Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland - We Are The Mighty
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Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland

In a U.S. territory half a world removed from the continental United States, what does it mean to be American? To find out, Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl shipped off to the far reaches of Pacific Micronesia, to Guam.


Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
A sea of American flags in the heart of the Pacific. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Guam is a tiny island with a full dance card of seemingly competing cultural histories. Its indigenous people, the Chamorro, called it home for 4000 years, but after the island was “discovered” by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, it experienced several centuries of European colonization, capture, and rule that heaped Spanish, Catholic, American, and Japanese cultural influence atop the foundations of its identity.

But where other territories with similar fraught histories stumble through the modern era in crisis and without a firm sense of collective “self,” Guamanians wove themselves into the fabric of democratic and multicultural America. They celebrate their 21st century hybridity with exuberance, with fervent patriotism and military service, and with a food culture so funky and delicious, people travel from all over the globe to get in on it.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
Imagine this, but in a taco. With crab. And star fruit. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
Why choose? (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

In Guam, you find patriotism in its purest form, animated by gratitude for life. Guamanians have earned a deep understanding of how precarious human existence can be, whether it’s an island in the middle of the ocean or an oasis in the heart of the desert or a small, blue planet in the void of space.

Guamanians don’t just feel gratitude, they act on its behalf. As a people, they serve in the U.S. military at a higher rate than any of the 50 states.

When the Americans came and liberated us, they became family. That patriotism from our ancestors or those even living today, it continues on. And that’s an honor to be part of a nation that gives freedom, to be part of something greater than this tiny island…that’s what makes us American. —Sgt. Joleen Castro, U.S. Air Force

Their service reflects their dedication to the American ideal, yes, but it’s also an expression of inafa’maolek, or interdependence, the core value of the Chamorro people. Guamanians, at the deepest level of their tradition, celebrate collective prosperity, unity and togetherness. They celebrate the good.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
Unsurprisingly, they throw incredible parties. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

Army food will make you feel the feels

This whiskey is a WWII victory, distilled

This is what happens when you run your kitchen like a platoon

Articles

These photos of airmen playing a life-size “Hungry Hungry Hippos” game will surely deter our enemies

On May 12, airmen at Travis Air Force Base, like the rest of the USAF, participated in a series of “Wingman Day” exercises. Wingman Day is a long-running annual event where the Air Force attempts to remind airmen that the Air Force cares about its people. It’s also a day to remind airmen to take care of each other. The day is usually filled with team building events, training, and exercises designed to improve the mental, spiritual, social, and physical well-being of those in the U.S. Air Force. One such exercise at Travis this year was a full-scale version of the popular children’s game Hungry Hungry Hippos.


The photo caption indicates this game is designed to train airmen to help fellow airmen in distress, using the PRESS (Prepare, Recognize, Engage, Send, and Sustain) model. While we aren’t entirely sure how this game helps impress that model on airmen, we’re willing to give the planners of Travis’ Wingman Day the benefit of the doubt. We’re not experts.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Heide Couch/Released)

Before everyone goes nuts with making fun of the Air Force, we at Team Mighty recognize that this game was probably not the airmen’s idea. And who is going to say “no” to the question of  “Who wants to play a life-size game of Hungry Hungry Hippos?”

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Heide Couch/Released)

Also, this is not the first government agency to play a life-size game. The Department of Veterans Affairs (infamously) did it first. The game they played? Hungry Hungry Hippos.

Admit it: The Air Force did it better. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with goofy fun office games, even at work, even in the military. This isn’t even the most humiliating thing Air Force Public Affairs allowed to go on the internet. Remember that time Team Charleston posted photos of Joint Base Charleston airmen making things out of construction paper on Facebook, then immediately had to take it down because of the public backlash? They sure hope you don’t.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Heide Couch/Released)

Have fun, Air Force, just don’t post it on DVIDS. Saying it’s supposed to help airmen recognize others in distress may fly to get the commander’s approval but the media isn’t going to understand, especially when no one else is posting these things. Context is important – and all we see is airmen wearing helmets and carrying laundry baskets to catch plastic balls.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Heide Couch/Released)

 

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Heide Couch/Released)

 

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Heide Couch/Released)

In all honesty, who isn’t wondering if they have the required space and/or equipment to do this at work?

If you have any video of these games, email it to info@wearethemighty.com.

Articles

Watch airmen and soldiers rescue people from a burning building

This video shows airmen and soldiers rescue people, three women, and three children, after a building near Songtan, South Korea caught fire and trapped them in a third-story apartment. Luckily, Songtan is near Osan Air Base. Local airmen from the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan and the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, along with soldiers from the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade happened to be in the area and rushed to the scene.


The Korea service of the Armed Forces Network shared the mobile phone video of the rescue, as Army Master Sgt. talks about grabbing a blanket from a nearby store to use to catch children, as their mother tosses them out of the high window.


In all, the troops rescued three women and three young children.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This suicide mission ended the Philippine-American War

When Frederick Funston, a brigadier general of volunteers, explained his plan to Maj. Gen. Arthur McArthur, his division commander in the Philippines, MacArthur called it “a desperate thing.”


“I fear that I shall never see you again,” he said.

When the Spanish-American War ended, the United States was granted sovereignty over the islands, but a segment of the Filipino population believed they were promised independence, objected to the American takeover, and began an armed resistance.

 

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
American troops in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War.

By the time that resistance — called the Philippine Insurrection — finally ended, it cost 4,234 Americans killed and another 2,818 wounded as well as at least 16,000 Filipino casualties. At the head of the rebel forces was Emilio Aguinaldo, a Filipino politician who fought against Spanish occupation of the island before the war and continued his opposition when Americans took control.

In February 1901, Funston was the commander of the 4th District of Luzon. After months of uncertainty, he confirmed Aguinaldo’s location through a captured rebel officer named Cecilio Segismundo and hatched a plan to capture him. Aguinaldo, Segismundo said, was at the village of Palanan with several officers and a force of about 50 men.

He also said that all approaches to Palanan were closely watched.

“The only recourse was to work a stratagem,” Funston wrote in his memoirs.

On Mar. 6, 1901, with Funston in command, the gunboat Vicksburg left Manila Harbor. On board was a force of 81 Filipino scouts dressed as insurgents, along with Funston and four other Army officers masquerading as captured American privates. Six days later, at one o’clock in the morning, the force quietly landed at Casiguran on Luzon’s east coast. They were still almost 100 miles from Aguinaldo’s Palanan hideout.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
Emilio Aguinaldo after the Spanish-American War.

They were accepted in the area as what they purported to be, a rebel force with American prisoners. The ruse was working.

From Casiguran, they were able to send messages ahead to Palan announcing their arrival on the coast and their intent to come to the rebel headquarters. (A forged letter was sent earlier announcing their “capture” of the Americans and that they would bring them to Aguinaldo.)

“It was thoroughly understood,” Funston later wrote, “that we would not be taken alive. ”

After gathering what food and supplies they could from the natives, the force marched along the beach and on jungle trails through almost constant rain and on half-rations, arriving at Palanan nine days after landing at Casiguran.

They were welcomed by the rebels as they had been at Casiguran and the two “leaders” of the column, Filipinos disguised as rebel officers, were taken to meet Aguinaldo. One of them, a Spanish secret service officer named Lazaro Segovia, stood at a window and explained at length how the Americans were “captured.” When he thought the moment was right, he waved his hat, signaling the men in the courtyard to attack, and they began firing on the rebels.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
The capture of Emilio Aguinaldo.

Two rebels were quickly killed, and the remainder dispersed. Aguinaldo, meanwhile, heard the firing and, thinking his men were celebrating by firing their weapons into the air, went to the window to tell them to save their ammunition.

There he was tackled by the second “leader,” a renegade rebel officer named Hilario Tal Placido, as Segovia pulled out a pistol and fired six rounds, killing one of Aguinaldo’s officers and wounding another. The rest of the rebels leaped through the room’s windows and escaped.

By then, Funston reached the room, took charge, and explained to Aguinaldo — in fluent Spanish — that he was now a prisoner of the United States Army.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
The American who captured Aguinaldo.

After the men rested at the village for a day, they walked back to the beach and were picked up by the Vicksburg’s boats, which, in turn, took them to the gunboat and then to Manila.

Funston was rewarded by being promoted to brigadier general of the regular army and was praised by President Theodore Roosevelt for the raid, which Roosevelt called, “the crowning exploit of a career filled with cool courage.”

Aguinaldo, realizing he was beaten, called for the rebels to lay down their arms and a year later, on July 4, 1902, President Roosevelt declared the insurrection over.

Funston died in 1917 at age 51 and was buried at the Presidio in San Francisco.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Germany planned to bomb the U.S. from across the Atlantic with these massive planes

Germany started WWII with the introduction of blitzkrieg. The new lightning warfare called for fast, overwhelming ground attacks supported by dive and light bombers. This combined arms doctrine was extremely effective and allowed the Germans to steamroll across Europe. However, the focus on close air support left the Luftwaffe lacking in terms of long-range strategic bombers.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
Messerschmitt’s Me 264 submission for the Amerikabomber (Bundesarchiv)

Due to restrictions on military development following WWI, Germany’s bombers were engineered under the guise of being civilian airliners, hence their focus on lighter bombers with smaller payloads. On the other hand, the allies developed a wide range of bombers including heavy bombers like the legendary American B-17 Flying Fortress and the British Avro Lancaster. Both aircraft carried more than double the payload of the German He 111.

Adolf Hitler was keen to see New York City in flames. However, German U-boats lacked the firepower to cause sufficient damage and the Luftwaffe didn’t have any planes that could do the job. “I completely lack the bombers capable of round-trip flights to New York with a 4.5-tonne bomb load. I would be extremely happy to possess such a bomber, which would at last stuff the mouth of arrogance across the sea,” said Luftwaffe commander-in-chief Herman Göring in 1938. The problem was always the incredible distance a bomber would have to cover to reach New York.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
The massive Junkers Ju 390 in flight (Bundesarchiv)

By early 1941, Germany was in an extremely advantageous position in the war. Britain was the only real threat left in western Europe and U-boat wolfpacks hounded the supply convoys that sustained the island nation. Moreover, Portugal allowed German ships to refuel in the Azores. The archipelago provided a more feasible launching point for a trans-Atlantic bomber to reach the American east coast. Hitler himself expressed the need to, “deploy long-range bombers against American cities from the Azores.”

Called the Amerikabomber, the translation of which is extremely literal, the project was drafted up in a 33-page Luftwaffe document in 1942. Major German aircraft designers Messerschmitt, Focke-Wulf, Junkers and Heinkel submitted concepts for the proposed bomber. Messerschmitt’s Me 264 was the first concept to be built and flown. Submitted in May 1942, it carried the heaviest payload at 6.5 tonnes. The Junkers Ju 390 was built, flown, and submitted just after the Messeschmitt, also in May 1942. It had a smaller payload capacity of 5 tonnes. Neither the Heinkel nor the Focke-Wulf concepts made it to production or flight.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
A good view of the enormous 14-cylinder BMW engines on the Me 264 (Bundesarchiv)

The potential effect of a strategic bombing campaign against the United States would have been multi-fold. First, strikes against industrial targets, especially those involved in the aircraft industry, would severely inhibit America’s ability to serve as the arsenal of democracy. Fewer planes going overseas for use by the British and Soviets would mean less resistance to German offensives. Moreover, attacks against the American mainland would force the nation to significantly bolster its air defense systems. This would draw air defense resources that would otherwise be sent to allies overseas. Again, it would make it much easier for Germany to win the war in Europe.

However, with allied bombing targeting Germany’s industrial capability, the development of the Amerikabomber was slowed significantly. Additionally, Hitler developed a stronger interest in other miracle weapons like the V2 rocket. As a result of reduced materials and funding, the Amerikabomber project was abandoned before the war’s end. All of the submissions were deemed too expensive or simply not feasible by 1944. Ironically, Hitler’s pre-war vision of a long-range strategic bomber and New York City in flames was killed by allied bombers like the B-17 and Lancaster.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
A crashed Me 264 prototype (Bundesarchiv)
popular

These British troops launched a ‘proper angry’ bayonet charge during the Iraq War

In May 2004, about 20 British troops were on the move 15 miles south of al-Amara, near the major city of Basra in Iraq. They were on the way to assist another unit that was under fire when their convoy was hit by a surprise of its own.


Shia militias averaged five attacks per day in Basra when the U.K. troops arrived. British soldiers tried to arrest Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for supporting the violence and the locals were not happy about it. An unpredictable level of violence broke out. British troops were frequently under assault – an estimated 300 ambushes within three months.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
UK troops in Southern Iraq (U.S. Army photo)

“We were constantly under attack,” Sgt. Brian Wood told the BBC. “If mortars weren’t coming into our base, then we were dragged out into the city to help other units under fire.”

Wood and other troops from the 1st Battallion of the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment were on their way to aid Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who were attacked by 100 militiamen from al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army when their vehicle struck an IED. The surprise attack actually hit two vehicles carrying 20 troops on a highway south of Amarah. Mortars, rockets, and machine guns peppered the unarmored vehicles.

Rather than drive through the ambush, the vehicles took so much punishment they had to stop on the road. The troops inside dismounted, established a perimeter, and had to call in some help of their own. Ammunition soon ran low.

The decision was made: the British troops fixed bayonets.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
A Lynx Helicopter of the Army Air Corps ready to touch down on a desert road south of Basra Airport (Wikimedia Commons)

They ran across 600 feet of open ground toward the entrenched enemy. Once on top of the Mahdi fighters, the British bayoneted 20 of the militia. Fierce hand-to-hand combat followed for five hours. The Queen’s men suffered only three injuries.

“We were pumped up on adrenaline — proper angry,” Pvt. Anthony Rushforth told The Sun, a London-based newspaper. “It’s only afterwards you think, ‘Jesus, I actually did that.’ “

What started as a surprise attack on a British convoy ended with 28 dead militiamen and three wounded U.K. troops.

Jihadi propaganda at the time told young fighters that Western armies would run from ambushes and never engage in close combat. They were wrong. Irregular, unexpected combat tactics overwhelmed a numerically superior enemy who had the advantage in surprise and firepower.


Feature image: British MoD photo

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Legendary songwriter, Army veteran John Prine dies from COVID-19

The world lost another great today, as legendary songwriter John Prine succumbed to complications from COVID-19, his family confirmed to Rolling Stone. Prine, 73, lost his battle with the novel coronavirus at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Prine was known for his innumerable talents but none better than his ability to tell the story of humanity through his words. Prine’s acclaim as one of America’s best songwriters has prompted a flood of tributes from celebrities and fans alike as they mourn an indescribable loss.

We’re heartbroken here. And all our love — each of us, the entire Belcourt community, our town — to Fiona and John’s family. We’ve loss a beautiful one.pic.twitter.com/SShyVQ2cC3

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From gracing the Opry House stage for those memorable New Year’s Eve shows to other special Opry appearances including one alongside the StreelDrivers and Bill Murray, John Prine has touched our hearts with his music. We are thinking of his family and friends tonight. pic.twitter.com/FV3nIfT1kc

twitter.com

Oh John Prine, thank you for making me laugh and breaking my heart and sharing your boundless humanity. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is one of the most gorgeous songs ever written. Bonnie Raitt John Prine – Angel From Montgomery https://youtu.be/1T5NuI6Ai-o  via @YouTube

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Prine was born in Maywood, Illinois. He was one of four sons of a homemaker and a union worker, who raised the boys to love music. Prine grew up on the likes of Hank Williams and other performers of the Grand Ole Opry, but it was really his father’s reaction to Williams’ music that touched Prine. “I used to just sit and watch how he would be so moved by the songs,” Prine said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “In fact, I might have been more affected by the way the songs touched him than by the songs themselves – they seemed to have such power.”

Prine graduated from high school in 1964 and started his career with the U.S. Postal Service as a mailman. Instead of focusing on the monotony of his day job, Prine used the time to write songs. But his career delivering mail was cut short when he was drafted in 1966 into the Army. The war in Vietnam was escalating, but Prine was sent to Germany where he served as a mechanical engineer. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Prine said his military career consisted largely of “drinking beer and pretending to fix trucks.”

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland

After two years, Prine returned to the postal service and started writing songs until he became a regular on the Chicago music circuit.

While Prine’s discography is impressive, it was his song “Sam Stone” about a veteran struggling with addiction that resonated with millions of soldiers across the world. Maybe Prine really did just drink beer and fix trucks, but his haunting portrayal of Sam Stone will never be forgotten.

John Prine – Sam Stone

www.youtube.com

John Prine – Sam Stone

Lyrics:

Sam Stone came home,
To the wife and family
After serving in the conflict overseas.
And the time that he served,
Had shattered all his nerves,
And left a little shrapnel in his knees.
But the morhpine eased the pain,
And the grass grew round his brain,
And gave him all the confidence he lacked,
With a purple heart and a monkey on his back.There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,
Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose.
Little pitchers have big ears,
Don’t stop to count the years,
Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.Sam Stone’s welcome home
Didn’t last too long.
He went to work when he’d spent his last dime
And soon he took to stealing
When he got that empty feeling
For a hundred dollar habit without overtime.
And the gold roared through his veins
Like a thousand railroad trains,
And eased his mind in the hours that he chose,
While the kids ran around wearin’ other peoples’ clothes…There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,
Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose.
Little pitchers have big ears,
Don’t stop to count the years,
Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.Sam Stone was alone
When he popped his last balloon,
Climbing walls while sitting in a chair.
Well, he played his last request,
While the room smelled just like death,
With an overdose hovering in the air.
But life had lost it’s fun,
There was nothing to be done,
But trade his house that he bought on the GI bill,
For a flag-draped casket on a local hero’s hill.There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,
Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose.
Little pitchers have big ears,
Don’t stop to count the years,
Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland

Prine’s ability to tell a story through his words was truly second to none. In his memoir, “Cash,” Johnny Cash wrote, “I don’t listen to music much at the farm, unless I’m going into songwriting mode and looking for inspiration. Then I’ll put on something by the writers I’ve admired and used for years–Rodney Crowell, John Prine, Guy Clark, and the late Steve Goodman are my Big Four.” Rolling Stone referred to Prine as “the Mark Twain of American songwriting.”

Your death leaves a hole in our hearts, John Prine. Rest in peace, Sir.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
MIGHTY MOVIES

The new ‘Stranger Things’ trailer feels like the series could be ending

The next season of the 1980s-horror-nostalgia-fest that is Stranger Things will debut on July 4, 2019, on Netflix and in the new trailer, it really feels like the series could be ending. Because of one specific plot element, this excellent trailer for Stranger Things 3 makes a strong case that perhaps, the series could — and should — end after this season.

On June 20, 2019, Netflix released the final trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. Unlike season 2, in which Eleven (Millie Bobbie Brown) was separated from Lucas, Mike, and Will for almost the entire season, this time around, everyone is back together and clearly hanging out in the town of Hawkins. This is smart because what made season 1 of Stranger Things so great was the fact it went small to go big, and it looks like season 3 is the same; keeping it local in Hawkins, reminding everyone why they loved the show in the first place.


The new season looks great, and it’s super exciting to see how the kids will defeat the Upside Down creatures once and for all. Speaking of which…that roar at the end of the trailer was clearly the Mind Flayer creature from season 1, and it seems like the Mind Flayer itself is narrating the trailer. All the kids are worried: maybe it never left? Maybe it’s possessed one of the regular cast! Oooh, spooky!

(Netflix)

Honestly, I love this trailer and the 12-year-old in me thinks it’s right to make the stakes in season 3 about familiar creatures. Eleven wonders aloud: “It doesn’t make sense…I closed the gate.” But clearly, she didn’t. When you’re a little kid, this is how sequels always worked in your mind: Let’s just bring back the monster from the first story, only bigger, badder and grodier than before. The fact that Stranger Things season 3 isn’t trying to do something experimental, but instead is doing something safe is why this trailer kicks ass. It’s why I want to see this season RIGHT NOW.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcnHOQ-cHa0
Stranger Things 3 | Official Final Trailer | Netflix

www.youtube.com

But, the return of the Mind Flayer and the continued questioning of whether or not the Upside Down has really been sealed off makes me think this really should be the final season of Stranger Things. Last year series star Millie Bobby Brown got everyone worried that the show was ending after this season but then clarified that she wasn’t saying that outright. However, she also didn’t say there 100 percent was going to be a season 4 after this. So, right now, no one actually knows.

Because the new trailer is so focused on resolving old conflicts, it feels like season 3 could really be the end. But then again, because we haven’t seen it yet, we don’t know that for sure, either. Still, as much as I love Stranger Things doubling-down on its own nostalgia, how much nostalgia is left in the Upside Down? If Eleven closes that dimensional doorway again should we really re-open it?

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

House-Senate to negotiate key military benefit changes

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
Wikimedia commons


The House and Senate, in passing separate versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, haven’t yet agreed on the size of the next military pay raise, or how to reform health care or housing allowances, or whether to require all 18-year-old women to register with Selective Service to be part of a conscription pool in future major wars.

Ironing out these disparities, and many more consequential to military personnel, retirees and family members, will now fall to a House-Senate conference committee comprised of armed services committee members.

The committees’ professional staffs will negotiate many decisions in advance, on guidance from chairmen Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Max Thornberry (R-Texas), and senior Democrats Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.) and Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.). But the principals will need to engage behind closed doors on larger and more controversial topics to produce a single bill that either avoids or challenges a threatened veto from President Obama.

To achieve compromise, conferees will need to shed the political posturing routine in election years and make hard choices based on real budget ceilings. The House, for example, had refused to support another military pay raise cap in 2017 and deferred TRICARE fee increases to future generations of service members. Yet it only authorized funding for seven months of wartime operations next year in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Here are some of the tough decisions to be negotiated:

Pay Raise – The House bill supports a 2.1 percent January raise to match wage growth in the private sector. The Senate voted to cap the raise, for a fourth consecutive year, at 1.6 percent. A long-shot floor amendment from McCain to add $18 billion in defense spending authority, including several hundred million to support a larger pay raise, was defeated.

Basic Allowance for Housing – The Senate supports two substantial BAH “reforms.” It would dampen payments stateside to members, married or now, who share housing off base. It would cap payments to the lesser of what individuals actually pay to rent or the local BAH maximum for their rank and family status. House is silent on these. The White House opposes them.

TRICARE Reforms – The Senate embraces a portion of TRICARE fee increases that the administration proposed for working age retirees. It also incentivizes the fee system so patients pay less for services critical to maintaining their health and they pay more for incidental health services. Senate initiatives also emphasize improving access and quality of care.

The House rejects almost all higher fees and co-pays intended to drive patients, particularly retirees, back into managed care and military facilities. Both bills would narrow TRICARE options down to managed care and a preferred provider organization. But the House would require all current TRICARE Standard users to enroll annually to help better manage costs and resources. The House, however, would subject only new entrants to the military on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to higher TRICARE enrollment fees.

Female Draft Registration – Without debate on the topic, the Senate voted to require all women attaining the age of 18 on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to register with Selective Service. The House voted to strike similar language from its own defense authorization bill, leaving the issue to be fought behind closed doors of the conference committee.

The two defense policy bills, HR 4909 and S 2943, are aligned on some other important, even surprising benefit changes. These include:

Commissary Reform — The Senate approved the same sweeping changes endorsed by the House to modernize commissary operations. They include a pilot program to replace the cost-plus-five-percent pricing formula with variable pricing across local markets. Both chambers also endorse allowing the Defense Commissary Agency to offer its own brand products to generate more profits and enhance patron savings, and to convert commissaries to non-appropriated fund activities like exchanges.

DeCA is to calculate and set a baseline level of savings that patrons now enjoy and maintain it. Meanwhile, a new Defense Resale Business Optimization Board will be formed to oversee the reforms including the streamlining of commissary and exchange operations to gain efficiencies.

The Senate rejected McCain’s push to privatize up to five base grocery stores for two years to test whether a commercial grocer could operate base stores at a profit and still offer deep discount. McCain hopes privatization over time ends the need for DeCA with its $1.4 billion annual appropriation. Defense officials estimate the approved reforms will cut commissary funding by about $400 million a year over their first fives years.

Meanwhile, DoD last week gave Congress a promised report on prospects for making commissaries and exchanges “budget neutral” or self-sustaining. It concludes that budget neutrality is unattainable without gutting the benefit. This helped to weakened support for a privatization test.

Ending Former Spouse Windfalls — Another issue the House and Senate agree on is modifying how the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act calculates retirement pay for sharing as marital property in divorce settlements. Current law allows courts to divide final retired pay, even if it was bolstered more years served and promotions gained after divorce. Congress agrees this creates a windfall for ex-spouses that should be eliminated, but only for divorce finalized after the bill becomes law.

The former spouse law (Sec. 1408, 10 U.S.C.) will be changed so retired pay to be divided is based on a member’s rank and years of service at time of divorce, plus cumulative military pay raises up through retirement.

This is the first substantive change to the USFSPA in at least a decade. It surprised the former spouse support group EX-POSE, which calls it unfair to future ex-spouses who might sacrifice their own careers to raise children or to accommodate the frequent moves that are part of service life.

ABA Therapy Rates Restored – Both bills direct the Department of Defense to restore higher TRICARE reimbursement rates paid through last March for applied behavioral analysis therapy for children with autism. The change is to take effect when the bill is signed. Though appreciative of the rollback, family advocates worry that months more of delay could see more ABA therapists decide to drop or to refuse to accept more military children.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 issues I still have with ‘Wonder Woman’

None of this has anything to do with gender or anything as asinine as that. The fact is, Wonder Woman was the best superhero movie of 2017 (yeah, I know when Logan was released, and I stand by this statement). And Wonder Woman is easily the best part of the current DC cinematic universe. But this is history.


World War I is a lot more complex than when Steve Trevor tells Diana that he’s the good guy and the bad guys are the Germans wading ashore. It was nice of her to just take his word for it. These are my issues with this mostly-fantastic film.

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Oh yeah.

Wonder Woman does not like doors.

Ok, this isn’t historical, it’s more of a stylistic criticism. Batman and Superman get to fly in or punch their way through a group of bad guys while Wonder Woman has to explode through the wall like an ancient, mythical Kool-Aid Man.

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How did that guy not see this coming?

The Germans look completely incompetent.

They’re not just the traditional, evil villainous henchmen — they’re bad at it, too. Maybe that’s why they need to be directed by the God of War. After chasing Steve Rogers Steve Trevor onto the hidden island of Themyscira, they encounter a group of natives who seem technologically inferior… so, obviously they have to murder them all, right?

No. World War I Germans were not the Nazis. Historically, they were as much a victim of circumstance as any other combatant in the war. Germans were arguably the best at fighting World War I. That’s why they took a lot of heat in Versailles, and that’s why World War II happened — the Germans didn’t technically lose. A general staff, a standing professional army — these are all pioneering developments from 19th/20th-Century Germany, but you’d never know it watching Wonder Woman.

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A very important lesson for Diana.

No one lives up to their established reputation.

Eventually, the Germans who land on Themyscira all get slaughtered, despite the warship off the island’s coast that never gets used. Despite their guns and grenades, they get creamed by an Amazonian army using swords and arrows, which begs another question: Why are these highly-trained professional soldiers just standing in the open as projectiles are fired at them?

Sure, the Amazonians have never fought rifles before, but with all their superhuman abilities, why can’t they see these as projectile weapons? And the Germans can definitely see all the well-aimed arrows raining death on them, but there they are, kneeling in the open sand, waiting for death.

Germans in Wonder Woman just seem incompetent or lazy or both. Only Steve, the American, has the good sense to take cover on the beach that day.

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Remember: They did this to save the town.

Wonder Woman does not do stairs.

There’s a sniper in the bell tower! Luckily everyone has cover, and he’s the only enemy left, so we can just head to the church and use the stars, right? No. That would require going through a door — we talked about that, remember? Let’s just throw Wonder Woman at the building and see what happens.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland

In their shoes, you’d have shot at Wonder Woman. And probably would have had trench foot.

The Germans didn’t start World War I.

They weren’t really the “bad guys,” they just happened to not be on America’s side. These aren’t Nazis and not every German soldier was responsible for the Rape of Belgium. A lot of them were conscripted, just like the guys on the other side of No Man’s Land. When it came to chemical weapons, the Allies used them on the Central Powers just as much as the other way around, and the same goes for submarine warfare, forced civilian labor, machine guns, and every other horrible thing about World War I on the Western Front.

If anything, she should be taking down Serbia and Austria-Hungary.

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland

Through the goddamned window.

It’s way different for junior enlisted people.

While watching Wonder Woman for the first time, I remembered what it was like to pull security details as an E-2 while deployed. When Diana liberated Veld from the Germans, I couldn’t help but think of the circumstances surrounding it. While it’s totally awesome to watch her clear a trench, the war was almost over, and everyone knew it. The armies around Veld had been there for a year, and not much progress was made to advance either way. This means that everyone was likely just hunkering down to wait out the end of the war, content not to kill or be killed.

So, imagine being a German private, coming to work in the headquarters building, dreaming of returning home to Munich or Trier or wherever to be with your family again in just a few weeks when, suddenly, a Greek Goddess bursts in and starts murdering all your friends during frühstück and kaffee.

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Using your VA loan as an investment

We sometimes get asked by our loan candidates about if they can use their VA loan as an investment. While the answer to this question depends on what you consider an investment, I can share how I used my VA loan as an investment.


Multi-Family Homes

The VA loan can be used to purchase up to a 4-unit house so long as it is owner occupied. These homes are also known as multi-family dwellings, and can be referred to as 2, 3, or 4 family houses. These homes are typically separated units with each functioning as a separate apartment.

In 2008 I used my VA loan to purchase a 3-family home in Massachusetts with 2 out of the 3 units rented out at $1,250 per unit for a total of $2,500 per month that I was collecting in rent. I moved into the 3rd unit and my monthly principle & interest, taxes, and insurance payment to the bank was approximately $2,700.

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Through this arrangement I was able to own a home and only pay $200 ($2,700-$2,500) a month towards my monthly payment. This gave me the opportunity to have my tenants pay down my mortgage while I lived almost free in my home. Fast forward to 2012 and I now live in another home but still own the 3-family and have it fully rented out and clear over $1000 a month in rental income after accounting for my fixed expenses.

Below are some basics to consider. It is important to note, though, that being a landlord is an entirely different topic and not for everyone. Also, like most investments and being a homeowner, there is risk, so it is important to do your homework.

  1. Identify the area you are interested in buying: If you are interested in generating rental income it is important to look at areas that have low home values with higher rental amounts. The lower the cost of the home the lower your monthly payment amount. The higher the market rents are in the market then the more that your tenants will contribute to your payment and more of your money that you’ll keep.
  2. Start looking at homes: Any realtor can set you up with Multiple Listing Services (MLS) updates based on your criteria that you tell them. Also, a good realtor knows markets that would best suit your criteria and can guide you in were to start looking. You tell them the area that you are interested in looking at, your price range, and types of homes (single family, 2, 3 or 4 family units). Then, you will start getting emails with homes that meet your criteria that if you want can start scheduling a viewing.
  3. Know your costs: The amount that you will be paying monthly is your principle, interest, taxes, and insurance is what you should focus on. You can use VA Loan Captain’s Payment Calculator and input different scenarios to see what your payment would be. There are also other costs such as water/sewer that I typically allocated $100 a month for. Also, there are costs for maintaining any home single or multi-family which you will need to consider and depends on the age and condition of the property.
  4. Know your rents or potential rents: You can ask your realtor what the average rents are in the market that you are looking at. For example if average rents in the market for 1-bedroom apartments are $1000, and the units in the multi-family home that you are looking is average to what is available market, then you can use that to determine what you could charge if the units are vacant; or, what you could charge if there are tenants already in but paying a lower amount.
  5. Other considerations: If you go this path you will be a landlord which is something that is a small part-time job and not for everyone. Having some basic knowledge on appropriately screening applicants and knowing the state law will go a long way. Basic items for screening applicants include doing a credit check and collecting and calling references.

Overall, using a VA loan to purchase a multi-family was a great experience that has now set me up with a solid cash flow positive investment. While this was beneficial, it required a lot of work and learning along the way.

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VA Secretary about to sign draft master plan for West LA campus

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(Photo: LA Times)


The Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald is traveling to Los Angeles to sign the draft master plan for the West LA VA campus on January 28 after months of advocacy by local veteran leaders to get their peers’ voices heard against a backdrop of wrangling between the city’s power brokers and politicians. The action comes nearly a year after the VA won a ruling to reassume control of the sprawling campus near Santa Monica that has suffered several decades worth of encroachment by non-VA organizations and inattention by the VA itself.

In 1888 John P. Jones and Arcadia B. de Baker signed a deed donating 300 Acres of West Los Angeles land to be used by the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (the precursor to the Department of Veterans Affairs) as their Pacific branch home. Over the next 127 years, the property lost it’s original focus and suffered at the hands of ineffectual government authorities who let the facility fall into disrepair and conniving interlopers from a host of organizations including a major university, an elite parochial school, and even other government agencies who wrangled large parcels for their own use (and nothing to do with veterans healthcare or well-being).

But in January 2015, VA Secretary Bob McDonald signed a settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit (Valentini v Shinseki) regarding encroachment on the campus of the facility. The agreement established a nonprofit, Vets Advocacy, to serve as a partner in the West LA VA master planning process. As the first step of that process, Vets Advocacy petitioned the veteran community for inputs on how they’d like to see VA services provided.

Vets Advocacy created a website, www.vatherightway.org, as the primary tool behind their mission.  The site allows veterans to find out about the history of the West LA VA campus, see the schedule of local town hall events, watch video testimonials of other vets, and — most importantly — take the survey regarding how the campus should be modified to better serve patients and the veteran community at large. In the period leading up to the creation of the draft master plan, more than 1,300 surveys were completed.

“The vets stepped up to the plate,” said Mike Dowling, We Are The Mighty’s director of outreach and a major force behind organizing veteran inputs on the master plan.

“The master plan is wholly informed by vet input,” said Vets Advocacy’s Dr. Jon Sherin, who ran mental health services for the West Los Angeles VA hospital. “Now Secretary McDonald is signing into law the guideposts by which all decisions regarding that land will be made.”

“The plan is not just historic for the amount of comments, but for what this represents,” Army vet Michael Cummings writes on his blog. “This plan represents the possibility to change the VA from being a hospital or housing shelter into a community that brings veterans together. The veteran leaders I’m working with don’t just want to make the VA function better, we want to build a community of veterans and work with the VA to improve the lives of the people who fought and sacrificed for our country.

“Even better, we know that we are creating a model for the whole country. Our efforts in Los Angeles are providing a blueprint for other VA campuses around the country for how to to turn from being simply a hospital into a community.”

Although getting Secretary McDonald’s signature on the draft master plan is an important milestone, the work towards realizing the promise of the document is far from over, and veteran input remains fundamental to the effort.

“The core theme among vets taking the survey was the need for a vet-driven governance structure for the community being developed on that land,” Dr. Sherin said. “We have to keep the vets’ voices alive and clear.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This unstoppable artillery bombardment doomed Nazi Berlin

In what is sometimes described as the largest artillery bombardment in history, the Soviets opened the road to Berlin in 1945 at the Battle of Seelow Heights with a massive barrage that saw over 9,000 Soviet guns and rockets firing along a front approximately 18.5 miles long. That’s one artillery piece every 11 feet.


 

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Like this, but more cannons. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)

 

The Seelow Heights defenses were a mere 35 miles from Berlin and were the last truly defendable position before Berlin.

Estimates vary about the exact number of shells and rockets fired in the wee hours of April 16, but some think that as many as 500,000 shells were fired in the first 30 minutes. The German defenders, counting reserves held near Berlin, totaled less than 150,000 men.

For comparison, the massive Allied assault on the Gustav line in Italy in 1944 featured “only” 2,000 guns firing 174,000 shells over 24 hours. The British bombardment at the Battle of the Somme in World War I boasted 1,537 guns which fired 1.5 million shells over 4 days. The Soviet crews at the Seelow Heights could have hit that total in about 90 minutes.

Unfortunately for the Russian soldiers, their generals followed Soviet military doctrine nearly to the letter, and the Germans had grown used to their tactics. Anticipating a Soviet bombardment, the German generals had pulled most of their men back from the first defensive lines and reduced the number of men in the second lines.

“As usual, we stuck to the book and by now the Germans know our methods,” said Colonel General Vasili Kuznetsov, a Russian commander. “They pulled back their troops a good eight kilometers. Our artillery hit everything but the enemy.”

So a Soviet bombardment with three times as many shells as there were defending troops managed to obliterate one line of trenches, damage another, but kill very few of the defending troops. It also left German mortars, machine guns, tanks, and artillery emplacements.

 

Why the food in Guam is as funky and awesome as anywhere on the mainland
A Russian T-34 tank burns during World War II. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)

 

The Soviets continued the battle with a rolling barrage that did begin softening the German army positions. But, by that point, Soviet tanks and infantry were struggling to get through the soft ground around the Ober River which had been flooded and turned to marshlands.

The German weapons which had survived the artillery bombardment were able to inflict heavy losses on the attacking Soviet columns.

But the Soviet numbers were simply too much for the German defenders. Over the next few days, the Russians lost approximately 33,000 men while inflicting 12,000 casualties on the Germans. But Russian planes took the skies from the Luftwaffe and the army brought up the artillery, allowing them to force their way forward with tanks and infantry.

Despite the heavy losses, the Red Army took the Seelow Heights on April 19, 1945, and launched its final drive to Berlin. Soviet troops surrounded the city and forced their way in. German leader Adolf Hitler killed himself on April 30 and Germany surrendered on May 8.

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