5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Unless you’re a Guamanian local, been stationed on Guam or have participated in the drop itself, Netflix’s new holiday movie may be the first time that you’ve of Operation Christmas Drop. In fact, the operation is the Department of Defense’s longest-running mission and the longest-running humanitarian airlift in the world. Here are five incredible facts about Operation Christmas Drop.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop
Tech. Sgt. Mario Montoya collects any remaining debris from an LCLA bundle during Operation Christmas Drop 2019 (U.S. Air Force)

1. It started with a random act of kindness

During the Christmas season of 1952, a WB-29 Superfortress of the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Wing was flying a mission from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. While over the Micronesian atoll of Kapinga-Marangi, the crew spotted islanders waving at them from down below. In the spirit of Christmas, the airmen collected supplies that they had on board, placed them in a container with a parachute attached and circled around to drop the care package. Since then, the operation has grown and continued every year.

2. It benefits islanders and airmen

According to an Andersen Air Force Base statement, “The event provides readiness training to participating aircrew, allowing them to gain experience in conducting airdrops while providing critical supplies to 56 Micronesian islands impacting about 20,000 people.” Aircrews coordinate the drops with the islanders via ham radio. Using Low-Cost Low-Altitude air drops, containers are dropped in the water just off the shore to avoid hitting any locals. In 2011, the drop included 25 boxes of IV fluids for Fais Island to combat an outbreak of dengue fever. In 2013, the drops included critical supplies of food and water for 30 recovery workers on Kayangel Island after it was hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan. In 2020, though additional safety measures will be put in place due to COVID-19, Operation Christmas Drop will go on. This year’s drop targets 55 Micronesian islands across a 1.8 million square nautical mile operating area.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop
Royal Australian Air Force pilots of the 37th Squadron participate in Operation Christmas Drop 2018 (U.S. Air Force)

3. The drops are completely legal

Unlike how it’s portrayed in the Netflix film, there is no Congressional issue with Operation Christmas Drop. The drops are conducted under the protection of the Denton Amendment. Also known as the Denton Cargo Program, it was launched in 1985. The program allows for space available on military aircraft to be used to carry humanitarian aid supplies to countries in need and for disaster relief. Aid under the Denton Program comes at minimal or no added cost to taxpayers since it utilizes excess space on scheduled military flights. Today, the program is administered jointly by USAID, the Department of State, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and the Department of Defense.

4. The operation involves units across the Pacific

As mentioned in the Netflix film, Operation Christmas Drop involves international partners like Japan, Australia and the Philippines. While the U.S. Air Force’s 36th Wing and 734th Air Mobility Squadron are based at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and play a major part in the operation, other organizations support the drop, too. The 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, the University of Guam and the “Operation Christmas Drop” private organization all help to make the drop possible.

5. The drops are all donations

In the months leading up to the drop, volunteers set up donation boxes and raise money from local businesses and citizens. A week before the drop, volunteer service members, civilians and contractors collect and sort through the donations. Afterwards, riggers at Yokota and Andersen volunteer their spare time to build boxes to hold the donations. The majority of items dropped are school supplies, clothes, rice, construction materials, fishing equipment and toys.

While many service members will be quick to point out military inaccuracies in the film, the positive effect that the drop has cannot be argued. The relief and joy that Operation Christmas Drop brings to the people of Micronesia every year is an incredible achievement and a testament to the hard work and dedication of the volunteers that make it possible.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop
(U.S. Air Force)
MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest memes for the week of August 24th

This is a proud week for the family of the Mullet Marine as he finally graduated out of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and is currently making his way to learn to be a motor transport mechanic.

Here’s to you, you glorious, mullet-having, Budweiser tank-top-rockin’ bad ass. You’re going to get hell for a while until you can prove that you’re going to be the best damn mechanic the Corps has ever seen. Don’t let any of that discourage you. People love that you showed up to San Diego “‘Murica AF.” Use that to your advantage.

Become the essence of what it means to be a Marine. That also means keeping your nose clean from UCMJ action. You didn’t ask for it but you’re unfortunately in a position where one slip up will find you in the Marine Corps Times. We all expect you to make mistakes and maybe buy a Mustang at 37% interest rate, but no one wants to see you fall from grace. The military community one day wants you to succeed.

In twenty-some years down the road, we want to read on your Wikipedia (or whatever the future version of Wikipedia is) that Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps “Mullet” got his nickname way back in the day he entered the Corps. But until then, BZ, Mullet Marine. BZ.

On that note, now that a meme has graduated boot camp, let’s get into some more memes:


5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

​(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

(Meme via Ranger Up)

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

(Meme via Shammers United)

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

(Meme via Navy Memes)

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

(Meme via Military World)

When literally anyone asks me how anything works in the S-6.

It’s just like the drop test. I don’t know why taking a SINCGARS and dropping it from a few feet above the concrete makes it magically works. It just does.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

​(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

“How dare you betray us like that? We were supposed to get out and open a t-shirt/coffee/military lifestyle site together!”

Speaking of which, did you know that WATM now has a merch section? Wink, wink.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

(Meme via Ranger Up)

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

(Meme by WATM)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

In the military, we had such a strong bond with those with whom we served. From day one in uniform, we had a battle buddy by our side. The closeness we had with our brothers and sisters is not something for those that didn’t serve to easily understand. Would your current co-workers pull ticks out for you from near your anus? Yeah, that actually happened to me … Thanks Mac, that’s what we call close! Do you think the people you work with now would run into gunfire for you?

We leave that family and often, many feel alone. This feeling is natural because being out of uniform is different from still serving. However, it’s what every veteran goes through as they leave their service. We may not talk about it at parties, but it’s as real as anything else in the world. This feeling can’t be ignored, but must be addressed.


It’s no secret that we have a suicide problem in the U.S. and even more profound in our veteran community. It’s a sad reality that we’ve lost more to suicide — over 108,000 — than combat during the Global War on Terror. Most of us know a brother or sister who’s taken their life after losing their personal battle at home. We can never eliminate the crisis, but we can certainly limit the amount who are overcome by their demons.

According to Stop Soldier Suicide, a nonprofit focused on reducing the number of service members and veterans lost to suicide, veterans are at a 50 percent higher risk of suicide than those who didn’t serve. By 2030, the number of veteran suicides will be 23 times higher than post 9/11 combat deaths. There has been a 93 percent increase in the suicide rate of male veterans aged 18 to 34.

I applaud people bringing attention to the issue through different methods. It may be doing 22 pushups a day, talking about why they served for 21 days or, I’ve also seen other messages and posts on social media raising awareness about the problem. We know there’s a problem, but I’m more for doing what Non-Commissioned Officers always do: Identify the problem, develop solutions and implement change.

Let’s be more proactive.

While serving, we saw our teammates every day. We were able to witness signs that they may be struggling. Being around each other so much, we could see if their behaviors changed, if they were down, if they showed the signs of depression and if they needed help. These checks are more difficult when we’re out of the military.

One of my favorite quotes: “You don’t need to have a patch on your arm to have honor.” – LT Kaffee at the end of A Few Good Men.

I’m challenging you to do one thing: pick up the phone and call someone you served with. Check on them. Ask them how they’re doing and listen. This is not a time to bullshit around the topic – ask them if they’re doing ok. How are they handling being out of uniform? Bring up the fact that it’s different and you feel the difference, too. We know how to accomplish tough tasks — this should be easier because of the love we have for those we served with. Have a real talk, reconnect and you may help someone suffering silently.

It’s not easy for people to acknowledge they’re having problems; generally, it’s not our veteran way. It’s not a disorder and we’re not broken. If we look out for each other and remove the stigma, we can mitigate the risks. Let’s show our love for our brothers and sisters. If you need help, reach out. And, reach out to others and do a buddy check.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Have you seen the A-10’s two-seater cousin?

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the Warthog, is as popular on the battlefield as it is on the internet. Hog enthusiasts love the plane for its massive 30mm rotary cannon and the iconic “BRRRRRT” sound that it makes. During the early days of its development, the Air Force played around with the concept of an all-weather and night-capable version of the Warthog.

Designated as the YA-10B N/AW, the Night/All-Weather version of the Warthog was modified from an existing A-10A and featured a number of upgrades. Among these were an advanced inertial navigation system, terrain-following radar, a low light TV camera, forward-looking infrared, and laser targeting pods. However, the YA-10B’s most obvious evolution was the addition of a second seat. Having a back-seater would allow the workload of managing so many systems to be split.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop
Two is better than one (U.S. Air Force)

The N/AW not only offered more capability to the Air Force, but also made the aircraft more appealing from an export standpoint. Some countries were interested in purchasing the N/AW for use in littoral brown water and coastal anti-piracy operations. Testing of the modified platform occurred from 1979 to 1980 with exceptional results. The aircraft excelled in adverse weather conditions and could carry out night attacks with deadly precision. However, the cost of adapting the A-10 to the N/AW variant was too high for the Air Force sign off on.

Initially, Air Force brass wanted to add the modular LANTIRN night targeting navigational system to the A-10A. While this killed off the two-seater A-10, the concept did not come to fruition. Instead, the F-16 Block 40 received the system and the Air Force called it a day. However, thanks to its precision engagement package and pilot-mounted NVGs, the modern A-10C now boasts night attack capabilities.

Unfortunately, despite its success on the battlefield, the A-10 is under constant threat of extinction. Modernization efforts like the night capabilities of the C-variant have extended the life of the aircraft, but Air Force brass continue to push multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Lightning II to replace it. Perhaps the two-seater A-10 would have further highlighted the necessity of a dedicated ground-attack platform. The world may never know. Today, the only two-seater A-10 is on display at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California.

MIGHTY CULTURE

True confessions of a sexually-deprived military spouse

Editors Disclaimer: This is a HUMOR piece…we understand that the subject matter in this piece is a bit taboo and not for everyone. If you are uncomfortable with it, we won’t be offended at all if you choose not to read. We laughed, we may have even blushed just a little…and we imagine many of you will do the same. As with all of the pieces in our ‘Confessions Series‘ the author is anonymous.

I was going to start this by saying ‘let’s talk about the elephant in the room,‘ but frankly I don’t understand that statement. At all. There has never been an elephant in any room I’ve been in and if there was, I’m confident that I would take an epic selfie with it, post it on Facebook, SnapChat it to my friends and do everything BESIDES avoid acknowledging its existence.

So, I’m going to preface with this instead:


Sex. Yup, I said it. Sexual intercourse. We’ve all done it. We are all married so let’s not pretend that any of us are innocent little virgins who don’t get our freak on occasionally. (I say occasionally because I don’t know about you, but no matter how often I do the dirty, my husband insists I never do… So I’m trying to be an equal opportunity writer, oooor something like that.)

As a self-admitted sexually active adult, military life is precisely the opposite foundation for a stable sex life. (Unless you and your spouse are swingers, in which case I’m not judging… I just prefer not to know about it, ok?)

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

That being said, I’m just going to openly, honestly (half sarcastically because god knows someone is going to get bent out of shape over something I am writing here) make a brief outline of my own, personal sexual deprivation from our last 12 months of deployment. Thank goodness for anonymous confessions, right?

Enjoy. And relax. We are all friends here. Anonymous friends behind a screen. We can laugh. It is humor. See that nice disclaimer at the top?

Month 1

I think I will send my husband sexy pictures. I will stand in the mirror, strike a cute pose, pout my lips and send them to his email, making his knees weak.

Month 2

I still send my husband sexy pictures… but I decided to prepare with fake nails, a spray tan, a wax and some sexy lingerie. By this time he has half forgotten what I look like, so I am certain he will be like ‘dang! She really IS naturally hot’.

Month 3

I caved. I bought my first ‘assistant’. Sometimes a girl just needs more than, well, not having an adult marital aid.

Month 4

I have started purchasing batteries more frequently.

Month 5

I am forced to add batteries to the budget to keep myself from spending our car payment on BOB; my Battery Operated Boyfriend.

Month 6

My friend’s husbands are better looking than I previously remember. Oh come on… looking doesn’t kill anyone. Stop judging me for saying it. You thought it, too. Also… remember that disclaimer?

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Month 7

Ok, forget their husbands, my friends have started looking HOT! Why haven’t I noticed this before? Am I gay? Have I not been naked with a hairy chest in so long that my body is rejecting the idea? Will I be straight again when he gets home? OMG. Who is going to get the couch in our divorce?

Month 8

Crisis averted. He came home for RNR. I’m definitely still straight…

Month 9

Maybe I’m bisexual…

Month 10

BOB is boring me. We might need a break…

Month 11

I’m going to redecorate the house… not to keep myself busy, but because doesn’t REAR-D send service members to help assemble furniture if your spouse is deployed? (Breathe deep… remember those bold words from my editor: This is a HUMOR piece!)

Month 12

The swing, leather whip, hot wax, studded paddle, stiletto heels and handcuffs are purchased…why is this welcome home ceremony taking sooo long??? Can we PLEASE just go home?!?

Ok, but seriously, I don’t understand why the subject of being sexually deprived is so taboo between spouses. We should be able to openly admit to each other that we are quivering, shaking and utterly drenched from not getting thrown around by the sexy man/woman in uniform who vowed to rock our worlds forever.

It’s sex… It sucks going a long time without it, especially when you are married, in love and crazy about your spouse. Yes, we also worry every day. Yes, we miss them like crazy. Yes, our kids suffer. Yes, there are a ton of other, more productive, supportive things we could be talking about.

But it’s okay sometimes to laugh, to talk about something taboo… to admit that we are married adults with sexual needs. Sexual needs that sometimes leave us climbing the walls.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Churchill’s Shadow Raiders’ tells the story of a smaller drama that had a large impact on the outcome of WWII

Much has been written about the major set piece dramas of World War 2. D-Day, El Alamein, and Stalingrad are battles that are well known. Their stories grow into legend with each recounting. But one of the things I find most fascinating about WW2 is there were thousands of smaller dramas both during and in between the major battles. Many of these episodes are barely known except for the most dedicated historian but occasionally the consequences had an effect on the course of the war. ‘Churchill’s Shadow Raiders’ by Damien Lewis is a book about one of those important smaller dramas which had a dramatic impact on the outcome of the war.


In 1941-42, the British Bomber Command had a big problem. It’s raids across the English Channel were being intercepted and losses were becoming staggeringly high. The British began to strongly suspect and later gained evidence that the Germans had very advanced radars along the coast. This critical advantage had to be neutralized. To accomplish this goal, the British needed to get their hands on one of these systems. So, they turned to their Airborne forces.

Airborne operations were a new thing and after German successes in France, Belgium, and Norway, the British began to muster their own paratroopers. These specially trained troops were given the mission to conduct a daring nighttime raid on a coastal radar site at a point in the war where the Germans were at the height of their military power. 120 paratroopers dropped in the middle of the night and made their way to the objective: the sophisticated German Wurzburg radar. They disassembled the radar under fire and fought their way onto a beach and into a boat, where they were successfully met by the Royal Navy. The analysis of the radar was instrumental in allowing the British to devise countermeasures which allowed them to significantly reduce their losses.

Damien Lewis’s book is an excellent account of raid’s events but more important is how he tells the story. Rather than a dry recounting of the history of the Paras and the raid, Lewis recognizes tells this story as a human drama of daring and bravery. The personalities of the raiders and the challenges they faced makes this book highly readable and gives it a page-turning quality.

Lewis begins with the story of an earlier raid: Operation Colossus. This was a prior company-sized Airborne raid on an objective in Italy which was regarded as a failure at the time. It wasn’t until the end of the book that I realized that Airborne operations were new, incredibly high-risk, and had their detractors. After Operation Colossus, it wasn’t certain Operation Biting would be approved, and if it had failed, British Airborne operations might not have recovered. But Churchill understood the value of these “ungentlemanly” raids and how pivotal they could be in neutralizing Germany’s advances. Including Operation Colossus frames them as not just operations but as justification for an entire way of fighting the enemy. It’s two amazing Airborne stories in one book.

In summary, Damien Lewis’ book was one of the most readable World War 2 history books I have read in years and it has inspired me to put some of his other titles on by reading list. I strongly suspect if you give this book a chance, you’ll end up doing the same as well.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the cop who inspired ‘Dirty Harry’ and ‘Bullitt’

Few cinematic crime fighters are more revered than Inspector Harry Callahan, from Clint Eastwood’s 1971 film, Dirty Harry. Before that, it might have been Frank Bullitt, as portrayed by Steve McQueen in 1968’s Bullitt. Both movies are centered around a hard-boiled police detective working the streets of San Francisco. Frank Bullitt was fighting mafia hitmen while Harry Callahan was trying to bring down an insane serial killer.

Both of these fictional detectives are based on one man: real-life San Francisco detective, Dave Toschi.


5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Behind that glorious bow tie is a force of nature.

At his desk in San Francisco’s Hall of Justice, one might not have picked out the man in a bow tie as someone who served in the 24th Infantry Division in Korea. It was the unit that took the brunt of a full-scale North Korean invasion with no reinforcements in sight, the unit that held the Pusan Perimeter for months on end, and the unit that pushed the Chinese back to the 38th Parallel the very next year. David Toschi was that guy, but he truly made his name as a police detective, cleaning the streets of San Francisco for 32 years.

He joined the force right after leaving the military, in 1953. His ties, signature suits, and “exaggerated” trench coats earned him the attention of the San Fran news media, but his work was his enduring legacy – and what ended up translated to the silver screen.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Actor Steve McQueen, upon meeting Toschi, demanded his character, Frank Bullitt, wear a similar shoulder holster.

Even though Toschi’s flair won him attention from the media, it was his biggest case that earned him the most acclaim – and would later be his downfall. He began working homicide in 1966. Just three years in, he was assigned to work the murder investigation of cab driver Paul Stine. Stine picked up a passenger who wanted to be taken from Geary Street to Maple Street in San Francisco’s Presidio Heights neighborhood. Just one block North of Maple, the passenger shot Stine in the head, then took his keys, wallet, and a portion of his bloody shirt.

No one knew why until three days later, when the Zodiac sent a threatening letter to the San Francisco Chronicle with a piece of Stine’s shirt, to prove the cabbie was a victim of the Zodiac; the only time Zodiac killed inside the city.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

In 1971’s ‘Dirty Harry’ the Toschi-inspired inspector hunted the killer calling himself ‘Scorpio,’ a figure ripped from the Zodiac headlines at the time.

Toschi estimated that he investigated 2,000-5,000 people while looking for Zodiac but the killer was never found. Toschi left homicide in 1978 and retired in 1985. Toschi was reassigned from the Zodiac case in 1977 after it was revealed that the detective sent so-called fake “fan letters” about his own performance in the case to the San Francisco Chronicle. Zodiac was active from 1969 through the early 1970s but sent letters to the paper for years.

Zodiac had a confirmed seven victims but claimed as many as 37. His last confirmed victim was Stine, and his last letter to the paper came in 1978. The prime suspect in the Zodiac case – and the man Toschi always suspected – was U.S. Navy veteran and schoolteacher, Arthur Leigh Allen.

Why didn’t we get this guy?” Toschi once asked the Chronicle. “I ended up with a bleeding ulcer over this case. It still haunts me. It always will.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Allen (left) in 1969, compared to the composite sketch of Zodiac from a 1969 attack in Napa County, Calif.

Toschi could never find enough evidence to bring Allen to trial, despite spending nine years on the case. Toschi’s other cases include bringing down a gang of murderers calling themselves the “Death Angels.” The group committed racially-motivated killings against white victims. They are known to have killed at least 15 but may be responsible for as many as 73 murders in San Francisco in 1974.

Dubbed the “Zebra Murders,” they caused widespread panic in the city of San Francisco at a time when the city was still reeling from the exploits of the Zodiac. Toschi was part of the team that helped bring the gang down and put them away for life.

It was Zodiac that kept his attention, but he never managed to pin the killer down.

I’m not a vengeful type, but when a life is taken, there must be justice,” he said.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Mark Ruffalo as Toschi in the 2007 film, ‘Zodiac.’

In the years following his service on the SFPD, he took a job doing private security and even as a technical advisor on the 2007 David Fincher film, Zodiac, watching actor Mark Ruffalo portray him on screen.

Every October 11, from 1970 until 2017, Toschi sat in his car at the same Presidio Heights location where Paul Stine was murdered by the Zodiac, wondering what he missed. Toschi died in January 2018 at the age of 86.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how a Marine sniper earns a real ‘HOG’s tooth’

When a newly-minted Marine Corps Scout Sniper graduates from the sniper school where they learn their trade, they will be presented with a 7.62 round, the ammunition commonly used by the Marines’ elite scout sniper corps. But earning the actual HOGs Tooth is a much, more difficult task – because a Marine will be squaring off against another sniper looking for a HOGs Tooth of his (or her) own.


5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Before graduating sniper school, Marines are called “PIGs” – professionally instructed gunmen.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos)

Before we all drown in Facebook comments, let it be known that the point of this isn’t to make one tradition seem greater or more badass than the other. We’re talking about two different traditions that just have similar superstitious origins. It was once said there was a round out there destined to end the life of any sniper – the bullet with your name on it. The idea behind the HOG’s Tooth is that if anyone could acquire the bullet with their name on it, they would be invincible.

For a sniper to acquire the tooth of a “Hunter Of Gunmen,” a sniper must go through three steps, each more difficult than the last. The first step is to become an actual sniper, not just someone who’s really good at shooting. This means snipers need to go through a sniper school and deploy to an active combat zone. Don’t worry, deploying to a combat zone definitely won’t take long.

The third step is a doozy.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Candidates for Scout Sniper Platoon dig deep to complete the two-week preparation course.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)

The third step to getting that HOG’s Tooth trophy actually has a few sub-steps. It starts with forcing a duel against another sniper (preferably an enemy). Once a sniper defeats an enemy sniper in sniper-on-sniper combat, they must then make it over to the enemy position where they will hopefully find the scene undisturbed. This will likely be difficult because they’re supposed to be in hostile territory. If they get there before anyone else, they should capture the enemy’s rifle. But more important to the trophy process is capturing what’s in that rifle: the round in the chamber.

That round is the “bullet with your name on it.”

If a sniper captures this bullet, superstition says, that sniper cannot be killed by gunfire on the battlefield because no one there has the bullet that is destined to kill them. Separate the bullet from the cartridge and use 550-cord or some other tried-and-true stringing method and feel free to use the round as a necklace. The bullet meant for you will always be around the neck of its potential victim rather than inside him somewhere.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Old Hickory vets celebrate 75th anniversary of liberation

North Carolina National Guard soldiers escorted four WWII veterans and their families to 75th-anniversary liberation celebrations Sept. 11-17, 2019.

The veterans served in the 30th Infantry Division, known as Old Hickory, and helped to liberate Belgium and the Netherlands from German occupation in September 1944.

Throughout the week, the Old Hickory veterans were honored with ceremonies, dinners, hugs, and a parade through Maastricht in the Limburg Province.

The soldiers and WWII veterans enjoyed the festivities, as well as the smaller, more personal moments.


“The most emotional part for me was when George Ham visited the spot where his battle buddy was killed,” said Maj. Kevin Hinton, deputy commander for the NCNG’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion. “George served in Charlie Company, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, and that’s who I served with in Iraq in 2004.”

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

WWII Veterans who served in the 30th Infantry Division, and North Carolina National Guard soldiers visit the graves of 30th Inf. Div. soldiers buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands on Sept. 12, 2019.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)

Hinton, vice president of the 30th Infantry Division Association, said he felt a connection to what the WWII veteran was going through.

“Part of George’s emotion is that he was supposed to be that guy, but he switched positions,” Hinton said. “There’s probably some survivor’s guilt on his part, and I’ve been there. I understand that feeling.”

The N.C. Guard soldiers were all veterans of the same unit, having served in Iraq with the now reorganized 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, and acted as representatives of the Guard and the 30th Infantry Division Association, a membership group for veterans of the unit.

The trip affected not only the 30th Infantry Division veterans but also currently serving soldiers who were part of the liberation celebrations.

“It gives value to my own sense of service and what I’m doing now by serving,” said Col. Wes Morrison, the North Carolina Army National Guard chief of staff. “I see that folks appreciate, across the world, what the United States Army has done for the world at different times. Your service means something and it means something to not just Americans, but people across the world.”

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

WWII Veterans who served with the 30th Infantry Division were honored with a ceremony and parade through the City of Maastricht in the Limburg Province of the Netherlands that ended in a festival on Sept. 14, 2019, in celebration of 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Limburg Provence by 30th Inf. Div. soldiers in September of 1944.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)

The group was able to visit the same places where the 30th Infantry Division fought back the German occupation and other places where they were able to rest after almost 90 days of being on the front lines.

One of those places was the Rolduc Abbey in Kerkrade, a rest center for soldiers after the liberation. While there, some of the current Soldiers took a photo in the same courtyard where a formation of Old Hickory soldiers took a photo 75 years ago.

Hinton hoped this trip would help build a bond between the new generation of Old Hickory veterans and the people of the Limburg province to continue the tradition.

“It’s a part of the history of the 30th and the North Carolina National Guard,” Hinton said. “We need to educate our young soldiers on the history of what the 30th has done. When the WWII veterans are long gone, the U.S. and the Netherlands will still exist, and we have to maintain this and remember what they did. Like someone said in one of the speeches, the beginnings of the European Union started with the liberation and the desire for Europe to never go through that again.”

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

WWII Veterans who served with the 30th Infantry Division, visit the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Belgium on Sept. 15, 2019, where more than 300 Old Hickory soldiers who died during WWII are buried.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)

As the soldiers, veterans, and their families prepared to travel home, many were heard to say “see you in five years,” anticipating the 80th anniversary of the liberation.

Even though the WWII veterans may no longer be able to make the trip, Morrison thought it was important the tradition continues.

“If we honor the veterans of the past, we bring more value to the service that we have today,” Morrison said. “You wear the uniform in the current unit, you’re wearing Old Hickory. You now have the responsibility of that lineage and history of that unit on your back. We can’t let them down. The history they created here, the high bar, high standard for performance of duty and what they did here, 75 years ago is something we have to keep in the back of our minds all the time.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

These World War I troops claimed to be rescued by angels

In August, 1914, British troops were in full retreat from the World War I Battle of Mons in Northern France. The Germans chasing them were far greater in number, and the men were desperate. In a turn of good luck, they happened to pass a celebrated old battle site that turned the tide of their retreat, in an almost supernatural way – and that’s exactly how it was remembered.


The Battle of Mons went as well for the Brits as could be expected. It was the first test of the British Expeditionary Force in continental Europe. They fought hard, and the Germans paid dearly for their advance. But the French Fifth Army gave way to the Germans, and the British could not hold the line on their own. An orderly battle turned into a two-week rout that would end with the epic Battle of the Marne – but not unless the BEF could escape the oncoming Germans. They retreated south as orderly as possible.

On their way, they passed the site of the famous medieval Battle of Agincourt, where King Henry V’s English longbowmen devastated a French Army that outnumbered the English with estimates as high as 6-to-1. The retreating British troops of 1914 were on the run from a numerically superior German force when legend says a British soldier said a prayer to Saint George that changed the outcome of their retreat.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

St. George, the Christian dragon slayer.

George was a Roman Praetorian Guard for Emperor Diocletian, and was executed for not recanting his professed Christian faith centuries before the emperor converted the empire to Christianity. He is probably the most prominent of all soldier-saints. So, when a retreating British soldier asked St. George for help, it makes sense for the men of the retreating army to believe he may have intervened when the Germans suddenly broke off their pursuit.

After the battle, men present during the fighting chalked the sudden turn of events up to a number of supernatural explanations, each more awe-inspiring than the next. In the most prevalent retelling, the prayer to St. George caused an army of spectral English bowmen to appear, which both frightened and slaughtered the pursuing Germans.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Looks like St. George needs to train his angels a bit.

The claims of the English soldiers were grounded by a fictional short story called “The Bowmen” written by Arthur Machen after the battle. In the book, angelic archers appear after a British soldier prays for help from St. George. Led by the patron saint of England, a thousand archers appeared and mowed down the enemy. Afterward, the German generals determined the BEF must be using a new gas weapon, as there were no wounds on the dead German troops.

Machen’s story was a fabrication, of course, based on a different story by Rudyard Kipling. That one was set in Afghanistan. But veterans of the Battle of Mons soon began to claim they were eyewitness to the spectral event. In each retelling, the story changes: German soldiers are found with arrow wounds, the ghost army was actually a team of angels in the form of medieval knights and led by St. George, or the BEF was able to retreat into a wall of clouds.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

World War I Ex Machina.

The Angels of Mons very quickly entered the lore and legends of the First World War, joined there by stories of ghouls living in No Man’s Land, crucified Canadian soldiers, and the end of the war by Christmas.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

Kathleen Bourque’s life with her fiancée Marine 1st Lt. Conor McDowell, was cut tragically short following a vehicle rollover accident that killed McDowell. Now, Bourque is channeling her grief into awareness about military vehicle rollovers.  

In May 2019, Bourque’s fiancée was killed in a military training accident, days after being promoted, and just three months before their planned September wedding. Her life with her intended was cut tragically short after the accident that happened at Camp Pendleton. 

McDowell and his crew set out on a route reconnaissance exercise with an order to recon Canyon Road at Camp Pendleton in preparation for a division-sized movement. Then McDowell made the decision to move the LAV off-road and drive it into tall vegetation, which isn’t unusual for cover and concealment. Light armored recon Marines are routinely taught that roads are dangerous and should be avoided to eliminate dust signatures. 

The LAV that McDowell and his crew were operating crept slowly into six-foot-tall vegetation, which obstructed the driver’s vision. A corporal stood up and yelled for the driver to halt, but it was too late. The Marines inside never saw the ditch. The LAV plummeted down a 15-foot washout and rolled upside down. A command investigation obtained by the Marine Corps Times detailed that McDowell used his last moments alive to alert his crew that the vehicle was about to roll, actions that might’ve spared others more serious injury. Several of McDowell’s crew were injured. 

The couple met in 2018 after connecting on a dating app, Hinge. McDowell had just graduated from the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course in Virginia and was headed to Camp Pendleton for his next assignment. But before heading out west, McDowell took an 800-mile detour and went to visit Bourque in her North Carolina home. They spent just four days together before making the decision that Bourque would move with McDowell to California. Friends and family balked at the choice, but the couple was steadfast that it was the right thing to do.

The couple settled into life as much as they could. As a military girlfriend, Bourque had limited access to on-base resources. She couldn’t shop at the commissary, access fitness facilities, go to the MCX or check out books in the library. In the military, you’re either married or you’re single – there is no in-between. So when McDowell died, Bourque found herself and her status in limbo. She had to fight with McDowell’s chain of command to have her dead fiancé’s things shipped back across the country because she wasn’t listed as the next of kin on McDowell’s paperwork. At his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Bourque was told to “stand back” because she wasn’t considered, in the eyes of the military, “immediate family.”

Now she’s banded together with six other military fiancés who have lost their partners to military accidents, and she’s lobbying for change. As a group, they fight for their relationships to be considered valid in the eyes of the military. Because none of the Wild Gang was married, they don’t receive any Gold Star benefits and are largely forgotten by the larger military community.

Bourque thinks the accident should never have happened and has been reaching out to lawmakers on Capitol Hill to act on military vehicle rollover accidents. McDowell was one of four marines who died in a military vehicle rollover during training exercises in 2019. His death represents a slight uptick in non-combat-related tactical vehicle deaths for the Marine Corps. However, data from the Naval Safety Center shows that Marine tactical vehicle mishaps are at a ten-year low.

That disconnect is part of what Bourque is fighting for. Recognition as a military widow and the fact that some vehicle deaths might go unreported keeps her fighting for McDowell’s memory. She maintains that widows, no matter their official marriage status, should be treated unequivocally with the same level of respect across all branches of the military.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The true, bloody story of Delta Force’s ironman

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

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

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

Perhaps I would eventually.


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

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

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

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

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

He zipped and lay back down.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

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

ability to improvise.

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

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

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

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

9x19mm Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun.

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

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

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

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

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

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Bullet wound as seen from the compound clinic.

(Courtesy of MSG Carlos Sanchez)

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

“How’s it going, K2?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then a thing happened.

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

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

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

“RGR, K2… break a leg!”

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

K2’s run diet: vinegar and twinkies.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

MightyScopes for the week of March 6th

Dear dumbass,

Even though I am a prophet, you can’t base your entire life off a horoscope, no matter how badass and totally true it is. You might have to make some decisions on your own. I know, that’s scary and you might make mistakes. I can’t be there to hold your hand. At least, not unless you pay me, a lot, cause you’re pretty f’ed up.

Anyway, don’t be such a soup sandwich. You’re embarrassing me.

Sincerely, Noadamus.


5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Maybe live in the real world this week. For once.

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Pisces

Remember all those times you fantasized about how great your life would be if the universe provided the perfect opportunity? That time is here, and if you don’t go for your goals right now, you will have missed an incredibly powerful time for growth and achievement. Your perceived career and money problems seem to be looming over your head, but they’ll pass without consequence if you don’t do anything impulsively. You are positioned for incredible advancement, but all you can think of this weekend are lustful thoughts. Just don’t break the bank or do something in public your mom would find distasteful, because this week it will definitely end up on the internet.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

You only get rewarded if you actually do the right thing.

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Aries

Leaders don’t do the right thing because someone is watching. A real leader does the right thing all the time—when things are good and when things are sh!t. They also never stop improving, even when things are going great. Don’t get complacent; just because you hope everything you do will work out perfectly, doesn’t mean it will. If asked to work alone or in secret, do it and do your work to the higher standards. You will find yourself in unexpected leadership roles.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Work before play…

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Taurus

This week finds you focused on friends and events, maybe planning to see some live music or something. Don’t plan a trip just yet. Remember that thing where you have to put on a uniform and play military? This week forces you to find balance between your increasing need for freedom and work which must be redone. The fact this mess was not your doing is inconsequential. You must fix the mistakes of others, and you must do so perfectly. Try to be a good leader and don’t cry about it while you work. Everyone else will be inspired by your example, and you may even enjoy yourself.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Someone’s allllllways watching.

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Gemini

Okay Private, let’s do this again. Literally, you will be asked to return to something you believed was complete. Just got back from a deployment? The field? A float? You might have to go back. Do whatever the task requires and try not to tell too many lies this week. Your web of deceit is more likely to trap you than your prey. This weekend brings all the adult entertainment you could hope for, especially if you are traveling. Have fun, but be respectful—you never know who is lurking about watching.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Maybe just… take a vow of silence this week.

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Cancer

This week finds you re-examining the past, again. On top of that nonsense, your decision-making ability concerning money is terribly flawed and emotionally driven. Don’t burn any bridges no matter how much you would like to this week; just focus on the little things and keep your head down. If you find yourself involved in a romance with someone other than your primary relationship, keep it on the DL, and you will probably get away with it this week. As long as you don’t leave a paper trail, anyway, so hide those receipts and don’t tell your friends about your illicit fling, that is.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Whatever your go-to move is, your game is on point.

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Leo

Oh yeah, it’s about time us Leos got some love, pun intended. If you are single and looking for a friend, or relationship, or repeat from your past you are likely to find it. In fact, even if you are not looking for it, it will probably find you. Time with your friends will lead to romantic opportunities. Oh yeah, don’t forget about your oath of enlistment; this week it’s low on your priority list, but your relentless work ethic coupled with powerful aggression positions you for career advancement.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Bring. It. On.

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Virgo

If you get the opportunity for advanced training this week, jump on it. Even if you have to forgo something you really want. It will not only pay off, it will be way more fun than you were expecting. If the training involves shooting, blowing stuff up, or punching people in the face, you will not only excel, but will probably end up as the honor grad. Have fun and remember the only person you should expect perfection from is yourself. As long as you remember—while perfection is the goal, it is an unreachable one.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Come on, it’s just some desperately needed character building.

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Libra

Does a squad leader have to pull a midnight guard shift or is that the work of the lower enlisted swine? Trick question, but you might want to review the NCO’s creed. Anyway, I’ll tell you the answer: Yes, you do. There is a good chance it will feel like the only thing that exists this week is work, but that’s not totally true. This is a time to focus on your duties, but your pleasant attitude and willingness to do things you normally feel are beneath you will endear you to others and lead to all sorts of travel and romance opportunities.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Just remember how you felt the first time you watched the Miracle of Life.

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Scorpio

Hey corporal, are you trying to make a baby? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but didn’t they show you that video about where babies come from in Boot Camp? Let me know if you need me to send you a link so you can review it. Other than your sloppy finances and questionable morals, things are looking up for you. Your home and family life are pleasant and engaging. You may find a positive change in your daily duties. Lateral transfer, perhaps?

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

Bad Sagittarius. Put it down.

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Sagittarius

You win a four-day pass for crushing the SGM’s PT event? Go visit your family. You will have a bunch of your favorite thing, Fun. Promise. You might even get someone to show you how to do your laundry. No matter where you find yourself this week, get out and explore the local area, even if you’ve been everywhere a million times before. Surprising excitement awaits you. Just don’t overdraft your account again while enjoying yourself.

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

There, there, it’ll all be over soon. Uhhh… we hope.

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Capricorn

Remember how life has been kicking your ass recently? There is a light at the end of the tunnel. This week starts with no apparent end to the problems you have been dealing with, but by next week things start to improve, slowly at first, then gaining momentum rapidly. However, there will continue to be one thing hanging over your head through next week; just accept what you cannot control. Besides, it has to be resolved eventually. I think…..

5 incredible facts about the real Operation Christmas Drop

We both know you can’t help it, but for the love of God. Please skip the melodrama.

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Aquarius

This week, you might find your military duties getting in the way of your favorite hobby—going out and spending time in public with as many different people as possible. On top of that, you are forced to work in isolation and in secret. You’re not gonna die. I mean not from working by yourself, but eventually yes, you will die. To make it worse you will have an old friend, or maybe a new one, drop by this weekend to ‘catch up and stuff’ and come Monday they will not want to leave. We all know how you feel about ‘long term relationships,’ and it will restrict your freedom far too much.

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