Most people set their sights on big ambitions as a kid. For those youngsters who dream of being in the military, it typically includes visions of becoming a fighter pilot, a ship commander or Navy SEAL.
But for one California resident, those lofty goals weren’t nearly enough.
Dr. Jonny Kim enlisted the Navy in 2002 and successfully made it through BUD/s and onto SEAL Team 3. During his service in the SEALs, Kim worked as a combat medic, sniper, navigator and point man on two deployments.
Kim completed more than 100 combat missions during his time in the Middle East, earning a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat “V.”
During Kim’s first combat tour, he lost a fellow SEAL which helped steer him towards a career in the medical field.
“The moment I knew I wanted to go into medicine was during my first deployment to Ramadi which is when one of my best friends was shot,” Kim has said. “After doing everything I could for him, securing his airway, controlling his bleeding, there wasn’t much more I could do for him but watch the spectacular team of emergency medicine physicians save my friend’s life.”
Kim decided to complete one more deployment with the SEALs before heading off to college to pursue his medical career.
He attended the University of San Diego earning a degree in mathematics and then a Doctorate in Medicine at Harvard. According to NASA, Kim received an officer’s commission in the Medical Corps following his graduation.
Kim went on to perform his residency at Massachusetts General and Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston for emergency medicine .
In June 2017, Kim received some incredible news — he’s one of 12 to be selected for the 2017 NASA Astronaut Candidate Class. The training will take up to two years before he could become a fully certified astronaut.
Soon, Dr. Kim could be wearing a space suit instead of his medical scrubs.
Jeremy Lee MacKenzie is an artist & filmmaker whose career began after being incarcerated as a teenager. His artwork, “Hidden Blueprints,” is a collection of wood-scrollwork cut from blueprints that were hidden in the prison system. He discovered the blueprints while serving sentences that totaled eight years, for bank robbery & drug trafficking.
He was inspired to become a filmmaker while working as a prison movie projectionist where he studied screenwriting and was released with scholarships to Champlain College. In 2015, he was awarded a screenwriting fellowship to Stowe Story Labs and that same year, won gold in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards in LA.
In 2017, MacKenzie completed his film “Hidden Blueprints: The Story of Mikey,” and received the James Goldstone Emerging Filmmaker Award. In 2018, he was chosen for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Award and was then admitted to the USC School of Cinematic Arts to pursue his MFA on a George Lucas Scholarship.
Annenberg Media: Tell me about where you are from and your life growing up?
MacKenzie: I’m from Burlington, VT and my childhood was complicated. I had a lot of challenging things happen while growing up and I ended up in adult prison at the age of 17 for bank robbery. Looking back, it feels like it was 100 years ago, like I’ve lived in quantum time where every year contained the events of five years.
Annenberg Media: What is the most distinct memory you have of your mother and father?
MacKenzie: A positive memory I have of my mother is how she always encouraged me to be an artist and be creative. She was always very honest and encouraging if she thought I was good at something. My father encouraged storytelling and read me a lot of books growing up. He tested me on the stories to see if I was listening. He would reread me the same story and then change certain plot lines to see if I was paying attention. I would stop him and tell him, “no dad, the storyline goes like this…”
Annenberg Media: What challenges did you face at school and in the community?
MacKenzie: My parents separated after my younger sister passed away. I lived with my mother most of the time and my father during summers. When I was really young, I did well in school. At a certain point in my childhood we moved into a trailer park where we were living in poverty. A lot of the people living in that trailer park did not care much about school and were into drugs. Those became really tough years since I valued education but was now being punished for valuing academics.
At first I had to fight kids often when getting off the school bus because I was into focusing on school. My parents always tried focus my attention on education. I was very young and got sick of fighting and being an outsider, so I ended up joining the crowd. I got into drugs to succeed in that world. I often wondered if people around me who chose the drug path, went through those same bad experiences as I did.
At the age of 12 or 13, I transitioned into selling drugs and became a drug dealer. I wanted to excel in a world I was way behind in. By 14-years-old, my parents had lost full control. I had an 18-year-old stripper girlfriend living with me. I was deep into the world of drug dealing: at age 14, it was cocaine, 15, it was opiates, at 16, I was arrested for dealing heroin and at 17, I was locked up for bank robbery.
Bang, that escalated quickly! My parents were baffled at how things changed so rapidly.
Annenberg Media: Where did this lifestyle lead you?
MacKenzie: I served three sentences totaling eight years. During one of those sentences, I earned my high school diploma but was still struggling to separate from the drug world. During the course of one of my sentences, I was sent to a corporate prison in Kentucky. When I got there, I got my first college opportunity. Hazard Community College selected 20 inmates who they gave grants to start college while incarcerated.
Due to overcrowding and the mistreatment of inmates, a lot of violence was going on in the facility. It was a for-profit prison and the administration was not friendly. I had to make a choice between focusing on college or joining an uprising in the prison. A group of inmates were planning a revolt and ended up having a riot at the facility. The riot took over the facility for a night and the administration building was burned which included the education facility. The college opportunity went up in smoke. We were in lockdown for many months while they rebuilt the prison around us. This gained a lot of national media attention.
Annenberg Media: Did you have any creative outlets while incarcerated?
MacKenzie: Isolation can be a powerful tool. After the riot, while in lock down I started designing artwork. I would design blueprints for big pieces of wood-scrollwork. I had learned this wood cutting technique as a teenager from an old clock maker in prison and I taught myself how to design. I was designing on taped-together pieces of paper but we weren’t allowed to have the paper so I had to hide my blueprints until I could bring them home.
Those blueprints came to be my artwork years later. I used them as a tool for storytelling. Many of the blueprints I drew didn’t directly depict prison but told the stories of our experience on the inside through ancient themes. When I was not designing I started getting into TV and movies and I started watching this show called “Medium.” Everybody watched it. It was a way to escape from prison.
MacKenzie: My darkest moment came during my third sentence when I could no longer hide from my darkest truths and my responsibilities. I couldn’t hide the impact my actions had on my friends, family and community; I experienced a paradigm shift. I was in a segregation cell where I had more charges coming. The drug dealers who had been supplying me since I was an adolescent, who I had been protecting my whole life, were not protecting me or anyone else. The whole veil of that world came crashing down.
I realized the effect my life was having on everyone around me and the people I had protected and followed didn’t care about me anymore. I was in the segregation cell and I noticed there was a broken razor blade on the floor. “This is my out,” I thought. This was one of the few moments in my life where I contemplated suicide. But, I looked out the window and thought to myself, “No one could explain this to my dog, she’s never gonna know what happened.” I just wanted to see my dog again. She probably saved my life. Tests find a way of placing themselves in your path, especially at your darkest moments. I needed to let things play out until the end.
Annenberg Media: How was your life impacted after making the decision to stay alive?
MacKenzie: That was a very challenging period of time, but it passed. And I ended up getting a job as a prison movie projectionist. It was a makeshift movie theater with prison walls. We screened everything from the original “Star Wars” to “Casablanca” and “Chinatown.” It was a powerful experience watching “Star Wars” projected onto a prison wall.
While working as a prison movie projectionist, I started writing stories with the women’s prison. The women were relatable and had similar situations to mine. But we weren’t allowed to write to other prisons so I would send the letters to my father and he would re-address them to the women I was writing. I invited them to write a story where the women and I could insert our own characters and set them off on a journey together. I was very grateful to the women for that, as it provided a creative medium that was very valuable. It also provided companionship and helped with loneliness.
Working with the prison movie theater was a crucial time for me. All those earlier years of my father testing me on stories came back to me. I decided I wanted to become a filmmaker. I focused on screenwriting and reached out to different colleges to get the books they used in their screenwriting courses. I was no longer in a corporate prison and I made a deal with teachers to recycle prison paperwork. The education offices would print scripts on the back of the recycled paperwork I brought them. Filmmaking was like life or death- in my previous life I was going to die and this new life was the only way out. There were no other choices.
Annenberg Media: Did you plan on getting further education?
MacKenzie: I got a scholarship to go to college when I came home. The scholarship letter came from Bernie Sanders, which I still have. When I came home I realized there was all this time that I had missed. I did a lot of catching up in college.
As soon as I got to undergrad, I won gold in the Page International Screenwriting Awards for a screenplay. The award and screenplay got me connected with Julie Pacino, Al Pacino’s daughter. I began to excel and was pushed more towards directing. Julie ended up producing my film, “Hidden Blueprints.” Things began to happen much more rapidly and I ended up using “Hidden Blueprints” to apply to USC.
Back then, Ben Stiller was making his show “Escape at Dannemora” and his group reached out to have me in the show as an inmate. I have an escape on my record- at one point I tried to run away from prison- so I was not able to get security clearance to enter prison. But, I took a role as an extra on a different part of his show so I could still be apart of the production. I had this really funny moment where I was standing on set with Ben Stiller to my right and I was quietly watching him work. Then, the main actress comes out and I’m suddenly hit with this really familiar feeling: the actress was Patricia Arquette who I watched in the TV show, “Medium” years ago in that destroyed prison in Kentucky. I realize I’m standing in the middle of a show about escaping from prison starring the actress of the show we all used to watch to escape from the prison we were in. It was an interesting and affirming moment.
I sent the production staff of the show an email about it. It made me reflect on how far my arc had brought me. Within a matter of days the George Lucas Scholarship came in for USC. It gave me chills. I had projected “Star Wars” movies on a prison wall. Now I was headed to LA.
Aron Meinhardt, J. Lee MacKenzie, and Julie Pacino
Annenberg Media: Why Hollywood and why now?
MacKenzie: This is the epicenter of storytelling. I came here to fully engage in storytelling and USC helped me get here. I knew this was the path. This is the place to begin and branch off. This is a time when people from all different places and backgrounds can tell stories. I felt like I was one of those people that could have a place here.
Annenberg Media: What is it like to be a George Lucas Scholar at the School of Cinematic Arts?
MacKenzie: From where I come from, it has been extremely helpful and it has been an honor to have the opportunities I’ve had. I had the opportunity to work with some incredible people like Riley and Austin Lynch, Julie Pacino, Aron Meinhardt and many others. I got to collaborate with C. Craig Patterson who is a great friend, he is on a George Lucas Scholarship as well. I look forward to seeing who else I get to meet and work with.
Annenberg Media: What are your career and life goals?
MacKenzie: I want to direct movies. I direct films not because I love it, but because I feel compelled to. Telling stories was my only way out and it is the only pathway I see forward. I am going to continue on that path and see where it leads. It took a lot of people helping and believing in me to get this far. It didn’t start out that way. I deeply appreciate the people that helped me along the way. Wherever this path goes, I hope it is fruitful for both myself and for those that helped.
Annenberg Media: How is the coronavirus social distancing affecting you and do you have any recommendations?
MacKenzie: As I said, isolation can be a very powerful thing. I know a lot of people are stuck inside right now, for much longer than they are used to. A lot of movies are not getting made. People are scared and they are experiencing their own moments of darkness. But some of the most creative years of my life began with isolation and darkness like this. It wouldn’t surprise me if the solitude of this pandemic inspires and gives birth to a lovely period of filmmaking in its wake, the likes of which the world has perhaps never seen. I really hope to be a part of that movement and I think we will all feel fortunate when we see it happen.
Featured image shows J. Lee and Isabela Penagos—USC arts students.
With the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I just around the corner, world leaders of the war’s victorious Triple Entente powers are looking back at those who finally brought the grinding trench warfare to its bitter end. One of those was French Marshal Philippe Petain, who led France’s forces during the Great War, who halted the German advance into France at Verdun in 1916.
In fact, Petain’s role at Verdun, combined with his favor of firepower over manpower saved countless French lives throughout the war and his promotion to Commander-In-Chief may have saved France from falling out of the war entirely. It was what he did later in life that tainted his legacy.
On Wednesday, Nov. 8, French President Emmanuel Macron praised Marshal Petain for his leadership and vision during the Great War – and rightfully so. But in France, Petain will always be a controversial figure. He was the World War I hero that collaborated with the Nazis after the Fall of France. In doing so, he became the head of state of the infamous French regime based in Vichy.
His legacy is marred by his collaboration, but his memory is controversial. The once-hero is beloved by some, hated by others, but remembered by all for better or worse. President Macron touched on this when he said, “Marshal Petain was also a great soldier during World War I” despite “fatal choices during the Second World War… I pardon nothing, but I erase nothing of our history.”
Petain in World War I.
World War I on the Western Front was not going well for the Entente Powers. The Germans made great gains at the beginning of the war. Petain, newly promoted to a general’s rank, was one of few French commanders who saw real success. It was at Verdun where his true genius came in to play. He kept rotating his frontline troops every two weeks instead of keeping them on the battlefield.
This gave him a reputation of being more of a soldier’s soldier than just a general commanding faceless masses of troops. That it was a more effective tactic was a great bonus.
In the interwar years, Petain went to work for the French government and became ambassador to Fascist Spain. After the outbreak of World War II in Europe, he returned to France and became a member of the government yet again. After the fall of Paris, he escaped to Bordeaux with the rest of the government. In deciding how to proceed after the fall of the French capital, the government was reshuffled and Petain became Prime Minister.
The majority opinion of the new French government called for an armistice with Nazi Germany, which was accepted. The new puppet government of France would convene at Vichy, the name that would become synonymous with collaboration in the coming years.
Henri Petain was the the leader of the new Vichy France while Paris became just another city in Hitler’s “Greater Germanic Reich.” Vichy France produced volunteers to fight alongside the Nazis, produced war materials, and even ordered overseas possessions to fight Allied forces.
France was, of course, eventually liberated and, after the war’s end, General Charles DeGaulle became head of the new French provisional government. Petain was put on trial for treason, convicted, and stripped of all military rank and title, save for one – Marshal of France. Imprisoned in the Pyrenees Mountains, Petain’s health began to steadily decline until he died in 1951.
Trident Juncture, taking place between Oct. 25 and Nov. 7, 2018, in and around Norway, is just one of NATO’s military exercises in 2018.
But officials have said the 50,000 troops, tens of thousands of vehicles, and dozens of planes and ships on hand make it the biggest NATO exercise since the Cold War.
NATO leaders have stressed it’s strictly a defensive exercise, but it comes amid heightened tensions between NATO and Russia, and Moscow has made its displeasure well known.
What’s also clear is that as the US and NATO refocus on operations in Europe, they’re preparing to deal with a foe that predates the alliance and the rival it was set up to counter.
German infantrymen board a MV-22B Osprey during Trident Juncture 18 at Vaernes Air Base, Norway, Nov. 1, 2018.
(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira)
“So when I was back in the States a couple weeks ago doing a press conference on Trident Juncture, people asked me the question, ‘Why in the world would you do this in October and November in Norway? It’s cold,'” Adm. James Foggo, who heads the Navy’s 6th Fleet and is overseeing Trident Juncture, said in an Oct. 27, 2018 interview.
“That’s exactly why,” he added. “Because we’re toughening everyone up.”
The US military maintained a massive presence in Europe during the Cold War. The bulk of it was in Germany, though US forces, like the Marine Corps hardware in secret caves in Norway, were stationed around the continent.
In the years after the Cold War, however, the emphasis on major operations in Europe — and the logistical and tactical preparations they entail — waned, as operations in the desert environments of the Middle East expanded.
In recent years, the US and NATO have taken a number of steps to reverse that shift, and with that has come renewed attention to the challenges of cold-weather operations.
Belgian and German soldiers from the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force train for weapons proficiency in Norway during Exercise Trident Juncture, Oct. 30, 2018.
(PAO 1 German/Netherlands Corps)
“The change is all of us are having to recapture the readiness mindset and ability to fight full-spectrum in all conditions across the theater,” said Ben Hodges, who commanded the US Army in Europe before retiring as a lieutenant general at the end of 2017.
“The Marines used to always be in Norway. They had equipment stored in caves,” Hodges said.
“I cannot imagine Hohenfels or Grafenwoehr without freezing” weather, he added, referring to major Army training areas in Germany. “It’s either freezing there or completely muddy.”
“We used to always do that” kind of training, Hodges said, but, “frankly, because of the perception and hope that Russia was going to be a friend and a partner, we stopped working on those things, at least the US did, to the same level.”
In mid-October 2018, US Marines rehearsed an amphibious assault in Iceland to simulate retaking territory that would be strategically valuable in the North Atlantic. That assault was practice for another landing to take place during Trident Juncture, where challenging terrain and weather were again meant to test Marine capabilities.
US Marines during Trident Juncture 18 near Hjerkinn, Norway, Nov. 2, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne)
“Cold-weather training, we’ve had training before … we got underway. Just being here is a little different,” said Chief Petty Officer David Babil, a senior ramp marshal overseeing the Corps’ amphibious-landing exercise in Alvund, Norway. “You’ve just got to stay warm. The biggest difference is definitely the weather, but other than that we train how we fight, so we’re ready 24/7.”
Chances for unique training conditions are also found ashore.
“The first consideration is the opportunity to employ the tanks in a cold-weather environment,” said 1st Lt. Luis Penichet, a Marine Corps tank platoon commander, ahead of an exercise that included a road march near Storas in central Norway.
“So once the conditions start to ice over and or fill with snow, one thing we are unable to train in Lejeune is to cleat the tanks and drive them in those type of conditions,” Penichet added. “So we have the possibility to replace [tank tread] track pads with metal cleats to allow us to continue maneuvering. So that is one benefit of operating in the environment like this.”
US Marines in a Landing Craft Air Cushion vehicle from the USS New York perform an amphibious landing at Alvund, Norway, during Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 30, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tanner Seims)
“Everything is more difficult in the cold, whether it’s waking up in the morning or even something as simple as going from your tent to the shower,” said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Kyle Davis, the camp commandant at Orland Airfield at Brekstad, on the central Norwegian coast.
The US Defense Department recently extended the Marine Corps deployment in Norway, where Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has emphasized that the Corps is trying to prepare for a potential “big-ass fight” in harsh conditions.
But US personnel aren’t the only ones who see the benefits of training at the northern edge of Europe.
“To my surprise, it wasn’t actually much of a change in our equipment,” said 1st Lt. Kristaps Kruze, commander of the Latvian contingent at the exercise, when asked about how the weather affected his gear.
(US Marine Corps photo)
“That just proves that our equipment is not only capable of withstanding temperature in Latvia, but also capable of withstanding harsh winters also in Norwegian territory,” Kruze said in an interview in Rena, near Norway’s border with Sweden, as Trident Juncture got underway.
“During Trident Juncture, since we are in Norway, we have to deal with the cold weather,” Sgt. Cedric, a French sniper, said in Rena, as French, Danish, British, and German troops conducted long-range sniper training.
“For a sniper, cold weather requires to be more careful when shooting. It can affect the shooting a lot,” Cedric said. “Also, when we are infiltrating, we need to make sure we conserve energy and stay warm once we are in position.”
Integrating with NATO forces in the harsh conditions was particularly important for troops from Montenegro, which is NATO’s newest member.
Italian army soldiers face off against members of the Canadian army in a simulated attack during Trident Juncture in Alvdal, Norway, Nov. 3, 2018.
(Photo by MCpl Pat Blanchard)
“As you can see there is much snow and its temperature [is in] the very low degrees,” Lt. Nikola Popovic, an infantry platoon commander from Montenegro, said in Folldal, in the mountains of central Norway.
“Because we are a new NATO member, a new ally, we are here to prepare ourselves for winter conditions, because this is an exercise in extreme winter conditions,” Popovic said.
The temperature was the biggest surprise, he added, “but we are working on it.”
NATO countries in the northern latitudes, like Norway, as well as Sweden and Finland, which are not members but partner closely with the alliance and are at Trident Juncture, have no shortage of cold-weather experience.
“They live there so they do it all the time,” Hodges said.
A Canadian army BvS 10 Viking nicknamed “Thor” on a mountainside near Alvdal, Norway, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18, Nov. 4, 2018.
(NATO photo by Rob Kunzing)
“This is about the US having to relearn” how to operate in those kind of conditions, Hodges added.
Fighting in that kind of environment requires military leaders to consider the affects on matters both big and small, whether that’s distributing lubricant for individual machine guns or the movement of thousands of troops and their heavy gear across snow-covered fields and on narrow mountain roads.
“It affects vehicle maintenance, for example. It affects air operations. It’s not just about individual soldiers being cold,” Hodges added. “It’s all of your systems have to be able to operate, so you have to practice it and take those factors into consideration.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When Stephanie Lynn found out that her husband had to work on Christmas, she came up with a way for her family to still celebrate the holiday together. In a letter from Santa that’s going viral, the mom explains to kids of military and first responder families that Christmas will be happening on a different day this year.
“I know sometimes your mom or dad can’t be home on Christmas Day because they’re working — keeping us safe and healthy,” the letter, which Lynn shared to Facebook on Dec. 11, 2018, reads. “I want your whole family to have a very special Christmas morning — together.”
Santa goes on to explain that he and the elves have set up special delivery days for the kids, from Dec. 23 to 27, 2018 (Lynn and husband Brent will be celebrating with her kids on the morning of the 24th, she says). There’s also an “other” option for families who aren’t able to be together during Christmas week.
“Always remember, Christmas isn’t about a box on the calendar, but the feeling we keep in our hearts,” Santa writes. “Thank you for being such great children, and sharing your moms and dads with us all when we need them the most.”
Lynn’s letter is receiving a lot of attention on social media, with almost 42,000 shares so far and over 7,100 likes, as parents in similar situations understand the struggle of “juggling shift work… on-call hours, deployments, TDYs, etc.”
Even NORAD, the popular Santa tracker, is spreading the word about Mr. Claus’ special deliveries, noting that while they do not report on them, those days are “no less special than the date of December 24.”
Because of the letter’s popularity, Lynn has since created other versions (the original was just for military and first responders) for medical professionals, pilots and flight crews, divorced families and just general use. “Merry Christmas- whatever day that may be for your family!” she writes.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
I awake with a start. John isn’t in bed beside me. Throughout his military career, I never could grow used to an empty bed. Unlike before, I hear him breathing. He is in his recliner on the other side of the room. Either insomnia, a migraine or back spasms have pulled him away from me tonight. I ask if he is ok before realizing he is sound asleep. The rhythmic sound of his breath lolls me back to sleep as well.
There was a time, early in our marriage, where we both craved one another’s attention. We never wanted to leave each other’s side. Twenty years later, three kids, two deployments and many many nights apart, we’ve become more accustomed to absence then togetherness.
We are relearning what it looks like to be together, always.
Quarantine and Retirement
I’ve been hearing from friends whose spouses are either recently retired or working from home currently with no end in sight. The struggles are similar. Our routine at home is now chaotic. It’s similar to the disruption of reintegration but for a much lengthier stretch.
It is extremely difficult to continue forward with the routine when there is a new person in your space. Knowing that your spouse is just one room away while you are trying to get your to-do list complete is frustrating. It would be much more fun to join in watching that movie or whatever else is happening. I mean after all isn’t more time together what you craved during that last deployment?
Look, it’s ok not to want to be together 24/7 even if that’s all you were craving in the normality of 2019. For many of us, 2020 has brought more together time then we could have imagined. It’s ok not to spend every second together. It’s also equally ok to not finish that crazy to-do list and just enjoy some extra time with your soldier.
Drop the guilt. Everyone right now understands the need to focus on mental health. Plus, there’s no need to worry about unexpected guests dropping by, so yes, the dishes and laundry can wait.
2. Find time to be alone, even if you have to hide in a closet
I am an introvert. I used to wake at 0500 to see John off to PT and soak up the quiet early morning with a book and a cup of coffee before the kids woke up. Our new normal means that this house is never empty. The kids are doing e-learning and even the hobbies that once took John out of the house after retirement have ceased. There is much togetherness going on.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the extra time with one another, but sometimes it can be too much. In those moments, I need a timeout. I need to recharge by being alone.
What does this look like when the whole world is shut down?
Here are a few ways I’ve figured out how to get my alone time.
Long drives through backroads with the radio cranked all the way up
Walks through the neighborhood
Adult coloring books while listening to an audiobook
Noise-canceling headphones while writing
Sitting in the closet with the lights off enjoying the silence
3. Open communication makes all the difference
Communication while in the military had its challenges. We spent ten years learning how to communicate long distance, how to keep the dialogue going across oceans, and then how to understand one another after surviving vastly different challenges. My world of toddlers was not the same as his of war. It took effort to hear what the other was saying and the perspective we each brought to the conversation. The same is true now.
One of the things we’ve learned since retirement is that just because we’ve been married twenty years doesn’t mean we actually know the other person well. We may have been married but we inhabited very different spaces during that time.
All of this togetherness now is giving us the opportunity to get to know one another for who we are today. We are learning how to ask questions and how to listen in new ways. It’s a little like dating, the excitement and frustration are there. The only difference being the commitment to keep doing this, to keep trying, to keep growing together, and to maybe come out of this year closer then we were when it began.
The most important lesson I’ve learned during this time of increased togetherness and struggling to get everything done in the weirdness of 2020 is to be kind to myself. It’s time to drop the guilt because it isn’t mine to carry.
The story begins in pre-revolutionary Philadelphia.
As a result of early trading with Caribbean countries, colonists along the fishing ports massed great quantities of rum and citrus fruits.
These fish houses, as they were called, kept punch bowls of Fish House Punch in their outer foyers to entertain guests as they waited to be seated.
The combination of rum, brandy, lemon juice, water, and sugar gained a reputation for packing a punch among early colonists, including Continental Marines.
U.S. Marine Corps legend, Gen. Victor “Brute” Krulak (center) insisted that this drink be served at every one of his birthday celebrations after 1940.
“The recipe for true Fish House Punch was kept secret for almost 200 years,” according to Gary and Mardee Regan’s review on Fish House Punch, located on the Amazon.com website. “The Formula was first developed at the Fish House Club, also known as the State in Schuylkill, or simply the Schuylkill Fishing Company in Philadelphia, an organization formed in 1732 by a group of anglers who liked to cook.”
According to the Regans, the Fish House Punch recipe fell into public hands some time around the beginning of the 20th century, and the formula has been seen in print many times over the past hundred years.
Nevertheless, for those who mix this historical punch, the history surrounding it is legendary and so is the taste.
Current VA Secretary Bob McDonald and former VA Secretary James Peake just posted an op-ed at The Hill listing the things they believe Congress needs to do to help the VA right now:
While the Department is making significant progress, VA needs Congress’ help to achieve all of the breakthrough priorities on behalf of veterans . . . particularly in three pressing areas:
1. Untangle the seven different ways VA provides care in the community today
Today’s rules make the process inefficient, they cause confusion for both the veterans and providers, they are in place because of legislation added over the years, and they must be legislatively corrected.
2. VA needs the authority to enter into partnerships
VA needs the authority to enter into partnerships to make needed changes to our West Los Angeles campus and more quickly end veterans’ homelessness in the city with the largest concentration of homeless veterans.
3. VA needs Congress’s help to finally fix the claims appeal process
VA needs Congress’s help to finally fix the broken process by which veterans appeal unfavorable claims decisions—a process conceived over 80 years ago that is unlike any other appeals process in the federal government. Over the decades, layers of additions to the process have made it more complicated, more unpredictable, less clear, and less veteran-friendly.
We all have our favorite gear, for whatever reason. Maybe it saved our asses, maybe it repaired a weapon, maybe it just made it possible to get a few hours sleep through a long, cold night. There’s nothing better than a reliable piece of gear to keep coming back to over and over. Often, troops will try to keep as much of their field gear as possible when they separate.
After reading through a few Amazon reviews, it’s easy to understand why. What’s your favorite?
1. 550 Cord – 5 Stars
Also known as parachute cord, the 550 comes from its breaking strength of at least 550 pounds. It’s made of nylon, wrapped around an internal core which increases strength and keeps the main rope from fraying. The cord was originally used in parachute suspension lines, but its use became widespread as paratroopers would cut the cord from the chutes as a useful tool for the future. These days, troops use it to secure packs to vehicles, set up camouflage nets, make lanyards, or tie up bracelets or belts that can be unraveled when needed.
2. Issue Anglehead Flashlight – 5 Stars
The anglehead design was first used by the U.S. military in World War II and has been a staple of all branches ever since. The chief supplier of these lights, Fulton, supplied them to the U.S. government since the Vietnam War. There are plenty of knockoff versions of it. If yours is a real one, it will have “MX-991/U” imprinted on the side of the light.
Here’s one review:
“I served in the Army over 20 years ago under SOCOM, so this flashlight has a minimum of that many years under its belt and all the action marks that comes with it… I clicked on the power button – not expecting anything special, and… IT TURNED ON.”
3. Woobie – 4.5 Stars
The “Woobie” is a nylon-polyester blanket, really the liner for the standard-issue poncho. It’s known as a Woobie because of the great affection troops have for it, the way a baby loves its blanket. Woobies are lightweight, easily packed, and do a great job of keeping troops warm in cooler temperatures.
A reviewer writes:
“Of all the pieces of U.S. military kit I’ve ever seen (through 20+ years of military service), none equal the Wubbie [sic] for value for money, utility, and comfort.
I bought my first poncho liner in Vietnam in 1964. It was one of the old ones from back when they were made from parachute silk. Now, almost fifty years later, I’m still using it. I guess I’m a 65 year old man with a blankie!”
4. Chem-lights – 4.5 Stars
Chem-lights are designed for 360-degree visibility up to a mile away for up to 12 hours. There are, of course, some variances. They also need to be durable, waterproof, and flame retardant. They have a number of uses when a flashlight or fire isn’t the right tool, and the light gets brighter as the temperature gets warmer.
“In my decade and a half in the military I have probably gone through thousands of Cyalume ChemLight just myself. They have a million uses, both fun and functional. But most important the Cyalume models have proven to be utterly reliable and bright.”
They can also be used as flares to mark an area without worrying about fire or flame. The uses for them are only limited by imagination, from Christmas lights to Fourth of July ‘rockets’ there is a lot of fun and use to be had.”
5. Gerber MP600 Multi-Tool – 4.5 Stars
This tool’s usefulness practically speaks for itself. With 14 components, providing knives with different edges, screwdrivers, a ruler, bottle and can openers, wire cutters, crimpers, and a file, all with a lanyard ring (perfect for 550 cord loops), the multitool is perfect for minimizing space and weight while providing myriad uses.
“It has all the tools I need as a soldier and it has done very nicely for me.
With a potential need to carry in a deployed environment, the matte black finish is certainly a plus.”
6. 100mph Tape (Duct Tape) – 4 Stars
Also known as “olive drab green reinforcement tape,” it covers shiny objects and tapes things down to reduce rattling noises when on patrol, but it’s so much more than that. Since supplies have historically been an issue in the large scale wars of the past, troops needed an all-purpose way to make quick fixes without all the necessary equipment.
From one review:
“The only downside that I can find is that it is literally so strong that anything even touching the edge of the roll will stick to it just from the small amount of adhesive that comes in contact with it.
All duct tape is not created equal
I always have a roll of this stuff, and 550 Cord in my Gear. I’ve used it for everything from quick repairs, marking my luggage, to camouflaging my gear for Patrols. Not sure about the 100 MPH thing, but I do know that once you tape it to your gear, you’ll need to cut it off.”
Look, the Nazis had some cool toys during World War II.
They were far ahead of the other combatants in jet-powered flight, had amazing tanks, and created awesome examples of prop aircraft. So the Allies may have lifted a few of their better vehicles in an effort to see how best to destroy them and, in many cases, how to rip off the technology to use for American equipment.
Here are seven times Allied troops stole Nazi vehicles and technology:
1. British engineers hunt a Tiger tank
During the North African campaign in World War II, a small group of engineers, some of them with little combat experience, were sent on a dangerous mission, to capture one of the feared Tiger tanks in combat. The four men were on the mission under the direct orders of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
They raced their Churchill Tank around the back of the Tiger and attacked the crew, killing them with machine guns, and captured the Tiger. Churchill and British King George visited the tank in Africa before it was shipped back to England for further study.
2. An American POW escapes Germany in a stolen Nazi plane
So, yeah, a radar station isn’t a vehicle. But still, British paratroopers went on a daring cross-channel raid to steal radar technology from Germans in occupied France.
Operation Biting, as it was known, was successful and the paratroopers escorted a British radar technician to the German installation, attacked it while the tech removed the most vital components, and then withdrew on foot with two German technicians as prisoner. They left France via boat.
4. Operation LUSTY allowed the U.S. to steal dozens of planes
In 1944, the Allied governments were jockeying for the best post-war prizes and intelligence grabs even as the war was still being fought. Army Air Corps Col. Harold Watson and “Watson’s Whizzers” were a group of pilots and engineers tasked with collecting the most Luftwaffe technology possible in Operation LUSTY (LUftwaffe Secret TechnologY).
The British shared the Arado 234 with America and the captured jet is the only surviving plane of its type. It currently resides at the Smithsonian Museum.
6. American troops capture a German train and the tank chained to it
When the 3rd Armored Division reached Soissons in August 1944, it was hot on the heels of retreating German forces. The American crews raced forward to cut off their foes, and some of the tank crews spotted a German train attempting to flee east with a large amount of supplies and a tank.
The Americans tried to take out the tank with 37mm anti-tank fire, but it was ineffective. Instead, they kept steady small arms fire on everyone attempting to get into the tank as the Shermans wiped out the infantry company on the train. The Americans were able to capture the train and the tank. Oddly enough, some of the trains much-needed space was taken up with lingerie and lipstick, likely gifts for German girlfriends.
7. The Royal Air Force has a Focke-Wulf 190 practically handed to them
The Focke-Wulf 190 fighter plane was arguably the best fighter plane of the war. It would outmaneuver most Allied planes and had a ton of power. The Royal Air Force, the service that faced the 190 most in the early days, wanted to steal one to figure out how to better defeat it.
A series of plans – some of them a little crazy – were proposed, but they became unnecessary when a Luftwaffe pilot accidentally landed one at an RAF base and a local officer was able to capture it with a pistol. The German pilot had become disoriented during a dogfight and, low on fuel, had put down at what he thought was a German base in occupied France.
The nuclear triad, which is composed of submarine-launched ballistic missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles and bombers, “is the most important element of our national defense, and we have to make sure that we’re always ready to respond to any threat,” the commander of U.S. Strategic Command said on Feb. 26, 2019.
“I can do that today because I have the most powerful triad in the world,” Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten said.
Hyten and Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, spoke Feb. 26, 2019, regarding their respective commands at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the fiscal year 2020 defense budget request.
Flexibility of the triad
The Nuclear Posture Review, released in 2018, validated the need for a modernized nuclear triad, Hyten said.
Each leg of the triad is critical to effective nuclear deterrence, he said.
The bombers which carry nuclear weapons “are the most recallable element,” Hyten said. “They’re the most flexible element of the triad.”
The B-52 Stratofortress.
Bombers can be deployed and recalled by the president before they deploy their weapons.
Submarines are the most survivable element, he said. “It allows us to hide from our adversaries and make sure we can respond to any surprise attack.”
ICBMs are the most ready element to respond to a surprise attack, he said, and they create the most significant targeting problem for adversaries. There are more than 400 separate targets across the United States. All would have to be independently targeted by an adversary, Hyten explained.
“That targeting problem is hugely problematic [for an adversary] and creates a significant advantage for us,” he said. “When you put those three together, you get this great operational capability. It provides for us the ability to respond to a failure in any one of those legs.”
LGM-30G Minuteman III.
Russia and China have also recognized the need for having their own triad, Hyten told the senators.
Russia started its nuclear triad modernization program in 2006 and is about 80 percent completed, the general said. By 2020, they’ll most likely be about finished, he said, and the U.S. will just be starting to modernize its triad. “That is not a good place to be from a national security perspective,” Hyten said.
China will soon have a creditable triad threat as well, he added.
Need to modernize
Nuclear modernization does not mean building a new class of nuclear missiles, Hyten said. It’s about improving the existing triad.
For instance, the aging communications system that links sensors to shooters and commanders needs to be replaced, he said.
Also, new ground- and space-based sensors and radars need to be built to detect the launch of missiles, the general added.
The military loves to boast that we “own the night.” That’s mostly because we don’t sleep, but it’s also because we have night vision goggles. If you weren’t a grunt, then your night vision was probably halfway decent. If you were a grunt, then your night vision was probably as effective as putting a green piece of plastic on the end of an empty paper towel roll.
So, if you ask one of us what it’s like to use NVGs, you’ll likely get an unexpected response: It sucks.
You might be asking yourself, “but aren’t you guys supposed to get awesome gear?” Yeah, sure. But no one wants to pay for it.
So, they give us what they are willing to pay for, and that’s why we get a set of AN/PVS-14s. A monocular (for the ASVAB waivers out there, that means it has one lens) device that, for one reason or another, doesn’t want to work how or when you’d like it to.
Marines will talk sh*t about them all day, but these complaints surface most often:
Not the sun, though. The moon is the best.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)
They work best with natural light
This may not seem like a big deal — until you realize that a triple canopy jungle or a cloudy night sky are going to ruin any chance at having functional night vision. If you’re a grunt, the night sky is always cloudy and if you have to break the tree line, which you probably should, your NVGs are going to lose most of their ability.
Un-even weight distribution
Strapping that bad boy to your helmet is like taking a big rock and taping it to the side. It feels awkward and can throw you slightly off balance, which can be especially sh*tty as you’re trying to leap over ditches in the middle of the night.
They flood the hell out of your eye.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)
Unnatural light sources suck
If you have both eyes open (which you should) while you’re wearing these bad boys and you come across a glow stick or flashlight, your eyes’ sensitivity to light will be vastly different.
Your field of vision is severely reduced
If you’re peering into the night with both eyes open, you’ll see (hopefully) clearly with one eye, while the other is basically blind. Like we said before, it’s like looking through an empty paper towel tube — which doesn’t afford the best field of view.
Also, your command will give you 0 batteries.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Anne K. Henry)
They eat batteries
Not literally — not like that guy in your platoon from Nebraska (you know the one). But when you go out with the NVGs, you are required to carry spare batteries, which just means tacking on a few more, precious ounces to your load.
The US military and NATO have been significantly outgunned by Russia in eastern Europe for some time, but US Army generals recently laid out a plan to close the gap.
As it stands, Russia has more tanks, aircraft, better air defenses, and more long-range weapons systems than the US and NATO have in eastern Europe.
The US has known for some time that its air superiority, something the US has held over enemies for 70 years, has come under serious threat, but now they’re working on an answer.
“Because of the power and the range and the lethality of these Russian air defenses, it’s going to make all forms of air support much more difficult, and the ground forces are going to feel the effects,” Gen. Robert Brown, who commands the US Army in the Pacific, recently said, according to Military.com.
He said the answer was to “push the maximum range of all systems under development for close, deep, and strategic” strikes, and that the US has “got to outgun the enemy.”
Instead of risking US planes and pilots in covering US forces as they fight with Russia, the US should pivot to increasing the range of its rockets, artillery, and missiles, according to Brown. Then, using those systems, the US can knock out Russian defenses and keep its troops at bay, potentially fighting without air support for weeks, he said.
Brown was speaking at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.
Russia has “got a range advantage over us in a number of different areas, particularly cannons,” John Gordon IV, a senior policy researcher at Rand Corp, said at the event. “Typically, modern Russian cannons have got 50 percent to 100 percent greater range than the current generation of US cannons.”
Brown also said the US needs to extend the range of its current systems and those in development to meet the threat, specifically by bumping up the range of the Army Tactical Missile System to 499 kilometers, just under the 500 kilometer range limit the US is bound to by an arms-control agreement.
Brig. Gen. Stephen Maranian, commandant of the Army’s Field Artillery School, said the new missiles would have “the ability to hit a ship at sea, the ability to hit moving targets on the land domain, the ability to have sub-munitions that attack heavy armored targets and have effects … and the ability to use sensors to hone in on targets. Those are all aspects of future spirals of this missile that the base Precision Strike Missile will provide,” Military.com noted.
Additionally, the US is working on a new self-propelled howitzer that would increase the range out to 40 kilometers and increase the rate of fire.