You’ve covered the kids, your spouse, neighbors, your in-laws, and even snagged a little something for the mailman and school principal. As you’re making your list and checking it twice this holiday, don’t forget a favorite military pet!
The best gifts for pets are useful and practical items that might also benefit the pet owner in some way (think: hours of entertainment for an energetic pup or frisky feline). Here are the best gifts for pets this year:
This top-rated toy uses a cat’s natural hunting instincts to captivate their attention using a feather. Battery powered, the device mimics prey and mixes it up to keep pets engaged and anti-skid feet help to keep the gadget in place for any cat owners who might be worried about forceful felines.
Make fetch more fun with this LED light-up ball that promises hours of fun for your dog, even after the sun goes down. One bounce activates the color-changing toy and an easy-to-replace battery ensures playtime longevity.
As it turns out, your pet can also be a military member….sort of. Crown Paw allows users to submit a headshot of their pet and then customize it into a regal portrait. All pets are welcome and users can choose from canvas themes like “The Admiral” or “The Colonel.” More than one animal in your house? Multi-pet themes like “The Officers” make gifting easy.
4. Rawhide-free chews
Skip the rawhide for your pup this year and pick up some SmartBones, which are made from whole ingredients like vegetables and chicken. Enriched with vitamins and minerals, these treats not only taste delicious to a dog, but the natural motion of chewing helps to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
5. Stylish beds
Help your pet get the best sleep of their lives without sacrificing your interior design style. These woven beds (and specialty pods for feline friends) are made from natural Elephant Grass and are handcrafted using traditional Ghanian craft techniques. Each basket comes with a fitted cushion and are available in a range of sizes.
The whole family will enjoy this wifi-enabled camera that allows you to drop in your pet when you aren’t home. Using an HD, wide-angle lens, the device allows users to see, talk to, and even dole out treats, to pets using an app on their phone. The bonus? A built-in sensor alerts pet parents to animal and human movement, so you’ll never wonder what your pet is up to all day again.
Alright, this one might be a gift for the pet parents and not the pet, but 10,000+ reviews speak to the power of this enzyme-powered stain and odor remover. Created to work for both cats and dogs, this formula is chlorine-free, color safe and promises to work or you’ll get a full refund. You will never stress about pets and rental carpets again!
Still at a loss on what to gift your favorite military pet? Quality time still ranks pretty high on their list — and maybe a few extra treats, too.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
I have Post Traumatic Stress (PTS). There, I said it. Now I must be one of America’s “poor, broken warriors” that just doesn’t belong at home or in the workplace. I guess I should now explain how debilitating this injury can be or how no one is helping me. Maybe it was the time in the service that broke me. Yet, all those assumptions are untrue. In reality, I have never felt better.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve married, become a father and not only held a job but risen to a leadership role. I am far from broken and so are the rest of my military brothers and sisters. There is no doubt my path had ups and downs. There may have even been a few rock bottoms, but nothing was actually ever as bad as it seemed at the time. The bottom line is that PTS is scary. It’s terrifying, that for the first time in your life, you don’t have a say in what is happening within your own mind. As many of my fellow veterans already know, courage is rising above fear. In our own minds, we have to find courage every day.
My first panic attack was the most embarrassing. I was driving home a few months after my third deployment to Iraq. My little brother was in the passenger seat when the phone rang. I answered it and the impersonal voice told me, “you have duty on Monday.” It was Saturday. I hung up the phone and grabbed the steering wheel with a death grip. I just could not comprehend how my schedule two days in the future had changed. Slowly my vision narrowed. My breathing became labored. My eyes teared up. The look on my brother’s face turned pale white with terror. I slammed on the brakes and broke down. The years of deployments came flowing out. The phone call was just the tipping point for me. Duty didn’t matter. As veterans will attest, schedules change all the time. It was such an innocent call. Yet, this time was different. The circuits in my brain had reached capacity. There was just no more room left for even a minor change. I stared at my younger brother as he sat in silence. I knew I was not okay.
It took another two years before I did anything about my fractured mind. Frankly, I avoided my thoughts. I tried to hide my injury. I was convinced that I could fix myself just as I had done with every other challenge in my life. First, I tried working out. It helped a little. Then, I tried booze. It helped too much. Lastly, I tried writing. It was too painful. Not surprisingly, nothing actually worked until I went to see a doctor.
I avoided seeking help for years because I was scared of what would happen to my body and career. Let me dispel any rumors right now. PTS treatment is designed to fix you. Not give you a scarlet letter for life. My family and the men with whom I served were nothing but supportive throughout the entire process. Despite my own fears, I was never pulled from a deployment or seen as weak. Once again, I learned that PTS was all about fear. My own fear of something that wasn’t real.
For six weeks, I went through Cognitive Processing Therapy. I was hesitant at first. I didn’t think that discussing old memories would help. It seemed like a lot of useless talk. I was wrong. I analyzed my memories over and over again. My doctor asked me to write about them even though they were painful. In the end, I came to realize the things I remembered had become like a bad game of telephone etched into my brain. These memories had changed over the years and my brain had rebuilt itself to survive them.
Over 10 years of service, my brain had changed. It had become a truly lethal muscle. I could sense danger and act faster than most, but I could barely process an email, endure a traffic jam or sit through a phone call. Only after seeking help, I learned that I could retrain my mind. I just needed to break down old nerve endings and create new ones. After many days and too many sleepless nights, I learned some truly important things about living with PTS.
First, invest in yourself. There was no one who could make me a Marine and a Green Beret. I had to do that myself. There is no one who could fix my brain but me. I had to commit myself to the task. Rebuilding your brain is like remodeling your house. You keep the stuff you like and knock down the stuff you don’t. I kept honor, sacrifice and pride. I threw out guilt, sorrow and anger. At first, my transformation moved slowly. But when I truly invested in me, my brain changed. I became a better soldier, husband and friend.
Second, it’s all about control. I gained a control complex in the military. Like most 20 year olds, I thought I could control the world. But in my reality, I actually did. People lived and some even died by the decisions I made. My brain thrived off of control. I craved it, demanded it and needed it. But true control is never possible. The only thing in this world we can control is ourselves. For almost a decade, I had it wrong. I thought I could control the world without concern for myself. The switch happened gradually, but became evident when I let my wife drive me to work on a Tuesday. For the first time in almost a decade, I let someone else take control. It felt amazing.
Lastly, and most importantly, you have to know your limits. There are some things that your brain can handle well and others it won’t. Everyone’s limits are different. For me, I don’t go into overcrowded places at night. Why? Am I afraid that I will have panic attack? No. I just know that my brain goes into mental overdrive in places like that and I won’t have fun. I did reteach myself patience. In war, patience can be lethal. At home, it is expected. I don’t get angry when I have to wait for things. Veterans, this one is the most important, especially for any of you who have just entered the daunting VA process. Waiting is just time and none of us can control it. There will also be some things that are difficult to get back and age doesn’t help. Sure, it is much harder to remember minor details or focus like I used to be able to, but I also don’t run six minute miles anymore. You learn to live with it.
I do know for certain that by committing to PTS treatment, I have explored places in my mind that I didn’t even know existed. You get to re-write your own personal story and you may find that the plot has changed. I am a Green Beret that likes poetry, statistics and even watching The Voice. Yeah, I am part nerd but I am also part warrior. I would have never been able to know both parts of me without PTS. I am thankful I lost my mind for America. For those of you who are suffering or lost today, I am confident you will find the way as well. Good luck with the journey my brothers and sisters. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
As anyone who’s ever deployed to a war zone knows, there’s no better cork for your ass than a meal at Uncle Sam’s House of Field Rations. This was a fact long denied by the Combat Feeding Directorate of the U.S. Army Soldier Research and Development center in Natick, Massachusetts. But a recent study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry set out to prove us troops right.
That probably wasn’t actually the reason for starting the study, but the end result is the same.
There are a lot of myths and urban legends surrounding MREs. They’re a fascinating feat of culinary engineering, after all. Anything that will still be good to eat three years after it’s made is something magical. So it’s no wonder these meals have so many myths and urban legends surrounding them.
First, there’s the one about how eating them for more than 20 days in a row could kill you. That’s a myth. Then there’s the one about turning them into a weapon using the tabasco sauce and the heater, which is also a myth. Finally, there’s the one about how they’re designed to make the eater constipated to keep them from having to go while on an operation and how the gum is a laxative to use when the op is over. Both are myths.
Except the the one about blocking up the works. That’s real, but not for any reason except they physically alter your bowels, according to the study.
The study, called “A diet of U.S. military food rations alters gut microbiota composition and does not increase intestinal permeability,” used 60 volunteers, both military and civilian who were tested via feces, blood, and urine samples. Half ate only MREs two to three times a day while the other half ate normal meals with a similar number of calories. They were both only allowed to drink water and black coffee. Three weeks later, the results were in.
The MRE eaters reported one fewer bowel movement per week than the regular food group. The reason is that the MRE doesn’t promote the growth of stomach bacteria that fresh foods have, especially lactic acid bacterias, while promoting bacterias that actively prevent the smooth moves human beings are accustomed to. But even though the participants ate the MREs for longer than the dreaded 20 day threshold (remember the myth that 21 days of MREs would kill you?) participants’ bowel habits went right back to normal as soon as their food went back to normal.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Lauren Parsons)
If you’re experiencing some gastrointestinal distress, before or after your MRE experience, the reason may be that you just need some fresh food in your diet. Americans don’t drink enough water, and they definitely don’t get enough fiber, by and large, according to Dr. J. Phillip Karl, the study’s author.
So have some water and some yogurt and get back in the fight – as soon as you get off the throne.
Thousands of women across the Air Force provided feedback to the Women’s Initiative Team, playing a pivotal role in the first women’s hair policy change in 70 years. On February 19, 2021, U.S. Air Force senior leaders directed a second racial, gender and ethnic disparity review of racial, gender and ethnic disparity in the Department of the Air Force.
Empowered Airmen Can Solve Any Problem
In August of 2020, General C.Q. Brown, Jr. released a series of action orders to “Accelerate Change or Lose.” The guidance states that in order to compete with near-peer adversaries, the U.S. Air Force must re-examine which attributes the service requires to fight and win in a high-end fight. Gen. Brown’s strategic approach describes a ‘people-first’ approach that enhances the quality of life of Airmen and their families and improves the U.S. Air Force’s ability to be an attractive service for future prospects.
General Brown’s guidance reads, “We must develop leaders with the appropriate tools to create and sustain an environment in which all Airmen can reach their full potential, valuing the many aspects of diversity within our Air Force. These efforts must also enhance the quality of service and quality of life for our Airmen and their families, making the U.S. Air Force an attractive career choice for all Americans.”
Women’s Initiative Team
Maj. Alea Nadeem, a Reserve Airman who serves as the leader of the Air Force Women’s Initiative Team, has played a key role in bringing about positive changes for women across the Air Force. Major Nadeem teamed up with Master Sgt. Jonathon Lind, a fellow leader who was made aware of the issues with the female hair policy when one of his young Airmen experienced complications first-hand. Master Sgt. Lind’s wife, a fellow Airman, also remarked that she was considering leaving the Air Force due to the same issues.
Together, the Airmen were able to collect input and data from thousands of women Airmen across the force and present their findings to decision makers. With the backing of dozens of commanders and years of research and data in hand, they went on to deliver their findings to the 101st Air Force Uniform Board. Their report stated that constraints to hair grooming standards resulted in damage to hair, migraines and in some cases, hair loss. Additionally, the feedback revealed that the existing hair policy had failed to support a culture of inclusion for almost a quarter of Total Force Airmen.
On January 21, 2021, the Air Force announced that women would be permitted to wear their hair in two new styles – two braids or a single ponytail. The 101st Air Force Uniform Board sourced ideas from Airmen across the Air Force, including the thousands of Air Force women who provided feedback to the Women’s Initiative Team. The Air Force chief of staff approved the new policy after considering feedback from the force, the uniform board recommendation, and the professional image and standards of the Air Force and U.S. military.
The hard work, dedication and thoughtful risk-taking displayed by Maj. Alea Nadeem and Master Sgt. Jonathan Lind has garnered attention across the service, including top Air Force leadership. In a news release dated Jan 21, 2021, the 101st Uniform Board recognized the Women’s Initiative Team for their research and support.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass also voiced her support saying, “In addition to the health concerns we have for our Airmen, not all women have the same hair type, and our hair standards should reflect our diverse force. I am pleased we could make this important change for our women service members.”
In December of 2020, the Air Force released its first report on the findings of an Air Force Inspector General independent review into racial disparity. The IG report defines racial disparity as “existing when the proportion of a racial/ethnic group within the subset of the population is different from the proportion of such groups in the general population.”
The review goes on to state that while the presence of a disparity alone is not evidence of racism, discrimination, or disparate treatment, it presents a concern that requires more in-depth analysis. Key stakeholders within the Air Force and Space Force have now been tasked to identify the root causes of these disparities.
The report also states that the data does not address why racial disparities exist in these areas, and that while the data shows race is a correlating factor, it does not necessarily indicate causality. While the first investigation was focused on Black/African American Airmen and space professionals, future efforts of the review will not be exclusive to a single minority group.
On February 19, 2021, Air Force senior leaders directed the Department of the Air Force Inspector General to conduct an additional independent review of racial, gender and ethnic disparity in the Department of the Air Force.
Senior leaders stated that “Ensuring fair and equitable discipline and development for all our Airmen and Guardians is critical. We are committed to promoting an environment free from personal, social and institutional barriers that might prevent our members from rising to their highest potential. Diversity makes us a stronger and more capable force.”
Additionally, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning Initiative Team (LIT) and the Indigenous Nations Equality Teams (INET) were formally established by the Department of the Air Force in early 2021 under the umbrella of its Barrier Analysis Working Group.
Originally created in 2008, the Barrier Analysis Working Group was dedicated to analyzing data, trends and barriers to service for the civilian workforce. Since then, the group’s focus has broadened to include Airmen as well. As of March 2021, the Department of the Air Force has established the following initiative teams:
Black/African American Employment Strategy Team, Disability Action Team, Hispanic Empowerment and Action Team, Indigenous Nations Equality Team, LGBTQ Initiative Team, Pacific Islander/Asian American Community Team and Women’s Initiatives Team.
Airmen or Guardians interested in getting involved with the Barrier Analysis Working Group should contact SAF/ODI at SAF.ODI.Workflow@us.af.mil.
Being knocked off a ship is one of the most disorienting and terrifying experiences you can have.
German sailor Arne Murke had this happen when he was knocked off a sailboat in 9 foot waves, and without a life preserver. Fortunately, Murke had the wherewithal to employ a trusted life-saving trick used by Navy SEALs that starts by taking off your pants, and was rescued off New Zealand after over three hours in the water.
The method uses your pants to assist with flotation to stay on the surface and conserve your energy. And unlike a dead man float where your face is in the water, this tactic allows you to rest with your face up so rescuers can more easily find you.
Here’s how to perform this tried-and-true “drown proofing” technique, which is taught to troops from all the military branches.
Step 1: Take off your pants. While you tread water or lie on your back, tie a knot in the ends of the pant legs. The US Navy recommends you tie both pant legs together and tight enough to trap air, as seen in a 2015 video. Oh, remember to zip up the fly.
Step 2: Inflate. Put the waist opening over your shoulder, then in one motion raise the open waist high over your head to scoop in air and then slam it into the water. Close the waist underneath the water to hold in the air.
A US Army soldier sits upright after inflating his pants and putting his head through the legs.
(US Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Pascal Demeuldre)
Step 2.5: If your air pocket isn’t filled enough, repeat the last step. Or you can try to fill the pants by going under water and breathing air into the open waist.
Step 3: Put your head through the inflated pant legs and hold the waist closed and under water. Wait for help and stay calm. If and when the pants deflate, just repeat the steps.
These moves are fairly straightforward, but it’s hard to get the pants to inflate by swinging them over your head. It may take a few tries. Best to practice this in a pool first.
Watch the US Navy video here:
Navy Skills for Life – Water Survival Training – Clothing Inflation
No matter if you’ve been in for two months, two years or you are two generations removed from the military, everyone knows that tattoos and the service go hand in hand. Ever since the first tattoo shop opened its doors in America in 1846, ink has had a well-deserved place in the hearts and on the skin of service members.
Of course, tattooing didn’t get its start in America. Warriors from Maori tribes in New Zealand, to ancient Greeks, marked themselves to show strength, courage and confidence. Viking raiders tapped magical symbols into their skin using the ink made from sacrificial animals.
Even service members in the Revolutionary War were getting new ink to reflect their units and identities (not to mention to prevent being illegally conscripted by the British).
During the Civil War, pioneer tattooist Martin Hildebrant traveled to battlefields and inked various patriotic designs into service members’ skin. Records show that by 1925, as much as 90 percent of all US service members were tattooed; the Navy made up the bulk of those decorated. Apparently, sailors used new tattoos to showcase where they’d been, as a sort of secondary service record, and to showcase their achievements.
For example, a shellback turtle meant they’d crossed the equator, a golden dragon meant they crossed the International Date Line, and a golden shellback turtle meant they’d crossed both at the same spot.
But for as much as there’s always been ink in the military, there have also been regulations. It seems like every few years, some leadership gets it in mind that a new tattoo policy is in order. For years, there was a limit to the number of tattoos soldiers could have on their arms, but that’s no longer the case. However, the Army still doesn’t allow face, neck or hand tattoos, though a small ring tattoo can exist on each hand. As with all branches, there are always a few waivers that are granted by recruiters each year if it seems like a tattoo isn’t too distracting.
Just like the Army, the Air Force is revisiting some of its strict tattoo policies and lessening the regulations a bit. Before 2017, Airmen weren’t allowed to have tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs that were larger than 25 percent of the exposed body part. Now, they’re allowed to have full sleeves or large back pieces, which is a big deal for anyone who’s been stuck halfway through getting a tattoo only to have to stop because of regulations.
So it goes without saying that getting a tattoo is as much a rite of passage in the military as is getting that first haircut in basic training. Of course, barbershops have been embedded at installations worldwide for decades, but for new ink, service members have always had to go off base. That’s led plenty of people to wonder why there isn’t a place to get new ink and a fresh fade all at the same place. Now, that’s no longer the case.
Nellis Air Force Base, located just outside Las Vegas, now has its own tattoo shop, making it that much easier to get a new tattoo. Senior leadership at Nellis said in a press release that they’re always looking for ways to improve the quality of life for Airmen and to lead from the front. So naturally, an on-base tattoo shop makes sense.
This is the first tattoo shop to be inside any Air Force or Army installation, making it incredibly unique. Now, we can’t speak to the quality of work you might receive there, but it’s still pretty cool that leadership is finally recognizing that there’s a very real, inky culture within the military and are taking steps to provide that service.
Maybe the decision to open the tattoo shop on base is a signal that leadership hopes artists and the Airmen can better handle the Air Force guidance on tattoo size and placement. Of course, that’s not to say whether or not the tattoos will be any good, but at least they’ll be within regs.
There aren’t many war movies better than Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg’s World War II masterpiece. It’s definitely worth watching at home, but you’ll soon have a chance to see it in theaters again, more than two decades after its original release.
The film is returning to theaters to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Participating theaters will host a matinee at 3:00 p.m. on June 2, 2019, and an evening screening at 7:00 on June 5, 2019. D-Day took place on June 6, 1944.
Saving Private Ryan tells the story of a squad of Army Rangers played by Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribis, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg, and Jeremy Davies. Led by John Miller (Tom Hanks), their mission is to find and rescue a paratrooper, Ryan (Matt Damon), the only survivor of his four military brothers.
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN Official Trailer (1998) Tom Hanks HD Movie | TrueMovies Trailer
Saving Private Ryan was a commercial and critical hit when it was first released. It was the highest grossing film of 1998, grossing 1 million that year, the equivalent of about 0 million today. It received 11 Academy Award nominations, winning for Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and Best Film Editing, infamously losing the Best Picture race to Shakespeare in Love.
The opening scene of the film is a sprawling, brutal 20-plus minute recreation of the invasion that immerses the viewer in the horrors of combat without glorifying war.
“[W]e wanted people to get the feeling that despite what you see in movies and what you read in books, death in hellacious combat like there was on Omaha Beach can sometimes be very random, and it can be shocking because it’s so close,” Marine veteran Dale Dye, the film’s military advisor, told Task Purpose.
It’s the kind of scene, and the kind of film, that deserves to be seen in theaters, so don’t miss this opportunity.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Warming up is an essential phase of your workout, and there are three phases to an effective warm-up. Let’s jump right in:
Phase One: Shift your PH
Time commitment: Five minutes
Our bodies are slightly alkaline with a PH of around 7.3 to 7.4. The function of the warm-up is to shift your body to a more acidic state, which improves muscle efficacy and reduces risk of injury. It’s preferable to use movement patterns similar to ones you will be doing during your workout.
Example: Rowing for five minutes is optimal on both “pull days” and “squat days” due to the specific pull and squat range of motion.
By the end of phase one, your body should be producing some sweat and your heart rate should be elevated to over 100 beats per minute.
There are a few different types of stretching. For brevity’s sake, let’s reduce them to two: static and dynamic. Static stretching is likely what you learned in high school gym class and involves holding a position for 15 seconds to one minute (think touching your toes and holding before doing a leg workout). This type of stretching prior to dynamic movements (running, jumping, weight lifting, and just about every kind of exercise) is dangerous. Don’t do it.
Your muscles and joints will not be static during your workout, so they should not be static during your warm-up. Instead, try the worm walk.
This movement not only prepares the specific joints and muscles for what’s to come, it maintains the athlete’s elevated heart rate and PH level.
Dynamic stretching allows the athlete (that’s you) to effectively and gradually move joints through the range of motion they are about to demand from their body while under load.
*The most extreme version of this is ballistic (or bouncing) stretching, which should be reserved for athletes with extensive experience.
Phase three: Pre-set
Time commitment: Three to 10 minutes
Simply do the movement you plan on doing but with less weight.
Example: If today is your squat day, do three sets of 15 to 25 squats with just your body (commonly referred to as air squats). Listen to your body; if your joints still feel tight, do 30 to 60 seconds of walking lunges before approaching the barbell.
Continue this phase by loading the bar to roughly half of the load you plan to lift in your main set. Complete three to eight repetitions. Increase the amount of weight by roughly 10 percent until you arrive at your desired set weight.
Every body is different. By spending 15 minutes preparing your body for the strenuous movements to come, it will be more capable of performing at peak levels. The desired physiological adaptations occur when an athlete operates at those levels, whatever they may be specific to their current level of fitness.
Remember: An effective warm-up should always be specific to the nature of your day’s training.
On July 25, 1953, seven Czechoslovakians rolled across one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world to freedom in the West. They rolled over three rows of barbed wire, land mines, and guard towers on their way into West Germany. The Czech border guards didn’t even try to stop them. No one fired a shot. They all just watched in stunned disbelief as the Nazi armored personnel vehicle just tore its way across the Iron Curtain.
The story of Vaclav Uhlik is a success story for American soft power, specifically the Cold War-era broadcasts of Radio Free Europe. Uhlik was an engineer in the new, Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia following the end of World War II. He was a concentration camp survivor, a fighter for the Czech Underground, and mechanic who hid a big secret from the new Communist authorities in his country: there was an armored vehicle in his backyard – and he was rebuilding it.
For three years, he listened to the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe as he gathered parts and materials needed to get the APC operational again. The broadcasts gave him hope. His progress gave him patience. He was assisted by former Czech soldiers Walter Hora and Vaclav Krejciri in his efforts, and they were rewarded by riding in the vehicle the night it was to drive to the West.
The Czech-West German Border in 1980.
(Photo by Alan Denney)
Starting nearly from scratch, the men slowly reconstructed a battered Nazi Saurer RR-7 Artillery Tractor. Vaclav Uhlik, the engineer, rebuilt the vehicle as an armored personnel carrier. He made it large enough to carry himself, his wife and two children, the two veterans, Josef Pisarik, and Libuse Hrdonkova, a Czech woman who married an American after the war. Since he could only stay with her for three months, she decided to come to him in Iowa.
After years of tinkering and preparation, the modified RR-7, covered in the brush and foliage that hid it from Czechoslovakian authorities for so long, rumbled its way to the West German border. They drove through the Bavarian forest to the Wald-München (near Nuremberg) border crossing. And he did cross the border, except he didn’t go through the gates, instead opting to go right through the rows of barbed wire between guard towers and minefields.
The border guards just watched in awe, as they thought the APC was a friendly army vehicle. The Czechs inside had only what they wore with them, but they were on the right side of the Iron Curtain.
The seven Czechs drove the APC for several miles into West Germany and away from the border until they were stopped by West German police, taken to an American installation to be interviewed by intelligence officers, and then welcomed to their new home in the West. They would eventually be resettled in Springfield, Mass. – all except Hrdonkova. She would move to Sioux City, Iowa, to be with her long-separated husband.
After troops from various militaries around the world finish their time in service, they turn their gear in, finalize their paperwork, and hang up their uniform for good. Swiss soldiers, however, can skip that last visit to the arms room and walk out with their service weapon in tow.
Surprised? To the Swiss, this is just a part of the culture.
This is a part of Switzerland’s Aggressive Neutrality Policy. Despite being a nation whose name has become synonymous with neutrality, Switzerland has kept the peace by letting the world know that it will not hesitate to defend itself by any means necessary.
It’s an open secret that the country hosts a huge amount of heavily fortified bunkers, ready-to-blow roadways, and the world’s 38th largest military despite the fact that the country is just shy of half the size of South Carolina. No, really — all of this information is readily available on Google.
(Photo by Oma Toes)
Another way for the Swiss to keep outside threats on edge is by pairing conscription with a gun culture that’s on par with Texas’. Every able-bodied male citizen is required to join the military in some fashion and the women are strongly encouraged. Culturally, conscription isn’t seen as a negative thing and recruits aren’t dragged in kicking and screaming.
In fact, it’s just an ordinary part of life and the Swiss are proud to join. In 2013, a referendum was drawn up to abolish conscription, but it failed miserably — 73% of citizens strongly favored conscription.
All of this is important to understanding the mindset of the Swiss people, their military, and their veterans. Nearly everyone in Switzerland has served in the military in some capacity and they keep the peace by tiptoeing while carrying a large friggin’ stick. If there should ever come a time where Switzerland is invaded, a well-armed and well-trained population is ready to rise up.
Now, this isn’t to say that rifles are handed over freely, even though that would make for the greatest VA system in the world. Most times, Swiss veterans pay out of pocket to keep the firearm they trained on. The ammunition isn’t for sale, though. Swiss vets need to get that on their own.
From small town Pennsylvania to teaching at the U.S. Navy, then to social work and back to teaching, Darryl Ponicsan has lived an inspiring and interesting life. After his second stint of teaching, he struck gold with his first novel “The Last Detail.” From there the sky was the limit where he is most known for his novels that have been adapted to screenplays which include “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and “Last Flag Flying.” Screenplays include “Taps,” “Vision Quest,” Nuts,” The Boost,” “School Ties” and “Random Hearts.” He also wrote the voice-over for “Blade Runner.” We sat down with him to hear about his life and his service to our country.
1. Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
My parents ran a mom ‘n pop auto parts store in Shenandoah, Pa., a coal mining town that was booming then. Now you can buy a three-story house there for the price of a used Chevy. I worked in the store as a kid and hated almost every minute of it. The town itself, however, was rich soil for drama and comedy. I’m surprised I’m the only writer ever to come out of the place. At the age of nine we moved into the first and only home my parents ever bought, six miles over the hill in Ringtown, a farming community. I had a happy childhood there, graduating from the local high school, now gone, in a class of 22 students. I think I ranked #18.
2. What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
My father and I used to take our own trash to the dump once a week and dump it into a deep pit. One day there were two bums there. I was around 13. One held the end of a rope, and at the other end was his partner with a big bag, scavenging for anything of value. The one on top asked if they could go through our garbage before we dumped it. My father said sure, and we stepped aside. I said something belittling about what they were doing. My father told me, “It’s an honest living.” A great lesson in life. Years later, I was going through a nasty divorce. My mother told me it took years to build my character, don’t let this take it apart. Those two moments are linked in my memory, because in truth I did not have a close relationship with either of them.
Darryl during his days as a teacher.
3. What challenges did you face at school and in the community?
As I said, I was in a class of 22. There were no cliques. In Shenandoah I was a latchkey kid at a very early age, unheard of today, but the neighbors looked after us as we played in the streets. Likewise in Ringtown where my parents knew all my teachers on a first name basis. I got into a little trouble fighting, which seemed to be our favorite pastime, but we fought with fists only and afterwards were usually ok with each other.
4. What values were stressed at home?
My parents were laissez-faire. They seldom knew where I might be. Frugality, toughness—both emotionally and physically—a work ethic, and honesty were values instilled in us, more by example than preaching.
Darryl at his first duty station
Camp Perry in Ohio and with his friends after bootcamp (top right).
Darryl at Guantanamo Bay Cuba in 1964 (far left).
5. What influenced your career choices post college and why did you join the Navy?
Honestly, I never thought of a career, not even when it seemed I was living one. I became a teacher by default, and when I was offered tenure, I resigned to join the Navy, at age 24, because I wanted to be a writer, not a teacher. In those days everyone was expected to serve a hitch. My brother went to the Air Force at age 18. I chose the Navy because no one had yet written a Navy novel from an enlisted man’s point of view, at least not that I knew about. I’d studied creative writing at Muhlenberg, Cornell, and CalState LA, but my true education as a writer started as a child in a coal town and matured during my time in the Navy.
James Caan and Marsha Mason in “Cinderella Liberty.” From IMDB.com.
6. What lessons did you take away from your service and what are some of your favorite moments from the Navy?
The Navy is the only branch that draws its cops from the rank and file on a temporary basis, as a work detail. This is both a good and bad idea for exactly the same reason: the Shore Patrol does not put aside his humanity when he puts on the arm band. (Navy brigs, however, are run by Marines.)
I spent most of my enlistment at sea, and I have many memories of the sea itself. I remember seeing my first flying fish. I remember the Atlantic as still as a pond and so wild that I had to lie on a table and hook my elbows and heels over the edges. My very first night at sea I was intensely seasick, throwing up over port and starboard while standing my first mid watch. And of course, there were the liberty ports. We would rotate nine months in the Mediterranean, a month or so in Norfolk, and then four or five months in the Caribbean, my ship was the first American warship to tie up at St. Mark’s Square in maybe ever. We would walk off the ladder right onto St. Mark’s Sq. We were in Venice for a week. I was on the USS MONROVIA (APA-31), the flagship for Comphibron 8, an amphibious squadron. Occasionally we would move to the USS OKINAWA, a helicopter carrier, which was a luxury compared to the Monrovia. I also spent about two months in transit on the USS INTREPID, which is now a museum in Manhattan.
An indelible memory, resulting in my novel and movie “Cinderella Liberty,” was a week-long stay at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. I went there for a surgery. It turned out I didn’t need the surgery, but it took a week to process me out of the hospital. I had liberty every night until 2400.
Another weird one: my first TDY after boot camp, before getting a ship, was at an Army depot in Ohio. Long story. I was there for a whole summer.
Faculty picture for the school yearbook.
7. What did you enjoy most about being an English teacher and a social worker?
Both had annoying bureaucracies which hampered some good work, and the pay in both is shamefully low, but the rewards of seeing children progress or in helping people in true need cannot be measured. A lot of my former students are now Facebook friends. They’re all retired and I’m still working.
8. What inspired you to write “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and the “Last Flag Flying,”?
“The Last Detail” was an incredible stroke of luck. It was handed to me almost whole while I was in transit aboard the USS INTREPID after leaving the hospital. I was working with a crusty old P.O.1 in a tiny office. The Career Guidance Office. We played chess all day and swapped sea stories. He told me about having to escort a young sailor from Corpus Christi to the brig in Portsmouth, NH. The kid was unjustly sentenced to a long sentence for a small offense. I knew immediately I had struck gold. It took five or six years to evolve from a short story to a novel.
“Cinderella Liberty” was based on my Naval Hospital experience. That one took about four months to write.
“Last Flag Flying” was the result of endless prodding by a friend to revisit the characters in “The Last Detail” and essentially duplicate their train trip. I resisted for obvious reasons, but I was so obsessed with Bush pushing us into an endless and unnecessary war I felt it might be the best way to get it all off my chest.
Otis Wilson, Randy Quaid, Jack Nicholson and Don McGovern in “The Last Detail.” From IMDB.com
Steve Carrell, Laurence Fishburne, Darryl, Bryan Cranston and Rick Linklater on “Last Flag Flying.”
9. What was it like working with Jack Nicholson, Hal Ashby, Robert Towne, Harrison Ford, Martin Ritt, Barbara Streisand, Richard Dreyfus, Harold Becker, James Woods, Mark Rydell, Sydney Pollack, Sherry Lansing and Stanley Jaffe, Richard Linklater, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carrell?
I never worked with any of the principals involved in “The Last Detail.” I worked alone on Towne’s first draft for two weeks, the first time I ever saw a screenplay. Of the others, I worked most intensely with Barbra, Harold Becker, Mark Rydell, and Rick Linklater.
Mark Rydell did “Cinderella Liberty.” I worked closely with him on the script, my first, which took over twice as long as it took to write the novel. A WGA strike forced us to call it done. Mark was a charming, clever director, but I think I absorbed some bad stuff from him. He was an operator and I know at times I emulated him. A mistake. I’m not an operator, and I should have known that from the beginning. Not that his heart wasn’t in the right place.
I did several scripts with Harold Becker, who I liked personally, but I never fully trusted him. I saw him throw others under the bus and I’m pretty sure he did likewise with me.
Sherry Lansing was often derided as a cheerleader, but she was the best of cheerleaders, always encouraging, out in front. She was great to work with on “School Ties.” She was one of the first women to break out big in the business. I like her a lot. I worked with her and Jaffe on “Taps” and “School Ties,” which Jaffe left to head up Paramount. Stanley and I had a love-hate relationship. While at Paramount he hired me to do a major rewrite for a green-lit picture with a major star. I knew he had bragged about getting me cheap for “Taps,” so he made up for it with this job. It was outlandish. I can’t mention the project because at the last moment the star decided he couldn’t work with the director, and the whole thing crashed and burned.
Sydney Pollock was a good friend and a guide to me in the industry. He helped me through the political and filmmaking process in Hollywood. Sydney said that I was not “part of all this,” meaning the ethos and byzantine angles of Hollywood, and he took on the role of guide. I never did learn the ins and outs of the business, and whenever I pretended to I came off as a jerk.
My best experience, which turned out to be my least successful movie, was with Rick Linklater. All indications are that the movie will be rediscovered as time moves on. That happened with “Vision Quest,” a failed picture that keeps finding new audiences that are deeply moved by it. Rick never speaks above a whisper. He seems always on an even keel. Whatever he does comes from the heart.
Barbra was a singular experience. She’s taken a bad rap in the past. Even though I didn’t even like her, until I met her. I was so nervous about our first meeting. At the time, Sidney Pollack told me I would love her, and I did, even though I have a hard time being around perfectionists, who I believe get in their own way. Alvin Sargent, a good friend, worked with me as a collaborator on “Nuts.” Mark Rydell was originally the director. At one point she asked Rydell to step aside and let her work alone with the two of us. He wasn’t happy about it, but Barbra gets what she wants. We practically lived at her house in Beverly Hills for a week. It was agony, it was a joy. Rydell was replaced by Martin Ritt, one of the great old lefty directors.
Tom Cruise, Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn in Taps. From IMDB.com
Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott on “Blade Runner.” From IMDB.com
Richard Dreyfus and Barbra Streisand in “Nuts.” From IMDB.com
Linda Fiorentino and Matthew Modine in “Vision Quest.” From IMDB.com
Ben Affleck, Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon and Zeljko Ivanek in “School Ties.” From IMDB.com
10. What are you most proud of, your life and career?
Whatever I may be proud of came with a good deal of luck. I’m proud and lucky that my children are not addicts, and I’m proud I never wrote anything I’m ashamed of.
I’m also proud and lucky to have received an Image Award from the NAACP as Screenwriter of the Year. (1973) I may be the only Caucasian to receive that.
Several years ago, I was living in Sonoma and found I could not work because of the raucous noise of leaf blowers. I went to the city council and took my allotted three minutes to urge them to ban blowers. I went to every meeting over the next year, taking my three minutes. I did my homework and concluded that blowers were the most destructive handheld tool ever invented. I bombarded them with data they could not ignore. They finally voted to ban them, but the mayor caved to commercial pressure and changed his vote. He lost the next election because of that. The issue finally went to a ballot measure and the ban was passed by 16 votes.
I did the same thing in Palm Springs, but this time it was a slam dunk. I’m proud to have had a role in banning leaf blowers in two different cities.
Darryl worked a season with the George Matthews Great London 3-Ring Circus and wrote a book about it, “The Ringmaster.” He became Randy the Clown.
Darryl with Stephen Colbert at an event for “Last Flag Flying.”
Darryl’s NAACP Image Award for Screenwriter of the Year for 1973.
The commander of Air Combat Command and his son fought each other live on a Twitch stream in a combat flight action video game on June 29, 2019.
Gen. Mike Holmes pitted his skill with the F-15 against 1st Lt. Wade Holmes and his F-16 in this exhibition match designed to highlight the Air Force’s pilot community and to answer questions from viewers about military service.
While there was a fair share of air-to-air kills and crashes into the ground for both men, the younger Holmes was the clear winner of the video game version of life in the cockpit.
“This type of alternative interview format is a really great way to engage with our audience,” said Michelle Clougher, chief of the ACC Public Affairs command information division. “We’re always looking for a different way to tell the Air Force story, and these two rock-star pilots have a lot they can share.
“Ten years ago, we never would have thought to have our top fighter pilot play a video game while broadcasting it live to the whole world,” she continued. “But as our technologies evolve, so do we. We must communicate in a way that is meaningful and connects with people.”
US Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes and 1st Lt. Wade Holmes, his son, play a combat flight action video game, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, June 29, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Emerald Ralston)
Twitch is a live-streaming video service platform introduced in 2011. The service has grown to share video content with more than 15 million daily active users.
During the stream, the Holmeses discussed the Air Force’s current pilot shortage, and explained the importance of air battle managers and the communications from the E-3 AWACS. They also expressed their gratitude for all the service’s crew chiefs and answered various questions about their aircraft, while sharing stories from their careers.
The pilots gave advice for joining the Air Force and compared real flight versus this arcade simulation. And while the general has more than 4,000 hours in a real aircraft — many of those are combat hours — the lieutenant had the edge with this matchup.
One Twitch user even asked the lieutenant to take it easy on his “old man” toward the end of one match.
“I appreciate that,” General Holmes said with a laugh. “I’m going to feign an injury here in a moment.”
“Air Combat Command does not teach me to take pity on my adversary,” replied Lieutenant Holmes as he secured the win.
The stream lasted for approximately one hour, and it can be viewed below:
“Thanks for tuning in,” General Holmes said to wrap up the event. “We enjoyed having a chance to talk to you for a little bit. As the Air Force, we’re trying to reach out to people that could find a home in the Air Force. We hope you’ll consider finding a way to serve your country in some way.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
3-gun is a shooting exercise where competitors use three firearms: a sporting rifle, a pistol, and a shotgun. The shooter must move through stages and hit targets from various ranges using each of the different firearms. And, judging by the video footage, Keanu Reeves is good at it.
The targets on the range are anywhere from 5 inches to 100 feet away. The video caption reads “Keanu and the guys at http://www.87eleven.net/ are putting in WORK!”
87 Eleven is an “Action Design” company whose directors, David M. Leitch and Chad Stahelski, also provide fight choreography, stunt work, and training for movie projects. The company provided training on Reeves’ film John Wick as well as 300, Fight Club, the Hunger Games series, and even Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video.