10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans - We Are The Mighty
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10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

Over 160,000 Black people are currently in the United States military, serving a critical role in keeping our country safe, and they’ve been doing so for a long, long time. In fact, many of the Black celebrities you know and love are veterans! Keep reading to learn about 10 of the most famous Black veterans…you might be surprised!

Montel Williams

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

Born in 1956, Montel Brian Anthony Williams is best known for his work as a TV host and motivational speaker. His show, The Montel Williams Show, ran for 17 years, but that’s not his only claim to fame. Williams served in both the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy. After enlisting in 1974, he attended a four-year officer training program, graduating with a degree in general engineering and a minor in international security affairs.

After completing Naval Cryptologic Officer training, he spent 18 months as a cryptologic officer in Guam. He later became supervising cryptologic officer at Fort Meade, eventually leaving the navy after achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

He earned several awards including the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal.

Sunny Anderson

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

Food Network personality Sunny Anderson grew up as an Army brat. Her family’s ongoing travels and her parents’ love of food gave her a chance to explore international cuisines, inspiring her future career. After graduating high school in 1993, she joined the United States Air Force, where she earned the rank of Senior Airman. She also worked as a military radio host in Seoul, South Korea, going on to work for the Air Force News Agency radio and television in San Antonio from 1993 to 1997.

MC Hammer

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
(Wikimedia Commons)

Stanley Kirk Burrell, better known as MC Hammer, is one of the most well known American rappers of the late 80s. He rose to fame quickly both as a rapper, dancer and record producer, coming out with hits like “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit.” In addition to creating the famous “Hammer pants” and his successful entertainment career, Burrell served in the Navy for three years as a Petty Officer Third Class Aviation Store Keeper until his honorable discharge.

Ice-T

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
(Wikimedia Commons)

Tracy Lauren Marrow, AKA Ice-T, is a multi-talented entertainer with a tumultuous background. He had more than one run-in with the law in his youth, but after his daughter was born he decided to join the Army. Marrow served a two year and two month tour in the 25th Infantry Division.

Military life wasn’t for him, however, and he used his status as a single father to leave the Army and begin his career as an underground rapper. Since then, he has made a name for himself as a musician, songwriter, actor, record producer and actor, starring as a detective on Law Order SVU and hosting a true-crime documentary on Oxygen.

Harry Belafonte

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

Jamaican-American singer, songwriter, activist and actor, Harold George Bellanfanti Jr is no stranger to hard work. He enlisted in the Navy at the start of World War II while he was still finishing high school. After an honorable discharge two years later, he focused on his music career, bringing Caribbean-style music to the US. One of his first albums, “Calypso,” was the first million-selling LP by a single artist.

He was also a passionate supporter of the civil rights movement, going on to advocate for humanitarian causes throughout his life. Since 1987, he has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and currently acts as the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador for juvenile justice issues.

Shaggy

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

Ever heard of Orville Richard Burrell? Don’t worry, I hadn’t either, but you probably know his stage name: Shaggy. Burrell was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1968. He began taking voice lessons in the early 80s, filling the streets with music. His talent was apparent early on, but in 1988 he joined the Marine Corps, serving with the Field Artillery Battery in the 10th Marine Regiment during the Persian Gulf War. He achieved the rank of lance corporal, and continued to sing while he did it. He went on to earn seven Grammy nominations, winning twice for Best Reggae Album.

Jimi Hendrix

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
(Wikimedia Commons)

James, better known as Jimi, Hendrix, began playing guitar in his hometown of Seattle at just 15 years of age. After enlisting for a short time in the Army and training as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division, he continued his music career to become one of the most renowned guitarists of all time. His music career, much like his military career, was brief, but powerful. He earned a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which describes him as “the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.”

Berry Gordy Jr

American record, film, and tv producer and songwriter Berry Gordy Jr didn’t get his start in the music industry. He dropped out of high school to become a professional boxer, which he excelled at until he was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1950. He was first assigned to the 58th Field Artillery Bn., 3rd Inf. Div. in the Korean War, later playing the organ and driving a jeep as a chaplain’s assistant. When his tour was over in 1953, his music career took off.

He founded the Motown record label, which was the highest-earning African American business for several decades. Several of his songs topped the charts, and he’s known for helping budding artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and the Supremes achieve greatness.

Morgan Freeman

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
2016 Invictus Opening Ceremony

Actor and film narrator Morgan Freeman is yet another famous veteran. He earned a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University, but he turned it down to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. There, he served as an Automatic Tracking Radar Repairman, rising to the rank of Airman 1st Class.

After being discharged four years later, he moved to Los Angeles and studied theatrical arts at the Pasadena Playhouse. Considering he has since won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and many Oscar nominations, it looks like his hard work paid off!

James Earl Jones

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
(Wikimedia Commons)

Few voices are as iconic and recognizable as that of American actor James Earl Jones. Before launching his acting career, Jones served in the military, receiving his Ranger tab and helping to establish a cold-weather training command at the former Camp Hale. During his time in the military, he was promoted to first lieutenant. Following his discharge, he served his country in a different way, with over seven decades of theatrical excellence. In addition to winning numerous Tonys, two Emmys and a Grammy, he was presented with the National Medal of the Arts by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Nearly two decades later, President Barack Obama invited him to perform Shakespeare at the White House. Wow!

These Black veterans aren’t the only ones we should care about.

The history of African American military personnel is as old as our country itself. Countless Black Americans have made their mark on U.S. Military history, and they continue to do so today. Click here to explore the firsthand experiences of Black vets, or learn more about how to support them here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam – part two

On our first trip to Saigon we unsuccessfully searched for a villa, called House 10, that had been used during the war. It was initially a Central Intelligence Agency property that was used to support clandestine activities in Vietnam and other locations in Southeast Asia. Over a period of time, it morphed into something else and began to be used as an operations and logistics center for MACV-SOG activities.


10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

During my tours, MACV-SOG had established their headquarters on Pasteur Street and House 10 became a safe house for personnel who were assigned to one of the activities of MACV-SOG outside Saigon. We stayed at House 10 when we came to town for mission debriefings and mission prep.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

Its location on a broad, tree lined boulevard was very tranquil and quiet. At that time it was run much like a hotel – with individual rooms, laundry service, a grill (where you could get hamburgers etc.), a small bar and an activities room with a pool table. They had listings for local restaurants for various types of food – from French Cuisine to Thai and Japanese as well as local – and they knew which bars catered to US Special Forces personnel.

Before leaving Saigon I did some additional research on the location and address for House 10 – without much hope of finding it – figuring we’d give it one more try. Low and behold, we did find it! The accompanying video says volumes.

If you find yourself in Saigon, here’s the location.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

The flags that fly in front are not what they were the last time I was here, the building is apparently not in use at the moment, and they offer a different kind of ‘Tough Service’, but that’s OK. Vietnam, House 10, and all of us — we have to keep reinventing ourselves.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

It was very emotional to return to a location that I remembered so well. My thinking turned to those I knew during those times – fine men all – some who returned and some who paid the ultimate price for freedom.

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

World War II Russian tank falls off trailer at parade

An old Russian tank that had just led a military parade in western Russia on Aug. 23, 2018, was being loaded onto a trailer when it embarrassingly barrel-rolled off the flatbed.

“At about 12:10 on Aug. 23, 2018, a T-34 tank rolled off the platform and capsized while being loaded on a trailer,” the Russian military told TASS, a state-owned media outlet.


The tank driver was uninjured, TASS reported.

Several videos of the tank fail have since been uploaded to social media.

And here’s another angle:

The military parade was celebrating the World War II Battle of Kursk, an important Soviet victory over Nazi Germany that ended 75 years ago on Aug. 23, 2018.

The parade appropriately included 75 military vehicles, including T-72B3 tanks and BMP-2 armored personnel carriers, TASS reported.

The incident comes less than a month after Russia’s navy had its own fail on Navy Day when a Serna-class landing craft crashed into a bridge.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New acting SecDef reportedly thinks F-35 was huge mistake

The new defense chief, a former Boeing employee, has reportedly been extremely critical of Lockheed Martin’s embattled F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in private meetings, raising questions about whether he is biased in overseeing the largest weapons program in history.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who took over when Jim Mattis resigned, spent over 30 years at Boeing before joining the Department of Defense in 2017 as the deputy secretary of defense.


Though he signed an ethics agreement recusing himself from matters involving Boeing, Shanahan has continuously bashed the F-35, a key program for one of Boeing’s top competitors, in high-level meetings at the Pentagon and at other private gatherings, Politico reported on Jan. 9, 2019, citing former government officials who heard Shanahan make the comments.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

US Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter crew chief Tech. Sgt. Brian West watches his aircraft approach for the first time at Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base in 2011.

(US Air Force Photo)

A former senior Defense Department official told Politico that Shanahan described the F-35 stealth fighter as “f—ed up” and said its maker, Lockheed Martin, “doesn’t know how to run a program.”

“If it had gone to Boeing, it would be done much better,” the former official recalled Shanahan saying, Politico reported.

Lockheed beat out Boeing in the Joint Strike Fighter competition, with the Department of Defense ultimately picking Lockheed’s X-35 — which became the F-35 — over Boeing’s X-32 in 2001. Had Boeing been awarded the contract, the military’s JSF might look very different.

A former Trump administration official told Politico that Shanahan “dumped” on the aircraft regularly and “went off” on the program in 2018.

“He would complain about Lockheed’s timing and their inability to deliver, and from a Boeing point of view, say things like, ‘We would never do that,'” the former official said.

In other private meetings, the former official added, Shanahan has called the program “unsustainable,” complaining about the cost of the stealth fighters, with separate versions built for the Navy, the Marines, and the Air Force. The F-35 is expected to cost more than id=”listicle-2625627238″ trillion over the life of the program, making it the most expensive weapon in US military history.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

Maintainers from the 388th Maintenance Group preparing an F-35A for its mission.

(United States Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Current administration officials, however, told Politico that Shanahan’s comments were being taken out of context, stressing that he was not advocating for Boeing.

“I don’t believe that’s the case at all. I think he’s agnostic toward Boeing at best,” one official said, adding, “I don’t think there’s any intent to have Boeing favored in the building.”

It’s not the first time Shanahan’s loyalties have been called into question. The Pentagon is said to be planning a request for id=”listicle-2625627238″.2 billion for 12 Boeing F-15X fighter jets, a decision that was made at Shanahan’s urging, Bloomberg reported.

Air Force leaders had previously said there was no reason to buy these advanced fourth-generation fighters because they lack the necessary stealth capabilities provided by fifth-generation planes like the F-35, according to Defense News.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.

Shanahan’s office told Politico he remained committed to his recusal. In public, he has spoken highly of the F-35 program.

“The F-35 is our future,” he said in September 2018 at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space Cyber Conference.

“I think we can all agree that it is a remarkable aircraft, with eye-watering capabilities critical to the high-end fight,” he added. “I tip my hat to its broad team of government, industry, and international partners. Having worked on programs of similar size and complexity, I have enormous respect for your talent and commitment.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

In service of humanity: Pet Appreciation Week

These special dogs that serve on the front lines in warfare, search for drugs, explosives, and capture dangerous individuals are primarily Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds, Czech Shepherds, and Dutch Shepherds. These breeds are chosen for their speed, strength, and ability to perform incredible nose work for search.

They work for our Military, Private Contractors, Law Enforcement, TSA, Border Patrol, Prisons and other entities, yet wherever they work, the scope of what they do is the same and they give tirelessly of themselves.


Their service can span up to 12 years and some working dogs can have as many as four handlers in their career. When they retire, it’s a given that they are wanted by those they worked beside for so long.

When these dogs retire it can be hard for the handlers to afford the cost of transportation home for their best friend and partners. Flights from places like Afghanistan can exceed $3000 and once home there is no “retirement” fund for veterinary care. It’s all on the handler to provide.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

That’s where Mission K9 Rescue comes in. Since 2013 the Houston based organization has rescued almost 1000 working dogs, reunited over 600 with former handlers, and paid out over id=”listicle-2646195386″,000,000 in veterinary care!

You can feel the joy in their work and especially in the recent reunion in San Antonio, Tx of MWD Iskra and her handler, Jake. For those that wonder, “Iskra” is the Russian word for “Spark”.

Jake met Iskra in February 2016. He said it took them a few weeks to bond, but when they did they were inseparable! They were certified in three months and then went to Explosive Detection School as a team. After training the pair traveled and worked in New York, Jerusalem, and Sicily. Soon after, the pair was deployed to Iraq where they spent the balance of their time together in Baghdad. Jake said that Iskra worked tirelessly and gave him all the love in the world.

After coming home, Jake was reassigned and had to say goodbye to his best friend. He hoped one day to be able to adopt Iskra when she retired, to continue the bond they shared. His joy was made complete when he learned that she was ready to retire and that Mission K9 Rescue would be making the reunion possible.

The reunion photos are all you need to see the love and bond that these two partners share. We owe a debt of appreciation and gratitude to working dogs and the humans they serve.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

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17 photos that show how great-grandpa got ready for WWI

Basic training sucks, but it follows a predictable pattern. A bunch of kids show up, someone shaves their heads, and they learn to shoot rifles.


But it turns out that training can be so, so much better than that. In World War I, it included mascots, tarantulas, and snowmen.

Check out these 18 photos to learn about what it was like to prepare for war 100 years ago:

1. If the old photos in the National Archives are any indication, almost no one made it to a training camp without a train ride.

 

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
New York recruits heading to training write messages on the sides of their train. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

2. Inprocessing and uniform issue would look about the same as in the modern military. Everyone learns to wear the uniform properly and how to shave well enough to satisfy the cadre.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

3. Training camps were often tent cities or rushed construction, so pests and sanitation problems were constant.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
A U.S. Marine at Marine Corps Training Activity San Juan, Cuba, shows off the tarantula he found. Tarantulas commonly crawled into the Marines’ boots at night. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

 

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
Looking for more patriotic content, from sea to shining sea—and beyond? Military service members and veterans can get a FREE FOX Nation subscription until for a year! Sign up for your free subscription here!

4. Unsurprisingly, training camps included a lot of trench warfare. America was a late entrant to the war and knew the kind of combat it would face.

 

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
Soldiers make their way through training trenches in Camp Fuston at Fort Riley, Kansas. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

5. Somehow, even training units had mascots in the Great War. This small monkey was commonly fed from a bottle.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
A World War I soldier plays with the unit mascot at Camp Wadsworth near Spartansburg, South Carolina. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

6. Seriously. Unit mascots were everywhere. One training company even boasted three mascots including a bear and a monkey.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
A World War I soldier lets the regimental mascot climb on him. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

7. Troops in camp built a snowman of the German kaiser in New York.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
Troops at Camp Upton on Long Island, New York, pose with their snowman of the kaiser. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

8. A lot of things were named for the enemy in the camps, including these bayonet targets.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

9. This grave is for another dummy named kaiser. He was interred after the unit dug trenches in training.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
Soldiers in a training camp at Plattsburg, New York, show off the grave they created for a dummy of the German kaiser during training on trench construction. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

10. World War I saw a deluge of new technologies that affected warfare. These shavers were preparing for a class in aerial photography.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
Soldiers training at the U.S. Army School of Aerial Photography in New York shave before their class. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

11. Uniform maintenance was often up to the individual soldier, so learning to mend shirts was as important as learning to shoot photos from planes.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
Soldiers from the 56th Infantry Regiment mend their own clothes at Camp McArthur near Waco, Texas. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

12. Local organizations showed their support for the troops through donations and morale events.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
Soldiers training at Camp Lewis, Washington, grab apples from the Seattle Auto-Mobile Club of Seattle. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

13. Some were better than others. Free apples are fine, but free tobacco is divine.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
A thirty-car train carrying 11 million sacks of tobacco leaves Durham, North Carolina, en route to France where it will be rationed to troops. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

14. Nothing is better than payday, even if the pay is a couple of dollars.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
Troops are paid at Camp Devens, Massachusetts. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

15. Someone get these men some smart phones or something. Three-person newspaper reading is not suitable entertainment for our troops.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
A father, son, and uncle share a newspaper on a visitor’s day during training camp. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

16. Once the troops were properly trained, they were shipped off to England and France. Their bags, on the other hand, were shipped home.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
Soldiers finished with stateside training pose next to the large pile of luggage destined for their homes as they ship overseas. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

17. Again, trains everywhere back then. Everywhere.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
Engineers ready to ship out write motivational messages on the side of their train car just before they leave the Atlanta, Georgia, area for France. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Venezuelan leader warns US Marines will be coming soon

Venezuelan Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello is warning his party that United States Marines are going to be coming for Venezuela soon. This declaration comes after aircraft from the two countries were involved in an airborne confrontation where a Venezuelan fighter shadowed a U.S. Navy plane in international airspace.

“Their problem will be getting out of Venezuela,” the political leader also said.


10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

A week after a Russian-made Venezuelan SU-30 Flanker fighter “aggressively” shadowed a U.S. Navy plane at an unsafe distance on July 9, 2019, Venezuelan and leftist politicians from around Central and South America met at the Sao Paulo Forum. It was there that Venezuelan politician Diosdado Cabello issued the baseless warning to the gathered crowd that United States Marines were on their way to his country and would be entering soon.

Most Western governments, including the United States, don’t recognize Nicolas Maduro’s regime as the rightful rulers of Venezuela. Instead, they recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is in control of the country’s National Assembly. While the Trump Administration isn’t ruling out military action, it has so far preferred diplomacy and sanctions as a means to deal with Maduro.

Cabello is the leader of an alternative legislative body, one not recognized by the National Assembly, loyal to Nicolas Maduro’s government. Cabello is believed to be the second most powerful person in the South American nation.

“We are few, a small country, we are very humble, and here it is likely that the U.S. Marines enter. It is likely that they enter,” he said.

The U.S. Navy plane shadowed by the Flanker fighter was a manned intelligence and reconnaissance aircraft, conducting a routine patrol of the region in international waters, though Venezuela claims the craft violated its airspace. the Lockheed EP-3 operated by the Navy was “performing a multi-nationally recognized approved mission in international airspace over the Caribbean Sea.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

It’s happening: Watch the first Space Force recruiting video

We knew this was coming. We’ve had our speculations. We’ve had our fun. And now it’s real. Eighty-eight Air Force Academy cadets commissioned directly into the Space Force with the class of 2020 and the Space Force is happening.

Recruiters! You know what to do!!


United States Space Force (@SpaceForceDoD) | Twitter

twitter.com

“Some people look to the stars and ask ‘what if?’ Our job is to have an answer.”

The recruiting video opens with a young man looking up at the infinity of space and continues into sweeping images of rocket launches and futuristic data lighting up screens.

“We have to imagine what would be imagined, plan for what’s possible while it’s still impossible.”

Showing off that new Space Force camouflage, the video continues to depict imagery that one might expect in a blockbuster film about air and space: hangar doors opening (see: Top Gun or Captain Marvel) or personnel in a Mission Control Center (see: Apollo 13 or Independence Day).
10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

Sign me up.

“Maybe you weren’t put here just to ask the questions. Maybe you were put here to be the answer.”

The mission of the United States Space Force (USSF…a regrettable acronym?) will be to “organize, train, and equip space forces in order to protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint force. USSF responsibilities include developing military space professionals, acquiring military space systems, maturing the military doctrine for space power, and organizing space forces to present to our Combatant Commands.”

In the past, while under the mission of the Air Force Space Command, mission sets included everything from Cold War-era missile warning, launch operations, satellite control, space surveillance and command and control for national leadership. More recently, cyberspace operations as well as meteorology, communications, positioning and navigation and timing have been growing.

The recruiting video offers glimpses of Space Force personnel and their potential jobs, from intelligence to mission control to mechanics.

“Maybe your purpose on this planet…isn’t on this planet.”

And of course, the hope for any Space Force dreamer, there is the long-term exploration of space. The video returns to the young man looking up at the stars before launching viewers into Earth’s orbit.

For anyone out there feeling the call, the application period for transferring to the Space Force is now open. Live long and prosper, my friends.

On 1 May, the window opens for @usairforce officers enlisted personnel in existing #space career fields select other AFSCs, to apply for transfer into the @SpaceForceDOD. This is a huge milestone as we #BuildTheSpaceForce! See details below:https://go.usa.gov/xvnbd

twitter.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine dog is honored for combat valor

Bass, a Belgian Malinois, served more than six years in Marine Corps special operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. During his time in Iraq, Bass conducted more than 350 explosive detections with his handler, Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell.

On Nov. 14, 2019, Bass was awarded the Medal of Bravery on Capitol Hill for his work with the Marines. The award, the first of its kind, was issued by Angels Without Wings, a nonprofit aiming to formally acknowledge valor of working animals at home and abroad. The Medal of Bravery was inspired by the Dickin Medal, a British award introduced in WWII to honor brave animals who served in combat.


The efforts of dogs in the military has received greater attention in recent weeks since Conan, another Belgian Malinois, helped hunt down Islamic State leader Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi — the most wanted terrorist in the world. But Bass and Conan are two of many military working dogs who sniff out bombs, track down bad guys and assist troops on a wide range of missions overseas. Dogs and other animals have always supported troops in combat.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell, with Bass on patrol in Somalia.

(Courtesy photo)

Bass was joined Thursday by Bucca, a dog that served with the New York City Fire Department. Bucca also received the Medal of Bravery and six posthumous medals were awarded to Cher Ami, a pigeon [WWI]; Chips, a dog, and GI Joe, a pigeon [WWII]; Sgt. Reckless, a horse [Korean War]; Stormy, a dog [Vietnam War], and Lucca, a dog [Iraq and Afghanistan wars].

In Somalia, Bass was involved in at least a dozen operations for high-value targets. Special operations units relied heavily on Bass to detect explosives. In Afghanistan, Bass was used to conduct 34 raids for high-profile individuals and lead troops during dangerous building clearings. Through Bass’ four deployments across three countries, there were no Marine fatalities on his missions, according to the dog’s award citation.

When special operators clear a building, the dog can be the first one through the door to attack and make it safer for troops to enter quickly to kill or detain enemies.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell kneels next to Bass, after the dog was awarded the Medal of Bravery for valor in combat.

(Steve Beynon/Stars and Stripes)

“The dog is often used like a flashbang,” Schnell said. “The dog will enter first because a lot of times it’ll distract the enemy. Especially if it’s dark, it’s hard for them [the enemy] to pick up on the dog. It gives you those seconds that are really valuable in that dangerous situation.”

Beyond attacking terrorists, Bass has also routed out enemy fighters from hiding spots.

“His nose isn’t just for finding stuff [explosives, drugs], it’s for finding personnel,” Schnell said. “They [enemies] have hiding holes and tunnels in these buildings. It’s an awesome capability.”

Bass retired from active duty in October 2019 and was adopted by Schnell. However, bringing a military working dog home isn’t for everyone, and Belgian Malinois is a tough high energy breed that Schnell doesn’t recommend as a family pet.

“They are definitely not chihuahuas,” he said. “They are not for your average homeowners, especially for those that don’t know anything about dog training. If you’re going to buy one of these animals definitely research fully trained ones and that you know a bit about dog training yourself, or these dogs will control your whole life and possibly lead you to euthanize or get rid of them. That isn’t good for anyone or the dog.”

Here are some of the efforts of the military animals who received awards other than dogs:

  • During World War I, hundreds of American troops were trapped behind enemy lines without food or ammunition and were beginning to receive friendly fire from artillery units that didn’t know their location. A pigeon named Cher Ami was able to carry a message to stop the artillery despite being shot by German troops. The bird was blinded in one eye and lost a leg.
  • During World War II, another pigeon known as GI Joe carried a message that prevented a potentially devastating friendly fire tragedy. Allied forces planned a bombing campaign on an Italian town. However, it was occupied by British troops. GI Joe flew 20 miles in about 20 minutes to rely the message friendly forces occupied the town just before bombing planes took off.
  • Staff Sgt. Reckless, a pack horse for Marines during the Korean War, quickly became as well treated as the troops. She roamed freely around camp and would even sleep in tents with Marines on cold nights. In one battle, the horse made 51 solo trips, covering more than 30 miles, to resupply front-line units with ammunition. Reckless was wounded twice by shrapnel.

This article originally appeared on Stars and Stripes. Follow @starsandstripes on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coast Guard yeoman wins Instagram contest with Virginia Beach-themed shoe design

Yeoman 2nd Class Kenny Jones wears his pride for Virginia Beach — its culture, its beachfront, its military presence — on his sleeve.

He’ll soon be wearing that pride on his feet.

Jones, who last month celebrated six years of service for the Coast Guard, recently won an Instagram contest to design a Nike shoe. The contest, organized by the @nikesbornothing Instagram account (and not affiliated with Nike), encouraged fans of the Nike SB Dunk shoe to design a version to represent a city of their choice.

Jones, 28, picked Virginia Beach, the place where he grew up. His father, a Navy man who served on submarines, moved the family there when Jones was in first grade.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

The shoe he designed is Navy blue, a nod to the region’s large Navy and Coast Guard populations, and the Nike swoosh is silver, a reference to the Navy’s steel ships.

On the side is a trident, representing the King Neptune statue that guards the Virginia Beach oceanfront. A musical symbol references some of the music superstars that hail from Virginia Beach, like Pharrell and Timbaland. Blue waves and a tan outsole evoke the sand and surf.

Sometimes Virginia Beach can be overlooked, Jones said, but it’s a place that people are proud of, and his design was a way to display this pride.

“I want them to continue to feel proud of the area that we’re from,” Jones said. “Everything about it, whether it’s the oceanfront that we have, or the military aspect, to be proud of those who serve in this area.”

For Coast Guard members, Hampton Roads, a coastal region that includes Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake, the city where Jones lives and works for the Coast Guard Communications Command, has special meaning, he added, since so many members have been stationed in the region.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

When he posted his Virginia Beach design on his Instagram account, it attracted a boatload of likes. In late March, the @nikesbornothing account announced that Jones’ design had won its “Have a Nike SB Day” contest.

It wasn’t just fellow Nike enthusiasts that embraced Jones’ design. Posting on Twitter, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner congratulated Jones for his win, adding, “I cannot wait to wear the real thing.”

Jones also received a shout out from Jason M. Vanderhaden, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, who tweeted his congratulations.

For Jones, who said he is naturally a quiet guy, the response, especially from prominent leaders like Warner and Vanderhaden, has been an overwhelming experience.

And he’s taking it as a sign.

Jones took the money he was saving for a new pair of Nikes and instead used it to buy a new iPad and Apple Pencil. He’s watching online videos to teach himself design, a way of “investing in myself.”

“I feel like I got an opportunity, so I don’t want to waste it,” he said.

He wants to pursue the dream he’s had for a long time: to design shoes and other apparel. These days, when he’s not at work or spending time with his wife and their three-year-old son, he’s working on making that dream come true.

And he’s waiting for a special custom pair of Virginia Beach-themed Nike SBs. As the contest winner, Jones’ custom design will be created by a company called ReverseLand.

When will the shoes be available? He says he’ll let his fans know on Instagram.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Chuck Norris has a new show all about military vehicles

If Keanu Reeves recently became the internet’s boyfriend, that would make Chuck Norris the ex the internet still thinks about sometimes. Sure, the Chuck Norris facts that once took the internet by storm have since been repurposed for other celebrities, but the man with a supposed third fist beneath his beard clearly still holds a special place in our culture’s heart — and thanks to the History Channel, that special place is now also full of all sorts of badass vehicles.


“Chuck Norris’s Epic Guide to Military Vehicles” debuted on the History Channel earlier this month, giving the public a glimpse into some of the toughest and most capable military vehicles on the planet, including some that most service members likely haven’t gotten a chance to work with (liked the arm-able robotic vehicle known as the SMET).

CAR WEEK | Chuck Norris’s Guide to Epic Military Vehicles

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Norris, an Air Force veteran, made a name for himself in TV and movies through his unique combination of American cowboy sensibilities and high kicking martial arts mastery, usually found only in Kung Fu movies of the time. Today, the former action star may look like he’s lost a step or two, but since he’s rapidly approaching 80 years old, I’d say the guy looks pretty damn good.

Norris’ show dives into a variety of military vehicles, including the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) that was developed for both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps to serve as a tougher replacement for the military’s workhorse Humvees. The JLTV is essentially just as much a tank as it is a personnel carrier — with a convex hull on the bottom to diffuse the force of IED blasts and a crew-protection system that wraps the passenger cabin in an armored shell.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV)

(Photo By: Michael Malik, U.S. Army)

Other vehicles Norris shows off in this show include the Stryker Combat Vehicle — a platform Army Rangers have used to great effect in the Global War on Terror. The U.S. Army recently announced plans to quadruple the number of Strykers in their arsenal that have been equipped with a powerful new 30-millimeter autocannon, making this armored personnel carrier a far more daunting opponent to near-peer competitors in places like Russia and China.

And what show about military vehicles would be complete without discussing the legendary, 65-ton M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank? The M1 Abrams has been America’s primary battle tank since the early 1980s, and thanks to repeated updates and upgrades, it remains among the most powerful and capable tanks on the planet.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

Even tanks need to catch a flight from time to time.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Christopher A. Campbell)

For some of us that served our time in boots, this special may not offer a great deal of new and amazing things we’ve never seen before (aside from the aforementioned SMET robot), but even the saltiest of vets can appreciate a 60-minute demonstration of American badassery hosted by a legendary action star and U.S. military veteran.

You can catch “Chuck Norris’s Epic Guide to Military Vehicles” the next time it airs, but it’s 2019 and waiting for that sounds crazy. Instead, just swing by this link and plug in your cable provider login and you can watch it right now.

Or if you’re like me and you got rid of cable in favor of endlessly scrolling through streaming platforms, you can watch the show on Hulu.

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Why the enemy should have brought a battalion to kill this soldier

Specialist Michael Fitzmaurice was stationed in the area near Khe Sanh on March 23, 1971. The base had just been re-activated to support Operation Lam Son 719, the South Vietnamese invasion of Laos. That night in March, the American base was attacked by North Vietnamese regular army sappers, who expected to overrun the Americans.

They just didn’t count on a 21-year-old from the Dakotas being there. They should have – and they should have brought more sappers.


10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
NVA marches through Laos, 1967 (Wikimedia Commons)

Operation Lam Son 719 was an effort by the South Vietnamese to invade Laos to be able to cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail, North Vietnam’s “secret” supply line into the South. It did not go well for the ARVN forces or the Americans who were there to evacuate wounded and cover their retreat. By March 25, 1971, the ARVN were in full retreat. Two days before the end of Lam Son, however, the North Vietnamese tried to hit the Army’s base at Khe Sanh with a force of sappers. Luckily the Army was able to repel the surprise attack and turn the NVA around.

Among those Army troops stationed at Khe Sanh that day was Michael J. Fitzmaurice, a soldier from the Dakotas who was about to take it to the Communists like a badass American from the Great North.

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This is a shoot of Fitzmaurice receiving the Medal of Honor from President Nixon, so you can probably imagine what’s about to happen.

Fitzmaurice was manning a bunker that day with three other members of his unit, unaware the base had been infiltrated by NVA sappers. What he did notice was three explosive charges tossed in their bunker from out of nowhere. He quickly tossed two of them out of the bunker and then threw his body, flak vest first, over the last explosive. The blast severely wounded Fitzmaurice and partially blinded him, but his fellow soldiers were still alive. But Fitzmaurice didn’t stop there. He also didn’t stay there.

He left the bunker and began taking down enemy troops with his rifle, one after another, until another grenade hit him and disabled that rifle. Still undeterred, he stopped an enemy soldier with his bare hands, killed him, took his weapon, and began fighting on. With that weapon in hand, he went back to the bunker and started taking down the attackers one by one, refusing to be evacuated.

For saving his buddies and taking down the enemy in the most conspicuous manner possible, he was rightfully awarded the Medal of Honor.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what it was like being a female Marine in WW2

Margaret Jessen just wanted a little more excitement in her life.


Fresh out of high school, Jessen didn’t find that excitement working as a linotype operator at the local newspaper. So, what does a young woman in search of adventure do when there’s a war going on?

In Jessen’s case, she joined the Marines.

“I was young then, and I wanted the action. There was nothing going on (here). It was too dull at home,” said Jessen, who was Margaret O’Shaugnessy at the time.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
Four female pilots leaving their ship at the four engine school at Lockbourne are members of a group of WASPS who have been trained to ferry the B-17 Flying Fortresses. Photo from USAF.

She’d worked for a couple years at the newspaper in Homer, Nebraska, after graduating from Homer High School in 1942. With World War II raging in Europe and in the Pacific Ocean, there were a lot of opportunities to find something more exciting to do. There was the military, and there were jobs available in the many factories that built planes, ships, and other supplies needed for the American war effort.

Jessen considered both before telling her mother that she was joining the Marines.

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“Oh, she was horrified,” Jessen said. “I said I was going to join the Marines or go to California to be a welder. She figured if I didn’t show up for work in the Marines, someone would come looking for me. If I didn’t show up for work as a welder, they wouldn’t look for you.

“She figured I’d be better off in the Marine Corps.”

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The first group of 71 Women Marine Officer Candidates arrived 13 March 1943 at the US Midshipmen School (Women’s Reserve) at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, March 13, 1943. Massachusetts. Photo from USMC.

Jessen joined the Marines in May 1944 and was sent to Missouri for basic training. Men also were trained at the base, but kept separate from the women. Jessen said the training was physically demanding, and women were allowed to practice on guns but were not allowed to have them. Once she completed basic training, Jessen was sent to Norman, Oklahoma, to learn how to fix Cosair fighter planes.

“They just thought that’s what I was capable of,” Jessen said.

Jessen passed the training and was sent to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Santa Ana, California, where she was assigned to work as an office clerk. She never did work on airplanes.

“You know how the government works,” she said. “They train you to do one thing and then have you do another.”

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Aluminum paint production. Women work alongside of men in this Midwest aluminum factory now converted to production of war materials. Photo by Alfred T. Palmer.

The women who arrived at El Toro weren’t viewed positively by the men they replaced. For many of the men, it meant they were losing their stateside assignments and heading to war.

“The men were mad at us because we came in and took their jobs and they were sent overseas, so we were resented, I’m sure,” Jessen said.

Jessen spent the remainder of the war at El Toro and was discharged in June 1946. Still looking for adventure, Jessen and another female friend hitchhiked across the country to Florida and up the East Coast to New York.

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A poster used by the US government to recruit women to the war effort during WWII.

“It drove my mother crazy,” Jessen said with a wry smile and a chuckle.

Eventually, Jessen returned home, where she began dating Alfred Jessen, who had served in the Army in Germany during World War II. They were married in 1947 and raised five sons. Jessen would later work for Iowa Beef Processors in Dakota City for 19 years before retiring in the mid-1970s. Her service in the Marines taught her a valuable lesson for her later work experiences.

“It taught me how to get along with people,” she said. “You don’t judge them. Everybody was the same.”

Over the years, Jessen saw her husband honored for his military service. Few people knew she, too, had served.

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans
USMC photo by Cpl Aneshea S. Yee

“I think my husband was proud of it, too. He realized they didn’t treat us the same,” Jessen said. “When they came around and offered him an award for being in the service, he told them I was in the service, too, but they never offered me an award.”

That slight doesn’t lessen the pride Jessen said she feels about her decision to join the Marines rather than be a welder.

“I’m proud of the fact I served,” she said. “It gave me a lot of experiences.”

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