Watch Army special forces vet Tyler Grey talk music - We Are The Mighty
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Watch Army special forces vet Tyler Grey talk music

Army Special Forces veteran Tyler Grey is definitely what you would call an “operator.”


A Ranger, a sniper with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and a combat veteran, Grey has served his country well.

He knows the meaning of sacrifice, perhaps more than most. In 2005, he was blown up in a raid in Sadr City, Iraq, which nearly cost him his arm. But the experience gave Grey an evolved sense of perspective.

We Are The Mighty sat down to talk with him about how music had an impact on his career and his life, and what he had to say was pretty insightful.

“The journey isn’t that you never have a problem. The journey is overcoming problems. The music I like is about people who are honest and open enough to share a problem, to share a weakness, to share an experience that affected them, and then how they overcome it.”

We also asked Grey to make a Battle Mix — a playlist of power anthems — with songs that held significant meaning throughout his life. He didn’t disappoint.

Check out his interview here, and then hit up the Battle Mix for your own dose of inspiration:

(We Are The Mighty | YouTube)

The Grey Battle Mix (you’re welcome):

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Disbanded Israeli commando unit returns for counter-terrorism mission

Israel is reestablishing a storied commando unit disbanded in 1974 after the Yom Kippur War to help the country battle today’s terrorist enemies.


According to a report in ShephardMedia.com, the unit is already in operation, and has returned to help bolster units capable of specialized counter-terrorism missions. In this case, the operations may be centering on the Gaza Strip, currently controlled by the terrorist group Hamas.

Watch Army special forces vet Tyler Grey talk music
Officers with the Kfir Brigade practice fighting in built-up areas. (IDF photo)

“The IDF has a need for a special unit capable of operating in Palestinian areas,” Capt. Ben Eichenthal, the unit’s deputy commander, told ShephardMedia.com.

IsraelHayom.com reports that the unit will specialize in military operations in urban terrain and also in “subterranean operations.” Israel has been trying to locate tunnels dug in order to facilitate smuggling into the Gaza Strip. On June 1, two such tunnels were discovered under schools run by the United Nations Refugee Welfare Agency.

While Haruv will have operators trained as snipers, anti-tank units and engineers will not be assigned to this unit, which will be roughly the size of an infantry battalion. The unit has been assigned to the Kfir Brigade – which holds five other counter-terrorist units, the Nachshon, Shimshon, Duchifat, Lavi and Netzah Yehuda battalions.

Watch Army special forces vet Tyler Grey talk music
Israeli troops with the Kfir brigade prepared for urban combat. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The original “Haruv” unit fought in the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, and the Yom Kippur War. Its best-known operation was in ending an airline hijacking in August, 1973. According to Isayeret.com, the unit also specialized in carrying out border security missions on Israel’s border with Jordan.

The earlier Haruv unit carried out a number of its operations in the Gaza Strip. During its eight years in operation, it also carried out ambushes and pursuit missions in the Jordan Valley. In the wake of the Yom Kippur war, the Israeli Defense Forces disbanded special operations units at the regional command level.

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Team Red, White & Blue raised over $1.25 million with the Old Glory Relay

Old Glory traveled through 10 states and touched more than 8,000 hands on its 4,216 mile journey across America this year. Now the third annual Old Glory Relay across the United States has come to an end.


Organized by Team Red, White Blue, the national event spans 62 days and brings together runners, cyclists, walkers and hikers who have a shared interest in connecting with veterans and civilians to the communities they call home.

With support from incredible members and sponsors like Microsoft, Westfield, The Schultz Family Foundation, Amazon, Salesforce, Starbucks and La Quinta Inn Suites, the event raised more than $1,250,000! Team RWB will then use the donations to help establish new chapters across the United States and to sponsor events where veterans and community members with a shared interest in social and physical activities can get together for a little PT and camaraderie.

You can read more about Team Red, White Blue’s success with the Old Glory Relay here.

There are many ways to get involved with Team Red, White Blue, so join the team and get started today. There are always local events happening, and keep an eye out for Team RWB’s national events like the Old Glory Relay!

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The guy who allegedly stabbed train hero Spencer Stone has been arrested

Watch Army special forces vet Tyler Grey talk music
The man who allegedly stabbed Air Force Staff Sgt. Spencer Stone multiple times outside of a Sacramento night club has been arrested, Fox 40 is reporting.


Sacramento Police arrested 28-year-old James Tran during a traffic stop Wednesday, the station reported.

CBS Local reports:

Detectives believe it was Tran who circled behind Stone and stabbed him in the Oct. 8 incident. Tran is not believed to be the man seen hitting a woman, the incident that sparked the altercation.

The stabbing incident occurred Oct. 8 at around 12:45 a.m. between 20th and 22nd street in Sacramento. Stone was stabbed “multiple times” in the chest following an altercation, police told KCRA-TV. Sacramento Police reported the incident as not being terrorism-related, tweeting that alcohol was believed to be a factor since it happened near a bar.

Police told CBS Local that Tran — who did not know Stone — has a criminal history.

Watch Army special forces vet Tyler Grey talk music
Staff Sgt. Spencer Stone

Stone was one of three Americans who thwarted an attack on a French train in August. During the attack, Stone, 23, tackled and disarmed the gunman, who slashed him in the neck and nearly sliced off his thumb with a box cutter, according to NBC Bay Area.

Stone, who was the rank of airman first class at the time of the attack in France, was promoted to Staff Sgt. on Monday. He had only recently recovered from the serious wounds he sustained during the night club altercation. Stabbed four times, he had to have open heart surgery to save his life.

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These animals fought like animals on the battlefield

Until the introduction of modern machinery, animals have played an often-decisive role in warfare.


For instance, the Mongol’s masterful use of horses allowed Genghis Khan and his generals to carve out the largest land empire ever known.

In the book Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals, author Jared Eglan curated amazing insights into how militaries have used a stunning menagerie of animals in combat.

From a 440-pound bear to pigeon-guided missiles, here are nine notable examples of wartime animals.

War elephants

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Photo: US Army Archives

Elephants, with their massive stature and fearsome tusks have been employed in warfare since ancient times. Elephantry units were first incorporated in militaries in India, but throughout time, famous generals including Pyrrhus of Epirus, Hannibal, and Alexander the Great all used elephants to literally crush their opponents.

War elephants were usually deployed in the center of the line, where the imposing beasts would charge at up to 20 mph towards the enemy. They were also used to carry heavy materials across difficult terrain before tanks and helicopters were an option.

Unlike horse-mounted cavalry, elephants didn’t fear infantry lines bearing spears, their muscular and articulate trunks could navigate a wall of spears much better than a charging horse.

The mere sight of elephants charging was enough to break lines and cause many armies to flee in terror. Only cannon fire made the war elephants impractical. The giant animals were resilient against musket fire, but provided a huge target for cannons.

Off the battlefield, militaries still found ways to make use of elephants. As recently as 1987 Iraqi troops allegedly used elephants to transport heavy weaponry for use in Kirkuk.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals

Mine-hunting dolphins

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Photo: US Navy

In 1960, the US Navy first began its studies on dolphins. At first, the studies were limited to testing how dolphins were so hydrodynamic, with efforts on applying the findings towards improving torpedo performance.

However, by 1967 the US Navy Marine Mammal Program evolved into a major project. The program, which is still ongoing, began training dolphins for mine hunting and force protection missions. In the case of mine hunting, dolphins were trained to locate underwater mines and release buoys over their location, allowing the Navy to safely clear the weapons.

During the Iraq War in 2003, such dolphin-led operations led to the clearance of over 100 mines in the port of Umm Qasr. Additionally, dolphins have been trained to guard harbors against enemy divers. When a diver approached, the dolphin was trained to bump a buoy device onto the person’s back which drags them to the surface.

“These animals are released almost daily untethered into the open ocean, and since the program began, only a few animals have not returned,” according to the Navy.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of AnimalsUS Navy

Anti-tank dogs

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Photo: Military archives

The Nazi betrayal of the Soviets during World War II caught the Russians completely off guard. In a desperate attempt at staving off the Nazi advance into their territory, the Soviets originally attempted to train dogs to place bombs in front of tanks before running back to safety.

When this proved too difficult a feat for training, the Soviets instead began strapping bombs to dogs that were activated by a small lever rising from an attached pouch on the dog’s side. When the dog would dive under a tank, the lever would strike the tank’s chassis and detonate.

Soviet propaganda claims that around 300 German tanks were destroyed in this manner. However, the majority of the program proved to be a failure. The dogs were trained on Soviet diesel tanks, instead of German gasoline tanks, so during deployment the dogs had a habit of running towards Soviet vehicles based on scent.

The anti-tank dog program continued until 1996.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals

War pigs

Pigs have been recorded in multiple ancient texts as one of the most effective counter-weapons to war elephants. War elephants were reportedly terrified of the squealing and charging of pigs, so both the Romans and Alexander the Great made use of them in campaigns against enemies that fielded elephants.

In one particularly brutal scenario, the use of incendiary pigs was also recorded.

Eglan notes in Beasts of War that “Antigonus II Gonata’s siege of Megara in 266 BC was broken when the Megarians doused some pigs with combustible pitch, crude oil or resin, set them alight, and drove them towards the enemy’s massed war elephants.

The elephants bolted in terror from the flaming, squealing pigs, often killing great numbers of their own soldiers by trampling them to death.”

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals

Bat bombs

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Developed by the US for use against Japan during World War II, the bat bomb was literally that. Each bomb would contain 26 trays that each held 40 hibernating bats. Each bat was meant to be outfitted with an individual incendiary device that was set to detonate after a specified amount of time.

The bombs could deploy their own parachutes, giving the bats time to fly out and look for places to roost. The US was planning on dropping hundreds of the bombs over Japan’s industrial cities in Osaka Bay.

As Japanese cities at the times were largely constructed of wood and paper at the time, the bombs would have caused thousands of fires and burned large sections of Japanese cities to the ground. The project was ultimately superseded by the atomic bomb.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals

Defensive sea lions

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Photo: US Navy

The US Navy Marine Mammal Program, in addition to studying and deploying dolphins, also employed California Sea Lions.

Trained in the same facilities, and even sometimes working on the same missions together, the sea lions helped to protect US harbor installations and ships against enemy divers as well as retrieving text equipment that is fired from ships or dropped from planes.

The sea lions are naturally excellent divers, out performing even experienced human divers at a fraction of the price.

The Navy first used sea lions to recover a test anti-submarine rocket from a depth of 180 feet in November 1970.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals, US Navy

Pigeon-guided missiles

Watch Army special forces vet Tyler Grey talk music
Photo: US Army

Pigeon-guided missiles were developed by noted behaviorist B.F. Skinner during Project Pigeon. Although the project was ultimately canceled because of the impracticality of the weapons, the idea of pigeon-guided missiles showed promise.

The missile had an array of lenses at the front that projected an image of the target to an interior screen. The pigeons were conditioned to peck at the target on the screen. The pigeon’s pecks corrected the missile’s flight path.

Although the project was canceled in 1944, it was revived in 1948 by the US Navy. However, after missile guidance systems were proven effective in 1953, the idea of pigeon-guided missiles was finally laid to rest.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals

A soldier-bear

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Photo: imgur coveredinksauce

Wojtek was born in in 1942, but by the end of World War II he was a corporal in the Polish Army.

After being released from a Siberian labor camp during the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1942, the 22nd Polish Supply Brigade began a long trek south toward Persia. It was then that they encountered Wojtek.

The bear became a mascot for the troops in its youth. The bear would frequently drink alcohol and smoke, even eat, cigarettes with the men.

After a long journey, Wojtek’s company finally reached Egypt where they prepared to reenter the war zone through Italy. The army had strict rules denying pets passage to war zones, so the company did the only thing they could — they made Wojtek an official soldier.

Wojtek, at a massively strong 440 pounds, carried weapons and munitions much faster than the men in his company. Eventually, Wojtek became so symbolic of the company that they immortalized them on their emblem.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals

Cat spies

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Photo: NSA Archives

The acoustic kitty was a CIA project in the 1960s that set out to use cats to spy on the Kremlin and other Soviet embassies.

Cats used in the project had microphones implanted in their ear canals, and radio transmitters in the base of their skulls. In theory, the cats would become mobile, albeit unpredictable little spies reporting immediately back to the CIA.

In the first deployment of an Acoustic Kitty, the cat was unleashed around a Soviet compound in Washington, D.C. The cat was released nearby, but a taxi struck and killed the cat almost immediately.

Predictably, the CIA abandoned the project due to the difficulty of getting a cat to do pretty much anything on command. The project reportedly cost $20 million.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of AnimalsNSA Archives

 

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The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range

Members of the 82nd Airborne Division, Delta 1-321 Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, fire a 155mm Howitzer during a training mission at Forward Operating Base Andar, Afghanistan, Oct. 10, 2010.(ISAF photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Swafford/released) Members of the 82nd Airborne Division, Delta 1-321 Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, fire a 155mm Howitzer during a training mission at Forward Operating Base Andar, Afghanistan. | ISAF photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Swafford


On March 19, U.S. Marine Corps staff sergeant Louis Cardin, a field artilleryman assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, died during an attack on Fire Base Bell outside of Makhmur, Iraq. Coincidentally, the U.S. Army is hard at work developing a farther-firing howitzer that could help keep artillery troops out of range of enemy forces.

The Army is cooking up a suite of improvements could double the range of the existing M-777 howitzer. Right now the 155-millimeter gun, in service with the Army and Marines, can lob shells at targets up to 18 miles away.

The M-777ER version the Army is working on “will be able to reach out and hit targets … before the targets can reach them,” David Bound, the lead engineer on the project at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, told Army reporters. Troops “won’t have to worry about coming into a situation where they are under fire before they can return fire.”

The modifications add fewer than 1,000 pounds of extra weight onto the older howitzers. The updates include improvements that will help gunners fire more accurately plus a mechanism to automatically load rounds into the gun.

The biggest change is the addition of new barrel that’s six feet longer. The longer M-777ER should be able to hit enemy forces more than 43 miles away. And with more powerful propellant charges and rocket-assisted shells, crews might be able to increase that range even more in the near future.

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The Army’s M-777ER prototype. | U.S. Army photo

While the changes to the M-777 might sound simple, the new gun’s extra length actually complicates its employment. Unlike older towed howitzers that hitch up to cargo trucks with their stabilizing legs, the lightweight M-777 has its tow loop right at the end of its barrel. Folded up for travel, the new version will still be more than 35 feet long.

In combat, troops could end up taking the guns off-road, up hills and over uneven terrain. With six more feet between the truck and the howitzer’s own two wheels, there’s greater potential for the barrel to flex if it isn’t sturdy enough to withstand the shock.

A bent barrel would throw off where the shells fall. A broken barrel might simply explode.

So, the project’s biggest challenge might be just convincing soldiers and Marines that the guns work. “The visual prejudice we are up against is that it looks like it may tip over with all that extra cannon,” Bound noted.

With help from engineers at Benet Labs, the Army plans to run “mobility” demonstrations to prove that the gun and its new features are ready for combat. The ground combat branch also plans to install the longer barrel on the new M-109A7 Paladin self-propelled howitzer.

Watch Army special forces vet Tyler Grey talk music
Marines hitch an M-777 up to a truck. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

Farther-firing cannons would no doubt help in the fight against Islamic State. Since the summer of 2015, the Army has lobbed hundreds of 227-millimeter rockets at militant forces from bases in Iraq and Jordan.

Launched from the back of a six-wheel truck, these GPS-guided projectiles can hit targets up to 43 miles away — the same range the Army expects of the M-777ER. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launcher can shoot one rocket every five seconds. But the vehicle can only fire six rockets in total before the crew needs to reload.

So to provide protection for … advisers in Makhmur, we realize that we need some fire support, we need some artillery to provide great protection,” Army colonel Steve Warren, the Pentagon’s main spokesman for the campaign against Islamic State, told reporters on March 21. “We scratched out a fire base there, placed the guns.”

Rocket and gun artillery have the benefit of being less vulnerable to air defenses and the weather than fighter-bombers or gunship helicopters can be. Depending on where aircraft are during an attack, these weapons might take far less time to get into action.

The trainers and Marines at Fire Base Bell are backing up the Iraqi government’s offensive to liberate Mosul. But in their current configuration, the Marine Corps’ guns can’t reach the outskirts of the terrorist-controlled city.

“The Marines fired upon the enemy infiltration routes in order to disrupt their freedom of movement and ability to attack Kurdish and Peshmerga forces,” the military stated. In short, at the moment the gunners at Fire Base Bell are mainly harassing Islamic State’s fighters. But with the M-777ER’s extra range, they should be able to hit the militants’ main defenses in Mosul’s suburbs.

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US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces

U.S. fighters scrambled Friday against Syrian aircraft that dropped bombs near American special operations forces on the ground in the northeast in an incident that was the closest the U.S. has come to combat in the wartorn country.


Syrian air force Su-24s made by Russia departed the areas over the contested city of Hasakah before the U.S. warplanes arrived but Pentagon officials made clear that the Syrians would risk attack if they returned.

U.S. and coalition troops were on the ground near the bombing in their train, advise and assist role, according to Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

Watch Army special forces vet Tyler Grey talk music
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Erin Trower

“The Syrian regime would be well advised not to do things that would place them at risk,” he said. “We do have the right of self-defense.”

No U.S. or coalition troops were injured in the bombings, which were close enough to pose a threat, he said.

Davis said he could not confirm that the incident in the skies over Hasakah was the closest the U.S. has come to combat in Syria but added that “I’d be hard-pressed to think of another situation like it.”

President Barack Obama has barred combat for U.S. ground forces in Iraq and Syria but the ban stops at self-defense.

Davis said that two Syrian Su-24s conducted bombing runs over Hasakah, where there have been clashes in recent days between Syrian regime forces and Kurdish militias backed by the U.S.

American officials immediately contacted the Russians through communications channels set up by the two militaries under a memorandum of understanding, Davis said. “The Russians said it was not them,” he said.

The U.S. then scrambled fighters but Davis said the action was not an “intercept” since the Syrian aircraft were leaving the scene.

Mighty Moments

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

Chances are you have read a book that changed your mind, and possibly, your life. That is why most of us read, to learn something new, to be inspired, entertained, feel a closeness, or simply to transport us to a different place. I never anticipated how a book I opened last year would awaken my spirit in every way, offering generational and timeless truths. Moreover, it made me believe in fate again. 

However, there is a catch. This life-altering book and its promise can only be retold here—because there was only one that was accidentally printed. 

What Are the Odds? 

Although I published my book a few years ago, the story about it that came to life happened in January 2019. It began when I placed an order with my distributor to restock my stash of hardcovers that dwindled from holiday sales. I love being gifted a signed copy of any book, so I keep this purchase option on my author website too. As my husband says, reading a signed book is like eating outside—the food always tastes better. 

On my way out the door after the morning shuffle of grabbing jackets, bags and breakfast, a large box sitting in the foyer caught my eye. It was that resupply of books, having arrived the day before. Ever the multitasker, I grabbed a knife from the kitchen, slit the taped seam of the box and took the first copy on top of the stack. Stuffing it into my purse, I planned to drop this in the mail to fulfill the personalized order in my inbox and knock one more thing off my to-do list! Yet sitting in my Jeep in front of the post office later that day, the universe stood still when I opened the book to autograph it.

It was not my book. 

I snapped it closed—I was in utter disbelief—and stared at the paper jacket wrapped around the hardcover: The Frontline Generation: How We Served Post 9/11. Yes, that was my book cover. I removed the jacket, checked the gray cloth bound outside, which did have my last name and book title embossed on the binding. But when I opened it for a second time, this time slowly turning the first blank page at the beginning, I landed again on a cover page that was not the title of my book. I’m sure my lips mouthed the foreign words. 

Fearful Odds: A Memoir of Vietnam and Its Aftermath was the manuscript bound inside my hardcover, in its entirety, which was revealed after inspecting the first few pages individually, to fanning to the end with my thumb landing on acknowledgments. Speaking of odds, I thought, what are the chances that two different books are accidentally and perfectly combined during a print run? The fact that the two bound together just happened to be books written by two veterans—from two different generations, two different wars—seemed unbelievable. 

I returned to my home office, and after a few minutes of internet sleuthing, I discovered the other author—and he was alive! After digging up a phone number and being transferred through two secretaries, I was asked to hold. An older, warm inquisitive voice came through my iPhone. “Is this true? Our books are bound together?” Charles W. Newhall, the Vietnam Veteran and author whose book was combined with mine was the man on the other end of the call. I recounted the discovery, ending with, “Well, it appears to me I’m supposed to read your book.” He aptly replied, “And I yours. Let’s determine if we like each other and reconnect then.” 

I smiled in response, “Sounds perfect.” I liked him instantly. And I was glad to hear he went by Chuck, since funny enough, my husband, who is also a veteran, shares his name—talk about alleviating confusion! I emailed him a short video of our book. Chuck was equally amused and replied he had already placed his online order for my book. I planned to start Fearful Odds over the weekend, but a cryptic one sentence email from Chuck a few days later kept me up all night reading his book. 

“Just finished yours … much to discuss …” 

The Striking Differences, the Eerie Similarities 

Before the trending “OK, boomer” pejorative that mocks that crowd I’ll simply define here as those who won’t retire or stop running for public office, I had already (and unexpectedly) unearthed a deeper affinity for the Vietnam generation during my book tour. This unexplained connectedness made no sense to me then, nor did it as I began to read through the striking differences outlined in Fearful Odds. Chuck’s opening is the gut punch annihilation of 40 percent of his platoon the first few days in battle—casualties for the Global War on Terror are nowhere near those lost and immortalized on black granite in Washington DC. Make no mistake, though, every loss of life in combat is heartbreaking, even if it is one soldier from a battalion, as described in my book. 

Nevertheless, Chuck’s counterinsurgency fight in the A Shau Valley and the jungles of Vietnam are a bloody contrast to the unforgiving mountains and deserts in the Middle East, in particular the narrow dirt roads described in my memoir about Eastern Afghanistan. Also, consider that while Chuck endured enemy fire alongside those who were drafted, I served with an all-volunteer force when rockets pounded our bases. In the 1960s and ’70s, families talked about our foreign policy commitments around the kitchen table because someone they knew would have their number drawn. Post 9/11, America has continued to go shopping at the mall while the smallest number in our history—less than 1 percent—wears our nation’s uniform. 

These startling disparities of our times cannot be understated. I shook my head in disgust when reading about Chuck getting kicked out of a bar when he returned home—vulgarities and disrespect were hurled at him and another service member for simply wanting to buy their first stateside beer. When I walked through crowded airports upon my arrival, I experienced glares, too, but in another way. A stranger anonymously bought my lunch when I stopped to eat on my layover, passing along a simple message through the waiter: “Thank you for your service.” Let me say this: no post 9/11 veteran must go on a book tour to appreciate how differently we are treated from the Vietnam generation of service members. 

On a personal level, while the combat Chuck and I experienced was separated by nearly forty years, there were far greater chasms between the baby boomer Chuck and this Xennial (a person born between Gen-X’rs and Millennials). For example, the obvious—I am a woman, and he is a man. Raised in the southwest in tract housing where baseboards are not flush, I have a Nashville spark perhaps only matched by the maverick fire Chuck emits from his palatial, East Coast, private school upbringing. And as I stand on the doorstep of middle-age, middle class, and rising, Chuck is perched atop a breathtaking legacy that most would not even dare to dream. 

This is where the divergence in our stories end, overpowered by eerie similarities that still make the hair stand up on the back of my neck. 

Despite where each of us started, what we have in common was the unequivocal drive to start living as quickly as possible. Both of us share an unshakable reverence for tradition yet are clearly wired to defy norms and ask questions. Our yearning for adventure and thirst for knowledge can easily be romanticized as those who may be so bold to passion chase, speak up, take risks. The unflattering and imperfect side to ambition is present, too, as we both confide our edges with the reader. And, of course, our devotion to country and its higher ideals made the decision to serve in the military as natural as breathing. 

Yet it was what was revealed in the pages beyond our like constitutions that kept me reading throughout the night. 

For two absolute random books to be combined by mistake, both of our stories were set against the backdrop of serving in combat at the peak of military surges, for Vietnam and Afghanistan. Ironically, we were in the same unit too—he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, while I was attached to the Screaming Eagles four decades later. And he carried the weight and responsibility of lives—just as I did—as it was that we were both commanders. 

Marjorie K. Eastman in Afghanistan.

It is easy to dismiss all this coincidence up to a point. But with the turn of every page, there was more that fueled the mystery of our printing error. Our equal commitment and love for those who fought by our sides is palpable. Just the same is our shared lessons learned on leadership, where our quotes dance around the same virtues. Resolute beliefs were sown—views that span generations—that service members must only be sent to win wars, not fight them endlessly. And chills ran through my body when I read the names of his soldiers that were identical to mine—every generation has a Schmitty and a Mac. However, it was the “close call” that made me set down the book and take a deep breath—we both drove over a roadside bomb that did not detonate. 

Our stories together were culminating in timeless truths. Bound together, a new wisdom began to emerge. 

Homecoming 

chuck newhall
Chuck Newell in Vietnam

I was about halfway through Chuck’s memoir when I flipped ahead to study the photos in the center of his book. His piercing eyes were a marked contrast to my ready smile; nevertheless, I knew that gaze. I looked at the clock and groaned. It had been a long time since I pulled an “all-nighter.” Yet this next part of the story was about homecoming—leaving the military and establishing a new mission as a civilian. Or, simply, starting anew. The tired, catchy phrase transition overused by the post 9/11 military community was exactly the current chapter of my life. I had to keep reading. 

I anticipated sage insight from this warrior who had gone before me that would help guide me through the maze of my newfound wilderness. I was, again, astonished by our similar steps and struggles. 

Up to this point, both of our books also described how love shaped and empowered us. Particularly, the love we had with our spouses. Interestingly, we both highlight our R&R and the recharge it provided to finish our deployments. That said, he met his wife Marsi in Hong Kong in a Rolls Royce with a bottle of Dom Perignon, while my husband Charles picked me up in his Ford F150 with handpicked flowers, and we hid away in a townhome near the border of Kentucky. Call it coincidence, again, but Chuck and I both went on to business school, forged paths tied to entrepreneurship, and started our families. Charles and I had a son. Marsi and Chuck had two boys. 

During this period, hardships that transcend and transformative events shook both of us to our core. 

Life’s greatest battles are not necessarily reserved for those in combat. For years, I carried the burden as a spouse of a soldier, since Charles continued back-and-forth combat tours, juggling the fear of losing him and our ongoing pain of multiple miscarriages and infertility. Then, it happened on a Wednesday when the doctor told us our only child had infant cancer. There is a special kind of hell for moments in life like this. Chuck knew this all too well, and suffered greatly from Marsi’s bipolar disorder, depression and infidelity. On what was supposed to be just another cold, gray Saturday in winter, Chuck discovered Marsi’s body in the woods behind their house—she’d committed suicide. 

His account of this awful tragedy and aftermath is some of the most gripping and honest writing one could read. 

We may not all share the same experiences, but we do all have the same emotions. Chuck and I both recognized how the hardening from our past helped us overcome these crucibles. Every person has been through something—there are chapters in everyone’s lives that they would not want to read out loud. Even so, the human spirit is relentless. Resilience, grit, and courage is earned when you go through the tough times. Those reservoirs, faith, and professional help led both of us to new frontiers. For Charles and me, our little boy beat cancer and provides us never-ending happiness. For Chuck, a beautiful ray of sunshine named Amy brought his family back to life and has been by his side for thirty-seven years. 

Healing can be found in the gardens of life. 

In the gardens we meet 

Indeed, we had much to discuss. Amongst other things, our combined stories tackle assumptions and dispel the notion of what we are all capable of enduring and producing. Yet the greatest revelation occurred when we met face to face in the spring. 

Charles and I had planned a weekend road trip with our son to see the nation’s capital during the peak bloom of cherry blossoms. Since Chuck and Amy reside outside the Beltway, we coordinated a Sunday lunch before our drive back to North Carolina. We had chatted on the phone a few more times by now, delightful banter and, of course, divulging exclusive footnotes. I also learned Chuck’s book had a companion volume, Brightside Gardens: A Dialogue Between the Head and the Heart, which presents the emotional and visual impact of the Newhall’s exquisite fifty-four individual gardens on their private property. When we pulled into the driveway, Chuck walked outside to meet us in the courtyard. 

He stood defiantly tall and ready to give us a personal tour of the grounds, in particular, A Shau Garden. Clutching a cane to help steady the shaky encounters Parkinson’s mounts on his aging vessel, I walked straight in his direction. My instinct said the only appropriate greeting would be how one would embrace an old comrade. I gave him a hug. Customary introductions were exchanged once Charles and our seven-year-old son climbed out of the Jeep. Then we followed Chuck’s lead through the iron gates.

chuck newhall

My little boy skipped ahead as we inhaled the crisp early spring air and took in the beauty that surrounded us. It’s been said that you find meaning when you want or need meaning. Making sense of why I was walking beside Chuck, why our books were combined, was reminiscent in how his interwoven gardens urge you to not overthink nature. Accept remarkable turns of fate and allow them to touch your heart and ignite your spirit. Because when you stand amongst winter aconites, which Chuck planted in A Shau Garden to honor the fallen, one is reminded that the gift of each new day is rooted in both the joys and trials we face. 

Whatever your war, cultivate hard-earned wisdom and you will not only prevail, but thrive. 

Amy welcomed us as we approached the house, yet her glow and charisma was felt from the terrace. She reaffirms that our society should widen the definition of heroes. Our son immediately warmed up to her and their dear elderly pug, which was roaming through the ornate living room. We took a seat, and I finally presented Chuck with “our” book. He mirrored my response to this implausible printing error, looking over it slowly and carefully. And then, looking up at me and smiling. 

Not every story about war is a war story. 

Before we departed that day, Chuck and I made sure to exchange signed copies of our books. Overwhelmed by the surreal moment, I tried to inscribe a fitting note to him. Yet, for a person who is an author, I wrestled for the right words. Of all the personalized copies I have signed, this one was on a level all its own! Chuck finished what he wrote in his copy, closed the book, and handed it to me. 

chuck newhall

On our drive home, I found the treasure that awaited me inside his signed hardcover. 

Perfectly bound 

What are the odds that my book was combined with Chuck’s? Well, our books printed out of a warehouse that is part of the largest distributor of books in the world, Ingram Content Group. Despite proprietary confidentiality on the total numbers Ingram prints daily, it is safe to conclude our combined book is inimitable. I learned our books were not lined in the queue because we were the same genre or alphabetically close, either. And print errors of any kind are minuscule—Ingram boasts a Quality Efficiency Rating of 99.865%! 

The team at Ingram said they have never heard of a printing error like this. 

Our combined story was a harmonious call to action to live with conviction and for each other, to do so fearlessly, or otherwise said, find your frontline. One of Chuck’s favorite quotes captures this sentiment, which is actually the title of his third book that will be released later this year. When I saw Chuck and Amy again while passing through Baltimore for a conference, he handed me an early draft of Dare Disturb the Universe: A Memoir of Venture Capital. I would be captivated once more by the powerful details of his professional journey (he refers to it as a quest) that changed the world. 

As we were wrapping up our lunch, I joked with Chuck, “Our printing error really should be a movie.” Without missing a beat, he replied, “It absolutely should be—it could save lives.” I knew the depth of his statement, not just meant for those in the throes of some form of adversity, for those searching or listless. Every twist in our paths matter. And sometimes they are intertwined to awaken us and bridge our understanding of life.

The mistake of our combined book was a perfect symbol to that point, solving the mystery. However we are tied in, each of us is unique, destined, certain the way we are. And not singular. We are not alone. In a time where isolation and feeling disconnected are more pronounced, the fateful error of our combined book is a reminder that our stories, our world, is bound together. 

The providence of Chuck’s inscription exposed this epiphany: “It is so great—someone understands me.”

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This is the White House plan to play ‘chicken’ with Beijing in the South China Sea

President Donald Trump approved a plan to check Beijing over its continued militarization of and actions in the South China Sea.


Over the last few years, China has ambitiously built up islands on reefs and atolls in the South China Sea and militarized them with radar outposts, military-grade runways, and shelters for missile defenses.

Military analysts believe China hopes to expand its air defense and identification zone into the western Pacific and build a blue-water navy to rival the US’s, but six other countries also lay claim to parts of the region.

In 2016, an international court at The Hague deemed China’s maritime claims unlawful and excessive, but China rejected the ruling outright and has continued to build military installations and unilaterally declare no-fly and no-sail zones.

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US Navy and Republic of Singapore ships in the South China Sea. US Coast Guard photo by Public Affairs Specialist 3rd Class Angela Henderson

When a country makes an excessive naval claim, the US Navy challenges it by sailing its ships, usually destroyers, close to the disputed territory or through the disputed waters as a way of ensuring freedom of navigation for all. In 2016, the US challenged the excessive claims of 22 nations — China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in annual shipping passes, were the most prominent.

China has responded forcefully to US incursions into the region, telling the US the moves were provocative and that they must ask permission, which doesn’t align with international law or UN conventions.

“China’s military will resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security, and regional peace and stability,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in response to US bombers flying in the region.

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China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. | PLA

Under former US President Barack Obama, the US suspended freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea from 2012 to 2015. In 2016, the US made just three such challenges. So far, under Trump, the US has made three challenges already.

“You have a definite return to normal,” said chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White

“This administration has definitely given the authority back to the people who are in the best position to execute those authorities, so it’s a return to normal,” she said.

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The conflicting claims on territory in the South China Sea. Graphic from naturalflow Flickr

Freedom of navigation operations work best when they’re routine in nature and don’t make news.

They serve to help the US establish the facts in the water, but in the South China Sea, those facts all indicate Chinese control.

When Chinese military jets fly armed over head, when Chinese navy ships patrol the waters, and when Chinese construction crews lay down the framework for a network of military bases in the South China Sea, the US’s allies in the region notice.

An increased US Navy presence in the area won’t turn back time and unpave runways, but it could send a message to allies that the US has their back and won’t back away from checking Beijing.

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13 radio calls troops really love to hear

Troops on the ground spend a lot of time talking on the radio to a variety of commands and assets: planes and helicopters overhead, their headquarters, and artillery lines, and as they do, they use certain brevity codes and calls to make these communications fast and clear.


Here are 13 of the codes troops really love to hear when they’re outside the wire:

1. “Attack”/”Attacking”

Ground controllers give an aircraft the go-ahead to drop bombs or fire other munitions on the ground with the word “Attack,” and the pilot replies with “attacking.” Troops love to hear this exchange because it means a fireworks show is about to start on the enemy’s position.

2. “Bird”

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Photo: US Army

The official meaning of “bird” is a surface-to-air missile, but troops sometimes use it to mean a helicopter. Since helicopters bring missiles and supplies and evacuate wounded troops, this is always welcome.

3. Bomber/CAS/CCA callsigns

While these callsigns change depending on which air unit is providing them assistance, troops love to hear any callsign from a good bomber, close air support, or close combat air pilot. These are the guys who drop bombs and fire missiles.

4. “Cleared hot”/”Cleared to engage”

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Photo: US Air Force

The ground controller has cleared an air asset to drop bombs or other munitions on their next pass.

5. “Danger close”

The term means that bombs, artillery, or other big booms are being fired in support of ground troops but that the weapons will fall near friendly forces.

While danger close missions are exciting to see in movies and troops are happy to receive the assistance, soldiers in the field usually have mixed feelings about “danger close” since an enemy that is nearly on top of them is about to die, but they’ll also be near the blast.

6. Dustoff

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Photo: Staff Sgt. Corey J. Hook/USAF

Service members on the ground don’t like needing a medical evacuation, but they love it when the “Dustoff” bird is en route and when it finally lands. It’ll take their wounded buddy off the battlefield and will typically replenish the medical supplies of their corpsman or medic, making everyone safer.

7. “Engage”

Fire control uses “Engage” to let operators of a weapons system know that they’ve been cleared to fire. This could open up the mortar section, gun line, or other firing unit to attack the enemy.

8. “Good effects on target”

A bomb or artillery rounds have struck the target and destroyed it, meaning something that needed to die has, in fact, died.

9. “Hit”

This is said by the ground controller or artillery observer to let a plane, artillery section, or other weapons platform know that it successfully dropped its munitions within a lethal distance of the target. If the target survived anyway, the ground controller may say “Repeat,” to get more rounds dropped or may give new firing directions instead.

10. “RTB”

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Photo: US Navy Lt. Chad A. Dulac

It stands for “return to base” and troops love it because it means they get to head home and take their armor and packs off.

11. “Shot”

The artillery line uses “shot” to say that they’ve fired the rounds requested by the forward observer. The FO will reply with “shot out” and listen for the word “splash,” discussed below.

12. “Speedball”

This is the unofficial term for a small resupply dropped from a plane or helicopter, typically in a body bag. Troops short on ammo, water, batteries, etc. will request them. Medical supplies aren’t generally included in a speedball since the helicopter can just kick a normal aid bag out the door.

13. “Splash”

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Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp

The firing line tells an observer “splash” five seconds before a round is expected to hit the target. When the observer sees the detonation from the round, they reply with “splash out” to let the artillery unit know the round hit and exploded. The FO will then give the firing line adjustments needed to hit the target or confirm that the target was hit.

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This was the toughest fight in the bloodiest WW2 battle of the Pacific

When the 6th Marine Division stormed ashore at Okinawa on April 1, 1945 they knew they were in for a fight. Okinawa is a Japanese prefecture, therefore home turf, and would be ruthlessly defended.


But, their first month on the island was almost uneventful as the Marines swept across the northern part of the island.

All of that changed when they shifted to join the attack in the south.

The Japanese commander’s plan was to concentrate his forces in the hills of southern Okinawa and wage a war of attrition on the Americans that he hoped they could not withstand.

All along the front, American units took a beating from the Japanese. Slowly but surely though, they crept forward. This monumental effort broke the first defensive line, the Machinato line. This led the Americans to the next, and even more formidable defense, the Shuri line.

The Shuri line was the Japanese Main Line of Resistance. It ran from coast to coast across Okinawa roughly in line with Shuri castle.

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Though barely 75 feet high and some 300 yards in length Sugar Loaf Hill was teeming with an entire Japanese regiment. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

All along the line, the Japanese defenders were chewing up entire American divisions. However, the worst of it would come for the 6th Marine Division at an unassuming little hill they called “Sugar Loaf.”

Though barely 75 feet high and some 300 yards in length the small hill was teeming with an entire Japanese regiment. The Japanese were dug into intricate tunnels with machine gun and mortar nests covering every approach with interlocking fire.

Artillery from Shuri heights behind Sugar Loaf added more devastation.

On May 12 Company G, 22nd Marines advanced on the hill. Confidence was high as they crossed the first 900 yards to Sugar Loaf’s slopes. Then all hell broke loose. The first two platoons were suddenly ripped apart and pinned down by heavy Japanese machine gun and artillery fire.

Capt. Owen Stebbins, and his XO, Lt. Dale Bair rushed forward leading the remaining platoon. Before they could even make the slopes, Stebbins and 28 other Marines were cut down.

Bair assumed command but was wounded instantly himself. Despite his wounds, he rallied his men and surged to the crest of Sugar Loaf. Blasting at the Japanese with only one good arm Bair inspired his men before Japanese fire repeatedly struck him. Continuing to fight through the pain Bair did everything in his power to suppress the Japanese. He was later awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.

As the Japanese fire intensified, the few remaining Marines evacuated the summit. However, the fight was not over. G Company would assault Sugar Loaf and take the summit three more times that day before being forced to withdraw for the night.

Company G was down to 75 able-bodied men after only the first day. The next day other elements of the 22nd Marines captured the summit of Sugar Loaf only to be driven off.

On May 14, elements of the 29th Marines joined in on the attack and the combined effort managed to get two companies to the top of the hill. Withering fire from the Japanese forced them back down.

An attack in the afternoon by the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Marines stalled and left Maj. Henry Courtney, the battalion XO, stranded on the slopes along with 44 other Marines. From his precarious position, Courtney surmised that their only hope was to assault.

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Courtney was awarded the Medal of Honor for his leadership in the assault on Sugar Loaf Hill. (Photo from USMCU.edu)

Leading the way through ferocious Japanese fire Courtney led his men through fierce combat. After gaining a better position, Courtney sent for reinforcements and ammunition. He then pushed forward to the crest of the hill, demolishing Japanese positions with grenades as he went. Observing a large force assembling for a counterattack Courtney pushed on and routed the enemy from the top of Sugar Loaf.

Courtney order his men to dig in and hold for the night. Unfortunately, accurate Japanese mortar fire mortally wounded him and determined Japanese resistance reduced his small force to only 15 men. Unable to hold they once again yielded the summit.

Courtney was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

May 15 was no better for the Marines. Company D, 29th Marines battled to the top before fighting a bitter engagement with the Japanese. A single platoon exhausted some 350 grenades and were down to eleven men before they retreated.

Elsewhere the 22nd Marines fought off a Japanese counterattack with vicious hand-to-hand combat.

On the 16th, the Marines renewed their assault. The 22nd Marines once again went up Sugar Loaf while the 29th Marines attacked Half Moon hill, a small landmass interconnected with Sugar Loaf’s defenses, from which they could provide supporting fire.

Sugar Loaf changed hands four separate times before the Marines withdrew. The final attempt seemed to be holding when they ran out of ammunition and had no choice but to forfeit the hill once more.

The first good news of the battle came on May 17 when a battalion from the 29th Marines finally secured most of Half Moon hill.

The next day, the Marines launched diversionary attacks all along the line and then snuck a unit of tanks and infantry between Sugar Loaf and Half Moon. These Marines then attacked Sugar Loaf from the rear and finally drove out the remaining Japanese defenders. This was the twelfth times the Marines had made the summit and they were loath to relinquish it.

The beleaguered and angry Marines mowed down the retreating Japanese.

The fight for Sugar Loaf Hill had cost the Marines over 2,600 causalities with nearly 1,300 more evacuated for exhaustion or illness. But, the Marines hard-won victory finally cracked the Shuri line and spelled the end for the Japanese defenders on Okinawa.

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Congress wants to know if the US could win a nuclear war against China, Russia

U.S. intelligence agencies are evaluating the respective Russian and Chinese capabilities to survive a nuclear war, as well as those of the United States.


Congress has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and U.S. Strategic Command, through the National Defense Authorization Act of the Fiscal Year 2017, to report on Russian and Chinese “leadership survivability, command and control, and continuity of government programs and activities” in the event of a nuclear strike.

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A Russian Topol M mobile nuclear missile. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The directive was pushed forward by Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio).

The U.S. “must understand how China and Russia intend to fight a war and how their leadership will command and control a potential conflict. This knowledge is pivotal to our ability to deter the threat,” Turner told Bloomberg.

Russia and China “have invested considerable effort and resources into understanding how we fight, including how to interfere with our leadership’s communication capabilities,” he added.

“We must not ignore gaps in our understanding of key adversary capabilities,” he concluded.

The intelligence review is required to identify “which facilities various senior political and military leaders of each respective country are expected to operate out of during crisis and wartime,” “location and description of above-ground and underground facilities important to the political and military leadership survivability,” and “key officials and organizations of each respective country involved in managing and operating such facilities, programs, and activities.”

“Our experts are drafting an appropriate response,” Navy Captain Brook DeWalt, a spokesman for U.S. Strategic Command, told Bloomberg.

“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in December. He said that Russian forces should be able to “neutralize any military threat.”

China should “build more strategic nuclear arms and accelerate the deployment of the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile,” China’s nationalist Global Times said in December.

Last week, Chinese reports indicated that China had deployed its nuclear-capable DF-41s in response to President Donald Trump’s “provocative remarks.”

The request predates Trump’s election; however, it appears consistent with his intentions for enhancing the power of the U.S. military.

“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump tweeted in late December.

Trump instructed Secretary of Defense General James Mattis to “initiate a new Nuclear Posture Review to ensure that the United States nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies” Friday.

At the same time, Trump hopes that he can reshape relations with both China and Russia.

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Ft. Hood-area woman leaves behind a legacy of 500,000 hugs

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(Photo: KCEN)


“You can’t wrap love in a box, but you can wrap a person in a hug.” – Anonymous

US Air Force Veteran Elizabeth Laird, better known as the “Hug Lady” of Fort Hood, recently passed away at 83 years old. Over the years she wrapped her arms around more than 500,000 soldiers, according to the estimates of Army officials.

Initially, Laird volunteered to shake soldier’s hands. According to an interview with NBC’s Today Show, one soldier offered to give her a hug after she shook his hand. She went from handshakes to hugs from that moment on.

In 2003, she and Command Sgt. Maj. William “Joe” Gainey signed a memorandum of understanding formalizing her mission: Laird was now officially authorized to hug every Fort Hood soldier departing or arriving. She was there with open arms – no matter the time, weather, how large or small of a group, family circumstances, or her own cancer diagnosis.

“[She] wanted to make sure someone here at home is interested and waiting for them to come home again,” Laird’s son Richard Dewee said.

Col. Christopher C. Garver, a military spokesman, released a the following statement on Laird’s passing:

On behalf of the Soldiers, Airmen, Civilians, and Families of III Corps and Fort Hood, I want to extend our sincere condolences to the family of Mrs. Elizabeth Laird, known throughout Central Texas as “The Hug Lady.” She has long been associated with Fort Hood for her dedication, support, and genuine care for our Soldiers, Families and Civilian employees. For more than a decade, she has been personally saying farewell to our troops as they deploy and greeting them as they return. It is with heavy hearts that we express our gratitude for Elizabeth, not only for her service with the U.S. Air Force, but also in recognition of her tireless efforts to show her appreciation for our Soldiers and her recognition of their many sacrifices. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones; she will be deeply missed.

Laird’s niece Becky Triplett posted the following on her Facebook page:

“When I talked to her the last time, she had been invited to the Rachel Ray show. When I asked if she was going she said ‘No I don’t think so, it wouldn’t be fair to the soldier coming or going. They deserve that hug more.’ She left a very good legacy. RIP Aunt Betty.”

An online petition to name the Fort Hood Deployment Center in Elizabeth Laird’s honor can be found here.

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