The best Cyber Monday discounts every veteran needs - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The best Cyber Monday discounts every veteran needs

Cyber Monday might not be as fun this year, since we’ve all been shopping online all year, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some seriously steep discounts available on everything from new gear to new tech. Tackle your holiday shopping list or just treat yourself to something new with this list of discounts every veteran needs. 

Clothing and Apparel

Cozy up with new jeans, sweaters or socks to keep you warm through the long winter. Or, treat yourself to a new gym outfit so you don’t feel too guilty about that second slice of pie. Round out your shopping spree with a new pair of sneakers or dream big and buy a pair of heels for when the world reopens. 

7 for All Mankind: up to 40% off sitewide 

Amazon: Up to 30% off women’s seasonal trends, sunglasses and Sperry boots 

Gymshark: Take up to 50% off select collections

Happy Socks: 60% off select styles 

Zappos: up to 50% off sneakers, backpacks, and winter apparel

Fitness and Wellness

New Year, New You deserves new gear! Grab a subscription to Audible and get the latest books delivered right to your device. Crush your at home workout goals with a set of weighted bangles. Step up your steps with a new Fitbit. Then, when you’re ready to relax, snuggle in with a weighted blanket while your new air purifier makes the air crisp and clean. 

Audible Plus: 38% off first 6 months

Bala Weighted Bangle Set, $8 off

Fitbit sale: up to $50 off 

Dyson Pure Hot + Cold Air Purifier, up to 30% off at Bed Bath and Beyond 

Gravity Weighted Blanket, $30 off select styles 

Theragun Mini Therapy Massager, 10% off 

Tech 

Cyber Monday is all about the tech deals, and with good reason. This year, retailers are offering everything from steep discounts on gaming consoles to laptops. Work from Home just got a whole lot better with a brand new device. Speaking of devices, Verizon is offering crazy good deals on Monday on all of their phones and tables. Check out their website for full details. 

Alexa devices: all Alexa devices now from $9 at Amazon

Chromebooks: deals from $129

Dell: laptop deals from $349

Galaxy S20/Note 20 sale: up to $250 off 

HP sale: up to 65% off all laptops 

Lenovo: ThinkPad sale from $799

Microsoft: up to $900 off Surface, Xbox, more

Mixbook: 50% off all photo books via “REVHLDY20”

Newegg: up to 50% off gaming, mobos, storage, more

Samsung QLED TVs: up to $3,000 off all models

Walmart: big-screen TVs, laptops, more from $278

Just because you’ve been shopping from your couch since March doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Cyber Monday in style.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Surfing superstar Hangs 10 and donates $20k to veterans

Kelly Slater is known around the world as arguably the greatest surfer of all time. An 11-time world champion, Slater is iconic in the surfing community.


Watching videos on YouTube, it’s easy to see why he has been so dominant on the board and has had such a huge influence and impact on the sport.

Outside the surfing community, there’s another group of people Slater continues to help: veterans.

Slater built a pretty rad surfing ranch out in the California countryside that attracts surf aficionados and celebrities alike.

The ranch is also a spot used by nonprofits to provide outlets for wounded warriors to surf as a part of therapy.

In addition to surfing, Slater is also known for many other things from being a businessman, model, actor, environmentalist, philanthropist and overall cool dude.

When it comes to philanthropy, Slater is known for giving to myriad causes. He has donated and raised awareness for protecting the ocean and worked on suicide prevention.

But this weekend, his focus was on an oft forgotten population – wounded warriors.

In addition to being the greatest surfer of all time, Slater is also an avid golfer. Every year he can, he participates in the ATT Pebble Beach Pro-Am which was held this past weekend.

The Pro-Am is a celebrity-studded event which features the best golfers in the world playing alongside athletes from other sports and entertainment celebrities.

Crowds love the atmosphere which is more relaxed than usual golf events.

One of the events held was the Chevron Shootout. The shootout is where past champions of the tournament are paired with champions from the world of sports to compete in a team putting competition at the Pebble Beach Putting Green with winnings going to the player’s charity of choice.

Other athletes included Steve Young, Matt Ryan, Larry Fitzgerald, Jimmy Walker and Brandt Snedeker. Slater was paired with D.A. Point and won the Shootout, donating his winnings to his charity of choice: Wounded Warrior Project.

Of the ,000 prize his team won, he gets to donate half to that cause.

Slater later posted on Facebook posting pics of the event.

As you can see in the comments, veterans loved the love Slater gave to the veteran community. Mahola, Mr. Slater.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the pilots who fly SEALs and Delta Force to their most dangerous operations

The Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Airborne, (SOAR-A), has earned the nickname “The Night Stalkers.”

Operating under the cover of night or the shadows of dawn, these elite pilots are responsible for getting special operators into and out of some of their most secret and dangerous operations.

Night Stalker pilots go through rigorous training to become mission-ready to fly in the most challenging conditions, including bad weather and enemy fire, all while relying on infrared and night-vision equipment to navigate through the darkness.

While many of the 160th SOAR’s operations are secret, it’s widely understood that they were involved in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Read on to learn more about the elite aviators that “would rather die than quit.”


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A US Army MH-60M Blackhawk from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), June 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

The Night Stalkers fly a few different helicopters, including the MH-60 Black Hawk.

The 160th has over 3,200 personnel and 192 aircraft.

The Night Stalkers operate different versions of the Black Hawk, outfitted for dangerous and covert operations. In fact, all the aircraft the 160th uses are “highly modified and designed to meet the unit’s unique mission requirements,” according to the Army.

All the MH-60s the Night Stalkers use have in-air refueling capability, extending the aircraft’s ability to operate over long distances.

The Night Stalkers’s MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator (DAP) is a Black Hawk specially outfitted with an M230 30 mm automatic cannon. When the aircraft is modified to the DAP, it can move only small numbers of troops, according to US Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

All of the Black Hawks the 160th flies have a cruising speed of 140 mph and a top speed of 200 mph, The Washington Post reported in 2014, when the aircraft were used in a failed attempt to rescue American civilians in Syria.

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A Navy aviation boatswain’s mate guides an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during deck landing qualifications aboard amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu, April 28, 2014.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight)

The Night Stalkers also fly the MH-47 Chinook.

The 160th operates two variants of the MH-47 Chinook, a special-operations variant of the Army’s CH-47 Chinook.

The MH-47E is a heavy assault helicopter with aerial refueling capability, as well as advanced integrated avionics, an external rescue hoist, and two L714 turbine engines with Full Authority Digital Electronic Control that enables the MH-47E to operate in high-altitude or very hot environments, according to SOCOM.

The Night Stalkers fly the MH-47G Chinook as well, which has a multi-mode radar to help pilots navigate challenging conditions, as well as two M-134 “minigun” machine guns and one M-60D machine gun for defensive fire.

The MH-47 is used for a variety of operations, including infiltration and exfiltration of troops, assault operations, resupply, parachuting, and combat search and rescue.

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Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dave Currier, left, an MH-60M Black Hawk pilot, and Spc. Joseph Turnage, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief, with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) in Yuma, Arizona, Sept. 23, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brennon A. Taylor)

The 160th was born out of tragedy.

The Night Stalkers were formed after the botched attempt to rescue hostages from the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, known as Operation Eagle Claw.

During that operation, eight US service members were killed, and the need for a specialized group of aviators became apparent.

The 160th was formed in 1981, composed of soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and was officially designated the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group (Airborne) in 1986.

What we know as the modern 160th was officially activated in 1990.

The Night Stalkers have been active in every military operation since Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983. The unit lost pilot Michael Durant during the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993.

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Two MH-47G Chinooks from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment prepare for aerial refueling over California, Jan. 19, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Snider)

The tempo of operations increased significantly after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

“At the height of Iraq, those guys were doing two to three missions a night,” a 10-year veteran of the unit with multiple tours to Afghanistan and Iraq told Insider.

“Once the mission has been accomplished, the only reward is another mission,” he said.

Once Night Stalkers are finished with a mission, “they’re not going to Disney World. They’re going back to wherever they came from. They’re going to train again.”

Night Stalker training simulates the challenging environments they’re going into, as well.

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US soldiers, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), practice loading and unloading on a 160th SOAR MH-47 Chinook during sniper training at Ft. Carson, Colorado, June 22, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

Women in the 160th see combat too.

“It’s just not all guys. At least the 160th has female pilots. They’re rowing the boat. They’re in the battle,” the Night Stalker veteran told Insider.

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A 10th Special Forces Group soldier and his military working dog jump off a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th SOAR during water training over the Gulf of Mexico, March 1, 2011.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

The 160th’s motto — “Night Stalker’s Don’t Quit!” is attributed to Capt. Keith Lucas, the first Night Stalker killed in action.

“The purpose of that organization is to serve the most elite special forces in the United States,” a veteran of the unit told Insider.

“That unit’s gonna be on time, and it’s gonna fly like hell to serve the ground forces,” he said.

The Night Stalkers have a reputation of being on time within 30 seconds of every operation and say they’d rather die than quit.

The Night Stalkers’ motto — often shortened to “NSDQ!” — is vitally important to the team.

“It binds people that have been serving in that organization till now,” the veteran said. Lucas was killed in 1983, during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada.

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The MH-6 Little Bird is a helicopter unique to special operations that was developed in close collaboration with special operators and combat developers.

MH-6 and AH-6 Little Birds are also part of the 160th’s fleet.

These aircraft are small and maneuverable — perfect for use in urban combat zones where pilots must fly low to the ground among buildings and city streets.

The MH-6M and AH-6M are both variants of the McDonnell Douglas 530 commercial helicopter.

The MH-6M is the utility version that can also be used for reconnaissance missions. The AH-6M is the attack version and is equipped with Foward Looking Infrared, or FLIR, which shows crewmembers an infrared video of the terrain and airspace.

Here’s an AH-6M training for a combat mission

Go160thSOAR USASOAC Night Stalkers AH-6

www.youtube.com

And an MH-6M extracting a soldier from the water.

Go160thSOAR USASOAC Night Stalkers MH-6 Series

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Vets answer dumb military questions – part two

The military is a pretty unusual lifestyle choice, so it’s natural for civilians to have questions about it.

Some of those questions can just be ridiculous, though.

So we decided to have a little bit of fun with it. We forced asked our intern, Jak, to compile some of the best ones and then we guilted invited our veteran buddies to provide some answers.

The results are fantastic:


Could the US Military take on a full regiment of Storm Troopers? | Dumb Military Questions 102

www.youtube.com

Watch the video:

The video starts off strong: “What’s a Navy SEAL’s greatest weakness?”

Now, I had the honor of interviewing U.S. Navy SEAL Remi Adeleke when he released his memoir Transformed. This is a hero with an incredibly moving back story that began with upheaval in Africa, then migrated to the streets of New York followed by honorable military service, and finally found him helping underprivileged children here in the States.

He is polished, professional, and inspiring. So his answer was so blunt and surprising and purrrrfect that I spit out my drink when I heard it:

“Strippers.”

Ah Remi, thank you for getting this ball rolling.

Next question! “Could the entire U.S. military take on a full regiment of Imperial Storm Troopers?”

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Fun fact, the Mon Calamari species were named after ‘Star Wars’ creature artist Phil Tippett’s calamari salad he was eating for lunch.

This is where we reveal that we’re all just a bunch of nerds.

Green Berets Chase Millsap and Terry Schappert immediately provide in-depth critiques about insurgency strategies within the Star Wars canon and lay out a plan of attack. Benioff and Weiss might want to reach out when they approach military tactics in their forthcoming scripts…

Also read: Vets answer dumb military questions – part one

The video gets interesting with the question “If each military branch had an honest slogan, what would they be?”

U.S. Navy veteran August Dannehl is the MVP of this section:

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Navy: The closest you can get to combat and still be a p****.

Meanwhile, I actually had flashbacks when Schappert shared the funniest thing a drill sergeant ever said.

It wasn’t what he said so much as how he said it.

Other questions addressed:

“What piece of military equipment is the most fun to use?”

“Do special operations carry gold coins as a universal currency?”

“What are Marines afraid of?”

Adeleke swoops in for the win again — I’d watch this guy give vets sh** all day.

Watch the video above to see the full line-up of questions and their answers!

Then make sure you check out the rest of the videos right here:

Vets answer dumb military questions – part one

How to get posted at Area 51 other dumb military questions answered

What happens if you refuse to shower other dumb questions

What do snipers think when they miss other dumb military questions

MIGHTY BRANDED

8 musicians who aren’t named Elvis that served in the military

When you think of famous musicians who have honorably served in the United States Armed Forces, the mind immediately goes to Elvis Presley — and how could it not? Photos abound of the handsome, young Elvis in a crisp Army uniform. When he arrived at the airport to attend basic training, the airport was mobbed with screaming fans.

Upon being drafted, Elvis Presley entered the United States Army in spring of 1958 and served until spring of 1960, receiving his discharge from the Army Reserve in 1964. At the time of his draft, he was the most well-known entertainer in the Armed Forces, but he didn’t let his fame get in the way of service. Despite being offered a safer, cushier role in the Special Services as more of an entertainer and recruiting tool, Elvis chose instead to serve as a regular soldier.

However, Elvis isn’t the only famed musician to serve their country. Let’s look at eight other musicians you might be surprised to learn served their country in the United States Armed Forces.


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​Ice-T

Tracy Lauren Marrow, better known by his stage name, Ice-T, is one of many young adults who found themselves turning to military service as a way out of a tough situation. Dealing drugs on the streets of Los Angeles to support himself, he knew he needed to turn his life around when his daughter was born.

Marrow enlisted in the Army and served four years in the 25th Infantry Division at the Tropic Lightning Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

During his time in Hawaii, Marrow served as a squad leader at Schofield Barracks. It was during this time that he purchased musical equipment and began work to hone his skills, save money, and prepare to launch a career in music. As Ice-T, Marrow went on to a dynamic career, first as a Grammy Award-winning musician, rapper, and songwriter, then as an actor on television on the hit show Law Order: Special Victims Unit.

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Jimi Hendrix

American rock legend Jimi Hendrix remains one of the most influential guitarists of all time, despite an incredibly short career of only four years.

Well known for his groundbreaking instrumentalization on electric guitar and his legendary performance at Woodstock, Hendrix entered the military as one of two choices given to him by police after being caught twice in stolen cars: it was prison or the military.

Hendrix enlisted in May 1961 and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and stationed in Kentucky. Hendrix next completed paratrooper training and was given the prestigious Screaming Eagles Award in early 1962.

However, it seems that Hendrix wasn’t well-suited to military service and was given an honorable discharge just six months later. While Hendrix later claimed that he received a medical discharge after breaking his ankle in a parachute jump, he was actually discharged due to “unsuitability” for service.

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Johnny Cash receives an award from a Marine sergeant during his performance for military personnel at the naval station.

Johnny Cash

The Man in Black was first a man in uniform. Johnny Cash, singer, songwriter, and one of the bestselling musicians of all time, had a career that spanned decades, genres, and generations.

Before he was an award-winning musician, Cash served in the United States Air Force. At age 18 and directly after high school, Cash enlisted and attended basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and technical training at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas.

He was assigned to the 12th Radio Squadron Mobile of the Air Force Security Service in Germany as a Morse code operator, intercepting Soviet transmissions.

His earnings in the military allowed him to buy his first guitar while stationed in Germany and he actually formed his first band, the Landsberg Barbarians, in the Air Force. Upon his discharge, he took advantage of the GI Bill to attend a radio announcing course in Memphis before launching his country music career.

And if it weren’t for his time in Germany, we probably wouldn’t have this version of “I Walk the Line” to contemplate!

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Willie Nelson

Singer, songwriter, and grassroots activist, Willie Nelson is one the most famous voices in country music. He’s well-known for his work supporting American farmers and advocating for the legalization of marijuana through his role as co-chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

He grew up in Texas during the Great Depression. After tumultuous early years, he moved to Arkansas to live with his grandparents, and he began playing honkytonks to avoid field work.

After he left high school, Nelson enlisted in the Air Force and served for about nine months before receiving a medical discharge due to back issues.

And while he didn’t serve very long, he has stayed passionate about veteran issues throughout his storied career as a singer, songwriter, author, and actor, advocating for increased medical care for veterans and supporting veteran advocacy groups, helping to raise awareness about homelessness among veterans.

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Yes, that MC Hammer.

MC Hammer

Stanley Burrell, known professionally as MC Hammer, is an American hip-hop recording artist, dancer, and producer who enjoyed tremendous success during the 1980s and ’90s with hits such as “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit to Quit.”

After graduating from high school in Oakland, Burrell took undergraduate classes in communications. Discouraged by his lack of success, he was at a crossroads. He vacillated between considering work as a drug dealer or a job in the military.

He ultimately decided to join the United States Navy for three years, serving as an Aviation Storekeeper 3rd Class at the Naval Air Station at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, until his honorable discharge.

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John Coltrane

Jazz legend John Coltrane was one of the most influential saxophonists and composers of all time. Known for his own recordings (more than 50) and his collaboration with other jazz greats, including Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, Coltrane died young of liver cancer but leaves behind an exceptional musical legacy.

To avoid being drafted by the Army in 1945 during World War II, Coltrane enlisted in the Navy on the day the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. He trained as an apprentice seaman and was sent to Pearl Harbor.

During this time, his musical talents came to light, and he joined the Melody Masters, the base swing band. By the end of his service, he had assumed a leadership role in the band, and it was during this time that he made his first recording with other Navy musicians, playing alto saxophone on jazz standards and bebop tunes.

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Tony Bennett

With a career that has spanned more than six decades, Tony Bennett is the living voice of American pop standards, jazz classics and, more recently, contemporary duets with other legends such as Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga. He has earned 19 Grammy awards, two Emmy awards and is a Kennedy Center Honoree. He has sold more than 50 million records worldwide.

However, before he was Tony Bennett, he was Anthony Benedetto, who was drafted into the United States Army in November 1944 during the final stages of World War II. As a replacement infantryman, he served across France and into Germany, and in March 1945, he joined the front line.

During active combat, Bennett narrowly escaped death several times and he participated in the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp, where American prisoners of war from the 63rd Division were also freed.

During his service, he also sang with the Army military band under the stage name Joe Bari, and played with many musicians who went on to have post-war music careers. Once discharged, Bennett studied at the American Theater Wing on the GI Bill.

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George Strait with U.S. Army Chief of Staff Peter J. Schoomaker at the 2005 San Antonio Stock Show Rodeo, before Schoomaker swore in a new group of Army recruits in front of rodeo fans.

George Strait

Country music singer, songwriter, and producer, George Strait, AKA the “King of Country,” is considered by many to be one of the most popular and influential country music artists of all time. George Strait is famed for his neo-traditionalist style, his cowboy look and 60 No. 1 Billboard country music hits.

In 1971, Strait eloped with his high school sweetheart, Norma, then joined the United States Army. He was enlisted in the Army from 1971 to 1975 and was stationed in part in Hawaii. While there, he launched what would become a lifelong career, singing with the Army-sponsored band called Rambling Country.

Strait’s commitment to the men and women of the Armed Forces has continued throughout his illustrious career. He even served as the spokesman for the Wrangler National Patriot program, which raises awareness and funds for American wounded and fallen military veterans and their families.


Articles

How Green Berets earned the nickname ‘snake eaters’ and how it helped them in Vietnam

The U.S. Army’s Special Forces soldiers are some of the most capable troops in the world. They might even be the most capable people. Putting on the coveted green beret means being able to handle yourself in almost any situation at any time, and coming out on top. 

For those working in Special Forces, it comes with varying degrees of difficulty. Today’s Special Forces soldier works in counterterrorism, counter-narcotics, hostage rescue and other potentially classified operations. But the primary mission of those who wear the green beret is to wage unconventional warfare against a hostile, possibly occupied nation. 

This often means turning a population or oppressed minority against its occupiers. They often find themselves training an undermanned, underequipped fighting force. In Vietnam, where the Green Berets cut their teeth, this often meant surviving in the jungles for long periods of time.

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U.S. Army

In Vietnam, the Military Assistance Command – Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) was a joint CIA-Army operation used to collect intelligence and fight the covert war happening in the dense jungles of the country. The oppressed minority in this case were the Vietnamese tribes of Montagnards.

The Montagnards’ name comes from the French for “mountaineers” and though they live in Vietnam, they are ethnically and culturally different from the Vietnamese. The 30 tribes of Montagnards live off of the land, growing food and hunting for survival. They were looked down upon by the Vietnamese and didn’t trust either the north or the south. Eventually, they cast their lots with the south – and the reason for that was the Green Berets.

Army Special Forces soldiers worked with the Montagnards (called “Yards” for short) to form a kind of quick reaction force (QRF) that would defend southern villages from attacking bands of Viet Cong (VC). The highland areas occupied by the Yards were prime real estate for moving men and material to the war zones. Isolated villages were easy pickings for the VC. The Green Berets moved in to advise the Yards.

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U.S. Army photo

By the end of 1963, the Yards were organized into a real fighting force of 43,000 men and an 18,000 strong QRF. The Green Berets and the Montagnards gelled instantly. The Yard appreciated the Army’s finest for their help and the green berets appreciated the honest, primal toughness of the Yards – and their resolve to defend what was theirs. 

They were a lot alike in that their ways seemed odd to everyone else. The Montagnards would often find food that seemed unwholesome or unsavory to others. The Special Forces knew what that was like. After displaying their survival skills to President Kennedy, skills where they caught and ate snakes, they were stuck with the moniker “snake eaters.” 

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National Archives

To the rest of Vietnam, the Montagnards were called savages. The similarities didn’t stop there. The U.S. soldiers loved the Yards prowess in combat. They were natural soldiers, brave and trustworthy. They knew they could count on the Montagnards to watch their flanks. 

All good things must come to an end, however. When the United States was forced to leave South Vietnam to its own defense, things didn’t fare so well. The Montagnards fought well, but they couldn’t defend the whole country on their own. When the South Vietnamese government fell, they accepted the result.

But they didn’t fare well. The North Vietnamese did not forget the Montagnards’ work with the U.S. Army Special Forces and the communists made life especially hard for the mountain tribes in the years to come.


Feature image: U.S. Army

MIGHTY CULTURE

What you need to know about POW/MIA Recognition Day

Written on the flag that commemorates U.S. service members that are being held as prisoners of war or have gone missing in action is a promise: You are not forgotten.

Unfortunately, those who aren’t directly affected by a loved one or military coworker who is a POW or MIA likely only actively remember these service members at important functions, with the setting of the POW/MIA table. That being said, there is a less well-known moment to take time to remember those who served and have not yet — or may never — make it home.

In 1979, Congress and President Jimmy Carter passed a resolution declaring the third Friday in September to be the date in which we, as a nation, remember those whose fates remain unknown.


The remembrance day is not just to honor those who have been lost fighting for the United States, it’s also to assure current and future service men and women that the people of the United States and its military will do everything they can to find those who were captured or went missing. And we will bring them home.

A 2005 Congressional Research Service report documented tallies of American military members who were captured by the enemy and notes those who died in captivity. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, who never stops searching and trying to identify the repatriated remains of those missing in action, also keeps a tally.

The following is an accounting of all those who’ve been captured or have gone missing since World War II.

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American airmen held in a Nazi Stalag Luft POW Camp during World War II.

World War II

As of 2005, Congress reported 130,201 service members were imprisoned during World War II, 14,072 of which died. There are approximately 73,014 from World War II who are still missing, but those numbers are incomplete at best due to limited information from the time period.

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Americans captured by Communist forces in the Korean War.

Korean War

Of the 7,140 service members who were imprisoned during the Korean War, 2,701 of them died as a result of their captivity. There are still 7,729 missing in action.

In 2016, the DPAA accounted for 61 missing from the Korean War. Recently, President Trump’s efforts to repatriate remains from North Korea yielded the return of 55 sets, two of which have been identified.

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Americans held by North Vietnam during the Vietnam War were marched through the streets of Hanoi.

Vietnam War

Roughly 64 prisoners of war held by the enemy during the Vietnam War died as a result of being held captive out of a total 725 held prisoner. An estimated 1,603 are still unaccounted for from the conflict in Southeast Asia.

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Pfc. Jessica Lynch (left) was captured by Iraqi forces after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Her friend, Pvt. Lori Ann Piestewa (right), was killed in that action.

Conflicts Since 1991

Since 1991, a further 37 servicemen and women have been captured by the enemy during various conflicts, including the most recent in Iraq and Afghanistan. None are still in captivity, but six are still missing from those conflicts.

This brings the total number of American missing from conflicts since World War II to a whopping 82,478. A full three-fourths are believed to be lost in the Asia-Pacific region of the world, with 41,000 presumed lost at sea.

You are not forgotten.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 8 demonstration aircraft flown by the legendary Blue Angels

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The Blue Angels are one of the most famous aerobatic teams in the world (U.S. Navy)

The Navy’s Blue Angel flight demonstration squadron is the second oldest formal aerobatic team flying under the same name in the world. Formed in 1946, less than 300 Naval and Marine Aviators have flown as Blue Angel demonstration pilots. Conversely, an estimated 11 million spectators view their incredible aerobatic routine during the performance season from March to November. Over their long history, the Blue Angles have flown eight different types of demonstration aircraft; all of which were/are combat planes.

1. Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat

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The first Blue Angels demonstration squadron in front of one of their Hellcats (U.S. Navy)

The Hellcat is one of the Navy’s most iconic fighter planes. Joining the fleet in 1943, the aircraft was instrumental in turning the tide in the Pacific. It was faster, tougher, and more maneuverable than both the Grumman F4F Wildcat which it replaced and the Mitsubishi A6M Zero that it was most often pitted against in battle. This made it an excellent platform as an exhibition aircraft. With the Blue Angels, the Hellcat sported a navy blue (near black) paint scheme with gold lettering. The Hellcat and its paint scheme only lasted from July until August 1946.

2. Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat

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The Blue Angels go over maneuvers in front of one of their Bearcats (U.S. Navy)

The Bearcat was the last piston-engine fighter built by Grumman Aircraft. It was introduced in 1945 toward the end of WWII. With the transition from the Hellcat to the Bearcat, the Blue Angels adopted the shades of yellow and blue that they still bear today. These colors were used from 1946 to 1948. However, for the 1949 show season, the Blue Angels sported an all-yellow paint scheme. In August 1949, towards the end of the season, the Bearcat and the all-yellow paint schemes were replaced.

3. Grumman F9F-2/5 Panther

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The Blue Angels support crew watches the team fly their Panthers (U.S. Navy)

Adopted in 1949, the Panther was the first jet aircraft flown by the Blue Angels. It also reintroduced the blue and yellow paint scheme originally sported by the Bearcat. The next year, on June 25, the Korean War broke out. All of the Blue Angels pilots volunteered for combat duty and the demonstration squadron was disbanded. Tragically, the Blue Angels Commander/Flight Leader Lt. Cmdr. John Magda, was killed in action on March 8, 1951. That same year, on October 25, the Blue Angels were reactivated and resumed demonstrations in the newer F9F-5 Panther. The flew the straight-wing Panther until 1955.

4. Grumman F9F-8 Cougar

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The Blue Angels fly their Cougars in close formation (U.S. Navy)

Based on the Panther, the Cougar featured a modern swept-wing design. It was also powered by a newer, more powerful engine. Critically, the Panther gave the Blue Angels a more capable demonstration aircraft with a lower stall speed and improved control. In June 1955, the team relocated from NAS Corpus Christi, Texas to their current home at NAS Pensacola, Florida. The Cougar was flown until 1957.

5. Grumman F11F-1 Tiger

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The Blue Angels flew both the short and long-nose versions of the Tiger (U.S. Navy)

Introduced mid-season 1957, the Tiger was the first supersonic aircraft flown by the Blue Angels. It allowed the team to practice flying high, tight and close. The Tiger also allowed the Blue Angels to perform new maneuvers like the Dirty Loop, a maneuver performed with the plane’s landing gear down. Also in 1957, Left Wing pilot Lt. Bob Rasmussen created a new aircraft design which added “Blue Angels” to the planes, an arrow on their undersides, and stripes on the sides on the canopy. The Blue Angels flew the Tiger through the 1968 season.

6. McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II

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The Blue Angels prepare to perform the Dirty Loop in their Phantoms (U.S. Navy)

In 1969, the Blue Angels adopted their first two-seater aircraft with the Phantom. It was also the only aircraft to be flown by both the Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds. The fast and powerful Phantom allowed the team to add enough maneuvers to their routine to fill a 22-minute demonstration. In 1971, the Blue Angels performed their first Far East Tour which included Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines. The Phantom was flown until 1974.

7. Douglas A-4F Skyhawk

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The Blue Angels fly their Skyhawks in close formation past Mount Rushmore (U.S. Navy)

The Skyhawk was adopted by the Blue Angels during the 1954 winter training season. In November 1985, Lt. Cmdr. Donnie Cochran became the Blue Angels’ first African American pilot. At the time of its retirement, the small and maneuverable Skyhawk was the longest flown Blue Angels aircraft. For the team’s 40th anniversary, a new aircraft was introduced.

8. McDonnell Douglass/Boeing F/A-18A/B Hornet

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Blue Angels Hornets perform an opposing knife-edge pass (U.S. Navy)

On November 8, 1986, the Blue Angels unveiled the Hornet. It is the first purpose-built dual-role fighter/attack aircraft and is still serving in the Navy and Marine Corps as the upgraded Super Hornet. The Blue Angels flew the A, B, C, and D variants of the Hornet until 2020. That year, the team upgraded to the Super Hornet E and F variants which they plan to fly for many years to come.

Feature Image: U.S. Navy photo

MIGHTY CULTURE

Dumb military rules I absolutely hate

“KEEP OFF THE COMMANDER’S GRASS.”

But why?

The military loves its rules and regulations. There are books upon books upon books filled with governance on everything from how to dress to how to stay alive. It’s a good thing, even if it is really obnoxious. The military is supposed to be a standardized, uniformed, disciplined unit, after all.

But there’s always someone who takes it too far.


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If someone told me to PT in the grass, my first reaction would be to wonder if it was a trap.

1. “Don’t walk on the grass.”

Sometimes, when humans and other animals take a shortcut over vegetation, they wear it down, eventually killing what’s underfoot and making a trail. This looks unsightly on a well-groomed lawn. If that were the reason troops are prohibited from walking on the grass, I could get on board. Seems logical enough: Don’t ruin the foliage.

But that’s not what this is about.

I once saw a guy get ripped apart because he stepped off the walkway to tie his shoe. He made the logical choice to not block foot traffic and correct a safety concern and some first sergeant took it upon himself to stomp over and start screaming at the guy for “walking on the commander’s grass.”

The military doesn’t really issue explanations along with their rules, so everyone has a different explanation as to why troops can’t walk on the grass on base. The consensus seems to be that it’s unbecoming. Some say that taking a shortcut is symbolic and antithetical to military motivation and commitment.

There’s also a “shut up and color” mentality in the military — follow orders and don’t ask questions. I get that troops need to follow orders during combat, but there has to be some flexibility when it comes to the military environment. We also need troops to be problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and, you know, confident, mentally-sound human beings.

Yelling in someone’s face over an understandable train of thought? Dumb.

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“…unless you’re Dwight D. Eisenhower.”

2. “Keep your hands out of your pockets.”

According to the Navy, “While in uniform, it is inappropriate and detracts from military smartness for personnel to have their hands in their pockets.”

That sounds like an opinion to me — a dumb opinion.

You know what detracts from military smartness? Cold hands.

“But Shannon, you could wear gloves!”

It’s not that f***ing cold. It’s just kinda cold.

Or maybe it isn’t cold at all. It’s just comfortable to stand with your hands in your pockets. It allows you to roll your shoulders back and open your chest and lung cavity with minimal effort. Sure, it’s more casual. And I’m not condoning a formation of warriors shoving their hands in their pockets before battle, but on a lazy Tuesday afternoon in the middle of Oklahoma, why not I say?!

Besides, if it’s good enough for Chesty Puller AND THESE OTHER HEROES, then it’s good enough for me!

Air Force Master Sgt. Vincent Brass, a first sergeant at the time, made the argument that there should be no standard too small to enforce because there is a danger in picking and choosing which standards are mandatory.

I will grant Sgt. Brass this but I would argue that this is why it’s so important to stay mindful about the rules we create — and why it’s important to evolve as a service.

Which leads me to… yet another dumb rule.

Related: 21 pictures of U.S. military legends with their hands in their pockets

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The Thunderbirds: proving you can be professional, awesome, and standardized — even if you’re protecting your vision.

3. “No ear or eye protection in formation.”

This one really pisses me off: regulating ear and eye protection in formation.

You know why humans wear ear muffs in cold weather? Because lower temperatures can decrease blood circulation and cause ear pain and headaches.

Furthermore, you can get develop frostbite in 40-degree Fahrenheit weather, depending on the wind.

So, let’s say it’s, oh I don’t know, 0700 on a chilly January morning in South Korea. Outside, you’re looking at an average temperature of 15 degrees. Even if the wind is only blowing a paltry 5 miles an hour, you can develop frostbite in under 10 minutes. Meanwhile, you’re standing in formation waiting for some general to show up for the “fun run” when your Deputy Squadron Commander yells at you for wearing ear protection, saying you’re a disappointing officer and a bad leader.

Well you know what, Colonel? You’re a disappointing officer and a bad leader because you don’t take care of your people! Sorry no one else brought ear muffs and we aren’t all gonna look the same for the general. Maybe the rest of the formation is more afraid of getting yelled at by you than they are concerned about taking care of themselves — but that’s not me.

You know why humans wear sunglasses? To protect our eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. If we don’t protect our eyes, we can get cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium. Those conditions all impair our vision, if you’re not familiar.

The United States Department of Defense knows this, which is why service members are allowed to wear sunglasses that meet regulation while in uniform. But some commanders still don’t think they should wear them in formation. Air Force regulations AFI 36-2903 specifically prohibits wearing sunglasses in formation unless someone has a note from a doctor.

Well, I think it’s clear by now that I think it’s more important to protect people than it is to maintain uniformity, but hey, I get that standing in straight lines is an ancient if antiquated thing for the military to do — so why not just make it mandatory to protect yourself outdoors?

The bottom line is that it is dumb to reprimand someone for protecting themselves when there is no legitimate downside to it.

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May as well be terrorists.

Bonus: “Don’t walk and talk on the phone in uniform.”

Final dumb rule of this rant: While walking in uniform, use of personal electronic media devices, including ear pieces, speaker phones, or text messaging, is limited to emergencies or when official notifications are necessary.

Sigh.

I could see the argument for not walking while holding a phone up to your ear — it gets weird with saluting.

I can definitely see why troops deployed to combat zones shouldn’t walk around using their devices — they need to be vigilant and nimble.

But stateside… walking with a headset… come on.

Come on.

Come on.

What’s the argument there?

Until someone can give me a good one I’m calling it: DUMB.

MIGHTY CULTURE

From Nicaraguan refugee to Army NCO

Those who consider the military always have a reason for joining. Whether to continue a family tradition of service, or to see the world, the decision is life changing.

“I remember growing up and seeing Nicaraguans killed, or jailed for protesting against the government. At that time it wasn’t a safe place to be,” said Staff Sgt. Orlando Alvarez, a parachute rigger assigned to the Group Support Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). “Deciding to leave was the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life.”

“I also knew what I was leaving behind, in the end, it would be so I could have something more in the end. The U.S. military provided me the opportunity my country could not. If I had to do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat,” said Alvarez.


“When I left Nicaragua and inquired about joining the military, people said it would be hard and near impossible,” said Alvarez. “But, I didn’t give up.”

In 2013, while speaking very little English, Alvarez moved with his wife, Lucila, to the United States, and joined the Army.

His main reason for joining was to eventually be in a position to give back to the country that took him in as a refugee, while affording him freedoms that he enjoys today.

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Orlando Alvarez, attached to 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), poses for a portrait on Fort Bliss, Texas, Nov. 19, 2018.

After five years of service in the U.S. Army and since being assigned to 7th SFG(A), Alvarez was promoted several times and attended a variety of military schools, to include the Special Operations Combative Program.

Although he joined later in life, his goal is to serve 20 years in the military and retire.

“You cannot be afraid to follow your dreams,” said Alvarez. “If I had let what people said discourage me from joining the military and coming to America, I don’t know where I would be today. I don’t even know if I would be alive. But, I am thankful for what the Army has afforded me, and I will continue to serve my country proudly.”

Alvarez’s journey from Nicaraguan refugee to U.S. soldier is his American dream. He plans to continue his life of service while setting an example for his children.

“This country has provided my family with many opportunities,” said Alvarez. “I am grateful for that, and I am willing to fight and protect it. One day, I hope my children will do the same.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 meal-prep mistakes you’re making and how to avoid them

Meal prepping can be a handy way to ensure you have ready-to-eat dishes waiting for you throughout the week. Plus, it can save time and take the guesswork out of figuring out what to eat each day.

But properly preparing meals isn’t always easy or foolproof. Here are some common meal-prep mistakes to avoid.


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(Photo by Chris Lawton)

1. Not keeping your kitchen stocked can lead to disorganization and last-minute shopping trips.

The first rule of meal prep is to keep your kitchen stocked with the essentials, especially when it comes to ingredients with a longer shelf life.

Registered dietitian Becky Kerkenbush said a kitchen ready for meal prep will have staple ingredients like rice, oats, frozen fruit, frozen or canned vegetables, cooking spray and oil, frozen protein (chicken, fish, etc.), herbs, spices, and canned legumes and beans.

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(Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel)

2. Insisting on prepping all of your meals only once per week might be too stressful or impractical.

Although it’s nice to be able to knock out all of your meals in one go, don’t be afraid to prep more than once per week if it suits your lifestyle better.

Kerkenbush told INSIDER that for tastier meals and possibly better food-safety practices, a good rule of thumb is to aim for prepping twice a week.

And if the idea of prepping multiple times per week seems a bit overwhelming, consider starting slow.

Monica Auslander Moreno, registered dietitian and nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition, said if it feels like you’re committing too much too soon, consider taking on one breakfast, one lunch, or one dinner at a time.

“Don’t try to launch a full week’s worth of meals at once, that’s very stressful. Instead, build your repertoire as you go,” she told INSIDER.

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(Photo by Caroline Attwood)

3. Not storing food properly could lead to wasted or spoiled meals.

Aluminum foil and plastic wrap may not be the best tools for meal prepping.

To keep food fresh and properly portioned, Kerkenbush said you should store meals in individual containers that have a tight seal. It’s also useful to label and date your prepared containers before putting them in the fridge or freezer.

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(Photo by Nithin P John)

4. Preparing more food than you need might lead to waste and stress.

If you’re not feeding a large group, you likely don’t need to create dozens of meals in advance, especially if your prep time is limited.

“Make as much food as you’re comfortable with and that you really need to help minimize stress and food waste,” Toby Amidor, registered dietitian and author of “The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook” and ” Smart Meal Prep for Beginners,” told INSIDER.

When deciding how many meals to prepare each week, also consider whether or not you might tire of a dish after eating it multiple days in a row and plan ahead for any upcoming trips or social engagements that won’t require you to bring ready-made dishes.

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(Photo by Peter Wendt)

5. Not following a schedule could make meal prepping more difficult.

Procrastination will get you nowhere when it comes to meal prep. That’s why Amidor said that one of the tricks of meal prepping is proper scheduling.

“From selecting recipes and creating your weekly menu to food shopping and cooking, you need to schedule when you will do each of the steps involved in meal prepping,” she told INSIDER.

She said that when you leave important tasks until the last minute and scramble to get everything done, you’re more likely to give up on meal prepping altogether.

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(Photo by Caroline Attwood)

6. By not freezing extras, you’re missing out on bonus meals.

Although the containers stacked high in your fridge may not look like a lot of food, there’s a chance you may end up with more meals than you can eat in a week, especially with heartier dishes like lasagna or slow-cooker chili.

“This is the perfect time to freeze individual-sized containers so you can have a delicious dish ready when you are busy down the road,” said Amidor.

Fortunately, per Foodsafety.gov, you can safely freeze most cooked meats and leftovers for at least a month. Keep in mind that some foods don’t freeze well or shouldn’t be frozen for a long period of time, so you’ll want to check food-safety guidelines before stowing away your prepared meals.

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(Photo by Megan Hodges)

7. You’re potentially wasting money and groceries if you’re not doing your homework before you shop.

It’s wise to have a plan before you hit the grocery store so you can avoid wasting time and money.

In terms of preparing to grocery shop, Moreno said she recommends you choose recipes ahead of time and create shopping lists based on the number people you need to serve.

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(Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel)

8. Failing to pre-pack meals into containers could mess with your portion sizes down the road.

It’s important to portion out your food as soon as you make it. By not doing so, you may likely throw off your meal-prep schedule.

“If your plan is to get four meals out of a dish but you don’t pre-pack them into containers, you may end up with one or two meals less than you planned,” Amidor said.

Plus, by not planning out your portions you may end up consuming more or less calories than you’d planned, she added.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

MightyScopes for the week of March 18th

It’s Noadamus again, and I’m here welcome to the magical land of right now. Where the past is done and what it means is open to interpretation, the future is so far away you may never live to see it. Right now is the only moment you are guaranteed. Lightning could strike you down a second from now, a car could wander into your lane an hour from now, but right now, you are alive.

So, you should totally check out your horoscope, because if you are gonna die, you might as well open your mind hole to some wisdom from the stars first. Besides, you’ll probably be fine — this week.

See you soon, and remember, do flutter kicks.

Sincerely, Noadamus.


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Pisces

If you find yourself complaining about free food and booze, stop. It’s free. If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. This is a good general rule. Most of the great things we are all blessed with in this life are not of our own making. You’re tall? You can’t take credit for it. You’re naturally creative? It’s a gift. When you take those gifts and develop them and feed them in healthy ways, you should feel both proud and grateful. When your life is perfect, little problems keep you from getting bored and complacent. This week will reminded you to pay attention and review your weaknesses and spend some real time addressing them. It could quite literally save your life this week. So do that PMCS and don’t finger drill it, corporal.

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Aries

You have so many secrets that they are beginning to escape into other areas of your life. Wouldn’t it be easier to say f*ck it and just be yourself? You claim to be authentic and you are, for the most part, but don’t try so hard. Who cares if your friends don’t like your relationship choices? They don’t even like their own relationship choices. And if you find yourself doing the walk of shame back to the barracks right before morning PT, everybody will know about it before formation anyway. No point in hiding, so hit the shower and get out there, Marine.

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Taurus

This week starts at a steady pace jumps to a sprint by the weekend. You are relentless. Grind everyone to dust with your continuous pace. Keep yourself centered and use this inertia to propel yourself into the future. While everyone around you is spinning, troubles roll right off your back this week. Keep moving this week and your efforts will be soon rewarded. If additional fitness or combatives training presents itself, jump on it. You’ll thank me for it later.

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Gemini

A whole lotta excitement is coming your way in the relationship department, but not all of it is good. As the week starts, your social circle is displeased with your relationship choices, but by the end of the weekend, they will have accepted the idea and everyone will probably party their faces off, which means at least everyone’s doing something together. You have many things happening in the background, and by next week they will demand almost all of your attention.

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Cancer

You might find yourself wondering how your job can be so incredibly rewarding and terribly soul-crushing at the same time. This is the duality of life, which the Cancer sign represents, btw. Things change — constantly — but before you decide to change things on your terms, take a knee, face out, and drink water. Do what needs to be done this week, the rest might resolve itself. Besides, worrying about it only affects the way you feel.

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Leo

This week is a gift; technically, every moment is a gift, but this week is also a time of advancement. Let me rephrase —this is the time where you do the work that will pay off with incredible success later. Spending all week at the range? That will come to fruition soon. Embarking on a new fitness program? A more functional and aesthetically pleasing form awaits you in the near future. Your home and family life is far from perfect, but it is improving. Be grateful for what you have right now while working for a better future. You’re welcome, Chief. Consider yourself counseled.

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Virgo

While you might not be the most adventurous person out there normally, this week ramps your risk-taking impulses up 11. Admittedly, you are extremely well suited to be victorious at the current moment, but no one wins at everything. So if the reward is not worth the risk, it’s a waste of valuable and limited time. Go kick some ass and have fun doing it; you deserve it.

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Libra

The politics of power rule your home and family life, which is especially true at the moment. However, in addition to being oppressive and restricting, your familial connections are likely to aid in your investment or earning capacity. The secret to gaining this advantage without being consumed by family melodrama: Assert yourself as a powerful and influential member of the family who wishes to improve and grow the family with said advantage, then go do it.

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Scorpio

You want the good news or the bad news first? The good news — finances are improving. The bad news — you are still spending way more money than you are bringing in. Money is meant to be spent, right? Totally, but wasting is different than spending. Your relationship is consuming other areas of your life, which is not a bad thing. Just remember you can’t go along with it now and complain about how your life is no longer your own later.

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Sagittarius

One of your least favorite things is demanding way too much of your time this week. Yes, it is making you money and providing you with a sense of identity and purpose, but it is also getting in the way of doing whatever you want. Work can be tedious and a job does restrict your freedom, to some degree. But it increases your ability to so many other things you want in your life. So, put on those combat boots and get your ass to formation. Besides, civilians don’t get paid to blow sh*t up. Unless they are in demolitions, or mining, or maybe some other stuff, too…. Just shut up and move out.

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Capricorn

Holy intensity, Bat Person! (no trademark infringements here) You are so smoldering right now; just be careful to maintain control over yourself so you don’t explode. Your creativity is ramped up to high this week. I’m not just talking about your much-neglected hobbies. We are talking all creativity. From innovative ideas at work to new moves on the field to your secret poetry (I won’t tell anybody) to creating babies. In this extremely fertile period in your life, remember: Always practice safe poetry.

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Aquarius

Listen up, private. The federal income tax system is not a conspiracy to steal the hard earned wealth of the average citizen. Okay, maybe it is a little, but it is also supposed to go to improving and maintaining public services and areas facilities of public use. So, even though you ‘don’t believe in taxes,’ you can still be audited (and just might be this year). So, you should probably review all of those ‘expenses’ you claimed this year.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The VFW wants you to be a gamer!

When you think of the VFW, what comes to mind? For many of us younger veterans the stigma is that your local VFW post is a dark, dusty bar with a bunch of older vets telling war stories. Whether that is fair or not, the VFW has had an issue attracting younger veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to its ranks, despite the obvious benefit that the VFW provides to those vets.

One post in San Antonio is moving to change all that.

VFW Post 8541 has created a cyber café in its facility with the intent that younger veterans will have a place to hang out, build fellowship, have an escape and be part of the local veteran community. And no, this isn’t a couch with an Xbox and two controllers.


Take a look at this:

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Video games have come a long way since Space Invaders and Pong. Nowadays, it’s a billion-dollar industry that continues to grow every year. Consoles continue to war with each other, video game franchises compete to have the best upgrades in graphics and gameplay, and players now compete in more organized tournaments. Esports has blown up quite a bit with professional leagues forming with players making six figures a year! (Tell that to your girl the next time she gets mad when you have a COD marathon!)

Even pro sports leagues are getting in on esports. The NBA, NASCAR and Formula 1 have all had their best stars compete when everything was shut down during Covid.

While some people scoff at the amount of time and energy people put into gaming, there have been proven benefits to veterans.

Video games have been increasingly recommended to veterans as a way to cope with the effects of PTSD, anxiety, and depression. How so? Mental health experts will tell you that a great way to deal with mental health issues is to find an activity that puts you into a flow or zone. Whether it’s running, shooting drills, surfing, reading a book, or playing a game, an activity that takes up your concentration and allows you to escape and give your attention completely to that task has proven to be beneficial.

Video games provide just that. Even the Department of Veteran Affairs now says that “Video games can help in overcoming such problems as PTSD and substance abuse disorders.”

This is something Bill Smith saw during his deployments and is now bringing to his VFW post.

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Bill Smith is VFW post commander who served 32 years in the Army, most of it in the Special Forces.

He did two deployments to Afghanistan and one to Iraq. After getting out in 2015, he was involved with the VFW and was rapidly put in charge of Post 8541 when the post came under suspension 3.5 years ago. He went to a meeting to talk about the suspension and found himself nominated to take over. Immediately, he looked for ways to get things back on track. And boy, has he. Post 8541 has been the #1 post in Texas the last 2 years out of 298 in the state. That is based on membership, community services, legacy programs signups. For each new life member, you get points for that.

Right now, Bill’s priority is getting lots of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to sign up. It has been an issue that many posts struggle with or don’t even try to attempt.

Not only has Bill’s post been starting to get a younger crowd, but it has been a good smooth transition.

As Bill says, “The only way to change it is to get in there and change it.” So, he went and found ways to attract younger vets.

“I was connected with the Texas Guard… just selling. I would get out and tell them this is what we have going on, come out and try it out. “Bill continues, “We had a banquet hall and one of the first things we did, was open up the hall for military functions.” A great example was a Special Forces Party that was held at the hall. The VFW picked up a id=”listicle-2647079334″,000 bar tab for the party to help with the costs. The next day the post had 40 new signups. Bill also created a family room at the post. Now if you want to get to the VFW, but have the kids, you can still go. While these were great steps, Bill was still thinking ahead of the curve. Which brings us to the cybercafé and video games.

Where did Bill get the idea?

“When I was in Afghanistan, I was embedded with French Special Forces. When I went to Bagram, I went to JOC and was berthing with some guys in 7th Group. As I was sitting there, I kept hearing. ‘Who shot me? Who did this?’

Bill saw in their down time they were gaming a lot. It was their escape and they spent a lot of time decompressing through video games. He also saw ODA guys playing in their down time.

“My sons are 26 and 23 and they game a lot, so I saw gaming was big. My oldest son’s friend, Sam Elizondo owns LFG Cybercafe and they sponsored a team for a tournament. Bill decided to talk

And talking to Sam, they came up with the cybercafé idea.

Sam Elizondo, after talking to Bill, decided to help make this idea into a reality. Sam said, “I think what I love most is that we arrived at this leg of the journey out of Bill Smith’s relentless drive to help people. He wants to give these younger combat veterans a place to heal and a place to be. It’s been a privilege to use my skill set for that mission.”

Sam’s background and livelihood are in gaming. He also comes from a military family. As Bill and Sam started planning, they knew they had to get the support of the current VFW Post members on board. After all, it’s their club and building a video game center in their post was something that might not sit well with Vietnam veterans. But to Sam’s surprise, the older vets were really receptive to the plan. Once they started seeing the plan turn into a reality, they became even more excited.

The buildout of the café started in January and is almost done. However, there was one big obstacle that Bill, Sam, and workers had to deal with. Covid -19 shut down the post for a while but they pushed through on building it out. Unfortunately, with the current rules, Texas has their post shut down just when they were about to open the café. While veterans will have to wait just a big longer before they can take advantage, the work that Sam did is utterly amazing.

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The best Cyber Monday discounts every veteran needs
The best Cyber Monday discounts every veteran needs
The best Cyber Monday discounts every veteran needs
The best Cyber Monday discounts every veteran needs
The best Cyber Monday discounts every veteran needs
The best Cyber Monday discounts every veteran needs
The best Cyber Monday discounts every veteran needs
The best Cyber Monday discounts every veteran needs
The best Cyber Monday discounts every veteran needs

This is just the first step. Most games will be provided via Sam’s company. There will be about 70 games for the PC consoles which he will manage the system remotely Right now the plan is to have 12 PCs and 6 Xboxes. Also, Grande Communications is installing fiber optic cable so that the Post will have the best download speed.

Microsoft also made a generous contribution. They shut down their brick and mortar store and decided to donate thousand in hardware. The post has had admittedly older computers (some running on Windows XP) so now they will have fast computers and fast internet connection. Sam is also helping build out a new business center with these resources so vets young and old can have access to computers.

So, what next?

Sam hopes, “Veteran Esports Competitions and just a better connected family of VFW’s. There is so much value in building out infrastructure like what POST 8541 is doing that the sky truly is the limit. They have the ability and the network to do some incredible things. It just needs to be embraced.”

Once COVID is over, the café will be open for vets to come game. The hope is it will be a place for them to escape the world and find comfort in fellowship. Bill and Sam are hoping other VFWs will take notice and build their own centers. This will hopefully lead to gaming competitions between local and long-distance posts.

The VFW has been a backbone of veteran activity for decades. Thanks for forward thinkers like Sam and Bill, it is shaping up to continue to be that backbone.


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