The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

On a recent warm fall afternoon in Charleston, South Carolina, Stacy Pearsall struggled to wind herself down from the daily bustle of ranch life. Flustered from her regular stream of chores and nursing a broken hand for which she recently underwent surgery, the retired Air Force combat photographer fumbled briefly with her phone as she settled into a video-chat interview with Coffee or Die Magazine

Constant motion is Pearsall’s preferred state of being. A few weeks before she was trampled by one of the rare Brabant draft horses she cares for, another horse kicked her in the head; fortunately, she was wearing a helmet. Even after multiple combat deployments left her with a traumatic brain injury and significant spine and nerve damage, she’s never quite figured out how to listen to her body, slow down, and generally behave like a person with actual physical limitations. 

“She’s about as stubborn as one of her donkeys,” says Pearsall’s husband, retired Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway, with a chuckle.  

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Staff Sgt. Stacy Pearsall documents combat operations with the 1st Cavalry Division, 12th Infantry Regiment, in Khalis, Iraq, on Feb. 21, 2007. Photo by Andy Dunaway.

Pearsall’s unflinching resolve is a characteristic she habituated early in her career as she fought to earn her place among the military’s best photojournalists at the Air Force’s elite 1st Combat Camera Squadron, where she carved out a legacy of extraordinary, trailblazing service as one of the best shooters in the Department of Defense. 

“I spent my entire career trying to tough everything out,” Pearsall says. “I never wanted to be the one who reflected badly on women. I always had this attitude that I wouldn’t let people in and let people know how bad things were.” 

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Pearsall in Iraq in 2007. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

After spending her first four years on active duty processing photos from U-2 surveillance aircraft, Pearsall, whose family’s tradition of military service can be traced back to the Revolutionary War, applied for a spot at 1st Combat Camera, where she says “somebody typically had to die or retire” for a spot to open up. When a former supervisor was assigned to the unit, he encouraged Pearsall to apply, and after a rigorous screening process, she was accepted and joined the unit in 2002.  

“I actually wasn’t a very good photographer back then, but I was a hard worker,” Pearsall says. “There was absolutely a ‘good old boys’ climate, so all I could do was earn respect through my work.”  

Pearsall’s husband served at the squadron from 2002 to 2010. 

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Pearsall and Dunaway on active duty in 2009. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

“We supported a lot of tier 1 missions and taskings that were only open to men,” Dunaway says. “Some men at the time definitely viewed women as not necessary or less capable.”  

Pearsall says she lost count of how many times she was told she couldn’t do an assignment because the unit wanted a man. But as she navigated an often overtly misogynistic culture, she was also exposed to the best training and equipment the military had to offer and a pool of incredibly talented and experienced photographers — many of whom rewarded her determination and work ethic with invaluable mentorship.  

“Stacy was always out on assignment or looking for something to photograph,” Dunaway says. “She was always out experimenting with the camera, working to get better, and people noticed that.”  

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Pearsall hired a National Guard soldier in this photo from a commercial photo shoot for a body armor company. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Pearsall’s work ethic earned her a combat deployment to Iraq in late 2003, and the photos she made during her first Iraq tour earned her top honors in the National Press Photographer Association’s 2003 Military Photographer of the Year (MILPHOG) competition, making her the second woman to ever win the prestigious title.  

Pearsall was exposed to combat action several times, including an incident in which the HMMWV she was riding in hit a bomb. Her service during that deployment earned Pearsall an Air Force Commendation Medal for valor while documenting combat operations. 

“I don’t know why anyone earns a medal for that,” Pearsall says, looking down uncomfortably for a moment and processing. “I think it was for continuing to document even when shit went sideways — for doing my job. I look back and think how ludicrous it is to get a medal for doing your job.” 

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US Air Force medical personnel transfer a wounded soldier, who was just struck by an improvised explosive device, from an ambulance to a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in Baghdad, Iraq, on June 22, 2003. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

After returning from Iraq, she earned the privilege of attending the Pentagon’s Military Photojournalism program at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in 2004. The yearlong course of study at one of the country’s best journalism schools is the Department of Defense’s most advanced photography course. Only a handful of Air Force members are selected annually, and the service gives its graduates the special designation of “PJ,” or photojournalist.    

Dunaway says it was a rare feat for a squadron member to win MILPHOG without first attending the MPJ program, and after excelling at Syracuse, Pearsall was afforded more opportunities to prove herself among her peers. 

She ultimately deployed to 41 countries, supporting humanitarian relief missions, special operations forces, combat, and other operations. Her images were used by the president, secretary of defense, and Joint Chiefs of Staff to make informed decisions about military operations.

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Casablanca, Morocco, June 10, 2010. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

In 2007, Pearsall was again named Military Photographer of the Year, making her the first and only woman in American history to win the title twice. Her portfolio consisted mostly of images from her second Iraq deployment, and Pearsall also took home top honors in numerous individual categories of the competition, including Combat Photography, Portrait, Pictorial, and Photo Story.  

But just as Pearsall appeared to be hitting her professional stride, beneath the surface, she was beginning to break. She had suffered another improvised explosive device blast in Iraq and lived through a bloody ambush during which she was knocked off her feet while rushing to aid a gravely wounded soldier. Her neck slammed into the edge of an ICV Stryker ramp, aggravating the cervical spine trauma she suffered on her first combat deployment. With adrenaline surging through her, Pearsall jumped up and dragged the wounded soldier out of the street and into the Stryker before pinching closed a severed artery in his neck until a medic arrived.

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US and Iraqi soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Division, conduct a cordon and search for insurgents and weapons caches in Chubinait, Iraq, on Feb. 3, 2007. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Recalling the ambush, she suddenly stops and goes quiet for several moments. She turns away from the camera, trying to suppress the anguished feelings that always flood back when she tells the story. Gathering herself after several moments, she says, “I just try not to live in that moment too much.”

In 2011, Pearsall shared the whole story on the PBS NewsHour. 

It’s not just the trauma of that day’s violence and death that haunts Pearsall. It was, after all, just one of the many intense combat actions she lived through and documented on that deployment, earning a Bronze Star in the process. The thing that seems to pain Pearsall most about the ambush is that she pinpoints the injury she suffered that day as “the beginning of the end” of her military career. 

“I got banged up a lot on that deployment,” she says. “But I had always operated under the ideology that if I wasn’t missing a limb and I could see and had a pulse, I should just keep working.”

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Members of the US Army, Military Transition Team, and Iraqi army, 4th Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Division, conducted a three-day raid during Operation Brown Hawk in Tahrir, Iraq, on Feb. 27, 2007. The purpose of Operation Brown Hawk was to eliminate Tahrir as an operating base for improvised explosive device building cells and key leaders of the al-Qaeda forces in Iraq. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Soon after suffering the neck trauma, she started having bad side effects from nerve damage. She often found it difficult to hold her camera or other objects as neurological tremors would sometimes involuntarily release her grip on items. The bomb blast from Pearsall’s first deployment had ruptured her eardrum, and the vertigo she suffered from inner-ear damage worsened after the ambush in 2007.  

After a friend convinced Pearsall to seek medical treatment in Iraq, a doctor hooked her up to an electrical stimulation device, hoping to alleviate some of her pain. 

When the current contracted the muscles in her neck, Pearsall fell backward, nearly passing out from the jolt of excruciating pain. After ordering and reviewing X-rays for Pearsall, the doctor explained the severity of her condition:  

“He’s like, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, Sgt. Pearsall, but you’ve got to go to Balad [Air Base] today. The chopper leaves in four hours. Go pack your shit.’” 

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As the sky turns ominous, Army Sgt. Kyle Ellison searches the roof of a local’s house for weapons during an assault against anti-Iraqi forces in Buhriz, Iraq, on April 11, 2007. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

Pearsall expected to get a CAT scan and return within 24 hours. Instead, doctors told her she had a cervical spine trauma and wearing a Kevlar helmet and body armor every day was no longer an option without treatment and recovery.  

“They wanted to send me to Germany for surgery right away,” she says. “And I was like, ‘No, not doing that.’”

Pearsall never returned to combat. She was sent back to Charleston for long-term nonsurgical treatment. Ultimately, she had to endure a soul-crushing process that required her to go before a medical review board. 

“I remember when I was going through that,” Pearsall recalls, “I had an officer in my unit look me in the eye and say, ‘You weren’t wounded.’ The whole process was awful, and after going through all of that, I thought about suicide. It was not a good place to be.” 

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US Air Force Security Forces at Lackland Air Force Base. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

After she was medically retired, Pearsall found herself making frequent trips to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston. As she carried a head full of bad memories, remorse, and shame to her appointments, she felt alienated and isolated by the constant assumptions by male veterans and staff that she was a dependent rather than a combat veteran. 

“In our society, a lot of people, especially older veterans, still don’t associate women with being military veterans,” Dunaway says. “They look at women as a support function, or as being married to a service member.” 

Pearsall says at the VA hospital, she was frequently asked if she was bringing her father or husband for a doctor’s appointment. On one especially irritating occasion, the Red Cross was passing out cookies and sodas, and when Pearsall reached for some, her hand was slapped away. The cookies were for veterans only, they told her.

“That really made me resentful and bitter,” she says. “I thought everyone was prejudiced against me.”

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Retired Army Maj. Ron DeMello served in the infantry and Special Forces from 1957 to 1978. Photo by Stacy L. Pearsall.

In 2008, Pearsall was waiting to see a neurologist at the hospital when an Army veteran from World War II named Mickey Dorsey sat down next to her and changed her life forever.

“I could see him staring at me, and I was getting really pissed,” she says. “When I turned and asked if there was something I could do for him, I found out he was a volunteer at the VA, and he could see that I was struggling and was just looking to help me.”

Pearsall says as she and Dorsey forged a friendship, he inspired her to find a new purpose — another way to serve. She says she set out to honor and thank other veterans with “the only gift I had worth giving, my photography.” 

She started bringing her camera to appointments and making portraits of some of the veterans she’d meet. After doctors told her she shouldn’t carry anything more than 5 pounds or stand for long periods, she started bringing a backdrop and lights — stubborn and determined as ever. 

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Jewish-American veteran Benjamin D. Cooper served as a combat medic for three years in World War II. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

The Veterans Portrait Project was born. 

That first year Pearsall photographed 100 veterans, and 88 of the portraits were curated for a permanent exhibition in the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center’s Hall of Heroes. 

“Suddenly I found myself enjoying what I was doing, and it gave me a sense of purpose,” she says. “It showed me that I could serve outside of a uniform — that I could serve my fellow veterans by helping to challenge people’s perceptions and educate the general public and even the veteran community about who veterans are.” 

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Retired Marine Lt. Col. James Sfayer, left, served as an infantry and recon officer from 1972 to 1994 and is a Desert Shield/Storm veteran. Retired Maj. Henry “Duke” Boswell, right, is a World War II and Korean War veteran. He successfully completed combat jumps into Sicily, Italy; Normandy; and Holland. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

She set a goal to photograph veterans at other VA facilities and in the nearby area. Soon she was holding exhibitions — some permanent and some pop-up — all over the country. She would curate a number of portraits and invite political leaders, local business owners, and community members to engage in a dialogue with the veterans she photographed. 

Since taking her first portrait in late 2008, Pearsall has traveled coast to coast with the VPP, covering 82 cities in all 50 states. She has documented more than 8,500 veterans in more than 189 engagements. Each veteran receives a complimentary, high-resolution portrait that they can share with friends and family. Their portraits and stories are also included in national printed exhibitions, showcased in video productions, and shared via social media, ensuring their contributions to American military history are never lost.

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Retired Army Col. Sharon A. Singleton, left, served as a nurse from 1985 to 2010 and is a Desert Shield/Storm veteran. Philip George, a Mohawk Native American, served as an Army infantryman from 2009 to 2013 and deployed to Afghanistan twice. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

Pearsall’s portraits are displayed at the National Veterans Memorial Museum in Columbus, Ohio, the Pentagon, the Military Service Memorial for America at Arlington National Cemetery, and myriad locations all over the country. 

‘They’re everywhere,” she says proudly.

Pearsall says the VPP collection represents the more than 22 million military veterans in the United States. 

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Army 1st Sgt. Willie S. Grimes, left, served from 1995 to 2012 and deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq. Service dog Daisy sits with her veteran, former Army Staff Sgt. Robert “Bobby” Henline, also known as the “Well Done Comedian.” Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

“They’re young and old, male and female. They come from all walks of life and have varied religious beliefs, levels of education and racial ethnicity,” she says on the VPP website. “What unites them all is their service. It’s a bond that cannot be broken, and I’m proud to be one of them.”

Pearsall says she remains passionately devoted to teaching photography and supporting photographers of every skill level. From 2009 to 2013, she owned and operated the Charleston Center for Photography, a photography education institution and studio. She is a Nikon Ambassador, an educator, military consultant, public speaker, veteran advocate, and author of two books — Shooter: Combat from Behind the Camera and A Photojournalist’s Field Guide: In the Trenches with Combat Photographer Stacy Pearsall. She also produces her own podcast and will soon produce a TV show for PBS.  

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Marilyn “Mickey” Cogswell, left, enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18 alongside a few high school girlfriends and served one enlistment in the early 1950s. Retired Army 1st Sgt. Eugene D. Smith enlisted in 1966 at the height of the Vietnam War and retired in 1992. Photos by Stacy L. Pearsall for the Veterans Portrait Project.

Dunaway says his wife’s work sustains and fulfills her, but most people don’t see that it takes a lot out of her, too. As Pearsall points out, “The hard part for me is I have constant reminders in my pictures.”

“Every time she does a speech or engagement, it brings her PTSD back,” Dunaway says. “But Charlie helps with that.”

Charlie is Pearsall’s service dog. He helps her deal with everything from seizures to post-traumatic stress, hearing and mobility support, and nightmare interruptions.

“Every day is a conscious decision to be present,” Pearsall says. “The emotional stuff that you carry with you — it’s not something you ever get over. It’s just something you learn to carry and how heavy you allow that burden to be.” 

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Pearsall with service dog Charlie. Photo courtesy of Stacy L. Pearsall.

With that, Pearsall looks at her watch, and as the interview winds down, she worries aloud that her sincerity and vulnerability might come off “bitter and ugly.” She stresses that her military experience was “incredible on so many levels,” and that she would do it all over again if given the choice. 

“I think the military has come a long way,” she says. “The fact that combat arms and special operations roles are now open to women is pretty extraordinary. More women are filling important leadership roles at even the highest levels of the Air Force, and that’s incredible too. So I look at all of that progress, and I am honored to have been part of the growth and to have had the opportunity to experience and to document the history that unfolded while I was in the service.”

And with that, Stacy Pearsall gets back to work. 

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

March is Marine Infantry Month, here’s how to celebrate

Okay, okay. Marines are arrogant; we get it. So, maybe we don’t need to dedicate an entire month to one of the finest fighting forces on the planet. Maybe doing so will simply add fuel to their egotistical fire. But the fact is that Infantry Marines are some of the best, most badass creatures on the planet, and we’re going celebrate them however we damn-well want.

Luckily, for the celebratory folks among us, the Marine Corps’ MOS codes have given us a pretty easy-to-follow structure. So, we’re officially declaring that March be Marine Infantry Month, and we’re marking the following days on our calendars to celebrate each of the many Marine Corps Infantry sub-cultures.


The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

It should be noted that, on this day, if you wish to express your anger, just yell, “but I have a college degree!”

(U.S. Marine Corps)

March 1st — Infantry Officers Day (0301)

While many may not feel like celebrating it, infantry officers are certainly something you can appreciate. Each year, we’ll start this day off with a land navigation course during which you purposely get lost before you find yourself on a beach, sipping on expensive alcohol with lance corporals cooking on grills (not in the barracks, though).

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

See how much fun this one’s having? That could be you.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brendan Custer)

March 11th — Day of the Rifleman (0311)

The most populous of the infantry jobs, on March 11, start your celebration with a long-distance run or a patrol into a densely wooded area nearby. Once you’re there, eat some MREs — but save that poundcake! You’ll need it for the ceremonial field birthday cake: an MRE pound cake with a burning cigarette in the center.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

This is a day of stillness. Don’t you move, boot.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Israel Chincio)

March 17th — Day of the Snipers (0317)

When you wake up on the 17th, paint your face in camouflage, crawl a few miles, and then lay there for the rest of the day. When the sun starts to set, shoot a rifle at something really far away, and then crawl home.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

A fun day at the beach, right?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christian Ayers)

March 21st — Day of Reconnaissance (0321)

On the 21st, take a boat out from the shore before paddling it back in. What you do after you’ve landed is completely up to you, but no matter what, you can’t tell anyone what happened.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

Also, make that dumb crunchy dig your fighting hole then take it over!

(U.S. Marine Corps)

March 31st – Weapons Day (0331, 0341, 0351, 0352…)

Because there are a lot of MOS codes out there that end in numbers bigger than 31, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover at the end of the month. Not exactly optimal — each job really deserves their own day — but hey, we didn’t make the universe.

Here’s how a celebration might go: You sit back and watch as the riflemen do all the work and only help them when they call up the proper radio report. Then maybe you help them. Otherwise, you’ve got an avenue of approach to keep an eye on, right?

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine is manufacturing weights in the U.S.A.

Grant Broggi has been struggling right alongside many other small business owners due to the worldwide pandemic. But there’s probably one big difference: He’s a Marine.

Broggi opened The Strength Co. in 2017 after receiving his Starting Strength Coach Certification in 2016. He opened his second gym location in southern California in January 2019 and was getting ready to open his third location when COVID-19 hit the United States, forcing business closures due to quarantine mandates. “I always thought if it [a pandemic] came, it would be bad. I also knew I had a responsibility to my coaches and the members…I’ve faced harder things than this, but this is a pretty prolonged hard thing,” he explained.


Going through training within the Marine Corps definitely prepared Broggi for the pandemic. “In Marine Officer School the number one thing said is, ‘Make a decision, lieutenant!’ it might be wrong or right, but you have to make a decision,” he said. When the quarantine mandate came down, he didn’t simply close his doors and wait.

Broggi jumped into action.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

“Any hesitation and you lost speed and tempo…I had a bunch of members but only 16 squat racks. I had made squat racks in the Marine Corps, so we started cranking those out and giving them out for free to members.” Broggi’s company also adapted and started offering online strength classes to keep their members engaged. But he wanted to do more and when he couldn’t get the equipment for them, he decided to make it himself.

Broggi’s gym then began manufacturing racks for members.

“I started buying steel and went to a welder. It was always very clear to me that it had to be done. The only way now it seems is to invest more and double down…People asked me why I was manufacturing, I would just say people need to keep lifting. I think it’s important for their survival and is good for them – especially now,” Broggi said. The Strength Co.’s overall mission is to use barbell training to help people get strong for life – mentally and physically.

He credits his team for their strength as well, saying that because everyone truly follows the concept of strength for health and survival – they’ve been able to adapt and keep going in the midst of the pandemic.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

“Now more than ever, people are dealing with adversity daily in their own homes and cities. There’s unrest in American cities that just blows my mind,” he shared. With the country beginning to feel the negative mental health effects of continued quarantine and social distancing measures, Broggi sees the negative impact it’s having every day. He continued, “It can’t be underplayed on how people are feeling. They are not prepared for this… When we get deployed, it’s what we signed up for and what we trained for. People aren’t trained for this. I think people just needed leadership, they are scared. A lot of what we do is to try to bring positivity back,” Broggi said. Keeping people connected and engaged is difficult without the ability to open his gyms as the cases of COVID-19 continue to soar in California, but Broggi remains committed to finding ways to be innovative in helping people continue to train and build strength.

Sometimes Marines themselves need a little strength coaching, too. Even with the Marine Corps having one of the toughest and longest basic training around, he said he was still surprised when he took leadership of his first group of Marines in 2012.

“I got my first unit in the Marine Corps…I remember looking at them the first time thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Of course, Marines are scrappy no matter what – so I started coaching them. We had less people going to med or falling out on hikes and we had a more prepared unit by the end of it. That really resonated with me, that this [building strength] is preparing you for life or an uncertain event,” he shared. When he and his unit deployed to Afghanistan, they didn’t stop training either.

They just got creative.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

“We had weights on a wooden platform, it was very hodge-podge. We hung a big whiteboard and it had every Marine’s name on it. It’s not just about being competitive, it’s the achievement and hard work that matters,” Broggi said. When he returned stateside and went into the reserves, he knew he wanted to continue teaching and helping people develop their own strength.

Fast forward to now, owning two gyms during a global pandemic. Broggi continues to think and power forward like he was trained to as a Marine. Not only is the company making squat racks, benches, deadlift mats and all American leather weightlifting belts, but now they are having ‘Made in USA’ cast iron Olympic weights being manufactured in Wisconsin.

“I think we are all cut from the same cloth in terms of the driving factor. That’s why I stayed in the reserves, it made me feel fulfilled even while launching the gyms,” Broggi said. He explained that most members of the Armed Forces seek that deep feeling of purpose and fulfilment. It’s something he hopes to bring to each of his gym members.

One workout at a time.

To learn about the Starting Strength method and The Strength Co., check out their website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These 10 ways civilians can simulate military life are just wrong

From adopting military customs to incorporating jargon and acronyms into everyday language, there’s a certain sector of the civilian population that just loves to play “military.” They might say sixteen hundred hours to mean 4 p.m., or call flashlights moonbeams, refer to dinner as chow, bedtime as rack time. Or they might consider doing one of these absurdly ridiculous things on this list.

What we’re including here is part of straight Internet Gold of unknown origins. What we do know is that there’s a list floating around the interwebs somewhere that covers over fifty ways civilians can pretend to be in the military … and it’s so bad, it’s good. For brevity’s sake, we’re only including the top ten most absurd ideas. They’re bad. Like, really, really bad.


1. Dig a big hole in your backyard and live in it for 30 days straight. (Because how else is a civilian going to truly understand what it feels like to suffer through an FTX?)

2. Invite 200 of your not-so-closest friends to come over and dig their own holes. Then, let them live in your yard inside their holes. Make sure your family waves to you from the comfort of the living room. After thirty days, fill in the holes and set out for a 25-mile walk and After-Action-Review. (Keep sharp and don’t you dare think about wearing a field uniform on this ruck.)

3. Build a scale model of your yard. Make your children draw sketches of it, including little arrows indicating what they are going to do when they go out to play. Post these sketches on a bulletin board for reference. (It’s ideal to make several copies of these and post them in the most ridiculous places. But make sure that the copies are faded and almost ineligible.)

4. Perform a weekly disassembly and inspection of your lawnmower. (We’re talking a full-on disassembly all the way down to the smallest parts. Make sure there’s someone watching while you do this, too. Otherwise it doesn’t count.)

5. Empty all the garbage bins in your house, and sweep your driveway three times a day, whether they need it or not. (Cleanliness is next to …?)

6. Repaint your entire house once a month. Paint white rings around all the trees in your neighborhood. Paint all curbs yellow. Paint all rocks red. (The color scheme is very important here, so don’t go trying to paint your rocks yellow and rings around the trees red. We’re not sure why it’s important; it just is.)

7. Do not sleep from 1:00 a.m. Monday mornings until 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoons. Tie a branch around your neck and chew on sand to stay awake. (This is mission-critical even though no one can tell you why. Also, we’ll know if you try to get some sleep in the early hours on Tuesday.)

8. Remove the insulation and widen the frames of your front and back doors so that no matter how tight you shut the door, the weather will still get inside. (Make sure you only bring out cold weather gear when the temperature drops below a certain pre-decided point.)

9. Walk around your car for 4 hours, checking the tire pressure every 15 minutes. Write down on a piece of paper everything you want the shop to fix the next time you bring the car in. Give your wife the list to throw away. (If you miss a 150minute check-in, you have to start all over.)

10/When your children are in bed, run into their room with a megaphone and shout at the top of your lungs that your home is under attack, and order them to cover their fighting positions. Don’t let them eat or sleep again for two days. (Once the enemy is gone, make sure you all set out as a family in full gear for an After-Action review.)

We couldn’t make this up even if we tried … but wow. The lengths civilians will go just to feel like they’re in the military. Might we suggest a visit to a local recruiting office instead?

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Sergeant Major of the Army shares his reading list

Recently, I spoke with the Sergeant Major of the Army about COVID-19 and the challenges and opportunities we are facing right now as an Army and a Nation. He highlighted that now is the time to reassess our goals and set new ones.

One of your goals might be to read a book or two during this time. Goals are important and they are even more important now, as we all deal with the necessary restrictions to stop the spread.


We spoke again this week and he shared his reading list with me. He found that reading has helped him grow professionally and as a person. SMA Grinston also shared that reading helps him take a mental break from the day-to-day stressors of life. He even says that if he wasn’t a reader, he wouldn’t be the Sergeant Major of the Army.

You will notice that most of the books on this list aren’t about military battles or written by people in the Army for people in the Army. For the SMA, he likes to read about things outside the military to get new and fresh ideas. We both hope you find something on here that interests you.

The Reading List – in the SMA’s words:

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

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1. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard M. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

This is a controversial book –which is one of the reasons I like it. I read it when I was the FORSCOM Sergeant Major and it’s about choice architecture and how small changes to our environment can make a big difference. For example, the authors discuss an elementary school that placed food in different locations in the cafeteria to “nudge” the kids to make healthier choices…and it worked.

Since reading this book, I look at how I can make small changes to the placement of things in my personal life or in the Army to make it better.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

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2. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek

I read this book as a brigade or division sergeant major, and it reminded me that sometimes in the Army we jump to the end first. When we ask our soldiers to do something, we focus on the how or the what and forget to explain the why.

Our enlisted Soldiers are smart, and when you explain the why to them, it increases their commitment to the mission. Sometimes, there isn’t enough time to explain why we are doing something, especially in the middle of a firefight, but most of the time we can. And as leaders, this is where we need to start.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

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3. The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson and John David Mann

After I was nominated Sergeant Major of the Army, people asked me for the keys to my professional success. I struggled to answer this question until the commander of the Old Guard recommended this book. Slight Edge helped me define for others how to be successful in the Army and how I got to where I’m at today.

The authors of this book look at what happens when you do something that no one else is willing to do and continue to do it over a long period of time. I’ve been in the Army for 32 years and every morning I wake up and do physical fitness. I read books for self-development. Doing those small things over time, year after year, made a difference in the long run. It’s about developing the discipline and commitment over a long period of time to achieve your goals.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

live.staticflickr.com

4. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

I think I was a Platoon Sergeant or Sergeant First Class when I read this book. Malcolm Gladwell discusses how it’s not only innate abilities that make people successful, other factors play a major role too –like timing.

One of the examples he uses in the book is Bill Gates. Growing up, Bill Gates had access to a computer early in his life which afforded him the opportunity to get 10,000 hours of practice with programming. Yes, he was born in the right place at the right time, but he also took advantage of the opportunity to make himself better.

This book has helped me focus on looking at the opportunities within assignments. I remember when I was nominated to be the brigade sergeant major of an infantry brigade. That job gave me the requisite skills and opened doors that led me down a path to where I am today. We all have the opportunity to be an outlier if we have the right mindset.

5. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Since reading Mindset, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reference or think about it. She writes about two mindsets: Growth vs. Fixed. A growth mindset says that even though I’m not good at a certain skill, I can learn and get better over time. With a fixed mindset, we don’t even try because we think we can’t grow beyond our current skill set. This line of thinking becomes more dangerous the higher in rank and position that leaders go in the Army.

6. Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness by Annie McKee

I read this one as a corps sergeant major and this is probably my all-time favorite leadership book. Have you ever worked for someone and knew they weren’t listening to anything you said? As leaders, our level of emotional intelligence has a major impact on the morale of our Soldiers. We have to listen to our people and be mindful and show empathy.

This book made me a better leader, sergeant major, and follower. I started paying more attention to my own mindfulness.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

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7. Winning by Jack Welch

I read this one around the time I was a sergeant first class or first sergeant and it taught me about the importance of managing talent. Welch writes that the top 5% of any organization needs to be identified and properly managed. He also writes that there is a large population of strong performers that will never be the top 5%, but are also important to the organization. He discusses how to identify, manage, and motivate both groups.

8. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This is the hardest book to read on this list. It took me a while to get through but I found it beneficial to understand the psychology of decision-making. I gained a much greater understanding and appreciation for how the mind works.

It’s difficult to read, but it helps us better understand how the mind works. If you like sociology and psychology books, this is a great starting place. The higher I go in position in the Army, the more I realize how important it is to understand human behavior. I have a greater appreciation now for how logic and emotion work together in the decision-making process and I know I’m a better leader and person for it.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

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9. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

I read this one when I was a staff sergeant. I remember my battalion commander making all the officers read it and I wanted to learn something alongside them.

This was another controversial book when it was written. Heinlein uses science fiction to talk about what it means to be a citizen; he addresses the need for corrective training and several other issues that we see playing out today. This book is a fun read and makes for a great discussion between leaders in a unit.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

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10. Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer

I read this one when I was a brigade sergeant major. It’s a thick one so if you decide to tackle it, it might take you awhile. I like Once an Eagle because it covers an entire career of an individual, his commitment to the Army, and the lessons he learns along the way. I found that when I read it, I put myself in the shoes of the main character and reflected on my own career.

Start today

During our interview, Grinston said he hopes you will want to read and take the opportunity now to start the habit of reading for professional development.

“I know life is difficult right now for a lot of people. But we will get through this.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The “Shark Attack” was part of an outdated and costly training doctrine

Earlier this month, Fort Benning’s United States Army Infantry School (USAIS) announced its plan to retire the “shark attack”, an approach unleashed on fresh recruits during their first moments at basic combat training. Headlines and critics would have you believe that the Army’s decision to eliminate this tactic from the basic training experience represents a move to make the training ‘nicer,’ ‘easier’ or ‘softer’ on recruits. But the truth is that the “shark attack” is outdated, ineffective and likely does more harm than good in the long run; Its retirement is long overdue.

The “shark attack” is a purposeful stress-inducing attack on a single recruit that is carried out by several drill sergeants. It is typically marked by intense yelling, the issuing of contradicting commands and verbal denigration and is designed to assess the trainee’s ability to handle stress. According to Command Sergeant Major Robert K. Fortenberry, Command Sergeant Major for USAIS, the “shark attack” was designed to create a “chaotic environment that centered around applying physical exertion under stress.”


The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

Sgts. 1st Class Alec Donahoe and Todd Owen, drill sergeants with the Mississippi National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion, motivate a warrior in the Recruit Sustainment Program during a “shark attack” Oct. 7, 2017, in Senatobia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Tynes)

In a video articulating the new USAIS approach, CSM Fortenberry explains that this weeding-out technique is outmoded due in large part to the fact that we have an all-volunteer force. In other words, volunteer recruits likely already have attributes favorable for military service and don’t need to be thinned by the extreme technique which was used to “establish dominance and authority using intimidation and fear to weed out the weak of heart.”

In truth, Army basic training techniques haven’t evolved much since the 1970s and in some cases since the early 20th century. The majority of the core training techniques are designed to reinforce blind obedience and reactiveness to commands. While making sure soldiers are able to follow orders is critical, modern warfare requires soldiers who are adept at, say, reading the mood of a marketplace in a foreign city versus going “over the top” or charging machine gun emplacements.

The Army Vision for 2028, which was announced in June of this year and is co-authored by Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, then Secretary of the Army, outlines a stark evolution of the U.S. Army’s battle stance. In addition to increasing the Army to 500,000 soldiers, the memo outlines the increased use of “autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and robotics” on a battle stage of “high-intensity conflict, with emphasis on operating in dense urban terrain, electronically degraded environments, and under constant surveillance.”

Getting rid of the “shark attack” is, in fact, just one way the Army is modernizing its approach to preparing a modern fighting force. The retooling of infantry One Station Unit Training, or OSUT, also serves as the introduction of a new program dubbed ‘The First 100 Yards.’ According to CSM Fortenberry, the program builds a “critical foundation” by “professionally introducing the soldiers to the spirit of our great branch” and introducing drill sergeants as “leaders willing to share in the hardship.” The goal of The First 100 Yards is to “develop teamwork, identify informal leadership, establish trust, and build esprit de corps,” explained Fortenberry.

But removing the “shark attack” isn’t just about modernizing training, but removing the vestiges of the hand-me-down era of training that was preoccupied with spitting out bonafide soldiers as quickly as possible. Late last year, USAIS announced its plans to extend OSUT from 14 to 22 weeks. The extension is intended to give recruits more exposure to weapons systems and small-unit and individual skills in a less pressurized, hurried training environment.

But the OSUT extension is also a nod to how the military has had to evolve to accommodate the level of preparedness of incoming would-be soldiers. In a press release around the announcement of the new 22-week OSUT program, Colonel Dave Voorhies, 198th Infantry Brigade commander said the extension is geared toward establishing “firmer training fundamentals: marksmanship, physical training, land navigation, the ability to medicate, combat lifesaver skills, combat water survival, Soldier discipline, and more.” The extended OSUT allows for more time for soldiers to get up to Army standards while adequately preparing them for a faced-paced, technologically advanced battlefield.

Attrition among recruits is a perennial problem for initial training facilities like USAIS. According to recent reports, attrition rates across the Army training centers fall somewhere around 12-15%, a number that comes at a huge price tag. A study of Army retention published in 2020 by the Rand Corporation, suggests that the total sunk cost for a single enlistment — including outlays for training, wages, and other benefits given to recruits — is roughly ,000. This equates to a loss of roughly 0 million dollars annually.

According to a January report from Stars and Stripes, attrition rates of extended OSUT courses have fallen to below 6%, and on average, posted higher fitness scores than those from the 14-week course.

Training centers like USAIS also have to contend with new reports that link post-traumatic stress and anxiety to the heavy-handed methods often used in basic training, especially tactics like the “shark attack.” And while the induction of stress and anxiety into training scenarios has always been seen as a crucial element to preparedness, methods like the “shark attack” may not have that effect, especially on a green volunteer looking to serve their country. In fact, it “betrays the innate trust between teammates,” said CSM Fortenberry. “And worse — betrays the crucial bond of trust with our leaders.”

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Sgt 1st Class. Aleman assigned to Foxtrot 1st Battalion 34th Infantry Regiment participates in the “Shark Attack” or fear stage of the discipline process, as trainees arrive to the First day of Basic Combat Training on 12 June 2017 at Fort Jackson, SC. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Darius Davis/Released).

That breakdown of trust may prove to stick with soldiers long after they have left the training world. According to the American Institute of Stress, basic training environments which teach soldiers ’emotional numbing’ may in fact be unknowingly laying the foundation for PTSD. “Emotional numbing,” it states, “allows for the person to put aside feelings and do whatever it takes to survive or help others survive.” While this is, at face value, a positive trait for a soldier to have on the battlefield, it’s often that it remains as the mode of dealing with any stressors.

“Later such numbing may include a sense of not really being a person, feelings of not fitting in, that no one can understand, feeling or being told that one has no emotions, and not being able to feel emotions in situations calling for intimacy, tenderness, sexuality or grief. Efforts to avoid thoughts or feelings associated with the trauma may include isolating, substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, food, cigarettes), and other compulsive behaviors,” the report states.

Essentially, the “shark attack” may be a cornerstone of a training approach that has been pre-conditioning soldiers to manage their military-related stress through ‘mental numbing.’ This ‘mental numbing’ may then lead soldiers to suppress subsequent feelings of stress that arise from combat scenarios which could exacerbate the effects of COS — Combat Operational Stress — and lead to permanent patterns of PTSD. In short, there is no basic ‘un-training.’

Interestingly, the rate of PTSD among veterans since Vietnam has been fairly consistent. According to information from the Veterans Administration, roughly 15% of Vietnam veterans were diagnosed with PTSD resulting from combat service. That number was slightly lower in the Gulf War at 12%. For OIF and OEF, the amount of service-connected PTSD ranges from 11-20% year to year. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to PTSD. Further, the three aforementioned wars were markedly different in just about every aspect. That said, they all shared a common trait: the basic training doctrine.

Without further study into the relationship of the “shark attack” style training in basic training units and its long term effects on PTSD, it’s impossible to know if the two are connected. What is certain, however, is that the new approach ushered in by USAIS is a positive one, if only because it does away with the outdated training modules of a long-extinct type of warfare and refocuses on the needs of today’s soldiers to fight today’s battles.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s everything you need to know about tattoo removal

Whether you’re considering removing your ink or are simply curious, there’s a lot to know about the tattoo-removal process.

INSIDER spoke to some experts to answer some of the most common questions people have about getting a tattoo taken off.


Where do you go to get a tattoo removed?

For your health, safety, and optimal results, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that you go to a dermatologist for your tattoo removal.

Removals are typically done using lasers that the FDA states should be used by or under the supervision of healthcare professionals. Per the FDA, visiting a dermatologist who specializes in tattoo removal is likely your best bet.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

(Photo by Genesis Castillo)

Although some tattoo shops and spas offer laser tattoo-removal services, only dermatologists have medical training in this area, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). And so, you may run a greater risk of experiencing negative side effects if your tattoo remover does not have appropriate medical training, per the AAD.

How long does it take to fully remove a tattoo?

Removing a tattoo will almost always take more than one visit to the removal specialist — sometimes it could even take dozens of sessions.

To figure out how many visits you’d need to get a tattoo removed, you should first consult a professional so they can review your ink and medical history, said Dr. Amy Derick, board-certified dermatologist and medical director of Derick Dermatology, a Chicago-based practice that specializes in tattoo removal.

“Number of treatments vary based on many factors including: age of tattoo, number of colors, size, etc. For picosecond-wavelength tattoo removal — which is considered a gold standard for tattoo removal — most treatments will require seven to 10 treatments six to eight weeks apart,” she told INSIDER.

“The [total] number of treatments [also] depends on your body’s ability to eliminate ink from the skin. This varies for everyone,” added Dr. Debra Jaliman is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York, whose practice offers tattoo removal as a specialty.

Per Jailman, generally, the more colors in your tattoo, the more treatments you will need. In addition, these sessions must be spaced out (typically a few weeks apart), so the process can take quite some time.

How much does it cost to get a tattoo removed?

Removing a tattoo can be costly depending on how many sessions you’ll end up needing. In general, a single removal session can cost around to 0, but the price may vary depending on your tattoo and your location.

To estimate how many treatments you may require for your specific tattoo and skin type, you may want to reference tools like the Kirby-Desai scale. Just keep in mind that the best and most accurate way to figure out how many sessions you’ll need is to consult a professional.

Does getting a tattoo removed hurt?

How much the removal process hurts oftentimes depends on your individual pain tolerance — just like when you first got the tattoo you’re having removed.

“Getting a tattoo is generally more painful than removing the tattoo. Uncomfortable — and there is a certain level of pain — but it’s bearable. It feels like a small rubber band is snapping on your skin,” Jailman told INSIDER.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

(Photo by Matheus Ferrero)

That said, some areas may be more painful to have ink removed from than others. “On certain bony areas, like the wrists, ribs, and ankles, tattoo removal is more painful than on other areas of the body,” Derick added.

Fortunately, there are some ways the process can be made to be even less uncomfortable, said Jailman. “The area is numbed with a topical numbing cream and a small chilling machine that blows cold air on the skin helps to keep pain at bay,” she added.

Are there any risks that come with getting a tattoo removed?

As with any medical procedure, there are some risks associated with tattoo removal.

“Individuals who have light-sensitive seizures, vitiligo, history of poor healing, or an active rash or injury to the area may not be an ideal candidate for laser,” Derick told INSIDER. She said these individuals may be prone to experiencing more tattoo-removal-related side effects.

She also said that all individuals (especially those with darker skin tones) are at risk of experiencing hypopigmentation after laser tattoo removal. “This is when the patient’s normal skin pigment is removed by the laser process, resulting in white-looking scarring that is permanent. This is also known as a ghosting effect,” Derick explained.

Jailman also pointed out that those who have sensitive skin and who are prone to allergic reactions may experience some issues when they have their ink removed. “You could have an allergic reaction as the laser breaks down the pigments in the tattoo,” she added.

Some may also be at risk of experiencing more prominent scarring. “If you are prone to keloids (a type of raised scar), having a tattoo removed could be a problem. The scars from the area treated may definitely develop into a keloid,” Jailman also told INSIDER.

Can all tattoos be removed?

Most of the time a tattoo can be removed — but with certain inks, it may not be possible to entirely remove your design.

“A true black-ink tattoo is by far the easiest to treat. In some cases, red ink can resolve easily as well,” Dr. Will Kirby, board-certified dermatologist and chief medical officer for aesthetic-dermatology group LaserAway. previously told INSIDER.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans

(Photo by Ivan Verrengia)

But, he said that colors like maroon, aqua, and teal can be resistant to laser removal. He also noted that some shades like yellow, orange, and brown may not be removed by laser treatment at all.

Do you have to do any special sort of aftercare for a tattoo that’s in the process of being removed?

Derick told INSIDER that, just like with your initial tattoo, when you undergo removal you’re creating an open wound that requires careful treatment to ensure you heal properly and avoid getting an infection.

“After a session, the technician bandages the area just like the patient will be expected to do at home for generally about one week or until the area is healed,” said Derick. “The patient changes this bandage every 24 hours after washing the area with a mild soap. Keeping the area bandaged keeps the tattoo out of the sun and allows for effective healing of the treated skin.”

Those removing a tattoo can also expect to experience a bit of bruising, blistering, and scabbing, said Jailman. She said you should avoid picking scabs, cover blistering skin, and use ointment as recommended by your doctor.

If you’re experiencing any reactions that seem abnormal to you (ie: you have a fever or your skin is severely swelling), you’ll want to reach out to a medical professional.

Do tattoo-removal creams work?

Some special creams and ointments claim to help fade a tattoo by bleaching or peeling away layers of your skin to remove the ink, per Today. But there’s a reason these creams sound too good to be true — they are.

At this time, the FDA hasn’t “approved or cleared any do-it-yourself tattoo removal ointments and creams that you can buy online.” Furthermore, the FDA warns that these creams can cause adverse side effects including scarring, rashes, and burning.

Can you really use salt to remove a tattoo?

You may have heard some people talking about using salt and water solutions to scrub away tattoos in a dated method called salabrasion — but this is potentially a very dangerous strategy, according to the AAD.

Scraping off the top layers of your skin and using salt to try to rid yourself of unwanted tattoos can lead to pain, scarring, and a serious infection, per the AAD.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

Most people don’t think about evil. The force of evil is certainly out there, but it’s on a different street, a different city or across the ocean. Evil is something we see as a plot in Hollywood, in movies like Joker. It isn’t something most people give much thought to.

But for veterans, it’s different.


I sat at a table with a veteran friend of mine, sipping coffee in a local cafe. He looked around as we talked about where we’d been and things we’d done. “They’ll never know,” he said. “I mean, how could they?” Our fellow patrons were having conversations a million miles away from ours, talking about things like kids, yoga and groceries, not darkness or things that haunt us. “I suppose it’s better that way,” he added.

Maybe it is, I thought, but maybe not.

The recent depiction of The Joker has become the highest grossing R-rated release in box office history. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is now an Oscar front-runner for his personal dive into villainy. For a society that doesn’t understand or talk about evil, The Joker has clearly found an audience. Phoenix’s rendition of Arthur is not the villainous story you might guess though, instead, it’s a man driven by his quest for love and entertainment; he hardly seems like a villain.

Phoenix said he prepared for this role by identifying with “his struggle to find happiness and to feel connected. To have warmth and love.” It’s an interesting juxtaposition: how does one end up being evil if all they want is love? This is the question and the genius of Joker. The same question haunts many veterans today. What is the difference between the pursuit of love and evildoing? Seems obvious, right? Maybe not, if evil never seems to be the aim. Yet, somehow people end up there – doing things that destroy the world around them. Even Hitler, a real life villain, once said, “I can fight only for something that I love.”

People want to believe that evil is something they can spot, as if it wears an enemy’s uniform and is clearly recognizable as “the bad guy.” The reality is, evil isn’t just lurking in a dark alley, waiting to sneak up on you when you least expect it. For some veterans, evil isn’t only external, although it certainly may have started that way. Evil isn’t something in a far-off land for us. It’s something we’ve carried home and something with which we have to deal. Carl Jung once said, “Knowing your own darkness is the best method of dealing with the darkness of other people.” What most veterans don’t know, but soon find out, is that facing evil out there means facing it inside of ourselves, too.

I have witnessed this realization many times in veterans, sitting next to them as they struggle with how the world could be this way. How could it be? Where is the good? As a chaplain and a social worker, I have seen, even been part of, people losing their hold on a world that they can picture themselves living in. The feelings of helplessness and sadness are overwhelming when facing a world with all its deficiencies.

It can be horrifying to think that we have something in common, even sharing the air, with the Jokers of the world. The genius of Phoenix’s performance is that most of us can see parts of ourselves in his character. This is what makes coming back from war so difficult; there is no shutting your eyes. Facing the realities of evil post-war is harder in a society that also wants nothing to do with it.

Service in the military shocked my own naiveté, forcing me to grasp with my own encounters with evil around me, even in me. War, more than any other environment, is the great tester. It reveals all of the little cracks and strengths. It is the great kiln of life. Perhaps facing these demons is a reason for the stubborn rising suicide rate and extreme isolation we see in veterans post-war. It also explains why veterans so often take roles in protecting people from it — serving in law enforcement and security.

For those who haven’t served, who has not felt the pain of betrayal, neglect or helplessness at an abuse of power? Allowing ourselves to experience the abyss of evil is “fearless”, as one critic said of Phoenix’s performance. Who has not found themselves filled with thoughts of revenge? Perhaps a better question then is: Why aren’t all of us Jokers? Why don’t we all go mad? Maybe we are. Maybe there’s a little villain in all of us.

Not all veterans can face their demons. Not facing the villain, outside and in, leads to a space you can’t share, a place where you join the Jokers of the world. This would explain why some veterans think of suicide as an honorable thing, saving the world from the Joker they have become. Some just drive faster, drink more, turn up the music and close their eyes when these evils start to appear.

There is good reason to avoid looking – we might not be prepared to fight the evil we see. Heath Ledger’s plunge into the character of evil may have led him to places that he could not find his way out from. Encountering true evil and the thin veil that separates us leads most to question our own capacity to overcome it.

Evil hides in omission — our lack of doing as much as our acts of doing. Stopping evil does not mean that we weaken or blind ourselves. Instead, as many veterans do, they choose to see the enemy, even if it’s within, rather than hide. The confrontation is fraught; not just with evil’s existence but in the failure to do good when they can. Veterans who find their way back home learn this. Veterans like Chase Millsap who saw local nationals murdered after working with U.S. soldiers and created a way for them to be safe with nooneleft.org. Veterans like Noel Lipana, who couldn’t make sense of his actions and has found a way to tell his story and shape others through an art performance piece. They could not omit. They decided that the way back is to do good. To exert agency over their helplessness in the face of evil. Is this not the only way? To do good, in the face of evil.

The last decade has brought new thinking on this as well, rethinking post-traumatic stress disorder toward a term called Moral Injury because it tracks better to veterans’ experience of war — that evil, sometimes our own, shocks our worldview. To see evil and the ugliness of humankind can shake you to your core and leave you with lingering questions. An abbreviated definition of Moral Injury refers to the lasting impacts of actions that violate a service member’s core moral values and expectations of self or others. Perhaps another definition is that Moral Injury is the impact of coming face to face with evil, even if it’s our own. Facing evil in the world can leave you with more questions than answers. Fortunately, these questions aren’t new, they just aren’t often talked about. Maybe that’s why evil and veil are just letters rearranged differently; both are thinly seen.

The story of the Joker is the story that veterans know all too well. Today’s society leaves most willfully blind to the struggles and evils in the world, leaving many veterans grasping for answers to questions that their neighbors are not asking. At first glance, it does seem easier to omit them, but closing our eyes to them will not save us. Perhaps the reason the Joker has garnered so much international attention is because it’s telling a story we all know, but don’t like to look at. A story that needs to be told.

We don’t say things we should. We don’t look at injustice if we can avoid it. We avoid confrontation when possible. We choose to close our eyes, rather than see.

The Joker invites all of us, not just veterans, to manage our own shadows by doing the good we know to do. Veterans don’t have the market cornered on this, most just signed up for it and are learning how to live with the evil around us.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is Earth’s best defense against an alien invasion

Aliens have had a constant home in the minds of sci-fi enthusiasts and space nerds. The concept of extraterrestrial contact has been the centerpiece of many great movies, books, and games. Inevitably, if you’re talking about the arrival of an alien life form, the conversation turns itself toward a single question: How would Earth defend against an alien invasion?

Yes, Earth is home to the United States Marines, but we certainly can’t rely on a fighting force using broken, outdated equipment to take on a technologically superior race that has figured out faster-than-light travel. But just because we’re outgunned doesn’t mean we’ll ultimately fail.


That’s where The Infographics Show comes in. Not only have they created a solid defense strategy, they’ve also broken it down into three phases — a whole two phases shy of your brand new lieutenant’s plan to raid a single compound. The best part is, their plan revolves around something we’ve learned from history — if you don’t have the tech to fight even, just fight dirty.

Here’s how they break it down:

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans
Would you believe that these expensive pieces of technology can be destroyed by an object as small as a paint chip?
(NASA)

Phase 1 — Using space debris

Essentially, a piece of space debris as small as a screw could destroy non-shielded spacecraft just coming out of light-speed to enter Earth’s orbit. We could send missiles to destroy our own satellites to create a shield of debris around the planet, which will either destroy a large amount of alien spacecraft or, at the very least, hinder their ability to enter orbit, which would buy us enough time to prepare for the second phase.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans
Give ’em the ol’ razzle dazzle.
(U.S. Army)

Phase 2 — Attack during entry

When a shuttle re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it experiences heat of up to 21,140 degrees Fahrenheit due to friction with the air. The extreme heat and thermal energy disrupts many communications devices and on-board sensors.

If an alien spacecraft experiences those same effects, the moment of entry into our atmosphere would be a great time to use a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, intercepting incoming spacecraft that, without sensors, would be difficult to see coming.

Then, we prepare for phase three.

The Shooter: How One of America’s Top Combat Photographers Lost Her Way and Found It Serving Veterans
This wouldn’t be our first choice if our aim is to survive.
(U.S. Department of Defense)

Phase 3, Option 1 — Nukes

If the invading aliens are anything like us, they’re probably coming to Earth to colonize it. In that case, we could prepare all of our nuclear weapons and hold our own planet hostage.

If these aliens are, in fact, hostile and wish to cleanse the planet of our filthiness, then we threaten to detonate the nukes, which would render the planet uninhabitable and many of our resources unusable.

Take that, alien scum!

www.youtube.com

Phase 3, Option 2 — Guerrilla warfare

If our invaders are coming from a distant planet, light years away, their continued siege might prove very costly. After all, interstellar logistics are probably pretty complex. So, humans could resort to making life on Earth as nightmarish as possible by operating as small, guerrilla outfits.

It’d be something like the Vietnam War. Over time, the cost of war may eclipse any potential rewards, and the aliens will withdraw… hopefully.

Want more details? Check out the video below!

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 reasons military brats are better off without roots

If you have ever found yourself standing in the middle of drop-off at a new school, blinking away tears while a sea of strangers swallows up your children, wishing you could stop putting your kids through this and just let them settle in one place for once…

…do not despair.

While we might not have roots, and while we might not give our children roots, we do have something different.

What is it? Let me explain…


What is our ultimate goal for our kids?

Recently, while reading Senator Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult, I stopped and pondered his suggestion that our society is raising a generation that might not be “fully equipped to confront the stark challenges ahead of them.” Basically, Sasse is worried that we’re raising kids who will not be prepared for adulthood.

My antennae zoomed up as I read on, contemplating my own kids, their peers and our military lifestyle.

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(Photo by Tim Pierce)

Often, as military parents, we worry about what we are not providing our kids: stability, continuity and those thick, long roots. We worry about how the military lifestyle is affecting our kids now, in the present: are they scared? Nervous? Shy? Sad? Lost? Lonely? Anxious?

How is deployment affecting them? Is it interfering with their learning, their happiness, their ability to socialize?

But then I thought of what we are giving them, and deep down I believe it has the power to prepare them for the long-term in a truly awesome way.

As our children navigate the challenges and joys, the transitions and calm of military life, they grow vines that are wide and long. These vines grow across the country and around the world. They wind through friendships and communities. They guide our kids through unfamiliar territory and fortify them in the face of challenge.

They are what distinguish our kids. They are what prepare them for adulthood. And here’s why I think so…

1. Military kids learn about themselves by experiencing diversity.

I once read a meme that said something like, “Civilian kids see difference; Military kids see diversity.” I love that. It’s a beautiful way to think of the gift our children have to grow up in several different parts of the country, and perhaps the world.

Our children’s vines extend in and about unique people and places, helping them learn about the complexities of our nation and our world. Our kids don’t travel to foreign places as consumer tourists, passively observing popular landmarks, literally watching the world go by.

No, our kids actively participate in the life of different communities and cultures.

Whether it’s in a small American town or a vibrant European city, our children learn to adapt to social customs and appreciate the nuances of the locale’s lifestyle. In the process, they develop a sense of their own capabilities, as they overcome language barriers, navigate unfamiliar places, and understand different points of view. Our kids gain self-knowledge and experience self-reliance by living a life that requires them to step outside their comfort zone on a regular basis.

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(Photo by Janice Cullivan)

2. Military kids learn early networking skills.

With every transition, our kids become accustomed to the process of getting to know people in their new surroundings. Whether they’re initiating conversations, joining kids on the playground or accepting an invitation to a new friend’s house, our kids are developing excellent communication skills.

Regardless of their personality – shy or outgoing, studious or athletic – they are getting practice in interacting with people from a variety of backgrounds, which will serve them well as adults. As they experience transitions, our kids learn not only how to socialize with friends, but how to form connections in a new place. They seek out clubs, teams and other activities where like-minded peers will gather.

In a way, this is actually giving them experience in early networking skills, challenging them to confront newness, identify what resources they need and reach out to the people who they believe can help them. Someday, when we are far away and they are on their own, they will use exactly the same skills to forge their own path.

3. Military kids are taught to persevere.

Hardship and struggle are realities of every life, military or not. The key to surviving that struggle is recognizing that eventually you’ll make it to the other side. It’s digging deep within yourself for the tools to help you get through difficult times. It’s perseverance, and it’s something military kids know intimately.

Frequent moves, coping with deployments and saying goodbye to friends demand that our kids cope with unusual challenges for their age. But in the process, they learn that while some situations are hard, they have the mental fortitude to push through.

When our service members are deployed, for example, we teach our kids to remember that it is a temporary hardship. Dad or Mom will be home after a certain number of months. In the meantime, we help our kids channel their anxieties into letters or other healthy outlets. When our kids feel the discomfort of a move, we help them take steps to feel more at home. We sign them up for activities or connect them to peers in our new unit. We help our kids grow their vines, extend them out, grab hold and pull through.

I’ll take vines over roots any day.

While deep roots might offer our kids the security of close family, stability and calm, it’s the vines that enrich their lives, lead them on paths of self-discovery and reveal just how rewarding tenacity can be.

The way I see it, roots are overrated…and they have the potential to make our kids stuck. But vines? To me, our kids’ vines are exactly what Sasse worries that the general population of kids lack. Military kids’ vines are a built-in mechanism to open their minds and hearts, and they can give our kids the mental fortitude and strength of character to face their futures as adults.

And as far as we parents are concerned, isn’t that all we really hope for?

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the most important rules for setting an ambush

If you’re looking to punch the enemy in the gut and demonstrate just how much better you are than them, an ambush is your tactic of choice. In fact, that punch-to-the-gut scenario can be more literal than figurative — if you have some solid intelligence on enemy patrol or supply routes and you want to strike fear in their hearts, surfacing from the shadows to deliver a swift punch from the hand of justice is a good way to do it.

But ambushes are also a delicate strategy. If you screw it up and expose your position before you’re ready, things can take a turn for the worst. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you out. These are some of the most important rules to follow when conducting an ambush — ones that will help you avoid becoming the ambushed.


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It seems like the obvious choice, but it may not be the best one…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Will Lathrop)

Don’t initiate with an open-bolt weapon

This is mostly a rule for Marine Corps infantry, but the idea is that open-bolt weapons are more likely to jam and the last thing you want when initiating an ambush is for the enemy to suddenly hear the bolt clicking on a misfire. It’s better to leave the initiation to someone with a standard rifle, preferably someone who keeps their weapon clean, so you know the first thing the enemy hears is a gunshot.

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Move silently and cautiously.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Justin Updegraff)

Maintain noise discipline

If the enemy hears you rustling in the bushes and you’re not a squirrel, you’re exposing yourself. An ambush is designed to allow you to capitalize on the element of surprise. You lose that when the enemy figures out where you’re hiding.

Keep quiet.

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Seriously, don’t be that guy.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt Marco Mancha)

Have trigger discipline

Typically, your leader will determine who’s to shoot first (a designated Han Solo, if you will) and, if you aren’t that person, your finger better stay off the trigger until you hear that first shot go off. The gunshot is an implicit command for the rest of the unit to open fire and, once they hear that, it’s open season until your leader calls for a ceasefire.

Don’t be that guy.

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Ask your subordinates questions to make sure they know.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl J. Gage Karwick)

Ensure everyone knows their role

Once you’re set into the ambush position, you have to remain silent until it’s time. So, if you’re the leader, make sure everyone knows what their role is and where they’re going to be firing. That way, when the shooting starts, you don’t have to call out many commands.

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Make sure everyone knows what the plan is.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Have a solid egress plan

Ambushes have to be quick, which means you have to spring the trap and leave before anyone really knows what’s happened. You want to hit the enemy hard and fast enough to disorient them, but you want to get out of there before they can muster reinforcements. Otherwise, your short ambush just turned into a lengthy firefight that you’re likely under-equipped for.

MIGHTY CULTURE

All there is to know about the ‘Flat Earth’ conspiracy theory

Contrary to popular belief, a decent percentage of the human population has known definitely the Earth was roughly spherical for over two thousand years. Hardly impressive, as noted in our BrainFood Show podcast, bees also use this fact in their own absurdly fascinating navigation and in communicating directions to other bees.

As for humans, we took a little longer to realize this, with Pythagoras (6th century B.C.) generally credited with being the first known person to have suggested a spherical Earth, though the idea didn’t exactly catch on at this point. Aristotle (4th century B.C.) agreed and supported the hypothesis with observations such as that the southern constellations rise higher in the sky when a person travels south. He also noted that during a lunar eclipse the Earth’s shadow is round. Much more definitively, the 3rd century BC head librarian at the Library of Alexandria, Eratosthenes, built on their ideas and managed to calculate the circumference of the Earth with remarkable accuracy. How? He simply used the knowledge that at noon on the Summer Solstice there was a well in Syene where the sun shown directly down to the bottom, with no shadow. Thus, at noon on Summer Solstice he used a rod to measure the angle of the shadow made in Alexandria and found it to be about 7 degrees or about 1/50th of a circle. With this information, he now just needed to know the exact distance between Syene and Alexandria to get the circumference of the Earth (about 50 times the distance between Syene and Alexandria). He hired a survey crew, known as bematists, to measure the distance, which they found to be about 5,000 stadia. He then concluded the Earth must be about 250,000 stadia around. Depending on which stadion measurement he was using, his figure was either just 1% too small or 16% too large. Many scholars think it likely that he was using the Egyptian stadion (157.5 m), being in Egypt at the time, which would make his estimate roughly 1% too small.


Moving on to the so called Dark Ages in which Christianity supposedly squashed such outlandish ideas as a spherical Earth, the truth is actually the opposite. In Christian medieval Europe, 7th century Catholic monk and scholar Bede produced an influential treatise that included a discussion of the spherical nature of the world. This work, The Reckoning of Time, was copied and distributed to clerics across the Carolingian empire. Later, in the 1300s, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy also describes the Earth as a sphere and again nobody seemed to have a problem with this.

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Dante shown holding a copy of the Divine Comedy, next to the entrance to Hell, the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory and the city of Florence, with the spheres of Heaven above, in Michelino’s fresco.

The Catholics and later other branches of Christianity weren’t the only religious sects that seemed to have its clergy and scholars almost universally think the world was spherical. The Islamic world also concurred. As historian Jeffrey Burton Russell sums up,

With extraordinary few exceptions, no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the Earth was flat.

Beyond the academics of the Western world, even the most empty headed sailor knew the Earth was spherical simply by the fact that ships disappear over the horizon with the bottom first and then the mast the last to be sighted. A similar effect is observed when spotting land from a ship. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize the sea’s surface must curve continually.

Despite this, there really still is a tiny percentage of the populace of the developed world who believe the world is flat.

You might at this point be wondering just how many? While internet comment threads make it seem as if the percentage is large, the reality is probably drastically less. (Comment trolls gonna troll.)

As for some numbers, according to a 2018 poll run by the massive market research firm YouGov, the 8,215 responses which were chosen to have a high probability of accurately representing the wider adult populace, showed,

  • 84% of respondents said they have always believed the world is round
  • 5% stated “I always thought the world is round, but more recently I am skeptical/have doubts”,
  • 2% stated “I always thought the world is flat, but more recently I am skeptical/have doubts”
  • and 2% went with “I have always believed the world is flat”.
  • The remaining 7% stated “Other/not sure”.

While the good people at YouGov certainly know their stuff with respect to getting accurate data that represents the wider populace, we were curious as to what a larger sample of our own audience would reveal, though with the caveat that a general internet poll can sometimes be notoriously inaccurate. But for the curious and for whatever it’s worth, our poll asking more or less the same questions received over 72,000 votes. What were the results? Approximately

  • 96% of respondents stated they “firmly believe the world is round”,
  • 1% went with “I used to firmly believe the world is round, but now have doubts”
  • 1% voted for “I firmly believe the world is flat”
  • 0% stated “I used to firmly believe the world is flat, but now have doubts”
  • 1% noted “I am not sure what I believe on this issue.”

These numbers seem surprisingly reasonable for an online poll when compared to something a little more rigorously implemented like the YouGov poll. While our numbers skew more towards Round Earthers, this is perhaps to be expected given we know definitively that our audience skews towards being much more educated than the general populace.

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Giphy

And just because we were curious about the many, many online trolls who, as stated, it’s our pet hypothesis are actually making it seem like there are a lot more Flat Earthers than there actually are, we did a follow up poll which got 54,000 votes. For whatever it’s worth, in this one, approximately

  • 9% of respondents stated “I believe the world is round, but sometimes say online it’s flat”
  • 2% stated “I believe the world is flat and advocate this position online”
  • The remaining 89% stated “Neither applies to me.”

(And, yes, we know those numbers don’t add up to exactly 100% in either case, but YouTube’s polling system rounds to the whole number, so here we are.)

Those numbers out of the way, this finally brings us to who started the relatively modern Flat Earth movement and how on God’s oblate spheroid Earth this movement is actually growing in an era where nearly all human knowledge is almost literally at everyone’s fingertips?

The genesis of the modern Flat Earth Society started in the mid-19th century thanks to one Samuel Rowbotham of London, England. Dropping out of school at the tender age of 9, Rowbotham would eventually become convinced, or at least claimed he was, that not only was the Earth flat, but that everything we see in the heavens is actually only a few thousand miles from the Earth- stars and all. While his ideas were absurd for an incredible number of reasons, even given the technology and scientific knowledge of his era, what Rowbatham had going for him was he was reportedly incredibly quick on his feet in debates and an extremely charismatic speaker, able to twist the words of even the best academics. It didn’t matter if he was actually right or not, only that he was better at convincing laypeople than the academics he regularly debated, or at least good at creating reasonable doubt. As noted by a contemporary article published in the Leeds Times,

One thing he did demonstrate was that scientific dabblers unused to platform advocacy are unable to cope with a man, a charlatan if you will (but clever and thoroughly up in his theory), thoroughly alive to the weakness of his opponents.

Besides making a small fortune public speaking, he also wrote various works including a book aptly titled Earth Not a Globe. Rowbotham ultimately created the Zetetic Society, which, besides advocating for a flat Earth, also advocated that only facts one could prove themselves could be accepted as true. On the side, Rowbotham also began going by “Dr. Samuel Birley” and making money selling people on cure-alls and life extenders of his own invention, among other such activities.

While by the early 20th century the society he started had gradually faded into even more obscurity than it already was at its peak during Rowbotham’s lifetime, all was not lost. The truth cannot be killed so easily! In 1956 when mankind was on the verge of putting a satellite in orbit, Samuel Shenton of Dover, UK, came across the former works of the Universal Zetetic Society, the successor to Rowbotham’s, and was hooked. He then established the International Flat Earth Research Society (IFERS) which adopted some of the ideas of the Zetetic Society before it, most notably, as you might have guessed from their new name, that the Earth is flat.

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A “flat-Earth” map drawn by Orlando Ferguson in 1893.

Of course, his timing wasn’t exactly ideal given the launch of Sputnik in 1957 which, beyond being in orbit, put out a signal that anyone with a little know-how could track, very clearly demonstrating the spherical nature of the Earth.

This didn’t phase him in the slightest, however. He simply noted that satellites circled over the disc of the world and that, “Would sailing round the Isle of Wight prove that it were spherical? It is just the same for those satellites.”

When pictures of the Earth were taken from space clearly showing the planet’s spherical nature, the man who strongly advocated trusting what you can see with your own eyes stated, “It’s easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye.”

When astronauts came back still believing the Earth wasn’t flat, he went with the catch-all explanation for any conspiracy theory when no other suitable explanation can be thought up- “It’s a deception of the public and it isn’t right.”

Despite the giant, roughly spherical mound of evidence staring the members right in the face, including the variety easily confirmed by anyone with a modicum of knowledge in physics, the society did not die completely, though by 1972 had dropped from a peak of about 3,000 members down to around 100 spanning the globe.

That same year Shenton died and Californian Charles Johnson more or less took over the remnants, creating the International Flat Earth Research Society of America. Johnson also advocated that there was a global conspiracy with regards to the very flat Earth, not just today, but spanning millennia. To quote him, this was a conspiracy that “Moses, Columbus, and FDR all fought” against. Beyond that Columbus most definitely thought that the Earth was roughly spherical, simply misjudging its circumference, we’re guessing Moses didn’t have to fight anyone on this one as the Ancient Egyptians firmly believed in the concept of a flat Earth, as did seemingly the Hebrews around the time he supposedly lived.

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A close-up view of the Babylonian map of the World. This partially broken clay tablet contains both cuneiform inscriptions and a unique map of the Mesopotamian world. Probably from Sippar, Mesopotamia, Iraq. 700-500 BCE.

So what exactly do the world’s governments and countless scientists and high school physics students throughout human history have to gain by convincing people the world is spherical instead of flat? Well, Johnson advocated that this is a tool used by scientists to get rid of religion. Of course, as noted, Christian scholars throughout history on the whole advocated for the very spherical Earth and we’re not aware of any major religious denomination the world over today that goes with the flat Earth model, so no apparent conflict… But, hey, we guess Eratosthenes must have really had it in for those Ancient Egyptian and Greek gods…

In any event, despite Johnson’s less than compelling arguments, over time this new society actually gained followers up to a peak of about 3,500 members under his leadership. Disaster struck, however, when a fire at headquarters destroyed some of the records of membership in 1997. Ultimately Johnson himself passed away in 2001 and the society was temporarily just as dead.

All was not lost, however, as there is no medium greater than the Internet at giving humans ability to discover the truth in anything for themselves… if we weren’t all so lazy and our monkey brains not so chock full of cognitive biases.

And so it was that in 2004, one Daniel Shenton created a discussion forum home for the mostly dead Flat Earth Society and by 2009 a new wiki website was created in its place, with the society slowly growing from there to apparently around 500 members to date. There are also many Flat Earth pages and channels on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube sometimes exceeding 100K members or subscribers of a given page, channel, or profile, for whatever that’s worth.

In the latest incarnation of the society, as with their forebears, the modern group strongly advocates for only accepting that which you can see with your own eyes and prove with your own efforts. As they note on their website,

The simplest is by relying on ones own senses to discern the true nature of the world around us. The world looks flat, the bottoms of clouds are flat, the movement of the Sun; these are all examples of your senses telling you that we do not live on a spherical heliocentric world. This is using what’s called an empirical approach, or an approach that relies on information from your senses. Alternatively, when using Descartes’ method of Cartesian doubt to skeptically view the world around us, one quickly finds that the notion of a spherical world is the theory which has the burden of proof and not flat earth theory.

As for the model of the Earth they go with, while there is some dissension among the ranks over exact details, the current belief advocated by the Flat Earth Society is that the the Earth is disc shaped. The North Pole lies at the center of this disc and there is an ice wall surrounding the outer most parts of the Earth that keeps the oceans contained. This wall is nearly impossible to reach owing to the fact that NASA is closely guarding it, ensuring no one ever gets close enough to see it for themselves. NASA also is extremely active in generating satellite photos of the Earth and generating other data all meant to keep people believing in a spherical Earth. Seemingly the Google Earth team must be in on it too, clearly abandoning the company’s long held unofficial mantra of “Don’t be evil.”

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Giphy

As evidence of this conspiracy and how far reaching it is, they also point out on their website that the United Nations emblem strongly resembles the Flat Earth Society’s view of what the Earth actually looks like.

(We guess clearly showing the logo design team, led by industrial designer Oliver Lincoln Lundquist, in 1945, didn’t get the memo that the true shape of the Earth was supposed to be a secret. You had one job Lundquist!!!

To be fair, however, when his team designed it, it was originally just supposed to be used on the badges at the United Nations Charter signing conference, so only for people who already knew the Earth was flat… Fun fact, Lundquist did, however, make up for the screw up by later designing the classic blue and white Q-tip box.)

In any event, you might at this point be wondering how the Flat Earth Society believes commercial airlines and ships the world over continue to seemingly travel in one direction and manage to circle the globe. Well, this is because these ships and planes are literally circling. They state, “circumnavigation is performed by moving in a great circle around the North Pole.”

As for how the ship and plane captains don’t seem to be aware of this, in modern times it’s because GPS devices and autopilots are designed in software to simply make it seem like the craft is circling a globe and not continually turning slightly. Of course, it’s not clear how they account for people tricking themselves when navigating before or without GPS, which has only been ubiquitous for a couple decades or so.

There’s also the fact that fuel burn on these ships and airplanes are carefully calculated, particularly important for planes where weight and balance is always an essential consideration if one doesn’t want to die a fiery death. Thus, if they were really traveling in the way the Flat Earthers claim, the fuel requirements would be different, sometimes vastly so. (No surprise here that Big Oil must be involved…)

As for, you know, the whole day and night thing, this is explained on their website “The sun moves in circles around the North Pole. When it is over your head, it’s day. When it’s not, it’s night. The light of the sun is confined to a limited area and its light acts like a spotlight upon the earth… The apparent effect of the sun rising and setting is…a perspective effect.”

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The Sun, as seen from low Earth orbit overlooking the International Space Station.

How exactly the light from the Sun only works as a spotlight isn’t clear. It’s also not clear how the phases of the Moon and lunar and solar eclipses work given this spotlight model and given they believe the Sun is always above the Earth…

Moving on — as for the many people who claim to be able to see the curvature of the Earth when on high altitude commercial flights, well, the Flat Earth Society, who advocated trusting your own senses over what anyone tells you. tells these people, to quote, “Quite simply you cannot… the windows on commercial aircraft are small and heavily curved. Even if they flew high enough for a person to see curvature, it would still not be visible to passengers.”

As for the issue of someone with even a half way decent telescope being able to see the spherical nature of other planets in the solar system, including them spinning away, the Flat Earth Society claims,

Planets are orbiting astronomical objects. The Earth is not a planet by definition, as it sits at the center of our solar system above which the planets and the Sun revolve. The earths uniqueness, fundamental differences and centrality makes any comparison to other nearby celestial bodies insufficient – Like comparing basketballs to the court on which they bounce.

As for how gravity works in the flat Earth model, it turns out that, “The earth is constantly accelerating up at a rate of 32 feet per second squared (or 9.8 meters per second squared). This constant acceleration causes what you think of as gravity. Imagine sitting in a car that never stops speeding up. You will be forever pushed into your seat. The earth works much the same way. It is constantly accelerating upwards being pushed by a universal accelerator (UA) known as dark energy or aetheric wind.”

You may have spotted a problem with this explanation given the whole issue of eventually exceeding the speed of light. In fact, if constant acceleration at 9.8 meters per second squared, it would only take about a year for the Earth to reach the speed of light.

Well, they’ve got you covered, explaining: “Due to special relativity, this is not the case. At this point, many readers will question the validity of any answer which uses advanced, intimidating-sounding physics terms to explain a position. However, it is true. The relevant equation is v/c = tanh (at/c). One will find that in this equation, tanh(at/c) can never exceed or equal 1. This means that velocity can never reach the speed of light, regardless of how long one accelerates for and the rate of the acceleration.”

Anyway, as to what lies below the Earth, this is heavily disputed among Flat Earthers. But it doesn’t really matter as you can’t get there anyway. You see, to quote Flat Earther Robbie Davidson in an interview with Forbes, “We don’t believe anything can fall off the edge, because a big portion of the flat earth community believes that we’re in a dome, like a snow globe. So the sun, moon and stars are all inside. It’s very high but all contained inside. So there’s no way to actually fall off of the earth.”

Given it only takes a modicum of effort to disprove pretty much everything said on their website and prove definitively for one’s self that the Earth is roughly spherical without needing to trust any scientist or government, you might think the Flat Earthers just aren’t trying. Well, you’re kind of right, but there are exceptions! Case in point — limo driver Mike Hughes who managed to raise about ,000 thanks to a Flat Earth fundraiser. Why? To build a rocket to reach the heavens with to once and for all prove the Earth was flat.

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Giphy

Reportedly the final hilariously fitting steam powered rocket and launch platform cost around ,000 and took about ten years to build. With it, Hughes managed to achieve an altitude of almost 1,900 feet, which while kind of impressive for an amateur built home made rocket that could carry a human, was nonetheless not able to achieve his objective of getting him to space.

If only it was possible to build more powerful rockets… Or if there existed a balloon designed to be able to soar into the heavens with some sort of device on board that could capture and store what it sees through an eye like apparatus… Or, stick with us here people, if a human going along for the ride was a requirement to show NASA hadn’t tampered with this futuristic visual capture device, some sort of bird-like machine that could carry humans above 1,900 feet…

On that note, for a mere ,000-,000 Hughes could have purchase a charter flight ticket to not only take him higher than altitudes of 1,900 feet, but also take him to Antarctica to see the massive ice wall for himself. Or if the Flat Earth society wanted to pool together their resources, for prices from ,000-,000 they could charter a flight to the South Pole itself. Though, a thing they don’t tell you on the vacation package brochure is that while you can go visit the South Pole, NASA subjects everyone that does to severe mental retraining to ensure all memories of the ice wall have been erased and replaced with pleasant, but very wall free, recollections.

All joking and head scratching aside, it’s always important to note that many of the core psychological quirks that see Flat Earthers intractably convinced the Earth is flat in the face of all evidence to the contrary exist in all of us. Monkey brain gonna monkey. We further all have many beliefs we firmly cling to just as tenuously supported by our level of knowledge on a subject, though thankfully for most of us the absurdity isn’t quite so easy to spot, allowing us to safely continue to think of ourselves as superior to mere mortals with alternate ideas…

In the end, we all firmly believe many things that aren’t true at all and no amount of evidence could ever convince any of us to change our minds on some of these things. Food for thought.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

The right way to tell your partner you want a divorce

The messiness of divorce has been well documented. The attorneys, the custody battles, dividing everything up. But how does one initiate the process? When you are sure you want to go through with one, how do you tell your spouse you want a divorce? In movies, it’s often blurted out in the midst of a heated argument, with one partner or the other dramatically shouting, “I want a divorce!” But in life, things tend to go a bit differently. And, if you want the ensuing legal battle to be civil, it’s in one’s best interest to take pause and really determine how to tell the person they vowed to spend the rest of their life with that it’s over. So how does one deliver this particularly life-altering bit of news? There’s no one way to do it. But there are some guidelines to keep in mind. Here’s what you need to know.


1. Timing is everything

To say that telling your partner you want a divorce is delicate is an understatement. It is an enormous decision, one that, when broached, will alter both of your lives forever. As such, you want to make sure that you choose to have the conversation at a time when your partner is emotionally capable of receiving the news. In other words, don’t tell your partner you want a divorce when when they’re stressed or emotional. “You know your partner better than anyone, so don’t make the disastrous mistake of bringing up divorce in the middle of an important life event,” advises relationship coach Alice Wood. “Be patient and remember that the announcement can wait until a moment when its impact will be the least damaging.” Is this obvious? Yes. But it’s essential.

2. Find the right location

Ideally, you want to break this news in a private, quiet space. Don’t have the conversation in a crowded restaurant or even at home when the kids are in the next room. Benjamin Valencia II, a partner and certified family law specialist at Meyer, Olson, Lowy and Meyers suggests that, if the couple is in therapy, the therapist’s office might be a good location. “In this way, both parties can feel safe and free to ask questions and/or gain an understanding of what the other party is thinking without erupting into an argument,” he says. “Further, the therapist can help create healthy boundaries moving forward which can prove invaluable when the going gets tough.”

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(Photo by Guian Bolisay)

3. Avoid details

When the time is right to bring up the topic of divorce, Kelly A. Frawley and Emily S. Pollock, partners at the law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres and specialists in matrimonial and family law, suggest not getting into details or specifics of how the divorce will work, custody arrangements or anything other specifics, as they will only overwhelm your partner further. “If he or she is just hearing about the possibility of divorce for the first time,” they say, “don’t go in details about how you are going to divide the brokerage account, who should have the kids for Christmas this year, or how you are already looking for a new apartment.” The key is to give the person time to digest the concept, show emotion, and ask questions.

4. Choose your words

Telling your partner you want a divorce is difficult. There’s no need to make it worse by blaming your spouse for their shortcomings or using phrases like, “You should have,” “You don’t,” or “You didn’t.” You also need to be honest about what you’re feeling and why you believe this decision is the right one. So, when talking about divorce, you have to be specific in your language — this isn’t the time to be vague. “If your words are ambiguous, you may leave your spouse/partner with a glimmer of hope that the marriage can be saved, when that is not your intention,” says Craig S. Pedersen, a partner at Meyer, Olson, Lowy and Meyers. “That can only create further problems down the line.”

5. Acknowledge your mutual unhappiness

Even if a divorce is more one-sided, chances are that neither party in the marriage is particularly thrilled about the way things have been going. With this in mind, it’s wise to open the conversation by laying the cards on the tabled. “I usually will suggest that they start the conversation with a statement such as ‘As you know, I have not been happy in the marriage for a long time. I also think you have not been happy either,” says New York divorce lawyer Jacqueline Newman, author of the Soon to be Ex series of books. “If the other person can acknowledge that he or she is also unhappy, it makes it an easier conversation to have as it is not so one-sided.”

6. Consider a team approach

Rather than focusing on the fact that you and your partner are separating, it’s essential to shift the perspective a bit and talk about how you both will work together to make this while process as easy as possible. “Divorce does not have to be a battle,” reminds Valencia. “Especially if you have children, your common goal should be what is in their best interests. Approaching a divorce by listing the common goals will help both parties realize they are in this together and cooperating behooves both of them.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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