In the middle of the Civil War the president felt like the nation needed some context, a chance to reflect on America’s collective gifts. So in 1863 Abraham Lincoln set apart the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”
The proclamation begins with this thought:
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”
But the creation of a national holiday didn’t end the war, and since that time American service members have spent many Thanksgivings in war zones. Here are 16 photos that show some of what that experience has been all about:
1. On the first official Thanksgiving holiday in 1863 Union troops took a break from the fighting to enjoy an actual sit-down dinner. (Photo:Nat’l Archives)
2. Here a sailor and a Doughboy enjoy turkey legs during World War I. (Photo: Nat’l Archives)
3. During World War II these soldiers were giving the run of a farmer’s stock of turkeys. (Photo: U.S. Army)
4. A group of soldiers sit down for Thanksgiving meal during World War II. (Photo: U.S. Army)
5. Thanksgiving dinner for the 1st Signal Battalion at Hamhung during the Korean War. (Photo: Department of Defense)
6. Marilyn Monroe got in on the Thanksgiving act in the early ’60s, much to the delight of GIs serving across the globe.
7. During the Vietnam War the Army designed special Thanksgiving Day meals that were shipped to war zones in metal tins. Yum! (Photo: U.S. Army)
8. Members of Det “A”, 5th Special Forces Group, located north of Saigon in War Zone D line up for Thanksgiving meal. (Photo: Fold3.com)
9. SP/4 Ron Dillon, B Co, 2nd Bn, 8th Cav, 1st Air Cav Div, shares his turkey dinner in the field with a Vietnamese dog who had wandered in for the occasion in 1967. (Photo: Fold3.com)
10. President George H.W. Bush shared Thanksgiving with the troops in Saudi Arabia in 1990 as they got ready to invade Iraq for Desert Storm a few months later. (Photo: U.S. Army)
11. Thirteen years later President George W. Bush followed his dad’s lead and surprised the troops by showing up in Iraq for Thanksgiving dinner. (Photo: Army.mil)
12. In 2010 Gen. David Petraeus, CENTCOM commander, served turkey to sailors (including Petty Officer Third Class Albrian Crisotomo) while visiting the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) underway in the Persian Gulf. (Photo: Navy.mil)
13. Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Robert Flake, from Fort Smith, Ark., serves himself aboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) during Thanksgiving 2013. (DoDLive.mil)
14. Those who get to eat their turkey in the comfort of a dining facility are relatively lucky. Here soldiers are assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade sit down for dinner at Combat Outpost McClain in 2012. (Photo: Army.mil)
15. Those on the tip of the spear have to get resourceful to get any turkey at all. (Photo: Army.mil)
16. Wherever our troops are serving in the world the team at WATM says “Happy Thanksgiving!” Here’s hoping AFN beams an NFL game to a widescreen TV at a FOB near you and you get all the turkey you can eat. (Photo:USO.org)
After moving into an apartment here only a week earlier, Leifheit wasn’t yet familiar with the neighborhood. Marine Corps Sgt. Cody Leifheit checked the time: 2 a.m. Sunday, June 7, 2015. Probably people filtering in from the bars, he thought.
But the hysterical, incoherent screaming continued. Was it a cry for help?
Running down the street, the 28-year-old recruiter found a cluster of silhouettes milling beneath a tree, desperate and terrified. Their friend, 19-year-old Travis Kent, was hanging from a branch 25 feet above them.
No one had a knife to cut Kent down, so Leifheit ran home for one and sprinted back to the tree. The stocky Marine jumped up, grabbed a branch and strong-armed his way upward, recounted Austin Tow, Kent’s roommate. Tow had scaled the tree in an attempt to save him.
‘Like Hercules climbing the tree’
“Sergeant Leifheit was like Hercules climbing the tree,” recalled Tow, adding that Leifheit reacted without hesitation and ascended the tree “as easily as if he were climbing stairs.”
Tow said he and Kent’s 14-year-old brother, Dartanian, “saw warning signs.” Kent’s life hadn’t been easy. When Kent was a child, his father committed suicide after losing a son to cancer. His mother was a drug addict. At 19 years old, Kent had a legal dependent in his brother Dartanian.
Kent had talked about killing himself, Tow said, but they didn’t think he would actually do it.
Perched on a branch above his friend, Tow panicked. Worried that Kent had a spinal injury, Tow didn’t want to cut him loose and send him falling to the ground. As Tow wrestled with his options, a “completely calm” Leifheit climbed up to him.
“I’m sure it was just another day for him,” said Marine Corps Cpl. Jeff Decker, who served under Leifheit from 2012-2015. He described Leifheit as a respected leader devoted to caring for and training his Marines.
“If we gave 100 percent, he gave us 110 percent back,” Decker said of Leifheit.
Leifheit’s proficiency in combat lifesaver training enabled his men to build confidence with casualty care, Decker said. He described Leifheit as “the guy for the job.”
Tow recalled: “Once Sergeant Leifheit climbed up to where I was in the tree, he said, ‘Hey, I’m a Marine and I’m here to help your friend.’ I instantly felt at ease.”
This was the first time Leifheit met Tow, Kent and their friends.
Leifheit — once a football and wrestling star at Ferndale High School in his hometown of Ferndale, Washington — took action. He hugged the tree with his right arm and wrapped his left arm around Kent, relieving pressure on the rope so Tow could cut it and release the noose. Leifheit checked Kent’s pulse and found nothing. Kent wasn’t breathing.
Leifheit yelled for onlookers to call 911.
Using the tree as a makeshift backboard, Leifheit began performing chest compressions on Kent from 25 feet off the ground. A few compressions in, Kent began breathing. Twice more he lost and regained his heartbeat as Leifheit worked to bring him back.
First responders arrived. An emergency medical technician used a ladder to climb up to them. He checked Kent’s pulse and presumed he was dead, but Leifheit disagreed.
“No, he just had a heartbeat!” Leifheit exclaimed, as he resumed chest compressions. As Kent’s heartbeat and breathing were restored, Leifheit rubbed his sternum to check responsiveness.
A firefighter assisted Leifheit in safely moving Kent down the ladder. Amid a flurry of first responders, Kent was rushed to the hospital and placed in a medically induced coma.
Life-saving skills played a paramount role
Marine Corps Maj. Sung Kim, Leifheit’s commanding officer at Marine Corps Recruiting Station Seattle, said Leifheit’s actions personified traits instilled in all Marines, “from his initiative to take charge of the situation to his knowledge of basic life-saving skills.”
Leifheit spoke briefly with the gathered crowd before returning home to sleep. While they were in awe of what he had done, he was quick to downplay his response. Eight years of training and experience as a Marine brought him into the situation with only one option, he said.
“We can mess up a lot of things in life where there are no immediate consequences,” Leifheit said. “One thing you can never fail at twice is saving a person’s life.”
Kent spent 48 hours in a coma before waking up. On June 11, he walked out of the hospital, lifting a tremendous weight off his brother Dartanian’s shoulders.
“My brother is the closest thing I’ll ever have to a dad,” Dartanian said. “By saving his life, Sergeant Leifheit practically saved mine.”
(Editor’s Note: The name of the individual who attempted suicide has been changed to protect his privacy.)
No one likes being stuck on a pointless detail. Whether it’s a legitimate task that needs to be done or it’s just a way to stall for time until close-out formation, everyone would much rather be doing nothing. Some troops will try to talk their way out of work — but NCOs have been in long enough to hear each and every excuse troops can imagine. Plus,chances are they tried to use the exact same ones back in the day.
Yes, there are valid excuses out there, but an NCO who’s been around for a while will side-eye even the most honest troop because of the onslaught of lame excuses, like these:
Appointments are known well in advance, so it’s kind of hard to get caught off guard. You can’t miss a dental appointment or else the chain of command will get hammered for it. So, most NCOs won’t interrogate a troop if they say they’ve got to see the dentist, but it just so happens to be time for a huge detail and someone just so happens to have a surprise appointment, they might check their slip.
Don’t worry. Motrin fixes everything.
“I’m not feeling too well…”
Getting seen by the medics/Corpsmen is a necessary headache in the military and coming down with some kind of sickness isn’t unheard of among grunts who live in some rough conditions.
Still, there’s a proper channel for these sorts of things. The military isn’t like some civilian job where you can just “call in sick” whenever you feel like it. The only alibi that might work is to blame MREs for some god-awful movements in your bowels.
Even if it doesn’t work, you’ll be ridiculed to the point that you might as well see the medics for burn treatment.
So many people are getting away with driving without a PT belt. I’m disappointed.
(Meme via USAWTFM)
“I didn’t know that…”
Citing your own ignorance is the fastest way to infuriate an NCO. Essentially, the subordinate is trying to forgive their own wrongdoings by hot-potatoing the blame directly onto a superior.
If what you didn’t know actually was niche information, like the location of connex keys, you might catch some slack, but don’t ever think of saying something like, “but I didn’t know that I couldn’t walk on Sergeant Major’s grass!”
Everyone gets creative with the crap in supply.
(Meme via Navy Memes)
“I can’t because we’re all out of…”
This is a catch-all excuse for anything that shifts the blame onto supply, but it’s almost always used in regards to cleaning supplies.
Sure, the cleaning closet may look bone dry, but your average supply room has more bottles of PineSol than they know what to do with. They’d be more than happy to clear some space in their lockers for actual military stuff. Just ask them.
If you’re driving one of these around, we may believe you… but don’t expect sympathy.
“I can’t come in because my car…”
If you’re coming from off-post and your car breaks down, that sucks. Let your superiors know what’s going on. If you report the issue two minutes before formation, you’re in the barracks a few blocks over, and you didn’t ask anyone else for a ride, then good luck keeping your rank.
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
“But Sgt. Smith told me…”
Don’t ever play the “mommy vs daddy” game between NCOs — you’ll always lose. They won’t just take you at your word. They’ll argue and you’ll be brought in as a witness. If it turns out that you were just saying that to try and weasel your way out of something, well, try not to cry when you get ninja-punched.
Canada and the United States are not as different as they may seem, at least in the food realm. We have most of the things they have and vice versa and the foods we eat are pretty similar. Even in terms of international cuisine, both countries boast a wide variety of food from all over thanks to robust immigrant populations.
But despite all our similarities, there are still some big differences between the way Americans and Canadians eat, here are the nine biggest ones.
1. Alcohol is not as readily available as it is in some places in the US, but you can drink earlier.
(Photo by Ryan Tir)
While our friends up north definitely enjoy a drink like anyone else, getting it is not as simple as going to a convenience store, or even a grocery store for that matter. Each Canadian province has different liquor laws and regulations stating what type of alcohol can be sold where. In some provinces alcohol is only sold in government-owned liquor stores while in others you can find it in grocery stores and privately owned liquor stores as well.
In Ontario for example, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, or LCBO, was the only place where liquor could be purchased within the province until it allowed beer to be sold in designated grocery stores in 2015. In Quebec, you can get beer and wine at grocery and corner stores but still have to get spirits at government-run stores.
The drinking age is also not all-encompassing and is decided by each province. In Alberta, Quebec, and Manitoba you can drink as soon as you turn 18. However, In the rest of the provinces you have to wait a whole extra year to be able to legally partake.
2. Milk is consumed from bags, not cartons.
(Photo by Andrea R.)
According to Food Network Canadians traded in milk cartons for bags in the 1970s. When Canadians buy milk, they get a package with three un-resealable bags of milk for a total of 4 liters.
To make it easier to pour, they place it in a milk pitcher, cut off the top, and voila! Our northern neighbors gave both glass bottles, cartons, and plastic jugs a chance but when DuPont, a Canadian packaging company, came out with the much cheaper bag option, many Canadians made the switch. Not only were the bags more effective (glass breaks, people) and cheaper to produce, they were also more easily-adjustable to fit with the metric system which the country had recently converted to from the imperial system.
3. British and French food is a lot more prevalent.
(Photo by Nicole Abalde)
Here’s a little history refresher, Canada was once colonized by both the British and the French. While Canada has been independent of either rule for quite some time now, the colonizers definitely had a lasting influence on the cuisine as well as the availability of European goods.
Many provinces in Canada have touches of French influence in their food but Quebec especially is a hot-spot for both French culture and food. Dishes like tourtiere (a meat pie), poutine (French fries with gravy and cheese curds), pea soup, and Buche de Noel (a rolled Christmas cake) are all French-Canadian delicacies hailing from the Quebec area.
Also prevalent in Canada are English foods and goods. While English pubs are a novelty in the States, they are commonplace throughout Canada making fish and chips and other British staples commonplace. Not only that, but as a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, Canada has a constant supply of British goods including things like House of Parliament Sauce (a more savory barbecue-like sauce), Maltesers, Smarties, and Cadbury products-galore.
4. Starbucks exists, but it’s all about Tim Hortons.
(Flickr photo by Michael)
Starbucks is definitely a thing up north but Canadian’s devotion to Starbucks doesn’t even compare to their undying love of Tim Hortons. The chain is spread out all across Canada and is so popular that according to its website, every day approximately 15% of all Canadians visit a Tim’s near them.
More Dunkin Donuts than Starbucks, Tim’s main staples are coffee and doughnuts but they also sell a variety of coffee drinks, sandwiches, soups, and pastries. The thing to order however, is a double double, which is a coffee with two creams and two sugars. While the order is not unique to Tim Hortons, it’s strongly associated with the brand and so popular that the phrase was added to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary in 2004.
5. Food portions in restaurants are typically smaller.
While every country has its own claims to fame in the chip aisle, Canadian chips are particularly famous and exclusive. Ketchup chips are especially revered both in Canada and around the globe for their tangy, vinegary, ketchupy-but-not-actually-like ketchup taste. They’re made by a variety of companies including Lay’s, but they’ve yet to make the pilgrimage down south.
Another Canadian snack-aisle staple is All-Dressed chips. Putting the exact flavor of All-Dressed into words is a little difficult but to help you imagine it just know that they’re “dressed” in sour cream and onion, barbecue, ketchup, and salt and vinegar flavors — in other words they’re all of your favorite chips combined. Ruffles brought the savory treats Stateside for a limited time but unless you were lucky enough to stock up on them then, the only way you can try them is by booking a ticket to Canada.
7. Maple syrup is seriously abundant.
(Photo by Marten Persson)
There’s a reason why the Canadian flag features a maple leaf prominently in its center and why the Toronto hockey team is called the Toronto Maple Leafs — maple trees, and more importantly, maple syrup, are a big deal in the country. According to Maple from Canada, the country produces 71% of the world’s maple syrup which means there’s a lot of it within the country. Not only do Canadians use the syrup on its own or as a substitute for sugar, it also features prominently in other sweet treats such as maple taffy, cookies, and candy.
8. They eat beaver tails.
(Photo by Elsie Hui)
Ok, so they don’t eat actual beaver tails, but rather a thick, elongated piece of fried dough covered in sweet toppings that is referred to as Beaver Tails. The pastry is reminiscent of something you would get at a state fair and is covered in a variety of toppings including cinnamon sugar, chocolate, apple cinnamon, and of course maple.
9. Their loaded fries are very different from ours.
(Photo by Guillem Vellut)
When you think of loaded fries you probably think of some french fries topped with cheese, bacon, sour cream, and maybe a dash of spring onion. Canadians also have a loaded-fry equivalent but unlike ours they’re made of only three key ingredients, fries, gravy, and cheese curds — the squeakier, the better. Poutine is yet another dish thatoriginated in francophone Quebec, but it is a staple all over Canada. In fact it’s so popular, that you can get quality poutine at none other than McDonald’s.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisInsider on Twitter.
Military drills for service members is what training camp is for football players and their coaches — learning the playbook on how to maneuver and react to intense combat situations when seconds count and delay is deadly.
Most militaries do the standard maneuvers — target practice on the range, moving through a MOUT town or repelling out of a helicopter on a mock objective. But some countries prefer to go all out to show their toughness.
So here are five dangerous military drills conducted throughout the world.
Each year in Thailand, seven countries partake in the multinational military exercise called “Cobra Gold.” Held in February, this 11-day training includes 13,000 troops from countries like Japan, South Korea, and the U.S.
Cobra Gold promotes foreign military collaboration with events such as humanitarian relief, amphibious assault, and jungle survival. And sometimes that means making use of the wild game that calls the jungle home.
2. Body Smashing
North Korean special forces candidates endure several body-hardening workouts to prove their physical and mental toughness to become members of the “Storm Corps.”
3. The Road to Heaven
The finale of a 10-week pain-filled training program where Taiwanese Marines strive to become frogmen is called the “Road to Heaven.” This initiation consists of low-crawling over 164 feet of sharp rock coral without the use of their arms while conducting various calisthenics along the way.
4. Drown Proofing– a panic-inducing military drill
SEAL trainees must learn to survive in complex water scenarios without sinking or drowning with their hands and feet bounded together. Considered the most grueling training the armed forces has to offer, hopefuls endure days of physically demanding training to become Navy SEALs.
5. Hot Potato
Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army pass around a live grenade before tossing it into a hole. The PLA troopers simultaneously leap away in the nick of time. This drill was created to promote discipline, communication, and teamwork.
See some more military drills that take things a bit too far below!
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.
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.
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.
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.
On our drive home, I found the treasure that awaited me inside his signed hardcover.
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.”
“The Hurt Locker” is a classic American war film, an Academy Award winner, and an entertaining tour de force that wowed civilian audiences when it hit theaters in 2008.
Keyword: civilian audiences. For many military viewers, the film was rife with glaring technical errors. From just about every angle — dialogue, storylines, and uniforms — the problems with the movie made it very hard for soldiers to watch without cringing nearly every minute. Of course, it’s Hollywood, and they can’t get everything right.
But it’s still fun to look back and see just how many things were wrong. We watched it and compiled a massive listing of everything (with some extra help from some real-live Army EOD techs we talked to). Maybe this could be a fun drinking game. Or, as you’ll see by how many problems there are, a very dangerous drinking game. On second thought, let’s put the beer down.
Here we go (with timestamps):
The movie starts off by introducing us to soldiers of Delta Co., with no further specifics on the exact unit. Army EOD companies aren’t called by phonetic names like “Alpha,” “Charlie,” and “Delta.” They are numbered, usually with a number in the 700s.
:30 U.S. Army soldiers are wearing the digital ACU (Army Combat Uniform) that wasn’t used until at least Feb. 2005. The setting is Baghdad in 2004. Thirty seconds in and already a really big one. Great start.
1:00 Multiple soldiers are seen with sleeves rolled up over their elbows. This is totally against Army regs, but soldiers are seen throughout the film like this.
4:20 The wagon carrying the explosives to blow the IED in place breaks down. Instead of using the claw on the robot to pick up the charges, Staff Sgt. Thompson suits up and goes to hand carry it. Not even the dumbest EOD tech would do this.
5:39 No reticle pattern is seen when Sgt. Sanborn looks through his scope, which is a Trijicon ACOG sight.
6:30 An Iraqi man gets extremely close to a soldier standing security. Moments before this, the street was bustling with onlookers and there were other soldiers and Iraqi security forces around. Now it’s totally empty, which begs the question: Why are only three soldiers left guarding this bomb?
10:28 Sgt. Sanborn seen with cuffed sleeves.
10:45 Sgt. Sanborn’s collar is popped. That’s not the style around here, man.
11:05 Sgt. 1st Class James’ dog tags are hanging out of his shirt. He’s supposed to be a staff non-commissioned officer, not a private just disregarding the regulations.
12:00 This is Baghdad 2004, when the insurgency is really starting to get rough, and we have a single Humvee rolling through Baghdad all alone. Seems a bit far-fetched, although an EOD tech did tell us it’s possible.
13:40 Sgt. 1st Class James is wearing an old green Battle Dress Uniform camouflage helmet and body armor. Every other soldier wears the matching ACU gear (although this is still incorrect for the time period). He also has both his sleeves rolled up past his elbows.
13:45 Sgt. Sanborn is wearing silver designer sunglasses. Glasses are required to be brown or black, and non-reflective.
14:40 A bunch of soldiers just abandon their Humvee in the middle of Baghdad? And it’s still running? What the hell?
15:28 James greets other soldiers with “morning, boys” to which one responds “Sir.” Soldiers only say “sir” or “ma’am” to officers, not enlisted ranks. There’s also a soldier seen wearing shoulder armor, which wasn’t introduced until 2007/2008.
15:45 A soldier asks James if he wants to talk to an informant who apparently knows the location of the IED and more details about it. But he doesn’t care to talk to him. Why would an EOD tech ignore having more information about what he’s dealing with?
18:15 James pops a smoke grenade to “create a diversion.” Smoke grenades are to cover movement, not to create a diversion. If no one was looking at you before, they are certainly looking at you now.
18:22 I know he’s supposed to be a “rebel” but when fellow soldiers are screaming frantically over the radio and asking you what is going on, you should probably answer.
18:38 He finally responds over the radio.
18:55 Seven to eight soldiers are all standing around this Humvee in the middle of the street, not providing any security or looking for potential threats.
18:56 A soldier in the turret is not even covering his sector of fire and doesn’t even have the .50 caliber pointed down the main alleyway.
19:05 Another soldier is seen wearing designer sunglasses.
19:06 An Iraqi-driven car just drives right through a bunch of soldiers who don’t attempt to stop it, fire warning shots, or do anything other than jump out of the way.
19:19 The car doesn’t stop for seven soldiers pointing M-16 rifles at him, but it does stop because James points his pistol at him. Makes sense.
20:30 James fires shots around the car, hits and destroys the windshield, then points his gun at the Iraqi’s head and tells him to get back. You would think he would want to search this guy or his car before sending him right back into seven soldiers who could be potentially blown up by a vehicle-born improvised explosive device (VBIED).
24:40 Yes, ok. Let’s just pull up on the big red wires holding together six bombs (and does this even make sense from an enemy perspective? Why would you daisy-chain all these huge bombs to potentially kill one guy? One bomb is gonna do it).
27:14 Spc. Eldridge is seen playing “Gears of War” on an Xbox 360. The Xbox didn’t come out until 2005, and “Gears of War” didn’t come out until 2006. But the setting is supposed to be Baghdad in 2004.
29:02 A soldier is seen walking by with sleeves rolled up over his elbows and with a white or silver watch. Very tactical.
29:59 Oh, of course! Another soldier with rolled-up sleeves.
31:39 Five soldiers just stand out in the middle of street and open fire on an enemy sniper. Instead of, you know, getting behind some cover first.
32:31 James uses a single fire extinguisher to put out a car that is fully engulfed in flames. He’s like Rambo with unlimited ammo here. And why are you sticking around a car that is probably rigged with explosives that is on fire?!!?!
34:50 James puts on a headset that is supposedly a radio. It doesn’t have a microphone or is even connected in any way to a radio. It’s basically a big set of ear muffs (and no, it’s not connected to a throat mic). Also, he’s defusing bombs that could be set off by, well, radios. Most EOD techs won’t even wear radios while they are working on bombs.
36:26 Another scope view, but with no reticle pattern.
40:05 Scope view, no reticle pattern.
40:11 Sanborn waves at Iraqis with his left hand. This is a sign of disrespect in the Arab world, since the left hand is associated with dirtiness.
42:59 Sanborn punches James in the face. He would be court-martialed or at least receive an Article 15 for this. Or, maybe, James could react in some way, shape, or form?
43:30 A full-bird colonel is walking around Baghdad with his eye protection dangling off his body armor, instead of on his face. If anyone is going to be wearing eyepro (and setting an example for junior troops), it’s this guy.
43:45 A colonel praising a sergeant first class for being a “wild man” and operating like he did is highly unlikely. Instead, a colonel would probably be jumping on him for not only his insane behavior, but his out-of-regs appearance, to include sleeves, not wearing a helmet, and not having eye-pro.
44:55 As James smokes a cigarette on the forward operating base, “left, right, left, right” cadence can be heard in the background. Who the hell is calling marching cadence on a FOB in Iraq?
46:55 Oh, now there’s a colonel with rolled-up sleeves.
48:25 The team does a controlled detonation. James is exposed, as is Sanborn. None of them wear earplugs or even plug their ears with their fingers. James is actually wearing iPod headphones. Just to let you know: The big boom is freaking loud.
49:00 James drives away from the team. They aren’t on the FOB, so where the hell are their weapons?
49:45 The two soldiers discuss “accidentally” blowing up James as he goes close to the controlled det site and how all that would be left would be his helmet. Luckily, James isn’t wearing his helmet. Because really, why would he?
50:43 Again, you’re in the middle of Iraq, and rolling in just one Humvee.
51:20 They see armed men so they pull over and then Sanborn and James both get out from behind cover and start walking forward yelling for them to put their guns down. Wouldn’t you want them to do that part before you expose yourself?
55:48 The Brit contractor gets handed the Barrett to try and find the enemy sniper. On this ledge, with the kickback from the gun, he would be guaranteed to be pushed back and fall right on his back after firing.
57:54 The Brit gets shot while manning the Barrett. The enemy sniper uses a Dragunov, which has a maximum effective range of 800m. He’s shooting from more than 850 meters away (according to James, who calls the range later in this scene).
57:55 After the Brit is shot while manning the Barrett, Sanborn and James go up and get in the exact same spot. That seems like a bright idea. Further, why are two soldiers who would be unfamiliar with this weapon jumping on it, instead of another contractor?
58:15 How does an EOD guy just get up and get behind a complicated sniper rifle anyway? It’s not a video game.
1:01:00 An insurgent takes up a laying down on the side firing position with zero cover. LOL/WTF?
1:02:00 Sanborn hits this same insurgent after he starts running away. Not only does he hit a moving target, but he hits him in the head. At 850 meters. It’s quite obvious that Sanborn got his sniper training uploaded directly to his brain via The Matrix.
1:07:40 Eldridge takes out an enemy insurgent by firing half of his magazine in rapid succession. What happened to well-aimed shots?
1:08 The team gets drunk together in their room and fights each other. This is a big fraternization no-no? Also, U.S. troops are not allowed to drink or have alcohol in Iraq or Afghanistan, and one alcohol-related incident could mean an EOD tech loses their badge (and gets kicked completely out of the job).
1:14:37 The team stumbles around the FOB drunk. That’s not abnormal or anything, and an officer, senior enlisted leader, or even fellow soldiers wouldn’t find that weird or get them in trouble. Nothing to see here, move along.
1:16:50 The team heads outside the wire again. Why is Eldridge basically the only soldier ever wearing his eye protection?
1:17:00 An EOD team is clearing buildings now?
1:29:45 James asks a Pfc. about a merchant. The Pfc. addresses a Sgt. 1st Class as “man.”
1:31:33 James dons a hoodie, carries only a pistol, and hijacks the merchant’s truck, telling him to drive outside the base. This is quite possibly the biggest WTF of the entire movie. At this point, every soldier watching this movie is face-palming.
1:32:25 Did I mention that James has now jumped over an Iraqi compound wall, all alone in the middle of Baghdad? With just a pistol.
1:34:53 James starts running through a busy Iraqi neighborhood. He puts on his hoodie to be less conspicuous. As if his camouflage pants don’t give it away.
1:35:00 After a tense exchange at the front gate to the FOB, James is searched and then the soldiers guarding the gate just let him back in. He’s shown at his room a short time later, so I guess he’s not getting in trouble for going outside the wire without authorization.
1:41:00 The team decides to leave the blast site and go search for the bomber in the dark. They have night-vision goggle mounts on their helmets, but they don’t use NVG’s. Their natural night vision must be superhuman.
1:50:06 If the guy has a bomb on him, it would probably be a good idea for the seven soldiers standing out in the middle of the road to take cover behind something.
The past year has been a busy time for the US Army.
US soldiers remained engaged in operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan and took the lead in multi-national training exercises throughout the world. Army veterans received high honors during a memorial to the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, while one Afghanistan veteran received the Medal of Honor.
The Army compiled a year in photos to show what they were doing 2014.
These are some of the most amazing photographs of the Army from the past year.
In March, members of the US Army Parachute Team conducted their annual certification test.
The past year saw the first instance of the Spartan Brigade, an airborne combat team, training north of the Arctic Circle. Here, paratroopers move to their assembly area after jumping into Deadhorse, Alaska.
Elsewhere, in Alaska’s Denali National Park, the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, hiked across Summit Ridge on Mount McKinley to demonstrate their Arctic abilities.
Beyond the frozen north, the Army took part in training exercises around the world. In Germany, members of Charlie Company trained Kosovo authorities in how to respond to firebombs and other incendiary devices.
Charlie Company also fired ceremonial rounds from their M1A2 Abrams tanks during Operation Atlantic Resolve in Latvia. US forces were in the country to help reassure NATO allies in the Baltic as well as provide training to Lavia’s ground forces in the wake of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Members of the US Army, Marines, and Alaska National Guard also participated alongside the Mongolian Armed Forces in the multi-national Khaan Quest 2014 exercise in Mongolia.
Even with the drawdown of forces from Afghanistan, US Army personnel are still active in the Middle East. Here, a soldier loads rockets into an AH-64 Apache during a Forward Arming and Refueling Point exercise in Kuwait.
Linguistic and cultural training for the Army is also continuing. Here, ROTC cadets participate in a training mission in Africa through the US Army Cadet Command’s Culture and Language Program.
Here, an M1A2 tank drives past a camel during multi-national exercises in the Middle East.
This past year marked the end of US-led combat operations in Afghanistan. In this picture, US Special Forces soldiers fight alongside the Afghan National Army against Taliban insurgents.
Here, US Army soldiers go on a patrol in Sayghani, Parwan province, Afghanistan to collect information on indirect fire fire attacks against Bagram Air Field, outside of Kabul.
Throughout 2014 US Army Rangers engaged in constant training operations to maintain their tactical proficiency.
Here, Rangers fire a 120mm mortar during a tactical training exercise in California.
An MH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment provides close air support for Army Rangers from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, conducting direct action operations during a company live fire training at Camp Roberts, California.
A Ranger carrying an M24 rappels down a wall during a demonstration at an Army Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Rangers took part in the grueling Best Ranger competition at Camp Rogers, Fort Benning, Georgia. Through a series of physical challenges, the event finds the best two-man team in the entire US Army.
US Army Medics also competed in the All-American Best Medic Competition, a series of tactical and technical proficiency tests.
Everyone in the army receives combat training, whatever their job may be. Here, Pfc. Derek Evans, a food service specialist, engages targets during a live-fire waterborne gunnery exercise
Training exercises allow the Army to maintain its readiness for all possible battlefield scenarios. In this scenario, MH-47G Chinook helicopter move watercraft over land or water to a point of deployment.
Soldiers were picked up by a Black Hawk helicopter as part of a survival training exercise called Decisive Action Rotation 14-09.
Here, a soldier from the California Army National Guard takes part in Warrior Exercise 2014, a combat training mission.
The Army National Guard had a busy 2014 responding to natural disasters. Here, members of the Washington National Guard’s 66th Theater Aviation Command respond to wildfires.
Members of the Oregon National Guard trained in firing the main gun of an Abrams M1A2 System Enhanced Package Tank during combat readiness exercises.
One member of the Army received the nation’s highest recognition for combat bravery. On May 13, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to former US Army Sgt. Kyle White for his actions in Afghanistan.
On May 28, newly commissioned second lieutenants celebrated commencement at the US Military Academy, at West Point, New York.
The past year also marked the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. To honor America’s role in liberating France from the Nazis, a French child dressed as a US soldier held a salute on the sands of Omaha Beach for 2 hours.
Well, we’ve covered what the Army would want to work on in 2018. Now, it’s the Navy’s turn. Some parts of the Navy have had a horrible year. So, what would the Navy want to work on?
4. An accelerated shipbuilding program
Let’s face it, the Navy at present has a grand total of 279 ships. This has primarily been due to the “peace dividend,” from the end of the Cold War. In 1987, the United States Navy had 594 ships. This included a force of 14 carriers to today’s 11, 102 submarines back then as opposed to 52 today, and 115 frigates compared to eight Littoral Combat Ships. The Navy wants to reach 355 ships by 2037. That’s a long time. This is something that should go high on the list of things to be corrected.
3. Help pilots breathe in flight
Some Navy pilots (notably those flying the T-45 Goshawk and F/A-18 Hornet) have been experiencing what the DOD calls “physiological events” (hypoxia) while in flight. The Heritage Foundation noted that the first six months of 2017 saw 52 such incidents, while 114 took place in 2016. If pilots can’t breathe, they have a hard time fighting. Getting to the bottom of why pilots aren’t getting enough oxygen needs to happen, stat.
2. Buy enough Lightnings
The Navy needs to replace 546 A to D model Hornets. The plan is to buy 327 F-25Cs. Now, while the F-35 is a good airplane, the fact of the matter is that it has not mastered the art of being in two places at once. Replacing the legacy Hornets on a one-for-one basis seems like a much better bet.
1. Give the SEALs a break
While units like the Navy SEALs have been responsible for some of the biggest successes in the War on Terror (like killing Osama bin Laden), what isn’t know is that they have been running hard. A commentary by the Heritage Foundation stated that some of these operators have had a dozen deployments – or more. That is a lot in the 16 years since 9/11. There are two ways to fix this: First is to take a hard look at the missions SEALs are asked to perform. The second is to expand the size of the force. Navy leadership needs to do both.
What do you think the Navy needs to work on in 2018?
Russia has been saber-rattling so hard that cracks are forming in the blade and the hilt seems to be falling off. The military has been embarrassed by a number of of high profile failures and missteps in the past few years.
To be clear, the Russians aren’t helpless and certain units are deadly. They have a large nuclear arsenal, some of the world’s quietest submarines, and an impressive new tank. But here are six reasons Russian military planners can’t be sleeping easy.
2. Their only aircraft carrier needs a tug boat escort and can’t launch fully-armed planes.
The Russians have one carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. The ship was launched in 1985 and began active duty in the fleet in 1991. In 24 years, it has served only four frontline deployments. It requires tugs to accompany it in deepwater in case it breaks down at sea and needs to be refueled every 45 days. The crew has trouble completing the refueling missions however, sometimes spilling the fuel across the ocean instead.
Meanwhile, even when everything is working to plan, the Kuznetsov has troubles. It isn’t a proper carrier and launches aircraft from a bow ramp rather than catapults, limiting her jets to low takeoff weights with limited fuel and ammunition. Plumbing problems in the ship limit the number of functioning latrines to 25 for her full crew of nearly 2,000. In 2011, U.S. Navy ships trailed the Kuznetsov to her home port to rescue the Russians if the ship sank.
3. They rely on conscripts and soldiers forced into contracts.
Russian Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, then-head of the National Center for Defense, bragged in 2014 that “two army brigades, 12 special forces units and five battalions of airborne troops and marines were manned entirely with contract servicemen,” according to RT, a Russian media outlet. But, that’s the first time the Russian military has had more contract soldiers than volunteers in its history. And, first-term contract soldiers aren’t “volunteers” the way they are in America.
DoD’s embed program and other mechanisms have given journalists and filmmakers substantial access to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so it’s no surprise that those conflicts have been some of the best documented in history. Here is WATM’s list of 11 post 9-11 documentaries that did the best at capturing what really happened:
The Hornet’s Nest
A father-son journalism team embedded on what was supposed to be a three-day raid but ended up being nine days of intense fighting by the 101st Airborne.
A group of paratroopers is deployed to the Korengal Valley, one of the most dangerous spots in Afghanistan, for 15 months. During that time, they fight smugglers and insurgents, attempt to win over the locals, and try to save themselves. A camera crew followa them for much of the deployment, documenting their interactions with Afghans and the deep love the men have for each other.
A group of Danish cavalry soldiers deploy on a six-month tour of Helmand and a Danish filmmaker goes with them. The film includes a lot of the tedium of a soldier’s life as well as a raid where the soldiers find themselves within a few meters of a Taliban machine gun team.
Hell and Back Again
Nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Academy Award, this film tells the story of a Marine injured in Afghanistan who, after returning to the states, struggles with his post traumatic stress disorder and a badly broken leg. “Hell and Back Again” gives a visceral look at how hard it can be for wounded troops to return to civilian life.
This is a very critical look at the American drone program. Drone explains the factors that make drones so popular with troops while also looking at the moral burdens on drone operators and emotional pain of those who’ve lost family members to drone strikes.
The War Tapes
Directed by Deborah Scranton and shot by National Guard soldiers over the course of their training and deployment to Iraq, the documentary focuses on three men with very different views on the war and their commander in chief. This film is arguably the best in terms of capturing the burdens on the modern-day citizen soldier.
Taxi to the Dark Side
An in-depth look at torture during the opening years of the War on Terror, including the decisions made by the Bush administration. It covers Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and the leadership (or absence of it) that governed actions in two prisons. Made by the son of a former Navy interrogator, the film went on to win an Academy Award.
No End In Sight
Although “No End In Sight” was released in 2007, the film concentrates on Iraq in the first year after the invasion. It features interviews with White House and State Department officials who were frustrated with missteps that fueled the growing insurgency and caused extra misery for both Iraqi citizens and the U.S. troops assigned to police them.
The Ground Truth
“The Ground Truth” follows a group of Marines and soldiers from the point they’re recruited and then on to their experiences in war. Troops tell their stories in their own words from their initial training through deployments and struggles once they get home.
There are a lot of G.I. Joes in the Joe organization. While every commando unit needs people to run the administration of the unit, not all of them need to pretend to be useful on the battlefield. We covered the least intimidating G.I. Joes so it makes sense to look at their arch-nemesis: Cobra.
Cobra is just as big as G.I. Joe, with just as many people. It’s bound to have some dead weight Cobras, or those least likely to help take over the world.
1. Sludge Viper
I can’t list all of the short-lived eco-warriors. I wish I could, because on both sides, they’re absolutely ridiculous.
The most absurd on the Cobra side is Sludge Viper, whose sludge gun (yeah, sludge gun) has unlimited ammo because it degrades whatever is around it into more sludge and shoots WEAPONS GRADE SLUDGE at high velocity. You know, laser weapons weren’t real (yet) when GI Joe was on TV, but we bought it because we all know they will be.
But no one has ever thought of weaponizing sludge. EVER.
The weapon is just as dangerous to Cobra as it is to their enemies and has the added benefit of giving off methane. So the only way to defeat Sludge Viper is to get him to shoot himself or smoke a cigarette within 50 feet of him.
2. Lt. Clay Moore
Before the new millennium, Cobra wasn’t really an organization that prided itself on diversity. As a matter of fact, Lt. Clay Moore was Cobra’s only non-Caucasian member before 2001, and even then, Cobra Commander gave the guy’s command to a GI Joe traitor, and when Moore protested, he forced the two to fight to the death. FOR A LIEUTENANT’S SLOT.
Calm down and take a long tour to Korea or something, you two. It’s not worth a death match. I get that his name is a play on on claymore mines but Lt. Moore doesn’t get a cool code name (or any code name at all) and dresses like any regular Cobra soldier. His special training includes losing at death matches. My guess is that the L-T is most likely to defect to the Joes – and for good reason.
I’m forming an army of evil super soldiers, each with special abilities that will help me take over the world. Obviously, I need an “ex-yuppie tax consultant.” Why is a terrorist army paying taxes? Who are they paying them to? Where the hell did Raptor learn to specialize in these kinds of taxes?
Raptor spends most of his time – and this is not a joke, it’s on his file card – dressed like a bird and sitting in the bottom of a large cage. He is also Cobra’s falconer, because of course someone who is unnaturally obsessed with birds of prey would find the one job which demands time alone with falcons. I bet they’re super useful in laser combat with the Joes.
4. Big Boa
Big Boa is Cobra’s resident drill instructor and asshole. His bullhorn-like voice kicks open the barracks door at 0500 and forces some awful PT on Cobra recruits. He demands the most out of the trainees but dresses like he’s a member a Daft Punk/Queen Tribute Band but still demands to be taken seriously.
On top of being able to change his skin to fit in with any environment, which is great for infiltrating the enemy (I mean, probably), Zartan’s file card also lists that he’s really awesome with makeup and is a great ventriloquist.
Unfortunately, when you need a deep infiltration agent, you probably don’t want to depend on someone who dresses like Alice Cooper and is a paranoid schizophrenic suffering from multiple personality disorder. This is also the last person who should be sporting a bow and arrow.
6. Croc Master
One genius tried to popularize the use of crocodiles and alligators as home invasion deterrence and was surprised when people didn’t really go for it. If a Brinks guy came to my house and suggested I build a moat, I’d call the cops.
But of course Cobra went for the idea. This is the terror organization who once thought a telethon would be the best way to raise money to conquer the world. And now Croc Master spends his free time in the bathtub pretending to be a crocodile. Why is Cobra full of cosplayers who have creepy relationships with animals?
Speaking of cosplayers, the biggest offender of all is Serpentor, who is an all-out furry and talks like a high school drama teacher. If everyone should dress for the job they want, why is the Cobra organization trying to replace Cobra Commander with someone who dresses like he wants to be the Mascot for the Cobra Football Team?
They cloned history’s best military minds and all it can think to do is throw live snakes at people. The Simpsons has a character like this but she’s not in charge and she’s infinitely more likeable.
I can’t even imagine what this guy thinks when he puts his snake head on in the morning and looks in the mirror. “Yeah. That’s a good look. Go get ’em today Serpentor.”
8. Major Bludd
Major Bludd has all the makings of a villain’s villain. Eyepatch? Check. Snidely Whiplash mustache? Check. Villainous name? Check. Unfortunately, he has no real-world villainy skills.
His card says “Terrorist.” Well, welcome to Cobra, Bludd, WHERE EVERYONE IS A TERRORIST. His secondary specialty is “weapons and tactics.” Weapons and tactics are pretty much all Cobra is ever supposed to do. What else do you have, Major? Poetry. POETRY. HE’S A POET. AN EVIL POET.
Not even good poetry. He’s actually more of a bad rapper. Published in prison newsletters, he outs himself as Cobra’s resident Blue Falcon (a term that probably gets Raptor all hot and bothered): “My ruthless tactics keep you on your toes/’Cause I fight ’em all, whether friends or foes!”
Dishonorable Mention: Cobra Commander
Speaking of what Cobra is supposed to be doing all the time, Cobra Commander makes this list for being one of the worst possible commanders of all time. This is the guy who thought rigging a local election, destroying the Ozone Layer, trying to destroy all the plants on Earth, and starting a rock band were the ways to beat the Joes for good.
If Cobra’s mission was to annoy liberals, they can raise a big ol’ Mission Accomplished banner. No, their mission is to kill Joes and under Cobra Commander, they were never able to kill a single Joe. Not one.
The only good plan he ever had was to kill Serpentor, the only commander more worthless than he was. And guess what? He botched that too.