Spending the better part of a year on a deployment 3,000 miles away from home is hard for anyone and can feel like an eternity.
On the ride home, many vets think about the first thing they’re going to do when they return, like biting into a perfectly-grilled cheeseburger, getting a good night’s sleep in their own bed or taking a long hot shower.
Aside from those iconic ones, here are a few things you could do to welcome back your spouse and make his or her homecoming a glorious affair.
1. Bring unexpected family members
Consider bringing man’s best friend along — the one who walks on four legs and thinks his returning buddy is king. There’s nothing better than the welcoming face of a faithful pup after a long time apart. Returning home is an emotional time for everybody, so why not bring everyone?
2. Bring tobacco
Puffing a fresh cigarette or packing your lip with a fresh pinch of dip can make a world of difference for someone who spent that last 13 hours on a plane and is itching for a hit of nicotine.
Sure, this isn’t the healthiest gift. But it could make your loved one do a celebration dance when they’re packing a freshie.
3. Bring a cold beer (or beers)
General Order #1A prohibits service members from drinking alcohol while deployed — and it’s rarely lifted.
It’s a known fact when you want something bad and can’t have it, you want it even more. Heineken, Corona, or PBR are just some of the popular choices sold at the local base PX.
Letting your spouse toast a few with his or her buddies for a job well done is a great and inexpensive way to close out a stressful deployment.
4. Have an escape plan checklist
Unfortunately, it’s not always a situation where your loved one can just walk off the plane and go straight home — there’s always a list of “to-dos” before he can pull chocks. So make sure your spouse has a get-home-quick plan so those logistics hurdles don’t get in the way of a quick trip to the casa.
Find the family, hug it out and take a quick photo.
Mark your seabag and other baggage so the kids can spot and retrieve it while you drop off your weapon at the armory.
Meet at the car and load up.
Find the nearest exit gate with the least outgoing traffic.
5. Have a clean house
Being cramped into a small bunk on a ship or sleeping on a narrow cot in a dusty tent takes its toll. Entering a cleaned up and tidy house — even a modest one — can feel like you just walked into a newly designed multi-million dollar mansion.
6. Make a home-cooked meal
Some military installations have better chow halls than others. And a lot of deployed personnel had to make due with eating MREs or C-rations three times a day, which are tough to stomach over a long deployment.
So there’s nothing like sitting down at the table with your family over a perfectly cooked steak with all the fixings.
7. Bring a change of clothes
After months of doing laundry in a bucket, having some fresh clean clothes that don’t have a last name stitched above the pocket is a step in the right direction when trying to return to normal.
Although the United States and Britain have had their share of disputes early on in American history, today the two countries are the closest of friends.
In case you were living under a rock, British troops fought alongside US in the global war on terror. That means while our service members are overseas, there’s a solid chance they will encounter members of the British army on a joint mission.
That being said, the British have some popular slang terms that we Americans don’t use but probably should know.
These five American generals and admirals did things that played with the thin line between cunning and crazy, but they were awesome at their jobs so most everyone looked the other way.
1. A Navy admiral dressed up in a ninja suit to ensure his classified areas were defended.
Vice Adm. John D. Bulkeley was an American hero, let’s get that straight right out of the gate. He fought to attend Annapolis and graduated in 1933 but was passed over for a Naval commission due to budget constraints. So he joined the Army Air Corps for a while until the Navy was allowed to commission additional officers. In the sea service, he distinguished himself on multiple occasions including a Medal of Honor performance in the Pacific in World War II. War. Hero.
2. Lt. Gen. George Custer was obsessed with his huge pack of dogs.
Gen. George Custer had “crazy cat lady” numbers of dogs with between 40 and 80 animals at a time. It’s unknown exactly when he began collecting the animals, but while in Texas in 1866 he and his wife had 23 dogs and it grew from there.
Custer’s love of the animals was so deep, his wife almost abandoned their bed before he agreed to stop sleeping with them. On campaign, he brought dozens of the dogs with him and would sleep with them on and near his cot. Before embarking on the campaign that would end at Little Bighorn, Custer tried to send all the dogs back home. This caused his dog handler, Pvt. John Burkman, to suspect that the campaign was more dangerous than most.
Some of the dogs refused to leave and so Burkman continued to watch them at Custer’s side. Burkman had night guard duty just before the battle, and so he and a group of the dogs were not present when Native American forces killed Custer and much of the Seventh Cavalry. It’s unknown what happened to the dogs after the battle.
3. Gen. Curtis LeMay really wanted to bomb the Russians.
Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay is a controversial figure. On the one hand, he served as the commander of Strategic Air Command and later as the Air Force Chief of Staff. He shaping American air power as it became one of the most deadly military forces in the history of the world, mostly due it’s strategic nuclear weapons.
On the other hand, he really wanted to use those nukes. He advocated nuclear bombs being used in Vietnam and drew up plans in 1949 to destroy 77 Russian cities in a single day of bombing. He even proposed a nuclear first strike directly against Russia. Any attempt to limit America’s nuclear platform was met with criticism from LeMay. Discussing his civilian superiors, he was known to often say, “I ask you: would things be much worse if Khrushchev were Secretary of Defense?”
4. LeMay’s successor really, really wanted to bomb the Russians.
Gen. Curtis LeMay may have been itchy to press the big red button, but his protege and successor was even worse. LeMay described Gen. Thomas Power as “not stable,” and a “sadist.”
When a Rand study advocated limiting nuclear strikes at the outset of a war with the Soviet Union, Power asked him, “Why are you so concerned with saving their lives? The whole idea is to kill the bastards … At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win.”
5. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne made his soldiers fight without ammunition.
In the Revolutionary War, bayonets played a much larger role than they do today. Still, most generals had their soldiers fire their weapons before using the bayonets.
Not Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne. He was sent by Gen. George Washington to reconnoiter the defense at Stony Point, New York. There, Wayne decided storming the defenses would be suicide and suggested that the Army conduct a bayonet charge instead.
Shockingly, this worked. On the night of July 15, 1779, the men marched to Stony Point. After they arrived and took a short rest, the soldiers unloaded their weapons. Then, with only bayonets, the men slipped up to the defenses and attacked. Wayne himself fought at the lead of one of the attacking columns, wielding a half-pike against the British. Wayne was shot in the head early in the battle but continued fighting and the Americans were victorious.
A North Korean guard handed Sgt. Berry F. Rhoden, a POW, a card which read:
“You are about to die the most horrible kind of death.”
The guard then shot Rhoden in the back. These are the kinds of stories collected by Michigan Senator Charles E. Potter after the Korean War ended. Potter documented more than 1,800 atrocities committed by the Communists against civilian populations and UN military personnel during the Korean War.
The 1954 Potter Report is more than 200 pages of testimony from Korean War veterans and massacre survivors before Congress. Sgt. Rhoden was one of just a few of those survivors.
When the Korean War started, victory was far but assured. The North Korean attack on June 25, 1950 took the U.S. and South Korea by complete surprise, and the Communists were able to make large gains in a very short amount of time.
The battle lines swung as wildly as the momentum of the war itself before grinding into months of stalemate as the two sides haggled at the negotiating table. Every time the pendulum shifted, more American and UN forces were captured by the North Korean and Chinese forces. The first reports of enemy atrocities filtered into the UN headquarters as early as two days after the invasion started.
The report found the Communist forces in Korea “flagrantly violated virtually every provision of the Geneva Convention” as well as Article 6 of the Nuremberg Tribunal Charter. It also lists the abuses American and UN POWs suffered at the hands of the North Koreans:
“American prisoners of war who were not deliberately murdered at the time of capture or shortly after capture, were beaten, wounded, starved, and tortured; molested, displayed, and humiliated before the civilian populace and/or forced to march long distances without benefit of adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, or medical care to Communist prison camps, and there to experience further acts of human indignities.”
On top of the numerous forced marches and torture, seven Korean War Massacres stand out as egregious examples of the systematic, inhumane treatment of POWs at the hands of Communist forces. According to the Potter Report, as of June 1953, the estimated number of American POWs who died from enemy war crimes was 6,113. The total number of UN forces who were victims ranged between 11,662 – 20,785.
1. The Hill 303 Massacre
On August 14, 1950, 26 U.S. troops were caught by surprise and captured by North Koreans. Their hands were bound and their boots were stolen by their captors. The next day, more American POWs joined the group, bringing their number to 45.
The prisoners were led to a ravine where they were all shot with their hands still tied. Only 4 survived. Cpl. Roy Manring, Jr. gave his testimony before the commission:
“They come by and they started kicking and you could hear the fellows hollering, grunting, groaning, and praying, and when they kicked me they kicked my leg and I made a grunting sound and that’s when I caught it in the gut, got shot in the gut at the time.”
2. The Sunchon Tunnel Massacre
In October 1950, UN troops were approaching Pyongyang when 180 U.S. prisoners were loaded onto rail cars and moved north. The men had already survived the Seoul-Pyongyang Death March and were starving, dehydrated, and wounded. The ride north exposed them to the elements for five days when they were unloaded near the Sunchon Tunnel. The North Koreans led the men to a ravine and shot them to pieces. 138 died from the shooting, starvation, and disease after being left there.
Pvt. 1st Class John Martin, one of the survivors, gave his account of the incident:
“We went around the corner, into this ditch. They said, “Get down; the planes. Get down; the planes. So when we all ducked down some more of them came up on us over a little rice paddy and they just opened up.”
3. The Taejon Massacre
On September 27, 1950, 60 U.S. prisoners of war held in the Taejon prison were bound by their hands and taken to the prison yard. As the sat in shallow ditches, the North Korean guards shot them at point blank range with an American M-1 rifle. Only one survivor lived to tell the story.
Civilians killed by the North Korean People’s Army forces Identify bodies. October 1950 (U.S. Army photo)
Sgt. Carey Weinel told Congress about the slaughter of the Americans but also told them about the 5,000 – 7,000 Korean civilians and South Korean soldiers who also died at Taejon. Weinel allowed himself to be buried alive to escape the massacre.
“As I say, I was shot around 5 o’clock in the morning, and I stayed in the ditch until that eveninq, until what time it was dark. I woula say approximately 8 hours, 8 or 7 hours. “
4. The Bamboo Spear Case
Five airmen in a truck convoy were ambushed by North Korean troops in December 1950. Their bodies were found by a South Korean patrol, punctured with 20 different stab wounds from heated bamboo sticks. None of the wounds were fatal by themselves.
Lt. Col. James Rogers of the Army Medical Corps testified before Congress that the five airmen were tortured and then murdered.
“After torturing them with the superficial wounds they then bayoneted them with the same instruments and these fellows mere allowed to bleed to death. “
5. The Naedae Murders
Near a Communist propaganda bulletin board that accused the UN of committing atrocities against Koreans, 12 American soldiers were imprisoned in a hut and then shot by North Korean troops. Five were able to survive by faking their own deaths.
Cpl. Frederick Herrmann survived the October 1950 murders and told the Potter commission about the surprise shooting:
“I heard the first shot go off and this fellow sitting right across directly from me was hit and he fell forward. When he fell forward. I just spun around and stuck my head under the desk. While I was laying there playing dead, I heard all kinds of shots. Pretty soon I felt somebody kick me. I got shot in the leg. I still played dead…”
6. The Chaplain-Medic Massacre
In July 1950, just after the North Korean invasion that started the Korean War, the Communists surprised 20 gravely wounded U.S. soldiers and their attendants. Attending the wounded was a regimental surgeon wearing the red cross armband and a non-combatant Christian chaplain. The chaplain was slaughtered with the injured troops, but the surgeon, Capt. Linton J. Buttrey, was the sole survivor.
Senator Potter: He was administering the last rites to the patient, to a patient on a litter?
Captain Buttrey: Yes.
Senator Potter: And how did they kill him?
Captain Buttrey: He was shot in the back, sir.
7. The Kaesong Massacre
Just north of what we today call the Demilitarized Zone, 13 American soldiers were captured by North Koreans near the city of Kaesong in November 1950. They were stripped of all their possessions and imprisoned in a small hut. After 3 hours, they were marched out of the hut for two miles, thinking they were headed to a POW camp. The men were then shot from behind without warning.
There was one survivor, Cpl. William Milano, who told his story to Congress.
“I heard the bolt go back and as I heard the bolt, I turned around to see what it was, and he fired. He hit me through the right hand and it threw me up against the hill. As it did, blood either squirted on me, or blood squirted on my face. He took another shot and it skidded off my left leg and took a piece of flesh away. The third hit me high and I felt the dirt. They were still firing on the other men. About 5 minutes later all the firing stopped.”
In all, the war crimes perpetrated by the Communist forces left “several thousand” unrepatriated Americans wounded, killed in action, or otherwise left confined behind the Iron Curtain.
They aren’t the shoot-em-up kind of superheroes, but equally awesome in their own way.
1. Maj. Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel)
Major Danvers is a trained military intelligence officer and erstwhile spy. She’s one of the most distinguished officers in the superhero universe, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, where Nick Fury recruited her for the CIA. Retiring from the Air Force as a Colonel to be Chief of Security at NASA before becoming half-Kree (a militaristic alien race in the Marvel Universe) and then becoming Captain Marvel after meeting a Kree alien named Mar-Vell, but she acquired superpowers after an explosion merged her DNA with the first Captain Marvel… well, it’s complicated. She is an author and feminist and her powers include flight, enhanced strength and durability, shooing energy bursts from her hands, and being able to verbally judo one Tony Stark.
2. Capt. Hal Jordan (Green Lantern)
He was an elite pilot who joined the Air Force on his 18th birthday and immediately became a test pilot (it doesn’t have to be realistic, it’s a comic, ok?) before joining the Green Lantern Corps. He was also a hot shot fighter pilot who fought aliens as well as North Koreans. He was kicked out after decking his superior officer, who wouldn’t let him take leave.
3. Sam Wilson (Falcon)
Falcon is actually an enlisted airman, not an officer. He’s a former Air Force Pararescue Jumper (PJ), which makes him a great candidate for the superhero’s tendency to jump into the middle of a combat situation to ice evildoers and save lives. Not content with all that, he also counsels veterans with post-traumatic stress issues in his free time.
4. Ben Grimm (The Thing)
Another Air Force test pilot (those guys are pretty ballsy, so it makes sense to turn them into superheroes), Grimm was also a Marine and an astronaut, which is how he became the Thing in the first place. For all the clobberin’ and poor use of the English language depicted in the films, Grimm is clearly the superhero with the most book learnin’ and the most distinguished military career. Ben Grimm’s rock skin gives him super strength, durability, and resistance to extreme temperatures.
5. Lt. Col. James Rhodes (War Machine)
What better Air Force job could there be than to be the USAF Liaison to Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist — and your best friend, Tony Stark. That job is so awesome, it led to him being the only other person on Earth who gets to pilot a suit of armor on the level of Iron Man’s.
6. Travis Morgan (Warlord)
Flying a recon mission over the North Pole led to a plane malfunction and an ejection over what should have been Northern Canada. when Morgan touched down, he found himself in the land of Skartaris, a barbarian world in another dimension, hidden inside the Earth’s core. He defeated an evil magician attempting to conquer Skartaris and became Warlord. He was able to return to Earth on occasion, which makes all of this sound like a deployment to Afghanistan.
People around the world watch in awe as the Olympic Games begin. Athletes, who have spent their entire lives mastering their given sport, are pitted against each other for the chance to emerge as the world’s greatest.
Yet, there’s always the few watching who say to themselves, “pssssh, that’s easy! I got this!” Many members of that group are veterans. Based entirely off of stereotypes associated with each branch of the armed forces, these are the events that we would dominate if given the chance.
1. Soldiers would win the biathlon.
In case you don’t know what a biathlon is, you cross-country ski for around 10 kilometers while carrying your rifle to eventually shoot at targets.
It’s basically a ruck march in the snow, minus the rucksack and plus some skis. And you actually get to shoot your rifle instead of just carrying it.
2. Marines would win shooting events.
Every Marine is a rifleman, right? The one thing Marines can confidently brag about over everyone else is their marksmanship.
If they brag about being able at shoot 500 meters with a rifle chambered in 5.56, they should clean the floor at 50 meters, prone with a .22 LR caliber rifle.
That said, the Brits will find that the U.S. Marines will do things a bit differently than Her Majesty’s lads. Here are a few things the Brits will need to do to make life “Oorah!” for American Leathernecks.
1. Schedule regular beer runs
The Brits may need to borrow a Supply-class replenishment ship just to have enough beer on hand for the Marines. You see, no thanks to Josephus Daniels the U.S. Navy doesn’t allow alcohol on board its vessels.
Royal Navy ships, on the other hand, are “wet,” and with the heat on carrier decks, Marines will get thirsty. The Brits will need sufficient supplies of Coors Lite to keep the Marines happy.
Oh, yeah, and when it comes to the harder stuff – figure that it might not hurt to have extras on stock. But they can leave the brandy and sherry ashore.
2. Ditch the tea and pile up the energy drinks
Earl Gray is not what most Marines will drink around 5:00pm. Forget even offering it.
Energy drinks on the other hand, are popular amongst all American service members. To fully understand how popular they are, keep in mind that according to a 2016 DOD release, Monster was the most popular cold beverage sold in the exchanges. In 2009, one exchange store reported selling 1,000 cans a week, according to an Army release.
Come to think of it… you may need a second replenishment ship for all the Monster that will be consumed. We’re sure Military Sealift Command will give a discount for leasing two Supply-class ships.
3. Stock coffee … and lots of it
While we’re talking about pick-me-ups, it may not be a bad idea to remember that the Marines will also drink coffee — and lots of it.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs from “NCIS” is not an aberration. The grouchiness if he doesn’t have his coffee – that’s not an aberration, either.
And the Marines have to have it.
That photo above was taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Trust me, if Leathernecks had their coffee during Iwo Jima — and did what they did there — you don’t want to see what Marines do without their coffee.
That might take a third Supply-class replenishment ship, by the way. MSC has to have a discount for leasing three, wethinks.
4. Add a rifle range
The Marines’ motto is, “Every Marine a Rifleman.” Even the jet jockeys.
So, you’re gonna need a range so the Marines can qualify on the M16A4 rifle and the M9 pistol. That means you’ll need a good backstop, plenty of ammo, and plenty of spare magazines for both (luckily the British L85 rifle uses the same magazines as the M16).
5. Brush up on what real football is
Also, depending on the time of year, you will be in football season.
No, we’re not talking the game with the black-and-white round ball. That’s soccer.
We’re talking real football. Eleven on a team, yes, but beyond that, the Brits will need to know the intricacies of the 46 defense, what “Cover 2” means, and just who Tom Brady, DeMarcus Ware, and Ezekiel Elliot are — among others.
Also, don’t even think of mentioning Manchester United in the same breath as the Chicago Bears. Just don’t.
Work can be monotonous for junior sailors who spend their days cleaning, cranking, and painting. The trick is to make the best of it, so we asked seasoned sailors from the Submarine Bubblehead Brotherhood and US Navy Veteran Facebook groups for their advice on how to avoid working without getting caught — better known in the fleet as “skating.”
There’s an art to skating. As one sailor from the Bubblehead Brotherhood put it, “Many people think that skating is merely a lazy man’s forte. But few fail to realize its complexity as a whole. To skate is to be a good actor, good talker, and well-liked among divisions.”
Take it from the pros; here are nine tips for skating:
1. Volunteer to go on a run for the division
Runs involve going for snacks, supplies, or other LPO-type errands. The key here is to take your time. Turn it into a half-day event, go to the NEX, the barracks, or anywhere you want, but avoid looking suspicious.
2. Hide in plain sight with cleaning materials
If you look busy, no one will bother you. Always have a cleaning item on hand and pull it out when someone of a higher rank approaches. Here’s how it worked for one sailor:
3. Sit in a stall in the head
Go to the head and take your time. It also pays to know the cleaning schedule. You can spend half the day rotating through different heads.
4. Volunteer for a dreaded task or one that requires little supervision
This works best with a task that you don’t mind doing. This plane captain will probably clean the same spot for 30 minutes before moving to another spot.
5. Walk around the ship with a worried look while holding a clipboard.
The key to skating with a clipboard is your facial expression. Always look focused, worried, or angry. Nobody will want to get involved in whatever you’re dealing with.
6. Chase the signature
In order to stand watch or use a piece of equipment in the Navy, you must first get qualified. Earning your qualification requires that another qualified sailor give you a tutorial on the peace of gear. You can be “Joe Navy” and have your qualification in a couple of days, or you can drag this out by asking for the tutorial at the wrong time. When asked for the status of your qualification, no one can deny that you weren’t trying.
7. Leave an extra cover and set of keys on the desk in the shop
Have a spare cover and set of keys that you keep at your desk and use the other set for leaving the shop. The spare set is to throw your shipmates off your scent. “He’s got to be here somewhere. His keys and cover are right here.”
8. Take a nap in a storage room
Get your buddy to lock you in a storage or munition room. The rooms lock from the outside, so make sure that your buddy is trustworthy, otherwise prepare to go to mast if a man-over-board is called and you miss your muster.
9. Get a wireless alert chime.
Wireless chimes are great for catching sleep during working hours. They are meant to be permanent, but you can make them mobile with Velcro tape. Place the magnetic sensors over the door or hatch and take the speaker/receiver with you away from view. The receiver will sound off when the door is opened.
When planning their annual vacations, most American families don’t normally top their lists with Dayton, Ohio. While there are probably some sights to see in Dayton, arguably the most enticing reason to visit is the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
With notable examples of aircraft from before powered flight to the present day, the museum also includes slices of history from the U.S. and its Air Force. Watching the Avengers in IMAX is cool, but so is flying a fighter mission or buzzing through the skies on D-Day.
The exhibits aren’t limited to aircraft and wars. The museum documents air history from the balloons of the Civil War to the first powered flights (the Wright Brothers were bicycle mechanics from Dayton). It also takes visitors through exhibits on the Holocaust all the way through Cold War tensions and its nuclear armaments, as well as a tribute to Bob Hope and his dedication to the USO.
You can’t ride the bombs, though. They’ll ask you not to do that.
It was terribly difficult to narrow this list to a few items, considering the extensive Air Force and U.S. Military history contained here. Notable runners-up include a very visual walkthrough of Checkpoint Charlie, an explanation of POW tapping codes in the Hanoi Hilton, a graphic description of MiG Alley during the Korean War, a Boeing Bird of Prey, and an F-22 Raptor.
1. The First Presidential Jet
Though the President’s plane began its designation as Air Force One during the Eisenhower era, the first jet aircraft to fly with the distinctive blue and white pattern as we know it today was President Kennedy’s Special Airlift Mission (SAM) 26000. It was the first aircraft specially designed for the President of the United States. President Johnson was sworn in as President on it. It was also the plane that flew President Kennedy’s body back to Washington after his assassination in Dallas and the plane that flew Nixon to China.
2. An SR-71 Blackbird
You might wonder why the Air Force fly this plane anymore. My guess is the Blackbird just wasn’t fair to America’s enemies, so we stepped back a little bit. It was the first stealth aircraft, and paved the way for later stealth technology. It holds the record for fast aircraft not destined for orbit and from 1966 to 1998, it was the Department of Defense’s go-to for high altitude reconnaissance. The SR-71 was capable of Mach 3 speeds and was never lost in combat because the Blackbird would just fly faster than any missile launched at it. Peace out.
3. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. All of them.
Ok not ALL of them, but one each of many kinds. Officially called The Missile Space Gallery, it houses Thor missiles, Titan I and II, Minuteman, Peacekeepers and Jupiter missiles. It also contains Mercury and Gemini spacecraft as well as the command module from Apollo 15, the fourth mission to land on the moon. You can see the missiles from the ground or go on a raised platform and see them from the nose cones — the last thing Nikita Khrushchev would have seen if Curtis LeMay had his way.
4. The Doolittle Raiders’ Toast
Eighty small silver goblets commemorate the 80 men who joined together to blacken Japan’s eye after the sucker punch at Pearl Harbor in 1941. In less than six months after the sneak attack, 16 B-25 Medium Range Bombers took off from aircraft carriers (a then-unheard of feat) to bomb Tokyo undetected, without fighter escort. The attack had little military value beyond boosting U.S. morale and hurting Japanese morale, but it set the tone for the war in the Pacific as an all-out street fight.
The surviving raiders met annually on Doolittle’s birthday and in 1959, were presented by the city of Tucson with the silver goblets, each engraved twice with the name of a Raider. The case they’re in was built by Richard E. “Dick” Cole, Doolittle’s copilot during the 1942 raid. At every Raiders’ Ceremony, the surviving Raiders toast the deceased and then turn the recently deceased goblet’s upside down, where the engraved name can be read that way. When there are only two left, the two will share the final toast.
5. The Beginnings of an Iraq War Exhibit
I don’t know about how any other post-9/11 veterans feel about seeing themselves in museums. For me, museums have traditionally held stories from faraway places and some very old things. So it’s a strange feeling to see your own war already immortalized in a museum. Though admittedly, there isn’t much to this exhibit save for what a tent city DFAC looks like from the outside and the wall of the Air Terminal Operations Center from al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar from 2003. What’s interesting about the wall is that many of those who deployed in support of Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom went through this passenger terminal, and many of those wrote and drew on the drywall supporting the tent. It’s interesting to think of how the wars our current troops are fighting will be remembered in the future.
“It’s a sport of millimeters,” said Specialist Sagen Maddalena of her upcoming Olympic debut.
The seasoned shooter is slated to compete in the women’s 3×40 rifle event – three positions, 40 shots each. That’s standing, sitting, and prone – all at 50-meters away. She also made the Olympic team as an alternate in the air rifle event, pictured above.
“The target isn’t moving, so we try to be as accurate as possible,” she said. Even the slightest change in how she stands, her sights, could throw the shot off by, well, millimeters. And in the 3×40, it’s a change that could make all the difference.
This month, she’ll be representing the U.S. and the Army’s Marksmanship Unit as she heads to Tokyo. Shooting a .22 caliber Bleiker, Maddalena comes prepped with three sights – one set for each position – three rests, and specialty-wear galore. Depending on the position, she also adds various weights and cheek pieces. Because of the length of time it takes to shoot all 120 shots, 3×40 athletes ready their entire bodies with a thick, leather-like suit, shoes with plywood bottoms so the soles are completely flat and visors to block glare.
It’s layers of gear, and a long-lasting event.
“One of the challenges for the sport is that you’re competing against yourself. The mind and the conditions can be huge for handling pressure,” she said.
Adding that keeping up a strict routine is key for her to remain in focus. By getting to the range early, she’s able to set up equipment, practice mindfulness and perform relaxation exercises, all while keeping her mind clear and heart rate down.
Maddalena’s routines aren’t just present on competition day. She trains that way most days of the week. Scheduling her shooting drills, looking at her shot data (yes she tracks where each round lands on target), physical training, carb-loading and icing her muscles — it’s all planned by the day. Much of her shooting, she said, is muscle memory. Maintaining those daily habits allows her body to do what it needs to when it matters most.
“It’s action, perform and do. You have to just do it. You can’t stop and think,” she said. “It’s almost like a dance; I’m in tune with the wind and how it affects the bullet. My mind is sharp and I can adjust. It just flows. To be able to sustain that kind of dance with the mind and the flow of the body, it’s kind of an addiction.”
Maddalena took second in the 2016 Olympic trials, when the U.S. only brought one female air rifle athlete to compete. This time around they’re taking two and she nabbed the top spot.
She began shooting at 13 in her hometown of Groveland, California and went on to compete collegiately with the University of Alaska- Fairbanks, where she also switched specialties. Formerly a service rifle shooter, she transferred to the Smallbore/three-position rifle.
“I got the realization that I could shoot internationally and go further in the sport,” she said. “I had coaches telling me that I had options, and I wanted to travel. I wanted to see new places and see how far I could go.”
A dream which she’s now made a reality. Maddalena has traveled to India, Korea and Europe many times over.
“I think that’s my favorite part of going to these different countries; you’re not just a tourist and you get to become more involved,” she said.
Soon she’ll add one more country to her checklist, as she heads to Japan as an Olympic athlete.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources Management, she enlisted in the Army in 2019 and joined their Marksmanship Unit. She came with an impressive shooting background: an eight-time All-American with the Alaska-Fairbanks Rifle Team, a two-time World Championship team member, and breaking two national records in 2020, at the Blackhawk Championships and the ASSA National Championships.
On why she chose such a difficult practice, Maddalena said she enjoys the pressure, and improvements over time, even if they are slight.
“I like the progression of it. It slows down incredibly once we get to the top of our game, to see that improvement and progress. It keeps you going back for more,” she said. “When I first started shooting, the scores were not even close to what you needed to win. And now I’m here to test myself amongst the best in the world.”
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)