The military’s standard individual field ration, the MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat), is the well-known and much-discussed bag of food eaten by service members of the U.S. military when deployed in combat, to remote locations, or when training in the field. The purpose of the MRE is simple; it serves as nourishment for troops.
The MRE can be divisive. Some like them, some hate them but most handle them when we have to. There are ways to deal with a diet of this prepackaged manna. Troops figured this out a long time ago. Creative recipes were conjured to make them taste better and there are literally hundreds of videos about them online. Ask any veteran about them– each will have their own methods.
At face value, the MRE is just a brown plastic bag filled with food, spread packets, and a flameless heater. The individual self-contained meal, however, has emblematic qualities that many may not realize. It is able to withstand cold and hot temperatures. It’s durable for long periods of time in the harshest conditions… The MRE is very much a representation of the military veteran.
The MRE is also an unlikely tool used for diplomacy and international relations, where military members from two different nations can establish a friendship by simply exchanging MREs after a long day of combined training.
The MRE is also a symbol of hope. It gives optimism for people of a foreign nation such as Haiti after a devastating earthquake or residents of New Orleans’s Lower 9th Ward following Hurricane Katrina. The MRE brings a smile to the face of a child that sometimes can be overlooked, but it represents a beacon of hope when all hope was lost.
The MRE brings a sense of family where brothers and sisters in arms can enjoy a meal together even if it’s only for a few minutes.
MREs also bring a mix of emotions. Feelings like satisfaction, envy, and sadness.
The satisfaction of eating after a long day of training or following a combat patrol. The feeling of envy because your battle buddy’s MRE came with a packet of M&Ms or Skittles and you got the gooey energy bar. Sadness stems from the fact that you are eating an MRE on a summer day in a faraway land instead of being home for a poolside BBQ with your family and loved ones.
The MRE serves as a component of business and negotiation skills. Servicemembers learn the aspects of supply and demand via trading MRE contents with a fellow trooper. The MRE is much more than a meal packaged in strong, flexible plastic, it is a simile of military service.
Forrest Gump would always say “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” The classic comparison to life instilled to him by his mama.
For veterans and their military service, “Life is like an MRE. Some days it’s good, some days it’s bad, you will certainly not miss them but you will miss the people you shared them with.”
Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.
One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)
For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.
But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.
This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.
It was revealed today that NBC anchor Brian Williams has been telling a story about the Iraq invasion that turned out to be well, untrue. As Travis Tritten reported in Stars and Stripes on Wednesday, the anchor’s long-told story of being on a helicopter in 2003 in Iraq that was hit by RPG fire was a false claim repeated by him and the network for years.
Here at WATM, we strive to go above and beyond. We researched other times there was gunfire or battles occurring, and we found that in all these other instances, Brian Williams was again, nowhere to be found.
The Capture of Saddam Hussein
If Brian Williams was on site, we probably could have seen awesome footage of Delta Force operators kicking down doors, clearing rooms, and ultimately, capturing one of the world’s most-wanted men. But sadly, Brian Williams wasn’t there.
The Battle of Tora Bora
Though it would’ve been pretty sweet if he was around to watch U.S. Special Forces search for Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda fighters, we checked and it turns out that Brian Williams wasn’t there.
All those times the U.S. hit militants in Yemen with drone strikes
We meticulously researched through Air Force and CIA records and it turns out that Brian Williams was not on a drone when it struck militants in Yemen. Even more shocking though, he wasn’t there in Pakistan, Afghanistan or any drone strikes.
The Osama bin Laden raid
Oh man. It would’ve been awesome if he was there to report on Bin Laden taking a couple bullets to the grape, but Brian Williams was in fact, not there.
French allies confirmed that Brian Williams may have taken the operation name literally and actually went out for dinner.
On the rooftop with Blackwater fighters shooting militants in the Battle of Najaf
It was a pretty controversial time when military contractors were found to be helping — and sometimes directing — soldiers in the defense of their compound. Brian Williams could have been there to report on what was happening at the time, but, as the video shows, he wasn’t even there.
WATM Executive Editor Paul Szoldra helped with this masterpiece.
Lately, it seems everyone has an opinion on the role of women in combat. Recently two female officers passed Army Ranger training and the Marines completed a study on gender integration, and some government officials are upset about all of it. But the notion of women in combat is not new. They’ve been in the thick of it for centuries, and not just as camp followers and nurses.
With a few exceptions, women in leadership and direct combat roles were (forcefully) restricted by men (unless God tells a sixteen-year-old French girl how to beat the English. But, of course, that doesn’t count because God is a dude, right?).
God’s mansplaining of how to win the Hundred Years’ War aside, in the days when armies would forage food and supplies, officially licensed small business people known as “sutlers” or “vivandiers” would follow the armies to sell tobacco, food, and drinks.
The Napoleonic Wars and the wars of Napoleon III brought the rise of the vivandière, often the daughters and wives of those enterprising businesses. They came to battle with a tonnelet (a small barrel) of brandy to give soldiers as they fought in a battle.
They would deliver much-needed shots to the wounded and would even carry them back to aid stations in the rear during the entire course of a battle. The vivandière marched with the troops everywhere they went and endured the same weather and combat conditions as the armies they followed. Some even carried a musket and fought in the battle. Unsurprisingly, the troops loved them for their bravery and generosity. The loss of a vivandière in battle was a loss to the entire army.
Paintings were made about them, and operas were composed, like Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment and Verdi’s La Forza del Destino. (Don’t say We Are the Mighty doesn’t expose its readership to high art. We at Team Mighty love this sh*t.)
The vivandière caught on overseas. During the American Civil War, they served with both Confederate and Union armies during battles, where their tradition of bravery continued. The U.S. Army calls them “the Forgotten Women of the Civil War” who “deserve to be remembered.” Women continued this role well into WWI, but were no longer allowed to go into combat.
The troops love for their vivandières goes beyond the normal desire a man has for women. Though some troops did marry their vivandière, the bond between these women and their regiments was more akin to the bonds people form after serving in combat with one another. Songs were written about the women who could handle themselves around love-struck men, like this song about a woman named Madelon (translated from French):
The rumor mill is one of the most amazing things about Army service. Conjecture seems to travel through the Private News Network at speeds rivaling any military vehicle. Unfortunately, the PNN is not the most accurate place to get news and there are certain urban legends that show up time and again. Here are five of the rumors that just won’t die.
1. “These soft new soldiers could get a break in basic by just raising their stress cards.”
It seems like every time the Army graduates a class of basic trainees, the rumor pops up that this class was issued the fabled “stress cards.” These legendary pieces of paper would allow soldiers to take a time out if basic was getting too stressful and challenging, but the cards were never supposed to provide a break.
Snopes researched this myth and found an example of cards referencing stress in Navy recruits, while Stars and Stripes found a card that was issued to new soldiers. Neither card allowed for a time out though. The Navy card listed resources stressed sailors could turn to instead of running away or committing suicide. The Army cards served as a reminder to training cadre that recruit stress was real and should be managed.
For both services, there are reports of recruits trying to get out of training by raising the card, but training cadre were not obliged to provide a time out. A 1997 federal advisory committee recommended the use of the cards end due to the widespread misconception that they could be used to take a break.
2. “The Army was drugging us in basic. That’s why we didn’t want to have sex.”
Soldiers in basic may be surprised to find they can go months without sex and not miss it during training. In whispered conversations over dining facility tables, this is blamed on the Army lacing the food or water with saltpeter or other anti-libido drugs.
Stars and Stripes addressed this rumor and every branch of service provided an enthusiastic denial of the myth. In the article, a spokeswoman for the Kinsey Institute addressed the likely cause of soldiers’ lowered sex drive.
“Most people when they are under stress are not interested in sex,” Jennifer Bass told Stars and Stripes. “There are other things going on that are more important that they have to take care of physically and emotionally, and usually those two have to be working together for sexual response to happen.”
The rumor sometimes manifests as the Army drugging deployed soldiers, but the real cause of the dampened libido overseas is probably the physical and emotional stress of combat.
3. “Really, my granddad’s uncle had an M-16 with Mattel right on the grips.”
The story goes that the first shipments of M-16s to U.S. troops in Vietnam had handgrips stamped with the Mattel logo, since Mattel had been subcontracted to make the parts in the first few runs of the new rifles.
While a great story, it’s not true. Snopes thinks the rumor started due to a joke among service members. The M-16 was plagued with problems when it first debuted with U.S. troops. Since it was made of plastic and did not function well as a weapon, troops joked that it was a toy using the tagline of the largest toy manufacturer of the time, “You Can Tell It’s Mattel… It’s Swell!” Mattel also manufactured a toy version of the weapon, likely adding to the myth.
The rifle was originally created by Armalite, and it had been producing the M-16 for export for over three years before the U.S. placed an order in 1962. Armalite had supplied an order to the Federation of Malaysia in late 1959, followed by orders for testing in India and fielding by the South Vietnamese. Manufacturing of the design was licensed out in 1962 to Colt who made the weapons finally delivered to U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1965. Colt, Armalite, and yes, even Mattel, have all denied involvement the toymaker had any part in manufacturing parts for the M-16.
4. “Hollywood doesn’t get our uniforms right because it would be against the law.”
Military movies are filled with annoying inaccuracies, something WATM has been happy to point out on multiple occasions. The rumor when it comes to uniform errors is that federal law prohibits civilians from wearing military uniforms, so Hollywood changes aspects of the uniform to get around the law.
Since actors are allowed to wear the uniform while performing, Hollywood could legally portray the uniform properly just as easily as they display it incorrectly. Typically, movies gets the uniforms wrong because the crew doesn’t know better or doesn’t care. At the end of the day, it’s a costume designer outfitting the actors, not military technical advisors.
5. “Starbucks doesn’t support the troops!”
Many companies have been accused of not supporting the troops for various reasons, but Starbucks seems to be the one who gets criticized the most due to a myth that they openly voiced a lack of support to the Marines. The origin of the Starbucks myth is actually well established. A Marine Corps sergeant heard that some of his peers had requested free Starbucks coffee and been turned down.
The sergeant blasted out an email requesting true patriots boycott Starbucks. Starbucks addressed the accusations, saying that the corporation doesn’t provide free coffee to any organization besides non-profit charities, and the policy wasn’t meant as a comment on military service members. Starbucks employees receive free coffee from the company, and Starbucks allowed its employees to donate this coffee to troops deployed. The company itself just didn’t directly donate any beans.
The originator of the email later apologized, but the myth that Starbucks once voiced opposition to war veterans persists. Starbucks has made a few large overtures to the military community to prove its loyalty. They’ve sent care packages to troops, introduced programs to hire more veterans, and used profits from stores in military areas to fund local veteran charities. In 2014, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced a $30 million donation to support research into PTSD and brain trauma.
On April 17, 1970, the Apollo 13 spacecraft safely returned to earth after suffering major malfunctions on its journey to the Moon.
“Houston, we’ve had a problem,” Apollo 13 astronaut John “Jack” Swigert famously told the NASA Mission Control Center “Houston” during the Apollo 13 spaceflight.
200,000 miles from Earth, three astronauts and veteran test pilots were scrambling to adapt and overcome a seemingly impossible challenge. They were James Lovell — a Navy Captain and test pilot; Jack Swigert — a fighter pilot in the Air National Guard; and Fred Haise — a fighter pilot in both the Marine Corps and Air Force.
Two days into their mission to the Moon, an oxygen tank exploded, severely disrupting their supply of oxygen, electricity and water. They aborted their landing mission, and scrambled to implement creative and improvised solutions suggested by the support staff back in Houston.
They’d have to improvise a way to make a square filter fit into a round hole. They’d conjured up a makeshift lifeboat.
The support staff no longer cared what the spaceship had been designed to do – they had to figure out how to squeeze every bit of capability from the vehicle.
Overcoming nearly impossible odds, the crew guided the spacecraft back to earth, reentered the atmosphere and touched down in the Pacific Ocean, where they were recovered by the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima.
Featured Image: The crew of the Apollo 13 mission step aboard the U.S.S. Iwo Jima, prime recovery ship for the mission, following splashdown and recovery operations in the South Pacific. Exiting the helicopter, which made the pick-up some four miles from the Iwo Jima are (from left) astronauts Fred W. Haise, Jr., lunar module pilot; James A. Lovell Jr., commander; and John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot. The Apollo 13 spacecraft splashed down at 12:07:44 pm CST on April 17, 1970. (NASA Image)
Along with the USO, the company delivered 32,000 three-pack servings of its ready-brew coffee to Bagram Airfield, where it could then be further distributed to the approximately 9,800 service members stationed throughout the country.
“Getting a cup of coffee is something your average American takes for granted. But for our troops a cup of coffee is a special taste of home,” Alan Reyes, USO Senior Vice President of Operations, said in a statement. “Imagine a soldier coming off an arduous patrol or hostile fire, and then seeing that Starbucks logo – it takes their minds out of the war zone, even for a few minutes.”
The coffee giant is providing much more than just free coffee for U.S. troops. In March 2014, the company donated $30 million for research into post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, and promised to hire 10,000 veterans or their spouses over the next five years.
“This is not charity, this is not pity. This is the right thing to do for them and for us,” Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, told NPR’s Marketplace.
Schultz recently wrote a book with Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran that highlights the courage and sacrifices of Post 9/11 troops entitled “For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice.”
U.S. Navy aircraft carriers are a dominant presence in waters around the world, and interestingly enough, the Air Force once tried to make a flying version.
During World War II, bomber aircraft could fly thousands of miles to their targets, unlike gas-guzzling fighters, which had much shorter ranges. This was a big problem for bombers, since they were sitting ducks without fighter escorts.
After the war — amid the beginnings of the Cold War and the rise of long-range strategic bombers — Air Force Maj. Clarence “Bud” Anderson began testing a coupling system on a C-47 Skytrain in 1949, according to The Dakota Hunter. Using a lance on the wingtip, the World War II ace successfully connected with the ring mounted on a C-47.
From the book “Flying Aircraft Carriers of the USAF: Wing Tip Coupling”:
In short order Anderson acquired confidence in his ability to make the link-up and maintain the proper attitude in coupled flight. He found that it was easy to accomplish the coupling in less than half a minute. Once the lance was lined up with the coupling ring, a small decrease in throttle setting was adequate to decelerate the Q-14B and engage the coupling mechanism.
The testing became known as Project FICON (Fighter Conveyer) during the 1950s. The goal was ambitious: Get fighters linked up to the larger aircraft, turn off the engines, refuel, and enjoy the ride. And if the enemy showed up, delink and defend the bomber.
The project sounded simple, but it was far from it. In a disastrous setback during a test hookup between a B-29 and an F-84 in 1953, the smaller fighter flipped over onto the bomber’s wing right after both connected, and both planes crashed and killed everyone on board.
The tests still continued despite other mishaps. But the project was eventually canceled due to other technological advances that made the concept of a “flying aircraft carrier” obsolete. Instead of a large aircraft towing around smaller ones on its wingtips, the Air Force debuted the KC-97 Stratofreighter in 1951, which used a “flying boom” to transfer fuel to smaller fighters.
The KC-97 has since been retired, but the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is still in service today, extending the range of all types of U.S. aircraft.
UPDATE: On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending the entry of immigrants from seven countries he said were “of particular concern” for terrorism, including Iraq. It is unclear how the immigrant ban — which is mandated to last 90 days pending a review of the visa issuing process — will affect Iraqis who have applied or been awarded Special Immigrant Visas for their service with U.S. troops during OIF. But No One Left Behind’s CEO Matt Zeller tells WATM: “This action imposes a lifetime moral injury on our Afghan and Iraq war veterans. … President Trump’s order permanently harms our national security.”
It was April 2008 during a patrol in Waghez, Afghanistan, and Army intelligence officer Matt Zeller was in big trouble.
Pinned down in an ambush outside the small village, he found himself outflanked by a group of Taliban fighters about to overrun his position. Rushing to his side, Zeller’s Afghan ally and interpreter Janis Shinwari raised his weapon and fired.
“I wouldn’t be alive today without my Afghan translator,” Zeller said during an interview with WATM. “My life was saved by a fellow veteran.”
Five years later, Zeller decided he’d apply his warrior ethos to “leave no one behind” and established a non-profit to help relocate Afghan and Iraqi allies who worked alongside U.S. forces to the safety of America. So far Zeller and his partners have helped more than 3,200 allies obtain so-called “Special Immigrant Visas” to resettle in the United States and avoid being target by jihadists who are targeting them for helping American troops.
Since the SIV program began, more than 43,000 allies from Iraq and Afghanistan — along with their families — have been resettled in the U.S.
But advocates claim there are still about 30,000 Afghan and Iraqi citizens whose lives are at risk for helping U.S. forces, but Congress has so far refused to help in their return. Zeller and his colleagues, like Chase Millsap of the Ronin Refugee Project, are pushing lawmakers to authorize 6,000 more visas for Afghan allies left behind and to commit to keeping the visa program for them open “for as long as the United States commits military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
“We made these people a fundamental promise that we would protect them,” Zeller said. “If we don’t do this now, it will haunt us in the future.”
But renewing the program is facing strong opposition for influential lawmakers who Zeller claims are running with an anti-immigrant political tide.
Some lawmakers claim the Obama administration’s refugee policy, and the SIV program specifically, puts Americans at risk for terrorism.
In an Aug. 10 statement, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee, Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, claimed since 2001, 40 people admitted to the United States as refugees have been implicated in terrorism. Sessions claims 20 of those, including one SIV program recipient from Iraq, have been indicted or implicated for terrorist acts in the last three years.
“Instead of taking a sober assessment of the dangers that we face, and analyzing the immigration histories of recent terrorists so that we can more effectively safeguard our immigration system from being infiltrated, the Obama Administration leads the United States down a dangerous path – admitting as many refugees as possible from areas of the world where terrorists roam freely,” Sessions said. “There is no doubt that this continuous, dramatic increase in refugees from areas of the world where terrorists roam freely will endanger this nation.”
Sources say Sessions and his staff have been instrumental in hollowing out the SIV program through parliamentary procedure in the Senate, and that House lawmakers have been powerless to stop it. Opponents point to the dangers of ISIS — which has claimed responsibility for several high-profile terrorist attacks by immigrants in European countries — and the Syrian refugee crisis, which they claim allows potential jihadis into the U.S. without a thorough background check.
Zeller says the Syrian refugee policy and the SIV program are two distinct programs, arguing Afghan and Iraqi partners who qualify for an SIV go through years of investigations and vetting before they’re admitted to the U.S. And that’s on top of the vetting they were subject to simply to work with U.S. forces overseas.
“It’s not like they just walked up to the gate and got a job,” Zeller says. “This is one of the most arduous security reviews of anyone.”
And the SIV program allows allies who directly aided U.S. forces in combat to get the “veteran” status through the immigration system advocates say they deserve.
“Granting more visas during this year specifically means the Afghan allies that we know are threatened will have a chance to be saved,” The Ronin project’s Millsap says. “Unless Congress increases this quota, these trusted Afghans will at best be at the mercy of a broken international refugee system, and at worst, they will be killed.”
The future of the SIV program is unclear as the National Defense Authorization Act languishes in committee and the clock is running out on the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. If Congress doesn’t act in the next few weeks to re-instate the SIV program, thousands of Afghans — and their families — will be at risk, Zeller says.
“I’m not optimistic, but I’m going to keep fighting until my last dying breath,” Zeller says. “I believe that no one should be left behind on the battlefield.”
An estimated 300,000 “war brides,” as they were known, left home to make the intrepid voyage to the United States after falling in love with American soldiers who were stationed abroad during World War II. There were so many that the United States passed a series of War Brides Acts in 1945 and 1946. This legislation provided them with an immigration pathway that didn’t previously exist under the Immigration Act of 1924, which imposed quotas on immigrants based on their nation of origin and strategically excluded or limited immigration from certain parts of the world, particularly Asia.
Equipped with little but a feeling and a sense of promise, war brides left everything that was familiar behind to forge a new identity in the United States. Many spoke little to no English upon their arrival in the country, and they were introduced to post-war American culture through specially designed curricula and communities. To this day, organizations for war brides in the United States provide networks for military spouses and their children, helping them keep their heritage alive and share their experiences of their adopted home.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on September 2, 2020, We Are The Mighty is proud to collaborate with Babbel, the new way to learn a foreign language. Babbel conducted interviews with surviving war brides as much of the world endured lockdown. Many of these women are now in their 80s and 90s, and their oral histories celebrate the challenges and successes of adapting to a new culture and language, as well as reflect on the leap of faith they all took to travel across the world to an unknown country. Spoiler alert: there are few regrets.
War Brides is a 5 part series.
I came to America in 1960. Washington is such a beautiful state, with its mountains, oceans and rivers. In many ways it reminds me of Japan, and that’s why I settled here. There’s also a strong Japanese community in Seattle, where my husband and I have settled.
I was born in the countryside of Japan, so I would run around a lot and study little. I remember playing all the time with no restrictions. When the war started, I was about 10 years old. We were in the countryside, and we had a ranch, so we didn’t have a problem feeding ourselves. Maybe a bit with meat and fish, but we produced our own rice and vegetables, so we were never hungry. I don’t remember seeing any soldiers, and we didn’t get bombed. Maybe 20 miles from my house was a city, Fukuoka, and one time I remember seeing the bombs from afar. To me it looked like fireworks. That’s what I remember.
I met my husband, Michael Forrester, through a mutual friend. He was in the U.S. Air Force. One night, he was visiting his friend, and by chance, I was visiting his friend’s wife, so that’s how we met. At first, I thought he was a snob like all the other American soldiers who came to Japan. You know how soldiers come in and take over our country and we couldn’t say anything. He thought he was a big shot, so I thought I would show him my Japanese spirit! That changed when he showed how persistent he was. He kept coming back, and the Japanese guys, they never did that. And he had plans for his life. I liked that about him. The way he looked to the future of his life — that’s what I fell in love with. He wanted to become a pilot, and I wanted to help.
When my father died, my brother quit school to become the head of the family. At that time in Japan, women weren’t supposed to be more educated than the head of the family, so my mother wouldn’t let me go to college. My teacher even tried to talk to my mother to convince her, but she still said no. So with Mike, and his plans, I said, “This is someone I can help go to college.” And now we’ve been married 62 years.
Initially, my family were not happy about me wanting to marry an American. Some of my family had died in the war, so my uncle was strictly against Americans and those who associated with them. He disowned me. But my other family members, they knew how stubborn I was, and they knew that once I had made up my mind, that was it. Their only worry was how would they help me if I was so far away.
We married in 1958. There were a couple of things in our way. When we filed for permission with the U.S. Air Force to marry, they sent Mike back to the United States! So it took time — close to two years. When he managed to come back to Japan, he was stationed. We actually had three weddings. The first was in a Shinto temple, which the Japanese recognized as an official marriage, but the Americans did not. It made it easier for me to move with Mike to his new station on Okinoerabujima. Then our second wedding was December 23, 1958, and our chaplain one was on February 17, 1959.
Our first wedding was a Japanese wedding, which meant you have to take your shoes off, and that’s when I saw that Mike had holes in his socks! I remember looking at his feet and saying, “What is this?”. The U.S. Air Force found out about our Shinto wedding, and they didn’t like it. They almost court-martialed Mike for it. But his mother wrote to President Eisenhower, who stopped it.
We moved ahead with our plans to move to the United States. I had gotten my visa and passport, and Mike was due to finish his service in the air force. One night, the MP and Japanese police knocked on my door, and I thought, “What now? Is Mike going to jail again?” But this time, it was the sad news that Mike’s father had died. So Mike had to leave straight away. It actually turned out that even though Mike left before me, I arrived in America two days before him. The American Red Cross helped me with getting the right tickets and everything. When I arrived in New York, I slept in the same bed as his mother, because there was no space for me.
Because it all happened so fast, I didn’t have a chance to feel sad about leaving Japan. It was more about how I could get there safely. And I was young, so my mind was made up. I’d heard great things about America. It was the land of opportunity. I know a lot of Japanese people who miss Japanese food, but I don’t miss much about Japan. I liked hamburgers, and steak, and Mike’s mom’s specialty was spaghetti. That was good!
I learned how to read and write English a little in Japan, but the pronunciation was difficult for me. Some words were easy to confuse, like “yard” and “garden.” When I arrived in America, I had three younger brothers-in-law. I had to learn how to speak English for my own survival. I was always listening in the beginning, and I found that was the best teacher.
We moved around America a lot. When I first came, I felt so free and energetic. I love it here. Nowadays, I think people forget to show kindness and manners, however, which saddens me.
I have been back to Japan many times since. It has changed a lot. Especially my village. We used to run through all the houses playing hide and seek without permission. But now all the houses have fences, and gates, so it must be different being a child there. And there are lots of multistory buildings. Everything is being built up.
I think it’s not enough for a young person to marry someone from another culture or another country simply for the sake of living in another country. There needs to be some sort of goal they share. They should think twice, because love will get you into trouble. On some level, I just don’t resonate with that sort of easy thinking of an easy marriage.
Air Force Airman 1st Class Lauren Nolan remembers running around the woods of North Carolina trying to catch a wild horse while she was a kid. She had fallen in love with a flea-bitten, little gray Arabian horse that nobody could manage to catch — except her.
Not yet tall enough to put the halter on, she remembers, she would put the rope around the horse’s neck and look to her dad for help.
For Nolan, a 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron materials management journeyman, this is where her passion for horses began, and that passion continues to be a blessing in her Air Force career.
“She can pick up on a horse’s personality in a second; she has a natural gift with them,” said Teresa Nolan, the airman’s mother. “Lauren would always get up really early. By the time I woke up, she would already be out in the pasture to see her horse and have her tied up, grooming her by herself.”
Stationed at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas since 2015, Lauren has two horses that occupy her time: Tiz Sunshine, 4 years-old, and Shoobie, 6 years-old — both off-the-track thoroughbreds. She boards them in the local community and spends her off-duty time taking care of them and training them for barrel racing.
“When I leave work, if I’m not helping out at the barn, I’m working with them on barrels,” Nolan said. “Shoobie is a diva, and Tiz is a little doll button. If you’re trying to teach Shoobie something and she doesn’t understand, she’ll give you attitude right back. Tiz will do whatever you tell her; she doesn’t care. She will stand there, look at you and stick her tongue out at you — she is so quirky.”
Much as a military training instructor develops civilians into airmen, training horses takes the same time and perseverance, although it’s a milder process. Nolan works with the horses almost every day, and has even set individual goals for them. She wants them to be patterned with the barrels and running well by the spring, she said.
“I have to have a lot of patience,” she added. “You can’t take a 1,200-pound animal and turn it into a superstar overnight. It takes months and months, but it’s very rewarding to take a horse that didn’t really have a chance, work with it and make it into something.”
Nolan also uses patience at work. She works in an office ordering aircraft parts for the KC-135 Stratotanker. The stress of having the responsibility of ordering millions of dollars’ worth of equipment and the potential for mistakes can be somewhat daunting. If she has a bad day at work, she said, her outlet for stress is in the dusty barn and muddy pasture.
“It’s very relaxing to go and just hang out with them and get rid of all the stressors of the day,” Nolan said. “My family is over 1,000 miles away. I can’t see them but once a year, so the horses mean everything to me. Tiz and Shoobie have helped me more than anything else ever could.”
With the unique challenges military members face, from frequent moves to deployments, everybody needs a way to unwind. Spending time with the horses is Nolan’s way, and realizing how much Tiz and Shoobie help her, she is sharing this experience with others.
“Every once in a while, I’ll take airmen out to see them so they can have their little getaway,” she said. “They could come ride them, brush them or just interact with the horses to help them cope with whatever they’re dealing with.”
Nolan also brings airmen’s families out to see the horses. She specifically wants to help first-term airmen who are new to base, as well as children with deployed parents, she said.
“I take anybody out to see the horses who needs it,” she added. “Being on base and in military life is stressful for a lot of the people. It has impacted and helped everybody I have ever brought out there — you can see it. The kids grin, laugh and giggle the whole time. It’s instant. They get all giddy the moment they see them.”
Just as Nolan takes pride in her work as an airman, she has pride in her horses. When she brings other people out to the barn to see Tiz and Shoobie, she said, she wants them to look their best.
“It’s in her nature, it’s who she is and what she loves,” Teresa Nolan said. “Lauren will do whatever she has to do to keep them healthy and well-fed, even it means she’s not going to have something, just to take care of the horses.”
She gets off work and switches from combat boots to cowboy boots. When she gets to the barn and heads to the pasture to round up the horses, she stops in her tracks. She’s got fellow airmen coming to the barn to see the horses and Shoobie looks like a walking mud puddle from rolling on the ground after a night of Kansas rain.
With a sigh, a few words mumbled under her breath and a hint of smile, she gets the watering hose and brush. Here they go again.
American troops are no exception. The only problem is that from the moment we join the service, we get indoctrinated into a world of shouting and expletives.
It turns out World War I was no different, and it wasn’t even the beginning.
Etymologists – people who study the history of languages and trace word meanings – found it difficult to follow the lineage of the word “fuck” for a long time. The word itself is so taboo in the English language that no one would ever write it down — even for historical documentation.
Luckily for us, the Oxford English Dictionary started following it in 1897, just in time for the First World War.
The OED only followed the word’s history but never included it in its dictionary – it was illegal to print in publications by the Comstock Act of 1873. The law stopped absolutely no one from using it in everyday speech, least of all the military troops in the trenches.
Some of the OED’s research includes this line from John Brophy’s “Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918.”
“It became so common that an effective way for the soldier to express this emotion was to omit this word. Thus if a sergeant said, ‘Get your f—ing rifles!’ it was understood as a matter of routine. But if he said ‘Get your rifles!’ there was an immediate implication of urgency and danger.”
Sometimes what you don’t say really is as important as what you do.
The definition of the word itself survived intact from its initial meaning, “to have sexual intercourse with,” and has been similarly pronounced and spelled since its first appearances in the 16th century.
OED found mention of the word as “fuccant” in a “scurrilous” Latin-Middle English hybrid poem, called “Flen Flyys,” about what local monks did with the wives of the nearby town of Ely, and thus why they did not get into heaven.
For over 40 years, some variant of the Patton family of tanks served America. From the mountains of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, and through the deserts of the Middle East Patton tanks bested America’s enemies time and again.
In 1950, the first Patton tank, the M46, entered service. The M46 was originally based on the WWII M26 Pershing heavy tank. However, after extensive redesigns and improvements, it received its own designation and a new namesake — Gen. George S. Patton, a hero of WWII.
The M46 was armed with a 90mm main gun, a .50 caliber machine gun, and two .30 caliber machine guns, one mounted coaxially, the other forward-firing in the hull.
The arrival of the Patton into service was just in time as in June of that year North Korea, armed with formidable Russian T34 tanks, rolled across the 38th Parallel into South Korea. Fighting alongside WWII-era M4 Shermans and the M26 Pershings it was meant to replace, the M46 would see heavy combat in Korea.
The first M46 tanks landed inside the Pusan Perimeter in August 1950 as part of the 6th Tank Battalion. They would prove critical in the defense. More M46s landed at Inchon with the 1st Marine Division’s 1st Tank Battalion.
In an attempt at psychological warfare, the tankers of the 24th Infantry Division’s 6th Tank Battalion painted tiger faces on their tanks thinking it would demoralize their superstitious Chinese adversaries.
By mid-1951 the Patton tanks had replaced all M26 Pershings in service in Korea. However, the M46’s own shortcomings had already led to the development of a replacement — the M47 Patton.
Though the M47 was introduced in 1952, it would be too late for it to see combat in Korea. However, the M47 was important because even though it shared design features and components with the M46 Patton, it was considered America’s first all-new tank design since WWII.
The M47, though, was just an interim design while engineers completed work on its successor, the M48 Patton. The M47 would never see combat but the M48 would be a workhorse of American and allied armored units.
Like its predecessors, the M48 also mounted a 90mm main gun; it was the last tank to do so, but had significant improvements in armor and performance.
The M48 was also introduced too late to see combat in Korea, but just over a decade later the Marines would take it to Vietnam. Soon, Army units were bringing their own Pattons to the fight.
Due to the nature of the conflict, the M48s did not often have the chance to go toe-to-toe with North Vietnamese armor. One of the few instances of tank combat came during the NVA assault on the Ben Het Camp where elements of the 1st Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment were stationed. The American Pattons easily defeated the NVA’s PT-76 tanks and BTR-50 APCs.
More often than not though, the M48s were relegated to infantry support — a role they excelled at. The Patton’s ruggedness allowed it to absorb a good amount of damage and its 90mm main gun was a welcome addition against dug-in enemies. A favorite of the troops was the Patton’s canister rounds, which acted like a giant shotgun through the jungle, cutting down man and tree alike.
A number of M48s were also converted to M67 “Zippo” tanks that mounted flamethrowers for dealing with stubborn Vietcong and NVA soldiers.
The Patton was also one of the few vehicles that could withstand the landmines that were employed against American forces. As such, it was often used as a route clearance vehicle to “sniff out” the explosive devices.
While the M48 was slogging it out in Vietnam, the next in line of the Patton family of tanks was coming into service with the American military: the M60 Patton, the M48s eventual replacement.
The M60 was the final tank in the Patton family line and America’s first Main Battle Tank. It mounted a modern 105mm main gun, a .50 caliber machine gun for the commander, and a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun.
The M60 also was the basis for the M60 Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge and the M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle, both of which were deployed to Vietnam alongside the M48s.
The M60 itself would not be deployed to Vietnam, but would be a mainstay of American armored formations, particularly in Europe.
One of the more interesting developments of the M60 Patton was the M60A2. Derisively known as the “Starship” because of its overly complex technology, the M60A2 mounted the same 152mm gun/missile system as the M551 Sheridan. A redesigned turret and an abundance of new technology gave the A2 variation a distinct look. However, the design was an overall disappointment and it was quickly retired.
Despite entering service some 30 years’ prior, the M60 Patton would not see significant combat until the end of its service history during the Persian Gulf War. Outfitting Marine tank battalions, the M60s performed admirably.
The Marines’ M60s spearheaded the assault to liberate Kuwait. In the fighting for Kuwait City, the M60 bested its original rival, the Soviet T62, time and again while sustaining only one tank lost to combat and no casualties. Marines manning Patton tanks destroyed over 100 Iraqi tanks and numerous other vehicles in the fighting.
Shortly after the Gulf War the M60 Patton was retired from combat service in favor of the new M1 Abrams. The last Pattons would return to Germany, the final resting place of their namesake, where they acted as OPFOR at the Combat Maneuver Training Center in Hohenfels before they too were retired in 2005.