When Coach John Wooden arrived at UCLA in 1948, the athletic department promised him they would eventually get him a nice gym. But until then, he had to share a poorly lit, unventilated facility with the wrestling team, the cheerleaders, and the gymnastics team, often with everyone practicing at the same exact time. This existence was Wooden’s reality for 16 years.
I’m sure during those first years at UCLA, the administration continued to promise that construction on the new facility was right around the corner. Wooden could have been tempted to hold off on pushing his basketball program until the perfect gym was completed. Yet, it was in that ragged facility he shared with the other teams that he built the winning team for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in 1964 and 1965. Reflecting on his team’s success he wrote, “You could have written a long list of excuses why UCLA shouldn’t have been able to develop a good basketball team….you must take what is available and make the very most of it.”
Coach Wooden’s lesson is the one we need for 2021. How many of us put life on hold in 2020 when the Coronavirus changed our reality to wait for that time when things were back to “normal?” We put off activities like getting in shape or connecting with friends and family because we were waiting for the return of the familiar. Those of us who fell into this hopeful state wasted the time and resources we had available to just maintain the status quo. It’s almost been a year since the world changed. What do you have to show for your new normal?
In 2021, let’s heed the coach’s wisdom and make the most of the resources at our fingertips. Start that project you’ve been putting off. Begin that hobby you bought all the parts and pieces for back in March but never started. Do body weight exercises while you wait for your gym to re-open. Call that family member you weren’t able to visit over the holidays or focus on that relationship that took a hit while you were both stuck at home all the time. Whatever it is, don’t make any more excuses. Focus on action. Remove from your vocabulary the phrase, “When things return to normal, I’m going to…”
Finally, I would like to leave you with a passage that was written down 2000 years before Coach Wooden set foot in that run-down gym at UCLA. It was written by the Roman philosopher Seneca in a treatise titled, On the Shortness of Life. He said, “Life is divided into three periods, past, present, and future. Of these, the present is short, the future is doubtful, and the past is certain.” In other words, the only thing we can affect is the present so don’t let another year go by without taking action on whatever it is in your life that you’re putting off for a post-COVID world.
In 12 months we are going to do what we inevitably do before a new year. We’re going to reflect. Let’s look back on 2021 and know that we made the most of it; that we didn’t wait for a new gym. Instead, we found opportunities within our individual realities and we seized them. Let this be our new normal.
A couple individuals from the enraptured masses soaking in pure ecstasy.
The year is 2016. “Love Yourself” by Justin Beiber echoes through the streets. People are wearing choker necklaces again, for some reason. And millions of people are walking around, neck craned to their screens, trying to catch Pokémon.
The massive 2016 explosion of “Pokémon GO” sparked national hysteria. Multitudes of people took to the streets, surroundings be damned. Videos of novice Pokémon trainers falling prey to otherwise pedestrian obstacles (like the one below) went viral overnight.
According to a 2017 analysis, Pokémon GO usage contributed to 150,000 traffic accidents, 256 deaths, and a -7.3 billion economic price tag in the first six months of its launch.
The hysteria was present across the border of our northern ally, as well. The enraptured masses unsuspectingly wandered through Canadian military installations, in search of the powerful pocket monsters.
The Canadian military responded to this invasion with a geopolitical-move as old as time; they issued a firm warning. “It has been discovered that several locations within DND/CAF establishments are host to game landmarks (PokeStops and Gyms) and its mythical digital creatures (Pokémon).”
The enraptured Pokémon masses pressed forward, iPhones in hand, in spite of the vague threat of consequence, while the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation detailed the entire battle with a full after-action report on the situation.
According to the CBC’s report, the Canadian military brass was dumbfounded by their new enemy.
The enraptured masses.
Maj. Jeff Monaghan issued a base-wide memo at Fort Frontenac, letting his men know that many locations on the military base were being used as “both a Pokémon Gym and Pokèmon Stop.” The CBC contacted Maj. Monaghan to follow up his memo with insider knowledge, “I will be completely honest in that I have not idea what that is.” The war ravaged on.
While an assortment of Canadian stripes dripped sweat over a war table, moving pieces to chokehold Pikachu and his cohorts, security expert David Levenick verbalized his frustration, “We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this.” However, the enemy was resolute in their affiliation.
The base took to the offensive and armed a handful of MPs with iPhones and iPads to conduct an inside look into the enemy’s formation. The offensive move paid off, and the inside information led to the upgrading of an on-base museum from a “Pokéstop” to a “Pokémon Gym.”
In the end, however, the war ended as all things do: with a gradual decay. 45 million in the Poké-army became 20. And then 10. Then 5. Much like the Great Roman Empire, the enraptured masses slowly collapsed inward. Some sought refuge in “8 Ball Pool” some in “Super Mario Run” and a few brave souls transferred to a different battlefield altogether— “Bumble.”
Even the rapid hysteria of Pokémon GO was no match for the great equalizers of entropy and new apps, but the great flag of Canada waves on, swiping left to right through the end of time.
The Simpsons have predicted the future dozens of times over the years. (20th Century Fox)
For decades, “The Simpsons” has proven adept at not only standing the test of time, but even predicting the future.
Has the show already predicted the future for the 2020s?
In season 11, “The Simpsons” predicted a Donald Trump presidency in the 2000 episode “Bart to the Future.” The year (on the show) was 2030, and the Simpson administration had inherited “quite a budget crunch” from President Trump.
It wasn’t the first time the show predicted the future. It foresaw the plot twist for “Game of Thrones” character Daenerys Targaryen, Bengt R. Holmstrom’s Nobel Prize in Economics and even the mass of the Higgs boson particle.
They predicted the end of “Game of Thrones,” now they could be predicting our end. (20th Century Fox)
It might also have predicted coronavirus. In the season four episode “Marge in Chains,” it predicted a global flu pandemic known in the show as the “Osaka Flu,” and spread by a Japanese factory worker coughing into a package.
That same episode also featured the citizens of Springfield in a desperate search for a cure, demanding one from Springfield’s medical community, only to ignore Dr. Hibbert’s medical advice. While overturning a truck, they unleashed the killer bees inside — portending the arrival of the Asian Giant Hornet (also known as “Murder Hornets”) into the United States.
“Marge in Chains” is also about an unfair arrest which (through a convoluted chain of events) leads to widespread civil unrest and rioting in Springfield.
Sounds like 2020 so far.
Welcome to “Eye On Springfield.” (20th Century Fox)
From the purchase of 20th Century Fox by Disney to the creation of smartwatches, the show has been eerily accurate dozens of times. The episode that foretold the smartwatch (season 6, episode 19) provided another prediction, this time about World War III.
In the Emmy-winning 1995 episode, “Lisa’s Wedding,” we fast-forward 15 years to when Lisa is engaged to an Englishman named Hugh St. John Alastair Parkfield. Hugh eventually comes home with Lisa to Springfield, where he ends up in Moe’s Bar with Homer. Moe, realizing Homer’s drinking buddy is from England, predictably rubs his face in World War II history.
(20th Century Fox)
While there seems to be little danger of World War III breaking out at present and the 15 years since the episode aired have long passed, “The Simpsons” has proven time and again to be alarmingly prescient, accidentally predicting the future at least 30 times.
With this in mind, Hugh’s response might make us take pause, as it predicts a third world war.
(20th Century Fox)
It’s a good thing Trump is so chummy with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Aside from predicting the rise of smartwatches, the episode also successfully predicted video communications such as Amazon’s Echo Show and Facebook’s Portal, the arrest of Heather Locklear, and virtual reality gaming in bars.
Military occupational specialties are the foundation of the Marine Corps. Each MOS is a cog, working with and relying on each other to keep the fighting machine that is the United States Marine Corps running. The military working dog handlers are one such dog.
Military police officers have many conditions they have to fulfill to effectively complete the mission of prevention and protection in peace and wartime. One aspect of their duty is to be handlers for the military working dogs.
“To even have the opportunity to be a military working dog handler, you have to be military police by trade,” said Cpl. Hunter Gullick, a military working dog handler with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific – Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan. “We go to the school at Fort Leonard Wood for roughly three months before graduating and joining the fleet. After that you can put a package in to request the chance. This process is long since they screen you with background checks, schooling history and recommendations. If they accept you, you are sent to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for another three months of school, this time strictly for military working dog handler training.”
The tradition of using dogs during war dates back thousands of years, but the U.S. military did not officially have military working dogs until World War I. Since that time the partnership between the canines and their human has grown.
Lance Cpl. Joseph Nunez from Burbank, Calif., interacts with Viky, a U.S. Marine Corps improvised explosive device detection dog, after searching a compound while conducting counter-insurgency operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 17, 2013.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)
“We utilize the dogs for a number of things,” said Cpl. Garrett Impola, a military working dog handler with Headquarters and Support Battalion, MCIPAC. “The dogs are trained for substance location, tracking, and explosive device detection. During festivals and events we use them as security to do sweeps and to detrude conflicts. No other single MOS can do everything our dogs can.”
The handlers spend most of their working day with their partner to keep at top performance. This can be both a struggle – as much as it is a joy — for the Marine partner.
“The best part about my job is the dogs, for sure,” said Gullick. “They give everything they have to you, so we give everything to them in return. The most challenging aspect of my job would be that sometimes the dogs are like kids. It can get frustrating so you have to have patience. You also have to be humble because as a handler you have to be able to take constructive criticism.”
The Marine and military working dog are a team. The job of being a handler is always a work in progress. Marines are encouraged to push their limits and learn more when it comes to doing their jobs. They are always learning new techniques and procedures when it comes to performing their job to the best of their abilities.
“You will never know everything because each dog is different,” said Gullick. “With one, you think that you have the dog world figured out and then another one comes along and throws a curve ball at you. You have to continually learn and adapt.”
The eighth chapter is finally here and this time it’s directed by Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi – and it’s everything you thought a Star War directed by Taika Waititi would be. Everything we hoped it might be.
Even the scout troopers got a touch of personality in this episode. Consider this your spoiler warning.
With an appearance by Jason Sudeikis and Adam Pally.
In this chapter of The Mandalorian, we learn a lot about Our Mandalorian. After we learn the scout troopers have murdered Kuiil and taken the Yoda Baby. We see one of the troopers actually punch the Yoda Baby before getting murdered themselves by the avenging nurse droid, IG-11. Back in the city, we find the heroes still trapped by a legion of Stormtroopers, led by everyone’s favorite villain Giancarlo Esposito, Moff Gideon, who gives them until nightfall to decide if they’re going to cooperate with the Imperial leader’s demands.
IG-11 rides into town like a one-droid army on a speeder bike, dropping stormtrooper bodies all over the streets until he reaches the square where our heroes are pinned down. IG, with the Yoda Baby on his back, continues his rampage as our pinned-down heroes break out of the building. Our Mandalorian even picks up an E-Web Heavy Repeating Blaster that looks like something Carl Weathers might have used in Predator.
But before this amazing gunfight takes place, we learn a lot about our heroes – from Moff Gideon. It turns out the Moff was more than just an Imperial leader, but was part of an intelligence network. He knew the names of Cara Dune, and that she was from Alderaan, which explains why she hated the Empire so much. We also learn Our Mandalorian has a name, Din Djarin and he wasn’t born on Mandalore. In fact, Mandalorian isn’t even a race, it’s a creed. More importantly, we learn how Our Mandalorian became Mandalorian and why the Yoda Baby means so much to him.
In a flashback, we learn Djarin’s village and his parents were massacred by B2 Super Battle Droids when he was a boy. Just before meeting his own death at the hands of these droids, the young Djarin is rescued by a band of Mandalorian warriors who destroy the droids and carry the young boy off, presumably to Mandalore. Back on Nevarro, however, things look grim for our heroes.
Until the Yoda Baby comes into play.
“I’ma stop you right there.”
Moff Gideon critically wounds Our Mandalorian by shooting the power cell of the E-Web blaster. He is rescued by his compatriots but they are once again trapped in the building with certain death outside. As Our Mandalorian lays dying, he refuses Dune’s help as it would require removing his helmet. IG-11 opens the sewer grate right as an Incinerator Stormtrooper walks in to blast the room. Instead of burning the room, however, the flames blast him right out the door, thanks to the Yoda Baby, who stepped up to defend his injured father. Once all the humanoids are in the sewer, IG-11 convinces Djarin that since the droid is not alive, he can take his helmet off to receive medical treatment and for the first time, we see our antihero’s face.
Once healed and looking for the Mandalorians in the sewer, they instead find the remnants of their armor. The remaining Mandalorians had been hunted or killed after the Imperials arrived, though some may have escaped. The Armorer survived, however, and after hearing about the Yoda Baby’s strange powers, tells Djarin about the Jedi. Unable to determine the baby’s race, Karga reminds Djarin that his mission will now be to raise the baby or find his home world – reminding him that “this is the way.”
She also give him his earned signet. Oh, and a jetpack called “Rising Phoenix.” She tells them the way out and covers their exit with the dopest slaughter of stormtroopers seen in the Star Wars universe since IG-11 and the Yoda Baby in the town square fifteen minutes before.
Can we talk about this most brutal stormtrooper kill?
Our heroes make their way down a river of lava, thanks to a boat propelled by a droid. IG-11 sacrifices himself so that the group isn’t killed by a platoon of stormtroopers waiting to ambush them, and then Mando takes on Moff Gideon flying a TIE Fighter, thanks to his handy new jetpack. Every thing is reset for season 2, as Cara Dune decides to stay on Nevarro and become a member of the Guild and Karga forgives Mando, offering him the choice picks of the bounty hunter jobs.
But our Mandalorian is now a full warrior, with a mission. He returns to his ship and flies into the sunset, presumably determined to find the Yoda Baby’s home.
When it comes to branch rivalries in the military, you’ll find none greater than that between the Marine Corps and the Navy. It may be because we’re technically a part of the same branch but, either way, we constantly give each other sh*t for any reason we can find. Even still, Marines and sailors get along quite well — in fact, we probably get along better than any other two branches of the armed forces.
Yes, the Marine Corps is a part of the Department of the Navy, but we’re still considered separate branches. We have different goals, but they complement each other’s. So, we work closely together. All of those hours spent cooperating means that we’ve gotten to know each other pretty damn well over the years. Even Marines or sailors who have left the service find the most common ground with their cross-branch counterparts.
Here are a few reasons why Marines and sailors so often end up as the best of friends:
Our relationship is symbiotic
Even though Marines tend to do all the heavy lifting, the Navy is usually right there with us to share the burden of being the greatest war fighting faction ever to exist. In fact, because Marines are amphibious, we need the Navy to cart us around — like our own personal taxi service.
Marines and sailors share manpower
As part of that symbiotic relationship, the manpower between the branches is often shared. The Marine Corps uses Navy Corpsman for medical needs and aviation units in either branch are often filled out with a mix of mechanics from both sides.
We can constantly joke about each other
One thing you’ll find is that Marines have plenty of jokes for Sailors and vice versa. Furthermore, you’ll find that we can both take the jokes quite well. Hell, we even share a notoriety for being a bunch of drunken bastards.
Marines and sailors have the best military uniforms
Marines have the best uniforms ever conceived by any military branch — but the Navy comes in at a (distant,) solid second place. Both of our branches have the most recognizable and aesthetically pleasing uniforms out there. Sure, we may not wear berets, but we have sexy dress blues. The best part of it all? A Navy corpsman embedded in a Marine unit, referred to as “green side,” can choose to wear the Marine dress blues.
They’re our closest sibling
Marines don’t have as much of a working relationship with other branches as they do with the Navy. Ever since the planet was blessed with United States Marines, the Navy has been right there alongside us, fighting and winning every battle we possibly can.
Military parents: we’re one great big, loving, dysfunctional family. We may have a lot of differences, but we also have a lot in common. Find out the answers we received when we asked a group of military parents to complete the statement “you know you’re a military parent when…”
1. You stalk the mailman.
You can especially relate to this when your military member is a recruit or trainee. There are no phone calls, text messages, emails coming through. If you’re waiting to hear from them, all you can do is wait until the mailman comes rolling down the street and stops at your mailbox with your fingers crossed.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)
2. Whenever you hear the National Anthem your heart fills with pride.
You’re at a stadium sports arena for a game or concert, and you hear the national anthem. You stand a little taller, sing a little louder and you see that veteran in the audience still standing at attention all these years later and a tear trickles down your face, and can’t help but feel an enormous sense of pride.
U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
3. You can bring any conversation back to the fact your child is in the military.
Parents are the best at this, aren’t we? You often sit and listen to your friends talking about their kids at college or high school, you wait for the perfect moment to tell them all about your child in the military. “Did I tell you Johnny is getting ready to deploy right now?”
4. You wear RED on Fridays
Remember Everyone Deployed means you wear red on Fridays to let all those serving overseas on deployment know they’re not forgotten; that a nation they’re fighting for is praying for them, is thinking of them constantly, and is proud of them.
5. Your new favorite vacation destination is the Permanent Duty Station of your military member.
A non-military parent may schedule their vacations to a sunny beach destination, or maybe even an amusement park. Not military parents! Our vacations are now to wherever our child is stationed, whether it’s in the desert, the cold, overseas, or wherever else our military member is living at that time. “Woo hoo, it’s time to go to 29 Palms!”
6. You now understand and use military time and the phonetic alphabet.
You tell your co-worker you’ll be getting off work at 1630. They look at you with a confused expression on their face and you say, “Oh, I mean 4:30 p.m. I’m sorry, I’m so used to using military time with my son/daughter in the military now.” (As an aside, this a great way to start that conversation about your child in the military – see #3 above.)
7. You have a military t-shirt for every day of the week, along with pins and hats.
You can’t get enough of military swag! Whether it represents the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard or Marines, you have t-shirts, hats, socks, earrings, necklaces, pins, stickers for your car. You name it, military parents have something for every occasion, and they wear or display it loud and proud.
8. You see the proud parent of a “insert college university name here” and you laugh.
You can’t help but giggle. Their child might have went to a top college or university, but your child is a part of the finest fighting military in the world. Go USA!
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Willis)
9. You’ve become an expert at mailing out care packages where the items inside aren’t as much as the postage to send it.
You do this especially when your military member is deployed overseas. Baking cookies, brownies, sending wipes, toiletries, etc., are all great ways to stay connected with your loved one, and often gives them something that they truly need. A lot of the time, the cost of sending the package outweighs the monetary value of what’s inside!
10. You know that things can and will change.
If there’s one thing a military family, including military parents, has to be, it’s flexible. Your loved one’s plans can change at the drop of a hat, so you have to learn to go with the flow and be supportive.
There were over 250 comments from parents around the country when I asked for feedback. I could only choose 10. Which of these was your favorite? Share your comments below – we would love to read them!
SERE — short for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape — training is one of the more psychologically challenging training courses the U.S. military has to offer. It is not really that physically challenging, other than having to overcome the short duration of enforced hunger and the occasional slaps and stress/discomfort techniques employed against the students in the course. But for a young man or woman who has never been a prisoner of some type, it is mentally jarring. Uncomfortable, even. That is where the real challenge is presented.
I won’t go deep into SERE training here, just because it is a school that should remain cloaked in some mystery for it to be truly effective as a training program, other than to share a few of the memories that stand out for me, almost 20 years after I went through it.
To be clear, I went through a SERE program run by the U.S. Navy, in the American northeast, in January, with a handful of my fellow SEALs, some Navy pilots, and a few Marines. The other service branches ran their own programs at that time, I believe, and presently, I am not sure how the program is run across the services. I am sure, though, that the training continues in some form given its perpetual relevance to service members in danger of becoming prisoners of war.
(U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Peter Reft)
The goal of SERE training is to prepare U.S. service members to survive, on the run from enemy forces and while evading capture, and to resist your captors should you find yourself a prisoner. It also touches on escaping from captivity, and aims to provide guidance on how to behave and organize if you find yourself in a prisoner situation with other Americans. Enough on that for this venue.
SERE is mostly a hazy memory for me now, in terms of the particulars, but certain scenes, events, sights, and smells, continue to bubble up every once in a while. They are lingering yet occasionally vivid impressions of a long-ago tribulation, I suppose.
(Senior Airman Jonathan Snyder, U.S. Air Force)
The Snow and the Cold
My SERE training took place in the far northeast in January. It was damn cold, especially for a Florida boy who had spent the previous year-plus in sunny San Diego and Norfolk, Virginia.
In SERE, we spent a significant chunk of time in our survival and evasion phase stumbling around in the woods, in a couple of feet of snow, with nothing but the minimal amount of gear we were supplied to keep us warm. It was not ideal. It was an enforced “pack light, freeze at night” situation. Some shared sleeping bags to stay warm, while others built shelters in the snow. We all shivered a lot.
The memory of all that snow and the bleak, wintry landscape still pops into my head occasionally, in photograph form. While it was lovely, especially to look back on now, at the time it was frosted misery.
(USAF Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Okay, let’s be honest: Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training is not hard on the stomach. At no point in the training do they try to starve you, like they do in Ranger School, for example. In fact, in BUD/S, you can eat as much food in the chow hall as you can stuff down your gullet in the allotted meal time. And boy did I stuff myself, and yet I still lost 15 pounds during BUD/S training.
In SERE training, however, there is no food offered after a certain point, and you have to eat whatever you can forage. Let me tell you, there is not much edible out there in the hell-scape of a January New England forest. So we just didn’t eat for a few days, which made me very hungry. At the end, they advised us not to go out and stuff ourselves, since our stomachs would not handle it well. I failed to heed this advice, however, and paid the man for it. It was not pretty, but I doubt I will ever forget how good that (Italian) meal tasted my first night after SERE ended.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren/ Released)
So, there is some physical discomfort inflicted on SERE students, all of which is to make it as realistic as possible. Part of the physical discomfort comes by way of open-handed slaps to the face and head. These aren’t too terrible, especially if you are ready and braced for them and they thus don’t whip your head and neck around too violently. It is really no worse, and mostly less painful, than taking a punch while sparring in the ring. I was used to the slaps by a certain point in SERE training, and ready for the men who administered them each time they approached me.
Well, in a very effective curveball thrown at me by the instructors, the details of which I will not divulge here in case this little surprise is still employed, I found myself at one point face-to-face with a woman captor whom I did not expect to hit me in the face. Needless to say, when she did in fact smack my face, at lightning speed and with some real force behind it, my entire upper body, neck, and head swiveled nearly 180 degrees. It was the most effective slap I received in the entire course, in terms of the pain and shock it caused, and kudos to that woman for catching me unawares.
Well done, madame. To this day, I still remember the surprise and the pain of that slap.
Senior Airmen Jonathan Harvey, a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Specialists with the 106th Rescue Wing, demonstrates how to contact friendly forces during survival training. (US Air National Guard Photos by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)
As noted above, by a certain day in the survival and evasion phase of SERE training, I was pretty damn hungry and would’ve eaten just about anything I could get my hands on. At just that point in time, we were told to link up with a notional “foreign contact” in the woods who would supply us with some sustenance.
This was to simulate resistance fighters in enemy territory who might help an evading American service member. The three or four of us in our small group were so damn excited to see what we’d get, and I had visions of bread and cheese and jerky and all the food. Well, it turned out to be just one thermos of “borscht” (soup) for all of us to share. Fine, whatever, anything at that point.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren/ Released)
What happened next is frozen in my mind forever: One of our guys walking back to us from the link-up with the foreign contact, the steaming thermos of borscht in his hand, his eyes full of victory, hunger, and satisfaction. He had that same look that Ben Stiller had in one of the “Meet the Parents” movies when he arrived in triumph with the formerly-lost (and fake) Jinx the cat. Total victory.
And yet, right at that moment, the clumsy bastard tripped in the snow, fell in slow motion to the ground, and spilled the steaming thermos of life-giving soup all over the snowy ground. He then looked up in total defeat, and seemed to say with his eyes, “murder me, I deserve it.” To this day, I am not sure he was not a plant all along, in a highly effective and sick scheme to demoralize us. Oh well, we’ll never know.
Through all of SERE school, I never really went to that mental place that some go to, in which they start to believe they really are a prisoner, and that they might never get out. Apparently that happens to some, and they kind of lose it. I just went back into BUD/S mental mode, where I tune everything else out, and focus on surviving to the end, telling myself that everything ends at some point.
Still, when the end was signalled — in an admittedly moving and patriotic display orchestrated by the instructor cadre — I experienced a flood of relief. Some made audible sighs and expressions of relief, and some even cried right there in front of everyone. I was mostly happy to have finished another required training course, and excited to get some sleep in a bed that night. Mostly, though, I remember being excited to stuff my belly with that ill-advised Italian meal.
It’s that wonderful time of year when veterans, their friends, and their families go out to enjoy a little spooky fun around town. They’ll have fun with the decorations, getting into goofy costumes, and, overall, just enjoying the spirit of the season — but there’s just one place veterans tend to avoid: haunted houses.
We don’t avoid these because of their intended scariness — far from it. Veterans just don’t seem to have the same reaction as most civilians. We tend to have one of three reactions to being put in what is, essentially, a guided maze filled with actors dressed like our favorite monsters: Either we’re way too in to how cool what’s going on around us is, we just can’t suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy it, or, well, we’ll get to the last one in a minute.
Perfect for war! Terrible for Halloween fun…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Justis Beauregard)
1. We aren’t scared the same way
Once you’ve spent some time in the military, certain things just don’t scare you the same way. I’m not saying that seeing someone dressed as a distressed clown brandishing a chainsaw (with the teeth taken out for safety) isn’t objectively terrifying — it definitely is.
But veterans spent years learning how to always switch their “fight or flight” response in one direction. Once you’ve done your time, that response never really shuts off. You may not be fighting every monster you see, but you’re not going to run through the haunted house like most guests.
Then again, having attention to detail is never fun…
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Ronald Bailey, 100th Missile Defense Brigade Public Affairs)
2. Our attention to detail overshadows the rest of the “fun”
We keep level heads and analyze every tiny detail of what’s going on while others are cowering. We notice the tiny things. This works absolute wonders in haunted escape rooms — but that same cannot be said for haunted houses.
You’ll look for and find things that break the immersion. You’ll stop admiring/being spooked out by all of the scary stuff and simply get through the thing like there’s some kind of reward at the end — there isn’t. The experience of the haunted house was the reward.
You might also get asked to leave if you stack your family by sector of fire they’d take as they enter the room.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Devon Tindle)
3. We will use room-clearing techniques as we go through
There’re only so many spots for actors to hide throughout a maze: behind that door, at the end of the hallway, behind all those curtains. Coincidentally, these are the exact same spots that most veterans remember from room-clearing drills.
The ideology is the same, but instead of jumping out to attack a squad of infantrymen, the haunted house actors are just trying to help you celebrate the Halloween spirit. It actually gets a bit disappointing when the veteran thinks to themselves, “if I were them, I’d totally set up an ambush point here at the funnel of death,” only to realize the actors didn’t get your memo.
“Want to see a real horror monster? You should see my old drill instructor when faced with an unsecured wall locker.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Pedro Cardenas)
4. We will one-up creepy moments with real-life stuff
There’s a certain expectation that guests at haunted houses will suspend disbelief enough to allow themselves to be scared and enjoy the experience. That kind of goes out the window when you can’t help but notice that the “blood” splotches on the walls don’t really line up with how arterial blood would actually spew out of that “zombie’s” neck.
That’s fine and all, but it ruins the fun for the other people in your party. Nobody really wants to hear us say, “oh, you think this is scary? Try losing your weapon in a porta-sh*tty as your FOB is getting indirect fire! Now that’s scary!”
We know, bro. We know.
What’s actually a scary thought is that your MACP Level 1 isn’t going to do jack sh*t against a security guard who likes tasing people.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jensen Stidham)
5. We tend to get a bit… punchy… around the actors
You knew this one was coming. No, you can’t punch the actors that jump out at guests. They’re not allowed to touch you and you’re not allowed to feed them their teeth.
In fact, it’s against the law — and everyone will laugh at you if you try to say that some minimum-wage-earning teenager in a cheap costume at a haunted house that you knowingly and willingly paid money to visit is actually some monster.
Plus, most haunted houses have cameras and security guards in place for just such occasions. So, uh, just don’t do it.
It’s 7:12 p.m. You’ve got a soggy McDonalds cup sweating sweet tea in your cup holder. You’re driving home after a long day, and the sun is dropping golden light on the horizon. Your sore right foot is pinning down the gas pedal. The fuzzy country FM radio station sharpens a bit, and you hear the beginning chords of a song you know every single syllable of. Maybe it reminds you of your brother overseas. Maybe it reminds you of your spouse’s deployment. Maybe they’re with you listening to it. Maybe they’re not. Chances are, if you have any ties to military service, you’ve had one of these still car ride moments, and been caught off-guard by misty eyes and a head full of thoughts about our nation’s heroes, while a solemn guitar and Southern twang underscore your drive home.
This is about the letter many have written, and fewer have had to read. Tim McGraw sings, from the perspective of a soldier, writing a potential farewell letter. We don’t know if the soldier comes home. All we know is he wrote it to his wife. Like so many others have done, and will continue to do. It’s a testament to those who have been willing to make the sacrifice for those they love, as much as it is a testament to those loved ones who hopefully won’t have to read. “So lay me down, in that open field out on the edge of town/ And know my soul, is always where my momma always prayed that it would be.”
John Michael Montgomery – Letters from Home Official Music Video
The first time you hear this song, it catches you by the throat in the third verse. John Michael Montgomery builds us in the walls of a world that feels gritty but perseverant in the first two verses. We hear of men finding gallows humor overseas. Then comes a letter from the old man… “But no one laughs, cause there ain’t nothin funny when a soldier cries.”
Tracy Lawrence paints the picture of a soldier talking to his buddies. These aren’t necessarily family members, they feel somehow more intimate to the solider in the story. They share beer together, he jokes, and they laugh. He doesn’t ever want to get his buddies down, he wants them to raise hell and drink and remember him with love, not with sadness. We can all remember a conversation over a couple dozen beers ending with the same altruistic, tough, sentiment. Plus—high school football. “On Friday night sit on the visitor side, and cheer for the home team.”
This song was actually written and performed by Bruce Robison first. The song was then optioned and made famous by the Dixie Chicks. Although the Dixie Chicks politically polarized country music fans in 2003, the rendition of the song is unquestionably impactful. There is a vulnerable broken to its performance. The female vocals also lend another layer to the song, as the song is about a high school girl after all. “Our love will never end/ Waitin’ for the soldier to come back again.”
David Ball’s tone feels a little bit lighter than the other songs on the list in “Riding with Private Malone.” In that lightness though, there is deep feeling. The casual nature that he delivers the story of a soldier knowingly bestowing his ride to whoever picked it up next, shadows how selfless the act of service can be. It’s discreet. It’s quiet, it’s between two people. It has gas pumping through it, and life, and it is passed down from generation to generation. “Though you may take her and make your own, you’ll always be ridin’ with Private Malone.”
Lee Brice – I Drive Your Truck (Official Music Video)
Lee Brice belts onto our list with the most recent entry into tearjerking country ballads. Here we find a brother left to find meaning and reason to his life after his brother makes the ultimate sacrifice. He connects with him by tearing up fields and peeling out in his old truck, blaring the same country station he left it on, highlighting the connective power of country music in the lives of people around the military. “People got their ways of coping, Oh and I’ve got mine/ I drive your truck.”
One thing that has always struck me as disappointing in songs about soldiers is that the survivors get forgotten somewhere along the line. This ain’t the case with Toby Keith’s “American Soldier.” It captures perfectly the duty that soldiers are responsible for. It brings to mind the simple, tough, resiliency of the military life, and it exalts those who answer its call. “And I can’t call in sick on Mondays/ When the weekend’s been too strong.”
The late Merle Haggard knew his way around storytelling. A soldier telling his momma not to scold him for having shaky handwriting on a battlefield is a tragically human moment. We can guess how young the soldier is. We can guess how long he’s been overseas. We can’t guess how desperate his momma felt. It captured the feeling of an era, the generation of young boys lost in Vietnam, and the hole that was left back home in their wake. “Then the mother knelt down by her bedside/ And she prayed Lord above hear my plea/ And protect all the sons who are fighting tonight/ and Dear God, keep America free.”
A few airmen walk into a room, positioning themselves between you and the exit. As the “new guy” in the squadron, you likely know exactly what’s about to happen. You have to outsmart or elude them to avoid getting bound up and immobilized by rolls of duct tape.
Welcome to the tradition of “rolling-up,” or “roll-ups,” a practice that is often viewed as a game or initiation ritual in the U.S. Air Force.
U.S. Air Force airmen from the 354th Fighter Wing, change the name on the flagship jet during the 354th Fighter Wing change of command ceremony July 6, 2018, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Isaac Johnson)
While there were no complaints or reports made by victims of the hazing, the investigation showed that “roll-ups” — or binding airmen’s hands and feet, and sometimes their entire bodies, with tape — was prevalent in those units, Nissen said in an email.
It “appear[s] to be a known hazing ritual within the Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) community,” she said.
A TACP airman familiar with the tradition who spoke with Military.com said it’s not all bad, though.
“It has not been the means of humiliating or harming someone; it’s [supposed to be] the opposite,” the airman said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press in an official capacity, he said he’s been in the community for eight years, but could not explain where the tradition came from or how long it has been in practice.
The TACP said he has been rolled up a few times, most often on his birthday by someone calling him into an office for what he thought was a formal meeting or ambushing him in a hallway. He said the point was to try to outwit his fellow airmen, much like a game. The consequence of losing: having his body bound with tape and immobilized, then carried off by airmen to be placed at locations around base for goofy photo ops before being set free.
“When I came into the community, it was just there,” he said, adding, “I’ve been in more than one unit and have had more than one birthday.”
In 2018, the Pentagon released a new policy — DoD Instruction 1020.03 Harassment Prevention And Response in the Armed Forces — aimed to deter misconduct and harassment among service members.
The policy reaffirmed that the Defense Department does not tolerate any kind of harassment by any service member, either in person or online.
Airmen from the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron jump out of a C-17 Globemaster III Oct. 21, 2014, during a training exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keoni Chavarria)
In line with the Defense Department, the Air Force has a zero-tolerance hazing policy.
“The Air Force does not condone hazing in any form,” spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said April 3, 2019. “We expect our airmen to adhere to our core values at all times and treat their fellow service members with the highest degree of dignity and respect.”
The TACP said he agrees with the Defense Department’s policy.
“Hazing is as much about what the particulars of the event were and the creation of a feeling of being hazed,” the TACP said.
It’s why “rolling-up” shouldn’t be standard across the Air Force, even if its original intention was meant to be playful, he said.
“It’s not something we need to continue because it’s not a professionalized practice,” he said. “We should go do … things that are productive and constructive that doesn’t potentially create the hazing issues.”
The TACP explained the concept behind the tradition.
When done right, the goal is never to pose a risk to a fellow airman who will work — and potentially fight — alongside you, he said.
“The intention of this is not to inflict pain,” he said. “Think of it like ‘capture the flag,’ or ‘Can you subdue a combative person without causing them harm?'”
In a sport like rugby, for example, “one minute [there’s contact] but, by the end of the game, you’re hanging out and you’re friends,” he said. “If you’re not laughing while you’re being rolled up, you’re doing it wrong.”
It has also been a way to vent pent-up energy for troops in a high-stress career field, the TACP said.
“When you take a whole group of very aggressive, Type-A people whose purpose is to go do violence unto others, the way you show affection, it gets shifted by the culture — we don’t necessarily go around and give each other hugs, although we do that too,” he said.
He added, “It’s both an outlet [to let] out steam … and for people to bond together” in what has become a “normalized way.”
“Rolling-up” hasn’t only been spotted in the Air Force. Videos and photos on social media that have quickly become memes have shown soldiers duct-taped to their cots, or bound with tape and left outside.
Some of those videos have shown the practice going too far, though, and not only within the special operations community. One source familiar with the tradition told Military.com it has been observed in other Air Force career fields, including nuclear operations and aircraft maintenance.
For example, airmen were shown in a 2005 YouTube video smearing chocolate syrup on a bound airman, then dusting him with powdered sugar before dousing him with a garbage pail of dirty water. The incident apparently happened at Kadena Air Base, Japan.
The airman who spoke with Military.com said roll-up events sometimes happen out of sheer boredom while troops are killing time. And it’s easy to cross a line and have things get out of control.
“It’s counterproductive to everything we do: It doesn’t make an airman want to stay in the Air Force, it doesn’t make airmen want to go do their job. It’s beyond the right and wrong of morality, and it’s just bad for the mission,” the TACP said.
He continued, “That’s the problem with the normalization of it. It becomes that [time] could be spent in a much more productive way.”
He suggested developing a new tradition that fosters bonding and supports readiness, rather than one with the earmarks of hazing.
“There needs to be a competitive spirit” for stress to be relieved, the TACP said. “So replace it with [something] that’s tied to a real-world mission.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Having been married to someone in the military for almost a decade at this point, there are two things I learned quickly that will almost always be true. The first is that no matter what, there will always be at least one MRE somewhere in your house. The second, is that you will have to move. You will move a lot, you will move often, and there is a high likelihood you will have to move somewhere unfamiliar. While PCS and other forms of military travel are put on temporary hold right now, it can still be helpful to think of ways to make some of the more stressful, and sometimes more time consuming aspects, work for you.
Any move, military or otherwise, comes with obvious stressors and things to consider. From prospective jobs, future school districts, housing, and arguably the most stressful: trying to convince your friends to help pack the moving truck. While there are options in the military to have your things professionally packed and moved, my husband and I have always taken the more hands-on approach. Albeit more tedious, it has kind of become tradition for us. It gives us one last chance to say goodbye to friends we’ve made, pay them in pizza and beer and convince them that we really didn’t mean to pack some of those boxes so heavy.
I’ve gotten a lot of great advice from people over the years about the best way to adjust to a new duty station. It’s easier when you have built in ice breakers like school aged kids or more social hobbies, but overall, everyone learns to adjust in their own way. Something else that seemingly less significant or explored is the actual act of getting from point A to point B.
Even during the anxiety and uncertainty of our very first move, my favorite part of a PCS has always been hitting the road and making conscious efforts to plan our route in a memorable way. Our duty stations have been all over the country, so we’ve been able to cover some significant ground in a relatively short amount of time. There’s something about taking what is typically deemed more utilitarian and turning it into its own experience that really seems to feed the soul.
When I think about some of my favorite memories with my husband and kids, I think about our PCS roadtrips. Our oldest son visited the Grand Canyon and traveled through 23 states before his first birthday. We spent an entire day driving around Albuquerque, NM visiting filming locations from Breaking Bad, which admittedly was more of a personal bucket list item, but my husband had control of the radio that day, so we found a happy compromise.
Our youngest son travelled from Oregon to Louisiana before he was even born (nothing goes better with being seven months pregnant than driving 7 hours a day for a week straight). Both of our boys have managed to get really close to crossing off all 50 states since they’ve been our roadies. We’ve made our way through the good, the bad and the ugly of truck stops, hotels and roadside attractions–few things compare to some of those alien museums in Roswell, which really have the potential to encompass all three traits seamlessly.
We take the time before our move to look at a map and see what’s out there. Sure, there are days where it really is about getting up early and putting in those long hours to get some mileage under our belt, but we always try to counter that with something fun. Sometimes it can feel like “making the best out of a bad situation” if the move comes at an inopportune time, or there are outside factors at play.
One of the realities of being a military family is having a lot of things decided for you. That can seem like a daunting thing, and I would be lying if I said there weren’t times where it was really hard for us in one way or another.
At the end of the day it’s about looking for those silver linings in the inevitable. Taking stock in the situation and being able to make it into something you can look back on and appreciate having been in that place at that time. So many things in life are done with the outcome in mind, not the process. Military members and military families will undoubtedly spend a lot of time going from point A to point B, it comes with the territory. What that does however, is offer up the opportunity for adventure. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but sometimes it’s worth taking a detour.
A Wisconsin National Guard soldier was buried in his final resting place Sept. 29, 2019, in Monona more than 75 years after his death in New Guinea during World War II.
Army Tech 5th Grade John E. Bainbridge of Sheboygan was a member of the 32nd Infantry Division’s Company C, 128th Infantry Regiment, when he was killed Dec. 2, 1942, during the Battle of Buna.
Bainbridge’s remains since 1947 rested unknown at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. The military recently identified him and his family asked that he be buried at Monona’s Roselawn Memorial Park, where his sister is buried.
“It was like time stood still for one second as 77 years of waiting, hoping and wondering came to a glorious halt,” said Bainbridge’s niece, Nancy Cunningham, who was 2 years old at the time of his death.
Army Tech 5th Grade John E. Bainbridge of Sheboygan was laid to rest Sept. 29, 2019 in Monona after his remains were identified more than 75 years after his death during the Battle of Buna in World War II.
(Courtesy of Nancy Cunningham)
Born in 1919 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Bainbridge grew up in Sheboygan before graduating from Fond du Lac High School. He worked as a store clerk when he enlisted as a cook in the Wisconsin National Guard with Sheboygan’s Service Battery, 120th Field Artillery, 32nd Infantry Division. The unit left Sheboygan Oct. 17, 1940, for a year of training in Louisiana to increase military readiness of the U.S. Army.
Bainbridge trained with the 120th in Louisiana and was discharged in November 1941 due to family hardship. But the Army rescinded his discharge after the U.S. declared war on Japan and he rejoined the 32nd Infantry Division in time for its deployment to Australia in July 1942. He had been promoted by this time to technician 5th grade and assigned to Company C, 128th Infantry. Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered the 32nd to the New Guinea jungle in November 1942 to halt the Japanese approach to Australia.
Natives unload new white crosses from trailer to be used in the cemetery for American Forces at New Guinea, May 11, 1943.
(Pvt. Paul Shrock)
His remains were hastily buried on the battlefield and could not be positively identified when he was reburied in early 1943 at a Buna cemetery. Bainbridge’s remains were designated “Unknown X-135” when he was reinterred in 1947 in the Philippines at the Manila American Cemetery.
Bainbridge’s remains were exhumed Feb. 22, 2017, and sent to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for identification using mitochondrial DNA technology and other procedures. The agency sought out Cunningham and other relatives to provide DNA samples to assist the investigation.
Bainbridge’s funeral was conducted with full military honors. Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army, presented the U.S. flag to Cunningham on behalf of the entire Wisconsin National Guard.
The Dec 29, 1942 issue of the Sheboygan Press reported the death of Army Tech 5th Grade John E. Bainbridge at the Battle of Buna in New Guinea.
“Every time I present a flag, I am full of emotion, but this one seemed different not only because of the soldier’s incredible service and sacrifice but because the family had been waiting so long for positive identification,” Mathews said. “What made it even more special was that he was a Wisconsin National Guard and 32nd Division soldier.”
Bainbridge’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery along with other soldiers designated Missing in Action from WWII. A rosette will be carved next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
The 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Division was formed on July 18, 1917, for World War I from the Wisconsin and Michigan National Guard. The Red Arrow reorganized after the war in the National Guard of both states and entered active service in 1940 to improve national military readiness during WWII. The Battle of Buna lasted from Nov. 16, 1942, to Jan. 23, 1943, and was the 32nd’s first WWII battle. Its 654 days of combat in New Guinea and the Philippines were the most of any American division during the war.