The best military photos for the week of April 13th - We Are The Mighty
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The best military photos for the week of April 13th

Across the military, great things happen every day. If you blink, you might miss something. Luckily for us, there are talented photographers in service who capture some of those amazing moments.

Here’s what happened this week:


(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Liliana Moreno)

Air Force:

Senior Airman Adan Solis, 921st Contingency Response Squadron aircraft maintainer, marshals a C-130 Hercules aircraft during the Joint Readiness Training Center exercise, April 9, 2018, at the Alexandria International Airport, La. Contingency Response Airmen conducted joint training with Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, providing direct air-land support for safe and efficient airfield operations.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ted Daigle)

Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 307th Civil Engineer Squadron hone their skills on Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, April 11, 2018. The firefighters practice dousing a simulated aircraft fire in a realistic, but controlled environment.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff. Sgt. David N. Beckstrom)

Army:

Soldiers from across 25th Infantry Division continued to strive for the title of Best Warrior by participating in an eight-mile ruck march, preparing a weapon for close combat, and draftingan essay about what it means to be a leader and how to prevent sexual harassment and assault with in the military. The Tropic Lightning Best Warrior Competition is a week-long event that will test Soldiers competing on the overall physical fitness, warrior tasks and battle drill, and professional knowledge.

(U.S. Army Photo by Lt. Col. John Hall)

Bearing the weight of heavy combat loads, paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade move to the flight line to board US Air Force C130 Hercules turboprop aircraft for an joint forcible entry into northern Italy.

(U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cory Asato)

Navy:

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Michael DeCesare, assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 4, Det. Guam, fires an M2 machine gun aboard a Mark VI patrol boat during a crew-served weapons qualification in the Philippine Sea, April 12, 2018. CRS-4, Det. Guam, assigned to Costal Riverine Group 1, Det. Guam, is capable of conducting maritime security operations across the full spectrum of naval, joint and combined operations. Further, it provides additional capabilities of port security, embarked security, and theater security cooperation around the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Granito)

Capt. Gregory Newkirk, deputy commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, prepares to take off in an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Carl Vinson Strike Group is currently operating in the Pacific as part of a regularly scheduled deployment.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. David Bickel)

Marine Corps:

MV-22B Ospreys attached to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One conduct an aerial refuel during a Long Range Raid simulation in conjunction with Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-18 in Tuscon, Ariz., April 11. WTI is a seven-week training event hosted by MAWTS-1 cadre, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force and provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Zachary Orr)

U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Thomas Johnson, an assaultman with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, bear crawls on Fort Hase beach during a scout sniper indoctrination course, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, April 11, 2018. The overall goal of the course is to familiarize students with the main aspects of sniper skills so that when they go to the Scout Sniper Basic School, they will continue to improve and successfully complete it.

(U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 2nd Class Christin Solomon)

Coast Guard:

Sunset falls on an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bear during a three-month deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The Bear is scheduled to return to homeport April 12, 2018, in Portsmouth, Virginia. During the patrol, the Bear’s crew performed counter-narcotic operations, search and rescue, and maritime law enforcement.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the major lessons I learned from carrying the M27

Following the rulebook isn’t always a necessity. Well, that’s how the Marine Corps infantry feels about doctrine, anyway. Sure, there are hundreds of people who put their great minds together to come up with standard procedures for everything relating to warfare, but even still, us grunts take those “procedures” as suggestions. Why? Simple. We recognize that what may work for one unit doesn’t work for everyone.

This is the case with the fire team billet of “automatic rifleman.” The position is supposed to be held by the team leader’s second in command, usually a trusted advisor who can help run the team. But, over the years, Marines thought of a better person to hold the billet: boots. New guys. The FNGs. While some higher-ups might see this as hazing, the down-and-dirty, crayon-eating grunts disagree.

We argue that being an automatic rifleman teaches you these valuable lessons:


Accuracy is key. Pay attention and you might even score higher on the next qualification range.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)

Accuracy

Some battalions have what’s called a “Squad-Level Advanced Marksmanship Course,” which is a fancy, Marine Corps way of saying, “automatic rifleman course.” That’s essentially what it is. But the focus is, as the name suggests, on marksmanship. Why? Because to be a good automatic rifleman, you must first be a good rifleman.

Learning how to engage accurately with an automatic weapon also teaches you how to be a substantially more effective rifleman. After all, you’re firing a high volume of bullets and, the more accurate you are, the more devastating to the enemy you are.

You’ll want to let the rounds fly, but each one is important. Always be mindful of that.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alicia R. Leaders)

Ammo conservation

It’s no secret that you get a lot of ammo as an automatic rifleman — around 18-22 magazines, to be exact, most of which you’ll be responsible for lugging around. But while learning about accuracy, you might also learn about conserving ammo.

The idea is this: You need to have enough ammo at the end of the fight to move on to the next fight. Especially if you’re the automatic rifleman, your fire team needs you.

This lesson of control can even help you as a leader, telling your automatic rifleman what you want them to do.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)

Control

Quickly, you’ll learn that an automatic rifleman shouldn’t just unleash a barrage of bullets. You’ll learn when it’s appropriate to fire on full auto and when it’s appropriate to fire in 5-6 round bursts into large groups of enemies. This is important because, as you move up in rank and experience, you’ll be able to teach the next automatic rifleman about control.

This same control will help you with ammo conservation. More importantly, all these lessons will follow you into other fire team positions. In fact, if you become a squad leader, knowing how to use your automatic riflemen will be easier if you’ve been one.

MIGHTY HISTORY

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

Spartans have a weird reputation for being the undeniable kings of Classical warfare while in reality, they get a lot of really great press from the Battle of Thermopylae, but they weren’t really better or worse than any of the other Greek city-states. In fact, for 17 years, the Army of Messenia, led by King Aristomenes, handed the Spartans their asses for 17 years until he was captured and executed by Spartans.

And he soon appeared again at the head of the Messenians, ready to kick more Spartan ass.


Can’t stop, won’t stop.

A lot of U.S. military veterans are gonna have a hard time hearing this, but there was very little that was special about Sparta. Contrary to popular belief, the upbringing of Spartan boys had nothing to do with military training and everything to do with being a good citizen and obeying the law. Between 550 BC and 371 BC, Sparta’s win rate in pitched battles was 1-1, and the loss to Thebes in 371 really did them in. For good. Even at Thermopylae, yes 300 Spartans made a brave last stand, but Herodotus (and later, Frank Miller) forgot to mention the 700 Thespians who were also there, along with the 900 other lightly-armed infantry who couldn’t afford the gear to be a hoplite.

The Spartans, while perhaps brave, weren’t the bearded Hellenic crack team of ancient special operators they somehow get credit for being today. What they were was aggressive and present. The Messenians, sick of being slaves to stupid Spartans, rose up against their overlords and fought them at the Battle of Deres. Though no one really won that battle, one man stood out above the rest – Aristomenes. He fought so well the Messenians declared him their leader.

Aristomenes would be captured after a night of carnal delights with Spartan priestesses.

Aristomenes took the fight to Sparta and immediately took their temple to Athena. The Spartans returned and fought him again, only to lose once again. Aristomenes and the Messenians routed the Spartans over and over at Boar’s Grave and Great Trench. After these victories, it was said that Aristomenes was captured and taken to Sparta, where he was sentenced to die a warrior’s death. The Spartans led him to a cliff where he would be thrown off. But the sentence of a warrior’s death meant Aristomenes would be tossed over while still wearing his armor. He was tossed over, and the Spartans went home, certain that a Messenian army without Aristomenes was no match for them.

The Messenian King, however, was still very much alive. Using his shield, which the Spartans gave him to die with, he slowed his fall against the side of the cliff. The descent itself wasn’t even that far, considering he landed on the bodies of hundreds of his former fellow Messenian warriors who were sentenced to a similar fate. Using the bones of his comrades, Aristomenes climbed back up the cliff and walked back to his forces.

Some sources say a fox led Aristomenes away from the cliff. Either way, he survived.

As the two forces met up the next day, the legend goes, Aristomenes strode to the front of his forces. The Spartan Army was so surprised at seeing the reanimated corpse of the king they killed the day before that they broke ranks and fled. The Messenians would next move on the fortress at Mount Eira, one they would hold for some 11 years, from which they would conduct guerrilla raids.

Of course, time was not on the side of the Messenians holed up in the fortress. The siege ended Aristomenes when he led a column of women, children, and refugees out of the fortification and to safety on the island of Arkadia while 500 of the remaining defenders launched a diversionary attack on the Spartans. The refugees escaped and the defenders were killed to a man. Aristomenes left the Army for Rhodes, where he later died.

But this time, he stayed dead.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the goofiest military myths and urban legends

We’ve heard them all a thousand times. Your roommate heard from a guy in another unit who swears up and down that when his cousin went through basic training, his roommate had been doing funny stuff with ether. Did his friend’s cousin really see the Etherbunny? It’s probably just one more military urban legend that just won’t die – along with these other myths that have been hanging around since Elvis was in the Army.


Be more skeptical, troops.

Fred Rogers, Slayer of Bodies. Supposedly.

Your favorite old TV star was in Vietnam.

What is it about Vietnam that makes us want our favorite TV personalities from yesteryear to not only have served there, but to also be the badass, stonefaced kind of killer that would make Colonel Kurtz proud? According to military myth, Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fame was either a Navy SEAL in Vietnam or a Marine Scout Sniper. Jerry Mathers, who played the title role on Leave It To Beaver, allegedly fought and died there.

Neither of those things happened but someone, somewhere is splicing Forrest Gump Vietnam footage into the latest Tom Hanks film about Mr. Rogers.

Rich people aren’t allowed in the military.

“They” used to always say that a winning lottery ticket was also a one-way ticket to civilian life. And people who were millionaires weren’t allowed in the service at all. While it may seem likely that a high-net worth individual would be less likely to need his or her military career and be less prone to discipline, the opposite has often proven to be true — just look at Jimmy Stewart, Pat Tillman, and other wealthy individuals who preferred to serve. And while winning the lottery doesn’t mean you have to leave the military, winning millions will give the branches pause and you could leave if you want to. Every branch has provisions for separations when parting ways is in the military’s best interest – the way it happened to Seaman John Burdette in 2014.

“Just making sure you reported for duty.”

Only sons are exempt from the draft.

Sorry, Private Ryan, but if World War III breaks out, there’s still a good chance you’re getting called up for the invasion of China. This is an old rumor that is based in some sort of fact. The truth is that sole surviving sons are exempt from the military draft. This is because of a couple of Private Ryan-like moments. The Sullivan Brothers, five real brothers, were killed when the USS Juneau was sunk by a Japanese torpedo in World War II. The story of Fritz Niland, whose three brothers were killed within days of each other, is the basis for Saving Private Ryan.

So if you’re the only child, I’d still register for Selective Service. If you have a few brothers, you should all hope to register.

“But aim for their backpacks.”

The .50-cal is illegal – but here’s how to get around it.

The story goes that the Geneva Convention outlaws the use of a .50-caliber machine gun in combat, so American infantrymen are trained for “off-label uses.” The legend says that you just can’t use the weapon against people but equipment is still fair game, so the Corps/Army teaches grunts to say they were firing at belt buckles or vehicles or anything else that might be near. Another variation of this legend is that the .50-cal round can still kill people if it flies close to their bodies, so that’s the goal. Neither are true.

What weapons are actually banned by international agreements are chemical weapons, certain incendiary weapons, and cluster munitions, to name a few. The United States keeps stockpiles of all of these. Even if the M2 were illegal, do you think the U.S. would give it up, let alone train troops to use it wrong?

According to lore, one of these airmen is supposed to eat the bullet hidden in this flagpole.

The base flagpole is carrying some specific stuff.

According to lore, the ball at the top of the base flagpole – known as a “truck” – has very specific items in it, with very specific instructions. It is said the truck either contains a razor, a match, and a bullet or those three items plus a grain of rice and a penny. These are all to be used in case the base is overrun by the enemy.

So there are a few things wrong with this premise. The first is that a U.S. base built in the 1950s-1980s is going to be overrun. The second is that all that fits inside a truck. The third is that any American troops fighting for control of their base are going to stop, fight their way back to the flag, and go through these instructions:

After taking down the flag, troops first have to get the truck from the tops of the pole. Then, the razor will be used to strip the flag, the match will be used to give the flag a flag’s retirement, and the bullet is said to be used for either an accelerant for burning the flag or for the troop to use on him or her self. Bonus: the rice is for strength and the penny is supposed to blind the enemy. Does this sound stupid? Because it is. This sounds like gung-ho BS that someone with a fifth-grader’s imagination came up with.

Not for oral use. Seriously.

Medics used to kick your mouth shut if you were killed in combat.

Old-timey dogtags (like the ones from World War II, pictured above) had notches on them, which of course led troops to speculate about the purpose of the notch on the tags. Like most things that came to mind for those old troops, the situation got real dark, real fast. The legend says if a soldier was killed in combat, the medic was supposed to use that notch to align the tag using the teeth in the deceased’s mouth, then kick the dead man’s mouth shut with Charlie Brown-level effort so the tag would be embedded and the dead would be identified.

That idea would have led to a lot more head trauma on World War II KIA, wouldn’t it? One would have to imagine a better way to maintain identifiers than defiling a corpse. The notch’s real purpose was much more mundane. They were used to keep the dog tag aligned on the embossing machine used to imprint the tags.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why this 78-year-old Korea and Vietnam vet is finishing college

Malcolm Williams doesn’t think he’s remarkable.

“I don’t know what story you can write about me except that I’m here,” quipped the dapper 78-year-old during an interview in his modest apartment just off the Clemson University campus. Dressed in his typically stylish manner, with dress slacks, a button-up shirt and fine leather shoes, Williams certainly doesn’t look 78 and, as a college sophomore studying computer information systems, doesn’t act 78 either.


But there’s nothing extraordinary about that, he says. He isn’t back in school in his late 70s because of some insatiable zest for life. He just needs a good job.

“Everything I’ve done in life I’ve done late. I’m the only clown in my whole family that didn’t get a degree,” he said. “When they started dying on me I said I’d better get back to school.”

Both of his parents and his only sibling, a younger sister, have passed away, and since he’s fairly new to the Upstate he doesn’t have any close friends in the area.

“Basically, I don’t have anybody,” he said matter-of-factly. “Let’s face it, it’s all up to me now.”

Malcolm Williams, 78, a rising sophomore at Clemson University studying computer systems, in his apartment in Clemson.

Williams has a tendency to downplay his life and didn’t particularly relish telling his story, but as he talks it becomes clear that, despite what he may think, he is quite extraordinary.

Born in 1939 in Highland Park, Michigan, his mother, Esther, was a substitute teacher, and his father, David was a graduate of Columbia University who spent 50 years working at Ford Motor Company.

Because of his father’s position, Williams enjoyed a privileged upbringing and could rely on support from his parents throughout his life. Nevertheless, he joined the Army in 1956 straight out of high school and served in both Korea and Vietnam as a surgical technician and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles.”

He experienced the South for the first time when he was sent to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, for medical training. It was his first time away from Michigan.

“When I got to Fort Sam, I had never seen signs that said ‘Black Only’ or ‘White Only’,” he said. “It was a real eye-opener. I said, ‘Oh mercy this is going to be pure hell and it was.'”

Williams was sent to a Nike missile base in Illinois, and then to Fort Campbell, Tennessee. They gave him the nickname ‘Doc.’ One night he went to a local bar with two dozen soldiers from his company and experienced a scene right out of a movie.

“The guy behind the bar looked right at me and said ‘I don’t serve n——’,” calling him a racial slur, recalled Williams. “The guys in my group said, ‘You ain’t going to serve who?’ They said, ‘Well guess what – if you don’t serve Doc you won’t serve any of us. We all walked out together and never went back.'”

That was his first taste of a brotherhood that would follow him all the way to Clemson.

Williams attends an introduction to sociology class in Brackett Hall.

Williams’ Army career took him all over the country and the world. He was stationed with the 249th Surgical Detachment at a mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) in Korea, and then in the U.S. Army 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon, Vietnam. All told, he spent six years in the Army caring for soldiers.

He downplays that too, balking at being called a hero, or even a veteran.

“I never saw war,” he said. “I got to Korea after the war, and then I got to Vietnam before the war, so I’m a peacetime veteran.”

His fellow veterans disagree with that assessment.

“The military needs all sorts of people doing all sorts of jobs to make it work,” said Sam Wigley, a Marine veteran, Clemson graduate and outreach director for Upstate Warrior Solution, a nonprofit dedicated to helping veterans in the Upstate area of South Carolina. “I’m sure if Malcolm asked those wounded fellows he was working on if they thought he was an important part of the military and a veteran they would not hesitate to agree.”

Williams got out of the Army in 1962 as a specialist second class and spent the next few years trying to figure out what to do with his life. He describes a definitively 1960s Detroit existence during those years. He tells of dating songwriter Janie Bradford — who wrote “Money, (That’s What I Want)” and several other hits — while he was still in the Army. He said that while he was with her he became something of a fixture at Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. studio.

“Janie and I dated for four years. She had three secretaries at one time at the Motown office and I had to go through all three just to meet her for lunch,” he laughed. They also put him to work. At one point he was enlisted to chauffeur The Supremes to appearances.

Malcolm Williams.

“My dad had a convertible Thunderbird and [Motown founder] Berry Gordy would ask me to ride the Supremes around in it. I didn’t like him, but at the time The Supremes were struggling, so I said, ‘I can’t do this all the time, because it’s my father’s car, but I’ll take you around,'” he chuckled.

He landed work as a bartender in the Detroit club scene, where he rubbed elbows with people like Jackie Wilson and Dinah Washington. After that he moved to California for a time (“People are kooky there – I think they get too much sun.”), then returned to Michigan to attend college at Ferris State College in Big Rapids, where he became a charter brother of the school’s Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity chapter in 1966. He left before graduating when state funding to the school was cut, leaving him without the means to continue.

He spent the next portion of his life as an auditor for technology companies, which kept him moving around the country until an old Army friend convinced him to move to Greenville in 2001. He worked for Columbus Serum Company until the company was sold in 2008.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, he was 68 and unemployed. Retirement was not an option — that’s what old people do. It was time to figure out the next chapter. In the meantime, he found a place in the Brockwood Senior Living center.

“I didn’t like the ‘senior’ part,” he said. “Everybody there was just vegetating.”

Williams knew that he couldn’t become stagnant. He recalls Henry Ford II at his father’s retirement ceremony asking, “Well Dave, what are you going to do now?”

“My dad said ‘I’ll keep at it,'” said Williams. “But he didn’t. He only lived two years after his retirement. It was tragic. He was 72 when he died and he should have had all kinds of years left.”

Williams chats with a student on the way to class. “Apparently I’m an inspiration because of my age,” he told her when she asked why a photographer was following him around.

Already having outlived his father by several years, he enrolled at Greenville Technical College to avoid the same demise.

“I have a Ph.D. in dressing. I can tie a bow tie,” he said. “But I’m tired of just looking like I’m educated, so I enrolled because I want to be educated, not vegetated.”

After several semesters at Greenville Technical College, Williams decided to seek a four-year college degree. He set his sights just down the road on the home of the Tigers. He’d heard nothing but good things about Clemson since moving to South Carolina, so he figured he might as well go for the best.

He applied and, being an honor student at GTC, was immediately accepted. Now his only problem was getting to class. Clemson was an hour-long bus ride away, and that sufficed for a while, but it was exhausting. He needed to move closer, but he hadn’t worked since 2008, so he had no resources to make that happen.

That’s when his brothers-in-arms stepped in. When Wigley and the other administrators of Upstate Warrior Solution found out Williams was in need, they contacted the Clemson Student Veteran Association to help. On a cool and overcast Saturday in January 2018, a squad of Clemson student veterans, strangers until that moment, showed up at Williams’ apartment in Greenville. They loaded his belongings into their cars and moved him to an apartment they had found for him in Clemson. He was one day away from the end of his lease.

Williams with the group of student veterans that moved him into his new apartment.

It was a reminder from his fellow veterans that, even though he might feel alone sometimes, he is not and never will be.

“This is anecdotal evidence of what every veteran knows: that the bond between service members transcends race, gender, generational gaps, political affiliations, military branches and occupations, and even wars,” said Brennan Beck, Clemson’s assistant director for Military and Veteran Engagement, who was one of the vets that helped Williams move that day. “Despite all of our differences, we’re connected by what unites us: our sworn service to defending and serving our country in the U.S. military. That’s the strongest bond.”

Williams said those student veteran Tigers probably kept him from becoming homeless that day. He’d had a few reservations about coming back to the American South, where he first experienced blatant racism, but those fears abated as his fellow vets and the greater Clemson family welcomed him with open arms.

Williams adjusts his Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity hat in his apartment in Clemson.

“I did have a few unpleasant thoughts about coming back to the South,” he said. “However, while I have struggled to adapt to university life, Clemson’s administration and its faculty continue to encourage me and treat me with dignity and respect.”

Now, Williams gets up every day and goes to class like very other student and hopes to become a consultant after graduating two years from now at the age of 80.

“I used to say, ‘Oh well I’ve got time,'” he reflected. “Well, you don’t have time. Believe me. You get to be 20, all of a sudden you’re 30, then all of a sudden you’re 40. Hey, time flies. Next year I’ll be 79 and I’m still trying to get an education.”

Williams has taken up studying German in his spare time and likes to recite his favorite quote: Wir werden zu früh alt, schlau zu spä.

“It means ‘We get old too soon, smart too late,'” he said, nodding gently. “Don’t I know it.”

Whether he knows it or not, he’s having an impact on the people around him just by being here.

“He inspires me,” said Ken Robinson, associate professor of sociology, anthropology and criminal justice and a charter member of Clemson’s chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha. “To hear his story is very encouraging. I was introduced to Malcolm by a graduate student who knew that he was an Alpha and recommended that I meet him. Well, I reached out to Malcolm and I’m very pleased that he’s here. I think it’s really good for his fellow students to interact with him and to learn from his rich experience.”

Williams remains nothing if not pragmatic about what lies ahead for him.

“I’m going to stay with it until I graduate, if I live,” he said, pensively. “When I dress up I want that big Clemson ring on my hand. Dylan Thomas said ‘Don’t go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ That sticks in my mind all the time. If I go out of here I’m going out kicking and screaming, and that’s a fact.”

Images: Clemson University Relations

This article originally appeared on Clemson University Newsstand. Follow @ClemsonUniv on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

It has been 25 years since the culmination of the so-called Russian constitutional crisis, when the country’s president, Boris Yeltsin, sought to dissolve the parliament and then ordered the military to crush opposition led by the vice president at the time, Aleksandr Rutskoi, and the chairman of parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov.

I was working in Central Asia when the crisis broke out in September 1993, and heard bits and pieces from Radio Mayak every now and again from the Uzbek village I was working in at the time.

I traveled regularly to Moscow for my job — heading a Central Asian sociology project for the University of Manchester and the Soros International Fund for Cultural Initiative — to hand over material from our Central Asian colleagues, pick up their salaries, and restock my own household supplies for the next period of village life.


By chance, I arrived in the Russian capital on October 1. Friends there explained the rapidly changing situation. (I was more interested in the party that some friends told me was set for the Penta Hotel on Saturday night, October 2.)

I had my first look at the Russian parliament building, known as the White House, on the way to the Penta. It was surrounded by trucks, the Soviet-era tanker trucks that had big letters on the sides showing they carried moloko (milk) or voda (water), or something. There was also barbed wire around the building. Small groups of people were milling about on both sides of the barricade.

Boris Yeltsin.

Sunday, October 3, was shopping day for me. There were always too many people at the Irish store on the Arbat on the weekend, but there was another Irish store on the Ring Road. There was a smaller selection but I was only looking for basic products, like toilet paper.

‘Some snap drill’

Just before I reached the store, a convoy of Russian military trucks full of soldiers drove by. They were moving rather fast. I didn’t think too much of it. I’d seen military convoys drive through cities before, especially in Moscow. “Some snap drill,” I thought.

I hadn’t been back at my accommodation long when the phone rang. It was an Italian friend, Ferrante. He was doing business in Russia and lived not far from the flat I stayed in when I was in Moscow. We knew each other from parties and had seen each other at the Penta on Saturday night.

Our conversation went something like this:

“Are you watching this?” he asked.

“Watching what? I just got back,” I replied, “What’s going on?”

“There’s shooting at Ostankino,” Ferrante said in reference to the TV tower. “It’s on CNN. Come over.”

Now I knew what the military trucks were doing. I hurried over to Ferrante’s place and sat down to watch.

“Here,” Ferrante said, handing me a shot of vodka.

We both downed the shot and watched, then downed another shot, and watched.

We were also listening to a local radio station, and Ferrante was getting calls from people around Moscow. It was clear Ostankino was not the only place where serious events were unfolding.

Ferrante poured us both another shot. We downed it and Ferrante started speaking.

“You know,” and he paused. It seemed like a long pause, then he said exactly what I was thinking: “I always wished I was here in 1991,” a reference to the events that brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Something big is happening. Let’s go out and see.”

Ferrante called his Russian driver to come over and get us, and we headed to the parliament building just as the sun was setting.

And then it got weird

We had trouble reaching the area. Some streets were blocked off. Once, our car turned a corner and there was a group of around 50 men marching toward us carrying sticks and crowbars. “Go back,” Ferrante yelled, though the driver was already trying.

We parked by the Hotel Ukraina, across the Moscow River from the parliament building. The bridge across the river was barricaded on the side near the parliament building but pedestrians could pass easily enough. We walked around watching apparent supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov turn over those tanker trucks, light fires, and rearrange the barbed wire.

Aleksandr Rutskoi.

There was lots of drinking everywhere.

The crowd was growing. Men in military uniforms had arrived carrying a Soviet flag, and they were trying to form a column of several hundred of the seemingly hard-drinking supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov. It was clear things were about to get ugly.

We noticed and were already talking, in English, about departing. I lit a cigarette, and a Russian man who had obviously had a few shots of vodka himself approached me and asked for a light. After I lit his cigarette, he stared at us and said, “Well guys, are we going, or are we going to sit here taking a piss?”

“Sit here taking a piss,” I replied immediately. “Sorry, we’re foreigners and this isn’t our fight.”

That was enough for him, and he left.

So did we. Back across the river to the Metro, which, amazingly, was working. It was packed, but we were easily able to make it to Tverskoi Boulevard, where the pro-Yeltsin side was assembling. They were drinking, too, but there were places where the atmosphere was more party than political upheaval. I remember a truck lay overturned and there was a guy on top of it playing the accordion and singing with a voice like iconic balladeer Vladimir Vysotsky. A lot of people were just sitting around on the street, drinking and talking.

I got back to my apartment at about 3:00 a.m. “What would daylight bring?” I wondered.

The phone woke me up on Monday, October 4. It was Ferrante again.

“I just got back from the center. I was on the bridge when the tank fired at parliament,” he said quickly.

A lot to digest

It was a lot for me to digest, first thing out of bed. There was an assault on the parliament building, a lot of shooting, people killed…

As I sat at the table drinking tea, more calls came in from friends. Did I know what happened? Had I heard? What had I heard? They told me what they heard.

Several people called just to see where I was, since they knew I was in Moscow but I had not answered the phone all Sunday night.

I remember best the call from my friend Samuel. “Where were you last night?”

When I told him I had been out roaming around in both camps, he screamed, “Are you totally stupid? People are getting killed out there.”

The call ended with me promising I wouldn’t leave my apartment. And I would have kept that promise if I had not run out of sugar for my tea.

I figured the odds of finding someone selling sugar were probably not so good in such times, but I don’t like tea without sugar, so I headed out and got on the subway, which was still running, and went to the Arbat stop.

There was no traffic on the road. I tried walking to where the Irish store on the Arbat was located, but that side of the street was blocked off. On the other side of the street, there was a long line of people behind metal barriers, so I crossed to see. The crowd stretched all the way down the road in the direction of the Moscow River until the about the last 100 meters from the intersection where the Aeroflot globe was. The other side of the intersection was the road that sloped down to the parliament building.

There were several thousand people behind this barrier, and I made my way toward the intersection, where eventually I could see four armored vehicles parked in the center of the road.

I made it to where Dom Knigi (House of Books) used to be. Across the street was that massive block of stores that included, at the time, the Irish store, the Yupiter furniture and appliance store, the Aeroflot office, and dozens of other businesses. Some of the windows were shot out. On top of the building, in plain sight, were OMON, the elite Interior Ministry troops, in their black uniforms gazing down at the streets. There were a lot of police and OMON troops on the other side of the road, at street level also.

Snipers, tracer rounds

But behind the waist-high metal barricades on my side of the street it was a carnival atmosphere. People were talking about snipers where the intersection was, but no one seemed particularly concerned. At least until a sniper finally did take a shot at the armored vehicles.

One of the armored vehicles turned in the direction of a building on the cross street and unloaded. The tracer rounds could be seen flying toward it and dust was kicked up off the side of the building from the bullets.

The crowd roared like it was a sporting event. “Give it to them!” people yelled.

The shooting stopped, the crowd calmed, and then a thoroughly inebriated, shirtless young man jumped over the metal barrier and danced around with his arms outstretched.

Burned facade of the Russian White House after the storming.

Two OMON troops jumped over the barrier on the other side of street, ran to the drunken dancer, and beat him with their clubs, each grabbing one of the now-unconscious drunk’s ankles and dragging him over the curb to their side of the street.

Another shot at the armored vehicles, another volley of return fire, and more cheering from the spectators on my side of the street.

About that time, I was thinking this was too bizarre and decided to leave. But just as I was making my way back, a roar went up from the direction I was headed and the ground started rumbling. A column of armored vehicles, including many tanks, was making its way up the road toward the intersection.

People were calling to the soldiers: “Be careful!” and “There are snipers there.”

I took one last look at the intersection. Two of the armored vehicles were peppering a building with bullets.

The Metro train I took was on a line that briefly emerged from underground to cross a bridge, and everyone looked out the window at the White House, whose upper floors were on fire.

I got my sugar, went home, and had tea. I went to Ferrante’s place that evening to drink more vodka. There were many people there, some with spent shell casings they had gathered after the raid on the parliament building. Everyone had a story to tell.

I packed my bags the next day and by October 6 I was safely back in Central Asia.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 steps you need in your battle plan for marriage resiliency

If you’re not walking forward into your military marriage with the tactical proficiency of any well-planned operation, it’s time to revisit the field guide.

It’s been one helluva make or break year so far with thousands stranded in PCS limbo and plenty of others facing even longer deployments. The recent Blue Star Families survey noted both family stability and time away from family as the two of the top issues, so there’s nothing like making hard things even harder.


While we’re no experts, we’re guessing talks between you and “Household six” might need a full set of EOD gear to survive the unforeseen schedule bombs without casualties. Luckily for you, there’s plenty of similarities between navigating marriage and planning a flawless mission. Here is your field guide to military marriage.

1. Understand your mission 

Troop leading procedures (TLP) requires the receipt and understanding of a mission. The mission for marriage is to accomplish your mutual goals with as few friendly fire incidents as possible. Unlike the military where a single commander dictates the plans, the role in marriage is shared. Creating operation orders with both points of view is how successful couples see the entire picture and arrive at the many battles in life fully prepared.

Each move, each deployment or change in life requires a new look at the mission.

2. WARNO

The WARNO issues a set of parameters, expectations and what is minimally acceptable. Applied to marriage, clearly outlining your own WARNO for situations like the grocery shop, the family vacation or simply a Saturday full of to-do lists.

“Go to this grocery store, not the other where the selection is not up to standard. You are to secure the following list of items. Should the brand names (listed in detail) not be available, you have clearance to initiate the following protocol. If the children become hostile, employ this tactic. If you reach this status with said children, abort the primary mission and begin digital reinforcements. It is unacceptable to return to base without the minimum requirements as stated below. Good luck.”

In theory, if a service member is used to working within the left and right barriers, a clearly defined home front mission should be successful.

3.  Identify obstacles

A good leader identifies the existing and potential threats to his troops to ensure the success of the mission. If you find yourself walking into contact daily, you clearly need to revisit this point. No one would walk into any mission without this step, so why not do the same for your marriage? Ask yourself the following.

“How will obstacles affect the success and forward movement of my marriage?”

“How can I use weapons within my arsenal to force the enemy where I want him and disrupt his movement?”

What is all too often forgotten in marriage is that your spouse is your battle buddy. Your spouse is and always will be on the same team for the same mission. If a snake is wrapped around the leg of your battle, you wouldn’t attack the man, you’d attack the snake. The same goes for your spouse in marriage.

If there is an enemy, attack it. If you foresee obstacles, plan for them. If you encounter them, work together not against each other.

4. Call for support if necessary

Your marriage team is in danger of being overrun. To call in support and save yourselves you need to know the following- where you are, where (or what) the enemy is, and what type of support you’re calling for.

Every marriage occasionally walks into battles that despite plans or preparation, can become too much to handle. Your options are to walk away or call in support. Unfortunately, in marriage, people often refuse support out of pride or stubbornness resulting in the complete failure of the mission and dissolution of the team. No good leader would let his team go down without deploying every single option available, so don’t do the same to your marriage.

Marriage in the military is one of the longest and toughest battles service members and their spouses will fight. It takes consistent training, plenty of planning and the unwavering dedication to the team to succeed. Luckily for all of us out there, the military has provided these skills, we all just need to deploy them.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the LEGION Act is a big deal for veterans

In July 2019, President Trump signed into law the Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act – the LEGION Act. In brief, the legislation says the United States has been in a period of constant warfare since Dec. 7, 1941, the day the Japanese Empire bombed Pearl Harbor and brought the United States into World War II.


What this means for other areas of the law is up for other people to debate. What this means for veterans is that servicemen and women who were killed or wounded in previously undeclared periods of war are now eligible for expanded benefits.

The most apparent benefit of the new LEGION Act legislation is that now every veteran who served since the bombing of Pearl Harbor is eligible to join the American Legion. This will affect some 1,600 veterans who were killed or wounded during their service, which just so happened to be during a previously undeclared period of global conflict. The American Legion says this act honors their service and sacrifice.

“This new law honors the memories of those veterans while allowing other veterans from those previously undeclared eras to receive all the American Legion benefits they have earned through their service,” said American Legion National Judge Advocate Kevin Bartlett.

This also means the eligibility window will run until the U.S. is no longer at war, which – historically speaking – may never happen.

The war in Afghanistan alone has outlasted two uniform designs.

Veterans with an interest in joining the American Legion still need to meet the other requirements of membership, such as having an honorable discharge. Joining the Legion means more than finding cheap drinks at the local post. The American Legion is not only a club for veterans, it’s also a powerful lobby in Congress and offers its membership benefits like temporary financial assistance, scholarship eligibility, and even help in getting VA disability claims through the system.

By expanding its network to include thousands of new veterans, the American Legion is better able to leverage its membership with members of Congress as well as state and local elected officials and legislative bodies – after all, it was the American Legion who drafted the first GI Bill legislation and helped to create the Department of Veterans Affairs.

So feel free to stop by for more than just a cheap beer.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President authorizes new military pay raise at Fort Drum

President Donald J. Trump on Aug. 13, 2018, signed the $717 billion Fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act at a ceremony at Fort Drum, New York.

The act – named for Arizona Sen. John S. McCain – authorizes a 2.6 percent military pay raise and increases the active duty forces by 15,600 service members.


“With this new authorization, we will increase the size and strength of our military by adding thousands of new recruits to active duty, Reserve and National Guard units, including 4,000 new active duty soldiers,” Trump told members of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division and their families. “And we will replace aging tanks, aging planes and ships with the most advanced and lethal technology ever developed. And hopefully, we’ll be so strong, we’ll never have to use it, but if we ever did, nobody has a chance.”

Lt. Col. Christopher S. Vanek takes the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment on a run at Fort Drum.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Queen)

Services’ end strength set

The act sets active duty end strength for the Army at 487,500 in fiscal 2019, which begins Oct. 1, 2018. The Navy’s end strength is set at 335,400, the Marine Corps’ at 186,100 and the Air Force’s at 329,100.

On the acquisition side, the act funds 77 F-35 joint strike fighters at .6 billion. It also funds F-35 spares, modifications and depot repair capability. The budget also fully funds development of the B-21 bomber.

The act authorizes .1 billion for shipbuilding to fully fund 13 new battle force ships and accelerate funding for several future ships. This includes three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and two Virginia-class submarines. There is also id=”listicle-2595820937″.6 billion for three littoral combat ships.

In addition, the act authorizes 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets, 10 P-8A Poseidons, two KC-130J Hercules, 25 AH-1Z Cobras, seven MV-22/CMV-22B Ospreys and three MQ-4 Tritons.

Afghanistan, Iraq

There is .2 billion in the budget for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, and another 0 million to train and equip Iraqi security forces to counter Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists.

The budget accelerates research on hyperspace technology and defense against hyperspace missiles. It also funds development of artificial intelligence capabilities.

“In order to maintain America’s military supremacy, we must always be on the cutting edge,” the president said. “That is why we are also proudly reasserting America’s legacy of leadership in space. Our foreign competitors and adversaries have already begun weaponizing space.”

The president said adversaries seek to negate America’s advantage in space, and they have made progress. “We’ll be catching them very shortly,” he added. “They want to jam transmissions, which threaten our battlefield operations and so many other things. We will be so far ahead of them in a very short period of time, your head will spin.”

He said the Chinese military has launched a new military division to oversee its warfighting programs in space. “Just like the air, the land, the sea, space has become a warfighting domain,” Trump said. “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space; we must have American dominance in space, and that is why just a few days ago, the vice president outlined my administration’s plan to create a sixth branch of the United States military called the United States Space Force.”

The 2019 Authorization Act does not fund the military. Rather, it authorizes the policies under which funding will be set by the appropriations committees and then voted on by Congress. That bill is still under consideration.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Featured

Quarantine can’t stop this 97-year-old WWII pilot from dancing to Justin Timberlake outside in socks

A video has gone viral of 97-year-old World War II veteran Chuck Franzke stepping outside on his front porch to do a little quarantine dance to none other than Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling.


Franzke, more affectionately known as “Dancing Chuck,” has been dancing for years. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal in 2017, he said, “Some music starts playing and I just start bouncing around. When the music stops, I go back and sit down. I’m just an average guy. I figure I’ve got a soft floor to land on and I just go where I go.”

His video has inspired countless people to get out and move and praise for him poured in from across the world. But no tribute was more touching than the words from the one and only, Justin Timberlake.

Timberlake shared that he actually got really choked up watching it. “I’ve had so many different friends of mine that texted me about Chuck, and so Chuck.. he’s a certified badass already because of his vet status, but 97? I hope I’m like that when I’m 57.”

Justin Timberlake is Blown Away by Viral Dances to His Songs

www.youtube.com

Justin Timberlake is Blown Away by Viral Dances to His Songs

Timberlake reacts to Doja Cat and WWII Veteran Chuck Franzk sharing videos dancing to his music.

Franzke was a Navy pilot in World War II and married his high school sweetheart. The couple was recently interviewed by WTVR about celebrating their 80th anniversary together. In that interview, wife Beverly said, “I would marry him all over again.”

“Well I would ask you,” Chuck replied.

“She’s a good girl and a good woman,” Chuck said.

Franzke served as a U.S. Navy pilot from 1943-1945, flying Avenger torpedo bombers off of the USS Saginaw Bay in the Pacific Theater.

Keep dancing, Chuck. What a bright spot in quarantine!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

7 weapons could give Russia an edge in World War 3

We’ve slammed the Russian defense industry for their failures before, but those mostly the result of bureaucratic missteps, when the Russian Ministry of Defense overreaches on requirements and underfunds budgets. Russian weapons designers are, however, perfectly capable and they can come up with some gems when given the money and time.

Here are seven weapons to watch out for if a new war kicks off:


The S-400 launch vehicle needs to be combined with a radar and a command vehicle to get the job done, but it’s absolutely lethal.

(Vitaly Ragulin, CC BY-SA 3.0)

S-400/S-300 surface-to-air missile systems

The S-300 was a game-changer in the Cold War, allowing the Soviets to drive a few trucks that could detect enemy planes, track multiple targets, and guide multiple missiles to multiple targets at once. They can carry two types of missiles at once, a long-range missile and a short range one — it’s like having anti-aircraft rifles and shotguns in one package. Decades of upgrades have kept the system fully capable.

But while the S-300 is still potent, its descendant, the S-400, is better. It retains all of the S-300’s power while being capable of carrying four missile types. To continue the comparison above, it adds a submachine gun and a SAW to the mix as it targets American jets. And while it isn’t certain that it can detect and track F-22s or F-35s, it is possible. Upcoming missiles could extend its range out to 250 miles.

In a war, things could turn into a quick-draw competition between jets and air defense crews to find and kill each other first, but Russia can build and export missiles faster and more effectively than we can make jets.

The Saint Petersburg, a Lada-class diesel-electric attack submarine in 2011.

(Mike1979 Russia, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Diesel submarines

It’s generally accepted that top-of-the-line diesel submarines are quieter than their nuclear counterparts, and Russia has the best. While diesel’s drawbacks in range make them a poor choice for offensive warfare, their greater stealth is valuable when you’re defending your own waters.

The Kilo- and Lada-class diesel attack submarines are fast, stealthy, and well-armed with torpedoes and missiles. Luckily for the U.S., their sensors often aren’t top notch and nuclear attack submarines have a huge advantage over traditional diesels in a protracted fight: the nukes can stay underwater indefinitely, even while maneuvering and fighting, while diesels need to surface for air after a few hours.

The Kirov-class nuclear-powered Frunze underway in the 1980s. These ships were specifically designed to down American aircraft carrier.

(Defense Intelligence Agency)

Kirov-Class battlecruiser

The Kirov Class is a nuclear-powered Cold War weapon that doesn’t get discussed as often as it should. While there are only four of them and they are aged, they were specifically designed to take out American aircraft carriers while defending themselves with anti-aircraft missiles — and they are still capable of that today.

The Kirov-Class ships can find U.S. targets with satellite feeds, an onboard helicopter, or their own systems, and then can engage them with 20 supersonic missiles carrying 1,653-pound warheads up to 300 miles. And, sure, American jets can fly further than that, but the Kirovs carry the same anti-air missiles as are on the S-300 as well as shorter range anti-air, making attacks against them risky.

Russia’s Krasukha-4 is a potent electronic warfare platform.

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

Krasukha-4

It may seem odd to see an electronics warfare platform on a list like this, but cutting the enemy’s lines of communications is always valuable, especially in modern warfare. It gives you the ability to blind ISR platforms and cutoff forces in the field from their headquarters and other assets.

And that’s what the Krasukha-4 does: drives around the battlefield and allows commanders a quick option to suppress communications and networked capabilities as well as radars. Not sexy, but it can tip battles if the enemy commander isn’t prepared.

A Russian Ka-52 attack helicopter flies in an air show.

(Sergey Vladimirov, CC BY 2.0)

Ka-52 Alligator

While it’s sometimes billed as the fastest military helicopter or fastest attack helicopter in the world, it’s actually neither of those things, but it’s still quick at 186 mph (the Chinook is faster). And it’s a tank buster, carrying a 30mm gun that’s similar to that on America’s Apaches, 80mm unguided rockets that are larger than Apaches, and anti-tank missiles.

Since the Army hasn’t had armored anti-air defense since the Linebacker was retired, that means it would have to rely on Patriot and Stinger missiles to defend formations. A less-than-ideal solution against enemy attack helicopters.

2S35 Koalitsiya-SV 152mm self propelled tracked howitzer Russia Russian army rehearsal Victory Day

www.youtube.com

Koalitsiya 152 mm Self-Propelled Howitzer

The Koalitsiya 152mm self-propelled howitzer is a powerful weapon that, like the T-14 Armata, Russia won’t be able to buy in significant numbers as long as sanctions and mid-range oil prices remain the norm. But it does boast a huge range — 43 miles compared to America’s Paladin firing 18 miles and Britain’s Braveheart, which only fires 24.

Its automated turret can pump out rounds, reportedly firing up to 15-20 per minute. Paladins top out at 8 rounds per minute and have to drop to one round per three minutes during a sustained fight. That gives the Koalitsiya a massive advantage in a battery vs. battery duel.

Hypersonic anti-ship missiles

These would be ranked higher, but the entire hypersonic missile vs. ship threat is still theoretical and Russia has a recent history of lying about these and other bleeding-edge missiles. So, take any Russian military claims with a grain of salt, especially when it comes to these missiles. But Russia has multiple promising contenders in development like an upgraded Brahmos, the Kinzhal, and the Zircon.

If any of them do become operational, they’re game-changers, flying so fast that many anti-missile defenses can’t hit them, and punching with enough power that even missiles with small warheads can do insane damage. But successful deployments of the missiles are likely years away.

Articles

Top 9 songs for the 4th of July that aren’t by Toby Keith or Lee Greenwood

It’s time, America. It’s time.


Summer’s officially here, the BBQ is hot, the beer is cold, and it’s time to party. Old Glory is still soaring from when we honored Memorial Day, but now we have a holiday where the only requirement is to celebrate.

It’s the 4th of July.

Let freedom ring, b****. (Image via Giphy)

If you’re gonna have an epic party, you need an epic playlist. These tunes will light some fireworks in your soul. Enjoy.

9. Team America World Police — “America F*#k Yeah!”

I LOVE THIS SONG EVERY TIME I HEAR IT.

8. Tom Petty — “American Girl”

A good party playlist should rise and fall. Tom Petty and his ode to the American Girl can keep things calm for a few.

7. Bruce Springsteen — “Born in the USA”

This is a classic and cannot be omitted. Let it happen.

6. Lenny Kravitz — “American Woman”

This makes every woman, including yours truly, want to lose some layers and show off her moves. You’re welcome.

5. Iced Earth “Declaration Day”

Sometimes you just need to say it with metal: “Freedom is not free.”

4. Katy Perry — “Firework”

This song is catchy as hell and you know it.

3. Brad Paisley — “American Saturday Night”

You had me at French kissing and a cooler of cold Coronas.

2. Metallica — “Don’t Tread on Me”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmvG2ZiPfoo
Metallica knows how to make some epic tunes, but they’re also great about supporting the troops. Easy add to the list.

1. Whitney Houston “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Not only was Houston’s voice absolute perfection, when she recorded this song, she donated the proceeds of the single to benefit the veterans of the Persian Gulf War. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, she re-released it, this time donating her profits to the firefighters and victims of the attacks.

For those of you who are out there continuing to fight for the freedoms we cherish, you have our gratitude. Stay safe.

Check out the full list here, and Happy 4th of July, you freedom lover, you.

Humor

15 last-minute Valentine’s Day gift ideas from actual military spouses

Pfc. Harley Dennis, of Anderson, who serves with the Missouri National Guard’s 276th Engineer Company in Pierce City, assists Sgt. 1st Class Eric Corcoran to deliver more than 300 Valentine’s Day balloons to area school kids in the southwest Missouri town. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Dennis Chambers/Missouri National Guard)


In our house, Valentine’s Day isn’t really a thing. As a general rule, the Marine isn’t home for the “holiday,” and since there are a lot of holiday’s he spends away, courtesy of the USMC, this is one day we just don’t really concern ourselves with.

But this year we ran into a snag. Their names are Bethany, Zachary, and Christopher — also known as the three youngest members of the Foley Fire Team.

On the edge of the dreaded teenage years, Bethany came home a few days ago armed with a love note from her “boyfriend” (that asshole), and sat down with her younger brothers to plot out “The Best Valentine’s Gift Ever;” it apparently consists of a lot of bacon (they DO take after their mother, after-all), and a seven-hour nap time while they’re at school. Because adulting is hard.

They presented their plan to the Marine, and then waited with bated breath for him to tell them his grand scheme for the Day Of Love.

“I just bought Mom curtains and a new curtain rod. I suppose I could hang them up before she wakes up?”

The two youngest of the fire team promptly ran off to tattle on Daddy. Not buy Mom a “love” gift? He’s practically an abomination to them right now.

While the boys were relaying the horrifying ordeal to me, I wondered how the Marine was going to get out of this one. It’s perfectly fine to explain to the 12-year-old that sometimes Dad just doesn’t really subscribe to romantic things. As a girl she’s going to have to come to terms with the fact that dudes like him really do exist.

But try explaining that to two 8-and 9-year-old boys who are currently at the dining room table gluing pink and red hearts all over their camouflage Valentine boxes because they know that, while they like camo and guns, girls sometimes like hearts. How Daddy doesn’t understand this is totally beyond their capacity.

“Maybe Daddy is planning a surprise and he doesn’t want to ruin it,” I whispered conspiratorially. The boys nodded and agreed that that’s exactly what was happening. It was the only thing that made sense to them.

“You’re going to want to brain storm some last minute ideas, dude,” I told the Marine later.

“Can you do that crowd-sourcing thing you do on your Facebook and I’ll pick something from that?” he asked.

So that’s exactly what I did, and let me say, I was surprised. Not one girl said she wanted flowers, chocolate, jewelry, or even anything expensive or time consuming, and a lot of their gift suggestions included food.

In fact, because I know the Marine isn’t the only one out there who is finding himself in a gift pickle at the last minute, here’s what actual military spouses said they really want for Valentine’s Day, word for word and complete with all their annoying little emoji things:

1. Bacon roses

Because Valentine’s Day just screams “pork,” right?

2. Not celebrating Valentine’s Day at all.

Jeesh, more “romance” in our marriage/dating? We already have enough of that already…

3. Homemade vouchers for cool stuff

How about a movie night, a kiss and makeup session no matter how upset I am, free kisses anytime all day, etc.

4. Stay at home “date”

My husband is hitting up the USO tomorrow during lunch for flowers and cheap chocolate. ?. Yes he told me he wants to do that. He’s ridiculous. Lol. But in seriousness, even a nice walk or living room picnic on the floor. Super cheap, corny, and fun

5. Waffle House

Hands down. If you sneak them like $10, they’ll let you smuggle in wine sometimes (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything).

6. Beach stroll

This year we are going to take a few hours during the day to run to the beach and just put our toes in the sand before kids get home from school.

7. Mom time

Netflix movie, homemade desert, and pjs. 🙂

8. Cheap sushi

We went to Hamazushi last night because it’s very inexpensive (most items are ¥100 a plate), all you can eat, good quality sushi. Plus it’s all served on conveyor belts and ya can’t beat the novelty of that. 😉 Also, [He] started college again and has a lab tonight, so he won’t be home for “actual” Valentine’s date stuff.

9. A cuddle

After being apart—just being together is enough. I know that may sound cheesy, but it’s so the truth. Being preggo and sick, I’m hoping our date will include pj’s and our couch and the latest “this is us” episode.

10. Couch time

We spend all our budget on the kids. We will stay home with popcorn and a movie to celebrate it.

11. Old School necking

In the car…in the driveway!! ??

12. A load of beef … with love

I’ll make him his fave meal at home… meat loaf!

13. Learn something new

We are taking a couples cooking class tomorrow ❤️

14. A full-on pizza and bubbly extravaganza

[He] & I have done the same thing every year since we’ve been together: Heart-shaped homemade pizza (with mini heart pizzas for the puppies) + our favorite prosecco (the same brand from our wedding) and chocolate covered strawberries (sometimes homemade, sometimes from HEB)… and then turning on a cheesy movie or tv show on Netflix.

It started out the first year or two as our “thing” because we really couldn’t afford too much else. But now it’s a special, almost sacred ritual for us. I wouldn’t trade our little cozy tradition for a world-class meal. It’s just too important to me. I should clarify and say “every year he was actually HERE to celebrate.”

15. Some shootin’

Well, we got married Valentine’s day. We celebrate by hanging out and we go to dinner either the day before or the day after (since payday is always afterwards)because it’s always less crowded. This year is our 20th and we both took the day off. We’re having a range and lunch date. Since it’s a work day, lunch isn’t as crowded and definitely cheaper.

So what are you doing for Valentine’s Day?

And if the Marine is reading this, bacon roses are totally appropriate.