When you think of men and women in uniform during the holiday season, it’s often a soldier in red from America’s Salvation Army ringing a bell in a call for aid to those in need.
But another service working to bring joy into the lives of those less fortunate has been at it for nearly 70 years, working day and night to solicit and distribute donated toys for young kids who may not have the benefit of a joyful holiday.
The Marine Corps Toys for Tots program was established in 1947 by then-California Marine Reserve Maj. Bill Hendricks and was formally adopted by the Marine Corps a year later.
Officially run by Marine reservists and with help from their Navy brethren, in the years since its founding, Leathernecks have been collecting donations and distributing toys to deserving children throughout the country.
In 2015, Marines distributed 18 million toys to 7 million kids in 782 communities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. And Toys for Tots has become as much a Marine Corps tradition as its legendary warfighting capability.
To get a sense of the importance of the program to the Corps, take a look at the video below.
The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany, the military’s transgender ban, the diversion of military construction funds to build a wall on the Mexico border — all of these controversial policies and others could be history on Day One of Joe Biden’s presidency.
As soon as he’s sworn in, Biden would have the authority with a stroke of a pen to reverse a string of controversial military and national security policies put in place by President Donald Trump’s executive orders or use of his emergency powers. The Associated Press and major news outlets projected Biden the winner Saturday, although the result still must be certified and is expected to face legal challenges from the Trump campaign.
Various advocacy groups are already lining up to hold Biden to his campaign promises to reverse Trump’s controversial military policies.
In a statement Saturday, the Modern Military Association of America, a non-profit LGBTQ advocacy group, said Biden was expected to reverse Trump’s executive order that effectively banned transgender military service.
“Thankfully, President-elect Biden has pledged to quickly take action and reverse Trump’s unconstitutional transgender military ban,” MMAA said. “Every qualified American patriot — regardless of their gender identity — should be able to serve.”
Trump’s surprise decision in July to remove nearly 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany, shifting some eastward and sending others home, could also be reversed rapidly under Biden’s stated objective to shore up NATO and strengthen partnerships with allies.
The early indicator of how far the new president will go in abandoning Trump’s “America First” policy will be “whether Biden will move to reverse Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany,” said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.
“Doing so will be a down payment on ensuring adequate resources are available to deter Russia,” Skaluba wrote in an analysis Saturday shortly after Biden claimed victory.
To the end of shoring up alliances, Biden could also immediately end the impasse with South Korea over how much Seoul pays to support the presence of 28,000 U.S. troops on the peninsula.
South Korea currently pays about $900 million and has offered a 13% increase, which has been rejected by the Trump administration.
Biden has also pledged to move quickly to halt construction of the border wall and possibly move to withdraw the more than 4,000 active-duty and National Guard troops the Trump administration has deployed to the border to support Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security.
At a joint convention in August of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Biden vowed to halt construction of the border wall.
By declaring a national emergency at the border in 2019, Trump began diverting $2.5 billion in funding from military construction and counter-drug programs authorized by Congress to the border wall. Biden could begin to reverse that by declaring an end to the national emergency.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A special missions aviator from the 41st Rescue Squadron looks out from an HH-60G Pave Hawk over Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., May 20, 2016. Airmen simulated different combat and rescue situations to synchronize efforts between a variety of Air Combat Command airframes.
An F-15E Strike Eagle soars above Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., May 20, 2016. Multiple Air Combat Command aircraft conducted joint aerial training, showcasing the aircraft’s tactical air and ground maneuvers, as well as their weapons capabilities.
A soldier conducts physical training while deployed with Task Force Red Wolf during Exercise Beyond The Horizon 2016 at San Marcos, Guatemala, May 30, 2016.
A soldier observes a Bradley Fighting Vehicle maneuver on an objective during a U.S. Army Central combined arms live-fire exercise, part of Exercise Eager Lion, at the Joint Training Center, Jordan, May 24, 2016. Eager Lion is an annual two-week interoperability exercise that aims to increase the partnership ties between the U.S. and Jordanian militaries.
NORFOLK, Va. (June 1, 2016) Master Chief Ship’s Serviceman Alberto Sanchez, center, judges a barber competition as part of Surface Line Week Atlantic. Held annually in Norfolk, Surface Line Week brings Sailors and federal civilians together for friendly athletic and professional competitions.
NORFOLK, Va. (June 1, 2016) Seaman Tristen Blair, assigned to the USS Monterey (CG 61), hugs his mother Karla Blair before the ship departs Naval Station Norfolk with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG). The ships are deploying in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation as well as the Great Green Fleet initiative. While deployed, CSG ships and aircraft will employ operational procedures and energy conservation measures in order to enhance operational capabilities, enabling strike group units to go farther, stay longer and deliver more firepower without having to refuel.
Marines assigned to Officer Candidate School (OCS) participate in the Combat Course aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, May 11, 2016. The mission of OCS is to educate and train candidates in order to evaluate and screen individuals for qualities required for commissioning as a Marine Corps officer.
Marines assigned to Officer Candidate School participate in the Montford Point challenge aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, May 19, 2016. The challenge consisted of a supply run where the Marines went through obstacles and faced similar physical challenges as the Montford Point Marines.
This Memorial Day we honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and our freedom.
Pictured here is USCG Cutter Marcus Hanna anchored near the Isle of Shoals in New Hampshire. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenny Galanif.
Operation Inherent Resolve, the war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, is now a year and a half old and has cost $6.2 billion. The Pentagon is asking for another $7.5 billion to continue the fight. The cost of the war against ISIS is relatively cheap (s0 far) when compared to the Iraq War, which came to almost $2 trillion over the eight years it was fought.
The war against ISIS isn’t going to get any cheaper, especially especially in light of the fact that it’s spreading to other countries like Libya and Afghanistan. Combating their forces on the ground will require more air power and more special operations units backed up by all the necessary logistics commands.
As of March 9, 2016, U.S. and coalition aircraft launched a total of 10,870 air strikes, with nearly twice as many in Iraq than in Syria. The strikes have hit a total of 21,501 targets, mostly buildings and ISIS fighting positions.
The average daily cost of the operation is $11.5 million. The most expensive ops belong to the U.S. Air Force, a whopping 69 percent of the total cost.
When Army basic training soldier Jennifer Campbell was told to run through smoke on the obstacle course, she leaned into it and went for the awesome photo moment of charging through the thickest plume of smoke.
Unfortunately for her, it wasn’t white smoke; it was o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile, a potent form of tear gas used to teach basic trainees to trust their chemical masks and other gear. But Campbell wasn’t wearing chemical gear; she was running full speed and sucking down air on an obstacle course.
So the young soldier got two lungs full of the agitating gas, forcing violent coughs as her drill sergeants got a good laugh and the other trainees scrambled to get their masks on.
But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and Campbell got her own laughs when the winds shifted and the rest of her platoon got hit unprotected, including the drill sergeant who triggered her episode. See how it all went down in the Go90 video embedded at the top.
Police officers and the military share a special bond in the United States. Many police officers are former military members themselves, and many of those officers have deployed to support various military operations. But even if they aren’t veterans, no one in America can come close to understanding what it means to serve quite like the people who make up the thin blue line.
Both professions are dangerous and difficult. Police officers all over the country know theirs is a job that could cost them their lives. Who better to understand the courage and sacrifice military members make all over the world? So, when a cop stops his or her duties to take a moment and show respect to a returning troop, it’s meaningful.
When a line of cops stop — and stop traffic — to do it, it’s downright heartwarming.
(Rhea Ramsey Taylor)
A line of police officers on motorcycles stopped their lives and their duties while in uniform to stand and render a sharp salute to buses full of soldiers returning home from Afghanistan. The Colorado Springs cops stood at attention next to their bikes, blocking oncoming traffic, as they saluted.
It was a small gesture, but it allowed the buses carrying the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division to make and immediate left-hand turn, rather than waiting those excruciating last few minutes to turn before going onto the base and getting the troops back to their loved ones.
It’s not known how long this group of Fort Carson soldiers were away from their families, but the extra time it would have taken for a long line of buses to turn left across a divided highway was ten more minutes longer than necessary. The video above was captured by Coloradan Rhea Ramsey Taylor, who was coming home after helping a friend move. She was overcome with emotion while recording the moment.
“When they got off the bikes and saluted, I was in tears,” she told CBS News. “It’s a great, positive way to recognize our police officers and welcome home our troops.“
The buses of the returning soldiers were also escorted by local police officers, a small indicator of just how important the military is to the relatively close-knit community around Fort Carson.
While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.
Ronald Lee Ermey, like many of us, was a mischievous kid and teenager. At the age of 17, the judge gave him a choice that would forever change him: Juvenile Detention or military service. The Corps did him right and he did right by the Corps, eventually becoming a Drill Instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and deploying to Vietnam with the Marine Wing Support Group 17.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
After being medically retired for injuries incurred during service, Ermey attended the University of Manilla to study drama where he met his future wife, Nila Ermey. He also had his first taste of Hollywood with a bit role in the Sidney J. Furie film The Boys from Company C, which was a precursor to and inspiration for Full Metal Jacketwhere he would also be cast as a Drill Instructor.
His acumen capturing the warrior on film led him to be called directly on set for Apocalypse Now.
Frances Ford Coppola had filmed his Vietnam War-era epic not too far from Ermey’s university in The Philippines. Ermey became the technical advisor to the man who directed The Godfather; Ermey let Coppola know how things were actually done in Vietnam.
He also scored his next acting role as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him helicopter pilot during the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” scene.
He would continue to act in other films that fit his range, likea Jaws knock-off called Up from the Depths and a sappy Vietnam War romance film called Purple Hearts. Neither would go down as cinematic masterpieces — but it was his passion. He kept busy until he was offered to be the technical advisor for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.
For the non-cinema buffs who are unaware of Kubrick’s directing style, he wasn’t the easiest man to work with. The script had to be followed to a “T” and improv was strictly forbidden. The infamous scene in The Shining where Wendy frantically swings a baseball bat at Jack took 127 takes to get right — that was the level of perfection Kubrick worked with.
None of that threw Ermey. The story goes that while filming, Ermey had worked extensively with the original Gunny Hartman, portrayed by Tim Colceri. Ermey had written 150 pages of insults that would naturally flow out of a Drill Instructor’s mouth — and nearly none of them were used. The few that were chosen came across as weak and nonthreatening.
Ermey did what every good Devil Dog would do in a situation like this. He bulldogged Colceri (would eventually be recast as the door gunner who screams “Get some!“) off camera. He barked insults at the scared actors while channeling his real Drill Instructor past. And he did everything off the cuff.
Kubrick was so impressed he kept Ermey as Gunny Hartman, despite being contrary to every directing technique he used.
Ermey would be nominated at the 1988 Golden Globes for his role of Gunny Hartman and would become a main stay in pop culture icon and the first impression many have of military life.
It was the Air Force’s birthday this week — and it seems like, in terms of gifts, they got a lot: Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Keith Wright spoke about “hybrid airmen,” which would make airmen more badass and less likely to be mocked by the other branches, the “Up or Out” rule is being evaluated because it was stupid to begin with, and the Captain Marvel trailer, featuring a superhero who was a USAF pilot, dropped the morning of its birthday.
Happy birthday, ya high-flyin’ bastards. Make another trip to the chocolate fondue fountain — you guys earned it.
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
It’s been years and I still can’t figure out whether you’re supposed to say “you’re welcome.”
I usually just respond with, “thank you for your support” and awkwardly give them the finger guns.
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Sarcastic Memes Ruining Crewman’s Dreams)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Shammers United)
(Meme via Disabled Marine Corps Minds)
(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
No lie. You can hate it all you want, but you’ll eventually say “screw it” and try it.
Then you learn it’s for a single steak and you’ll nope the f*ck out of there and take your happy ass to the greasiest, most disgusting KFC known to man — which happens to be right next door.
This week’s Borne the Battle features Wayne Hanson, the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Wreaths Across America (WAA).
WAA is a national campaign that coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at over 1,700 national cemeteries, culminating at Arlington National Cemetery. The three-fold purpose of WAA aims to remember fallen U.S Veterans, honor those who currently serve, and teach children the value of freedom. Here, Hanson explains WAA’s humble beginnings and its rise into the national organization that it is today.
In this episode, Hanson discusses his time in the Army and the socio-political atmosphere of when he returned from Vietnam. He talks about transition and his gradual involvement at WAA. Lastly, he shares the four words from a stranger that kept him motivated to work even to this day.
For more information on Wreaths Across America, or for info on how to volunteer, visit the WAA website.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
As the Florida sun beat down mercilessly on the adaptive athletes, medically retired Army Sgt. Aaron Stewart competed in cycling and swimming at the 2016 Invictus Games here not for medals, but for a fellow fallen soldier.
Stewart dedicated his athletic performances to Leonard Sear, a fellow soldier who saved his life. Stewart, who is transgender, competed in the female category.
Competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, Stewart earned silver medals in the time trial and criterium in cycling. And in swimming, he earned silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle and a bronze medal in the 50-meter backstroke in his disability category.
In the 2014 Invictus Games, before he began hormone treatments, Stewart earned two gold medals in cycling in the time trial and criterium. At the Warrior Games in 2014, he earned seven medals in swimming, air pistol and the air rifle.
Having served in flight operations for eight years, Stewart has injuries to his back, spinal stenosis and sciatica, shoulder issues and also has post-traumatic stress from military sexual trauma. He said he met Sear while they were serving in a wounded warrior transition battalion in 2012.
“They did recovery things there where we got together in groups and did yoga, rock climbing and things like that to help mentally bring us together,” Stewart said. “We were in the same unit. I attempted suicide about six months after we became friends, and he found me and saved my life. And then five months to the day after I attempted suicide, he died, so it’s a huge loss — someone that close to me to be gone.”
Thanks to Sear, support from friends like Army Capt. Kelly Elmlinger, and adaptive sports, Stewart said, he’s still here and doesn’t have suicidal thoughts any more. “”He saved my life, but adaptive sports have kept me alive since.”
Stewart recommends adaptive sports to any disabled service members or veterans who may need help in their recovery.
“When I first got injured, I was extremely depressed. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew my military career was over at that point,” he said. “Sports gave me something to look forward to. It gave me an objective and something to focus on. It got me out of that depression. It essentially saved my life. It’s kept me going.”
He said anyone thinking about taking up an adaptive sport should get out there and try it.
“You’re not accomplishing anything sitting where you are,” he said. “You’re not going to feel any worse getting out there. It was a life-changer for me, so I would definitely recommend getting out there and trying it. You gain a whole new family, a huge support group, and it’s a lifesaver, really.”
A good, stout door will protect people from a lot of dangers. It will not, however, save enemies of the U.S. from America’s armed forces. While troops can usually open a door with a swift donkey kick or a battering ram, they also have more violent ways of making an entrance.
1. Rifle-fired grenades
The Simon grenade rifle entry munition, or GREM, is mounted on the end of a M-16 rifle or M-4 carbine. The weapon’s standard 5.56mm round is fired, striking the grenade and sending it 15-30 meters to the target door. Once the grenade’s standoff rod strikes the target, the grenade detonates and opens the door — violently.
2. Standard breaching charges
When firing a grenade isn’t an option, troops can just plant an explosive on the door.
3. Water charge
A modification of the standard explosive charge, water charges reduce the risk of injury to the breachers or the people on the other side of the door. Standard explosives sandwiched between containers of water are placed on the door and detonated. Water bottles are commonly used, but this video was filmed using IV bags.
Of course, service members who are already carrying a shotgun would probably prefer to just use it. Troops press the barrel against the frame, aiming for hinge points or where bolts pass through the frame. Once the round rips through the wood, the door can be quickly kicked or pushed open.
5. Blowing out an entire wall
Sometimes it’s not a good idea to go through the door at all. In that case, there are a few ways to rig explosives to make a new opening in a wall. In this video, det cord was placed on a marksmanship target to create a large, oval-shaped explosive and the whole thing was stuck to the wall. When detonated, it makes a hole big enough to run through. To go straight to the explosion in the video, skip to 2:20.
For years, there was one benefit the Air Force had over all branches of the military, the one thing you could only get by crossing into the blue: an associate’s degree from the Community College of the Air Force, a two-year, accredited degree program that integrates all your military training with the addition of just a few general courses. You couldn’t get it with the Army or Navy.
Now, members of any branch can start a similar program to earn a degree from Syracuse University – for free.
In an age of skyrocketing tuition that has Presidential candidates debating if colleges and universities have gone too far, Syracuse University is opening its doors to more and more people, especially America’s active duty troops, reservists, National Guard members, and veterans.
With part-time learners like U.S. military members in mind, the school has created a way for the entire armed forces to go Orange. Syracuse University has aligned the part-time tuition rates it charges active duty members enrolled in online classes to match the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) reimbursement. This means no matter where they’re stationed, if they want a degree from a top-tier four-year university, they can have it without ever touching GI Bill benefits.
The move is part of Syracuse University’s and Chancellor Kent Syverud’s dedication to the U.S. military, its veterans, and their families. Since Syverud took his post in 2014, his administration has taken enormous steps to further serve veteran students and their families. The number of military-connected students at the university has skyrocketed more than 500 percent in five years. The school even employs veteran admissions advisors who help military members transition from the service to student life, assisting with GI Bill and other Veterans Affairs processes. Syracuse even has a number of special programs dedicated to veteran student successes – including veteran-only offices, study areas, advisors, immersion programs, and even legal clinics.
Syracuse has a long history of supporting American veterans. While the school recently established the interdisciplinary Institute for Veterans and Military Families, an on-campus non-profit that works to advance veterans’ post-military lives nationwide (not just at Syracuse), the school’s commitment to vets dates back to the end of World War II, when the school guaranteed admission for all veterans. Its university college for part-time students was initially created for veterans who couldn’t study full-time. Since then, the school has specially trained thousands of the Pentagon’s officers, photojournalists, and other disciplines in the military. Syracuse even allowed Marines deployed to the 1991 Gulf War to continue their studies independently.
Their work continues, with partnerships to train entrepreneurial military spouses backed by Google, conducting studies to tackle veteran unemployment and homelessness, and even testifying before the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, no one is more dedicated to the post-military success of American veterans. If you’re looking for a powerful, positive community of veterans to join when leaving the military, look no further.