is exacerbated by the fact that military voters never receive confirmation that their ballots were counted.” FVAP has recommended that state election officials notify troops when their ballots are counted.

But in spite of all of the issues challenging the military absentee ballot process, military leaders urge their subordinates to participate in the voting process.

“It’s what you raise your hand to do, support and defend the Constitution,” Capt. Yikalo Gebrehiwet, a company commander at Ft. Bragg, told News21. “The best way to do that is by voting.”

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