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The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today

In January 1973, the United States agreed to end direct combat operations in Vietnam. Under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords, the fighting between North and South Vietnam was also temporarily halted. Though the accords were never ratified by the Senate, on March 29, 1973 the last U.S. troops left Vietnam, ending more than twenty years of military assistance and eight years of direct combat support from the U.S. military. With only a handful of Marines left to guard the embassy in Saigon, the North Vietnamese government in Hanoi released the last 67 of its admitted prisoners of war.


Newly freed prisoners of war celebrate as their C-141A aircraft lifts off from Hanoi, North Vietnam, on Feb. 12, 1973, during Operation Homecoming. The mission included 54 C-141 flights between Feb. 12 and April 4, 1973, returning 591 POWs to American soil. (U.S. Air Force photo)

During World War II Ho Chi Minh fought alongside the American OSS against the Japanese. After the war, Ho declared an independent Vietnam but soon realized the West would restore French rule in what was then known as Indochina. With the help of Communist governments in China and the Soviet Union, Ho led an eight-year insurgency against the French, and the country was split in two in 1954.

The United States began to support South Vietnam as early as 1954. President Eisenhower pledged his unwavering support for the regime of Southern dictator Ngo Dinh Diem. The Diem regime arrested, tortured, and/or killed upwards of 100,000 people whom he suspected supported the Northern Communists. Diem would be killed in a coup in 1963.

Marines with Company G, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, direct a concentration of fire at the enemy during Operation Allen Brook, 8 May 1968. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo).

In the 1960’s North Vietnamese guerrillas, known as the Viet Cong (VC), began attacking villages and government institutions in the South. By 1965, the U.S. began to send over men and materiel in large numbers, escalating the conflict to a major war. By 1969, the peak of U.S. military involvement, more than half a million U.S. troops were involved in the war. The war included the largest aerial bombing campaigns in history. President Richard Nixon, who was elected on a platform of ending the war, oversaw a brief expansion. Before it ended, the air war expanded, and the conflict migrated into neighboring Cambodia and Laos (attempts to block Northern supply routes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail).

US Marines during Operation Dewey Canyon, A Shau Valley, Vietnam (Photo by Staff Sgt. Bob Jordan)

The U.S. left South Vietnam in 1973, but the fighting between North and South continued. The year 1974 would be the most costly one for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) in terms of combat losses. In 1975, Northern Communist forces captured the southern capital of Saigon and the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. The last Americans were airlifted out on April 30, 1975.

A member of the CIA helps evacuees up a ladder onto an Air America helicopter on the roof of 22 Gia Long Street April 29, 1975, shortly before Saigon fell to advancing North Vietnamese troops.

More than three million people were killed in the Vietnam War, including 1.5 million civilians and 58,000 Americans. Ho Chi Minh would not survive the end of the war, dying in 1969. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who oversaw much of the escalation, would not live to see U.S. troops withdraw. He died in January 1973.

 

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This guy kept fighting World War II for 30 years after Japan surrendered

Hiroo Onoda was an Imperial Japanese Army intelligence officer who refused to believe that World War II had ended. He spent nearly 30 years holding out in the Philippine jungle waiting to be officially relieved.


Also Read: The Most Famous Photograph Of World War II Was Taken 70 Years Ago

According to his memoir, Onoda – just an apprentice officer at the time – received direct orders from the division commander to lead the Lubang Garrison in guerilla warfare. His men were to destroy the airfield and harbor installations to stop the advance of American forces.

Before carrying out his orders, he got a pep talk from Lieutenant General Akira Muto, Chief of Staff of the Fourteenth Area Army who dropped in unexpectedly:

You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand. It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens, we’ll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier, you are to continue to lead him. You may have to live on coconuts. If that’s the case, live on coconuts! Under no circumstances are you to give up your life voluntarily.

To put it in perspective, that was the equivalent of having an O-8 and an O-9 giving orders to an O-1. On top of that, he believed the emperor was a deity and that the war was a sacred mission. Onoda was deeply honored and impressed; he took these orders more literally and seriously than any trooper could have.

Japanese reps sign the article of surrender aboard the USS Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

A few months later, the Imperial Japanese forces surrendered, leaving thousands of soldiers scattered across the South Pacific and Asia. Many of these stragglers were captured and sent home while others went into hiding, committed suicide, or died of starvation and sickness. The remaining stragglers – including Onoda – took leaflets and radio announcements of Japan’s surrender as enemy propaganda and trickery.

On Lubang, Onoda’s men and several other groups retreated into the jungle when the allied forces overran the island. They continued to fight, but after several attacks the groups dwindled into cells of less than five men each. There was four in Onoda’s cell: Cpl. Shoichi Shimada, Pvt. Kinshichi Kozuka, Pvt. Akatsu, and Onoda.

Thinking that they were still at war, they survived by eating coconuts and wild fruits, stealing from locals, and occasionally killing their livestock for meat. They evaded Filipino search parties and killed 30 people who they believed were enemies. In 1950, one of the enlisted men surrendered and the other two were later shot dead by the local police in 1954 and 1972.

In 1974, Norio Suzuki, a Japanese college dropout, found Onoda shortly after arriving in the Philippines. According to Onoda’s memoir, “when Suzuki left Japan, he told his friends that he was going to look for Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the Abominable Snowman, in that order.”

Onoda didn’t budge with Suzuki’s request to return to Japan because he still considered himself to be under orders. Suzuki took photos with Onoda and returned to Japan to show the government that the World War II vet was still alive. The Japanese government sent Onoda’s former commanding officer to formally relieve him of his duty.

Onoda came home to a hero’s welcome filled with parades and speeches by public officials. He was the pride of Japan, the loyal soldier, who some believed could claim victory because he never surrendered.

Onoda died on January 16, 2014 at the age of 91.

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These 1941 war games decided how the Army fought World War II

When Europe went to war in 1939, America knew it was only a matter of time before it was dragged into another global conflict. To prepare, the country recruited and drafted hundreds of thousands of men in 1940 and held a series of exercises the next year that helped define how the U.S. would fight the Axis over the next six years.


Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Regular Army consisted of 190,000 poorly equipped soldiers and 200,000 National Guardsmen who had it even worse. That was simply not enough men to fight the war. So Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall and President Franklin D. Roosevelt recruited and drafted their way to a 1941 active force of 1.4 million soldiers.

A U.S. Army Airborne commander uses a field radio telephone during the 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers. (Photo: US Army Signal Corps)

To prepare to face the Nazis abroad, the Army’s top trainer, Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair, ordered a modern workup plan.

After learning individual and small unit skills, large units were sent to “General Headquarters Maneuvers” in Louisiana and the Carolinas.

It’s in Louisiana that the Army tested new combined arms doctrines established in 1940 and 1941. About 472,000 soldiers participated in the Louisiana training exercises across thousands of square miles of maneuver space.

But many of the Army’s new fighting methods weren’t going to work against the Axis powers, with the Army Air Force retaining control of its planes in Air Support Commands that often ignored requests by ground commanders, for example.

Tanks were also controlled by infantry and cavalry units who often squandered the advantage that the modern machines gave them. Instead of using the tanks to conduct vicious thrusts against enemy formations like Germany had famously done in Poland and France, American commanders used tanks as spearheads for infantry and cavalry assaults.

But while the exercises exposed a lot of what was wrong with Army strategy mere months before Pearl Harbor, it also gave careful and attentive leaders a chance to fix problems with new doctrine and strategies.

Soldiers rush from their tank during maneuvers in Louisiana. (Photo: US Army Signal Corps)

First, tank warfare advocates met secretly in a Louisiana high school basement on the final day of the maneuvers in that state. Then-Col. George S. Patton spoke with general officers and tank commanders who agreed on a plan for creating a new Army branch dedicated to developing modern armored strategies.

A member of the group, Brig. Gen. Frank Andrews, took the recommendation to Marshall who agreed and created the brand new “Armored” branch. The infantry and cavalry were ordered to release their tanks to this new branch.

In Africa and Europe, these armored units would prove key to victory on many battlefields. Patton put his tank units at the front of the Third Army for much of the march to Berlin.

The cavalry lost much more than just its tanks. It was in the 1941 maneuvers that Army leaders ordered the end of horse units in the cavalry and ordered them to turn in their animals and move into mechanized units instead.

U.S. Army soldiers fill 5-gallon jugs from a gasoline tank on a railroad car during the 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers. (Photo: US Army Signal Corps)

The air units also went through changes, though markedly fewer than ground commanders asked for. Ground units desperately wanted dive bombers that could conduct operations in close proximity to their own forces, breaking up enemy armor and infantry formations like the Luftwaffe did for Germany.

The Army Air Forces did respond to these requests, finally buying new dive bombers developed by the Navy and practicing how to accurately target ground units. But the AAF still focused on strategic bombing and air interdiction to the detriment of the close air support mission which was a distant third priority.

But the greatest lessons learned in the maneuvers may not have been about doctrine and strategy. Marshall and McNair kept a sharp eye out during the war games for top performers in the officer corps who could be promoted to positions of greater leadership.

Senior Army officers, including Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower, third from left, pose during the Louisiana Maneuvers in 1941. (Photo: Eisenhower Presidential Library)

A number of young officers were slated for promotions and new commands. Colonels Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower were scheduled for promotion to brigadier general. Lieutenant Col. Omar Bradley held the temporary rank of brigadier general during the maneuvers and proved his worth in the exercise, allowing him to keep his temporary star. He would hold the temporary rank until Sep. 1943 when it was made permanent.

While the 1941 maneuvers were imperfect and the Army still had many tough lessons to learn in World War II, the identification of top talent and outdated or bad strategies allowed the force to prepare for global conflict without risking thousands of lives, reducing the cost they would pay in blood after war was declared at the end of the year.

The Army wrote a comprehensive history of the Maneuvers which was updated and re-released in 1992. The U.S. Army GHQ Maneuvers of 1941 is available here.

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These 5 dogs of war took it to America’s enemies

Working dogs are an integral part of modern military life, but dogs have been accompanying humans into combat since before recorded history. Alexander the Great’s dog, Peritas, took down a charging elephant. An unnamed Newfoundland rescued Napoleon during his escape from exile on the Isle of Elba. The Dog of Robert the Bruce (yes that Robert the Bruce) defended the Scottish King from English troops.


Here are five more pups whose bravery is awe-inspiring:

1. Stubby

Stubby on the watch.

 

The war dog of war dogs, this American Pit Bull Terrier was found as a stray on the Yale campus in 1917 and smuggled to France during World War I by his adoptive owner, Cpl. John Robert Conroy.  Stubby served with the 102nd Infantry Regiment in the trenches in France for 18 months and participated in 17 battles. He used his keen senses to warn his unit of poison-gas attacks, incoming artillery fire, and to locate downed soldiers on the battlefield. He was promoted to sergeant – the highest rank achieved by a military animal at that time – after sniffing out a German spy in the trenches. Sgt. Stubby was wounded in the foreleg by retreating Germans throwing hand grenades, and was also injured in Mustard Gas attacks. Because of that he was issued his own, specially designed, gas mask. His handler smuggled him home after the war. Soon after, he met Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren G. Harding. In 1921, General John J. Pershing presented a gold medal from the Humane Education Society to Stubby. Stubby died in 1926.

2. Chips

Chips was a Collie–German Shepherd–Siberian Husky mix whose owner donated him for duty during World War II. He was trained as a sentry dog and deployed with the 3rd Infantry Division in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. Later that year, during the invasion of Sicily, Chips and his handler were pinned down on the beach by an Italian machine-gun team. Chips broke from his handler and jumped into the pillbox, attacking the gunners, which caused them to surrender. In the fight he sustained a scalp wound and powder burns. Later that day, he helped take 10 Italians prisoner. Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, and Silver Star for his actions, but unfortunately, the commendations were revoked as military policy at the time didn’t allow such recognition for animals. Chips was discharged in 1945 and returned to his original family, who in turn gave Chips to his military handler, Pvt. John P. Rowell.

3. Kaiser

Kaiser was a German Shepherd and one of 4,000 dogs who served in the Vietnam War. His handler was Marine Lance Cpl. Alfredo Salazar. Kaiser and Salazar did more than 30 combat patrols and participated in twelve major operations together. After they joined “D” Company for a search-and-destroy mission, they were ambushed by the Viet Cong while on patrol in 1966. Kaiser was hit in the initial contact and died while trying to lick Salazar’s hand. Kaiser was the first war dog killed in action during Vietnam.

4. Nemo

On December 4, 1966, Nemo and Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg were on patrol near an airbase in Vietnam when they suddenly came under concentrated enemy fire. Nemo took a round to his eye while Throneburg was shot in the shoulder after killing two Viet Cong guerillas. Nemo viciously jumped at the enemy, giving Throneburg time to call in reinforcements. After Throneburg fell unconscious, Nemo crawled on top of his body to protect him. The dog didn’t let anyone touch his handler, and it a veterinarian had to sedate Nemo so medics could attend to Thorneburg. Both survived, and Nemo lived until 1972.

5. Smoky

The unlikely hero at four pounds and seven inches long, the Yorkshire Terrier was initially found in February 1944 after being abandoned in a foxhole in New Guinea. The dog was purchased by Corporal William A. Wynne of Cleveland, Ohio, who backpacked with Smoky all over the Pacific Campaign, both living on a diet of C-rations and spam. Smoky was a trooper, even running on coral ground for months, without developing health issues. Smoky Served in the South Pacific with the 5th Air Force, 26th Photo Recon Squadron and flew 12 rescue and photo reconnaissance missions. Smoky was credited with twelve combat missions and awarded eight battle stars. She survived 150 air raids on New Guinea and made it through a typhoon at Okinawa. Smoky even parachuted from 30 feet in the air, out of a tree, using a parachute made just for her. Wynne credited Smoky with saving his life by warning him of incoming shells on an LST, calling her an “angel from a foxhole.” On the Philippine Island of Luzon, she pulled a telegraph wire through a narrow 70-foot pipe, saving construction time and keeping workers and engineers safe from enemy fire. She died in 1957 at the age of 14.

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Here’s the kind of damage North Korea could do if it went to war

Photo: Wikipedia/Henrik Ishihara Globaljuggler


Tensions spiked between North and South Korea over the weekend after a string of escalations that started with a North Korean land mine seriously injuring two South Korean soldiers on August 4.

On August 20, the Koreas exchanged artillery fire along their demilitarized zone, though no one was reported injured. This was followed by North Korea ordering its front-line troops onto a war footing in a drastic rising of tensions.

Tensions relaxed on Monday, after North Korea apologized for the land mine but also dropped 70% of its submarine fleet off radar.

Photo: Wikipedia/Wapster

The entire episode shows just how precarious the situation remains between the Koreas. In the event of a war, North Korea would most likely be overthrown by the combined forces of South Korea and the US, but not before Kim Jong Un and his military would be able to do some serious damage to North Korea’s southern neighbor.

Harry J. Kazianis, writing for The National Interest, notes that the Kim regime has five weapons that could cause mass fatalities and sow extreme panic throughout South Korea and even possibly in the US.

Firstly, Kazianis notes that Pyongyang could use dirty bombs against South Korea. North Korea is known to have dug tunnels beneath the demilitarized zone that divides the peninsula.

North Korean operatives could sneak through the tunnels carrying the materials necessary to plant dirty bombs in major cities throughout the South.

Additionally, Kazianis writes, North Korea could simply place raw nuclear material on a short-range rocket bound for Seoul. Even if inaccurate, the weapon would still cause mass panic.

Secondly, North Korea could bring to bear chemical and biological weapons against South Korea. The Nuclear Threat Initiative notes that Pyongyang most likely has the third-largest stockpile of chemical weapons on the planet, including various nerve agents.

Additionally, a North Korean defector to Finland brought 15 gigabytes of data that showed Pyongyang tested chemical and biological agents on its own citizens.

North Korea has also released images in which Kim is seen touring the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute, which is intended to produce fertilizer. Numerous weapons experts, however, have said the facility is probably a cover and can instead produce anthrax on a military level.

The third extremely dangerous tool North Korea could use in a war would be a nuclear strike against Alaska or Hawaii. The success of any strike is a definite long shot, Kazianis says, but it could be increasingly plausible in the coming decades.

North Korea has spent tremendous capital on both its nuclear- and ballistic-missile programs and, in the event of a nuclear strike, the success would not be measured by the number of casualties as much as by the mayhem it could cause.

In April, Adm. Bill Gortney, the general in charge of North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad), said at a Pentagon news conference that North Korea had “the ability to put a nuclear weapon on a KN-08 and shoot it at the homeland.” Gortney, however, did qualify his statement by saying he was confident that US missile defense would be able to down any incoming North Korean missile before it struck.

Fourthly, North Korea could cause extreme damage against South Korea simply with conventional artillery. The Kim regime has the world’s largest artillery force, with about 10,000 active pieces, all of which are aimed directly at Seoul.

North-Korea-armament-military-artillery Photo: Republic of Korea Armed Forces

Though a vast majority of these weapons may not function properly or may be incapable of hitting Seoul because of a lack of maintenance and their old age, the barrage is still enough to spread mass panic and cause a huge number of civilian casualties.

North Korea’s last major lethal weapon, according to Kazianis, is its cybermilitary abilities. Little is definitively known about North Korea’s cyberarmy and its capabilities. But this army has proved extremely adept.

The US has blamed and sanctioned North Korea for the massive hack of Sony in December 2014. Additionally, South Korea blamed Pyongyang for cyberattacks against a nuclear reactor in the country in December 2014.

The fear is that as North Korea’s cyberarmy becomes increasingly competent, it may decide to cripple South Korea’s electrical grid or hack into various South Korean or US military installations.

Still, even with these potentially lethal weapons at its disposal, North Korea remains a hermit state. And though Pyongyang may be able to deal substantial damage to South Korea in the opening salvos of a war, it would be highly unlikely that Pyongyang could win any military conflict given the staunch backing of South Korea by the US.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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This former Army officer celebrates July 4 by competing in hot dog eating contests

A former Army officer will spend his Independence Day Tuesday by competing in the renowned Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest.


“Buffalo” Jim Reeves was one of 20 other competitors to earn a spot on the nationally televised gastronomic event. He made the cut by eating 23 hot dogs.

“There’s no big secret to competitive eating,” Reeves told the Army Times. “You try your hardest and you’re either good or you’re not. I happened to be good.”

Members of the Airman and Family Readiness Center prepare hot dogs April 9, 2016, during the Month of the Military Child Carnival at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Chuck Broadway)

Reeves turned from soldier to competitive eater in 2002 by competing in the National Buffalo Wing Festival, where he finished as a finalist. He joined the Army in 1990 after completing reserve officers’ training corps at Clarkson University. He later attended the Engineer Officers’ Basic Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

Reeves served as a a platoon leader, acting company commander, battalion personnel officer and civil engineering officer before leaving the Army in 1998. He now makes a living as a math and computer science teacher in New York.

The former engineering officer’s technique is simple: he downs two hot dogs at a time by separating the hot dogs from the buns and dipping the buns in water to help facilitate swallowing.

Reeves may be good, but he will have to be at his all-time best if he stands a chance at winning Tuesday’s contest. The world-famous Joey Chestnut won last year’s contest by consuming 70 hot dogs, setting a new world record. Odds makers put Chestnut at a distinct advantage to defend his title, known as “The Mustard Belt.” The winner is expected to consume 67.5 dogs, meaning that Reeves will have to triple his qualifying number to have a shot at victory.

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‘Vets Versus Hate’ joins anti-Trump protests during the Republican Convention

Marine vet Alexander McCoy wears a brick wall poncho at a Vets Vs. Hate protest in Public Square in downtown Cleveland. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


CLEVELAND, Ohio — As Republican delegates and party officials wrangle through their strategy to capture the White House inside the Quicken Loans arena here, protesters outside the party’s national convention have plenty to say about presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Among them is a group of military veterans who call themselves “Vets Versus Hate.”

“Vets Versus Hate is a national, non-partisan, grassroots movement of veterans standing up against the rhetoric of bigotry and division that has started to really come to the fore during this election season,” Marine Corps vet Alexander McCoy explained. “We’re not here to oppose any political party; we’re here to say that the kind of language Donald Trump is using is absolutely inconsistent with our values that we swore to uphold when we joined the military.”

McCoy, who served as a guard at the American embassies in Saudi Arabia, Honduras and Germany among other duty stations while in the Marine Corps between 2008 and 2013, explained that the group came to Cleveland to show solidarity “with everyone who lives in America . . . calling upon members of [Trump’s] party that have engaged in similar rhetoric to stop this politics of division.”

But in the same breath McCoy conceded that “they don’t seem to be listening, but we’re going to continue to make our voices heard.”

Media seemingly outnumber protesters during Vets Versus Hate event in Public Square in downtown Cleveland. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

While McCoy is certainly not the only vet protesting what he sees as the Trump campaign’s divisive style, Republicans here have plenty of support from veterans groups and high-profile former military members who took the stage on the convention’s opening day to underscore the real estate mogul’s support for the military.

“The destructive pattern of putting the interests of other nations ahead of our own will end when Donald Trump is president,” said former military intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn. “From this day forward, we must stand tougher and stronger together, with an unrelenting goal to not draw red lines and then retreat and to never be satisfied with reckless rhetoric from an Obama clone like Hillary Clinton.”

But on the streets among the protesters it’s a different story.

Army vet Chris Abshire, an Ohio native who deployed to Afghanistan during his 4 years as a soldier, joined Vets Versus Hate to make the public aware that other people are affected by war, not just soldiers.

“The Afghan people that I interacted with on a daily basis are forgotten about, and politicians who spew hatred toward them and say, ‘We’re going to bomb ISIS back into the Stone Age and steal their oil’ forget that that’s not even their oil,” Abshire said just before joining a circle of protesters forming a human wall in the center of Public Square here, several blocks away from Quicken Loans Arena where the RNC is being held. “That belongs to the Iraqi people, who have been victimized for years now. And I want to stand up against that.”

“Ultimately what we need to make clear to American voters is that [veterans] will not allow themselves to be used . . . as political props,” McCoy said.

Police from several states line the entrance to the RNC complex in Cleveland. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

Earlier Trump advisor on veteran’s issues New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro reportedly told a radio host he thought Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton should be “put in the firing line and shot for treason.”

The Trump campaign has since distanced itself from the former Marine, who’s been with the GOP nominee on several military-related campaign events, saying it doesn’t “agree with his comments,” the NH1 network reported.

“There’s no place in politics for talk about putting your opponents in front of a firing squad,” said Bill Rausch, executive director of Got Your 6, an organization dedicated to veteran civic empowerment. “It goes against the ethos of every person who raised their right hand and swore to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. We’re calling on the campaign to condemn it immediately.”

Some analysts have said the Trump campaign’s tone during the primary season combined with the national mood in the wake of terror attacks across the globe, as well as the tension between law enforcement and the African-American community here at home, have prompted concerns from RNC officials and Cleveland’s leaders that there might be significant unrest during the 4-day convention.

But nearly three-quarters of the way through the event, there have been no major incidents. Protests have been mostly confined to Public Square, and the potential for them to spread beyond that is severely limited by the force protection measures the city put in place ahead of the event — including a temporary perimeter fence erected around the Quicken Loans complex that now separates the zone from the rest of the city — and a massive influx of law enforcement from other states, including police and state troopers from as far away as Florida and California.

 

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US servicemember killed in Afghanistan during anti-ISIS operation

The Pentagon has confirmed that a U.S. servicemember was killed in Nangarhar Achin Province, Afghanistan, though officials declined to release any more details, including the casualty’s name and branch.


Some media outlets are reporting that the he was a special operations commando.

U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group patrol a field in the Gulistan district of Farah, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Joseph A. Wilson)

The commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan Gen. John W. Nicholson confirmed that the servicemember was killed during a raid on ISIS fighters with Afghan special forces by a roadside bomb that detonated during a patrol.

“On behalf of all of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, we are heartbroken by this loss and we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the service member,” Nicholson said. “Despite this tragic event, we remain committed to defeating the terrorists of the Islamic State, Khorasan Province and helping our Afghan partners defend their nation.”

This is at least the fourth service member to be killed in anti-ISIS operations. Navy SEAL Petty Officer Charles Keating was killed in May while rescuing other U.S. forces who had become encircled by ISIS fighters. Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed in March when his artillery unit came under rocket attack. Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed in 2015 during a raid to rescue ISIS hostages.

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5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

1) The United States Military is one of the world’s largest providers of international aid and disaster relief.

I enjoy this fact because so little is it remembered. Not only is the US military usually involved with most global conflicts, but they are also present in the time of need for almost every international natural disaster in which aid is needed. I love advertising this fact because so often I hear about all the evils of the United States, but not once have I ever heard the phrase, “Hey America. Thanks a bunch for the assist. Tsunamis really suck.”


As well as this the military also makes regular deployments to disenfranchised and impoverished developing nations to provide immediate health and medical support during times of non-violence or disaster. These services are free to the people of those nations and supported entirely by United States taxpayer dollars.

This is the USNS Mercy. She is a massive hospital ship and, along with her sister ship the USNS Comfort, has the proud and distinguished mission to sail around the world to places in desperate need of medical aid and support. Officially, their primary mission is to:

provide rapid, flexible, and mobile acute medical and surgical services to support Marine Corps Air/Ground Task Forces deployed ashore; Army and Air Force units deployed ashore; and naval amphibious task forces and battle forces afloat.

Secondarily, they provide mobile surgical hospital service for use by appropriate US Government agencies in disaster/humanitarian relief or limited humanitarian care incidents to these missions or peacetime military operations.

Looking at the record though, you’ll find that the Mercy and Comfort have been quite busy with “secondary” missions. Here is a list of some of the Mercyand Comfort‘s “secondary” missions:

  • 1987 – (USNS Mercy) Over 62,000 outpatients and almost 1,000 inpatients were treated at seven Philippine and South Pacific ports during training in 1984 through 1987.
  • 1990* – (USNS Mercy) Admitted 690 patients and performed almost 300 surgeries. (USNS Comfort) More than 8,000 outpatients were seen, and 700 inpatients. 337 surgical procedures were performed. Other notable benchmarks include: more than 2,100 safe helicopter evolutions; 7,000 prescriptions filled; 17,000 laboratory tests completed; 1,600 eyeglasses made; 800,000 meals served and 1,340 radiographic studies, including 141CT scans.
  • 2001 – 9/11 – (USNS Comfort) The ship’s clinic saw 561 guests for cuts, respiratory ailments, fractures and other minor injuries, and Comfort‘s team of Navy psychology personnel provided 500 mental health consultations to relief workers.[5] Comfort also hosted a group of volunteer New York area massage therapists who gave 1,359 therapeutic medical massages to ship guests.
  • 2003 * – (USNS Comfort) 590 surgical procedures, transfused more than 600 units of blood, developed more than 8,000 radiographic images and treated nearly 700 patients including almost 200 Iraqi civilians and enemy prisoners of war.
  • 2005 – Indian Ocean Tsunami – (USNS Mercy) Combined, provided 108,000 patient services, rendered by members of the Department of Defense, Project Hope, and the United States Public Health Service.
  • 2005 – (USNS Comfort) Comfort deployed on September 2, 2005, after only a two-day preparation, to assist in Gulf Coast recovery efforts after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Starting in Pascagoula, Mississippi and then sailing to New Orleans, Comfort personnel saw 1,956 patients total.
  • 2007 – (USNS Comfort) Central and South America. In all, the civilian and military medical team treated more than 98,000 patients, provided 386,000 patient encounters and performed 1,100 surgeries. Dentists and staff treated 25,000 patients, extracting 300 teeth, and performing 4,000 fillings, 7,000 sealings, and 20,000 fluoride applications. In addition to treating patients, bio-medical professionals fixed about a thousand pieces of medical equipment at local health facilities. The ship’s crew also delivered nearly $200,000 dollars worth of donated humanitarian aid.
  • 2008 –  (USNS Mercy) Over the course of one deployment, Mercy would treat 91,000 patients, including performing 1,369 surgeries.
  • 2010 – (USNS Mercy) Treated 109,754 patients and performed 1,580 surgeries in Southeast Asia.
  • 2010 – (USNS Comfort) Haiti Earthquake disaster. Between January 19 and February 28, 2010, the ship’s staff treated 1,000 Haitian patients and performed 850 surgeries. Also, the mission saw the ship’s first on-board delivery, of a 4-pound, 5-ounce premature baby named Esther.
  • 2011 – (USNS Comfort) – The ship deployed for five months providing medical services to locations in the Caribbean and Latin America.

It is important to remember that all this is done, by only two ships. Beyond these two ships the United States Navy takes part in many humanitarian service missions each year. Several ships are deployed with missions other than warfare to provide free aid and medical support.

There are also ongoing operations such as the Pacific Partnership. The Pacific Partnership is an annual deployment of forces from the Pacific Fleet of the United States Navy (USN), in cooperation with regional governments and military forces, along with humanitarian and non-government organizations.

The deployment was conceived following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, as a way to improve the interoperability of the region’s military forces, governments, and humanitarian organizations during disaster relief operations, while providing humanitarian, medical, dental, and engineering assistance to nations of the Pacific, and strengthening relationships and security ties between the nations. Between 2006 and 2010, Pacific Partnership has visited 13 countries, treated more than 300,000 patients, and built over 130 engineering projects.

The MEU to the Rescue.

Within the United States Marines there exist elements that specialize in being the first into a war zone. Most of the offensive parts of the Marine Corps are built around this idea, but particularly there is one capability that is most crucial to this. The Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU for short) is capable of deploying troops to virtually any location on Earth within reach of a shoreline within 48 hours.

What they also do though, is deploy troops to major disaster areas as well. Being that the MEUs are literally patrolling every ocean in the world for signs of danger and disorder, they are already equipped with a large supply and armament for potentially long-term hostile engagements and specialized in reaching and operating with little to no infrastructure in hard-to-reach places. This sucks for them, but makes them uniquely capable of doing something else pretty special. It makes them adeptly able to address and adapt to the needs of millions of people throughout the world in need of immediate emergency assistance. They are able to move so quickly that they outpace more formal relief organizations by days or weeks.

Colombo, Sri Lanka (Jan. 10, 2005) – A U.S. Marine Corps amphibious vehicle prepares to bring Marines and Sailors aboard an awaiting Landing Craft Utility (LCU) at the end of the day’s relief efforts in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Helicopters from USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines and Sailors assigned to 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are supporting Operation Unified Assistance, the humanitarian operation effort in the wake of the Tsunami that struck South East Asia. The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. U.S. Navy photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph Ward (RELEASED)

A U.S. Navy doctor treats patients from tsunami-devastated villages in Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, on Jan. 6, 2005. Helicopters from the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group are providing humanitarian assistance to areas devastated by the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami. The strike group is operating in the Indian Ocean off the coasts of Indonesia and Thailand in support of Operation Unified Assistance. DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd class Tyler J. Clements, U.S. Navy. (Released)

Medan, Indonesia (Jan. 4, 2005) – Marines assigned to 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, 3rd Force Service Support Group, help distribute humanitarian relief supplies at Palonia Air Field in Medan, Indonesia. Helicopters from USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines assigned to 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are supporting Operation Unified Assistance, the humanitarian operation effort in the wake of the Tsunami that struck South East Asia. The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andreas A. Plaza (RELEASED)

More recently, after the devastation from the 2010 Haiti Earthquake disaster, soldiers from the United States Army were deployed to assist in delivering badly needed supplies, such as food, water and other necessities to the region.

Soldiers prepare food and water for Haitian victims of the Earthquake.

I’m going to lay it out straight. I am willing to bet almost no one knew before reading this answer about the scale of the United States’ disaster relief history. You probably had no idea of the depth of support that the United States military contributes to the world each time a major disaster strikes somewhere on the planet Earth. You know that help was sent, but did your ever really ask who it was or what form it took? You may have heard of 150 doctors that went, but were you aware of the tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors and Marines that were there before even the news journalists were present?

Sure, many people will rattle off statistics about what monsters we are. They will talk about all the people that the military kills and all the dead people out there that the United States military are responsible for each year, which is odd since such things are essentially what the military, all militaries, are designed to do.

They will cite things that the Americans are responsible for doing wrong, but no one in the history of the world can declare that they have made such great strides in providing aid and relief like the Americans.This should ring especially significant since we have absolutely no real obligation to do so if previous major world powers are to be our example. You could compare us to the Raubwirtschaft (plunder economies) of Germany, Japan and Russia during their time in power.

You could also look at “aid” the European people provided the African colonies during their time as superpowers. Even better… look at what they are doing for the world right now. Where is their great big white boat with doctors and dentists? Where are their Marines after an earthquake or hurricane? At home, on their porch sipping on a cup of self-righteousness as they lecture the world about the virtues of pacifism and the horrors of the American military. It’s hypocritical and it’s ignorant.

While many find that the superstructure that is the US military is a bloated and imperialistic beast, it’s still the largest and most efficient source in the world to get help where help is needed. That help happens whether that be in calming a diplomatic hot spot, giving food to a devastated rural village or providing dental care to children in a part of a country that has never seen a dentist. Would I like to see other, more pacifist organizations do the job? Sure I would, so far the world is more content to complain than do anything.

The US military doesn’t suffer from that handicap. Say what you want about us, but without that aid provided by hundreds of thousands of American service people and hundreds of millions of taxpayers, millions upon millions of people who have been fed, vaccinated, operated on, given shelter, given homes, bathed, birthed, and listened to would now be dead. Many more would not experience the quality of life they now experience. Sure it’s easy to gauge the military on violent metrics, but how do you measure the value of those we have helped? That’s a philosopher’s discussion, not one for the Marines. Yeah, the Americans and their military have their faults, but if you’re one of them you ought to be pretty proud right now. [2]

 

That is such a pretty medal isn’t it? About that…

2) The uniforms are not provided by tax payer dollars. They are paid for by the troops themselves.

 

Neat how I segued from the Humanitarian Service Medal to my point on how much uniforms cost huh? See this beautiful example of a human being above? People who can read his rack (the medals on his chest) know this man is truly a boss. I’ll list a few of the really cool ones. He’s stellar: Two Navy Commendation Medals, Three Navy Achievement medals and a few Good Cookies. He’s also a badass: Two National Defense Medals (two different periods of war), several combat action ribbons, two devices known throughout the Corps as the recon combo and the crème de la crème, the enemy accuracy medal better known as the Purple Heart. Plus this flower looking thing I can only assume means he’s awesome (or Canadian?) not to mention at least 13 different pieces of insignia I don’t care to mention.

Do you know how John D. Taxpayer thanks the honorable Gunnery Sergeant Awesomesauce? By making him pay for each and every damn thing you see… even down to the buttons on his stinking coat. Did I mention those medals are gold plated?

 

These are the Uniforms of the USMC. [3] I will make the caveat that it is true that military personnel are provided with one piece of every item they need when they first enter boot camp. What most don’t know is that these also come out of their paycheck. It is sort of a hidden cost since we are more involved in boot camp than watching our finances. We all know it happens, but just have to get it done.

It is assumed that this uniform item is supposed to last throughout their enlistment which could last 30 years. And those medals you earn? You’re given one when earn it. It’s like the Humanitarian Service Medal above. It isn’t the gold plated version and basically, you have no uniform you are allowed to wear it in. For all the medals you actually wear, you have to pay between $13 and $60. Interesting huh? This is made easier by a stipend military folks receive that is around $200 every year for replacement of uniform items. Let’s look closer at that.

I am going to go over an estimated cost of what is shown by the Gunnery Sergeant in this picture. Mind you I am only showing you the parts visible in the picture, which themselves are only one of many Marine Corps regulation uniforms.Section A: Cover

Total Cost of “Cool Hat”: $83.40

Section B: Medals

Total cost of “Bling” – $296.33

Section C: Other Devices

Extra Doo-Dads – $30.12

Section D: The Blues Coat

Total for the Coat: $423.80

Total for everything visible:

$833.65

Plus Tax!

[4]

I’ll remind readers that this is just what is visible in that image. Not shown, but simply must be there are $83 pants, $99 shoes, a $50 belt buckle, service stripes, blood stripes and at least four other trinkets I can think of off the top of my head. Let’s not forget that that guy doesn’t look like a seamstress so add in tailoring. Also, this is all still just one uniform of the six that Marines are required to upkeep at all times not to mention multiple sets of pristine camouflage utilities.

You might not realize this from the outside, but military troops’ uniforms come at a very high cost. Not only is there the cost of earning the right to wear it, but the sacrifice of time and money to upkeep it. As I have said, we receive the few items we are issued (bought) at boot camp. We are issued one cheap version of the medals we earn, but aren’t really allowed to wear (because it’s the cheap version). We also receive a regular pittance to upkeep it. I hope I have shown that that is hopelessly not enough for all the gear and uniform items we are expected to maintain.

I could go on about how many pairs of combat utilities I went through on my two Iraq deployments and my many training missions and how the two they gave me just didn’t make it. I could go on about how if one of those gold medals got scratched… it was worthless and you had to get a new one. Did you know that gold is one of the most malleable metals on Earth? You will once you replace a $22 medal because Corporal saw a scratch on it. I could go on about the countless inspections to ensure that our uniforms were perfect… perfect. But I won’t do into detail on those. What I will say is that they are important to us.

We work exceptionally hard to make sure that they are pristine and represent all the greatest qualities we can put into them. They are trying to convey an image and ideal of respectable men and women that instill courage and a sense of pride and security in the people they serve.Of course this is also why we write answers like this Nick Layon’s answer to What is the fashion trend you dislike the most? or go ballistic when we see celebrities do this:

Or when we see comments like this we want to simply choke someone:

So what you don’t like is when the citizens you protect wear the uniform you wear while preserving our freedom? And for this you raise your voice at them? Are you aware sir, that the taxes those people pay on the clothes you don’t like them wearing are what pays your salary?

Yes. In case you didn’t know. Military personnel can easily spend more than a third of their after tax disposable income a year on uniform items. They do this out a sense of pride. They do this out of a sense of honor and respect to the uniform and what it represents. They do this so that when you see them you can gain a sense of pride and feel safe knowing that when all hell breaks lose, a professional is ready to meet it. They do this to not be yelled at during inspections. They do this because it proves that they are special.

What I hope you take away from this, if nothing else, is that your tax dollars are a drop in the bucket for what military personnel pay every year for their uniforms. Also, don’t be surprised to receive a knife hand to the temple if you expect praise, gratitude, fealty or admiration because you were so generous to pay your damned taxes this year. Military people don’t owe you anything just because you pay taxes and you didn’t put those medals on our chests. We look good because we paid for the right to. [5]

3) Our Navy Started off Basically as Pirates.

Ok, I know I just made the biggest deal about how the United States military has relatively unheard-of aspects that include noble and virtuous service to disaster-stricken regions and that our uniforms mark us as some of the proudest and most professional military personnel on the planet. So why on Earth would I say that we started off as pirates? Because someone who reads the facts and has a vague understanding of military practices has some hard truths to deal with.

There are some colorful factoids hidden in sunken chests down under the sea that paint a picture few have ever really seen. There was some downright swashbuckling going on back then. I’ve taken a pretty liberal historical licence, but there is, as is the case with everything else, much more to the story than what made it to our history books. Let’s take a look.

Take a look at this flag. What do you see? Anything familiar?

You guessed right! It’s the flag of the British East India Company! How smart you are! Doesn’t look at all like anything else after all…Notice again some of the elements of the flag. The first thing we need to know is that this was a Naval flag and all the elements have important Naval meanings. It was colonial practice to place the mother nation’s standard at the top corner against the mast. Here we see the Union Jack present as it appeared at the time. What is also important was the red field.

In those days, such a flag would denote the ensign of the trade navy. It would look like this. This meant that it was an official trade ship flying under the protection of the crown of England. The red color also meant that it was a civilian ship and that its only mission should be one of trade.

So alright, well still the stripes are a big deal though. It’s hard not to see those stripes, right?

Yes. It is hard.  That’s why many of the major shipping companies of that era made special marks on their flags by simply sewing white stripes across the field. Don’t think of it as red and white stripes, but as a red field with white stripes on it. In fact there was one such company that made a remarkable effort to emulate the Colonial Flag, nearly 70 years before we ever flew it. They were the East India Trading Company, and had been waving a flag virtually identical to the Grand Union Flag for the better part of a century before the Revolutionary War.

Now it’s just me, but if I was a British ship just looking over and see a flag that looked like that I probably wouldn’t think of some navy that no one has heard of yet… of course I bet that was the intention. Some might call that a case of mistaken identity, clever use of unconventional warfare while others might go as far as to say that it is downright piracy. Still some might just say it is one big convenient coincidence.

On Marines

A few things that you should know about the Marine Corps. One of the first facts that every good Marine knows, myself being among that population, is where the Marine Corps was born. Do you know? It was Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvanian. Yep, at a bar. The proudest and most lethal fighting men in the planet are the ancestors of a bunch of rowdy drunks. Well, for better or worse little has changed.Our first recorded battle was the Battle of Nassau, led by Captain Samuel Nicholas, which consisted of 250 Marines and sailors who landed in New Providence and marched to Nassau Town. There, they wreaked much damage and seized naval stores of shot, shells, and cannon, but failed to capture most of the desperately needed gun powder. The forts at Nassau and Fort Montagu were raided and stripped of their armaments, while Marines occupied the town of Nassau for a lengthy stay. While in Nassau the Marines “relieved” them of some of their unwanted burdens as well. Governor Browne complained that the rebel officers consumed most of his liquor stores during the occupation, and also wrote that he was taken in chains like a “felon to the gallows” when he was arrested and taken to the Alfred.Since then, for the most part, we have cleaned up our act a bit. For those early days, however, it is my belief that the Continental Marines’ use of “unconventional warfare” to complete their goals at the time might warrant a closer look at our views of their history or at least just reveal them as the colorfully exuberant fellows of cheer and good character that they were.

The Father of the American Navy

Switching back to the Navy, meet John Paul “Jones” and the Continental Navy. After combing the web for information on John Paul, on his best day, he was a jerk. Let’s begin. This man is often times cited as one of the founding fathers of the U.S. Navy. His sarcophagus even rests to this day in the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. Pretty cool, but let’s check his resumé.

  • Began work on a slave-trade ship.
  • Next, worked on a brig (prison ship) where his first mate and captain conveniently died of disease, leaving him the de facto captain of the ship.
  • He later captained his own ship where he savagely flogged two of his sailors for disciplinary actions, one to death.
  • After this he killed one of his sailors for mutiny by stabbing him in the chest.
  • Following this incident he fled the Royal Navy and went to Virginia.
  • He also added the surname “Jones”.
  • By his account it was an act of self-defense, but no one I know runs to a non-extradition country and changes their name for self-defense. Just saying, I don’t think he was all-in-all a stand-up guy.

Following this John Paul Jones was recruited to the Continental Navy. His successful exploits with the Royal Navy made him a prime candidate for a new navy starving for officers, even psychos. He then captained one of the vessels bound for Nassau in the Bahamas. The small fleet of ships captured the city, several ships and supplies, the whole time waving what was believed to be the Grand Union Flag.

From this point on, John Paul Jones led many other raids on naval shipping and port towns. He was successful enough that he was given the go-ahead to become a curse on English shipping. After touching base in France he actually sailed up to the coast of England and Ireland and started attacking British merchant shipping. In his career he captured many ships and a vast amount of supplies for the Colonial cause. All this while routinely facing problems from his crew who, as his journal accounts “‘Their object,’ they said, ‘was gain not honor.’ Among other actions his men were famed for raiding villages and conducting arson attacks on the English towns. In another report, Jones stated that at one point he wanted to leave, but his crew wished to “pillage, burn, and plunder all they could”. Now this is just me talking, but I am surprised that a man who once beat his sailors to death would be having such discipline problems. Just sayin’.

Now I know that not everyone is a fan of 18th century naval warfare, but his tactics were conducive to a rather different form of naval warfare than his famed Bon Homme Richard where he is famed for his saying, “I have not yet begun to fight!” No, this was a different form of naval practice. If you haven’t pieced it together yet…John Paul Jones and much of the Colonial Navy were pirates. [6]

4) The United States Military is one the Most Educated Industries in the World.

The United States military boasts some of the most educated warfighters in the world, not to mention in the history of warfare. All US service members must have at the time of their enlistment a high school diploma or the general equivalency diploma. To be more clear, more than 99% of those enlisted have a high school education comparable to about 60% that you will find in the general population. Also compared to the population of the United States, more service members have also attended some college compared to their typical 18- to 24-year-old counterparts. They have all also passed a standardized test on  English proficiency, mathematics, science and government. This test also serves as a placement exam for military jobs. [7]

To top this most MOS schools or Military Occupational Specialty schools boast world-class educational training. First you have to be good enough to get into the school you want, which can have very high scores required to get in. No, we don’t have the greatest recreational facilities and the dorms suck. It isn’t the Ivy League, but the education level is beyond par.

While stationed in 29 Palms California, a hole in the middle of the California desert, I received two years worth of the most rigorous training in Computer Science, Data Network Administration and Information Systems Maintenance. I say two years except that I only had six months to do it. And the training is taken very seriously. While typically civilians are allowed to pass with virtually any grade so long as they beg enough, every test in a military school is a fail if scored under 80% and if you fail you can be booted from the program.

The United States Marine Corps even has an amazing secret that few on the outside know anything about. We have a correspondence college which is a universal part of nearly every Marine’s military experience. It is called the Marine Corps Institute (MCI for short). It was started when Major General Lejeune issued a Post Order establishing three new schools: Automobile Mechanics, Music, Typewriting and Shorthand. Special Order No. 299 announces that 11 new schools will open January 5, 1920.

Of course we have courses you won’t find at Stanford, Harvard, or UCLA or any state school for that matter. There doesn’t seem to be a need for 0321B The M240G Machine Gunner, 0090A Pistol Marksmanship, or 0365 Antiarmor Operations there, but what you might be surprised by what would be the other courses one wouldn’t expect to see by the barbarian warmongers that are the United States Marine Corps: 0119H Punctuation, 0120 Basic Grammar and Composition and 1334 Math for Marines.

Perhaps that’s where Marines figure out what it takes to re-calculate the trajectory of an object traveling at 3,110 ft/s for a three-inch change in elevation at 5 times the length of a standard football field when factoring in for wind speed and direction as well as differences in elevation?” Actually that’s not true. Marine recruits do in that in week six of their basictraining.

One more shocker regarding the nerdiness of the US Military? How about this, the Marines have a book club. Now this isn’t Oprah’s Book Club. It’s the Commandant’s Reading List [9]. On this list are books and documents intended to both encourage the martial spirit in the minds of young warriors and inspire the intellectual capabilities of scholarly warfighters. What follows are some of the more impressive works that appear. This is by no means a complete list.

You will obviously find on the list titles such Marine Corps classics as:

Also listed are many other works on warfare such as:

Books on Moral Codes and Ethics:

Books on Leadership, Management Philosophy and Administration:

Works on military history:

As well as important world studies for the military minded:

There is even one on environmentalism!

Even books that show the importance of a civilian leadership and the consequences when they don’t do a good job.

And there is even a nerd section. You know that new movie Ender’s Game? You know it was first a book written by Orson Scott? You know that it has been on the reading list for decades?

 

Most importantly, there are two other works which are required reading. These are works that cement what it is that every military person stands for and what they fight for. They are the clear definition of the values of their nation. When you see what else is on this list… you’ll wonder why no one else is required to read them as well besides members of the US military.

 

5) You’ll be fine in it.

Many assume that the only people who would want to join the military are those who want to die from some car bomb in Iraq. Just as many assume that the majority of us have seen more than we actually have. There is also this myth that we are all just “the lucky few” who survived four years in the middle of some never-ending artillery barrage. The truth is, while there are plenty of risks, which are widely known, you are far safer in the United States military than most would believe possible.

For example, what if I told you that there is less than a one in a thousand chance that you might actually be killed if you even go to war when you go with the Americans? The risk of death in the United States military during the most recent decade is less than .1% while the risk of being wounded in action is a sizable amount less than 1%.

We have currently about 2,518,542 people in the United States military. Since 9/11, estimates would safely place the number of people who have served in some branch to be about 6 to 7 million people, probably more. The total people who died as a result of action in either Iraq or Afghanistan since then is about 6,660. which means that fewer than about 0.088% of the people who have enlisted have been killed as a result of that decision. If you consider wounded, then the number increases to about 0.738% percent. For the those not blessed with the ability to conceptualize such things, here’s a tasty pie.

To better answer this question I also wanted to address these statistics reflected when considering only those who actually participated in a combat deployment. I asked the question How many US troops have been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001? to gain a better picture of just that question. From that Daniel Kearns produced this document (Page on Senate) which is a brief and simple, but important piece of information on the Iraq War.

From that we have a best estimate of 1.5 million warfighters deployed to war in Iraq during the war. Taking this with earlier data we see total killed accounted for .29% of those deployed while wounded accounted for 2.15%. So, to be clear, of those deployed to the hottest combat zone in recent American military history, the highest chance of death was .29% for deployed troops and risk of violent injury was still only 2.15%. [6]

This trait, however, isn’t anything new. The US military, at least since the dawn of the 20th century and perhaps because of the carnage of our own civil war, have adapted a mentality and strategy that ensures our military does not easily sacrifice its own. We simply have values that don’t allow us to experience heavy troop losses and a wealth that affords the ability to win without them.

In truth we live today in a time-period where we have proven that experience matters more than assets and that a troop’s life is almost always more valuable than the patch of Earth they are fighting for. That’s why modern warfare doesn’t allow for high losses. Take a look at the figures for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, pulled from Wikipedia. This doesn’t include the insurgency years that followed, but showcased the last time we fought a full-on war with an advanced national military.

That last statistic is significant.

The Coalition’s troop strength before the battle was 265,000 troops, mostly from the United States and the UK. The Iraqis’ troop level was 1,119,000, more than 4x that fielded by the Coalition. The end result, however, was that through great strategic, technological, and logistical superiority, the American lead Coalition was able to inflict as many as 261 times as many casualties as the Iraqi were capable of delivering in return. That’s more than 250 Iraqi killed for every Coalition death. A more lopsided battle has never been fought.

Perhaps it is just that we don’t fight that much or stay safely behind our big walls. We just send out the evil drones and high powered missiles, snipers, and other cowardly means of fighting a war. Well, given the option… wouldn’t you? I know these guys certainly would if given a second chance.

A grim look through history will show that American military doctrine has focused on a few key tenets throughout at least the last century. We focus on augmenting our troops through overwhelming technology rather than creating a culture that loves war. The facts are that Americans deeply hate conflict. We will do whatever we can to avoid it on an interpersonal level, regardless of whatever you think about our foreign policy. This is reflected in our demographics. Today, after 13 years of war, and with a sizeable portion of our Vietnam-era veterans still alive, US veterans still only number 22 million individuals and account for less than 7% of the total population.

Note, that is veterans, not active service members. The Department of Veterans Affairs projects that that number is set to decrease, not only in percentages, but in real value. They project that by 2043 we will only have 14 million veterans alive for a total percentage of the population at only 3.5%. The decreasing number of veterans means a country culturally disconnected from the realities of its wars because of the peacefulness of the daily lives of its citizens.

And that’s how we want it. The alternatives are thus: during the Second World War, you saw very different social military philosophies come head to head. Among these were the Americans and the Japanese. The Japanese were fantastic engineers and created marvelous machines. One such was the Zero fighter. It had a turning capability and climb that was far superior to other fighters. It was more agile and a deadly threat.

The trade-offs? It’s aluminum coating was brittle and the plane offered no armor for the pilot, engine or other critical points of the aircraft. Its light construction also made it prone to catching fire and exploding during combat. Add this to the practice of Japanese fighters on the ground routinely combating US Marines with suicidal “Banzai” charges, the human-wave attack and we see a culture which adopted an ancient form of warfare: the military death cult. Death and the warrior were at that time so intertwined through a perversion of the Samurai Bushido culture that the leadership of Japan could order hundreds of thousands of Japanese to their deaths without the Japanese people resisting at all.

This culminated in the ultimate corruption of bravery and honor; the creation of the Kamikaze pilot and the “Baka” Bomb.

This is the Japanese Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka (“cherry blossom”), a rocket-powered parasite aircraft used towards the end of the war. The U.S. called them Baka Bombs (“idiot bombs”). They called it this, because the only intended purpose of the aircraft was to be guided by a pilot to impact directly with an enemy ship by a pilot who had reserved himself to die in the effort. The Kamikaze (Divine Wind) is named for the legendary holy force which protects the Japanese from invasion by outsiders, namely because of a storm which swallowed up tens of thousands of Mongol invaders hundreds of years ago before they ever set foot on Japanese soil.

The Kamikaze myth was resurrected for the creation of a force of airmen who volunteered and trained for a mission in which they would surely die, once again, like a storm from Heaven protecting Japan from foreign invaders. So committed were these soldiers and those who commanded them to this idea of a glorious death for their nation and their emperor,  they even attended a ceremony before their mission which could only be described as their funeral.

In contrast, the American philosophy emphasized an entirely different approach. We preferred to keep our warriors alive, if for no other moral reason than to pass on their experience and be useful on a better day. We engineered fighter aircraft with more power that could give us the strength and survivability to keep fighting. Add to this the individual support given to the individual troop. While the base soldier thrown away during a Japanese suicide charge was said to be worth less than $10 by their own admiralty, the United States Marine, the most underfunded of the military branches, would deploy with supplies of everything from ammunition, food, water, and bandages, to paper and pencils and glass eyes of every imaginable size and color… just in case.

This excerpt from Flags of Our Fathers displays in the days and weeks leading up to the Battle of Iwo Jima the American philosophy, strategy, and implementation of sending every man with all the gear to have a dominating edge, and the greatest chance possible of coming home.

… the movement of over 100,000 men, Marines, Navy support personnel, Coast Guard units across 4,000 miles of ocean for three weeks is a triumph of American industry galvanizing itself in a time of great national peril. At the outset of the war, Japan’s naval strength was more than double that of America’s, but across the American continent, the idling factories steamed and sparked to life. Most of the vessels came splashing off the industrial assembly lines in the six months before this assault…

… And it has not just been a matter of hardware. The civilians of America have mobilized behind these fighting boys. Behind each man on board the ships are hundreds of workers. In the factories, in the cities and towns, on the heartland farms; Rosie the Riveter, boy scouts collecting paper and metal, the young girl who would become Marilyn Monroe, sweating away in a defense plant.

Here is some of what those mobilized civilians have generated for this tremendous force: For each of the seventy thousand assault troop Marines 1,322 lbs of supplies and equipment. Some of it sounds weirdly domestic: dog food, garbage cans, light bulbs, house paint. Some of it suggests an island business office: duplicating machines, carbon paper, movie projectors. Some sounds like kids’ camping gear: toilet paper, socks,  shoelaces, paper and pencils, flashlights, blankets. Some begin to suggest a sterner mission: flares, plasma, bandages, crucifixes, holy water, canisters of disinfectant to spray on corpses. And some of it gets exactly to the point: artillery, machine guns, automatic rifles, grenades and ammunition. The transport ships carry six thousand five-gallon cans of water, enough food to feed the population of Atlanta for a month or the assaulting Marines for two months. The Marines brought along one hundred million cigarettes.

This isn’t to say our strategy made us invulnerable. We endured great losses to be sure, 19,000 at the Battle of the Bulge, 16,293 at Normandy, 12,513 in Okinawa, and countless other battles throughout the war, totaling around 405,000 dead Americans. While that number is appalling, it pales compared with others. Soviet Union – up to 13,000,000 military dead, Germany – up to 5,500,000, Japan – 2,120,000. These figures do not include civilian dead, of which the United States had virtually none.

That said, we dominated the Japanese in World War II once we steadied ourselves from the attack on Pearl Harbor. We suffered 1/24th their total losses in a war they began. The same can be seen in Iraq or Afghanistan and can be seen as well in any major conflict we have been a part of in the last one hundred years. This is because our philosophy wins wars in this modern age. War isn’t won by weapons; it is won by warriors. Make the warrior a weapon and give him the tools to succeed and come home, and no other force on Earth can defeat him.

Jon Davis is a three time Quora Top Writer. He is a Marine, honorably discharged in 2008. Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, small business owner, teacher, writer and Christian.

* Anyone who looks closely will see that these are periods when the US military was actively engaged in combat action, so this can’t count as a peacekeeping mission. However what you will notice is that during the deployments many more patients were treated than casualties received by Americans. This means that the rest of those treated were civilians and enemy POWs.

[2] If for no other reason than because all those who judge you haven’t done a fucking thing to help anyone. 😉

[3] The center image is pictured with gear and a weapon. The gear is provided, but I couldn’t find an image that fit with the others showing only cammies. Also not pictured are Desert BDUs.

[4] I know I shouldn’t be posting this because that is probably some Marine at a funeral or something. I feel like such a dick, but it is just such a perfect picture. Forgive me Chesty.

[5] I hope no one takes from this that I or other military people are complaining too heavily about this or consider it any act of severe injustice. The point of this section was just to deliver what in my mind was a “mind-blowing fact about the military” that I believe few are aware of. Beyond that I wanted to give a more clear picture of what some of the “sacrifices” that people hear so much about actually look like. We don’t all die or get shot and people know that and assume that that means that military people don’t deserve respect unless they actually died for your freedom. In this case I hope that people can at least look at those uniforms and know how much work and financial sacrifice went into making them look the way they do, let alone the price of earning the right to wear them.

[6] I know that I have taken a very liberal stance on historical interpretation here. What is important to know is that much of the Navy and Marine Corps’ actions were exactly what was needed to complete the mission for a Navy with no ships. They were also much more common practices for the ways that military encounters were done in those days. Still, if we were do the unforgivable and judge those of the past by today’s standard, the Colonial Navy’s actions against the British in the American Revolution might easily fall into the categories of pirate actions by unbiased observers.

[7] Curious about the rigorous qualifications required to be good enough to join the United States Military? United States Military Enlistment Standards. Good luck.

[8] Thanks to Eric Tang for sharing with me the Army’s version of the Marine Corps Reading List. I skimmed through it and found some very great reads that I’ve recently bought to put on my to-do list. You can see the Army’s Professional Reading List here: The U.S. Army Chief of Staff’s.

[9] These figures do not account for job specialty, which will skew heavily towards infantry-type units. I don’t have data for this, but as the previous statistics probably surprised many, so will those of the infantry when they become available.

Stats from:

War in Afghanistan (2001–present) – 2,173 US KIA,   23,500 Coalition WIA (Majority US)

Iraq War – 4,487 US KIA,   32,226 US WIA

Estimations based on United States Department of Defense

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, make sure to follow my others at my Quora blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts. If you would like to support the JDT, please visit: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Science Fiction and Life.

NOW CHECK OUT: 7 things that make you stick out in the US military

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5 ways to support veterans all year long

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian McNeal


Each year over Veterans Day we witness a wonderful outpouring of love for our veteran community. “Happy Veterans Day,” parades, free meals, “thank yous,” and vet-centric events are par for the course over the holiday and the weekends that proceed and follow it.

But what about the other 51 weeks of the year?

While many of you are veterans yourselves, some of our readers are in a relationship of some kind with a currently serving veteran or a veteran of past conflict. We know how to support the veterans in our own homes.

But I believe we also have a responsibility to support the other veterans around us, and help our civilian neighbors do the same. We can lead by example.

So how do we do that? Here are five ideas.

1. Listen. Over Veterans Day weekend this year I worked with our community and the local Team Red, White Blue chapter to run a Veterans Town Hall. Inspired by an idea in Sebastian Junger’s book “Tribe,” the town hall had a simple goal: give veterans a space to talk about their service, and the community a space to listen. While we did not have a huge turnout — only around 50 people — we were able to light a fire on what I hope will be a long-term movement of saying “happy Veterans Day” by listening. Through the simple act of listening we extended grace and understanding to our veteran neighbors. We can do more of that, and we can do it beyond Veterans Day weekend.

2. “Thank a Vet” in a video. Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has an awesome way to create a keepsake to #ThankaVet. You can upload a customized message and a few photos, and the site will turn them into a tribute video. The videos are something you can create and share year round.

3. Serve all year long. Veterans don’t just exist on Veterans Day. The Veterans Home in my little town’s downtown is there every day of the year. Veterans are homeless in our nearest major city. My veteran neighbor will always need his driveway shoveled after it snows. Not every act of service to our community takes a big effort. But every act matters.

4. Tell your civilian friends. When you get ready to help your community’s veterans, invite your civilian friends to come along. I find that my civilian friends don’t ignore veterans on purpose — they just don’t really know any. We can be the people who can help make that connection.

5. Join a veteran organization. Your local VFW and American Legion both have auxiliary memberships for non-veterans. Team Red, White Blue exists purely to connect veterans with their communities, and getting involved is incredibly easy. Team Rubicon is constantly seeking volunteers for the important work they do with disaster relief. Military spouses often focus their volunteer efforts on the currently serving population — and maybe you just flat out don’t have time to add something else to your plate. But if you do, consider even just showing up for one of these groups’ (or countless others’) events. You won’t be sorry.

There’s nothing wrong with wishing anyone a “happy Veterans Day” or using Veterans Day to shine the spotlight on veterans in our community. But let’s keep the momentum going all year long.

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US government places sanctions against Syrian chemists after attack

The U.S. government put 271 Syrian chemists and other officials on its financial blacklist April 24, punishing them for their presumed role in the deadly chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town in early April.


In one of its largest-ever sanctions announcements, the Treasury Department took aim at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), which it said was responsible for developing the alleged sarin gas weapon used in the April 4 attack.

The attack left 87 dead, including many children, in the town of Khan Sheikhun, provoking outrage in the West, which accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of being responsible.

The sanctions will freeze all assets in the United States belonging to the 271 individuals on the blacklist, and block any American person or business from dealing with them.

According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington-based think tank, the SSRC is Syria’s leading scientific research center, with close links to the country’s military.

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Here are 64 restaurants offering veterans free food on Veterans Day

You’ve served your country, now these restaurants want to serve you. Check out the deals they’re offering, what you have to bring to prove your veteran status, and come on out (if you like what they’re offering).


Related: These 7 tips will make your free Veterans Day meal more epic

Please note that not all franchise restaurants participate in the Veterans Day program. Be sure to contact your nearest restaurant for participation.

1. 54th Street Grill: The Kansas City-based chain offers veterans and active duty military a free meal up to $12. Dine-in only.

2. Applebees: Applebee’s has a special Veterans Day menu built for veterans and active duty military members. Vets can choose one item from that menu.

3. Arooga’sAll veterans and troops will receive one complimentary item from a fixed menu at Arooga’s. Although there is no purchase necessary, Arooga’s Veterans Day offer is for dine-in only and drinks are not included.

4. Bar Louie: Veterans and active-duty military will get a free appetizer or entrée on Veterans Day.

5. BJ’s Restaurant: Active duty military and veterans receive a complimentary entree under $12.95 and $5 beers.

6. Bob Evans: Veterans and active military personnel receive a free meal of choice menu options. From Nov. 12 – Dec. 31, vets will get a 10 percent discount.

7. Bonanza SteakhousesActive duty and retired military get a free buffet.

8. Bonefish GrillAll active and retired service members with a valid military ID will receive a complimentary Bang Bang Shrimp at all Bonefish Grill locations.

9. Bruegger’s BagelsVeterans and active duty military members get a free small drip coffee on Nov. 11 at participating locations.

10. Buffalo Wild Wings: Vets will get a complimentary order of wings and a side of fries to veterans and active-duty military. Must present acceptable proof of military service, which includes: permanent or temporary U.S. military ID cards, veteran’s card, a photograph of yourself in military uniform, or dine-in at a participating location in uniform.

11. California Pizza Kitchen: Veterans and active military receive a complimentary entrée from a special menu. Please come in uniform or bring your military ID or other proof of service.

12. Cattlemens:  The California chain offers active, inactive, and retired military personnel get a free Small Sirloin Steak Dinner.

13. CentraArchy Restaurants: Veterans and active duty service members get a free entrée and 25 percent off to their accompanied family and friends at participating restaurants.

14. Cheeseburger in Paradise: Active and retired military personnel receive a complimentary burger with fries.

15. Chevy’s Fresh MexAll active and retired military personnel can select one complimentary item from a special Veterans Day menu.

16. Chicken Salad Chick: Veterans get a free Original Chick (a meal including a chicken salad scoop or sandwich, side, pickle and cookie) along with a drink (no purchase necessary).

17. Chili’s: Veterans and active military service members get a free entrée from a limited menu.

18. Chuck E. Cheese’sActive and retired military members can receive a free individual one-topping pizza

19. Cracker Barrel: Veterans get a complimentary Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake dessert during lunch and dinner. Must show proof of military service.

20. Denny’s: Active, inactive and retired military personnel get a free Build Your Own Grand Slam from 5 a.m. to noon at participating locations.

21. Famous Dave’s BBQFormer and current military personnel will receive a free Two Meat Combo.

22. FATZ Café: Veterans and active military get a free World Famous Calabash Chicken meal.

23. Fazoli’sVeterans get a free Build Your Own Pasta Bowl.

24. Figaro’s Pizza: Veterans and active duty service members get a complimentary medium 1-topping pizza.

25. Fogo de Chão: Veterans and active duty personnel will receive 50 percent off their meal and up to three additional guests will receive 10 percent off their meals.

26. Friendly’s: Vets and military personnel are offered a free Big-Two-Do breakfast or All American Burger (with fries and a beverage) during lunch or dinner.

27. Golden Corral: On Monday, Nov. 14, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Golden Corral offers a free sit-in “thank you” dinner for Military veterans, retirees, and active duty members.

28. Gordon Biersch: Veterans and active military personnel receive a free appetizer.

29. Green Mill Restaurant and Bar: Veterans and active duty military get a free meal.

30. Greene Turtle: Veterans and active duty military receive a free meal from a select menu.

31. Hooters: All active-duty and retired military to stop in for a free meal from the Hooters Veterans Day Menu by presenting a military ID or proof of service at any Hooters location nationwide.

32. Hy-Vee:  The Midwestern Grocery chain is offering veterans and active duty military members a free breakfast buffet.

33. IHOPVeterans and active duty military get free Red, White, and Blue pancakes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at participating locations.

In case you were wondering.

 

34. IKEA: Veterans get a free entrée from Nov. 7 through Nov. 11.

35. Krispy Kreme: Krispy Kreme is offering a free doughnut and small coffee to all veterans at participating locations.

36. Krystal: Active and retired military receive a free Krystal Sausage Biscuit from opening to 11:00 a.m.

37. Little Caesars: Veterans and active military members receive a free $5 Lunch Combo from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

38. Logan’s Roadhouse: In addition to the 10 percent military discount offered every day, military and former military guests will also receive a free dessert.

39. Longhorn Steakhouse: Offers a free appetizer or dessert (no purchase required, no restrictions) to anyone showing proof of military service, plus 10 percent off for guests that dine with Veterans on Nov. 11.

40. Max Erma’s: Participating Max Erma’s locations are offering veterans and active military personnel a free Best Cheeseburger in America.

41. Menchie’sAll active and retired military personnel will receive a free 6 ounce frozen yogurt.

42. Mission BBQ: Free sandwiches and cake for active duty military members and veterans at participating locations.

43. O’Charley’s:  Veterans and active duty service members get a free meal at any location on Nov. 11. Additionally, O’Charley’s offers a 10 percent military discount all year long.

44. Old Country Buffet: Current and former service members receive a free buffet and drink all day.

45. Olive GardenAll veterans and current service members get a free meal from a limited menu.

46. On the BorderVeterans and active duty military can enjoy a free meal from the “Create Your Own Combo” menu.

47. Outback Steakhouse: All active and former service members receive a free Bloomin’ Onion and a beverage on Nov. 11. Outback is also offering active and former service members 15 percent off their meals Nov. 12 through Dec. 31.

48. Panera Bread: A complimentary You-Pick-Two with military identification or if wearing their uniform to the participating Panera Bread bakery-cafes in the Cleveland, Akron, Canton area.  For a complete list of participating bakery-cafes, click here.

49. Ponderosa Steakhouse: Active duty and retired military get a free buffet from 4 p.m. to close.

50. Red Hot Blue: Veterans receive a free entrée with the purchase of two drinks and a second entrée of equal or greater value on Nov. 9 through 11. Coupon required.

51. Red Lobster: Veterans, reserve, and active-duty military personnel receive a free appetizer or dessert from a limited menu on Nov. 10 and 11.

52. Red Robin: All veterans and active-duty military members will get a free Red’s Tavern Double Burger and Bottomless Steak Fries. No purchase is necessary. Just show proof of service.

53. Ruby Tuesday: All veterans, active duty and reserve military service members with valid military ID can enjoy one free appetizer (up to a $10 value).

54. Ryan’s: Current and former service members receive a free buffet and drink.

55. Shoney’s: Shoney’s will offer a free All-American Burger to veterans and active duty service members. Shoney’s also offers a 15 percent everyday hometown heroes discount (military, fire, Police, EMT).

56. Sizzler: Active duty and veteran military members get a free lunch and beverage from a limited menu until 4 p.m.

57. Spaghetti Warehouse: From Veterans Day to Nov. 13 buy one entrée and get the second entrée free. Coupon required,  download it here.

Red Lobster’s Seafood Stuffed Mushrooms.

58. Starbucks: Veterans, active duty service members and spouses get a free tall coffee at participating locations.

59. Texas Roadhouse: Texas Roadhouse locations nationwide will offer veterans a free lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

60. TGIFridaysLunch is on the house for all active and retired U.S. military service members on Veterans Day. Those with military ID will be treated to a free lunch menu item up to $12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

61. Twin Peaks: Active duty and veterans get a free menu item from the Annual Veterans Day Appreciation Menu.

62. Village InnFree INN-credible V.I.B. breakfast for veterans and active duty military. Valid on 4 INN-credible items: Cheese Omelette, Strawberry Crepe, Hickory-Smoked Bacon or French Toast.

63. Wienerschnitzel: Veterans and active duty military receive a free Chili Dog with a small fry and a 20-ounce drink.

64. World of Beer: A free select draught beer or $5 off your entire bill. Bring proof of military service.

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)

Here you go. Read this and then tell your CO, “I’m informed, sir.” He’ll appreciate that.


Now: 24 historic photos made even more amazing with color