Founded in 1947 by U.S. Marine Corps Reservist Maj. Bill Hendricks, the charitable legacy of Toys for Tots has endured throughout the decades. The gift-giving program was such as huge success initially that the Corps adopted the practice and has spread the program nationwide.
The program was so well-liked that famous animator Walt Disney got involved, personally inking the Toys for Tots logo we all know today.
For the past several years, the foundation has produced many emotionally driven ads, run during the holidays to help spread awareness for kids in need.
Some of the Toys for Tots commercials are real tear-jerkers. Good luck getting through all these with a dry eye.
If there’s one thing the DoD can count on soldiers to be bluntly honest about, it’s the food. In 2005, 400 soldiers from Fort Greely, Alaska, were asked to taste test a new menu of Meals, Ready to Eat for anything that might stand out to them.
There were a lot of standouts.
Fort Greely’s finest filled out the evaluation forms, which were then compiled and sent to the DoD office that manages the procurement of field rations. Grunts don’t pull punches. That’s kinda the whole point of their job.
“Cheese spread with bread is never a liked mix. Anger is usually the result.”
2. The prophet:
“I noticed this meal # was 666…I will probably die of a massive heart attack thank you for feeding me possessed food.”
3. The skeptic:
“This donut is just a brownie in a circle with crappy “frosting” what are you trying to pull?”
4. The poet:
“I believe it was the dinner meal that caused this (Chicken and Dumplings), but it sounded like a flatulence symphony in my tent all night.”
5. The biographer:
“I have disliked cabbage since childhood.”
6. The drama queen:
“Oh my god what were you thinking… don’t give cabbage to a soldier ever again even POWs deserve better.”
7. The fortune teller:
“The entree will only be eaten if you haven’t eaten all day.”
8. The PR Rep:
“Maybe change the name ‘Chicken Loaf,’ [it] scares me.”
9. PFC Gung Ho:
“Put Ranch Dressing on everything! Airborne!”
10. The guy who’s wrong about everything:
“F*ck hot sauce [put] gummy bears inside.”
11. Sgt. WTF:
“Tabasco is good in your coffee.”
12. The Obvious Sapper:
“Change the Ranger bar name to ‘Sapper Bar'”
13. The Stream of Consciousness:
“5 Veg ravioli ‘friggin’ sucks. Spiced apple ‘friggin’ rock. Apple cinn. Pound cake taste like cheap perfume. (Friggin). Is chocoletto a foreign Name crap? Pizza anything friggin rocks! Gum is good.”
14. Staff Sgt. TMI:
“This new menu has me using the latrine 3x a day.”
15. Sgt. Maj. No Chance:
“Please bring back cigarettes.”
16. Pvt. Ungrateful:
“Jerky is very, very good. How many years did it take to figure that out?”
17. Sgt. Missing the Point:
“The name should be fiesta breakfast party. That would be funny.”
“The vanilla pudding is so good I ripped it open, Licked the inside and rolled around on top of it like a dog. I prefer not to eat anything called loaf but in this case I made an exception… thank god I DID.”
When you ask someone why they enlisted, they’ll usually say for financial gain, family reasons, or out of patriotism. Others will say, “it’s just something I wanted to do ever since I was a kid.”
For most of us, it’s a chicken-and-the-egg scenario. It’s impossible to tell whether it was the childhood toys that made us want to join the military or if kids that want to join the military just love these toys. Either way — if you had these toys, you were probably one of the coolest kids on the playground.
The original 1963 action figures consisted of Rocky the Marine, Skip the Sailor, Ace the Pilot, and Duke the Soldier. Throughout the years, they’ve added all sorts of wacky characters into the lineup, including astronauts, ninjas, laser soldiers, spies, pilots, and drivers for nearly every vehicle. In 1984, they finally added a Coast Guard character.
Even Hasbro thought ninjas were a more believable branch than the USCG (Image via GIPHY)
5. Green Army men
For the kid that would eventually want to become a commander, there was the bucket of little green soldiers. Almost always off-brand and sold by the bucket-full, kids who play with these plastic troops learn vital troop movement skills, like always checking for mines/IEDs, always taking a commo guy with you, and how useless you are with a bayonet if you charge holding it so far above your head that you can’t stand straight.
There was always an endless supply of these things… (Image via GIPHY)
Kids go crazy being able to talk to each other without having to be within earshot of one another. There’s just something about getting familiar with using real military lingo, like ‘over’ and ‘out.’
If you were the kid that said, “it’s not over and out. It’s one or the other because they contradict each other…”
…You probably went into the Signal Corps. (Image via GIPHY)
3. Nerf guns
Okay, so Nerf guns didn’t instill the best firearm safety habits, but they were undeniably fun for shooting your little sister. Even as adults, it’s still fun to grab a Nerf gun and attack your co-workers, roommates, spouses, children, pets, etc…
…But they do teach kids the “joys” of cleaning up your brass at the range. (Image via GIPHY)
2. Toy planes, boats, and tanks
To all of the airmen and sailors that have heard people say the tired, “no one ever played Air Force or Navy as a kid” — don’t worry, they did. They just pretended to be pilots or quartermasters.
Every other toy on this is just for fun. They’re all good ways to pretend like you’re something else. That kid digging holes in his sandbox and assembling his “sand piles” into neat structures, however, is actually spot-on with military duties. Digging those holes will prepare you for hastily establishing fighting positions and filing the god-knows-how-many sandbags you’ll fill in one enlistment.
Funny how there’s more to the nickname of “Sand Box” when describing the Middle East… (Image via GIPHY)
In World War II, armored warfare played a key role in North Africa as Patton, Montgomery, and Rommel duked it out. They moved across the plains of Europe and fought through the snow in Russia. But not all tanks were created equal. Vote for your favorite tanks of World War II in the list below.
Military operation code names can be tricky to pull off. You want to have a name that conveys power and majesty, striking fear into the hearts of your enemies, but you don’t want something that lets your enemy know what you’re actually doing – such as the planned German invasion of England (its name, Sealion, let the British know exactly what it was). You also don’t want something inappropriately glib, either because it’s not macho enough (the US invasion of Grenada was briefly named “Blue Spoon”) or sends the wrong message, such as the unfortunately named Korean War-era plan “Operation Killer.”
The naming of military operations is thought to have begun with the German Empire in the final two years of World War I. Before then, operations were usually named after either their commanding officer or the general area they were taking place in (i.e., Somme Offensive, Neville Offensive, etc.) But German generals added code names to increase operational secrecy and give them a shorthand for referring to individual parts of the hugely complex battles on the Western Front.
In the decades that followed, operation names went from random designations to carefully chosen code names that would boost morale and offer clever description. American officers in Vietnam and beyond were faced with naming dozens of operations, everything from large scale troop deployments to clearing out small sections of cities. Here are the most awesomely American names for military operations from World War II through Iraq. Bask in their American kick ass majesty and upvote those that are screaming “U S A! U S A!” the loudest.
Check out these shots of jets turning pounds and pounds of fuel into speed when the pilots push the throttles into afterburner.
An F/A-18C launches off of Cat 3 with both GE F-404 motors in full burner.
An Air Force F-16 launches out of Aviano, Italy at night with it’s single GE F-110 engine in full afterburner.
An F-22 Raptor makes a high-G pass at an airshow with it’s Pratt and Whitney F-119 engines at full power.
And F-15 Eagle launches with both Pratt and Whitney F-100s in full afterburner.
An F/A-18C Hornet raises the gear and starts a left hand clearing turn off the cat with vapes streaming off of the wingtips and both GE F-404s at full blower.
They didn’t call the F-14 the ‘big fighter’ for nothing. Here a Tomcat rages down Cat 1 with it’s Pratt and Whitney TF-30s at Zone 5 (full power).
A B-1 ‘Lancer’ (better known as “The Bone” — B+one . . . get it?) turns at sunset with all four GE F-110s (same engine used on models of the F-16 and F-14) in full afterburner.
An F-111B zorches over the water with wings swept aft and Pratt and Whitney TF-30 engines at full power.
Another shot of an F-14A Tomcat on the cat in afterburner.
A MiG-25 starts its takeoff roll with both Tumansky R-15B-300s at full power.
The F-35B Lightning II isn’t designed for speed as much as forward quarter lethality and survivability; but it’s single Pratt and Whitney F-135 does create a nice burner plume in this gorgeous sunset shot.
Chris Kyle, formerly a Navy SEAL, was America’s top sniper of all time with 255 kills, displacing Adelbert Waldron, who racked up 109 kills with the 9th Infantry Division in the Vietnam War. He’s earned so much recognition that his autobiography, American Sniper, became a hit Hollywood blockbuster. But before his untimely death, he had finished a second book, in which he listed the ten firearms that helped define America’s history. Here are the picks he made for his book, American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms.
1. Kentucky Long Rifle
During the era of the American Revolution, the typical arm for an infantryman was a musket, like the famous Brown Bess. These smoothbore muskets had an effective range of anywhere from 50 to 100 yards. The Kentucky rifle doubled that range, easily. While its rate of fire was slower, British troops didn’t do so well when their officers were taken out early.
2. Spencer Repeating Rifle
The muzzle-loaded musket gave way to the muzzle-loaded, rifled musket by the time of the Civil War. In 1860, though, Christopher Spencer developed a rifle that used a metallic cartridge. The Spencer Repeating Rifle held seven rounds. Only 100,000 of these rifles got to Union troops, but the rifle made a big difference at Gettysburg, where Union cavalry used it to great effect.
3. Colt Single-Action Army: ‘The Peacemaker’
As the old adage states, “God made all men – Sam Colt made ’em equal.” The Singe-Action Army was one of the first mass-produced revolvers to make use of the metallic cartridge. It provided cowboys with portable firepower for self-defense. It also was, sadly, used by outlaws, like Butch Cassidy.
4. Winchester Model 1873
This rifle was, arguably, “the gun that won the West.” It was a reliable rifle, and the lever-action allowed its user to fire 14 rounds very quickly. It also was chambered for the same round used by the Colt Single-Action Army, which not only provided ease of logistics for a rancher but added more range and accuracy as well.
5. M1903 Springfield
This rifle replaced the “trapdoor” Springfield and Krag-Jorgenson rifles, giving American troops a rifle that used smokeless powder. It really came into its own with the arrival of the .30-06 Springfield cartridge, which added accuracy due to the advanced shaping of its bullet.
6. Colt M1911
This pistol has been the icon of American GIs since World War I. It still hangs around today within some special operations units. Unlike most pistols of its time that used 9mm rounds (or weaker ones), its .45 ACP round could stop an enemy soldier cold.
7. Thompson Submachine Gun
The gun that “made the Twenties roar” earned its reputation in the hands of Al Capone’s thugs. It packed the same .45 ACP punch as the M1911, but it had a bit more range. Over 1.5 million were made, and the gun’s firepower made it a favorite of the American GI.
8. M1 Garand
While the United States Army adopted the M1903 to simply maintain parity with the rest of the world, the M1 Garand gave American infantryman an advantage. This time, it allowed rapid follow-up shots. This rifle was praised by many, including George S. Patton. Its one drawback, a “ping” sound that told people that it needed to be reloaded.
9. .38 Special Police Revolver
The .38 Special didn’t become a primary service weapon (it was passed out to pilots as part of their survival kit in some cases), but it was the first gun that was a standard-issued sidearm for police officers. While the revolver is not used often today, it has become an icon.
10. M16 Rifle
This rifle changed the way rifles were made. Prior to its introduction, rifles usually were made with wood and heavy steel, but the selective-fire M16 used plastics, composites, and aluminum. When it entered service, it came in two and a half pounds lighter than the M1 Garand but held almost four times as many rounds in a detachable magazine. The hotly-debated AR-15 bears a resemblance to the M16, but it is only capable of semi-automatic fire — civilian sales of the M16 have been strictly regulated since 1934.
Which guns do you think have helped define American history? Let us know in the comments.
When it comes to curb appeal, few airplanes in history can match the look of the SR-71 “Blackbird.” And nothing in the Air Force’s inventory — past or present — can beat its signature performance characteristics. Here are 11 photos that show why the Blackbird remains the standard of aviation cool:
The SR-71 “Blackbird” was a high-speed, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft developed by Lockheed’s legendary “Skunk Works” team in the 1960s.
The Blackbird was capable of speeds exceeding Mach 3.0. The fuselage was designed to expand at high speeds, which caused the airplane to leak fuel on the ground because the panels fit very loosely when jet was parked.
The Blackbird’s service ceiling (max altitude) was 85,000 feet, which forced crews to wear pressure suits and astronaut-type helmets.
SR-71s were manned by two aviators: a pilot and a Reconnaissance Systems Officer who monitored surveillance systems from the rear cockpit.
Only 32 Blackbirds were manufactured, and they were in service from 1964-1998. Despite over 4,000 combat sorties, none of the planes were lost due to enemy fire. However, 12 of them were destroyed in mishaps.
Claustrophobic types need not apply. The narrow space between canopy rails didn’t give crews much room to move around. The outer windscreen of the cockpit was made of quartz and was fused ultrasonically to the titanium frame. The temperature of the exterior of the windscreen reached 600 °F during a mission.
Nothing ‘glass’ about this cockpit. The SR-71 presented the pilot with a dizzying array of steam gauges and switches. And visibility out the front wasn’t the greatest.
Although not technically a stealth aircraft, the SR-71 was hard for enemy SAM systems to spot because it was designed with a low radar cross section in mind.
Because of its high approach speed the Blackbird used a drag chute to slow down on the runway after touchdown.
Aerial refueling capability allowed the SR-71 to perform long-range, high endurance missions.
The Blackbird still holds the record for fastest air-breathing manned aircraft (a record it broke in 1976). Although the SR-71 is no longer in service, the legend lives on.
The downfall of JJ is an awesome win for the U.S. and U.K. militaries, but it’s just the latest in a list of “high-value targets” that have been brought down. Here are 13 of America and her allies’ greatest hits against terrorism.
1. Osama Bin Laden
You don’t need an intro to this a–hole. He was killed by SEAL Team 6 in a daring raid into Pakistan on May 2, 2011.
2. Saddam Hussein
Like Osama Bin Laden, you really shouldn’t need an intro for this guy. Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces on Dec. 13, 2003 in Tikrit, Iraq where he was hiding in a tiny hole. He was executed Dec. 20, 2006 by hanging after being found guilty of crimes against humanity.
Atiyah Abd al-Rahman became al-Qaeda’s top operational planner and number 2 leader overall after Bin Laden was killed. His tenure near the peak was short-lived and he was killed in a drone strike Aug. 22, 2011.
The number 3 in al Qaeda at the time of his death, Abu Layth al-Libi got his start in another terror network before becoming a field commander and spokesman for al Qaeda. He was killed in a drone strike Jan. 29, 2008.
11. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, suspected to be the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was captured Mar. 1, 2003 by the C.I.A after an informer known as “Asset X” texted his handler, “I M W KSM.” Mohammed is still in custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
12. Mustafa Abu al-Yazid
The head of finance for al Qaeda and possibly the director of operations when he was killed, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid was killed by a missile strike in May 2010.
War is generally about two sides engaging with thousands of troops, but occasionally that power is directed against one guy instead of an entire army. Here are the eight most noteworthy times that the American military went after an individual:
1. Francisco Pancho Villa
In perhaps the most famous manhunt in U.S. military history, Gen. John “Blackjack” Pershing led the “Punitive Expedition” to capture Francisco Pancho Villa and his men after they raided Columbus, New Mexico and killed 18 Americans.
The expedition pushed 300 miles into Mexico and pursued Villa from Mar. 15, 1916 to Jan. 12, 1917. They successfully broke up Villa’s gang but failed to capture Villa.
On April 14, 1943, U.S. Navy code breakers learned that the architect of Pearl Harbor, Adm. Isokuru Yamamoto, would be inspecting bases in Solomon Islands and would follow a flight path that would place it just within reach of Air Corps P-38Gs deployed to Guadalcanal.
Geronimo was one of the most feared Native American leaders when he was finally forced to live on a reservation in Arizona in 1877. But Geronimo was not decisively beaten and lived there on his own terms.
Photo: Wikipedia/Oficina de Asuntos Históricos de Cuba
The famous Argentinian revolutionary and college freshman T-shirt icon was a major thorn in the side of the America as he tried to create “two, three, or many Vietnams” in Latin America, according to “Hunting Che” author Mitch Weiss. U.S. Special Forces soldiers trained Bolivian conscripts to hunt Che, and they successfully killed him Oct. 9, 1967.
6. Saddam Hussein
The hunt for the notorious dictator of Iraq kicked off before the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, but Saddam Hussein remained a ghost for months. When he was finally found by U.S. Army soldiers, it wasn’t in a hidden palace or even a well-appointed bunker. Hussein surrendered in a tiny spider-hole near Tikrit where he had squirreled away $750,000, an Kalashnikov, and some chocolate.
7. Manuel Antonio Noriega
The manhunt for Panamanian Gen. Manuel Noriega and many of his subordinates was Operation Just Cause. The initial invasion force on Dec. 20, 1989 crippled the Panamanian Defense Forces and blocked Noriega’s main means of escape but failed to capture the dictator.
The manhunt lasted until Christmas Eve when the dictator sought asylum in the Vatican Embassy in Panama. Under guidance from the Pope, the head of the embassy told Noriega that the Vatican would not grant political asylum or guarantee his safety against demonstrators rallying around the embassy. Noriega surrendered to the U.S. on January 2, 1970 (p. 54).
8. Mohammed Farrah Aideed
If you don’t remember the name, think “Black Hawk Down.” Mohammed Aideed was the warlord in control of Somalia’s strongest militia during the U.N. Operation Restore Hope. A U.S. task force supported the nation-building mission which quickly turned violent. The capture of Aideed became necessary for mission security.
The first mission to capture Aideed failed on Jun. 17, 1993. The U.S. sent Task Force Ranger to assist Aug. 28, 1993. A series of raids, including the Oct. 3 raid and subsequent rescue effort depicted in “Black Hawk Down,” netted many of Aideed’s lieutenants, but American casualties made the manhunt too bloody for the U.S. A Nov. 16 U.N. resolution and ceasefire left Aideed in power.
Since Desert Storm if the mission involved close air support — especially killing tanks — the A-10 ‘Warthog’ was the jet the infantry loved to see overhead. It’s lethal, it’s agile, and it’s perfect at providing support for troops on the ground. So it’s easy to see why they absolutely love it.
The A-10 “Thunderbolt II” was built by Fairchild Republic in the early 1970s to take on close air support missions — the only military aircraft in history designed specifically for that purpose. (Photo: U. S. Air Force)
The A-10, more commonly referred to as the “Warthog” because of it’s unique look, is not fast for a tactical jet but is very maneuverable due to its large wings. In this photo a Warthog dispenses flares used to decoy heat-seeking missiles. (Photo: U. S. Air Force)
The Warthog features a GAU-8 Avenger nose cannon — the heaviest gun mounted on an airplane — that fires 30 millimeter bullets. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
Warthogs became the infantry’s close air support platforms of choice due to a wide range of armament, loiter time, and the courage of the pilots who flew them. Here nose art annotates enemy equipment destroyed and number of bombs delivered. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
The cockpit and parts of the flight-control system are protected by 1,200 pounds of titanium armor, referred to as a “bathtub.” (Source: Wikipedia; Photo: U.S. Air Force)
One of the most powerful aircraft cannons ever flown, the GAU-8 fires large depleted uranium armor-piercing shells at a rate of 3,900 rounds per minute.
Along with the GAU-8 nose cannon the Warthog has multiple hard points on each wing for carrying a variety of weapons including Maverick AGMs and Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missiles.
To reduce the likelihood of damage to the A-10’s fuel system, all four fuel tanks are located near the aircraft’s center and are separated from the fuselage; projectiles would need to penetrate the aircraft’s skin before reaching a tank’s outer skin. (Source: Wikipedia; Photo: U.S. Air Force)
The A-10’s durability was shown on April 7, 2003 when Capt. Kim Campbell, while flying over Baghdad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, suffered extensive flak damage. Despite a malfunctioning engine and a crippled hydraulic system, Campbell flew the aircraft for nearly an hour and landed safely. (Source: Wikipedia; Photo: U.S. Air Force)
The A-10 was designed to fly from forward air bases and semi-prepared runways with high risk of foreign object damage to the engines.
The unusual location of the General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofan engines decreases the heat signature for IR missiles, reduces the chances of FOD ingestion, and allows the engines to run while the aircraft is serviced and rearmed by ground crews, reducing turn-around time. (Source: Wikipedia; Photo: U. S. Air Force)
Although it’s inflight refueling capability theoretically could have kept the Warthog airborne forever, the Air Force’s budget priorities have attempted to ground the airplane once and for all in favor of the F-35.
However various Air National Guard factions and congressional groups have pressured the Pentagon to keep the A-10 in service, claiming that the F-35 is less capable than the venerable Warthog. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
The infantry is loaded down with all sorts of weapons and gear, some of it loved and some of it absolutely hated for being unnecessary weight. But while the Carl Gustav recoilless rifle weighs nearly 20 pounds and each round is almost 10 more, the infantry still loves the darned thing.
Why? Because it’s lethal, accurate, has long-range, and is reliable. Check it out:
1. The Carl Gustav has a longer range than many American rifles and gives infantrymen the capability of killing enemies at up to 3,000 feet.
U.S. Paratroopers assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade fires the M3 Carl Gustav rocket launcher at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Aug. 18, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gerhard Seuffert)
4. Despite the heft of the nearly 10-pound Gustav rounds, the shooters feel little recoil thanks to a large blast that balances the forces (and creates an awesome fireball).
5. Saab-Bofors produces 10 types of ammunition for the weapon — everything from airburst high-explosive rounds to anti-structure munitions that bring down buildings.
Fighting at sea level is tough, but it doesn’t get any easier thousands of feet up a mountain. The military prepares for fights at altitude by training extensively in challenging weather and terrain. Here are 16 photos that show what it’s like.
1. Narrow passes of ice-covered rocks
2. Getting down the mountain is faster – but more dangerous – than climbing up.
3. Helicopters can make a big difference when they’re available.
4. For getting across the soft snow, skis and snowshoes are handy.
5. Sleds can carry extra gear that won’t fit in a pack.
6. The Marines train on both riding horses and mules, and use them as pack animals.