This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets - We Are The Mighty
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This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets


This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets

Almost 50,000 service members are homeless, but this man is working to change that.

“They had our backs, let’s keep the shirts on theirs” is more than just a motto for Mark Doyle. It’s the business model on which he built Rags of Honor, his veteran-operated business.

Originally a consultant, Doyle was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 as a forensic accountant for the Army. After returning to the U.S., he saw the same men and women who had given their lives for their country struggling to survive. In fact, only one-quarter of returning soldiers between the ages of 19 and 25 were employed. Even worse, many were homeless or at risk of losing their homes.

“I could never square when I got back the commitment that they made every day, with the reality of their life when they came home,” Doyle says.

Founded in 2012, Rags of Honor is a silk-screen printing company based in Chicago that provides employment and other services to veterans. In the three years since its inception, Rags of Honor has grown from four employees to 22, all but one of whom are veterans at high risk of homelessness.

To read more about Rags of Honor, click here.

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This article originally appeared at NationSwell Copyright 2015. Follow NationSwell on Twitter.

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Air Force declares the F-35A ‘ready for war’

The largest buyer of America’s most expensive weapons program just declared it ready for war.


“I am proud to announce this powerful new weapons system has achieved initial combat capability,” US Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said on a call with reporters.

“The F-35A will be the most dominant aircraft in our inventory because it can go where our legacy aircraft cannot and provide the capabilities our commanders need on the modern battlefield,” Carlisle said.

Of the sister-service branches, the Air Force has been the most bullish on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II’s combat capabilities.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
Fun Fact: The F-35 actually runs on a money-based fuel.

The 15 Air Force F-35A jets, and 21 combat-mission-ready pilots from Hill Air Force Base’s 34th Fighter Squadron, represent a significant breakthrough for the weapons program, which began development 15 years ago and has been offset by design flaws, cost overruns, and technical challenges.

Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the F-35 program’s executive officer, said that the Air Force’s decision to declare the F-35A’s initial operational capability (IOC) “sends a simple and powerful message to America’s friends and foes alike, the F-35 can do its mission.”

“The roads leading to IOC for both services were not easy and these accomplishments are tangible testaments to the positive change happening in the F-35 program,” Bogdan said.

As the Air Force is buying nearly 70% of the fifth-generation jets being made domestically — 1,763 of 2,443 aircraft — the Air Force sets the economies of scale for the tri-service fighter, with each plane costing a cool $100 million.

Lockheed Martin, considered a bellwether for the US defense sector, is expected to generate nearly a fifth of its $50 billion in 2016 sales solely from the F-35 program.

In the company’s latest quarter, the defense giant posted net sales in its aeronautics business up 6%, or $244 million — compared to the same period in 2015.

The Pentagon’s top weapons supplier is also building the “jack of all trades” aircraft for the UK, Turkey, Australia, Italy, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Israel, Japan, and South Korea.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
Behold, the F-35. | Lockheed Martin

Even though the Air Force is operating the oldest fleet in its history, it’s not the first of the sister-service branches to declare its variant combat-ready.

Last summer, the US Marine Corps was the first of the military branches to declare initial operational capability for 10 F-35B jets.

“There were a lot of people out here in the press that said, ‘Hey, the Marines are just going to declare IOC because it would be politically untenable not to do that,” Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for aviation, said during a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute on the readiness and future trajectory of Marine aviation.

“IOC in the Marine Corps means we will deploy that airplane in combat. That’s not a decision I was gonna take lightly, nor Gen. Dunford,” Davis said, referring to Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.

The US Navy variant, the F-35C, is scheduled to reach IOC by February 2019.

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Why the only woman training to be a Navy SEAL dropped out

The only woman in the Navy SEAL training pipeline has dropped out, a Navy special warfare official confirmed Aug. 11.


The female midshipman voluntarily decided to not continue participating in a summer course that’s required of officers who want to be selected for SEAL training, Lt. Cmdr. Mark Walton, a Naval special warfare spokesman, told The Associated Press. The Navy has not released the woman’s name, part of a policy against publicly identifying SEALs or candidates for the force.

No other woman has started the long process required to become a Navy SEAL, Walton said.

Another woman has set her sights on becoming a Special Warfare Combatant Crewman, another job that recently opened to women. They often support the SEALs but also conduct missions of their own using state-of-the art, high-performance boats. She has started the various evaluations and standard Navy training.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
U.S. Navy SEAL candidates from class 284 participate in Hell Week at the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego, California. (U.S. Navy photo)

Officials have said it would be premature to speculate when the Navy will see its first female SEAL or Special Warfare Combatant Crewman.

The entry of women in one of the military’s most elite fighting forces is part of ongoing efforts to comply with then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s directive in December 2015 to open all military jobs to women, including the most dangerous commando posts.

That decision was formal recognition of the thousands of female servicewomen who fought in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars in recent years, including those who were killed or wounded.

The woman dropped out of the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection program. It is open to Naval academy and Navy ROTC midshipmen and cadets during the summer before their senior year.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
A Navy SEAL instructor assists students from BUD/S class 245 with learning the importance of listening during a Hell Week surf drill evolution. (ENS Bashon Mann, Public Affairs Officer Naval Special Warfare Center.)

The three-week-long program in Coronado, across the bay from San Diego, tests participants’ physical and psychological strength along with water competency and leadership skills. The program is the first in-person evaluation of a candidate who desires to become a Navy SEAL officer, and it allows sailors to compete against peers in an equitable training environment.

All sailors must go through the program before being selected to take part in SEAL basic training, a six-month program so grueling that 75 percent of candidates drop out by the end of the first month.

The services have been slowly integrating women into previously male-only roles. Those in special operations are among the most demanding jobs in the military. Two women in 2015 graduated from the Army’s grueling Ranger course.

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Updated: AWOL female engineer has turned herself in

Update: Pvt. Erika Lopez turned herself in to Army authorities Feb. 4 after reports of her desertion went viral. The Army will now decide whether to charge her with a crime, administratively separate her from the service, or allow her to continue training. The original post on Lopez’s disappearance is below:


According to reports from Tennessee news channels, the first woman to enlist as a combat engineer from that state has gone absent without leave and has been gone for over 30 days, meaning she is now technically a deserter.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
Photo: Youtube/Election2016

Erika Lopez enlisted in July of 2015 to much fanfare as the Army was first opening the combat engineer military occupational specialty to women.

She went on convalescent leave from basic training and was scheduled to return Jan. 4. Once she failed to appear, she was listed as AWOL. After 30 days, an AWOL soldier’s status is changed to deserter unless there is evidence that something has happened to the soldier or that he or she is confined.

The Army has been unable to locate Lopez despite numerous attempts. It’s one of the few situations where the most desirable scenario is that a soldier deserted, since the alternative is that something has happened to her.

While there have been reports listing Lopez as the Army’s first female combat engineer, that title actually goes to Vermont National Guard Spc. Skylar Anderson who graduated the combat engineer course in December and continues to serve in Vermont. Lopez was actually the fourth woman to enlist as a combat engineer.

Similarly, Lopez has been described as the first woman to become a combat arms soldier. The term “combat arms” was rescinded in 2008 with an updated version of Army Field Manual 3-0, but the first female combat arms soldiers were those who enlisted into air defense MOSs in the early 1990s.* Combat engineers were a combat arms MOS when that term was in use.

*Updated Feb. 5, 2016: This paragraph originally stated that combat engineer was not technically a combat arms specialty. When “combat arms” was a doctrinal term, Army Engineering was a combat arms branch.

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Russian special operator stops ISIS by ordering airstrike on his own position

This weekend, Syrian government troops aided by Russian airstrikes and special forces recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from ISIS.


One Russian special operator was pinned down by jihadi fighters while conducting a reconnaissance mission that included calling in airstrikes. His position was overrun by the enemy, so he called for close air support assets to attack where he was so that classified information wouldn’t fall into ISIS hands.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
Russian Spetsnaz in small arms training.

“He was carrying out a combat task in Palmyra area for a week, identifying crucial IS targets and passing exact coordinates for strikes with Russian planes,” a Russian military spokesperson told the UK’s Mirror. “The officer died as a hero, he drew fire onto himself after being located and surrounded by terrorists.”

ISIS published photos from their mobile phones in mid-March, depicting five bodies they said were Russian special forces. The Russian Defense Ministry denied that report, saying the advance on Palmyra was being conducted by the Syrian Army (the one supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Asad).

While Russia has admitted to five combat deaths in the conflict so far, including a pilot of a fighter shot down by Turkish forces and a Marine who died trying to rescue that pilot. Russian special forces have been on the ground since the beginning of Russia’s intervention in the Syrian Civil War, in September of 2015.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets

The city has art and architecture dating from 100 AD, including Greco-Roman ruins, over 1,000 columns, an ancient Roman aqueduct and 500 tombs on site. In 2015, ISIS captured the 2,000-year-old city and dynamiting ancient monuments, temples, and shrines it deemed blasphemous and executed people on the stage of the Roman amphitheater.

Syrian government troops entered the city on March 24, 2016. In the last five days, the Russians claim they carried out 146 airstrikes supporting the operation. Syrian troops recaptured the city on Sunday.

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Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas

When Brittany Boccher was approached by retired Major General Kendall Penn and the Arkansas Secretary of State Military and Veterans Liaison Kevin Steele to help get proposed legislation passed to protect the retirement pay of military retirees, Boccher jumped at the opportunity to serve her current community.


Boccher, a mother of two and the spouse of a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, began the task by hosting the General and the Military and Veteran’s Liaison at one of the Little Rock Spouses’ Club meetings, where the men presented the proposed legislation to the local military spouses.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
Brittany Boccher was invited to attend the signing of legislation into state law on Feb. 7, 2017. The law exempts military retiree pay from state taxes. (Photo courtesy of Brittany Boccher.)

The proposal specifically addressed the taxation of pay for military retirees. While active duty personnel in Arkansas do not pay a state tax, retired veterans’ pay is taxed.

That tax didn’t sit well with Governor Asa Hutchinson and Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin, who have seen their state ranked at 48 in attracting and retaining working age military retirees and veterans.

“A lot of them will retire really young in their 40s, 50s, 60s. And what do they do? They have that steady income and start other businesses or they go work a new job,” Griffin said.

Hutchinson agreed, saying, “I believe it will help us to bring more military retirees here, welcome them back to Arkansas.”

Boccher committed to calling or emailing every state senate committee member directly to discuss his or her support for Hutchinson’s proposed tax initiative. Then she set out to round up military families that would benefit the most from the initiative in order to testify before the state house and senate committees.

Boccher, a business owner in Arkansas herself, told We Are the Mighty that her family reflected the target audience the state was hoping to attract with the proposed tax break.

“They were seeking a young family close to retirement to showcase that they would have a second career after the military. We are a 17 year military family, we’re young, and with two small children. We want to stay in Arkansas and we own a business in Arkansas.”

Boccher said her family “checked all the boxes” for what Steele and Penn wanted to present as the ideal family the state was trying to attract.

Penn asked Boccher to testify before the state house and senate committees.

As a result of her hard work and commitment to the legislation, Boccher and her family were invited to the bill signing ceremony earlier this month.

On February 7, Hutchinson released a statement that read, in part, “…beginning in January [Arkansas] will also exempt military retirement pay. This initiative will make Arkansas a more military friendly retirement destination and will encourage veterans to start their second careers or open a business right here in the Natural State.”

For her part, Boccher is proud of what she’s accomplished for veterans while simultaneously running an apparel company, a photography company, and a non-profit organization, the Down Syndrome Advancement Coalition.

Additionally, Boccher is the president of the Little Rock Air Force Base Spouses’ Club and the 2016 and 2017 Little Rock Air Force Base Spouse of the Year.

Boccher had this to say about her work, “The military community is resilient, adaptable, dedicated, independent, supportive, and resourceful, but most of all they can make a difference, their voice can be heard, and they can and will make change happen!”

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This is what an air-to-air war between Russia and the US in Syria would look like

After the US downed a Syrian jet making a bombing run on US-backed forces fighting ISIS, Russia threatened to target US and US-led coalition planes West of the Euphrates river in Syria.


But while Russia has some advanced surface-to-air missile systems and very agile fighter aircraft in Syria, it wouldn’t fare well in what would be a short, brutal air war against the US.

The US keeps an aircraft carrier with dozens of F/A-18E fighters aboard in the Mediterranean about all the time and hundreds of F-15s and F-16s scattered around Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan.

According to Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, Russia has “about 25 planes, only about ten of which are dedicated to air superiority (Su-35s and Su-30s), and against that they’ll have to face fifth-gen stealth fighters, dozens of strike fighters, F-15s, F-16s, as well as B-1 and B-52 bombers. And of course the vast US Navy and pretty much hundreds of Tomahawks.”

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
USS George H.W. Bush. Photo courtesy of the US Navy

“Russians have a lot of air defenses, they’re not exactly defenseless by any means,” Lamrani told Business Insider, “But the US has very heavy air superiority.” Even though individual Russian platforms come close to matching, and in some ways exceed the capability of US jets, it comes down to numbers.

So if Russia did follow through with its threat, and target a US aircraft that did not back down West of the Euphrates in Syria, and somehow managed to shoot it down, then what?

“The US coalition is very cautious,” said Lamrani. “The whole US coalition is on edge for any moves from Russia at this point.”

Lamrani also said that while F/A-18Es are more visible and doing most of the work, the US keeps a buffer of F-22 stealth jets between its forces and Russia’s. If Russia did somehow manage to shoot down a US or US-led coalition plane, a US stealth jet would probably return fire before it ever reached the base.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
USAF photo by Greg L. Davis

At that point the Russians would have a moment to think very critically if they wanted to engage with the full might of the US Air Force after the eye-for-an-eye shoot downs.

If US surveillance detected a mass mobilization of Russian jets in response to the back-and-forth, the US wouldn’t just wait politely for Russians to get their planes in the sky so they can fight back.

Instead, a giant salvo of cruise missiles would pour in from the USS George H. W. Bush carrier strike group, much like the April 7 strike on Syria’s Sharyat air base. But this time, the missiles would have to saturate and defeat Russia’s missile defenses first, which they could do by sheer numbers if not using electronic attack craft.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

Then, after neutering Russia’s defenses, the ships could target the air base, not only destroying planes on the ground but also tearing up the runways, so no planes could take off. At this point US and Coalition aircraft would have free reign to pass overhead and completely devastate Russian forces.

Russia would likely manage to score a couple intercepts and even shoot down some US assets, but overall the Russian contingent in Syria cannot stand up to the US, let alone the entire coalition of nations fighting ISIS.

Russia also has a strong Navy that could target US air bases in the region, but that would require Russia to fire on Turkey, Jordan, and Qatar, which would be politically and technically difficult for them.

This scenario of a hypothetical air war is exceedingly unlikely. Russia knows the numbers are against them and it would “not [be] so easy for the Russians to decide to shoot down a US aircraft,” according to Lamrani.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
Photo courtesy of Russian state media

And Russia wouldn’t risk so much over Syria, which is not an existential defense interest for them, but a foreign adventure to distract from Russia’s stalled economy and social problems, according to Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russia’s foreign policy in the Middle East at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Russia is not a great power by most measures, like GDP, population, living standard,” Borshchevskaya told Business Insider. “Russia has steadily declined. It’s still a nuclear power, but not world power.”

In Syria, “a lot of what Putin is doing is about domestic policies,” said Borshchevskaya, and to have many Russian servicemen killed in a battle with a US-led coalition fighting ISIS wouldn’t serve his purposes domestically or abroad.

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This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

Sir Douglas Bader was a Royal Air Force hero in World War II, downing 23 German aircraft, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Order, and being named the 5th deadliest fighter ace in the RAF.


Making his feats even more impressive was the fact that he did these things without legs.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
Douglas Bader as photographed in 1940 with two prosthetic limbs but massive balls. Photo: Royal Air Force photographer Devon S A

Bader was known for being an athletic kid. His family faced money problems after his father died of injuries sustained in World War I. Bader had to earn athletic scholarships to attend school. His prowess on the field also helped him get a cadetship to the Cranwell Air Force Academy in 1928 where he earned a reputation for skill in the cockpit.

Two years later, Bader graduated and began flying in aerobatic displays for the RAF. In a 1931 show, he attempted a low-level display and crashed into the ground, sustaining severe injuries. Doctors decided they would have to amputate both of his legs beneath the knees to save him.

The charismatic pilot later wrote in his diary for that day, “Crashed slow-rolling near ground. Bad show.” He was a bit stoic.

Bader was forced out of the RAF by the injury but was promised that he could come back if war was declared. He spent the next few years learning to play sports with his tin prosthetics.

In 1939, he got his chance to re-enter the service and took it. He attended a pilot refresher course and was sent to Duxford, England in 1940. At Duxford, he was introduced to the Spitfire which he described as “the aeroplane of one’s dreams.”

Soon, he was flying combat missions. He participated in the evacuation at Dunkirk where he scored his first victory over a German aircraft.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
Douglas Bader’s logbook show his first kill at the Evacuation of Dunkirk. Photo: Royal Air Force online exhibitions

With the English kicked out of Europe, Hitler quickly began laying the groundwork for an invasion of the kingdom and Bader was called on to help keep the Nazis out of England. In Jul. 1940, the Battle of Britain was on. Bader and his commander, Trafford Leigh-Mallory, pioneered the Big Wing strategy that summer which envisioned squadrons of fighters descending on German bombers and their fighter escorts.

It was credited at the time with forcing the Nazis to cease daytime bombing missions and postponing the potential invasion of Britain from 1940 to 1941. RAF pilots were heralded as heroes, Bader especially. Bader had racked up a stunning 23 aircraft kills, counting the one at Dunkirk. This made him the 5th most lethal pilot in the RAF.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
Royal Air Force Spitfires, like the plane Douglas Bader piloted, fly in formation. Photo: Public Domain

Unfortunately for Bader, his luck ran out Aug. 9 when he was hit over northern France and forced to bail out. At the time, Bader thought it was due to a collision with a Messerschmitt 109, but historical research decades later pointed to the possibility that another British pilot may have shot him down on accident.

Regardless, Bader found himself in a plane going down but was stuck in the cockpit because a prosthetic had become trapped under the rudder pedal. Bader made it out of the plane, but his right prosthetic was torn off in the process.

When he hit the ground, he was quickly captured by a group of Germans. In the United Kingdom, the Battle of Britain pilots had become famous and the double amputee/wing commander/fighter ace was one of the best-known pilots on the Allied side. The Germans quickly realized who they had captured and attempted to give Bader a pretty easy run of it. They recovered his wrecked leg and repaired it as best as they could.

Bader immediately attempted to escape on the repaired leg, climbing down a rope made of blankets and running away. He was soon recaptured.

Despite Bader’s escape attempt, the Germans offered safe passage for a British bomber to drop a replacement prosthetic for the damaged leg, but the RAF knew that the Germans would use it for publicity. Instead, they sent the leg on a bombing mission and had a Blenheim bomber drop the leg onto the camp during an otherwise normal bombing mission.

Bader again attempted to escape once he got his new leg. The pilot was transferred from one camp to another, attempting to escape whenever he could until the Nazis finally sent him to Colditz Castle, a prison that was considered inescapable.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
Colditz Castle as seen in 1945. The castle was used as a POW camp by the Nazis until it was liberated in 1945. Photo: US Army

There, Bader’s attempts to escape slowed but he found ways to make life miserable for the guards. One day, he refused to go to the formation to be counted. When the guards arrived at his room to order him out, he engaged in a shouting match with the guards and eventually told them, “My feet would get cold in the snow. If you want to count me, come to my room and do it.”

The guard then drew his pistol on Bader who immediately changed his tact and infuriated the guard further. “Well, of course I’ll go if you really want me to,” Bader said before picking up a stool, dragging it out to formation, and sitting on it to be counted.

Bader continued his hijinks for the rest of the war. The RAF promoted him to group captain and Bader led a 300-aircraft victory formation over London after the Axis forces surrendered.

In 1946 he turned to a civilian career. He was knighted in 1973 for his work to help other amputees before dying in 1982 of a heart attack. His story was featured in the 1956 movie, “Reach for the Sky.”

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3 heroes who gave all for their friends at Saipan

When American forces stormed ashore at Saipan on June 15, 1944, they knew they were in for a fight. Saipan was strategically important to both the Americans and the Japanese. It is the largest island in the Marianas chain and close enough to the Japanese mainland for American B-29’s to launch bombing missions.


Though it is often overshadowed by other battles, the battle of Saipan was the most costly operation for the Americans in the Pacific up to that point. 31,000 Japanese stood ready to defend the island from some 71,000 Americans of the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions and the Army’s 27th Infantry Division.

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Army reinforcements arrive in Saipan, June/July 1944. (U.S. Army photo)

Through June and into July, American forces made slow but steady progress across the island. Brutal fighting occurred in places that earned names such as “Death Valley” and “Purple Heart Ridge.”

By July 6, the situation was desperate for the Japanese. With the defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, there was no hope of rescue or reinforcement for the remaining defenders on Saipan.

Gen. Saito, the Japanese commander on Saipan, ordered all remaining defenders, wounded or not, and even civilians on the island to conduct a massive banzai charge against the American positions. “There is no longer any distinction between civilians and troops,” Saito said. “It would be better for them to join in the attack with bamboo spears than to be captured.”     

Saito would not join his troops in the attack, though. After transmitting an apology to Tokyo for his failure, he committed ritual suicide.

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The aftermath of a banzai charge on Guadalcanal, 1942. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

At 0445 on July 7, 1944, a human wave of Japanese soldiers descended on the positions of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division. It was the largest banzai charge of the Pacific war.

Leading the way were soldiers carrying a massive red flag, followed by sword-wielding officers and the rest of the infantry. Behind them came the wounded and what civilians decided to join the attack. There was an insufficient number of rifles for all, so many wounded came with bamboo spears, rocks, or anything else they hoped could do damage.

As some 4,000 Japanese swarmed over the American lines, intense close quarters combat broke out.

Leading the 1st Battalion was Lt. Col. William O’Brien. Since the first days his unit had landed on Saipan, he had shown his bravery and skill as a commander. O’Brien had personally led several assaults to reduce Japanese strongpoints while continually exposing himself to enemy fire.

When the Japanese came at the 1st Battalion that morning, O’Brien was once again in the thick of the fighting and leading from the front.

As the enemy swept over his lines, O’Brien steadfastly held his ground and rallied his men. Like a modern-day Call of Duty character, he dual-wielded two .45 caliber pistols and shouted encouragement to his men as he blasted the onrushing attackers.

As the attack continued, O’Brien received a painful wound to his shoulder but refused to quit. When his pistol ammunition was exhausted, he picked up a discarded rifle and continued to fight. When he again ran out of ammunition, he manned a .50 caliber machine gun and poured fire into the advancing Japanese.

O’Brien was last seen alive surrounded by sword-wielding Japanese, blasting the .50 caliber machine gun and yelling at his men, “Don’t give them a damn inch!”

Elsewhere on the 1st Battalion line, one Thomas Baker, a private in A Company, was also giving the Japanese hell. Like O’Brien, from the early days of his unit’s involvement on Saipan he had exhibited tremendous bravery in fighting the Japanese.

As the Japanese rushed his position, Baker delivered deadly fire with his rifle. When he was wounded he refused to be evacuated and continued to fight on. With his ammunition exhausted, Baker turned his rifle into club and desperately fought off the Japanese attackers until his weapon was battered beyond use.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
U.S. Marines take cover as Japanese snipers attack. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

At this point, a fellow soldier withdrew him from the line, but in carrying him from the field was himself wounded. Baker refused to be taken any further due to the risk to his friends. He made a simple last request — to be left propped against a tree, facing the Japanese, with a .45 pistol with eight shots.

When friendly forces retook the position in the following days, they discovered Baker’s body, just as they had left it, with eight dead Japanese laying in front of him — each killed with a single shot from his .45.

Further down the line from the 1st Battalion, the 2nd Battalion was having problems of its own. Japanese forces had breached the perimeter and were attacking the battalion aid station just behind the front lines.

Seeing Japanese soldiers bayoneting wounded Americans, the battalion surgeon, Capt. Benjamin Salomon, sprang into action. Salomon, a former infantry soldier and the regimental dental officer, had volunteered to take the original battalion surgeon’s place when he had been wounded. Letting his former infantry training take over, Salomon began to fight back.

This t-shirt could be the difference between a veteran having a home and living on the streets
U.S. Marines secure their first hold on the beach of Saipan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

As Japanese continued to infiltrate his aid station, Salomon, with the help of wounded soldiers, expertly dispatched them until he realized the situation was untenable. Ordering the wounded to make their way back to the regimental aid station, Salomon joined the defenses and manned a machine gun.

Salomon was later found slumped over the machine gun, his body riddled with bullet and bayonet wounds, with scores of Japanese dead in front of his position. It was later determined that he had been wounded over 20 times and had moved the machine gun four times in order to get a clear field of fire around the bodies before he was overcome.

The battle for Saipan would be declared over two days later. Afterwards, O’Brien, Baker, and Salomon would all be awarded the Medal of Honor.

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This is the true story of the pier master at Dunkirk

Chritsopher Nolan’s new “Dunkirk” movie features Sir Kenneth Branagh as the cool-under-fire Commander Bolton, but his character is largely based on a real British officer who underwent greater hardships to save British and French forces and was tragically lost at sea during the evacuation.


Operation Dynamo, as the evacuation of Dunkirk was known, was a desperate play by the British to salvage as much of their expeditionary force as they could after Hitler’s war machine tore through allied forces and nations in Europe faster than nearly anyone anticipated.

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The German blitzkrieg took many by surprise. Here, the Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium, thought to be one of the world’s best fortresses and practically impregnable, sits occupied after a single morning of fighting thanks to a daring German paratrooper attack on May 10, 1940. (Photo: Public Domain)

The original goal was to get 45,000 men out in two days before the defensive line at Dunkirk, the last Allied-held territory in the area, collapsed. A Canadian member of the Royal Navy, Cmdr. James Campbell Clouston, was assigned to getting as many men as possible off the “East Mole.”

The East Mole was actually one of two breakwaters used to protect the beach and channel from ocean currents. It was about a mile long and just wide enough for four men. It was a clear target for German planes to attack and provided little opportunity for cover. But, it was an efficient way to get large numbers of men off.

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British troops board the destroyer HMS Vanquisher during low tide by using scaling ladders to climb down from the Mole (at left). (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

Clouston quickly got the Mole operating as the top method of evacuating troops. He ordered evacuating troops to move in groups of 50 to cut down on the chaos on the span and positioned as many ships as possible along the length for simultaneous boarding.

On the first day that Clouston and other members of a commanding party under Capt. William Tennant were operating on the beach, the number of troops evacuated rose from 7,669 to 18,527. Many of these men made it out thanks to Clouston’s efforts on the Mole, which was averaging 1,000 evacuations per hour.

But German air raids targeting the Mole began to take real effect. The third of three air raids on May 29, 1940, three ships were lost including the destroyer HMS Grenade, which had been providing defensive support of the operation as well as embarking evacuating troops.

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170802-DLN-The Royal Navy’s HMS_Grenade_(H86) which was later sunk by a dive bomber while evacuating troops at Dunkirk. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

Panic broke out on the Mole after a bomb blew a hole in a section. Troops attempted to rush off, but Clouston ordered a lieutenant to draw his revolver and restore order. The troops on the Mole were quickly corralled onto a trawler and sent away.

A panicked junior officer drove to a resort northeast of Dunkirk and called an officer in England to erroneously report that the harbor was blocked by one of the sunken ships. Evacuations slowed as most vessels headed to other places instead the East Mole.

But word got out that the Moles were still in operation, and the pace picked up. One of the best days for the Mole came on June 1 when, despite a devastating air raid, over 47,000 men made it onto ships from the pier.

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That night, six days into what was supposed to be a 48-hour operation, Clouston was recalled to Dover to take part in a planning meeting for a massive lift on June 2. After the meeting ended, Clouston was headed back to Dunkirk in the pre-dawn hours in a small motorboat when he was attacked by German bombers. His boat quickly sank.

Clouston waved off the assistance of a second boat. Survivors said that he was worried the Germans would spot it and attack while the boat was stationary. He attempted to swim to another vessel a couple of miles away but was lost at sea.

In the end, a total 338,226 men were evacuated through June 4. Almost 240,000 of them made it off from the harbor and the Mole.

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This why a soldier’s chow came in a can back in the day

C-rations, c-rats, Charlie-rations: Call them what you will, there isn’t a soldier from the Korean War- or Vietnam War-era who doesn’t remember the military’s answer to balanced nutrition.


Relished and reviled, C-rations fed millions of troops in the field. The iconic green cans were far from home cooking – but they did sustain a fighting man when he was far from home, or at least the mess hall, until 1981 when they were replaced by the MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat).

“If you were in the field, hungry and you could heat them up, they were great – slightly better than shoe leather,” said Dick Thompson, vice-president of the Vietnam War Foundation Museum in Ruckersville, Va., and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel.  “If you were in garrison where you had a choice, forget about it!”

Napoleon once said an army marches on its stomach. In other words, poorly fed troops fight poorly – food is a force multiplier.

The U.S. military is no different. From the Revolutionary War to the U.S. Civil War, military rations could be summed up by mentioning the Three Bs: Bread, Beans, and Beef. (However, salt pork made frequent appearances as a meat item as well.)

The items fit the dietary habits of the times, cooked up with relative ease under field conditions and (usually) satisfied the troops. But as time passed spoilage increased – some Civil War hardtack had more weevils than wheat flour in them when soldiers got their rations.

Canned foods improved the situation. They were heavy, but canned food stayed edible and palatable for long periods of time and in a pinch they could be consumed cold right out of the can.

During the 1930s, the U.S. War Department did its best to develop several kinds of compact, long-lasting rations that could feed men in combat.

One was the C-ration, first issued in 1939. It was three cans of different meat and vegetables (field manuals of the time described the contents as having “the taste and appearance of a hearty stew”) and three cans containing crackers, instant coffee, and sugar.

It wasn’t Mother’s home cooking, but it was filling. Each complete C-ration contained about 2,900 calories and sufficient vitamins to keep the troops healthy.

C-rations were just one of the letter-coded rations issued during World War II. Most soldiers and Marines from that time remember – and detest – the K-rations of the era, which had three separate meal units for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

When it comes to palatability, C-rations won hands down. But that didn’t keep more than one soldier from cracking wise about the canned rations.

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Dig in, Devil Dogs! Yum-meee . . .

A story goes that a World War II GI attended a USO show where one of the acts was a man who consumed unusual items. As the audience watched, the entertainer chewed glass, gobbled nails and even swallowed swords.

Unimpressed by the spectacle, the soldier turned to a friend sitting next him and asked, “But can he digest C-rations?”

C-rations remained the choice of soldiers in the field. By the Korean War, the Defense Department phased out K-rations and began work on updating the C-ration menu.

In 1958, the Defense Department created 12 different menus. Each menu contained one canned meat item; one canned fruit, bread or dessert item; one “B unit” that contained items such as crackers and chocolate; an accessory packet containing cigarettes, matches, chewing gum, toilet paper, coffee, creamer, sugar, and salt; and a spoon.

Although the meat item could be eaten cold, even the military admitted the updated ration was tastier when heated.

The Pentagon designated the new rations “Meal, Combat, Individual.” Whatever – soldiers in the field still called them C-rations.

Troops considered some of the items downright toothsome. Canned fruit, canned fruit cocktail, canned baked goods like pound cake and cinnamon nut roll, and canned meat items like ham slices and turkey loaf were G.I. favorites.

But one menu item was universally loathed by soldiers: Ham and Lima Beans. It was considered so disgusting that it acquired an obscene nickname – “Ham and MoFo’s” is a polite rendering of its nom de guerre.

“It was an unnatural mix of ingredients,” said Vincent E. Falter, who enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private during the Korean War and retired as a major general after 35 years of service. “Why not red beans? Navy beans? Any beans other than Lima beans?”

Efforts to improve the taste included troops adding heavy doses of Tabasco sauce or serving the ration scalding hot. It didn’t work – most soldiers from the C-ration era declare Ham and Lima Beans the most detestable military ration ever created.

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Soldier chows down during the Vietnam War. (Photo:atroop412cav.com)

Other C-ration menu items earned equally colorful names. G.I.s called Beans with Frankfurter Chunks in Tomato Sauce “beans and baby dicks.”  In addition, Chopped Ham and Eggs earned the nickname “H.E.s” (high explosives) because of the bloating and gas they caused.

Heating your food always was a challenge. Some literally fastened cans of rations to the engine block of vehicles in an effort to warm the ration – just remember to puncture the can for steam vents so it won’t explode.

If you didn’t have an engine manifold handy, there were “heat tabs” made of a solid-fuel called Trioxin to warm food.

If troops ran out of heat tabs, there was always C-4 – as in C-4, the explosive. When ignited, a small chunk of it burned like Sterno with a steady, hot flame sufficient to heat food and beverages.

Some soldiers will do anything for a hot meal.

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Russia just released a video showing off its new ‘Star Wars’ combat suit

Russia showed off its new “Star Wars-like” combat suit on Thursday at a science and technology university in Moscow, state-owned media outlet RT reported.


The “next-generation” suit comes with a “powered exoskeleton” that supposedly gives the soldier more strength and stamina, along with “cutting-edge” body armor, and a helmet and visor that shields the soldier’s entire face, RT said.

The suit also has a “pop-up display that can be used for tasks like examining a plan of the battlefield,” Andy Lynch, who works for a military company called Odin Systems, told MailOnline. There’s also a light on the side of the helmet for inspecting maps or weapons.

Russia hopes to produce the suit “within the next couple of years,” Oleg Chikarev, deputy chief of weapons systems at the Central Research Institute for Precision Machine Building, which developed the gear, told MailOnline.

It should be noted, however, the video only showed a static display of the suit, and it’s still an open question of whether it actually has any of the capabilities that are claimed.

Still, Russia is not the only country developing such technology, Sim Tack, a Stratfor analyst, told Business Insider in an emailed statement.

The US hopes to unveil its own Tactical Light Operator Suit, also known as the “Iron Man” suit, in 2018.

Tack said that France is perhaps furthest along in creating its Integrated infantryman equipment and communications system, or FELIN, but it’s not as high-tech as the Iron Man suit.

Nevertheless, it’s “unclear whether these type of suits will eventually make it to the battlefield,” Tack said.

Some technical problems still persist: for example, the batteries required to power the exoskeletons — many of which have leg braces that evenly distributes weight and allows the soldier to run faster and jump higher — are too bulky because the suits require so much power, Tack said.

But given how much effort countries are putting into developing these suits, “we may well see some type of them reach the battlefield at some point,” Tack said.

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From 1860-1916 the uniform regulations for the British Army required every soldier to have a mustache

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Photo: Wikipedia


Today I found out that uniform regulation in the British Army between the years 1860 and 1916 stipulated that every soldier should have a moustache.

Command No. 1,695 of the King’s Regulations read:

The hair of the head will be kept short. The chin and the under lip will be shaved, but not the upper lip…

Although the act of shaving one’s upper lip was trivial in itself, it was considered a breach of discipline. If a soldier were to do this, he faced disciplinary action by his commanding officer which could include imprisonment, an especially unsavory prospect in the Victorian era.

Interestingly, it is during the imperial history of Britain that this seemingly odd uniform requirement emerged.  Initially adopted at the tail end of the 1700s from the French, who also required their soldiers to have facial hair which varied depending on the type of soldier (sappers, infantry, etc.),  this follicular fashion statement was all about virility and aggression. Beard and moustache growth was rampant, especially in India where bare faces were scorned as being juvenile and un-manly, as well as in Arab countries where moustaches and beards were likewise associated with power. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the moustache though; back home British citizens were looking on it as a sign of their boys ‘going native’ and it was nearly stamped out completely.

However, in 1854, after significant campaigning, moustaches became compulsory for the troops of the East India Company’s Bombay Army.  While not in the rules for everyone else yet, they were still widely taken up across the Armed Forces and during the Crimean War there were a wide variety of permissible (and over the top) styles. By the 1860s, moustaches were finally compulsory for all the Armed Forces and they became as much an emblem for the Armed Forces as the Army uniform.

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Lt. Gen Frederick Browning sported this epic moustache in 1942. Photo: Wikipedia

In 1916, the regulation was dropped and troops were allowed to be clean-shaven again. This was largely because such a superficial requirement was getting ignored in the trenches of WWI, especially as they could sometimes get in the way of a good gas mask seal.  The order to abolish the moustache requirement was signed on October 6, 1916 by General Sir Nevil Macready, who himself hated moustaches and was glad to finally get to shave his off. While no longer in force today, there are still regulations governing moustaches and, if worn, they can grow no further than the upper lip.  It is also still extremely common for British soldiers in Afghanistan to wear beards, as facial hair is still associated with power and authority in many Islamic regions.

Bonus Moustache Facts:

  • As alluded to, during the Napoleonic era, French soldiers were required to wear facial hair of various sorts.  Sappers were required to have full beards.  Grenadiers and other elite level troops had to maintain large busy moustaches.  Infantry Chasseurs were required to wear goatees with their moustache.  This requirement has long since died out excepting the case of sappers in the Foreign Legion, who still are strongly encouraged to maintain a full, robust beard.
  • Russian non-officer soldiers were required to wear moustaches under Peter the Great’s reign.  On the flipside, while previously it was extremely common for Russian soldiers to wear beards, Peter the Great didn’t find beards so great and not only banned them from the military, but also for civilians, with the lone exception being that members of the clergy could wear them.
  •  Moustache, mustache, and mustachio are all technically correct spellings to describe hair on the upper lip.  Mustachio has relatively recently fallen out of favor for generically describing all moustaches, now more typically referring to particularly elaborate moustaches.  Moustache is the most common spelling today in the English speaking world, though North Americans usually prefer mustache.
  • The English word “moustache” comes from the French word of the same spelling, “moustache”, and popped up in English around the 16th century.  The French word in turn comes from the Italian word “mostaccio”, from the Medieval Latin “mustacium” and in turn the Medieval Greek “moustakion”.  We now finally get to the earliest known origin which was from the Hellenistic Greek “mustax”, meaning “upper lip”, which may or may not have come from the Hellenistic Greek “mullon”, meaning “lip”.  It is theorized that this in turn came from the Proto-Indo-European root “*mendh-“, meaning “to chew” (which is also where we get the word “mandible”).
  • Western Women tend to wax or shave their moustaches, those that can grow them anyways, but Mexican artist Frida Kahlo actually celebrated not only her ‘stache, but also her unibrow, including putting them in her very famous self portrait seen to your right.
  • The oldest known depiction of a man with a moustache goes all the way back to 300 BC.  The depiction was of an Ancient Iranian horseman.
  • “De befborstel” is the Dutch slang for a moustache grown for the specific purpose of stimulating a woman’s clitoris.
  • The longest moustache ever recorded was in Italy on March 4, 2010, and measured in at 14 ft. long (4.29 m).  The proud owner of that magnificent ‘stache was Indian Ram Singh Chauhan.
  • Names of the Various Styles of Moustache:
    • Hungarian: Extremely bushy, with the hairs pulled to the side and with the hairs extending past the upper lip by as much as 1.5 cm.
    • Dali: Named after artist Salvador Dali (who incidentally once published a book, with Philippe Halsman, dedicated to Dali’s moustache, titled: Dali’s Mustache), styled such that the hair past the corner of the mouth is shaved, but the non-shaved hair is allowed to grow such that it can be shaped to point upward dramatically.
    • English Moustache: Thin moustache with the hair on a line in the middle of the upper lip sideways, with the hair at the corner of the mouth slightly shaped upwards.
    • Imperial: Includes not only hair from above the upper lip, but also extends beyond into cheek hair, all of which is curled upward.
    • Fu Manchu: moustache where the ends are styled downwards, sometimes even beyond the bottom of the chin.
    • Handlebar Moustache: a somewhat bushy version of the Dali, but without the strict regulation of having the hair shaved past the side of the lips.
    • Horseshoe: Similar to the Handlebar, but with vertical extensions coming off the sides that extend downwards sharply to the jaw, looking something like an upside down horseshoe (think Hulk Hogan)
    • Chevron: thick moustache covering the whole of the upper lip (think Jeff Foxworthy)
    • Toothbrush: The moustache made popular by Charlie Chaplin, but  whose popularity hit a sharp decline thanks to one Adolph Hitler.
    • Walrus: very similar to the Hungarian, except without the strict length limit on the hair overhanging the upper lip.

Contrary to a myth you may hear sometimes, there is no evidence whatsoever that Adolph Hitler decided to grow a toothbrush moustache to mimic Charlie Chaplin.  Chaplin did parody Hitler in The Great Dictator and sported the now infamous moustache in that film.  The toothbrush moustache was popularized in Germany by Americans and began to become extremely popular by the end of WWI.  Hitler originally went with the previous most popular ‘stache in Germany, the Kaiser Moustache, which was turned up at the ends, often with scented oil.  He continued to wear this ‘stache at least up to and during WWI.  A soldier who served with Hitler during WWI, Alexander Moritz Frey, stated that Hitler was ordered to trim his moustache during WWI while in the trenches to facilitate wearing a gas mask; so shaved the sides off and went with the toothbrush moustache instead.

Chaplin stated that he used the toothbrush moustache as it looked funny and also allowed him to show his expressions more fully than an alternatively comical moustache that covered more of his face would have.

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