Fireworks have been an American tradition since 1777 when they first lit up the skies of Philadelphia. It is an important time of reflection of everything American with the joy of pyrotechnics. The 4th of July is a time when Ol’ Glory is on everything from beer cans to bikinis, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Patriots buy around 247,550,000 pounds of Freedom every year for this special holiday.
As long as you don’t live in Delaware and Massachusetts, the only two U.S. states that ban the sale and use of any and all consumer fireworks, you’ll be fine. Remember to check if your county has any restrictions on specific types as well.
First course – sparklers
A night of fireworks should be served like a five-course meal. Sparklers, the appetizer of fireworks, are safe with adult supervision and are great to get everyone in the mood to see some color. If you’re able to find the neon kind, pick those up because they’ll show up the best on phone cameras. Sparklers are great for kids or those scared of the boom-boom variety.
The advantage to these is that they’re cheap relative to the exploding kind and a few packs will entertain for a while. A sleeve will cost around .50 with 5 pieces and a box with 40 pieces should be around .
Second course – firecrackers
Firecrackers are a staple of every fourth of July BBQ, but there are so many brands and sizes that it’s easy to get overwhelmed deciding which kind to buy. The following video is a power test of some brands that can be purchased at fireworks tents. As always, exercise caution when using these and don’t do what this guy is doing at home.
Third course – cones
Snowcones are my personal favorite because they’re great to get people excited for the main course while getting a good amount of fire for your money. Snowcones cost $3.50, give or take, depending on taxes and availability. Some wholesalers are already sold out of these so if you see them definitely buy at least one.
The main course – box fireworks
Alright, time to set the little stuff aside and put some serious rounds down range. Get yourself a fireworks box, and I’m not talking about the variety pack from Walmart. I’m talking about the kind you buy from the fireworks tent from some guy named Bubba, and you’re unsure if this was smuggled into the country somehow. They run around 0 and are worth every penny. Blackcat is the most trusted brand in this category if you want to invest in quality. You’re going to want to outgun every neighbor as you all duke it out like the founding fathers wanted.
Seriously, John Adams wanted you to blow up as many fireworks as you can.
It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. – John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams
Dessert – custom builds
Usually, after four courses, people are full but there is always room for dessert. In the case of fireworks, this means your custom builds, the kind that you needed to get permission from the federal government to fire off. The kind of explosions that make ISIS say “F*ck that was loud.” In all seriousness, though, don’t make custom builds unless you have the proper license and training. 5 seconds of ‘wow’ is not worth your life.
Consumer fireworks in the United States are limited to 500 grams of composition and firecrackers may have up to 50 milligrams of flash powder. Reloadable shells are limited to 1.75″ in diameter, and shells in pre-fused tubes are limited to 2″. Any fireworks that exceed these limits are not considered consumer fireworks and need an ATF license. – The Consumer Product Safety Commission
When Christine Hassing looked at the suicide statistics of U.S. military veterans, she was drawn to learn more about the experiences of veterans suffering from PTSD and military sexual trauma (MST). Through her research, Hassing learned the remarkable impact service dogs played in veterans’ journeys towards healing and recovery from the deepest emotional wounds.
The Michigan-based author and inspirational speaker was working on her master’s degree when she met a veteran and his service dog.
After listening to their story, she knew that she wanted to spotlight the struggles of fellow veterans like him who are healing from trauma with the support of their furry friend. From sensing a nightmare and waking a veteran before terror takes hold, to placing a comforting paw on someone’s shoulder to ward off a panic attack, these dogs provide immeasurable support day and night.
Wanting to share their perspective, she collaborated with twenty-three veterans and compiled their unique stories in her recently published book, “Hope Has A Cold Nose.”
“When my path intersected with the first veteran and his service dog that you can meet in ‘Hope Has a Cold Nose,’ I asked if I could write his life story for a class assignment,” Hassing told We Are The Mighty. “Our class had been given the challenge to do something creative that was outside our comfort zone. As a volunteer life story writer for a local hospice, writing life stories was not new to me. Writing a life story for someone who was not knowingly dying was.”
Statistics show that 22 U.S. military veterans commit suicide per day.
“In writing this veteran’s life story, I learned not only how effective canines are as a healing modality for PTSD, [but that] twenty-two lives a day have lost hope,” Hassing shared. “I was inspired to be a voice for the twenty-three co-authors of ‘Hope Has A Cold Nose’ who desired to inspire hope for 22 lives a day with a goal of reducing the suicide rate to zero.”
Each chapter shares the story of a different human-canine pair as they explore their life changing relationship. The compelling testimonies from each and every storyteller in the book reminds readers of the importance of compassion and community during the recovery process for veterans.
“It’s important to increase awareness about the healing impact that service dogs have on those journeying with PTSD and the power of listening that helps people heal,” she shared. “To foster hope for anyone who struggles with pain, trauma, sorrow, or despair and to foster compassion and community. This year may become one in which many will mark 2020 as a traumatic year. The co-authors in Hope Has a Cold Nose understand grief, sorrow, fear, isolation, anxiety, depression, and loss of hope. These stories can foster empathy and understanding in addition to inspiring hope.”
For Hassing, working to share these individual veteran stories stretches far beyond publishing a book.
“It is my hope that the readers will learn about the effectiveness of service dogs as a healing modality for those who struggle with PTSD,” Hassing said. “That increased understanding will foster the ability to listen to others experiencing pain, trauma, sorrow, or despair with the same kind of unconditional acceptance as those with fur do and that if the reader is undergoing significant pain, trauma, sorrow, or despair, may they find compassion and understanding for their own story. May they find hope.”
After I fractured a vertebra in Iraq, I took up swimming instead of running because it was easier on my spine as I grew older. It has become an integral part of my daily routine. I also like having a beard, but as I swam, my facial hair became super dry and ragged. I went from having a nice thick, black beard to a Brillo pad pretty fast.
One day, I was on the phone with a potential client who sold beard care products. I mentioned what the pool did to my beard and that regular shampoo wasn’t helping. He said, “Dude, if all you want is to not have neck dandruff, use shampoo. If you want to have a full, robust beard, use actual beard products”.
Like many of us, I initially balked. From my days of hardcore PT in the Marines, to the lackadaisical faux workouts post EAS, to the insane post-divorce shred sessions, to my current let’s-just-do-something-to-keep-active routine, I didn’t think twice about how my workouts affected my skin, beard, and body — until I had a steel-scouring pad growing from my face. But after trying different products, I have seen a difference. I am now a firm believer. Using the right personal care products is just as important as the workouts you do.
With BRAVO SIERRA, you know you will get quality care regardless of how intense your workout is.
It’s part of their business practice. This personal care company, founded by a team of veterans and some patriotic civilians, uses feedback from men serving in the military to create and finely tune products that really go the extra mile to make you look and feel good.
It’s in their mission statement. “BRAVO SIERRA believes in agile physical product development to ensure consumers get better products, faster. We believe the human body is the most important system, and that democratizing product development will be the future of taking ownership of our health and wellness.”
Here are some of their products and how they are a cut above what you use post-workout.
Hair & Body Solid Cleanser
Lots of soaps use sulfates and silicone in their composition. They smell good, but don’t clean your pores, skin, or hair as well as they should. Also why do you want to douse yourself in chemicals?
BRAVO SIERRA doesn’t use the traditional harsh cleansing agent that strips your skin. Their hydrating formula and coconut-derived cleansing agent allows you to use this product from hair to toe without drying out your skin, hair, face or scalp.
Yup, I watched American Psycho back in the day, saw Patrick Bateman’s routine and thought, “Nope! Not me.” And yet here I am telling you that you need to moisturize your face. All that sweat from the gym, the chemicals from the pool, the sun when you run or bike outside… it takes a toll. This non-greasy option uses blue algae and apple fruit extract for all-day hydration. It also has aloe vera so you can use it as an aftershave.
Shaving can get tedious when you have a 9 to 5 but it really sucks when you are in the military and have to shave literally anywhere. I still get irked when I think about being made to shave using old razors and cold water every day when I was out in the middle of the Syrian Desert. Well, BRAVO SIERRA made a shaving cream with that in mind. Its foam-to-cream texture prevents irritation on sensitive skin. It’s engineered with the first environmentally friendly, non-flammable propellant, making it ideal for your travel pack.
Antibacterial Body Wipes
Can’t shower right away after working out? Given the current situation with the virus, you might be looking to avoid the gym showers altogether! Have to run into the store on the way home after the gym? These wipes are the ultimate on-the-go solution for when you have to clean up when you can’t clean up.
Infused with aloe vera, ginseng and blue algae, these wipes will have you feeling refreshed and smelling like an adult — instead of a baby. They kill 99.99% of bacteria in 60 seconds, are 4x thicker than baby wipes, and are biodegradable.
You don’t want to be told “you stink” like poor Slider from Top Gun. If you aren’t breaking a sweat, you aren’t working out. And if you are breaking a sweat, then you really should be bringing deodorant with you. BRAVO SIERRA’s deodorant is aluminum- and baking soda-free. It’s long lasting against odors and provides excellent sweat protection. As an added bonus, it’s stain free.
BRAVO SIERRA also lets you combine these products into awesome kits so you can bundle according to your needs. There is a starter set, an active set, a barber set, and a hygiene-ready set or you can just build your own!
Working out is fun. Working out hard is even more fun. But maintaining your health also is important on the outside as well. Skin and hair care go a long way and BRAVO SIERRA has the best products to get you there.
The military is known for its diversity among service members. But veteran-branded apparel doesn’t typically reflect that. Introducing Triple Nikel.
Ruben Ayala is a retired Green Beret and owner of San Antonio Healthy Vending in Texas. He had long felt veterans who looked like him weren’t really seen for their service. As he watched the violence and racial divisiveness overtaking the country in the wake of police-involved shootings against Black Americans and watched the outrage over athletes kneeling during the National Anthem, Ayala felt called to do something. He felt compelled to change the narrative of people of color and who they are.
After taking a road trip over the summer with a few Army buddies, Ayala and his friends started sketching ideas for a business. Ultimately, they wanted to create apparel that spoke to all veterans, not just a percentage of them that looked a certain way. The guys especially wanted to highlight the stories of minorities and celebrate the beauty of diversity. Triple Nikel was born. “That was the formulation of it, to send a positive message and tell a different story,” Ayala said.
Founded by Ayala, Curtez Riggs, Rod Graham and Christopher McPhee – all Army veterans – the business name has a special and historical significance. “The idea came to me from our forefathers. All of the founders in the company, we all started as paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion was the only Airborne unit that people of color could serve in when the Army was segregated,” Ayala explained. A test unit during World War II, they went by the nickname ‘Triple Nickels.’ “It was only fitting to create a company that amplified stories of those who came before us.”
They received the blessing of the 555th Association with the only request being that they altered the spelling to avoid any legal issues.
Although Ayala knows people could just shrug and say they are just selling t-shirts, he shared that the company is much more than just apparel. “The first thing we want to do with the company is to start a conversation…what we’ve done in 90 days is that we’ve taken four proven leaders who are minorities and we’re taking our stories and amplifying them,” he explained. “We want to change the narrative of what veteran service looks like…You served, too. Anybody can put themselves in women’s shoes or my shoes and can relate to that statement.”
With so many veteran apparel companies creating clothing showcasing things like guns, women in minimal clothing or curse words, Triple Nikel knew they had an opportunity to do something unique. “We really really want to reach the youth that are wanting to serve. If I am a 17 year-old kid looking online for military apparel, I am going to quickly realize that those visuals don’t look like me,” Ayala said. “We want to be able to provide visuals that everyone can relate to. Women, people of color … it doesn’t matter what socioeconomic background you come from. We also want to prove that you don’t have to be the coolest guy in the world with the biggest muscles, biggest beard or the most tattoos to be a veteran.”
Not only does their clothing showcase a diverse side of being a veteran, their apparel also caters beyond one branch of service. “A lot of companies are really segregating certain services and I don’t know why. Everybody should be proud of their service; it doesn’t matter how you did it. We want to amplify that,” Ayala said.
Triple Nikel launched on Veterans Day, only 90 days after four Army veterans had sketched out their idea for the business. For them, it’s more than an apparel company. It’s a way of life. The founders hope that through their designs and apparel, they can change the narrative of what a veteran may look like and who they are. Their motto is ‘We served, too.’ It’s intentional and direct in order to spread the message that although veterans like them may not be seen as often, they matter.
To learn more about Triple Nikel and to check out their apparel, click here.
It’s always appreciated when civilians go out of their way to thank a veteran, but when veterans look out for each other — even if they’ve never met — great things can happen. A Vietnam-era sailor could welcome in a Post 9/11-era soldier with open arms. A Desert Storm Marine could go out of their way to aid a Korean War airman. Veterans of all eras are family to all other veterans.
The bond is something that comes from shared experience; serving in the military is unique, both as a life event and as a professional move. Other veterans understand that and can help navigate anything from benefits to healing to hooking a brother up.
Civilians have gotten better about not asking the “have you killed anyone” question but it’s never not awkward.
Getting out and using your GI Bill can be an abrupt transition. One moment every detail of your life is dictated to you by Uncle Sam and the next you’re surrounded by college kids who’re asking if your time in was like Call of Duty. Finding a veteran friend in college makes it at least a little smoother.
In the great unknown of civilian life, vets will stick together as close as if they served together.
Even if they’re not a veteran, they still have the same sense of humor as us.
(Bath Township Police Department)
There are countless veterans who hung up their green uniforms and put on a blue one. Chances are good that the police officer who pulled you over for speeding might also be a veteran. If you play your cards right, they may let you off the hook with just a warning.
Don’t ever assume you can play the veteran card at every opportunity, though. If you pull the “well, actually officer, I’m a veteran” move, they still might just thank you for your service and hand you the ticket. You’ve got to be subtle and let the officer figure it out that you’re a veteran or else they’ll stare at you like the entitled fool you’re being.
Don’t ruin your friendship with a vet bouncer when a drunk civilian friend opens their mouth.
Security guards or bouncers
Another common job for the gym rat grunts is to work security, and if you’re lucky they just might be working at your favorite bar or club. They won’t help you out if you’re trespassing but they could probably let you slide through if you’re, say, at a concert or waiting in a long line.
If you’ve got a light sprinkling of veteran on you (like a memorial band, “veteran” on your driver’s license, or a shirt that only vets would understand), then they can even slip you into the club without paying a cover.
…or so I’ve been told.
Personal fitness trainers
Getting back into shape is a chore most veterans still keep up with. If they’re looking for someone to help give the right push, they can get a personal fitness trainer at a gym. Finding another veteran who became a trainer makes working out so much easier because you can both speak the same language.
Most trainers need to break everything down Barney-style to the people who only ever go to the gym once a year. It’s even worse when the civilian gets offended by “verbal motivation.” Just clicking back to NCO mode will benefit both of you.
Let’s be realistic. Not every veteran gets out and becomes millionaire beer tasters, bikini model judges, or woodsmen. Some end up in the service industry to help pay the never ending stream of bills. Finding another veteran when your usual clientele raise hell and demand to speak to the manager makes life so much easier.
Spark up a normal human conversation with them. Be friendly. They may even let you use their discount or toss you a free meal.
Many years out and even the old-timers can hang with the young troops.
Back in the barracks, it was a 24/7 party. Booze flowed freely and our tip top shape bodies were able to make the hangovers less severe. Fast forward many years down the line and the same vets will frequent their local bars.
Spark up a conversation with a vet and you’ll quickly make a friend. Chances are that the other vet will buy your next round just for being a brother.
If there’s any one person you want to have on your side immediately is the person hiring you for a position. If they notice on your resume that you’re also a veteran and can back up whatever you wrote on it, you’re golden.
The civilian workplace is very much a “good ‘ol boy” system that relies on who you know rather than what you know. Getting that leg up on everyone else is going to take you far.
It’s pouring rain as the photographer and I run through the cobbled streets of Philadelphia. You can see it in the locals’ faces and the Colonial buildings still standing strong just blocks from the Liberty Bell that this city is tough. For over 300 years, Philly has been the home of patriots, presidents and even movie characters such as Rocky Balboa. Yet, there is one theme that continues to define Philadelphians. No matter how much they struggle, get kicked around or scarred, there will be a moment when they rise, gritty and determined, and GO on with their mission.
We arrive at the Union League, a brick and brownstone club, which has supported the military and veterans since 1862. As we pass two statues of soldiers marching off to war, I receive a text, “Finishing a board meeting. Use the side entrance. You won’t be allowed in unless you are in a jacket. Which I assume you are not.” The subject of our next interview is 100% correct and I instantly know we are in the place where Ryan Manion and her team hold court each December.
Ryan is the President of the Travis Manion Foundation, co-author of the Knock at the Door, mother, Gold Star sister and marathon runner. She’s busy. Always on the go, and the second week of December is her Super Bowl.
The night before our interview, she led the annual If Not Me, Then Who gala, which honors fallen heroes, veterans, active-duty troops and military families. Today, she’s leading the TMF board meeting, which includes current CEOs and former generals. Tomorrow, she’ll go on Fox Sports to represent TMF at the Army-Navy game where Navy will take home the win (but we don’t know that yet). Ryan has thankfully given us thirty minutes of her downtime for a one-on-one interview which she tells me is “no big deal” after I thank her again.
The Travis Manion Foundation is a big deal. The non-profit, which started as a small family effort, is now an organization that coordinates thousands of community volunteers across the nation. Ryan, who lost her brother, 1st Lieutenant Travis Manion, and her team are driven by the mission to “empower veterans and families of fallen heroes to develop character in future generations.”
The most amazing thing about Ryan Manion is not only all that she and her team have accomplished since 2007 but the fact that she is still going, and going strong. Ryan, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, is a former smoker who now runs marathons and does ruck marches. She talks fast and moves faster. “Come on, let’s GO,” she tells us when we see her. I follow, knowing without a doubt that Ryan is the next generation of tough as nails leader that Philly is known for.
WATM: How’s your Army-Navy week going?
Ryan’s phone rings. It’s a family call. She answers while we start taking photos. Then she’s back.
Ryan Manion: It’s been a little heavy this week. We started off Tuesday with a meeting for all our senior TMF leadership, which we did for the first time. They flew in from all over the country. Then Tuesday night, we had a huge book event here in Philly, and my son has pneumonia.
WATM: OMG, that is a lot.
Ryan: He’s fine. Home with the family. He had a cold for three days. It didn’t even seem like a big cold. You know, it’s been kind of crazy.
WATM: How do you manage everything on your plate?
Ryan: I love what I do, and I get to work on wonderful things. We’ve been working on a project for tomorrow’s Army-Navy Game. We’re bringing 30 wounded warriors and their families to meet the President during the third quarter.
WATM: Wow, that is amazing. Did you ever see yourself doing this kind of work? Especially leading an organization such as the Travis Manion Foundation?
Ryan: Today, one of our board members said it best, “It all just gets back to Travis, saying, if not me, then who?” And that kind of simplified the journey for me. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God. I’m sitting here with all these people because of my brother.’
WATM: You and your family established the organization as a way to carry on Travis’s legacy. Does it still feel that way a decade later?
Ryan and her brother Travis at the Army-Navy Game.
Ryan: Last night, somebody at the gala who was a Marine that served with Travis came up to me and said, “You know, I’ve been at this gala for eight years now, and every year gets better and better. It’s unbelievable. But I got to tell you, I was sitting there thinking, these people don’t know who Travis Manion was.”
WATM: How did that make you feel?
Ryan: Travis is my personal driver, but this organization is bigger than one person. I am excited for so many to see the fruits of what he stood for through this organization.
WATM: If Not Me, Then Who?
Ryan: Exactly. My brother wrote those words before he deployed to Iraq, and they represent the character, leadership and selfless service that is the backbone of all our programs. Whether it is our strength-building seminars, expeditions, fitness events or service projects, we unite our volunteers, both civilian and veteran, in the common cause to better their communities by living the mantra of “If Not Me, Then Who…”
WATM: What do you think draws people to the foundation and your work?
Ryan: It’s funny because our board was just asking me the same thing.
Ryan: I have to tell you, the thing about our organization is that it’s like the feeling you get when you’re around your family. It started out as a family affair. It was a small family that was grieving the loss of their loved one. But even as we’ve grown, it doesn’t matter what event you’re at or how many show up. You know, tomorrow there will be a thousand people at our tailgate, everyone’s going to feel like they’re part of a team, a family.
WATM: Was that the plan from the beginning?
Ryan laughs. I’ve been to a few TMF tailgates, and we both know the answer.
Ryan: I can’t articulate in words why that is. But you’ve been around it, you see it, and I don’t know what drives that. We come from a very different place from a lot of other traditional veterans service organizations, especially those in the post 9/11 world. I think they’re all doing great work. They came with an idea, “Ok, this is the problem, and this is how we’re going to solve it.”
We came with, “I just lost my brother, my mom and dad just lost their son. And we want to make sure that we continue his legacy.” So when you come at it from that place, there’s no chance that it’s gonna be anything but super authentic in what you’re doing. Since then, it’s been, “Ok, we’re going to do this. Oh, people are into it. Ok? Let’s keep doing it. Oh, wow. We’re really doing something here now.” That’s the plan.
Ryan Manion with a copy of her book, The Knock at the Door.
WATM: So let’s talk about the book. First of all, congratulations.
Ryan: Thank you. Yes, it’s pretty awesome.
WATM: What’s the feedback you’re getting so far?
Ryan: The feedback has been tremendous. We’ve found that this book, to some degree, breaks down the wedge between the civilian and military worlds because everyone receives some type of knock at the door. We all have challenges that we weren’t expecting to appear in our lives.
The Knock At the Door shows what a military family goes through when they lose someone. But this story doesn’t end there. Our story just begins there. So it’s set in a much different context. The Knock At the Door empowered me and my co-authors into another chapter of our lives. We all had different journeys from shock to finding purpose.
WATM: In the book, you describe how physical fitness helped you find focus. Specifically moving from smoking to running the Marine Corps Marathon?
Ryan: I totally recognize the extreme of it all. Physical fitness is huge both in general and in times of grief. It was truly eye-opening when I discovered the effect it had on my daily psyche. I mean, people say, exercise is a little bit of a drug and they’re right. That’s why I had to write about my physical journey alongside my emotional one. I went through some dark times after I lost my brother. I struggled with anxiety and depression and was ultimately diagnosed with PTSD. It was realization that I was not ok that helped me to pick up the pieces.
WATM: Is there anything that people are really responding to or the people are coming to you afterwards and saying, I love this. That you’re finding people are really resonating with?
Ryan: I think for me, people were surprised about how vulnerable I was in the book. You know, I’ve been given the opportunity to run a veteran serving organization that requires a lot of professional appearances and public speaking. People get to meet me as the President of the Travis Manion Foundation, but this book showed a whole different side of me.
WATM: Was it scary to be that vulnerable and open?
Ryan: Yes. You know, the other thing that’s been really great about the book is the response from the Gold Star community. If you would have asked me before I wrote, what’s your biggest fear? It would be that like the Gold Star community doesn’t connect with this. And they have.
Ryan with her TMF GORUCK.
WATM: What do you think Travis would say about all of this?
Ryan: I don’t know what Travis would be doing now. I don’t know if he’d still be in the Marine Corps, if he’d be out and working in corporate America or doing something less traditional. I have no idea. But I know that he would be involved in this world. He would not be the veteran that takes off the uniform, goes away and is unconnected to what’s happening in their community. But would I be connected to this world? Probably not, because my brother would have been. I think he would be proud that I am involved and active with the Travis Manion Foundation, but he would have hated that it’s named after him.
WATM: I think I can understand that.
Ryan: We were years into this thing, and my dad’s like, “I just feel like I don’t think Travis would like that his name is everywhere. It’s nameless, maybe we should change the name?” And my response was something like, “Dad, you’re kidding. We’re in too deep. Travis’s name represents this generation.” And so, that’s my rebuttal. I think Travis would be super proud of what’s happening in his name.
WATM: Is there anything that you’re looking forward to in 2020? Maybe something you’re scared about or something we should keep on our radar?
Ryan: The next big thing I’m doing is going to Puerto Rico at the end of January for one of our service expeditions. We have eight or nine of these service expeditions a year, but this one is special. I will be traveling with a Marine who was with Travis when he was killed. We will be doing rehab projects for veterans’ homes effected by the hurricane a couple of years ago. I am looking forward to that.
WATM: Will you keep us updated on the trip?
Ryan: Of course.
WATM: Last question. Who do you think will win the Army-Navy Game tomorrow?
As a new military spouse, one of the biggest changes is your new coverage in health insurance. Whether your spouse’s status is active duty, retired, or with the reserves, you’ll have access to health insurance options that are envied by the rest of the population.
In fact, many cite military health insurance as one of the biggest work perks as a soldier. Considering its span, there’s no wonder, either. Last year, Tricare, the company that’s assigned to military spouses and dependents, covered more than 9 million beneficiaries, accounting for more than $50 billion. Now that’s some serious healthcare coverage!
The power of government pull
If covered services are billed to an in-network civilian provider, Tricare has a final say in how much is charged … and in many cases, they take care of it entirely. Of course, this is completely dependent on the type of coverage, service, and if the beneficiary has a deductible. But if it’s covered, they mean covered!
Oftentimes smaller companies leave the patient with much of the bill, which can be staggering without a big name to cap costs.
(It is worth noting that much of this could change, pending proposed medical billing transparency laws.)
How many of you have stood searching for an insurance card that was inevitably buried in the bottom of a wallet? With Tricare coverage, your military ID serves as your insurance card. This might sound minute, but there’s much to be said about not having to dig for an additional proof of insurance.
Patient advocacy and customer service
If you’re stuck with an unpaid bill, are mistreated, need a service that’s not covered, etc., your pool of resources is deep. Talk to Tricare and get instant movement on your issue, or stop in person for a meeting with patient advocates. You are not even close to being alone in this!
In rare cases, you can even look toward the chain of command to tip the scales in your favor, should logistics hit a stand-still. Look toward available services and divide and conquer until your medical needs have been met.
187FW Medical Airmen Provide No-Cost Healthcare in Training Mission.
Entire hospitals and customer service
Yes, as a military spouse, you’re entitled to be seen at military healthcare facilities. This means additional choices in patient care (and pharmacy pick up), with a quick dose of military history.
Check out stories of soldiers past while you walk the halls of your dedicated spot. This is a unique way of incorporating military-based themes into healthcare, while providing multiple options of qualified services for dependents.
Brandon Clinic provides medical care close to home.
Little paperwork and logistics required of the beneficiaries
In most cases, the paperwork is handled on the back-end, meaning you, the dependant, don’t have to worry about filing this or faxing that. The paperwork is handled on your behalf. There are, of course, exceptions to everything, but in comparison with civilian providers, you have a reliable resource to help keep bookwork in check.
As a current or upcoming beneficiary of military healthcare benefits, there’s much to be thankful for. What are some of your favorite perks of Tricare coverage?
The Army’s decision to change its marksmanship training and make the test more realistic has a lot going for it. If signed into policy, it will hopefully make soldiers more lethal. But there’s a basic piece of physics that a lot of soldiers, especially support soldiers who often fire at paper, don’t think about when firing, that will become more important if the Army really does get rid of “paper” qualifications: gravity and bullet rise/drop.
And this isn’t a purely academic problem. Not understanding the role of gravity on rifle marksmanship will make it more likely that shooters fire over the tops of targets in the middle of the range while qualifying. We’re going to start below with the quick guidance troops can use at the range. After that, we’ll go into the theory behind it:
Rifle ranges are fun! If you know what you’re doing.
(U.S. Army Spc. Garrett Bradley)
The general guidance
Hello shooters! If you’re a perfect shooter, who has no issue hitting targets, keep doing what you’re doing, don’t read this. In fact, a shooter perfectly applying the four fundamentals of marksmanship, meaning their point of aim is always center mass at the time they fire, will never miss a basic rifle marksmanship target regardless of whether or not they understand bullet drop. So, feel free to go watch cat videos. Congrats!
If you are missing, especially missing when firing at the mid-range targets, then start aiming at the targets’ “belly buttons” when they’re between 100 and 250 meters away. Only do this at ranges from 100 to 250 meters. Do not, repeat, do not aim low at 300-meter targets.
I originally got this advice from an artillery observer turned military journalist at Fort Bragg who qualified expert all the time, and it really does help a lot of shooters. If you want to know why it works, keep on reading.
An Army table from FM 3-22.9 illustrating the rise and then drop of M885 ball ammunition fired from M4s and M16s.
The theory behind it
Right now, soldiers can take one of two tests when qualifying on their rifles. They can fire at pop-up targets on a large range or at a paper target with small silhouettes just 25 meters away. The paper target ranges are much easier for commanders and staff to organize, but are nowhere near as realistic.
For shooters firing at paper targets 25 meters away, their point of aim and point of impact should be exactly the same. Point of aim is the exact spot that the shooter has lined up their sights. Point of impact is where the round actually impacts.
An M4 perfectly zeroed for 300 meters, as is standard, should have a perfect match between point of aim and point of impact at both 300 meters and 25 meters. So, when a shooter is firing at a paper target 25 meters away, the rounds should hit where the shooter is aiming. But bullets don’t fly flat, and shooters used to paper who get sent to a pop-up range under the new marksmanship program will have to learn to deal with bullet drop.
Properly zeroing your rifle is super important.
(U.S. Army Pfc. Arcadia Jackson)
First, a quick primer on the ballistics of an M4 and M16. The rounds are small but are fired at extremely high speeds, over 3,000 fps. But they aren’t actually fired exactly level with the weapon sights, because the barrel isn’t exactly level with the sights. Instead, the barrel is tilted ever so slightly upward, meaning the bullet is fired slightly up into the sky when a shooter is aiming at something directly in front of them.
This is by design, because gravity begins affecting a bullet the moment it leaves the barrel (up until that point, it is supported by the barrel or magazine.) Basically, the designers wanted to help riflemen shoot quickly and accurately in combat, so they tilted the barrel to compensate for gravity. The barrel points up because gravity pulls down.
And the designers set the weapon up so these effects would largely cancel each other out at the ranges that soldiers operate at most often. This worked out to about 300 meters, the same ranges the Army currently tests soldiers on their ability to shoot.
Basically, the barrel’s tilt causes the round to “rise” for the first 175 to 200 meters of flight when it runs out of upward momentum. Then, gravity overcomes the momentum, and it starts to fall.
An E-type silhouette is 40 inches tall. If a shooter aimed at the exact center of the target, that would be the red dot. An M4’s rate of bullet climb with M885 ball ammunition would create a point of impact at the blue dot, 6 inches above point of aim. M16s have an even more pronounced bullet rise.
(Francis Filch original, CC BY-SA 4.0, Red dots by Logan Nye)
So, when an M4 is properly zeroed to 300 meters, then the point of aim and point of impact should be exactly level at 300 meters. But remember, it’s an arc. And the opposite side of the arc, and the bullet is falling to level with the sights at 300 meters. The opposite side of the arc, the spot where the bullet has climbed to the point of aim, is at 25 meters.
So, when firing on an Alt C target at 25 meters, a shooter would never notice the problem because the point of aim and point of impact would match.
But when firing on a pop-up range with targets between 50 and 300 meters, some people will accidentally shoot over the target’s shoulders or even the target’s head. That’s because an M4 round has climbed as much as 6 inches at 200 meters and is only just beginning to fall. (An M16 round climbs even higher, about 9 inches, but those weapons are less common now.) That can put the round’s point of impact at the neck of the target, a much thinner bit of flesh to hit.
So if a shooter has a tendency to aim just a little high when under the time pressure of the range, that high point of aim combines with the climb of the point of impact to result in a shot over the head. If the shooter aims just a little left or right, they’ll miss the neck and hit air.
The easy way to compensate for this is to imagine a belly button on the targets between 100 and 250 meters. That way, the 4-6 inches that the point of impact is above the point of aim will result in rounds hitting center of the chest. If the shooter aims a little high, they are still hitting chest or neck. Left and right is just more abdominal or chest area.
Obviously, if the shooter is aiming in the dirt, they could still hit abdominal but might even bury the round if they’re really low.
But, remember, this only applies to targets between 100 and 250 meters where the rise of the round from the tilted barrel has significantly changed the point of impact. Shooters should just aim center mass at the 50 and 300-meter targets.
And, if all of this is too complicated, don’t worry too much about it. Perfectly shot rounds, with all four fundamentals of marksmanship perfectly applied, will always hit the target anyway. That’s because the Army uses E-type silhouettes at all the distances where this matters, and E-type silhouettes are 40 inches tall. If the point of aim is center mass, then the round’s climb of 6 inches will still put the point of impact in the black.
In 1935, Billy Mitchell, former U.S. Army brigadier general and airpower advocate, testified before Congress that Alaska was the most strategic place in the world. From there, he said, U.S. Army aircraft could reach any capital in the northern hemisphere within nine hours.
Much of that flight time was over unoccupied polar ice, as only the most intrepid of explorers ventured high above the Arctic Circle.
As technology improved, the coming decades led to increased civilian and military activity over, under and on the Arctic ice sheet.
Today, however, it is environmental changes that are leading to increased activity above the Arctic Circle.
Citing a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Arctic Report Card, a Department of Defense report to Congress in June, 2019, stated, “The Arctic’s environment continues to change, including diminished sea ice coverage, declining snow cover and melting ice sheets. Temperatures across the Arctic region are increasing more than twice as fast as the global average…”
The result has been the opening of sea lanes year-round, increasing both Russian and Chinese civilian and military presence near U.S. borders and the borders of its allies.
As an Arctic presence enables global reach for whomever has this strategic access, Russia has been reopening, fortifying and building new military bases in the region.
While Russia’s presence in the region has been increasing, melting permafrost beneath some of the U.S. Air Force’s most remote satellite tracking and communications facilities threatens its capability to observe and respond to threats.
The accompanying video explores how the Air Force is addressing the challenge of maintaining a strategic advantage in the Arctic, as this northernmost arena for the great power competition becomes more and more accessible.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Throughout the Global War on Terror, many an American convoy has rolled to the heavy metal music of bands like Black Sabbath, AC/DC, and System Of A Down. As songs like Fortunate Son, Paint it Black, and For What It’s Worth have become synonymous with the Vietnam War, it’s not unreasonable to anticipate that songs like War Pigs, Highway to Hell, and Chop Suey will remind GWOT veterans of their time in country. System Of A Down in particular was extremely popular with service members in the early days of GWOT.
Formed in 1994, System consisted of Serj Tankian, Daron Malakian, Shavo Odadjian, and Andy Khachaturian who was later replaced by John Dolmayan in 1997. Originally playing under the band name Soil, System was derived from the name of a poem penned by Malakian titled Victims of a Down. “Victims” was changed to “System” in order to appeal to a wider audience and so that the band’s albums would be closer to their musical heroes, Slayer, on store shelves.
The band played an L.A. nightclub in 1995 and recorded a few demo tapes before their first official and professionally recorded song in 1997. The song, P.L.U.C.K., is an abbreviation for “Politically Lying, Unholy, Cowardly Killers”, refers to the Ottoman Empire and the Armenian Genocide. System then started playing more notable venues like the Whiskey-A-Go-Go and Viper Room and caught the attention of producer Rick Rubin. Rubin later signed the band to American/Columbia Records and the rest is history.
In 2006, it seemed like System itself was set to become history. The previous year saw the band’s last recordings with the double album Mezmerize/Hypnotize before their last performance in West Palm Beach, Florida on August 13, 2006. “Tonight will be the last show we play for a long time together,” Malakian said that night. “We’ll be back. We just don’t know when.”
True to their word, System returned from their hiatus in 2011 and began a world tour through North America, South America, Europe, and Australia. System’s popularity had not waned, with their only 2013 U.S. performance at the Hollywood Bowl selling out just a few hours after tickets went on sale. The next year, the band announced the Wake Up The Souls Tour to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The tour included their first performance in their ancestral home of Armenia in 2015. System played a free concert in Republic Square in Yerevan, the country’s capital, which was met with wide acclaim.
Though System has continued to tour and perform, the band had not recorded any new material since 2005. That all changed on November 5, 2020 with the release of Genocidal Humanoidz and Protect the Land, the band’s first new songs in 15 years. The songs were written in 2017 and 2018 respectively and are inspired by the conflict faced by the ethnic Armenian people of the Artsakh region. The disputed border region saw the return of skirmishes in July 2020 which prompted responses by both Azeri and Armenian people around the world. The skirmishes escalated into a full-blown war on the morning of September 27, 2020.
Known to Armenians and the ethnically-Armenian people who call it home as Artsakh, the Nagorno-Karabakh region is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. However, the people who inhabit the land view themselves as a self-determined independent state. The latest conflict sees Azerbaijan being backed by Turkey and fielding Syrian mercenaries as well as Israeli-supplied weapons systems like UASs. On the other side of the conflict, Artsakh Defense Forces are being augmented by Armenian Armed Forces as well as Armenian diaspora, communities of ethnic Armenians around the world which were largely formed by refugees of the Armenian Genocide.
Though a ceasefire brokered by Russia came into effect on October 10, conflict has continued. As of the writing of this article, Armenia has announced 1,177 servicemen killed and 21 captured. Azerbaijan has not released any of their official casualty figures, however, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported the deaths of 250 Syrian mercenaries. Both sides have reported civilian casualties and injuries totaling nearly 700. Additionally, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has reported some 40,000 Azerbaijani and 90,000 ethnic Armenians have been displaced as a result of the fighting.
In response to the war, System released their new songs to bring attention to the conflict that threatens their cultural homeland. Protect The Land was also released with its own music video depicting both diaspora Armenians and footage from the frontlines. “The time to do this is now, as together, the four of us have something extremely important to say as a unified voice,” reads the band’s statement on their website. “The music and lyrics speak for themselves. We need you to speak for Artsakh.”
The band is using their new music as a platform to raise funds through donations to the Aid for Artsakh Campaign under the Armenia Fund to provide aid to people who have been affected by the war. The band’s proceeds on purchases of the new songs are also going toward the Armenia Fund.
Military parents: we’re one great big, loving, dysfunctional family. We may have a lot of differences, but we also have a lot in common. Find out the answers we received when we asked a group of military parents to complete the statement “you know you’re a military parent when…”
1. You stalk the mailman.
You can especially relate to this when your military member is a recruit or trainee. There are no phone calls, text messages, emails coming through. If you’re waiting to hear from them, all you can do is wait until the mailman comes rolling down the street and stops at your mailbox with your fingers crossed.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)
2. Whenever you hear the National Anthem your heart fills with pride.
You’re at a stadium sports arena for a game or concert, and you hear the national anthem. You stand a little taller, sing a little louder and you see that veteran in the audience still standing at attention all these years later and a tear trickles down your face, and can’t help but feel an enormous sense of pride.
U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
3. You can bring any conversation back to the fact your child is in the military.
Parents are the best at this, aren’t we? You often sit and listen to your friends talking about their kids at college or high school, you wait for the perfect moment to tell them all about your child in the military. “Did I tell you Johnny is getting ready to deploy right now?”
4. You wear RED on Fridays
Remember Everyone Deployed means you wear red on Fridays to let all those serving overseas on deployment know they’re not forgotten; that a nation they’re fighting for is praying for them, is thinking of them constantly, and is proud of them.
5. Your new favorite vacation destination is the Permanent Duty Station of your military member.
A non-military parent may schedule their vacations to a sunny beach destination, or maybe even an amusement park. Not military parents! Our vacations are now to wherever our child is stationed, whether it’s in the desert, the cold, overseas, or wherever else our military member is living at that time. “Woo hoo, it’s time to go to 29 Palms!”
6. You now understand and use military time and the phonetic alphabet.
You tell your co-worker you’ll be getting off work at 1630. They look at you with a confused expression on their face and you say, “Oh, I mean 4:30 p.m. I’m sorry, I’m so used to using military time with my son/daughter in the military now.” (As an aside, this a great way to start that conversation about your child in the military – see #3 above.)
7. You have a military t-shirt for every day of the week, along with pins and hats.
You can’t get enough of military swag! Whether it represents the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard or Marines, you have t-shirts, hats, socks, earrings, necklaces, pins, stickers for your car. You name it, military parents have something for every occasion, and they wear or display it loud and proud.
8. You see the proud parent of a “insert college university name here” and you laugh.
You can’t help but giggle. Their child might have went to a top college or university, but your child is a part of the finest fighting military in the world. Go USA!
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Willis)
9. You’ve become an expert at mailing out care packages where the items inside aren’t as much as the postage to send it.
You do this especially when your military member is deployed overseas. Baking cookies, brownies, sending wipes, toiletries, etc., are all great ways to stay connected with your loved one, and often gives them something that they truly need. A lot of the time, the cost of sending the package outweighs the monetary value of what’s inside!
10. You know that things can and will change.
If there’s one thing a military family, including military parents, has to be, it’s flexible. Your loved one’s plans can change at the drop of a hat, so you have to learn to go with the flow and be supportive.
There were over 250 comments from parents around the country when I asked for feedback. I could only choose 10. Which of these was your favorite? Share your comments below – we would love to read them!
Have you ever had an idea you thought was solid gold, but when you presented it to your boss or coworkers it fell on deaf ears? Maybe it wasn’t that your idea was bad. Maybe it was you. Hear me out: Sometimes our ideas ARE solid gold, the problem is that we get so wrapped up in the idea itself and it’s ingenuity that we don’t pay attention to delivery.
And delivery can be as important.
But, before we explore delivery, let’s jump into the time machine and look at an idea in history that fell flat on its face when it was initially proposed: hand washing.
In the early 1800s, mothers who had just given birth died at an alarming rate in European hospitals. One in six died from what was at the time known as childbed fever. In 1846, a young 28-year-old Hungarian physician named Ignaz Semmelweis discovered a correlation between mothers catching the disease and direct contact with physicians coming from surgery. He immediately instituted hand washing in his ward and the disease significantly dropped off.
One would think that this innovative young doctor who had a solid gold idea revolutionized medicine across Europe and saved the lives of countless mothers, but he did not. It was another 21 years before British surgeon Joseph Lister published his papers on sterilization and hospitals across the world adopted his methods.
So why wasn’t Semmelweis successful? His delivery sucked. He had a tough uphill battle to fight against a conservative establishment who had its own beliefs and way of doing business. And unfortunately, he refused to play by their rules. He was argumentative and so fanatical in his beliefs that he struggled to get his leadership and peers on board with his new, innovative method.
In addition to a few fun facts we can gain from the story to help prepare us for trivia night at the local pub, we can also learn something about communicating ideas. It isn’t only the idea that matters, but so does our approach. Below are a few factors to take into consideration when dropping your amazing idea on your organization.
Read the room, Karen
Atmospherics are always important, but they are especially important when presenting a new idea to an organization. If you find yourself in a one hour meeting that is closing in on 90 minutes, that is not the time to spring your idea on the group.
It is best to read the room. Are people fidgeting? Did Bill just get chewed out for missing a suspense? Is everyone’s bandwidth wrapped up in another topic? To know these things, you have to get outside your own head and pay attention to everyone else.
Sometimes you may find that you need to hold onto your idea a little bit longer before you present it. You may also find that by reading the room you are better able to adjust your idea or your delivery to increase your chances that it will be taken seriously and not quickly ignored.
Timing, timing, timing
Similar to reading the room, you have to pay attention to the timing of your pitch. The time of day could make the difference between a receptive boss and an angry, dismissive boss. To illustrate this point, most people have a daily or weekly rhythm they follow. Some bosses are more receptive to ideas in the afternoon and not first thing in the morning. Other bosses are more likely to read and respond to your email in the morning after their first cup of coffee. A well-timed email or office drop-in can increase your chances of getting your idea a fighting chance.
Also, since we are talking about timing, if you know the organization is focused on solving a time-sensitive crisis, that is probably not the time to share the neat power point slide you created with your organization’s priorities broken out into percentages of effort. I’m sure it’s a revolutionary slide, but now is not the time. Timing is also about respect. If you respect their time, they are more likely to take the time to listen to your idea.
Keep it short and sweet (and maybe shorter)
When we get excited about an idea, we tend to describe it in great detail, and lose the people we’re talking to along the way. Or we forget to mention important things such as why the idea is valuable in the first place.
To avoid this, it is helpful to create an elevator pitch. In his book Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less, author and communications expert Joseph McCormack said, “A perfected elevator pitch allows you to convey your message in a short sound byte that inspires and sticks.”
To do this, always start with the bottom line up front — why your idea would benefit the organization in the first place. Include a few key points that support this, and then anticipate any questions your boss or your team may ask about the idea. That is it. They don’t need to know the micro details that you get excited about. This lesson applies to email. You increase your chances of success with a brief email that conveys your idea.
When you want to get a great idea adopted by an organization, it’s important to build an alliance. Returning to the Semmelweis story, he was argumentative and alienated would-be supporters for his hand-washing crusade. I once worked for a boss who said that he was more willing to go with an idea, if more than one leader came to him promoting it. So, whenever any of us had a great idea, we would come together and attempt to sell it to each other so we could bring it forward to the boss as a team. We were always successful in this approach.
Humility plays a key role in building an alliance. When we are humble, more people are willing to help us advance an idea. So, as you build your team, be willing to spread the credit and not make it about you. Work on keeping the focus on the idea and not yourself.
Next time you have a great idea, take a minute. Read the room. Ask yourself if the time is right to present your idea. If it is, develop an elevator pitch that sells your idea to other people. And bring your team along with you. Build an alliance. Channel that humility and remember that it isn’t about you, it’s about the idea.
Twitter’s “head of editorial” in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa also serves as a part-time officer for the British Army’s information unit in the UK, a new report revealed.
Middle East Eye, which was first to report the news, shared a screenshot of Gordon MacMillan’s LinkedIn page in which he listed his dual roles. His role in the army has since been removed from his page.
A source familiar with the matter told The Financial Times that MacMillan spends a few days a year acting as a consultant to Britain’s information warfare unit, the 77th Brigade.
The 77th Brigade was created in 2015 with the intention of using psychological operations and social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook to help fight wars “in the information age.” It is made up of reservists and regular troops.
It writes online: “Our aim is to challenge the difficulties of modern warfare using non-lethal engagement and legitimate non-military levers as a means to adapt behaviours of the opposing forces and adversaries.
“77th Brigade is an agent of change; through targeted Information Activity and Outreach we contribute to the success of military objectives in support of Commanders, whilst reducing the cost in casualties and resources.”
MacMillan’s LinkedIn page has since been edited to remove his secondary role.
Neither MacMillan nor the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) immediately responded to Business Insider’s request for comment when contacted.
In a statement shared with The Financial Times, a spokesperson for the MOD said: “We employ specialist reserve personnel from a variety of civilian occupations in order to utilize the skills and experience of senior professionals.
“There is no relationship or agreement between 77th Brigade and Twitter, other than using it as a social media platform.”
A spokesperson for Twitter told Business Insider that “Twitter is an open, neutral, and independent service.
“We do not allow our data services to be used for surveillance purposes or in any other manner inconsistent with people’s expectation of privacy. Employees who pursue external volunteer opportunities are encouraged to do so in line with company policy.”
In most cases, reservists would need to provide their employer’s details to their commanding officer. However, according to the UK government guidelines, they do have the right to not to tell their employer they are a reservist if there’s a good reason for it. For example, if it would put them at a disadvantage if their employer knew.
Twitter confirmed, however, that MacMillan’s dual role was reviewed by its compliance teams and is not currently in violation of its policies.
MacMillan joined Twitter in 2013 after working at various media companies. He previously trained at Sandhurst, the British military academy before studying journalism and then media studies at Cardiff and Bournemouth universities.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.