4th of July military traditions we know and love - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

4th of July military traditions we know and love

Happy Birthday, America! It’s that time of year when we celebrate our freedom and the birth of the country we all know and love. This year, we proudly boast number 244 — sure there’s no real guide for what to give Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam this go-around, but luckily, we have some crowd favorites.

From old faithfuls, like fireworks exploding in the sky, to regional traditions like BBQs and the juiciest watermelon around, let’s all bask in the excitement that is Independence Day.


The obvious

First, we start with the obvious fare: grilling, summer dishes, and of course, fireworks. Whether you’re a family who drops serious dough to hear the big ka-booms, or prefers to swirl sparklers in your backyard, you’re celebrating all the same. Join in with family and friends — from a safe distance, of course — to plan your day of American food-loving fun.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

Hitting the zoo

Yes, the zoo! Check out your local animals this July 4th for free admission at many locations. Military members and their families can earn free access when visiting the zoos in Cincinnati or Birmingham. Everyone located elsewhere can still earn military discounts and a guaranteed fun day of animal viewing, along with activities themed red, white, and blue.

Water day

As the July heat has hit, spending the day in or near the water come July 4th is a crowd favorite. Certain water parks are offering free military admission this Fourth. (A welcome change as we’ve all been waiting for water parks to reopen, even at lowered capacities.) Meanwhile, the rest of us can enjoy days of swimming and boating near our duty station of choice.

4th of July military traditions we know and love
District of Columbia National Guard supports Fourth of July mission

Parades

Most years, military bases are home to big 4th of July celebrations. They host everything from food trucks, to parades, to massive fireworks shows. However, with the pandemic in play, many of these events have been postponed or canceled outright. As an alternative, some fireworks shows are offering drive-in shows instead. Think of an old fashioned drive-in theater, but where the sky is the screen instead. To see if your area is hosting a drive-in show, check local event pages.

While 2020 is calling for a different form of celebrating this year, it doesn’t mean military members and their families can’t still party-it-up this 4th.

How will you celebrate Independence Day?

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 14 most valuable Lego sets ever released

Next time you step on a LEGO brick in the middle of the night, think twice before you vindictively throw it in the trash. If it’s part of a rare or coveted set, it could be worth enough to dull your pain. In fact, the LEGO collectors market has become its own building block economy, with some sets bringing in thousands of dollars on the brick market.

“Many factors play into a set’s aftermarket value, but demand is the primary factor,” explains Chris Malloy, managing editor for The Brothers Brick, and co-author of Ultimate LEGO Star Wars.“For most of the company’s history, LEGO was viewed as exclusively a children’s toy. So, in the early 2000s, when LEGO began to explore the adult market in a serious way, they began developing a lot of massive sets with high price tags.”


Gerben van IJken, a full time LEGO expert with the EU-based auction platform Catawiki, and a LEGO investor and appraiser, also cites rarity, detail, and demand as reasons for increased value in LEGO collectibles.

“Most high-priced sets are recent, but not that recent. Properties such as Star Wars, for example, benefited from the restart of the movie franchise and the fact that people who loved Star Wars as kids – but didn’t have the money to buy sets that cost hundreds of dollars – are now buying them.”

So what are the most valuable LEGO sets around? That’s what we set out to find. While LEGO lore (get used to that term) tells of employee exclusives, such as a solid gold, 14K LEGO brickvalued between ,000 and ,000, we’ve kept this list to models, sets, and minifigures that are, or once were, available to the general public. So take a look at these sets and see if you have any of them sitting in the attic.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

1. #10179 LEGO Ultimate Collector’s Series Millennium Falcon

Highest Sale Price: ,000

The out-of-this-world sale price for this Star Wars set is a bit misleading, because it was a one-time thing influenced by some extraordinary factors. “This sale involved a first edition set, sold in an airtight case,” says van IJken. “It was also sold in Las Vegas, which influenced the markup.”

Despite the galactic inflation, a first edition Millennium Falcon is one of the most — if not the most —valuable Lego sets ever produced. “We’ve sold these sets for prices ranging from ,400 – ,700,” he says. However, a re-released version that came out in 2017 has devalued the set, according to Malloy. “Since the new Millennium Falcon came out, the more recent value is about id=”listicle-2629731824″,679, with only one sold in the last 6 months.” That said, with an original price of about 0, even the more modest sale price still represents a nearly 300 percent increase, making this set a true smuggler’s treasure.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

2. #10189 LEGO Taj Mahal, First Edition

Highest Sale Price: ,864

“This set used to trade blows with the Millennium Falcon for the top spot,” explains Malloy. “But it’s a perfect example of why speculating LEGO set values and prices is a very, very risky business.” LEGO re-released the Taj Mahal model a few years ago as part of a different collection, which dropped the price from north of ,000 to a mere 0. Despite the devaluation however, this set is still an architectural masterpiece and first editions once sold for about 10 percent of their highest valued price.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

3. #6080 LEGO King’s Castle

Highest Selling Price: ,600

If you’ve got a mint condition, in-the-box 1984 King’s Castle, you might be able to fetch some serious LEGO loot. Part of the reason is that, in general, a sealed LEGO set is worth up to ten times as much as an opened one. Another part is that, for the 80s, this was a HUGE set. “The largest set in a given theme during the 80s and 90s was typically in the 600 piece range,” Malloy explains. “Since the early 2000s, most themes include sets of more than 1,000 pieces. This means that there are a greater number of recent sets with a high starting value than there were from decades past.” Remarkably, the price of LEGOs on a per-piece basis has stayed relatively the same – about .10 per piece – since the 1980s, according to Malloy. So, the larger the set, regardless of its release date, the greater the possible value.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

4. #10030 LEGO Ultimate Collector’s Series Imperial Star Destroyer

Highest Sale Price: ,300

According to Malloy and van IJken, the high prices for Star Wars sets has less to do with rarity, and more to do with the enormous demand for all things Light or Dark Side. “Countless fans collect these sets to try and complete the full ‘Ultimate Collector’s Series’, or find every version of their favorite ship,” Malloy says. When fully assembled, this highly-detailed Star Destroyer measures more than three feet long, and is comprised of more than 3,000 pieces. Other versions of the same ship, which are not part of the Ultimate Collector’s Series, can still fetch nearly a grand on the secondary market.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

5. #6399 LEGO Airport Shuttle

Highest Sale Price: ,484

As part of the “Classic Town” line, this set was sought after by 90s kids everywhere. Why? Because it was one of the rare monorail sets that featured a looping track and battery-powered train. Originally selling at 0, this 730-piece model sits alongside other monorail sets such as the Futuron Monorail Transport System (1987, set #6990) and the Monorail Transport Base (1994, set #6991), which each average more than id=”listicle-2629731824″,000 in collector markets. “The monorail is sought after because it was a limited production,” says van IJken. “In fact, LEGO folklore tells us that LEGO outsourced the production of the monorail tracks — just the tracks, not the trains — to a company that went bankrupt. Because of that, the tooling pieces for the tracks were lost, and the monorail sets were abandoned.”

4th of July military traditions we know and love

6. #10190 LEGO Market Street

Avg. Sale Price: ,163

Designed by a LEGO fan, this hyper-realistic set is a LEGO Factory exclusive which incorporates intricate design elements such as spiral staircases, awnings, and removable balconies. It’s also part of the sought-after “modular” collection, which allows you to construct it in different ways and supplement it with different sets to create a truly unique LEGO town. The highly-valued “Cafe Corner” set (#10182), is one such set, itself valued at nearly id=”listicle-2629731824″,600.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

(BrickLink.com)

7. #1952 LEGO Milk Truck

Average Value: id=”listicle-2629731824″,980

Released in 1989, this LEGO vehicle set debuted in Denmark to promote the Danish dairy company MD Foods. While it only contains 133 pieces, it’s niche availability, and subsequent rarity, make it one of the most sought after “oddities” in LEGO land. Don’t be fooled by later, domestic releases, such as this one, which are much less valuable.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

8. #71001 LEGO Minifigures Series 10, “Mr. Gold”

Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,786

If you have kids, you know the thrill of hunting for the rare, blind-boxed LEGO Minifigures. “This Minifigure was limited to 5,000 pieces,” explains Malloy. “Sold to the public, they were mixed in with the unmarked, blind packs as a ‘treasure hunt’ item.” Minifigures, which are a huge part of LEGO lore can drastically affect the value of whole sets. “It’s common to sell sets without the Minifigures, which will often drop the value by at least 50%,” Malloy adds. And Mr. Gold, because he wasn’t part of a larger set, had a sticker price of only .99 during his release in 2013.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

(brickpicker.com)

9. #1650 + #1651 LEGO Maersk Line Container Ship + Container Truck

Average Sale Price: 8 (used), id=”listicle-2629731824″,700 (Mint in Same Box [MISB])

“Maersk and LEGO have a long history, and LEGO continues to release Maersk sets,” explains Malloy. “These are both limited sets, and finding accurate listings on them can be tough. I’ve seen a mint, in-box Container Ship listed for id=”listicle-2629731824″,700, a used Truck for ,000, and a new Truck for ,600. But these are asking prices.” Still, both sets are rare enough to command respectable scratch.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

10. #10196 LEGO Grand Carousel

Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,591

The LEGO Creator series – of which this intricate carousel set is a part – is a recent example of the detail factor that makes certain models so valuable. It’s a work of art that sells for nearly id=”listicle-2629731824″,500.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

(BrickLink.com)

11. #3450 LEGO Statue of Liberty

Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,531

As part of the LEGO Architecture series, this 2,882 piece beauty can fetch up to ,000 in its first edition. There’s even a boxed set on Amazon listed at ,000. (.54 for shipping, though? We’ll pass.) “This set and the Eiffel Tower regularly switch places in the value department, says van IJken. “More recently, the Statue of Liberty has begun to gradually increase in value,” he says. Standing at 30″ tall, it’s likely to tower over your typical toddler — assuming he or she doesn’t swallow the torch pieces first.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

(BrickLink.com)

12. #10018 LEGO Darth Maul

Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,333

Back to the Sarlacc pit we go to retrieve yet another high priced Star Wars LEGO set. This time, it’s a bust of a bust — the majorly underwhelming Darth Maul from 1999’s The Phantom Menace. His 1,800+ piece visage looks incredibly cool, and the hype was strong with this one, having been released less than two years after the film. So, again, a combination of Star Wars buzz, moderate rarity, and a great looking figure created a sought after collectible. If you’re not inclined to pay max Galactic Credits, though, here’s a list of all the pieces needed to build your own for a fraction of the bounty. Instructions too!

4th of July military traditions we know and love

13. #6081 LEGO King’s Mountain Fortress

Average Listing Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,326

A key component of LEGO’s 90s Castle line, this 400+ piece stronghold features a realistic drawbridge, landscaping elements, and several badass Minifigure knights. Currently, eBay features a handful of used sets (some complete, some not), which go for nearly 15 percent of the boxed set we’ve listed. “If you want to sell a set like this quickly,” Malloy says, “eBay is the way to go. If you get lucky and there’s a bidding war, it’s likely to bring in the highest price possible. But if you want to have more control over the price but don’t care about selling as quickly, use Bricklink, which is a dedicated community for LEGO collectors.”

4th of July military traditions we know and love

14. #4051 LEGO NesQuik Bunny

Average Sale Price: 4

“There are a few increasingly rare LEGO pieces that were available to the public, but this one is the most baffling to me,” says van IJken. “It’s the Nesquik bunny, who is the mascot of the chocolate milk brand. This figure was part of a line that was centered around movie making, and was endorsed by Steven Spielberg.” It came with a yellow sweater and brown pants and was given away with European chocolate milk cartons. Some did hop on over to the US, though, and if you have a mint, bagged one, you can hock it for some modest money. Not bad for what was once a free giveaway.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

From Kenya to the Chaplain Corps

Army Maj. Patrick Kihiu’s journey to becoming a chaplain and American soldier began in the slums of Kenya.

Born and raised in East Africa, Kihiu developed a deep religious conviction during high school. He cultivated his faith attending his local church in Nairobi and taking leadership roles in outreach programs, including in one of the world’s largest slums — the Kibera Slums.


His pastors recognized his potential, and understanding the value of international exposure, recommended he attend theological institutions in the U.S.

Diversity was not completely new to Kihiu though.

“I enjoyed being part of a culturally-varied community in Nairobi,” Kihiu explained. “My school mates came from the 42 tribes represented in Kenya. … After seeking God’s wisdom and guidance, the Lord opened the door of opportunity to begin theological training in the USA in September 1992 at age 22.”

After immigrating, Kihiu received a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Exposed to additional diversity during his studies, Kihiu says he gained an even more profound love and respect for others.

“We were constantly reminded we were all made in the Image of God and that we should treat everyone with the utmost respect irrespective of human differences,” he said.

It was also at school he met his wife, Rebecca — a fellow immigrant from Kenya. Ever since, they have led mission trips back to her home village in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and orphan crisis.

Then, starting his seminary practicum, he took a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) internship at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky.

“It was there I had the opportunity to serve military veterans, providing for their spiritual needs. I heard stories of service and sacrifice on behalf of our nation,” Kihiu said.

As this position ended, Kihiu’s supervisor, a retired chaplain, recommended he consider Army chaplaincy. Humbled, Kihiu contemplated this calling while engaged in his next internship, a CPE residency at the University of Louisville Hospital. Here, he served as an on-call chaplain in the Emergency Department (ER).

4th of July military traditions we know and love

Army Chaplain (Maj.) Patrick Kihiu with his family arriving home from a deployment July 2012 (Military Families Magazine)

“On duty, I was constantly exposed to patients with major trauma, including multiple gunshot wounds and serious accidents. I was there when doctors delivered tragic news, staying with families after the medical teams left, and then following up with the doctors and ER team to make sure they were OK too. Though this was an incredibly challenging ministry, I felt called providing compassionate care to all my patients, family members, and medical staff,” he said.

Here, Kihiu also served military families referred from Fort Knox, explaining how their conversations revolved around the respect they had for Army chaplains.

“I began exploring this ministry more even though I was clueless [about the] military culture. These brave soldiers and precious family members became my initial window in understanding the men and women whom I would eventually be called to serve,” he said.

Consequently, upon ending his residency and with encouragement from Rebecca, Kihiu enrolled in the Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership course at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, November 2009— the same year he became a U.S. citizen.

Kihiu has since served in operational and training commands, including a Warrior Transition Battalion, and deploying to Iraq. While in the1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, then battalion commander, Col. Steve Dawson, said of Kihiu, “No combat patrol ever went outside the wire without him personally blessing them before their departure, whether 2:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m.”

Now at Watters Family Life Training Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Kihiu encourages military families to get to know their chaplains.

“Chaplains have answered the sacred calling to ‘serve those who serve.’ We provide the best care possible in a confidential setting. [And though] endorsed by different religious agencies, our call to duty is to faithfully serve our diverse military community on behalf of our beloved nation.”

In maintaining his own resiliency, Kihiu adds, “I have learned the benefits of ‘self-awareness.’ By this I mean accepting my own strengths and weaknesses. We all have areas in our lives we can improve. Therefore, we should be accountable to others, like trusted friends, mentors, supervisors, clergy, therapists, or supervisors—who can constantly check on us and provide honest feedback. I treasure these vital relationships in my own life, and I could not be where I am without them.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Support for Veterans facing homelessness

Having to stay home for your health is challenging enough. Imagine being told to stay home when you had no home or were worried about losing it. What would you do? Where would you turn?

Tens of thousands of Veterans in the United States live that reality. In January 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) counted more than 37,000 Veterans living in emergency shelters, in transitional housing, or without any housing at all. Many more Veterans are at imminent risk for losing their housing in the coming months. Precise data is nearly impossible to collect because the population is transient by definition.

We do know that too many Veterans experience homelessness.


Any effort to help these Veterans must address not only their housing but also their mental health. The relationship between homelessness and mental health challenges is complicated, with each potentially impacting the other. For example, mental health issues might prevent a Veteran from holding a job that would allow them to afford stable housing. Similarly, homelessness is considered a traumatic event that can worsen mental health; it’s associated with issues such as increased alcohol use and lower recovery rates from mental illness.

As part of its commitments to improve Veterans’ mental health and relieve housing instability, VHA has developed a guidebook to provide Veterans facing homelessness with information about local resources and options.

“Connecting Veterans With VHA Homeless Programs: A Patient-Centered Booklet to Help Veterans Navigate VHA Resources” isn’t your typical informational resource. It’s a “graphic medicine” booklet, with information presented in graphic novel style, using stories and illustrations to convey important messages that makes the guidance easy to follow.

Because VA facilities vary in scope and size, the printable, 10-page booklet is designed to be customizable. Each facility can include local contact information for asking questions about program eligibility and how to access VHA and community-based services for Veterans who are homeless.

A VHA homelessness program manager said the booklet “gives providers another way to put a tangible reminder in a Veteran’s hand,” showing that VA has something for them.

One Veteran described the booklet as “in-depth and helpful” and noted that “everything is useful if you need the services.”

Why a graphic booklet?

The use of comics in graphic medicine guides has been around for decades. Today’s versions are in the graphic novel style, which gives room for the content writers to tackle more-serious-than-traditional comic books in both their topics and tone.

The combination of storytelling and expressive art can convey complex, layered ideas and information that neither writing nor pictures can achieve alone. With graphic medicine, the comic style can give even bland clinical data a familiar, approachable feel. Plus, its unique appearance stands out among VA waiting room pamphlets and may attract those who either need housing support or know a Veteran who does.

This patient-centered form of communication is gaining wider acceptance in the medical community, in part because it works. A study found that in one hospital’s emergency room, 98% of patients who received their discharge instructions in comic form read them, while only 79% read their traditional discharge instructions.

Experts also say graphic medicine books can have an emotional impact on readers because they often include authors’ personal experience with the issue at hand. In the case of “Connecting Veterans,” members of the book’s advisory committee at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System included Veterans — some with firsthand experience of housing challenges — and professionals from VA’s homelessness programs.

Ray Facundo, a social worker, researcher and Army Veteran, played an integral, hands-on role in developing the booklet. He explained that it was important to include input from other Veterans: “We should never do something for them without them.”

Integrating a range of resources

VHA took the lead in creating the guide because homelessness is associated with health concerns — some that one might expect, such as exposure, untreated injuries or being subjected to violence, as well as a suicide risk that’s 10 times that of the general population.

Even though “Connecting Veterans” is distributed by VHA providers, the booklet combines resources from VA offices that are often viewed as separate entities. The booklet takes a team approach in working toward improving stability and mental well-being through a range of programs and services, including:

Independently and in collaboration with federal and community partners, VA programs provide Veterans with housing solutions, employment opportunities, health care and justice- and reentry-related services.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Battle of Iwo Jima and the unbreakable Navajo Code

Peter MacDonald is one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers. The former chairman of the Navajo Nation recently sat down with VAntage Point staff to explain what made the “unbreakable” code so effective, and how it helped save lives and secure victory in the Pacific.


“Without Navajo, Marines would never have taken the island of Iwo Jima,” he said. “That’s how critical Navajo Code was to the war in the Pacific.”

The Unbreakable Code

Code Talkers used native languages to send military messages before World War II. Choctaw, for example, was used during World War I. The Marine Corps, however, needed an “unbreakable” code for its island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Navajo, which was unwritten and known by few outside the tribe, seemed to fit the Corps’ requirements.

Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to develop the code in 1942. They took their language and developed a “Type One Code” that assigned a Navajo word to each English letter. They also created special words for planes, ships and weapons.

Understanding Navajo didn’t mean a person could understand the code. While a person fluent in the language would hear a message that translated into a list of words that seemingly had no connection to each other, a code talker would hear a very clear message.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

Here is an example:

Navajo Code: DIBEH, AH-NAH, A-SHIN, BE, AH-DEEL-TAHI, D-AH, NA-AS-TSO-SI, THAN-ZIE, TLO-CHIN
Translation: SHEEP, EYES, NOSE, DEER, BLOW UP, TEA, MOUSE, TURKEY, ONION
Deciphered Code: SEND DEMOLITION TEAM TO …

In addition to being unbreakable, the new code also reduced the amount of time it took to transmit and receive secret messages. Because all 17 pages of the Navajo code were memorized, there was no need to encrypt and decipher messages with the aid of coding machines. So, instead of taking several minutes to send and receive one message, Navajo code talkers could send several messages within seconds. This made the Navajo code talker an important part of any Marine unit.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US soldiers and airmen help clean up Venice after devastating flood

On Dec. 6-7, 2019, soldiers, airmen, military families, and civilians of the Vicenza Military Community participated in a two-day clean-up of Venice following widespread flooding during the annual “acqua alta,” or high water, that struck the iconic island city on Nov. 12, 2019.

This is the second most devastating acqua alta in Venice history since 1966 when floodwaters topped out above 6 feet.

According to organizers, the “Save Venice” event was an enriching challenge for the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) Vicenza team. BOSS is a dynamic Department of the Army program, which engages single soldiers through peer-to-peer leadership to enhance their quality of life through community service and recreational activities.


Fifteen airmen, 14 soldiers, and three military family members and civilians assisted the city of Venice in this project.

“It was an honor to be able to help our neighbors in Venice after the damage from the floods,” said Joseph “Rodger” Nuttall, BOSS Vicenza Advisor.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

Volunteers moved heavy and soiled mattresses, washer machines, refrigerators, couches, and driftwood from the Santa Croce district in Venice, Italy on to five large garbage barges on December 6, 2019.

(US Army Garrison Italy/Maria Cavins)

The volunteers moved heavy and soiled mattresses, washer machines, refrigerators, couches, and driftwood from the Santa Croce district on to five large garbage barges. They were welcomed into Venetians’ homes to carry out furniture.

“Seeing people come out of their homes to personally thank us for helping alleviate work on them, after they have gone through so much, was especially rewarding,” said Nuttall, who high-fived an older Italian woman.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

Volunteers moved heavy and soiled mattresses, washer machines, refrigerators, couches, and driftwood from the Santa Croce district in Venice, Italy on to five large garbage barges on December 6, 2019.

(US Army Garrison Italy/Maria Cavins)

4th of July military traditions we know and love

City Councilor for the Environment Massimiliano De Martin welcomed the volunteers as they arrived to Venice, Italy on December 6, 2019.

(US Army Garrison Italy/Maria Cavins)

4th of July military traditions we know and love

Volunteers moved heavy and soiled mattresses, washer machines, refrigerators, couches, and driftwood from the Santa Croce district in Venice, Italy on to five large garbage barges on December 6, 2019.

(US Army Garrison Italy/Maria Cavins)

Trash collection has been an ancient challenge in Venice for centuries. There are no common spaces where trash is compiled. Because of the small walkways, all trash collection is done by hand to load into boats.

Venice’s waste management company, Veritas, reorganizes space to make sure that trash assortment is done every single day, seven days a week, despite the challenges of the tides or weather conditions. Large-scale strategic organization is critical to the survival of Venice.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

An Italian woman shows her appreciation to BOSS Vicenza Advisor Joseph “Rodger” Nuttall in Venice, Italy, December 6, 2019.

(US Army Garrison Italy/Maria Cavins)

4th of July military traditions we know and love

City Councilor for the Environment Massimiliano De Martin welcomed the volunteers as they arrived to Venice, Italy on December 6, 2019.

(US Army Garrison Italy/Maria Cavins)

The BOSS Vicenza team support was assisted by the office of the Italian Base Commander on Caserma Ederle, where US Army Garrison Italy is headquartered.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what makes Marine scout snipers so deadly

Marine scout snipers are some lethal dudes. Capable of sending lead downrange with great accuracy, they’re also great for getting eyes on the battlefield for persistent reconnaissance. Here’s what makes them so deadly:


1. Yes, the Marines are masters of stealth, trained to stalk and hunt enemy troops or, more commonly, set up firing points to strike targets of opportunity and protect friendly forces.

 

4th of July military traditions we know and love
Corporal Brighten Bell, a student undergoing the 2nd Marine Division Combat Skills Center’s Pre-Scout Sniper Course, acquires a target during a stalking exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 22, 2016. The exercise required students to traverse approximately 1,000 meters of high grass and fire on a target, all without being detected. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez/Released)

2. To achieve this, they become masters of reading the terrain, ballistics, and tactics. These skills have to be combined to ensure that they can predict a target’s actions and engage it accurately.

4th of July military traditions we know and love
A U.S. Marine assigned to Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment, writes down data for long range target engagements, part of Lava Viper 17.1, at Range 10 aboard the Pohakuloa Training Area, on the big Island of Hawaii, Oct. 17, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ricky S. Gomez)

3. Of course, they don’t have to rely on only their own weapons systems. The snipers can report enemy activity and request other fires such as artillery or aircraft to engage targets, keeping the sniper’s position secret.

4th of July military traditions we know and love
A Marine in the Scout Sniper Platoon with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment calls in coordinates for a position report during a patrol for SSP training aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 29, 2015.(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Krista James/Released)

4. Spotters usually handle the duties of conducting calls for artillery or close air support, and they also help the sniper find and engage targets by scanning the battlefield and relaying environmental information like wind speed and range.

4th of July military traditions we know and love
U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jacob B. Yoder, a student with the Marine Scout Sniper School, Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, spots targets while conducting a known-distance course of fire at Hathcock Range, Stone Bay, Feb. 8, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by SOI-East Combat Camera, Cpl. Andrew Kuppers/Released)

5. Like any good Marine, the scout snipers can arrive on the battlefield in a number of ways, from riding in on the waves in AAVs to fast roping out of Ospreys.

4th of July military traditions we know and love
Marines with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Weapons Company, Scout Sniper Platoon, fast rope from an MV-22B Osprey with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 30. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Lillian Stephens/Released)

6. Rucking in can give them a much stealthier insertion.  The spotter will assist carrying the ammo for the sniper.

4th of July military traditions we know and love
Students with the Marine Scout Sniper School, Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, move to their next firing positions while conducting a known-distance course of fire at Hathcock Range, Stone Bay, Feb. 8, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by SOI-East Combat Camera, Cpl. Andrew Kuppers/Released)

 

7. Scout snipers can engage the enemy with a variety of long-range rifles.

 

4th of July military traditions we know and love
Students with the Marine Scout Sniper School, Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, conduct a known-distance course of fire at Hathcock Range, Stone Bay, Feb. 8, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by SOI-East Combat Camera, Cpl. Andrew Kuppers/Released)

8. The M40 is one of their most commonly-deployed weapons.

4th of July military traditions we know and love
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jake Ruiz, an instructor at the Scout Sniper School, Weapons Training Battalion, fires an M40A5 bolt action sniper rifle during an unknown distance marksmanship training exercise at Range 7, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Oct. 2, 2014. The Marines trained with weapons systems organic to a scout sniper platoon, to include; the M40A5 bolt action sniper rifle, the M107 Special Assault Scope rifle, and M110 Semi-automatic Sniper System. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Timothy Turner/Released)

9. And of course, the Barrett M82 .50-cal. sniper rifle is so powerful you could kill a building.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

10. To properly employ all this lethality, scout snipers stay super fit.

4th of July military traditions we know and love
A Marine candidate with the Scout Sniper Screening Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, conducts a 500-meter swim as part of the Scout Sniper Physical Assessment Test at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 19, 2015. The 500-meter swim was the first of several physically demanding events that tested endurance, strength and speed. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez)

11. Look at these guys. Carrying rucksacks. Drinking from Camel Baks.

4th of July military traditions we know and love
Marine candidates with the Scout Sniper Screening Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, conduct a 12-mile ruck run as part of the Scout Sniper Physical Assessment Test at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 19, 2015. The run required 50 pounds of equipment and had a time limit of three hours. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez/Released)

12. Scout snipers are always there for you. Or maybe right behind you. Or possibly 1,000 meters front of you. They’re so stealthy, you can’t actually be sure. But they can kill you from practically anywhere.

4th of July military traditions we know and love
A Marine student undergoing the 2nd Marine Division Combat Skills Center’s Pre-Scout Sniper Course prepares to move during a stalking exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 22, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez/Released)

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best Father’s Day gifts made by veterans

In continuation with the complete catastrophe that is 2020, voters on both sides of the aisle agree Father’s Day 2020 official theme to be, “Sorry we forgot, this gift had express shipping.”

We’re just kidding, but you’re welcome for reminding you that Sunday, June 21 is Father’s Day. Since we all know you forgot, we’ve compiled a list so good that you won’t even mind paying the extra to get it there in time.


For the veteran

CBD oil

Yea, we went big and bold out of the gate, but for good reason. CBD products legalized by the Farm Bill have been destigmatized over the last few years. When the carpool moms are doing it, you know it’s pretty legit. Veteran-owned CBD companies like Patriot Supreme are advocating for non-narcotic options as a better alternative for pain, anxiety and all kinds of other benefits we won’t make claims for here. Military life ages the body at warp speed, so do your veteran a favor by offering some relief.

Beard oil

The first step in becoming the iconic “vet-bro” is to grow yourself a mighty fine beard. How does a modern military man call himself one without? Whether they’ve got an Abe Lincoln, chin curtain, (these are legit, we promise) or are in the infantile stages of some stubble, do their face a favor with some premium product like from Warlord.

For the brand

Entrepreneurship or the fast-growing area of solopreneurship is as American as it gets. The fight, the grind and the ridiculous amount of grit it takes to run your own business, especially on the heels of steady government paychecks from military life is tough. But tough doesn’t stop veterans. If yours is even remotely considering this route, you can’t go wrong with the suggestions below. Bonus points here since these options can be “ordered” at 11:59 the day before without looking sloppy.

-Booking professional headshots

-Signing them up for conferences like MIC

For the service member 

Statement pieces

Repurposing military surplus materials into high quality, durable travel or duffel bags and more is the kind of awesome Sword Plough is all about. Repurposed .50 cal casings made into money clips make a damn fine conversation starter and something dapper for all their new beard oil you ordered.

Local flavor

There’s one thing you can’t go wrong with this Father’s Day and that’s trying something new backed by hundreds of raving reviews. If you haven’t already, try using the store locator feature and grabbing a bottle of Mutt’s Sauce, the universal flavor loved across generations and oceans alike. Charlie “Mutt” Ferrell, Jr’s legacy is still alive today thanks to his granddaughter and Air Force Veteran, Charlynda.

Natural products…to combat all the unknown MRE ingredients they eat

Doc Spartan has exploded since their appearance on Shark Tank. Their line of natural first aid ointments and sprays should be a go-bag staple for any military member. While you’re at it, check out their lineup of natural, aluminum-free deodorants called “armpit armor.”

Recordable storybooks

What is often gifted to kids is actually a great option for Father’s Day too. Gifting fathers with a prerecorded favorite read in the voices of their children is a deeply personal choice. Most books can be re-recorded to accommodate for growing families over the years.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Everything you need to know about the Silver Star but didn’t want to ask

As the third-highest award for bravery in combat awarded to service members in the military, the Silver Star honors those who display exceptional courage while engaged in military combat operations against enemy forces.

When you see a Silver Star distinction on a license plate or on a uniform, you might wonder what the service member did to earn the distinction. Here’s everything you need to know about the Silver Star Medal but didn’t want to ask.


The Silver Star Requirements

The SSM is awarded for bravery, as long as the action doesn’t justify the award of one of the next higher valor awards (the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Air Force Cross or the Coast Guard Cross).

The act of bravery has to have taken place while in combat action against an enemy of the United States while involved in military operations that involve conflict with an opposing foreign force. It can also occur while serving with a friendly force engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

This medal is awarded for singular acts of heroism over a brief period, such as one to two days.

Exceptions

Air Force pilots, combat systems officers and Navy/Marine naval aviators/flight officers are often ineligible to receive the Silver Star after becoming an ace (having five or more confirmed aerial kills). However, the last conflict to produce aces was the Vietnam War, and during that conflict, several Silver Stars were awarded to aces.

Finely constructed details

The Silver Star Medal is a gold five-pointed star, 1 ½ inch in diameter with a laurel wreath encircling rays forming the center. A smaller, 3/16 inch silver star is superimposed in the center. The pendant is suspended from a rectangular shaped metal loop with rounded corners.

On the backside, the reserve has the inscription, “For Gallantry in Action.” The ribbon measures 1 3/8 inches wide and has a 5.6mm wide Old Glory Red stripe in the center, proceeding outward pairs of white and ultramarine blue.

Second and subsequent Silver Star awards are denoted by bronze or silver oak leaf clusters in the Air Force and Army, and gold and silver stars for the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.

Recipients of Silver Star Medals

To date, independent groups estimate that between 100,000 and 150,000 Silver Stars have been awarded since the decoration was established. The Department of Defense doesn’t keep records for how many are issued.

The first Silver Star was awarded to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1932, who was then awarded Silver Stars seven additional times for his actions in WWI.

Col. Davis Hackworth was awarded 10 Silver Star medals for his actions in both Korea and Vietnam. It’s thought that he has the highest number of medals issued to one single person.

Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Senator John Kerry, Army Gen. George Marshall and Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North all received Silver Stars.

WWI Controversy

In WWI, three Army nurses were cited with the Citation Star for their bravery in attending to wounded service personnel while under artillery fire in July 1918. However, in 2007, it was discovered that the nurses never received their awards. These three nurses were Jane Rignel, for her bravery in giving aid to the wounded while under fire, and Irene Robar and Linnie Leckrone, for their courage to attend to the wounded while under artillery bombardments.

The first woman to receive both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart was also an Army nurse – Lt. Col. Cordelia Cook. She served in WWII and later went on to have a career as a civilian nurse.

In 2005, Army National Guard Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester received the Silver Star for her gallantry during an insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq. In 2008, Army Spec. Monica Lin Brown received the Silver Star for her extraordinary heroism as a medic in the War in Afghanistan.

Since September 11, 2001, the Silver Star has been awarded to service members during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Best battle proven tricks to win a ‘sniper duel’

Snipers face countless threats on the battlefield. Ambush. Exposure. Separation from friendly forces. But, one of the most dangerous is being hunted by another deadly sharpshooter.

“It becomes a game of cat and mouse,” US Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, the sniper instructor team sergeant at the sniper school at Fort Benning, said in a recent interview with Business Insider. “You have to be very cautious.”


Sniper duels like those seen in “Enemy at the Gates” and that well-known scene from “Saving Private Ryan” are rare, but they do happen. During the Vietnam War, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock battled several enemy snipers, reportedly putting a shot clean through the rifle scope and eye of a North Vietnamese Army sniper.

We asked a handful of top US Army snipers, marksman with years of experience and multiple combat deployments, how they hunt enemy sharpshooters. Here’s what they had to say.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

Spc. Dane Pope-Keegan, a Scottsdale, Arizona native and sniper assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, performs reconnaissance and collects information during air assault training on July 10, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew McNeil / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

US snipers have been fighting insurgents in the Middle East for nearly two decades. These enemies, while dangerous, are often considered lower level threats because they lack the training that US forces have.

“Some of our lower threat level [enemies], just because they are carrying a long gun, they may not have the actual experience of a sniper,” Rance told BI. The far greater threats are from professionally trained shooters from advanced militaries like those of China, Russia, and possibly even Iran.

“As you get into the near-peer threats, adversaries that have the proper tools and training, it’s a greater challenge for us to go get them because often they are professional school-trained snipers,” he said. They know the tricks of the trade, and that makes them much more deadly.

When there is a suspected sniper holed up nearby, there are a few different options.

“The best answer might be to go around,” Army Capt. Greg Elgort, the company commander at Fort Benning, told BI. “But, if your mission requires you to go through, you have a lot of different offensive options that are available.” They don’t necessarily have to hunt the enemy down one-on-one.

Snipers regularly support larger military force elements, scouting out enemy positions and relaying critical information to other components of that larger force, which can strike with mortars, artillery or infantry assault to “root out and destroy” the enemy. The snipers can then assess damage caused by the strikes from a safe distance.

But, sometimes eliminating the threat falls squarely on the shoulders of the sniper.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

A U.S. Army sniper and infantryman with the U.S. Army Sniper School poses during a video shoot at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2018.

(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Capt. David Gasperson)

The hunt is a tedious and dangerous game, as Rance said. US troops must pinpoint the emplaced sniper and range them without exposing themselves to fire.

“It’s going to take patience,” First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper with more than a decade of experience, explained to BI recently. “You are waiting to see who is going to make a mistake first. Basically, it is going to take a mistake for you to win that fight, or vice versa, you making a mistake and losing that fight.”

Snipers are masters at concealing themselves from the watchful eyes of the enemy, but disappearing is no easy task. There’s a million different things that go into hiding from the enemy, and a simple mistake could be fatal.

According to the story of Hathcock, the renowned Vietnam War sniper, it was reportedly the glare of the enemy’s scope that gave away his position. “As a sniper, you are looking for anomalies, anything that sticks out, going against the pattern,” Rance explained.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

U.S. Army Spc. Artemio Veneracion, a native of North Hills, Calif., a sniper with Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed out of Vilseck, Germany, looks through the scope of an M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS), during a combined squad training exercise with the Finnish Soldiers of the Armoured Reconnaissance Platoon at the Tapa Training Area, Estonia, June 15, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)

These fights could easily be long and drawn out.

“In a real scenario, you could be in a situation for two, three weeks, a month maybe, determining a pattern, waiting for a mistake to be made,” Sipes said. Eliminating a threat could involve taking the shot yourself or using your eyes to guide other assets as they force the enemy “into a position to effectively neutralize them.” Either way, it takes time.

And, the waiting is tough.

“Staying in a position for an extended period of time, obviously it’s difficult,” Sipes told BI. “Patience is key. It’s terrible when you’re in that situation because it’s incredibly boring and you’re not moving. I’ve come out of situations with sores on my stomach and elbows and knees from laying there for so long.”

“It’s a cool story later,” he added.

No matter how tough it gets, a sniper must maintain focus, keeping his concentration. A sniper really only gets one shot, maybe two best case scenario.

“If they were to miss,” Rance explained, “they only have a few seconds to do that second shot correction before that target, seeks cover and disappears.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

An NFL player and West Pointer reenlisted troops before the Cardinals-Rams game

In the hours before the Arizona Cardinals kicked off against the Los Angeles Rams, an even more special thing happened in the Cardinals’ end zone. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it was only one of two events that took place in their end zone all night. Arizona fell to Los Angeles 31-9, but 45 U.S. troops were sworn in or reenlisted that night.


You win some, you lose some.

4th of July military traditions we know and love
West Point NFL player conducts mass oath of enlistment ceremony

But wait a minute. According to 10 U.S. Code § 502, the oath has to be administered by a commissioned officer. So who is swearing in these kids and troops? That’s 1st Lt. Brett Toth, who is a beneficiary of the recent rule changes to service academy athletes. Toth’s military service requirement was deferred in order to play offensive tackle for the Arizona Cardinals while he was in prime physical condition. Toth is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and a former player for the Army Black Knights football team. He played in two of Army’s most recent wins over Navy.

The group of 45 future soldiers and Marines gathered in front of him before the game’s kickoff were recruits from the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion and was part of the local Salute to Service celebration within the Cardinals franchise. The Cardinals, former home of a deceased Army ranger and former Cardinal Pat Tillman, are very excited to celebrate Salute to Service every November. It doesn’t hurt to have an actual lieutenant on hand, either.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

(U.S. Army photo by Alun Thomas)

As Toth, who is currently on the team’s disabled list, led the mass Oath of Enlistment, the crowd began to cheer wildly. After taking the oath, the 45 newly-christened U.S. troops were able to stay for the game. When the Cardinals took the field, the first people out of the locker room were Capt. Edward Donaghue, commander of the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion, and Staff Sgt. Gregory Hunter, one of the battalion’s recruiters.

Though the game started on a very high note for the Cardinals players and for America’s newest troops, it didn’t take long to turn for the worst. The Cardinals were soundly defeated in a 31-9 loss to the Rams.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years

When the Brie Larsen blockbuster “Captain Marvel” rolled out earlier this year, the Air Force launched an all-out recruiting effort, hoping to capitalize on the story of female fighter pilot-turned superhero Carol Danvers.

The Air Force placed pre-show ads in more than 3,600 theaters nationwide, bought space at geek hubs such as Fandom.com, and hosted its own press events with Larsen, as well as a red-carpet screening in Washington, D.C.

From at least one perspective, the Air Force effort to hitch its wagon to Captain Marvel’s star was an unreserved success.


An inspirational 30-second commercial titled “Origin Story,” timed to coincide with the film’s release in March, was the most popular piece of social media promotional content published by any service in 2019, Lt. Col Jacob Chisolm, deputy chief of strategic marketing at the Air Force Recruiting Service (AFRS), told the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) during its December meeting.

USAF Female Fighter Pilots: March 8 recruitment campaign upcoming movie

www.youtube.com

Through paid media promotion, “Origin Story” received 173,000 visits, 11 million views of the video itself, and 200 million impressions overall, according to Air Force statistics.

“We couldn’t ask for a better movie to do that,” Chisolm said. AFRS is currently run by Brig. Gen Jeannie Leavitt, the service’s first female fighter pilot upon whom Danvers’ character is loosely based. Leavitt was commander of the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, as the movie was filming.

“It was a huge success. We had a fantastic media campaign,” Chisolm said.

But has the movie hype and messaging translated to recruiting numbers? It may be too soon to tell.

The proportion of female applicants to the Air Force Academy’s class of 2023 will be the highest in the last five years — 31.2%, according to statistics provided to Military.com. By comparison, 913 men, or 73.5%, and 329 women, or 26.5%, made up the 2019 graduating class.

The academy is one of the main accession hubs for the service.

“In 2014, the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force set applicant pool goals for all officer accessions sources,” Maureen Welch, Air Force Academy director of public affairs, told Military.com via email. “The guidance was used to influence our marketing and outreach efforts.”

So far, the remaining classes have also seen a slight bump: Women make up 28.6% of the 2020 applicant class; 29.3% in 2021; and 30.5% in the 2022 class, according to statistics.

4th of July military traditions we know and love

U.S. Air Force Academy, CO — Basic Cadet Victoria Wyler attacks the monkey bars on the Jacks Valley Assault Course.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Dennis Rogers)

Welch said the marketing efforts do not necessarily seek out applicants for a particular class composition, which is why the academy “has not seen an out of the ordinary increase in female applicants, nor female applicants interested in aviation careers” despite the film’s debut.

The popular movie and Air Force advertising campaign came in the midst of a multi-year effort by the academy to diversify its cadet population.

But Marvel did bring more eyeballs to the service’s career website during a time of renewed push to inspire young women to join the Air Force’s ranks.

The Air Force says it capitalized on the opportunity to work with the “Captain Marvel” filmmakers to showcase a leading female aviator, Danvers, who started out as a young trainee only to become a top-notch F-15 Eagle pilot, and ultimately, liberator of the universe.

In a round table with reporters at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber conference in September, Leavitt cited the effect of advertising around Captain Marvel, reporting anecdotally that officials were seeing more interest from women in Air Force pilot careers.

“Quite honestly I think it’s going to be one of those things that is going to take some time to show, kind of the return on investment,” she said. “Because a lot of these people being inspired are kind of high school, college age, where we might not see that for a little while later. … We do have an increased number of women who want to be pilots. But I don’t know if that’s because of Captain Marvel. … I don’t know the why behind it.”

4th of July military traditions we know and love
(Marvel Studios)

As of July, the Air Force had 778 female pilots, accounting for roughly 6% of the pilot force, according to the Air Force Personnel Center.

The “Origin Story” ad used the “Captain Marvel” framework to present real female airmen who “all got their start somewhere.”

“For us, it was the U.S. Air Force,” a group of women say in the commercial.

“We’re looking for what’s going to follow this, but we’re going to ride this wave as long as we can,” Chisolm said.

Other efforts to boost Air Force female outreach in 2019 incorporated Air Education Training Command’s Women’s Fly In Conference in Texas; a partnership with SuperGirl Surf Pro, the world’s largest female surf event and festival; roughly a dozen regional events with First Robotics to promote women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); and the annual TED Women speakers conference program, a three-day event in which audience goers correspond with female entrepreneurs, creators and leaders in their respective industries.

“We’re going to try to get involved in everything … and we’re going to do what we can do to get out and make sure we get our message across,” Chisolm said.

He added that the Air Force’s plan is to “jump on the ‘Top Gun 2’ bandwagon, too,” despite the film showcasing naval aviation.

“We’re not going to let that slide, either,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Prison inmates are training dogs for wounded warriors in record time

Prison time is hard time. Depending on where an inmate is locked up, they can spend anywhere from 21-23 hours a day in their cells, regardless of the severity of their crimes. Wherever possible, inmates who really want to get out are making the most of that time. But it turns out there is one job that is perfectly suited to someone with that much time on their hands: training service dogs for wounded veterans.


4th of July military traditions we know and love

America’s VetDogs employs inmates like Tyrell Sinclair, an inmate at Connecticut’s Enfield Correctional Facility, to train service dogs destined for wounded veterans – and the dogs work wonders for the inmates as well. For Sinclair, it gives him something to do, something to look forward to every day. More than that, the increased attention the inmates are able to give the trainee dogs cuts the training time down to just one year instead of two to five years.

“After committing a crime, being in here, you just sit around and think about how bad things are, how bad a person I am for being in this predicament,” said Sinclair. “Once I got the dog and got into the program, things were better. It’s like a whole different outlook.”

4th of July military traditions we know and love

Sinclair says he was amazed at the abilities the dogs have once they are subject to the proper training and skills.

“It amazed me,” he said.

But it’s not just the constant companionship of man’s best friend that helps inmates like Sinclair through their jail time. The inmates know the dogs will not be with them for very long if all goes according to plan. It’s knowing that the dogs they train are destined to help someone who served their country that gives the inmates the boost in confidence.

“It almost makes me feel like a proud dad.”

Mark Tyler, who oversees the Enfield program for America’s VetDogs, believes the prisoner’s inclination toward the dogs (and vice versa) is a natural one and the program is a win-win situation for everyone involved. The numbers support that belief. Around 85 percent of Enfield inmates will end up back in Enfield after their release, for the same crime or another crime. For inmates who train dogs, that number drops to 25 percent.

“They know all too well the crime they committed will likely become an extension of who they are,” Tyler said of the prisoners. “The dog doesn’t care what that person did in the past, he cares about who they are today.”

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