The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going - We Are The Mighty
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The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going

About this time last year, I wrote a review of Ryan Manion’s podcast, The Resilient Life. Now, after so many hectic months of extended quarantine, I’m revisiting The Resilient Life as it discusses using humor as a tool to aid in these trying times – a subject of great use to myself and anyone else who finds it hard to get up and be productive when so many temptations keep us from being our best and most productive selves.

The Resilient Life’s 31st episode invites actresses Elizabeth Alderfer and Kelli Goss to talk with Ryan about working on a comedy centered around military life. The now-airing sitcom, The United States of Al, follows an Afghan translator (the titular Al) as he moves to Ohio with his friend – a recently divorced Marine dealing with PTSD – and his sister, who lost her fiancé. As I read the premise of the show, I had the same thoughts as Ryan as disclosed on the latest episode of her podcast: this doesn’t exactly spell comedy. However, as Ryan, Elizabeth and Kelli point out in their latest episode: this seemingly dark premise is what makes the show so exceptional. It uses humor as a device to tackle real-world issues – especially those that primarily affect military families and remain unexposed to the American public. The United States of Al’s raw, yet lighthearted, take on dealing with rough times praises the unsung heroes of the American military while simultaneously using humor to inspire strength to build resilience – the exact mission of Ryan’s podcast, book and work as the head of the Travis Manion foundation.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going

Ryan discusses this strength found through humor on her latest episode with an anecdote about her brother’s funeral. Ryan’s brother, Travis Manion, was killed in combat in Iraq in 2007. At his funeral, and to Ryan’s dismay, guests were laughing at a joke. “How could anyone be laughing at a time like this?” she thought. Coming to her aid, though, was her uncle. “You’re gonna laugh again,” he reassured her. The ability to find humor in dark moments is hard to come by and feels unnatural, but essential to building resilience. This is what makes United States of Al a perfect topic for The Resilient Life; it is necessary for everyone who deals with the struggles presented by military life to laugh in the face of fear, danger and uncertainty. Even in times of tragedy, it is essential to keep going; to find humor and joy in the most trying situations. How else can we live such a life? This is the resilience that Ryan teaches, and it is perfectly portrayed through The United States of Al’s unfailing ability to interweave moments of tragedy and uncertainty with those of levity. We will all, indeed, laugh again.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going
The cast of United States of Al. Courtesy of CBS.

Kelli and Elizabeth discuss this further as they delve into the research required to perform their roles. An element of military life that was surprising to both of them was the uncertainty and loneliness so common in military families – deployments, being stationed in unfamiliar places, and through any other obstacle the lifestyle throws at you. In The United States of Al, a military wife has to give birth without her husband present. She always has to be prepared for the possibility that he may not return home safely. The show’s humor combined with discussion of this dark topic not only teaches resilience but also brings to light the unspoken struggles of military spouses and families. In this way, The United States of Al accurately portrays these struggles while simultaneously praising military families for their resilience through tough times and the ability to keep families connected despite challenging circumstances. Additionally, it reiterates the idea that military families share the struggles that soldiers take on. This is not only a valiant task, but also one that requires the strength and resilience to just keep going. 

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going
The cast of United States of Al. Courtesy CBS.

As told by Elizabeth and Kelli, it is sometimes difficult for actresses in comedy to feel like they’re making a positive impact. The United States of Al, though, is a different story. Because it accurately portrays real issues – those of Afghan translators, military families and soldiers – through comedy, which is highly consumable to the American public, it raises awareness to these struggles and encourages viewers to consider a new perspective. Additionally, it teaches us to laugh during the low points of life – to just keep going. According to Ryan, this is what the resilient life is all about: “Not every day is gonna be good and some days are gonna be crappy, but you just gotta keep going. That’s what builds resilience,” she shared. After watching deep and complicated issues dealt with through comedy in The United States of Al and listening to the inspiring words of Ryan, Elizabeth and Kelli through the latest episode of The Resilient Life, I am not only more empathetic toward the unsung heroes of the military but also able to laugh at that which scares me. The sitcom and the podcast both play roles in normalizing and destigmatizing military life in America. And that’s what Ryan’s mission is all about.

Listen to the latest episode of The Resilient Life here.

Watch The United States of Al here.

Featured photo: United States of Al, courtesy of CBS.

https://www.cbs.com/shows/united-states-of-al/
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Top 9 songs for the 4th of July that aren’t by Toby Keith or Lee Greenwood

It’s time, America. It’s time.


Summer’s officially here, the BBQ is hot, the beer is cold, and it’s time to party. Old Glory is still soaring from when we honored Memorial Day, but now we have a holiday where the only requirement is to celebrate.

It’s the 4th of July.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going
Let freedom ring, b***hes! (Giphy.com)

 

If you’re gonna have an epic party, you need an epic playlist. These tunes will light some fireworks in your soul. Enjoy.

9. Team America World Police — “America F*#k Yeah!”

I LOVE THIS SONG EVERY TIME I HEAR IT.

8. Tom Petty — “American Girl”

A good party playlist should rise and fall. Tom Petty and his ode to the American Girl can keep things calm for a few.

7. Bruce Springsteen — “Born in the USA”

This is a classic and cannot be omitted. Let it happen.

6. Lenny Kravitz — “American Woman”

This makes every woman, including yours truly, want to lose some layers and show off her moves. You’re welcome.

5. Iced Earth “Declaration Day”

Sometimes you just need to say it with metal: “Freedom is not free.”

4. Katy Perry — “Firework”

This song is catchy as hell and you know it.

3. Brad Paisley — “American Saturday Night”

You had me at French kissing and a cooler of cold Coronas.

2. Metallica — “Don’t Tread on Me”

Metallica knows how to make some epic tunes, but they’re also great about supporting the troops. Easy add to the list.

1. Whitney Houston “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Not only was Houston’s voice absolute perfection, when she recorded this song, she donated the proceeds of the single to benefit the veterans of the Persian Gulf War. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, she re-released it, this time donating her profits to the firefighters and victims of the attacks.

For those of you who are out there continuing to fight for the freedoms we cherish, you have our gratitude. Stay safe.

Check out the full list here, and Happy 4th of July, you freedom lover, you.

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US General thinks Iran is behind the missile attacks on US Navy near Yemen

US Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of US forces in the Middle East, said on Wednesday that he believes Iran was behind missile strikes on US Navy ships fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.


“I do think that Iran is playing a role in some of this. They have a relationship with the Houthis, so I do suspect there is a role in that,” said Votel at the Center for American Progress, The Hill’s Kristina Wong reports.

Also read: Another US Navy ship dodges a rebel missile off of Yemen

Iran does have a history of harassing US ships in the Persian Gulf. In January, Iran even went to the extreme length of taking US sailors captive after their ships broke down in Iranian national waters.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going
Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG-94) steams through the Atlantic Ocean. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeremy L. Grisham

While experts have indicated to Business Insider that Iran likely supplied the Houthis with the missiles used in three separate attacks on US Navy ships, Votel’s comments mark perhaps the first time a US official has laid the blame on Iran.

After the US struck the radar sites used by the Houthis, an armed uprising battling the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi,Iranian vessels rushed to the waters off of Yemen under the premise of protecting “trade vessels from piracy.”

If Iran does prove to be behind the missiles attacks, it’s possible that the US’s limited and defensive strikes have not addressed the larger problem.

Jonathan Schanzer, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider that the Obama administration “doesn’t want to get dragged into another Middle East conflict, but [it’s] also an administration that is phobic of clashing with Iran-sponsored actors,” as it tries to preserve the fragile nuclear deal with Iran.

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Report says leaker Snowden is a ‘serial liar’

A congressional report has found that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden gave up top secret information to Russia, embellished his resume and consistently lied throughout his short-lived intelligence career.


Compiled by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the report is the result of a two-year investigation into Snowden’s theft of more than 1.5 million classified documents from NSA networks. The theft is widely considered the largest release of classified information in U.S. intelligence history. The report received bipartisan support, and while it remains classified, HPSCI released an executive summary Sept. 22.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going
Congressional intelligence report says Edward Snowden was no whistleblower. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Snowden, who is currently living under asylum in Russia, claims that he has not shared his information with Russian officials, but Russia claims otherwise. Snowden gave up information to the Kremlin, according to remarks made in June, 2016, by the Deputy Chairman of the Russian parliament’s defense and security committee Franz Klintsevich. John Schindler, a former NSA analyst and columnist for the New York Observer, corroborated this information in July.

“Let’s be frank. Snowden did share intelligence. This is what security services do. If there’s a possibility to get information, they will get it,” said Franz Klintsevich, as quoted by Schindler.

Snowden admitted that he did not read all of the stolen documents in an interview with John Oliver in April, 2015, and also acknowledged that he may have endangered an intelligence operation fighting al-Qaida in Iraq through the massive leak.

“Additionally, although Snowden’s professed objective may have been to inform the general public, the information he released is also available to Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and North Korean government intelligence services; any terrorist with Internet access; and many others who wish to do harm to the United States,” stated the HPSCI report.

HPSCI noted that the full damage resulting from Snowden’s actions remain “unknown,” despite reviews by the Department of Defense and intelligence community.

The investigation concluded that Snowden was a “serial exaggerator and fabricator” throughout his career, claiming that he was allegedly discharged from the Army because of broken legs, when in reality he “washed out” of basic training due to shin splints. Snowden’s claim that he obtained a high school diploma equivalent after dropping out was also found to be false.

Snowden continued his fabrications after moving into his intelligence career. Though he claimed he was a “senior advisor” at the CIA, he was in reality an entry-level computer technician. He continued to manipulate his achievements while working for the NSA, rising through the ranks through resume embellishment and stealing the answers to an employment test. The final lie came in May, 2013, when Snowden told his superior that he would be taking time off for epilepsy treatment. In truth, he was on his way to Hong Kong with his trove of stolen documents.

Snowden continues to defend his actions as a public service, noting that he stole and released the documents in order to expose mass government surveillance. The HPSCI report found “no evidence that Snowden took any official effort to express concerns about U.S. intelligence activities — legal, moral, or otherwise — to any oversight officials within the U.S. government, despite numerous avenues for him to do so.”

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Female Army aviator bringing vet voice to media

To say that Amber Smith comes from a military family is an understatement. Her great-grandfather was in World War I, her grandfather was in World War II, and her father was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. Both of her parents were pilots. Both of her sisters are military pilots.


The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going

Her parents’ love of flying sparked her interest, and she started flying private planes at a young age. As she got older she started considering a career in aviation, specifically military aviation. Then in 2003, she was introduced to a future she didn’t know was possible.

“I talked to the Marines, I talked to the Air Force, and I talked to the Navy because I didn’t even know the Army had aviation,” Smith says. “I grew up in fixed wings. Never once did the thought of helicopters cross my mind.”

The other three branches told her the same thing: get a college degree and then come talk. But Smith just wanted to join the military as an aviator. When she spoke to the Army they told her could still be a pilot, just flying helicopters instead of planes. Smith’s experience as a civilian pilot allowed her to join before finishing her degree through the Warrant Officer Flight Training Program.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going

While still in college and before joining the Army, Smith met her parents at an air show where helicopter rides were offered. She hopped in to see if a helicopter was really something she wanted.

“I went on this helicopter flight and I was immediately hooked,” she remembers. “I was like, ‘this is for me. I love it!’ I didn’t even want planes anymore, give me a helicopter.”

After basic training and Warrant Officer Candidate School, she went to flight school where she met her bird: the OH58 Kiowa Warrior Helicopter. The Kiowa Warrior is a light attack reconnaissance helicopter; a two-seater carrying a fifty cal machine gun and 7-shot 2.75 in (70 mm) Hydra-70 rocket pods, configurable for Hellfire missiles.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going
An OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter from the 1st Infantry Division takes off on a mission from Forward Operation Base MacKenzie, Iraq. It is armed with an AGM-114 Hellfire and 7 Hydra 70 rockets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Cuomo)

“I loved my time flying the Kiowa,” Smith recalls. “I knew that was the best and most bad ass flying I would ever do in my life.”

Her mission was direct support for ground forces, looking for IEDs, providing aerial security for convoys, and responding to troops in combat (TICs). Smith deployed with her unit, the 101st Airborne Division, to Iraq from 2005, where she made Pilot in Command. She went to Afghanistan in 2008, where she made Air Mission Commander, seeing combat in a combat arms role years before the ban on women in combat ended.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going

“Before they lifted the restriction, aviation was the only branch within what was called Combat Arms – now it’s maneuvers, fire, and effects – but it was the only Combat Arms branch that allowed women,” Smith says.

Her views on women in combat is simple: there needs to be a mission standard, not a gender standard.

“As long as the standards remain the exact same as today, I think women should be given the opportunity to try it,” Smith says. “I don’t believe in quotas or lowering standards but I don’t think it should matter if you’re a man or a woman. If you can do the job and contribute to the mission that’s what matters.”

The Army’s proposed integration plan includes first adding female officers to leadership roles within combat units. Amber Smith think it’s a smart move but the plan for and acceptance of women in combat jobs will take time.

“Reducing the standards creates resentment,” she says. “When I got to my unit in 2004, women were very rare in the Kiowa Warrior community. I worked very hard to do my job and contribute to the mission. As soon as they realized that, I was a part of the team.”

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going

Smith left the military in 2010, but while she was in, she completed a Bachelor’s in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. After transitioning, she earned her Master of Science in Safety, Security, and Emergency Management with a specialization in Homeland Security from Eastern Kentucky University.

While in graduate school, she noticed that too often the media lacked a credible veteran’s point of view.

“It’s important the American people need to hear the perspective of people who have been on the operational side of national security,” she says. “People who have been to war and have seen the enemy everyone talks about on TV every day.”

Smith started a blog and got published wherever she could. Within three months, the calls for television appearances started. Her career just took off from there. She just completed her first book, Danger Close: One’s Woman’s Epic Journey as a Combat Helicopter Pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

“2015 was the year of my book,” Smith says. “I wrote it myself, I didn’t have a ghostwriter or anything. I wanted to preserve my voice. The Kiowa Warrior is an incredibly effective tool on the battlefield, essential in the two theaters of war. Nobody knows about it, all anybody knows about is the Apache. So I want people to know who we are and what we did.”

Smith is now a Senior Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and Senior Military Advisor for Concerned Veterans for America. She is also a writer and television commentator on national security issues, foreign policy, and military operations. She regularly appears on Fox News, Fox Business, CNN, and MSNBC.

Her book is due out in September and is available for preorder on Amazon.

Follow Amber Smith on Twitter

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7 of Hollywood’s most legendary female military roles

Over the last few decades female service members have been allowed to join (or attempt to join) a number of warfare specialties that were once only available to men. Some would like to credit the political winds in the wake of the Tailhook Scandal in ’91 or the DoD Sexual Harassment Report a couple of years ago, but — as with most things in the Free World — the biggest influence to shaping attitudes about a woman’s ability to serve is how she is represented on the Silver Screen.


Here are seven of the most iconic and groundbreaking portrayals of the military female experience in the history of cinema:

1. PATRICIA NEAL as Lieutenant Maggie Hayes in “In Harm’s Way” (1965)

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going

Patricia Neal’s reading of Lt. Maggie Hayes is pitch-perfect. She’s tough but understanding as the head Navy nurse at a Pearl Harbor installation during the high optempo days of World War II. She’s also a great girlfriend to Capt. “Rock” Torrey (played by John Wayne in maximum swagger mode) and presents a model of how to navigate the fine (and potentially messy) lines of work-life blending and differences in rank.

2. DEMI MOORE as Lieutenant Jordan O’Neill in “G.I. Jane” (1997)

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going

The powers-that-be are thinking of opening up Navy SEAL training to women these days? Thank Demi Moore. Her portrayal of never-say-quit Lt. O’Neill is gritty and honest.  And she also delivers a classic line where she tells one of her instructors to do something to her that’s anatomically impossible.  HOO-YAH, bitches!

3. DEMI MOORE as Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway in “A Few Good Men” (1992)

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going

Demi Moore tackles the part of Lcdr. JoAnne Galloway with gusto, and in the process she emerges as a role model for female officers stuck in prosaic support specialties like Navy JAG. She handles the ever-whiney Lt. Dan Kaffee (played by the ever-whiney Tom Cruise) with aplomb and only cries a few times over the course of their time together. Her sense of justice is laudable. Her choice of hairstyles is less so, but let’s blame director Rob Reiner for that. Actually, skip that. He got that absolutely right.

4. GOLDIE HAWN as Private Judy Benjamin in “Private Benjamin” (1980)

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going

Although it’s a comedy, Goldie Hawn’s reading of her character is really a procedural for using the U.S. military as a means of getting your shit together, female-style. Benjamin is a spoiled rich girl who becomes a widow at a young age and is tricked (you know how they do) by a recruiter into joining the Army. She weathers sexual harassment at the hands of her lesbian DI as well as her special ops CO (Col. Thornbush), but ultimately (after a tour at SHAPE and great Paris RR) she emerges stronger and more courageous than before she donned the uniform.  (And how about those veteran’s benefits?)

5. Kelly McGillis as Charlie in “Top Gun” (1986)

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going

Hey, in case you haven’t noticed, contractors are a big part of the military, and no actress has ever represented those proud patriots as well as Kelly McGillis does while holding down the role of Charlie in the all-time military classic “Top Gun.” As with Demi Moore in “A Few Good Men,” McGillis gets points for playing opposite whiney Tom Cruise, this time whining into an oxygen mask a lot of the time, but beyond that she exudes strength (the government gave her a top secret clearance, lieutenant) and sweet surrender (everybody: *take my breath awaaaaaayyyy*).

6. CARRIE FISHER as Princess Leia in “Return of the Jedi” (1983)

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going

Because she had the strength to outlast the ick of lusting after her brother for all that time and because she’s a princess, which must make her the commander-in-chief of the rebel forces (or something) and therefore a military person. *Hand salute*

7. SIGOURNEY WEAVER as Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley in “Alien” (1979)

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going

Few characters, male or female, in the history of cinema have jumped off the screen with as much moxie and brio as Sigourney Weaver managed while playing Ripley in the sci-fi epic “Alien.” The movie is basically a one-act play where Weaver’s character has every chance to freak the hell out but doesn’t, and therefore she survives (because if she hadn’t there wouldn’t have been a sequel). Ripley is a model of strength and calm under pressure, and her BS meter is way dialed in.

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How going to war brings out the best and worst in people

Sebastian Junger is not a military veteran. He makes that clear, but he sure sounds like one. Maybe it’s because he’s covered conflict zones from Sierra Leone to Nigeria to Afghanistan as a journalist. It’s safe to say he’s seen more conflict than many in the United States military.

If there’s an expert on modern warfare and the long-term effects of those who live it, that person is Sebastian Junger.


He sees war and its effects through the lens of an anthropologist. This not only gives him the perspective to look back on his homecoming—and the homecomings of U.S. troops—to see the problems and abnormalities with how societies deal with their combat veterans, it allows him to put those ideas into words. Some words returning and transitioning veterans may not have ever known to use.

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“We try hard to keep combat at a distance,” he says in the new PBS documentary Going to War. “But when we talk about war, we talk about what it means to be human.”

In Going to War, Junger and fellow author Karl Marlantes (Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War) examine the paradox of fighting in combat: how the brotherhood and sense of purpose contrast with the terror, pain, and grief surrounding the violence and destruction. It starts with the training. Whenever young men (and now women) are placed in a situation where they would be fighting for their lives, the training would diminish perceptions of the individual in favor of the group.

“If you have people acting individualistically in a combat unit, the unit falls apart and gets annihilated,” Junger says. “So you need them to focus on the group. The training, beyond firing a weapon, is an attempt to get people to stop thinking of themselves.

This is not just the U.S. military. This is every military around the world.

The United States is “orders of magnitude” more capable than most. What the U.S. is having trouble dealing with is what comes after its veterans return home and then to civilian life. For returning vets, sometimes the problem is returning to an unearned hero’s welcome.

Only about ten percent of the military will ever see combat. Those who don’t still get the welcome home, but feel guilty for feeling like they never did enough to earn that accolade.

For those who were in combat, the experience of being shot, shot at, and watching others get killed or wounded is a traumatic experience that our increasingly isolated society doesn’t handle well.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going

When veterans leave the military, separation becomes a more apt term than we realize. Our wealthy, individualistic modern society rips military veterans from their tribal environment while they’re in the military and puts them back into a cold, unfamiliar and far less communal world.

Junger thinks a fair amount of what we know as PTSD is really the shock of a tribal-oriented veteran being put in an individualized environment.

Going to War did a fantastic job of capturing the experience of fighting in a war and then coming home,” Junger says. “For me one of the most powerful moments wasn’t even on the battlefield.

Junger goes on to describe what, for him, is the most poignant story out of a slew of emotional, true stories of men fighting nearly a century of wars:

“A young man, a Marine describing his final training, a ruck march. They had heavy packs and the guy had an injury so he couldn’t walk very well. Another guy comes along and carries his pack for him, so the second guy is carrying 160 pounds maybe, and says ‘If you’re not gonna make it across the finish in time, then neither will I. We’re gonna do it together or fail together.’ And that is the central ethos to men in combat in the military.”

For more of Sebastian Junger and his thoughts on war and the men and women who fight it, be sure to download or listen to this podcast. If you still can’t get enough Junger (and we totally get understand), check out his amazing books or our previous podcast with him where we talked about his latest book, Tribe.

Going to War airs on PBS on Memorial Day at 9 p.m. Eastern. Check your local listings.

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This is the Soviet soldier found alive 30 years after dying in Afghanistan

Shortly after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the Russian 101st Motorized Rifles were caught in a firefight with the Mujahideen near the city of Herat. A young soldier, 20-year-old Bakhretdin Khakimov, was wounded in the fighting, lost on the battlefield, and presumed dead.


Until recently.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going
Bakhretdin Khakimov in 1980 and now.

Khakimov was a draftee from Samarkand who had only been in the Red Army a short time when he was injured in Herat Province, near Shindand. Some 30 years later, a group of Soviet war veterans founded the Committee for International Soldiers, a group whose mission is to find and identify missing Soviet soldiers or their remains. Most, like Khakimov, are presumed to be dead.

The young soldier now goes by the name of Sheikh Abdullah. He was rescued from the battlefield by locals, nursed back to health and opted to stay with those that helped him survive. He later married an Afghan woman and settled down to a semi-nomadic life. His wife has since died and he does the same work as the man who rescued him.

“I was wounded in the head and collapsed. I don’t remember much about that time,” he told TOLO news.

There are an estimated 264 Soviet soldiers currently missing from the 1979-1989 Afghan War. The Committee for International Soldiers actually found 29 living servicemen, 22 of which were repatriated to the former Soviet Union. The rest stayed in Afghanistan. The CIS has also identified 15 graves of Soviet war dead, exhuming and identifying five of those.

It is estimated that the decade-long war cost the Soviet Union 15,000 lives — not to mention those of an estimated one million Afghan civilians.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going
Khakimov poses with an old photo of himself in the Shindand area of Herat Province.

Bakhretdin Khakimov was an ethnic Uzbek, with family roots not far from Afghanistan’s northern borders. Staying in the country was dangerous for Khakimov and those like him. The USSR would trade submachine guns to locals in exchange for “turncoats” trying to defect from the Red Army.

Russians captured by the Mujahideen did not fare so well — they could expect to be tortured to death. Caught between a rock and a hard place, the Soviet soldiers were often brutally mistreated by their own officers. They would then take out their rage on the civilian population, sometimes even wiping out entire villages.

The last two battalions of Russian spetsnaz crossed the “Friendship” Bridge into neighboring Uzbekistan on Feb. 15, 1989. At that moment, Lt. Gen. Boris Gromov, commander of Soviet forces in Afghanistan, told reporters, “There is not a single Soviet soldier or officer left behind me.” He was wrong.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going
Soviet Troops Withdraw from Afghanistan into Uzbekistan, Feb. 15, 1989.

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6 countries who are friends with North Korea

Under the rule of Kim Jong Un, North Korea has been a real jerk on the international scene — like, even more than usual. In fact, not too many countries are willing to be friends with North Korea. But there are some countries who are willing to stand by them. Surprisingly, that total reaches six.


Here’s who they are:

1. Russia

This really comes as no surprise. After all, in 1948, the Soviet Union helped put Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, into power. During the Korean War, Soviet pilots flew missions in support of North Korea and helped with the country’s flight training. Russia also exported a lot of gear to Pyongyang, including MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going
Russian fighter. (Photo via Public Domain)

2. China

Again, no surprise, given that during the Korean War, Chinese troops intervened on the side of North Korea. China remains North Korea’s biggest trading partner, and the two countries share a 900-mile long border.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going
Photo: Xinhuanet

3. Iran

This relationship could be surprising, except for the fact that Iran wants to buy a lot of weapons. In fact, Iran has purchased mini-submarines and ballistic missiles from the Hermit Kingdom, and a “scientific” alliance (read: nuclear weapons development) is also going on.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going
Iranian soldiers on parade. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

4. Syria

If there is a dictator who would challenge Kim Jong Un for most hated, it is Syria’s Bashir Assad. Like Iran, Syria sees North Korea as a source of weapons.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going
Hmeymim airfield in Syria. (Photo via Russian Ministry of Defense)

5. Cuba

Cuba remains one of the few communist regimes in the world. North Korea, also a holdout communist regime, is reaching out to its fellow client of the Soviet Union.

The Resilient Life: Why we should all use humor to just keep going
Fidel Castro became a close friend of the Soviet Union, something JFK tried to stop with the Bay of Pigs invasion. (Photo: Keizers)

6. Equatorial Guinea

According to many measures, Equatorial Guinea has one of the worst human rights record. North Korea has reportedly been reaching out to its fellow pariah.

Check out this video rundown on the the countries that are North Korea’s only friends:

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This female Marine says backlash against women in combat is due to ‘butt hurt’

Corporal Angelique Preston is a marksmanship coach stationed at Camp Pendleton, California. She’s wanted to be in the infantry since she was a young girl, and she enlisted in the Marine Corps right out of high school.


“I joined the Marines because I wanted to do Marine things,” Preston told KPBS. “. . . like go to combat.”

Her father was a U.S. Army artilleryman when she was young. Preston grew to love Howitzers but when she expressed an interest as a young girl, her father quipped, “Not in my lifetime.” She recently submitted her application to be in USMC field artillery.

“I’m good at it and I can do it better than some of the men here,” Preston said in a KPBS video. “A lot of times, they get kinda butt hurt, you know.”

Butt-hurt Marines aside, Preston was part of the Marine Corps 2015 study on gender integration in combat units. She believes she has more than proved her capability, carrying artillery rounds more than 200 meters at a full run in the desert heat to fire Howitzers with her fellow Marines.

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Cpl. Angelique Preston, field artillery cannoneer with Battery A, Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, prepares a M795 High Explosive projectile before a fire mission at Gun Position Quackenbush, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Manuel R. Benavides)

“To be in these jobs, you have to be physically and emotionally strong,” Preston, who is also an avid weightlifter, said. “You can’t just be one or the other … part of my drive comes from being defiant.”

The KPBS story also tells the story of Capt. Brittney Boucher, a Naval Academy graduate who wants to be a tracker. She opted to sign up for a combat job as soon as Navy Secretary Ray Mabus opened the jobs to women. She previously commanded Marines in a motor vehicle platoon in 2013.

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(KPBS c/o Capt. Brittney Boucher)

“If I were to be one of the first combat arms females, it’s my standard and my internal challenge to be the most effective officer that I can be,” Boucher told KPBS.

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7 secret weapons Allied soldiers would’ve faced while invading Japan

World War II finally ended on Sep. 2, 1945 when the U.S. accepted the unconditional surrender of Japan. The debates around the use of the Atom bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a means to end the war quickly continue at institutions of higher learning to this day, but most military scholars allow that an invasion of Japan would have cost both sides hundreds of thousands or even millions of lives.


Japan still had nearly seven million men under arms at the time of surrender and had a number of secret weapons at their disposal. While the Allies had learned of a few, like the Kaiten suicide torpedo, weapons like the I-400 submersible aircraft carriers weren’t discovered until after the war was over.

Here are 7 weapons that would have greeted Allied troops on the beaches:

1. The suicide torpedo, the Kaiten

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The USS Mississinewa sinking after being struck by a kaiten torpedo. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Kaiten were 15-yard long torpedoes packed with over 3,000 pounds of explosives that were piloted by humans through the ocean to an Allied ship. They had trouble in the open Pacific as an offensive weapon but would have been easier to target when fired from a shore position in calm seas at approaching landing craft.

READ MORE: This torpedo was WWII Japan’s other Kamikaze weapon

2. Ohka

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(Photo: Wikipedia/Jarek Tuszynski)

Another suicide weapon, the Ohka was basically a missile piloted by a human. Again, while bombers had trouble getting them into positions offensively, they would likely have proven more successful against an invasion fleet approaching the main islands.

3. Submersible aircraft carriers

While Japan had planned to pull its massive I-400 submersible aircraft carriers back to defend the main islands, it’s not clear what role they would have played.

They launched three kamikaze bombers each, but their main strength was in approaching stealthily and attacking while the enemy were off guard. A U.S. fleet approaching the Japanese home islands would have been on high alert.

4. Suicide divers

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Sketch: US Navy

Late in the war, Japan developed a plan for divers to hide in the surf for up to 6 hours. They carried 16-foot bamboo poles with 33 pounds of explosives that they would thrust up at approaching landing craft and Navy ships.

5. Rocket-powered interceptors

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(Photo: Japanese military archives)

Japan was developing and manufacturing a number of rocket-powered aircraft to intercept American bombers at the end of the war, all based on the German Komet.

A few airframes were tested and Japan had a plan to build thousands but surrendered before any Japanese rocket-powered aircraft, besides the Ohka, saw combat.

6. Bioweapons

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(Photo: Japanese government archives)

Japan had an advanced biological weapons program in World War II that cultivated diseases from the plague to anthrax. They successfully deployed the weapons against Chinese towns in tests.

In case of an American invasion, the Japanese weren’t only capable of using the weaponized diseases in tests but also as an offensive weapon against San Diego.

7. Experimental rockets

Though Japan was behind the other major powers in creating rocket weapons, by the end of the war they had working designs. The most common was a 20cm rocket.

While the Japanese designs were inaccurate, they carried large warheads. The largest had over 900 pounds of explosives and could have easily broken up troop formations storming a beach.

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Today in military history: Berlin Airlift begins

On June 26, 1948, the U.S. began the Berlin Airlift, one of the largest humanitarian relief missions in history.

After WWII, the German capital was divided with Soviet Russia controlling East Berlin and British, French and American Allies responsible for the west. The city was located more than 100 miles inside the Russian controlled portion of Germany. On June 24, 1948, the Russians implemented a blockade of West Berlin to prevent food and supplies, such as coal, from entering the town. The effort attempted to break the spirit of the West Berlin people to reject democracy and embrace communism. 

From 1945 to 1948, rising tensions between the Soviet Union and other Allied powers led to problems in governing post-war Germany.

A plan created by the U.S., British, and French to introduce a new unit of currency ran into stiff Communist opposition, and the Soviets initiated a land blockade of West Berlin on June 24, 1948.

On June 26, a massive airlift was approved to fly over the blockade and land supplies at Tempelhof Airport. Initially, high costs and Soviet demonstrations in the city led some Americans to question the tactic, but pro-democracy demonstrations convinced America to continue. The U.S.-U.K. led operations landed over 270,000 flights carrying over 2 million tons of supplies during an 11-month period.

On May 12, 1949, the Soviets gave in and lifted the blockade, allowing the U.S. to claim victory.

Featured Image: A C-54 Skymaster piloted by retired Col. Gail Halvorsen drops candy with attached parachutes to children during the Berlin Airlift. Halvorsen earned the nickname “Candy Bomber” for his operation Little Vittles candy drops. Note the parachutes below the tail of the C-54. (U.S. Air Force photo)

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The story of Waterloo, one of the most epic battles in history

The Battle of Waterloo changed the course of history.


On June 18th, 1815, Napoleon suffered his final and most crushing defeat. For over a decade, the French emperor had conquered or invaded much of Europe, using his seemingly super-human charisma, leadership, and strategic thinking to threaten Europe’s conservative, monarchical order.

Even his defeat and exile in 1814 couldn’t stop him. By mid-1815, Napoleon had returned to mainland Europe and raised an army. And so had his enemies.

Waterloo was one of the most massive single-day battles in modern history, with an estimated 60,000 total casualties. Today, “Waterloo” is shorthand for a pivotal confrontation — or for massive defeat.

Here’s the story of one of the most important battles of all time.

Napoleon abdicated as emperor of France on April 6, 1814, after troops from the Sixth Coalition entered Paris. The French monarchy was restored to power a quarter-century after the French Revolution began — and Napoleon, who had once conquered much of Europe, was exiled to Elba, an island off the west coast of Italy.

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He didn’t stay there for long. On February 26, 1815, Napoleon left the island. His goal: to depose the French monarchy and regain his position as emperor.

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Napoleon landed on the European mainland on March 1st, 1815, with 1,000 men at his command. By the time he reached Paris on March 19th, the king had fled. By June, Napoleon had nearly 250,000 troops at his command.

War was inevitable when Napoleon reclaimed power in Paris. The winners of the last war were already planning what Europe would look like without him: at the Congress of Vienna, which began in November of 1814, diplomats from European monarchies were busy redrawing the continent’s borders after Napoleon’s 1814 defeat. Napoleon was a dangerously charismatic figure capable of raising enormous armies and dead-set on overturning Europe’s anti-republican order. He had to be stopped.

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By early June, the “Seventh Coalition,” consisting of Prussia, Austria, the United Kingdom, Spain, and others had 850,000 soldiers at its command. In a March 25th, 1815 treaty, the major European powers agreed to dedicate 150,000 troops each to Napoleon’s defeat. The march to Waterloo — to a final confrontation, all-out between Napoleon and his enemies — had begun. In this map, the Coalition countries and their overseas holdings are shaded in blue. Napoleon and his lone major ally, the Kingdom of Naples, are shaded green.

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Outnumbered by the Seventh Coalition and realizing it was only a matter of months until the allies would march into France, Napoleon decided on an offensive strategy. He calculated that quick victories against a nascent and disorganized coalition would force them to sign a peace agreement that left him as ruler of France. He sent his armies into Belgium, parts of which had a sympathetic French-speaking population, in early June.

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The Seventh Coalition mobilized in response. Their leaders included Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, who at 46 was the same age as Napoleon and had led troops into battle in India and throughout Europe. Waterloo turned him into one of Britain’s greatest military heroes, and he later served as Prime Minister. He was voted the 15th-greatest Brit of all time in a 2009 BBC poll.

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Gebhard von Blucher, who had defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Lepzig two years earlier, commanded the Prussian army.

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Prince William II of the Netherlands commanded the 1st allied corps.

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It rained the evening before the battle. Napoleon had a slight numerical advantage. He commanded 72,000 troops. The allies had 68,000. And Wellington once said that Napoleon’s “presence on the field made the difference of 40,000 men.”

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Wellington chose to meet Napoleon behind a ridge in a valley, which offered his troops protection from direct artillery fire. It also gave him a defensible position where he could hold out until Prussian reinforcements arrived.

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Wellington was in a defensive crouch and the Prussians were still far from the battlefield. But Napoleon delayed the start of the battle for 2 hours. He thought the ground was too muddy from rain to effectively deploy cavalry and artillery. This pause benefited the allied troops by allowing the Prussian reinforcements to draw nearer.

A day earlier, Prussian general Blucher’s army had been forced into retreat at Ligny, south of Brussels, in a battle that would prove to be Napoleon’s final victory. But rather than retreat into Prussia, as Napoleon had anticipated, Blucher was determined to reinforce Wellington’s position. His troops’ presence was decisive to the Seventh Coalition’s success.

Napoleon opened with a wave of attacks on Hougoumont farm, one of the most heavily-defended British positions. Napoleon thought that he could overwhelm Wellington’s army, spread its defenses for attacks on other fronts, and knock out one of Wellington’s strongholds. The British held the position throughout the day in the face of a French onslaught that nearly succeeded.

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Napoleon sent wave after wave of troops at the center of Wellington’s line, hoping to break it before the Prussians arrived. He nearly succeeded around midday of the battle — but the Prussians finally arrived. They had gained crucial high ground as the French closed in on the British positions.

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When Napoleon’s feared cavalry finally charged, the British let loose with musket fire and grapeshot.

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The muskets of the day were extremely inaccurate and slow to reload. To ensure an effective volley of fire, the troops stood in a line and fired all at once.

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A single cannonball would routinely rip through an entire file of troops. At close range, cannons fired grapeshot, or a bag of hundreds of musket balls which would spray like a shotgun blast.

British battlefield tactics were key to the battle’s outcome. They formed “infantry squares,” lined with soldiers pointing their muskets outwards. The horses would not dare to charge at a wall of blades, and the French were forced to file between the squares. As a result, Napoleon’s army was slowly picked off.

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As the battle turned, Napoleon deployed his famous Old Guard, a regiment entirely composed of war veterans that was famous for never retreating. When the Old Guard was repelled, the French army lost heart.

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The battle was decided by nightfall. Napoleon, one of Europe’s most prolific conquerors and a leader who had irrevocably changed the face of the continent, had been defeated for good. Over a decade of war in Europe were over.

The allied victory made a hero out of Wellington, who went on to serve as Prime Minister. It allowed Prussia to reclaim the lands Napoleon had once annexed.

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But the immediate result of the Battle of Waterloo was absolute carnage. The French suffered a staggering 41,000 casualties, while the Seventh Coalition had around 24,000 casualties.

A cowed Napoleon returned to Paris. Realizing total defeat was looming, Napoleon abdicated as emperor on June 22nd. Considered an outlaw and wanted dead or alive by the Prussians, Napoleon thought about fleeing to the US — but eventually surrendered to the commander of the British frigate Ballerophon on July 15th.

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The Battle of Waterloo led to the final surrender of Napoleon, the end of the Napoleonic Wars which had started in 1803, and the Emperor’s exile to the island of Saint Helena, where he ultimately died in 1821.

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Saint Helena is still one of the most isolated places in the world. The allies didn’t want to risk a repeat of the Hundred Days and sent Napoleon as far away as humanly possible.

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Here’s what Jamestown, the island’s largest settlement, looks like today:

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… and here’s the house where Napoleon lived in exile for the last 5 years of his life. He was kept in an especially cold and windy part of the British-controlled island, under constant watch to ensure that he wouldn’t try an escape.

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Napoleon’s ushered in a resurgence of conservatism throughout Europe, chiefly through the Russian-led Holy Alliance of Austria, Prussia, and Russia, which focused on restraining republicanism on the continent.

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For European monarchs, Napoleon had embodied a dangerous wave of political change and an existential threat. At the Congress of Vienna, an agreement signed nine days before the Battle of Waterloo set the post-Napoleon borders of Europe and formed the basis of superficially stable monarchical and conservative order in the continent. But the Congress of Vienna was arguably a catastrophic long-term failure, since the regimes it preserved came apart disastrously in World War I, less than 100 years later.

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In the medium term, though, these alliances and agreements and Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo led to nearly four decades of relative peace throughout Europe — a quiet spell that ended with the republican revolutions that swept Europe in 1848, and the Crimean War in 1853.

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To commemorate the battle that vanquished Napoleon and changed Europe, King William I of the Netherlands had the Lion’s Mound built at Waterloo in 1826. The hill, created from soil from the battlefield, captures the momentousness of what took place at Waterloo — but it also changed the physical geography of the historic battlefield.

Today, “Waterloo” is a byword for epic confrontation, or, more specifically, for overwhelming defeat. Napoleon “met his Waterloo” 200 years ago — an event that set the stage for the next century of European history.

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