Why care packages are just as important for today's troops - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

Few things can truly lift a deployed troop’s spirits like hearing the words, “Hey you, you got mail” before having a big ol’ box plopped on their lap. It doesn’t matter what’s inside — just the fact that someone remembered them while they were away makes things better. Some troops are lucky enough to have family members who send out weekly boxes of momma’s cookies, but even those without a constant support network get love from churches, schools, and youth groups.

In the earlier years of the Global War on Terrorism, everybody sent care packages. There was a time when you’d be hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t putting something together to send abroad, whether it was for a cousin, a friend, a friend’s cousin — whoever. That same war still lingers today and troops are still struck with the same homesickness.

Care packages are the classic cure to homesickness and, even today, they remain the best remedy.


Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops
(Photo by Steven L. Shepard, Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs)

Don’t get me wrong. They will still fight each other over a box of Girl Scout Cookies.

Some of the older items that were frequently put in care packages for troops, like socks, bars of soaps, and candies that (hopefully) won’t melt after being left in the desert sun for hours, are still appreciated today. Any time troops get sent handwritten notes and children’s drawings, they’ll feel obligated to write back — but things have changed since the beginning of the war.

Fewer troops are in direct combat roles and, thankfully, deployments have gotten shorter. Today, troops are less likely to be put directly in harm’s way for over twelve months at a time, but they’re still not home. What this means is that necessities that may have once helped forward-deployed troops remember what a shower feels like are now stockpiled in the chaplain’s office.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Meredith Brown)

Everyone learns how to play spades while deployed. Why not give your loved one a nicer deck of cards to play with?

Living conditions while deployed have changed a lot since 2001. Today, it’s far less common to see grunts crammed in a hastily made hut. Showers are definitely more abundant and troops have access to places where they can buy their own hygiene goods. That’s not to say that every single American GI is living a life of luxury, but the general level of “suckiness” has been reduced.

In short, this means that troops aren’t hurting for baby wipes like they used to. They’re still helpful to troops who leave the wire, but they’ll more than likely just be used so a troop can skip showering for a day. What troops need now are things for the mind, not the body. Books, movies, and games help pass the time. Without electricity, troops will always pull out a deck of cards and get a game of Spades going.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by: Sgt. Frances Johnson)

The joys of having money and pretty much nothing to spend it on…

The leaps and bounds in technology have also changed the definition of hot-ticket care-package items. Troops no longer need to wait in long lines and hope that there’s still enough time on their pre-paid card to call home. Bases have been getting better and more expansive WiFi networks through the USO, which now allows troops to simply use their smartphone to call home while off-duty.

This boost in technology also does a lot of heavylifting on the part of AAFES, the service that sells regular goods to troops. Instead of hoping that they might have a new pair of running shoes or a fresh hard-drive for storing movies in this month’s package from home, they can just order stuff off Amazon.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mackenzie Richardson)

Military cooks always try to shove the healthy options down our throats. What we really want is some junk food that reminds us of being back home.

Which brings us back to what troops of today actually want and need. Anything given by a family member with sentimental value is always going to hit home. As corny as it sounds, troops will still put photos of their family and loved ones up on display, just as they have since photography was invented.

Any comfy fleece blankets will be used instead of the Uncle Sam-issued sleeping systems. I’ve personally known troops to keep those cheapo blankets they give out on international flights and use them for twelve months instead of the issued gear.

Sweets are always going to be enjoyed and shared — especially the homemade goods. It doesn’t matter if it was their own momma who made the cookies or someone else’s momma, they’ll be devoured.

It’s kind of a taboo thing to say, but troops will always ask for it, so it’s worth mentioning. If you know that the deployed troop smokes or dips, they could really use some actual stuff instead of the maybe-poisonous, maybe-just-awful tobacco products the locals sell.

It might seem like ancient history to some, but troops are still deployed in the Global War on Terrorism. That war has drawn on long enough that the needs of deployed troops have changed, but homesickness (and its remedy) remains the same.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 23 years, soldier meets his father for the first time

The soldier nervously scanned the hotel lobby. Suddenly, his eyes lit up and a broad smile immediately filled his face.

“That’s my dad!” he said, and rushed to the hotel door. The soldier embraced his father, and it was clear he didn’t want to let go. Who could blame him?

This was June 24, 2019. He had waited 23 years for this moment.


Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., nervously awaits the arrival of his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Leaving Guatemala

Spc. Brandon Paiz, remembered the day he learned he was going to leave his home.

“I was little, about nine and eight months,” Paiz reflected. “My mom said, ‘Hey we’re going to move to the United States with your stepdad, Roger.'”

Paiz, now a tall, muscular masonry/carpentry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company, talked about the apprehension he felt as a small child leaving his birthplace, Guatemala.

“It was a culture shock,” Paiz said. “The first thing I noticed about the United States is that is was really clean, the streets were really clean. It sounds weird, but they handed me a fruit — a banana — and I was like, holy cow, this thing is huge!”

Paiz said he was quick to adapt to his new home, starting with a new-found love of bacon. He also quickly learned to speak English from an unlikely source.

“Spongebob was my favorite cartoon when I was little,” Paiz said. “It was in Spanish, but when I came to the U.S., I kind of remembered the lines, what they were saying.”

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, sweats during construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

He took three years of English as a Second Language classes and, with the help of Spongebob, didn’t need any more classes. Still, it was not easy for the boy.

“There were times I just wanted to go back and see my friends again,” he admitted. He had some scattered memories, such as living in a tall apartment building in Guatemala City, where he would go to the roof and play soccer alone for hours. He remembered buying chips from a lady named Dora, and huge celebrations each March in Guatemala City where people would carry massive statues of the saints down the streets.

“I would make rugs for the celebration,” Paiz said. He spoke quickly and with excitement when recalling his tight-knit community.

Paiz first lived in New Jersey, where he had to re-adapt to being part of a new community. He said while he was learning English, some of the neighborhood kids didn’t want to involve him in activities. However, just as he had used Spongebob to improve his English, Paiz used another tool to make new friends: kickball.

“I was really good at soccer, so when I started playing kickball, then the kids finally started talking to me,” he said with a laugh.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, listens to the morning safety briefing before starting construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

He was curious about his father. He didn’t know too much about him other than his name was Jorge and that he had seen some occasional pictures of him on his aunt Lorna’s Facebook. He didn’t understand why he had not been there, but he forgave him.

“People make mistakes,” Paiz said. “His mistake was he wasn’t really around as much as he should have been. I’m going to continue to build our relationship, because I can tell he regrets it. I don’t want to give him a hard time with more of the guilt he feels already, I’m just excited to get to know him more.”

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, hands construction equipment from a connex to Spc. Pierre Mebe, a plumber, also with the 358th, before beginning construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Joining the Army Reserve

“I joined the military for opportunity and education, but above all, I wanted to give back to the country that opened up the doors for me,” Paiz said. “I wanted to do it for the longest time, but I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to do it — whether I wanted to be a cop, but I wanted to do something to give back to the community, so I decided on the military.”

Paiz said he didn’t want to leave his mother, who had at this time divorced from Roger, so he decided on joining the Army Reserve. He didn’t realize it yet, but Paiz was about to join another tight-knit community.

He enlisted as a masonry/carpentry specialist and joined a rowdy group of construction soldiers from throughout Pennsylvania, the 358th Engineer Company, located in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

Joining the military proved beneficial in many ways. First, Paiz, who works as a sales representative for a cable company, was able to get the sense of service and giving back to his country as a soldier.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, plays with some dogs outside a medical clinic construction site June 21 in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Secondly, Paiz was re-united with a friend from high school, Spc. Pierre Mede, who just like him, had migrated from another country — Haiti — to the United States as a child. The two quickly went from friends, to inseparable best friends.

But most of all, although Paiz didn’t know it yet, the tiny unit from Pennsylvania was about to bring him back to Guatemala. The unit’s annual training mission was in support of Beyond the Horizon, an annual training partnership between U.S Army South, and one of the nations in their area of responsibility in Central and South America. As it so happened, this year’s rotation was in Guatemala, where the 358th Engineers would be building a medical clinic in the mountain village of Tojocaz.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., embraces his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Homecoming

Paiz knew his unit was going to be traveling to Guatemala. He knew that he would be flying in to Guatemala City where he would meet his aunt Lorna, who he had not seen in several years, but had been very close to growing up. But Paiz was not prepared for what would happen next at Guatemala City Airport.

“Obviously I recognized him, because I had seen him through photos,” Paiz said. “When I walked through the door … my heart just dropped. I knew this was the moment that I had been envisioning in my head for years — I just didn’t think it was going to be that day.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., embraces his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

“I hugged my aunt first, then my other aunt, and a family friend. Then it was his turn. I was really nervous when I finally met him.”

It was a moment he said had rehearsed in his mind countless times.

“I was really shocked, nervous, overwhelmed,” he said. “I had practiced what I was going to tell him for so many years, but it wouldn’t come out. I didn’t cry or anything, but I was glad that I finally closed that chapter in my life, and as it so happened, the military has done that for me.

“My heart was racing, and when I finally hugged him I was like, this is happening. This is real. Twenty-three years later I finally got to see my father.”

One of the soldiers snapped a photo of the brief, impromptu meeting. Paiz would carry it with him as he worked on the clinic with his friend Mede. It was a brief moment, but the two planned a second visit from Paiz in August.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, checks the level on a block during construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

The clinic

Paiz’ story affected his new brothers in the 358th. It provided the extra bit of motivation the soldiers needed on their construction rotation. Three weeks is not a long time, but if you ask the soldiers, three weeks high in the mountains of Guatemala, sweating and grinding in the hot sun for more than 12 hours every day can be very long. To add to it all, the 358th fell into a situation where they were already several days behind on the project.

The soldiers would leave at 5 a.m. every morning, and come home dirty, sweaty, sore and tired after laying brick until sometimes well after 8 p.m. But though they acknowledged their fatigue, none complained. Because of Paiz, this mission meant something more to them.

His non-commissioned officer, Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Pearce probably said it best: “We respect each other as people. Knowing the fact that one of the soldiers is originally from Guatemala, and that we’re here to help this community and this is his native country, I think everybody has pulled together to say ‘We want to do this.’ We are motivated to make this happen so we can say look what we did for this soldier’s native country.”

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., embraces his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Goodbye, for now

After waiting 23 years, Paiz had met his father and could look forward to the trip in August. As it turned out, he would not have to wait that long.

A couple weeks later, when some of the military leadership learned of Paiz’ unique situation, they arranged for him to hop on a helicopter that was already going from the base the soldiers were staying at with their Guatemalan counterparts in Huehuetenango to Guatemala City.

The flight was picking up some high-ranking officials and flying them back, so Paiz would only have a few minutes to see Jorge. They met for coffee at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City. Once again, his aunts were there and his cousin too. When everyone sat together at the table, it was as if the family had been together all along. Laughter filled the air.

The talk was of pride. Paiz’ cousin, Celia told him, “I am so proud of you that you became an American soldier. I am proud that you and the other soldiers work with the people here on this mission.”

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., poses for a photo with his cousin Celia taken by his aunt Lorna, June 24 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

There was more laughter, and then the room became quiet. Only Jorge spoke, and though he tried to remain composed, his son’s face brimmed with emotion. His father was apologizing.

“I’m very proud of you that you are an American soldier,” Jorge said. “I’m very proud that you are a good person and you make the right choices. You could have gone another path, but you chose the life of a soldier. That’s because you were raised well by your mother.”

He went on to say that although he had a family of his own, he still thought of his son even if it he felt as though he could not be there.

“That doesn’t mean that I don’t love you and I hope we can maintain strong communication moving forward. I’m grateful that life gave us an opportunity to reunite.” He went on to say that when he saw him now, even as a strapping 23-year-old man, he pictured an 8-year-old boy.

“My son. My blood. A good boy. A good son.”

Finally, Brandon Paiz had gotten what he really needed from his father.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the most annoying misconceptions about Marine boot camp

If you’ve learned everything you know about Marine Corps boot camp from watching films like Full Metal Jacket or Jarhead, then you’ve got a skewed idea of what goes down. In fact, before we even hop into the list of misconceptions, let’s squash one here and now: your senior drill instructor does not train you the whole time. If anything, he or she is more like a ghost, only appearing when it’s time to pass out mail or if your platoon really f*cks up.

Sincerely, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face as a boot is telling people tales of your training. Why? If you’re telling someone who hasn’t experienced boot camp for themselves, you’ll have to constantly stop and break down all of their existing misconceptions. If you’re telling someone who has gone through it, then they don’t want to hear a bunch of crap they’ve already heard from every boot before you.

So, to save you some time, my young boot, go ahead and share this article with your friends before you regale them with tales of your triumph over boot camp. These preconceived notions are all wrong:


Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

They’re usually pretty cool. Just don’t piss them off.

(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Sgt. Dana Beesley)

Your drill instructor trains you to shoot

Drill instructors have a role during your basic rifle training, but you get most of your training from a primary marksmanship instructor. Being a PMI is the only other way to be able to wear a campaign hat, the infamous “Smokey Bear” as some refer to it. Your drill instructor takes you to class and you’re trained by someone with a more even temper.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

You do learn tactics at combat training, however.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shane Manson)

You learn infantry tactics

This one’s easy — you don’t. Not extensively, anyways. Not to a degree where you could be dropped off on a battlefield the day of graduation and expect to survive, at least.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

Usually the morning.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl Vivien Alstad)

All you do is PT

There’s a lot of physical training done during Marine boot camp, like, a lot. But it’s not the only thing you do. If you’re a total sh*t bag and no one likes you, yeah, that’s all you’ll do because you’re going to live in the freaking sand pit. Generally, though, PT only accounts for a portion of your day.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

Don’t piss them off when you get these moments.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)

Your drill instructors never stop being mean

At first, yeah. Every time you see a Marine in a campaign cover it sends a chill down your spine and you die a little bit on the inside, but after a while, your drill instructors will treat you just a little bit better. You may even have some cool sit-downs where one lectures about their personal experiences as a teaching tool.

But, if you take that kindness for weakness — you’ll pay.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

It’s not all about crawling under barbed wire.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by WO1 Bobby Yarbrough)

Marine Corps boot camp is extremely difficult

While some believe it’s the most difficult of all the branches, that’s irrelevant. The truth is that Marine Corps boot camp — or any other basic training — isn’t as hard as you’ll make it out to be in your mind.

If you can adapt, you can survive. That’s essentially what you learn in boot camp because that’s what it means to be a Marine.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans finding connection through social and physical activities

Did you know that there are 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans nationwide, and that 250,000 more service members will leave active duty this year to join them? These veterans often face isolation, lack of physical fitness, and a lack of purpose in a world that doesn’t understand the military.

Team Red, White & Blue‘s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Utilizing a nationwide network of chapters, Team RWB hosts and participates in events designed to bring veterans together and engage in the communities where they live and work.

Whether it’s workouts, races, social activities or community service projects, Team RWB members, also known as Eagles, support each other through shared values and experiences; there’s probably an RWB chapter near you.


Joining Team RWB is easy

Visit the Team RWB homepage to sign up. New members also receive a free Team RWB Nike t-shirt ( shipping and handling charge). New eagles are also quickly connected to their local chapter to learn about upcoming local activities. More than 160K veterans, their families, and non-military supporters have already joined Team RWB.

This is Us – Team RWB

www.youtube.com

Team Red, White Blue is a nonprofit founded by veterans working to solve the epidemic of loneliness through physical activity. Team RWB is the bridge connecting communities where veterans and civilians work together to gain common understanding.

Team RWB takes the best of military service–the camaraderie and physical challenges–and creates a new family of Eagles connected through physical activity.

“Staying active both physically and socially is key for a lot of veterans, especially those who have been wounded, ill or injured,” said Tampa VAMC Chief of Recreation and U.S. Army veteran Geoff Hopkins. “It’s very important for those veterans with ‘invisible wounds,’ such as PTSD, to engage in activities in the community, to draw them out of their dark places and get them interacting with others.”

Take the 1776 Challenge

Independence Day is for celebrating our nation’s freedom. This summer, Team Red, White Blue will showcase their commitment to the men and women who have fought for our freedom with the 1776 Challenge.

Team RWB invites you to join all Team RWB Eagles across the nation. Whether you do it with someone else or weave it into your workout, you will know that thousands of others will be taking on that day’s unique challenge with you! Dedicate your hard work and sweat to celebrate our nation’s veterans and their commitment to this great nation. Every time you “check in,” you will be entered into a chance to win prizes!

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The true, bloody story of Delta Force’s ironman

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

My Delta Selection class gifted the Unit with ten U.S. Army Rangers. K2 was one of the ten. He spoke very little, but his Ranger brothers spoke for him:

“Yeah, well, there’s strong and then there’s K2 strong,” was a catchphrase among the men. I guess so… or, I mean I just didn’t get it. He was medium in every way as I saw it; medium build, personality, intelligence, spirit… I just didn’t see where the super strength part came into play.

Perhaps I would eventually.


In my day, the Unit was a very evenly split down center with 50% of the operators from the Rangers and the other half, including me, from the Green Beret groups. To us, the Rangers were rigid meatheads; to them, we were lazy cheaters. I resented but agreed with the Rangers’ assessment of us Green Beanies — in fact, it is the very reason why I left the groups to seek out Delta.

K2 and I rarely spoke at first. I remember the first time during our Selection and Assessment course. It was the night before our final test of strength and endurance. We were given a chance to sleep for almost three hours.

Twenty men hit the ground in their bags to saw logs. Another man from the groups and I sat and chatted up a host of disparate nonsense.

K2 sat up looking like a mummy in his bag, unzipped, and revealed a disenchanted expression:

You guys mind shutting the phuq up? We’re trying to sleep here.”

He zipped and lay back down.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

Army Green Berets are respected for their flexibility, broad reach, and extraordinary

ability to improvise.

“That’s the first thing he’s said to me this whole month!” I whispered to my bro. “Same here!” my bud whispered back… ah, but we whispered! You see, us lazy cheaters still caught on to the fact that we were asses for talking while the men tried to sleep, and we both felt a distinct aura coming from the man whose strength wrought an aphoristic statement from his brethren: the night is as long as K2 is strong.

We graduated and moved on to the next training phase in Delta, the advanced skill training course, one that would last for some six months. The heavy lift subject for us was Close Quarters Combat (CQB), a subject for which Delta has no known peer. It’s a subject that I claim total immersion for myself. I ran through CQB scenarios in my mind even as I walked to the restroom at Taco Bell; I didn’t just enter the restroom, I cleared it first.

Countless days and the thousands of bullets whizzing by inches from everyman rendered a couple of holes through pant legs. That was cringeworthy… but so far nobody was getting hit. That is, up until the day K2 got hit squarely in the leg from a 9 x 19mm round from a Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun. The stray round had rabbited along a wall and punched through K2’s leg.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

9x19mm Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun.

“I’m hit,” he stated as flatly as he stated his name the first day of training.

K2 was hit with a flyer shot that missed its target. It was a good thing it happened in training, as a “thrown round” once assigned to a Sabre Squadron could get a man getting reassigned from the Unit. K2 looked instantly worried, not about his injury… rather his ability to remain with the class.

We returned to training K2-less, as he was taken to the compound clinic for treatment in-house. To take him to the main post hospital would raise unnecessary attention. His wound was a through-and-through one; no bone was broken, though the bullet did spank a long bone good as it passed.

Word was that K2 would remain in training for as long as he felt he could continue. That was great news — except for the bad news, which was we had a ten mile run scheduled for that Friday. It would not be possible for K2 to finish that. The collective question from the class was couldn’t K2 skip, or at least defer that run?

The answer was he had to complete all events with the class.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

Bullet wound as seen from the compound clinic.

(Courtesy of MSG Carlos Sanchez)

Friday was a gloomy morning where we collected to start the run.

“How’s it going, K2?” I asked.

“Not so good, Geo… those twinkies and raisin vinegar I had for breakfast this morning are really talking to me,” the K2 responded. I laughed and slapped him on the back.

We ran, and K2 ran. He ran in the middle of the pack with his head up; he had an almost-indiscernible limp. We whispered back and forth that K2 looked great and how great it was that he looked so great…

At perhaps the six mile mark, K2 slipped to the back of the pack slowly. His head was bowed low and he was no longer paying attention to his surroundings. He ran the next couple of miles in an intermittent skip, as if he were trying to hop on his good leg. We stressed for him.

Eight miles in, K2 fell back behind the pack. Falling back is not falling out, we postured; he’s still in the run. Two men fell back to run with K2 to encourage or even pull him along.

“Get back up in formation!” warned the cadre. That was certainly the end of it, as nobody dared to disobey ANYTHING at this point long into training. The two men stayed back with K2. Another man fell back and then I stuttered my step to join the pull for K2.

“If you don’t finish with the formation you will not pass the event!” the cadre cautioned.

K2’s shoe was soaked in blood from where his wound had begun to seep. It made a wet splatting noise with each step. K2 regarded our staying back with him with pain and disbelief… and more pain still. He couldn’t run any faster; he just couldn’t do it, but we weren’t going to leave him.

And then a thing happened.

Ahead of us, the Delta cadre sergeant looped his formation back, back around and brought it up behind the K2 clan at a reduced speed. We, the mighty, ran with our heads up over the finish line. The sergeant disappeared.

In the mingling sea of back-pats and handshakes, K2 grabbed a shake from me, thanking me for what I had done. I “confessed” to him that I was lazy and a cheat and used him as an excuse to fall back and take a gravely-needed rest… a thing that made him grin a powerful K2 grin.

“Good luck in training today, Geo,” K2 bid me as we parted.

“RGR, K2… break a leg!”

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

K2’s run diet: vinegar and twinkies.

George Hand is a retired Master Sergeant from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, and the Seventh Special Forces Groups (Airborne). The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army Museum Support Center is the biggest treasure trove you never knew existed

Fort Belvoir, Virginia: The Army has a giant warehouse of war art that includes not just Hitler’s watercolors but also oil paintings by Norman Rockwell. 

It might seem like the Army would be the last likely patron of the arts, but the truth is over the last hundred years, the Army has rescued and confiscated a vast collection of art. The collection of captured and commissioned war art features 16,000 paintings, photos and sculptures, and all are sitting inside a climate-controlled football-field-sized museum at Fort Belvoir. 

Before being moved to the museum, this treasure trove of art was stashed inside a large warehouse. The collection features work by everyone, from enemy combatants to ordinary soldiers and even Hitler’s watercolors. The collection program initially started during WWI when the Army dispatched eight combat artists to roam the battlefields in Europe and record firsthand experiences of the average soldier. 

The combat artists’ renderings would later be used as part of propaganda efforts to drum up support for the war before being collected and filed away in the Army warehouse. Then, during WWII, the Army added to their growing museum with captured Nazi and Fascist propaganda so it might be preserved for future generations. These materials were deemed too controversial for the public at the time, but the Army knew that future historians might find them useful. 

Thousands of art pieces were returned to their rightful owners after the war, but the Army held onto anything that showed the Nazi leader or pictured a swastika. Other additions during WWII included historical pieces unrelated to war art that were initially stolen by the Nazis but then reclaimed and returned by the Monuments Men. The Monuments Men were a team of over 400 soldiers and civilians who worked to protect Europe’s cultural heritage, which might have otherwise been lost to the war. The Monuments Men have been the focus of several documentaries and movies, the most recent of which was in 2014 and detailed the challenging experience of discovering the world’s lost art. Thanks to the Monuments Men, some of the great art saves from WWII included the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and the Altarpiece of Veit Stoss. 

Of course, the cache at Fort Belvoir isn’t the only reserve of art and historical artifacts that the Army owns. There are collections all across the country under the Library of Congress, Archies, Smithsonian and Park Service stewardship. Most of these collections are tightly sealed and unknown to the public to help balance the compromise between preservation and security. However, Fort Belvoir is an exception to the norm, as the Army has routinely allowed researchers and journalists to come in and take a look. 

Now that the Army has an official museum, the collection will be moved there, and access will be open to the public. Of course, that was before the pandemic put a wrench in those plans. The museum is located on 84 acres at Fort Belvoir, about thirty minutes south of Washington, D.C. The main building is approximately 185,000 square feet. It displays selections from the Army Art Collection and artifacts, documents, and images collected over the years. The American public has never seen most of these images, and the Army expects the museum will welcome at least 500,000 people every year. The National Museum of the United States Army is the capstone of the Army Museum Enterprise and offers visitors a comprehensive portrayal of Army history and traditions. In an ode to our nation’s veterans, the museum will be opening its doors on November 11, 2020. The opening ceremony will be limited to a small group of Army leaders, but the event will be live-streamed, so historians worldwide will be able to witness the historic moment. Free timed tickets are required for entry and available for request through the museum’s website

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch this Taliban tunnel bomb detonate in Afghanistan

While typically used in medieval warfare, tunnel bombs have made a comeback over the last few years, especially in Syria. This video shared on Twitter on July 16 by researcher Hugo Kaaman shows just how powerful these bombs can be, and this time, in Afghanistan.


Twitter

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Tunnels have seen a resurgence in “popularity” in the last few years, after being a very effective means of warfare utilized throughout history. They are exactly as they sound: bombs placed in sub-terrain under enemy forces. We’ve seen them in every major conflict, but in the middle east, they took a bit of a back burner to the more frequently used roadside IED. There’s an excellent history of the tunnel bomb here.

To see the “inside look,” watch this video uploaded to social media.

Twitter

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Lee Greenwood and the USAF Band singing ‘God Bless the U.S.A.’ will give you chills

Other than the National Anthem, there really isn’t another song out there that evokes the pride of country like Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” So when the iconic singer teamed up with the United States Air Force band to perform it during COVID-19, it’s no surprise the rendition is truly breathtaking.


Home Free – God Bless the U.S.A. (featuring Lee Greenwood and The United States Air Force Band)

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Home Free – God Bless the U.S.A. (featuring Lee Greenwood and The United States Air Force Band)

It’s not the first time Greenwood has teamed with the Armed Forces to perform the song. In 2015, he partnered with the U.S. Army Chorus for an impromptu acapella version at the NHL Winter Classic.

Army Chorus and Lee Greenwood sing a capella God Bless the USA impromptu at the Winter Classic

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Army Chorus and Lee Greenwood sing a capella God Bless the USA impromptu at the Winter Classic

While Greenwood never served, he has long supported the troops and military community. In a 2000 interview with Military.com, Greenwood was asked why he thought the song has such a powerful message for the military. He responded:

“I knew we had a song that touched the heart of the public. I knew that it was a song that gave proper salute to the military and its job. I knew that it honored those that had died, and I knew it made people stand up. I actually wrote those words: “I’d proudly stand up and defend her still today,” [meaning] even though pride had been gone in the past, it’s back and we should stand up at any time and defend this free country. So those who are away from home, it has much more impact on. I am a world traveler as well, and have been with the USO for 15 of the world USO tours with my celebrity cast. It does mean much more. You’re in another country where you’re subject to attack, and you long for the protection of the United States and all the things you find familiar about it.”

Here’s to you, Mr. Greenwood. Thanks for continuing to serve all of us.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How troops can take care of their pets while deployed

Deployments suck for everyone in the family. There are countless resources out there to help military dependents, but not too many troops know what to do with their beloved pets. Our pets are just a much a part of our family as anyone else and deployments can be just as rough on them as they are on people.

The hardest part is that there’s no way to sit down with your pet and explain to them that you’re going away. One day you’re giving them plenty of love and the next you’re gone for a while.

If you have a pet and are about to deploy, there are several things you need to do to make sure they’re given the best care until you can come home to make one of those adorable reunion videos.


I’m not crying. Just someone cutting onions, I swear.

The best thing you can do is to keep their routine as unchanged as possible. Keep them with people you know will love them as much as you and, if you can, keep them in the same place that they’re used to. In their furry minds, they don’t really grasp the concept of time so it’s just like you’re taking a really long time coming home.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops
It won’t hurt to give them all of the loving they’ll be missing out on in one day.
(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Not everyone you know is willing to take in your buddy at a moment’s notice. Thankfully, there are many great organizations that can assist you if you can’t find boarding for your pet. Dogs on Deployment and Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet are two fantastic organizations that will foster your pets with loving homes.

Both groups provide free boarding for your pet until you come home. They work by connecting troops with boarders in their area who will give them plenty of love.

(By the way, if you’re just reading this because you love animals, these pets need foster homes and they’d love to let you help.)

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops
What better way can you think of to support the troops than by literally taking care of their puppy for them?
(photo by Senior Airman Keenan Berry)

While you’re deployed, you can still send your pet some love. They won’t recognize a chew toy you ordered on-line as being a gift from you but they will immediately recognize your scent if you send back home a blanket you’ve been sleeping with. Most pets are intelligent enough to recognize your face and voice over a video call, but it’s not the same.

Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops
They can’t really count down but they’re definitely ready for you to come back.
(Photo by Sgt. Valerie Eppler)

When the time finally comes for you to reunite with your fur-baby, don’t freak out if they freak out. They’ll be jumping with joy and probably knock something over with their tail in excitement. It kind of goes without saying but you should give them the same amount of love that they’re giving you.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Curtez Riggs – Army veteran, entrepreneur

School. Streets. Military. In 1996, Curtez Riggs graduated high school and those were his options in Flint, Michigan. By that time, the auto industry that built “Buick City” had moved away. As a kid, Curtez picked up bottles, turned in cans and always had a side gig to bring in extra money. When it came time to make the decision, Curtez figured the Army was the best way to start his future.


His entrepreneurship did not stop when he joined the Army. Curtez continuously started businesses outside of his day job as a career recruiter. In this episode, you will hear how Curtez prepared for his military transition – years before he ended his active service.

Flint MI Then and Now

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Currently, Curtez is the CEO of the Military Influencer Conference (MIC). Started in 2016, the conference is a community of entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. Curtez said he sees the conference as a mentorship and connection hub for future and current military veterans looking to make the military transition with an entrepreneurial mindset. This year’s conference is in Washington, D.C., Sept. 8-10, 2019. Starting in 2020, the conference will be placed in a different region each year.

The conference has certain tracks attendees can follow:

  • “Going Live” – Podcasters and Video
  • Real Estate
  • Founders and Innovators
  • Social Impact
  • Content Creators
  • Empower – Milspouse Track
  • Workshops
  • Mighty Talks

#BtBattle Veteran of the Week: Air Force and Army veteran Erin McLyman.

    Enjoy the episode.

    This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard details the importance of the service to the nation

    The United States Coast Guardsman will wear multiple hats during their service to this nation. They are an armed force, environmental protector, maritime law enforcer and first responder.

    Every single day.


    “We have eleven statutory missions that we perform for the country with 42,000 active duty, 6,000 reservists, and 8,000 civilians. We don’t get overtime, we are on duty 24/7 and are subject to the uniform code of military justice. We work a lot of hours to get it done,” shared Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, Jason Vanderhaden.
    Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

    He continued on sharing the differences between those that serve under the Department of Defense and the USCG. He explained that those under DOD leave to fight, and when they get home, they have a chance to recharge and retrain. That’s not the case for those in the USCG. When a ship returns home from deployment, there are continual repairs and work that doesn’t stop. Then – it redeploys again, to continue serving the mission.

    The defense readiness aspect of the USCG is unique. They have always had a respected partnership with the United States Navy and have fought in every major war since their inception on Aug. 4, 1790. They are overseas even now, serving in the ongoing middle eastern conflict. It may surprise the public to learn that they are the nations oldest continuing seagoing service.

    “I want to paint the picture that we have a very challenging mission set, but at the same time, we do it well,” shared Vanderhaden. He continued on saying that it’s almost as though coasties thrive on that environment, which is evidenced in the retention rate.

    Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

    It may surprise people to learn that the USCG has an absolutely vital role in America’s anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism battle. As a matter of fact, they are on the front lines of it. On any given day, they are enforcing security zones, conducting law enforcement boardings, and working to detect weapons of mass destruction.

    They are also the nation’s first line of defense against drugs entering the country. The USCG’s drug interdictions account for over half of the total seizures of cocaine in the United States.

    While patrolling and protecting America, they are also continually serving her water and its marine inhabitants. They partner with multiple organizations and groups to protect the environment. One of the core missions of the USCG involves protecting endangered marine species, stopping unauthorized ocean dumping, and preventing oil or chemical spills.

    “You’ll go a lot of places where people don’t know what the Coast Guard does, that’s for sure. We also struggle a little bit because people think they can’t join the Coast Guard because they don’t swim well. If you are in the water – something is probably wrong,” said Vanderhaden with a laugh. This is because there is truly only one rating or MOS where they have to get into the water, and that is the aviation survival technician, most commonly known as the rescue swimmer.

    The USCG often conducts search and rescues in extreme weather conditions. This mission involves multi-mission stations, cutters, aircraft, and boats that are all linked by communication networks. Although public references to movies like The Guardian cause eye rolls within the USCG community; it did bring rescue swimming to a higher level of respect within the public. The rescue swimmer motto should give you goosebumps: “so that others may live.”

    You’d think that recruiting potential coasties would be easy with the continuous news coverage and more visibility with certain movies, but it isn’t. Vanderhaden shared that only a small percentage of the population will actually qualify to serve in the armed forces, and getting the word out about the USCG is still very challenging. This is because they do not have the recruiting budgets that the DOD has, so you’ll almost never see a USCG commercial. “We rely on people finding us,” said Vanderhaden.

    Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

    With the world currently being consumed with the coronavirus or COVID-19 spread, Vanderhaden was asked about the USCG’s response and continuing of its missions during the pandemic. “We still have the service that we have to provide to the nation…. We are still doing our job and we have to, we are just taking more precautions,” he shared. There is no stand down for all of the vital operations of the USCG. He continued on saying, “We do need to make sure that we are always ready to respond, and we will continue to do that.”

    Their core values are honor, respect, and devotion to duty. These values guide them in all they do, every single day. They willingly don the multiple hats and are prepared to sacrifice it all in the name of preserving this nation. That’s the United States Coast Guard, always ready.

    To learn more about the Coast Guard and their missions, click here.

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    This club gives a new perspective on the life of cadets

    She had been waiting for the shot all game.

    After Jabari Moore raced 54 yards down the field for a fumble return touchdown and Army’s final score of the game against Tulane, it was time for the post-score ritual.

    U.S. Military Academy leadership, spirit groups and cadets sprinted into the endzone to do pushups celebrating the touchdown. Camera in hand, Class of 2023 Cadet Hannah Lamb ran after them onto the field.

    As Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love started his pushups, Lamb laid on the ground, left hand propped under the camera, right hand on the shutter firing away.


    Lamb’s job as a member of the Cadet Media Group is to capture the scenes of an Army home football game. Not so much the action on the field, but the cadets, the fans and the entire atmosphere of gameday from the pregame parade to Michie Stadium.

    Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

    Class of 2023 Cadet Hannah Lamb (left) takes photos during the Army vs. Tulane game at Michie Stadium Oct. 5, 2019. Lamb’s job as a member of the Cadet Media Group is to capture the scenes of an Army home football game.

    (Photo by Brandon OConnor)

    “It’s a lot of responsibility that’s placed in my hands as someone who’s completely new to this place,” Lamb said. “I think the most rewarding thing is when you’re able to send pictures you’ve taken to cadets and they get super excited about it. It’s also just gotten me into really cool places that I may not ever see in my four years or I just may not see in the same way.”

    The Cadet Media Group formed four years ago and officially became a Directorate of Cadet Activities club for this academic year. The club includes photographers and videographers who work to capture the life of cadets in ways no one else can.

    “I think CMG helps bridge that civil/mil gap and portray the cadet story,” Class of 2020 Cadet Amanda Lin, the cadet in charge of Cadet Media Group, said. “I think cadets really appreciate seeing their side of things through a more polished eye. Nobody gets to see the cadet experience as well as we do.”

    The members of the club help to cover events both at and away from West Point including football games, the Tunnel to Towers run in New York City and Ring Weekend.

    As cadets, they have access no other photographers or videographers have and are able to show the cadet experience in ways only they can.

    Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

    Class of 2020 Cadet An Vu takes photos during the Army vs. Tulane game at Michie Stadium Oct. 5, 2019.

    (Photo by Brandon OConnor)

    “I think it’s important for us to share West Point’s message and what cadets are doing and opportunities you have here,” Class of 2022 Cadet Kaden Carroll said. “I think coming from a cadet or hearing cadet experiences or things like that makes it a whole lot better. Being able to cover events and share things that are happening here at West Point and reaching out to the public as well as people who are here, it’s cool to share that.”

    The photographers and videographers in Cadet Media Groups have the benefit of seeing the Corps of Cadets from a perspective provided to few of their classmates. As most members of the Corps sit in the stands during football games, select members of the club are on the field taking pictures. During reviews and parades, instead of marching with their companies they stand at the front with cameras capturing the event.

    “It’s something that’s totally different than everyone else’s experience, because we have to be in the position to take the pictures from an outside point of view while every other cadet has to be on the inside,” Lamb said.

    For Lamb and Carroll, the Cadet Media Group was on their radar before they even arrived along the banks of the Hudson River. Both had followed members of the group on social media and had seen cadets’ products used on official West Point pages.

    Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

    Class of 2021 Cadet Cheyenne Quilter takes photos during the Army vs. Tulane game at Michie Stadium Oct. 5, 2019.

    (Photo by Brandon OConnor)

    They quickly got involved and started producing their own photos and videos covering the Corps. Carroll has become the club’s go-to videographer in his year plus at the academy while Lamb has jumped in with both feet covering multiple events in only a few months as a cadet.

    “I think the coolest video I got to do was when the Army Dance team reached out to me,” Carroll said. “I just basically went around to different locations around West Point and filmed them dancing to one of their songs they had choreographed a dance to. It was super cool to meet new people as well as do what I love.”

    Since joining as a plebe, Lin has seen the club grow from just a few members to an active group of photographers covering almost every event occurring at West Point. After branding themselves as the Cadet Media Group in the 2018-19 academic year, they officially became a club this year solidifying their place as a key part of the Corps of Cadets.

    “It reminds me of how special this school is,” Lin said. “When you’re going through the day, it’s just kind of dull and boring and you kind of forget why you’re here. Then, I got to shoot the Sandhurst Competition last spring and seeing my photos from that and seeing them shared on social media, everyone was like, ‘What you do at school is so cool.’ That’s easy to forget when you’re doing homework, but when you get to see it, it’s cool.”

    This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    SpaceX delivered Death Wish Coffee to astronauts in low Earth orbit

    The International Space Station is getting the most amazing home-food delivery since the early days of Uber Eats. The recent launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket bound for the ISS carried genetically identical mice, a spherical AI robot named Cimon, and Death Wish Coffee — the world’s strongest coffee — at the request of Serena Aunon-Chancellor, one of the astronauts floating above the Earth.

    Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops
    The Strongest Coffee on Earth is now the strongest coffee in the Solar System.

    The Upstate New York-based company created a zero gravity-friendly brew of their powerful joe just for the members of Expedition 56 aboard the ISS. The coffee has a whopping 472 milligrams of caffeine — more than twice the caffeine of a Starbucks Pike Place Roast, 13 times as much as a can of Coca-Cola, and four times as much as a Red Bull energy drink.


    Astronauts love having fresh hot coffee aboard the International Space Station so much that they’ve designed and patented an espresso maker (called the ISSpresso machine) and the Zero-G Coffee Cup to facilitate their morning ritual.

    Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops
    European Space Agency Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti waits next to the newly installed ISSpresso machine. The espresso device allows crews to make tea, coffee, broth, or other hot beverages.
    (NASA)

    Not having to drink the coffee from a bag is a big deal to astronauts. Any coffee aficionado will tell you that being able to smell a fine coffee is an important factor in tasting the coffee. Astronaut Don Pettit was one of many who were sick of the bags of coffee. So he crafted a prototype cup using overhead transparency film into a teardrop-shaped container and poured the coffee in. The design worked.

    Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops
    Yes, that kind of overhead transparency.

    The Zero G coffee cup allows for integrating the aroma of coffee into the flavor. The edge of the cup uses surface tension to wick fluid up the side of the cup’s wall, using the same principles NASA uses for zero-gravity fuel tanks… and the ISSpresso machine.

    Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops
    The NASA-approved Zero-G coffee mug. Get yours at Spaceware.

    Previously, astronauts used coffee brewing (namely pour-over style) to run experiments on fluid dynamics. So while the Death Wish Coffee isn’t the first fresh-brewed cup of coffee in space, it still lays claim to being the strongest. Air Force veteran and astronaut Kjell Lindgren used coffee to test how fluids could be moved in space without a pump.

    Lindgren and researchers from Portland State University took it a step further and developed a single-serve coffee brewing system that brews inside the cup.

    Why care packages are just as important for today’s troops

    Anyone who’s deployed will tell you that the little things make the time away memorable. Being deployed to low Earth orbit is no different.


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