The best holiday gifts for military service members - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The best holiday gifts for military service members

This holiday season is looking a little different than all the others, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to make it just as special. In fact, we might want to make even more special because of the circumstances. But don’t worry — this year we won’t leave you to think about what to get yourself all on your own. We have the perfect gifts for service members so that everyone in your spend-every-waking-minute-together-since-March family has something they will totally love under the tree or for Hannukah. 

Gifts for service members

5.11 Tactical

The best holiday gifts for military service members

5.11 Tactical is a tactical clothing brand that offers clothing, footwear and accessories for those with the military and law enforcement mindset. This Pathfinder Watch is perfect for your military guy while the Ammo Queen t-shirt will quickly become your military girl’s favorite tee. 

Rheos sunglasses

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Who doesn’t love a pair of sunglasses for the holidays? These floating sunglasses from Rheos are perfect for a military guy or girl. They are scratch-proof, smudge-proof and won’t get lost in the pool during their liberty weekends. They have a variety of styles and colors for everyone. 

Strong Women Supply

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Created by a Marine Corps veteran, Strong Women Supply was started with a simple idea of adding a Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote to a back of a olive drab t-shirt to be worn by female veterans under their uniform. Now Strong Women Supply offers a variety of products including t-shirts, water bottles and mugs.

Gerber

The best holiday gifts for military service members

You can’t go wrong with a new knife or multi-tool for your service member, and Gerber Gear makes the highest quality ones for military, first responders, and law enforcement. This multi-plier tool is a perfect addition to their pack for field exercises. 

Light therapy lamp

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Is your service member coming back from deployment, or do they work in a bunker or on a submarine? A light therapy lamp is a great tool to help regulate sleep patterns or get the necessary daylight needed to help with sleep and mood. 

Allegiance Flag Supply

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Nothing says “America” more than an American flag. But these aren’t any old American flags. The flags by Allegiance Flag Supply won’t get worn out or wrapped around your flag pole with every gust of wind. Each flag is hand-sewn with the highest quality fabrics to ensure that America is displayed proudly. 

Portable massager

The best holiday gifts for military service members

After a long training session in the field, a hard day of PT, or a ruck hike with their platoon, your service member needs to take the time to recover their muscles. A portable percussion massager like this one is a great gift this holiday season. 

Chuck Box Camp Kitchen

Your service member goes out in the field for days at a time, but their love for the great outdoors remains. This Chuck Box Camp Kitchen is a great addition for family camping trips, days spent by the lake or for your RV. 

Nomader

The best holiday gifts for military service members

No matter if they are in the field, out for a run or you are getting ready to PCS- space is sacred when it comes to military life. The Nomader Collapsible water bottle is perfect for when you need it, and even easier to store when you don’t.

Nine Line Apparel

The best holiday gifts for military service members

A nine-line is a medevac for an injured service member, and Nine Line Apparel is the place to go for all military-inspired clothing and accessories. Super patriotic doesn’t even cut it as a description of their stylings for men, women, and even kids. 

Grunt Style

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Looking for some new PT gear for your service member? Grunt Style has some of the coolest and most comfortable lines of fitness wear (and other clothing and accessories). How can you go wrong with American flag Ranger panties for the holidays?

Customized pilot image from The Eclectic Boutique

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Is your service member a pilot? Take their favorite image with their aircraft and have it made into a cool silhouette by military-spouse owned shop, The Eclectic Boutique. 

Black Rifle Coffee 

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Veteran-owned Black Rifle Coffee is a great gift for your service member this year. You can get them a bag of their favorite roast to send to them while they are forward deployed, or get a monthly subscription box for them to enjoy while they are home. 

BRAVO SIERRA

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Daily shaving. Hard days of PT. Weeks-long exercises with no showers. BRAVO SIERRA is a veteran-owned business that makes hygiene products that work with a service member’s needs in mind. Each product is tested by a member of the U.S. military so you know they work. 

The Jewelry Republic

The best holiday gifts for military service members

If you are looking for a unique jewelry gift for your service member, look no further than The Jewelry Republic. They have cufflinks and customizable rings for men, and branch-specific bracelets like these for women. It is a great option for an end-of-service holiday gift.

Looking for more holiday gift ideas? Download our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide now!

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How this operation is guarding the nation’s skies

Following the events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Department of Defense identified flaws in its security procedures within the airspace surrounding the National Capital Region. In response, Operation Noble Eagle was created to protect the skies of North America.

An important training element of Noble Eagle, Fertile Keynote exercises utilize the Air Force’s civilian auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol.

With the combined support of the Air National Guard’s 113th Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, the CAP’s Congressional Squadron, 1st Air Force and North American Aerospace Defense Command, Fertile Keynote missions simulate responses to unauthorized aircraft intruding into the restricted airspace surrounding the U.S. capital.

Other Fertile Keynote exercises take place every week across the country, with aerospace control alert fighter units and CAP squadrons participating.


Each component is vital to the exercise’s goal of rapidly intercepting low- or high-speed aircraft that show signs of distress or those not in compliance with air traffic control instructions.

Once the mission is initiated, fighter pilots, on 24-hour standby, scramble to practice their ability to get airborne quickly in response to a potential threat.

After establishing communication with NORAD and 1st AF, the pilots intercept the CAP aircraft, which simulate the intruder, or track of interest. After initial assessment, the pilots relay information about the TOI’s condition and intent, which ground personnel are not able to determine.

The aircraft is then either assisted, escorted out of the restricted airspace, or, if the intruder is determined to be a threat, the aircraft is eliminated.

Using aircraft from the Air Force Auxiliary as targets has two advantages; it provides participants with a realistic simulation of intercepting slower aircraft, at significantly reduced operational and maintenance cost to the Air Force. If another Air Force F-16 was used as a target for this exercise, it would cost approximately ,000, but operating the CAP aircraft, with volunteer pilots, costs approximately id=”listicle-2639898032″,000.

Exercises like these are conducted throughout the United States, giving pilots, controllers and NORAD personnel an opportunity to practice air defense capabilities against different airframes. In 2018, CAP aircraft flew 251 Air Defense Intercept training missions, including Fertile Keynote, in the National Capital Region, logging 1,635 flight hours on 861 sorties across the country.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the top unexpectedly fitting jobs for veterans

Every person who has ever worn the uniform has had to, one day, step away from the uniform. The uncertainty that often accompanies that day is something that no explanation can truly capture, you’ll have to have your own experience. Once you’re on the other side, finding a proper fit can be one of the more substantial challenges that you’ll face.

Being a veteran, you are equipped to do and handle certain things. One of those veteran superpowers, adaptability, can make it hard to find a place that you actually fit in with. We have grown and developed that superpower so much that we can easily find ourselves in a job that we hate and not even realize it until we’ve been there for a year or more. Below you’ll find a handful of jobs that are not only good fits but are also financially and otherwise satisfying.


There are some specializations in the military that train you for a very lucrative life, post-service. What happens when you don’t have one of those jobs, or you don’t want to continue the career path you’ve been on?

The best holiday gifts for military service members

*Actual footage of a veteran’s first day on the job as a customer service representative

(Image from Working Title Films’ The Big Lebowski)

Customer Service Representative

This job/career probably doesn’t pop out at you at first thought but dig a little deeper, and it makes a lot of sense. Weren’t so in love with your job? That’s completely fine and normal.

Regardless of your actual job in the military, we all have one thing in common service-wide: military customs and courtesies. This is beat into you as soon as you step foot off the bus, often before then. That makes you an excellent candidate to work in customer service. Doesn’t pay super well at entry level, but it does give you a foot in the door and a paycheck.

This is more of a placeholder job than anything else for many of us. Typically, we bide our time in these positions until we promote out or find something we actually like.

Average growth expected through 2026, with very low requirements for employment.

The best holiday gifts for military service members

If you had any question, this is absolutely a transferable skill.

(Image by Army Sgt. Stephanie van Greete)

Mechanic

Obviously, some of us leave the service better equipped for this type of work than others. However, if you want to get into the field, there is opportunity. There may be some school or on the job training required, depending on your personal experience heading into the field.

Outside of that, you can find work with the right combination of a high school diploma, a good attitude, and experience. As an added bonus, there will always be a need for a good mechanic.

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Still a fan of isolation and seeing what most others never will? Try this!

(Image courtesy of GI Jobs)

CDL Driver/Operator

For the veteran community, the choice to become a truck driver can be a surprisingly comfortable one. It requires learning a skill, a period of time spent in on-the-job training working closely with a mentor, and finally entering a state of constant polishing.

Eventually, you may want to move from driver to owner and begin buying and manning your own fleet.

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Like working with your hands?

(Image courtesy of GI Jobs)

Construction

Another option for those drawn to working with their hands. In other words, this is a job many veterans can gravitate towards and thrive. On-the-job training is the most common way in, but you could also earn a degree in the subject and likely enter with a much higher ceiling and amount of pay.

Regardless, there will be some type of ladder climbing involved, literally and figuratively.

Job growth in this area is above average through 2026.

The best holiday gifts for military service members

They are more competitive and harder to find but they are there.

(Image courtesy of GI Jobs)

Human Resources/Operations Manager

These are two very different career fields that require some different skills and experience. You find them together because of their similarities and how those similarities can benefit you.

By the time many of us leave the service, we have compiled many years of experience as some type of leader/manager. That experience is valuable, especially when coupled with a degree or two. If you have at least a bachelor’s degree and experience you can find yourself in one of these positions.

Both of these areas expect an average to above average job growth through 2026.

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Literally. ANYTHING!

(Image courtesy of GI Jobs)

Anything with computers

Literally. Anything dealing with computers is looking great going forward.

If you’re into computers at all, it’s highly recommended that you bet on yourself, put some type of education behind whatever experience you have and go get paid. Most of the jobs in this area require a degree or certificate, but if you can stomach it, you won’t regret it.

Many jobs in this area pay near or about 100K and job growth is well above average in many, many different specific jobs through 2026.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Pacific senior enlisted leaders meet for historic Red Flag-Alaska

Red Flag-Alaska 19-2, a Pacific Air Forces-directed exercise that allows U.S. forces to train with coalition partners in a simulated combat environment — is underway at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson through June 22, 2019.

Approximately 2,000 personnel are flying, maintaining and supporting more than 85 aircraft from more than a dozen units during this iteration of Red Flag-Alaska. The majority of participating aircraft are based at, and flying from, JB Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base.

In addition to the U.S., airmen from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, South Korean Air Force and Royal Thai Air Force are all working alongside one another, building relationships, fostering communication and sharing tactics, techniques and procedures.


Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright visited JB Elmendorf-Richardson during the exercise to engage with airmen and leaders of all participating countries.

“Any time we come together in a training environment like this, we get really good and realistic training opportunities with our partner nations,” Wright said. “I think opportunities like Red Flag are extremely important for us to get those repetitions in with our allies.

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, Ra Young-Chang, chief master sergeant of the South Korean Air Force, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson senior enlisted leaders are briefed before an F-22 Raptor jet engine test cell function check at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, June 10, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jonathan Valdes)

“I encourage all participants to take advantage of these opportunities where you get to work at a tactical level with our Indo-Pacific and our European counterparts because you never know how those relationships might pay off one day.”

Following his own advice, Wright extended invitations to his senior enlisted leader counterparts from throughout the Pacific, marking the first time all four senior enlisted leaders from the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Thailand gathered in the same location.

“Instability is on the rise in the Indo-Pacific area of operations, so it’s extremely important for all allied nations in the region to sharpen our skills and strengthen our ability to work together to preserve the peace and stability of this very important region,” said Warrant Officer Masahiro Yokota, Japan Air Self-Defense Force senior enlisted advisor.

This iteration of RF-A, which began June 6, 2019, provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support and large-force employment training.

“I feel pleased, delighted and honored to have the opportunity to join in Red Flag and the senior leaders activities here at (JB Elmendorf-Richardson),” Royal Thai Air Force Flight Sgt. First Class Likhid Deeraksah said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and the ways of doing things in Korea, Japan and the United States. I’m excited to take some of these ideas back to our work centers in Thailand.”

The best holiday gifts for military service members

An A-10 Thunderbolt pilot from the 25th Fighter Squadron, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, performs pre-flight checks at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, June 10, 2019. The 25th FS is participating in Exercise Red Flag-Alaska 19-2, a large-scale training exercise, with units and allied nation’s’ air forces from around the Pacific.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)

All Red Flag-Alaska exercises take place over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex over central Alaska. The entire airspace is made up of extensive military operations areas, special-use airspace and ranges, for a total airspace of more than 67,000 square miles.

Red Flag-Alaska exercises, which provide unique opportunities to integrate various forces in realistic threat environments, date back to 1975, when the exercise was held at Clark Air Base in the Philippines and called exercise Cope Thunder.

Red Flag-Alaska executes the world’s premier tactical joint and coalition air combat employment exercise, designed to replicate the stresses warfighters must face during their first eight to 10 combat sorties. Red Flag-Alaska has the assets, range and support structure to train to joint and combined warfighting doctrine against realistic and robust enemy integrated threat systems, under safe and controlled conditions.

The best holiday gifts for military service members

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 13th Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan, taxis at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, June 10, 2019. The 13th FS is participating in Exercise Red Flag-Alaska 19-2, a large-scale training exercise, with units and allied nation”s air forces from around the Pacific.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)

Wright offered a message to RF-A global airmen about how important their contributions are to the long-term advancement of the nations of the Indo-Pacific region.

“Come here, work hard, have a good time and enjoy the fruits of your labor, particularly when it comes to training and relationships. When our airmen get to work side by side with their counterparts, the long-term impact is that we’re going to be better and we’ll be ready for any scenario.”

Since its inception, thousands of service members from all U.S. military branches, as well as the armed services of countries from around the globe, have taken part in Red Flag-Alaska.

“This beautiful blue planet will lose its luster if we do not give it our all to protect and preserve it,” Yokota said. “Now, let us bring our strengths together to protect and preserve that beauty.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

popular

The actual process of naming military vehicles isn’t what most people think

Recently, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson got a tank named after him. The actor/wrestler/producer took joy in being given the honors and posted the image onto his social media. Because you can’t go two days on the internet without some sort of backlash from people with nothing better to do than argue over some mundane thing that has absolutely no bearing on their life… people argued.

On one side, some people are upset that he felt honored for it because, you know, that has to mean he is advocating war or whatever. Counter-arguers are also quick to jump at the chance to point out that it is a high honor for such a beloved figure because he’s always been a friend and supporter to the military and veteran community.

In reality, the process of naming tanks, artillery guns, and rocket launcher systems isn’t as grandiose as the people arguing are making it out to be.


The best holiday gifts for military service members
Naming your HIMARS doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable. But it doesn’t hurt to at least enjoy your time cramped in with your crew. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Christopher A. Hernandez)

When it’s time for a crew to take command of a new vehicle, they need to give it a name.

With some exception, you name it entirely for the purpose of easily identifying it. When you’re walking through the motor pool, reading the name stenciled on the gun or rocket pod is going to be a lot easier to read from a distance than its serial number.

Unlike with Humvees or other troop carrying vehicles often forgotten until it’s time to use them, artillerymen and tankers take pride in what is theirs. The name has to be something that the crew could proudly sit in for hours until the FDC finally gets around to approving a fire mission.

The name itself is generally something that invokes strength, humor, or holds sentimental value to one member of the crew – like a loved one. The command staff usually doesn’t bother as long as it isn’t (too) profane and it typically follows the guideline of the first letter being the same as your company/battery/squadron for uniformity.

The best holiday gifts for military service members
I keep using “typically” and “usually” because there are plenty of exceptions. The name, the naming convention, and even the ability to name it are ultimately up to the chain of command’s discretion. (United States Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Corey Dabney)

So an MLRS in Alpha Battery could be named “Alexander the Great” or “Ass Blaster.” Bravo Battery gets something along the lines of “Betty White” or “Boomstick.” Charlie gets names along the lines of “Come Get Some” or “Cat Scratch Fever.” And so on.

As for the tank named “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson,” well, just happens to be in a Delta Squadron, the crew were probably fans of his work, and his name invokes strength. I can attest, entirely anecdotally of course, that Dwayne Johnson isn’t that uncommon of a name within Delta Batteries/Squadrons.

The crew comes up with the name, submits it to the chain of command, and if it gets approved, they spray paint the name prominently on the gun. If the commander wants it to be all people’s names, then they’re all people’s names. If they give the troops free rein, then that’s their prerogative.

It should also be noted that some commanders may forgo the entire process of naming their vehicles and guns altogether. It is what it is, but some tankers and artillerymen may see it as bad luck to not give their baby a name and troops can be particularly superstitious. That, or they may just be saying it so they can spray-paint “Ass Blaster” on their tank’s gun.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army Special Forces soldiers practice fighting behind enemy lines

“For us being Special Forces, we are the first on the battlefield, then we are the last to leave,” said a Bulgarian Special Operations Tactical Group Commander.

The captain was the commander of the SOTG for exercise Saber Junction 19. Approximately 5,400 participants from 15 NATO and partner nations including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuanian, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and the US took part in the exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Sept. 3-30, 2019.

The exercise partnered about 100 Multinational SOF from Bulgaria, the US, and members of the Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Defense National Force, or KASP, with conventional forces to improve integration and enhance their overall combat abilities.


The best holiday gifts for military service members

A US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.

(US Army photo Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)

The best holiday gifts for military service members

US Army Maj. Nathan Showman of the 173rd Airborne Brigade watches as paratroopers from the brigade land during a joint forcible entry as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 18, 2019.

To determine the best use of SOF capabilities to support larger combined maneuver, the Bulgarian SOTG Commander coordinated directly with his conventional force counterpart US Army Col. Kenneth Burgess, the commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

The SOTG also placed SOF liaison officers within the brigade staff to facilitate communication directly between the staff and SOF on the ground.

The best holiday gifts for military service members

A US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.

This gave the SOTG the ability to support critical portions of the exercise such as the joint forcible entry, a multinational airborne operation delivering paratroopers from Ramstein Airbase into the exercise to seize key terrain.

Paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade jumped from Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft to set the drop zone for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Bulgarian and US SOF provided early reconnaissance of the drop zone and secured the area for the pathfinder’s jump, ensuring they had up to date information from the moment they hit the ground.

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Italian Army paratroopers from the Folgore Airborne Brigade coordinate with US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers after the Italian paratroopers parachuted onto a drop zone secured by special operations forces as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

This multinational coordination was one of the key objectives of the exercise.

“From my point of view, this is the most important exercise for my unit in that it helps prepare us for future NATO missions,” said the Bulgarian commander. “We are currently on standby in my country [as a quick reaction force], so this exercise is beneficial for us.”

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Bulgarian special operations forces exit a US Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade during combined aviation load training as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

Lithuania’s KASP also worked alongside SOF to set conditions for the conventional force. Exercising their real-world mission of unconventional warfare, the KASP integrated with Special Forces soldiers from the US Army’s 5th SFG(A).

This combined time conducted operations ahead of friendly lines in enemy-occupied territory to enable the multinational conventional joint force.

The best holiday gifts for military service members

US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

The KASP are structured similar to the US National Guard, with about 500 professional soldiers and 5,000 reservists, but have a very different mission.

“Our mission is to conduct territorial defense, so we must be ready to defend our country against any type of threat, either hybrid or conventional,” said Col. Dainius Pašvenskas, the KASP commander.

Pašvenskas added that the demand to come to exercises like these within his unit is so high that they have placed internal requirements to be selected. After completing rotations in exercises like Saber Junction 19, they share the techniques they have learned within their units, and teach the unconventional warfare tactics to the rest of the force.

The best holiday gifts for military service members

US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)

The KASP’s missions at Saber Junction 19 included long-range reconnaissance, direct action and personnel recovery.

“We may have different tasks but we will operate in a similar area as Special Operation Forces,” said Pašvenskas. “Working with Special Forces and learning from their experience is an excellent opportunity for us.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sailors may dress according to preferred gender off duty, Navy says

With the upcoming April 12, 2019 start of a new Pentagon policy that will bar most transgender people from entering the military and restrict transgender medical transition for those not grandfathered in, the Navy has released additional guidance noting that sailors will be permitted to “live socially” in their preferred gender while not on duty, even if they must conform to the standards associated with their biological gender while in uniform.

“There is no policy that prohibits the ability of a service member to express themselves off-duty in their preferred gender,” officials said in a recently released Navy administrative message. “Appropriate civilian attire, as outlined in the uniform regulations, will not be determined based on gender.”

The guidance does add that deployed sailors may be restricted in off-duty attire choices “to meet local conditions and host-nation agreements with foreign countries” at the discretion of regional commanders and senior officers.


“All service members are expected to continue to treat each other with dignity and respect,” the message adds. “There is zero tolerance for harassment, hazing or bullying of any service member in any form.”

Officials have insisted that the Pentagon’s new policy — which was spurred by a series of tweets from President Donald Trump in 2017 — does not constitute a ban on transgender individuals in uniform. However, it does restrict those who have not obtained a waiver by April 12, 2019, to serve in their biological gender only, and requires prospective troops with a history of “gender dysphoria” to verify that they have had 36 months of stability in their biological gender and are willing to meet the standards associated with it to enter the military.

The Navy and the Marine Corps, which both released additional guidance ahead of the new policy taking effect, did clarify that currently serving transgender troops who are deployed or otherwise hindered from getting a waiver by the deadline may submit an exception-to-policy request.

“This request must be routed to the commanding officer by the service member no later than 12 April 2019 and must contain a presumptive diagnosis from a provider (e.g., independent duty corpsman or civilian provider),” the Navy message states.

That request must then be forwarded with an endorsement from the service member’s commanding officer and submitted up through the first flag or general officer in the chain of command.

Marines may obtain an extension via a request to the deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, according to a Marine administrative message. The request must include a presumptive diagnosis from a civilian medical provider or independent duty corpsman and include a commanding officer’s endorsement.

The best holiday gifts for military service members

(Department of Defense)

The policy set to take effect aligns closely with a February 2018 memo to the president authored by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis following a policy review of the impact of transgender troops on “readiness and lethality.”

“In my professional judgment, these policies will place the Department of Defense in the strongest position to protect the American people, to fight and win America’s wars, and to ensure the survival and success of our service members around the world,” Mattis wrote.

Many in Congress, however, have been fiercely critical of the new policy, pointing out the honorable service of the estimated 9,000 transgender troops now serving and the relatively low cost to the Defense Department — estimated at under million — of providing them with medical care to date.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Everything you didn’t know about FDR’s monument

One of the most overlooked monuments at the National Mall, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is located in West Potomac Park between the Tidal Basin along the Cherry Tree Walk and the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. The memorial dedicated to America’s 32nd president is about halfway between the Lincoln Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

President Roosevelt led the nation during both the Great Depression and WWII during his four terms as president. The sprawling memorial is designed to guide visitors through a walk back through each of those terms. There are more than seven acres of space to explore the FDR Memorial. Each feature at the site is designed to help a visitor understand more about this dynamic president and how he directly impacted modern-day America. 

The memorial was dedicated on May 2, 1997, by President Bill Clinton. 

There are sculptures at the memorial inspired by photographs of DRF seated alongside his dog Fala. There are also scenes from the Great Depression, ranging from bread lines to people gathered at a radio to listen to FDR’s Fireside Chats. A bronze statue of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt standing in front of the United Nations emblem honors her dedication to the UN and global causes. FDR’s memorial is the only one at the national mall which depicts a First Lady. 

Capstone Achievement for Designer

The memorial was designed and developed by Lawrence Halprin. He called this his crowning achievement because of the difficulty in creating the monument and because of Halprin’s fond memories of listening to Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats. 

Halprin won a design competition to create the memorial back in 1974, but Congress didn’t appropriate funds for more than 20 years. The final design features Halprin’s work and ideas and several other prominent architects and designers, including Leonard Baskin, Robert Graham, Thomas Hardy, George Segal, and Neil Eastern. 

Water features 

The best holiday gifts for military service members
(Library of Congress)

Running water is an important metaphor that’s carried throughout the memorial. Each of the four rooms contains a waterfall, and as visitors move from one place to the next, the waterfalls become larger and more complex. This is meant to reflect the complexity of the presidency. 

The five main water features all represent something specific.

The single large drop of water represents the economy’s crash, which led the country to the Great Depression.

Stair-stepped water features are meant to pay homage to the Tennessee Valley Authority dam-building project, which was the first of its kind in the country. 

There are also several chaotic waterfalls at sharp angles, all that signify WWII. 

To commemorate President Roosevelt’s death, there’s a still water pool. 

The array of combining waterfalls is intended to be a retrospective of Roosevelt’s presidency.

The memorial is designed to give people options on how they experience it, allowing them to reverse directions, experience different sites, smells, and sounds, pause and reflect, and even be alone. All of these options are meant to indicate some of what Roosevelt did as president. 

Steeped in Controversy

Because of Roosevelt’s disability, the memorial designers wanted to create an experience that would be accessible to all. The memorial includes an area written in braille for people who are blind, and the wide pathways are accessible for those who use wheelchairs. 

However, disability advocates say that the braille is incorrectly spaced and positioned at eight feet, too high for anyone to actually read. 

One of the statues of FDR also stirred controversy. Initial designs planned to showcase FDR in his wheelchair, but the final design depicts the president in his chair with a cloak obscuring the wheelchair. This is often how he maneuvered throughout his day, even though his reliance on a wheelchair wasn’t widely publicized during his lifetime. Historians and disability rights activities wanted the wheelchair to be shown since they believe it depicts his source of strength. Finally, the sculptor decided to add casters to the back of the chair to create a symbolic wheelchair. However, the casters are only visible behind the statue.

In 2001, an additional statue was placed at the memorial entrance that shows FDR seated in a wheelchair. 

This is actually the second memorial

In a conversation with friend and Supreme Court Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1941, Roosevelt said if he were ever to have a monument erected in his honor, it should go in front of the National Archives and be no later than his desk. Roosevelt said he wanted the memorial to be simple, without any ornamentation. 

In 1965, a 3-foot tall, 7-foot long, and 4-foot wide white marble block was dedicated to Roosevelt. This memorial was placed near the southeast corner of Ninth Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The simple stone reads, “In Memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” just like the president wanted.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part III

Need to get caught up? Check out Part I and Part II.


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Part III: The Job Hunt

Your job search starts off strong, empowered with the tools and skills you learned during TAP. You put on actual pants every morning. You are the picture of motivation and efficiency.

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Ok, time to find the perfect job. I mean you can do anything, right? You’re a leader! You managed multi-million dollar assets! You’re combat-tested!

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Oh…wait. All these jobs want 7 years of industry experience. And a certification. Uh oh. You figure out that despite your experience and skills, your qualifications—on paper—may not cut it.

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Ok, so maybe what your TAP instructor and parents and DVOP told you is true. People get jobs through networking. Time to practice your handshake and your not-swearing-in-work-environments.

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You’re still applying for jobs, but haven’t been hired for any of the ones you want (and you’re not excited about any of the ones recruiters are contacting you about). RIP, wearing pants every day.

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Without your old routine, or the sense of purpose the military gave you, you’re starting to wonder: “Who am if I’m not what I do for a living? And what do I really want to do?”

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Maybe it’s the half dozen major life changes or the low-grade depression you ignored the last few years you were on active duty, or maybe the less-than-healthy coping mechanisms you developed to help you get through the tougher times, but you’re feeling…low.

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You decide to talk to a pro. It’s not magic, but it starts to help.

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Therapy is validating, and soon you’ve got some insight about what you want. Oh, you’re actually less stressed in high-stress situations? Good to know. You’ve got zero work-life boundaries? Hmmmm, tell me more.

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With new tools in your toolkit, you approach job search with renewed vigor. Soon, a job catches your eye, and it’s perfect for you.

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You apply and cross your fingers for a call.

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Holy smokes, you got the interview! You practice articulating your skills, and explaining your experience without acronyms.

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Turns out the team thinks you’re perfect for the job. They’re ready to make an offer, and you’re ready to commit. Hooray!

Articles

‘Christmas in Afghanistan’ depicts the holidays for troops over past two decades

When special operations combat veteran Addison Blu was stationed in Afghanistan over Christmas, it wasn’t exactly like holidays back home. Now a writer, Blu teamed up with New Musicals Inc. to write a mini musical about his experience. Wrought with gallows humor and profanity, the tone will strike true to any veteran who was stationed overseas during the holidays. 

Released before the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the songs could be triggering or cathartic, depending on your state of mind while watching. This is not a claymation musical for kids. This is the truth of what it was like for decades of veterans who served in the war-torn region.

“Oh look, there’s another bomb in festive green and red wires. Maybe the Taliban does know it’s Christmas.”

“Christmas in Afghanistan” has a book by Addison Blu, music by Michael Finke, and lyrics by Addison Blu and Michael Finke.  Directed by Megan Rees, and featuring performer Tonoccus McClain. 

There’s an endless amount of evidence that shows that the arts have a way to help veterans — especially combat veterans — explore their experiences and find healing and catharsis after trauma. New Musicals Inc.’s “So Proudly We Hailed” web series honors veterans by dramatizing and musicalizing their story in their own words. They pair veteran honorees with an artistic team comprised of a composer, lyricist, director and dramaturg who help shape the vet’s story into a short musical re-telling on a digital platform. 

After filming the first eight episodes of the series, including “Christmas in Afghanistan,” the creative team is now raising funds to film the five remaining finalists. Stipends go directly to Veterans.

Check out their indiegogo campaign to help contribute to their veteran program!

For any veterans currently experiencing distress, there are people you can talk to.

The Veteran Crisis Line is also available around-the-clock at 1-800-273-8255 (veterans should select option 1 for a VA staffer.) Veterans, troops or their family members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the death cult the FBI says is spreading among drug cartels

The drug war has been going on for so long, the inward, secret lives of narcotics traffickers are beginning to take on a life all of their own, separate from the national borders we know as their homes. They have their own rituals, coded languages, technology, and now, even a secret religion has sprung up around their lives.

It’s called the cult of Santa Muerte – “Holy Death” – and it’s more intense and deadly than anything that came before it.


The best holiday gifts for military service members

A Santa Muerte follower announces its adherence.

(FBI)

Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon upped the ante on the Drug War in 2006 by taking down the highest-ranking members of certain cartels, violence in the country has increased exponentially. Since then some 45,000 people have died in the drug war. The level of violence and death without warning has spurred the spread of the Santa Muerte religion in Mexico and beyond. Santa Muerte, in turn, spurs the narcos to become more and more violent.

The worshippers of Santa Muerte are primarily disenfranchised, poor Mexicans who turn to the cartels as a means of employment but soon begin the same cycle of murder and torture as those who came before them. The activities they’re forced to conduct aren’t accepted by pure Catholicism, so they turn elsewhere for comfort.

The best holiday gifts for military service members

And now, you can buy the figurines on Amazon.

Santa Muerte has developed as a belief system for over 50 years or more. According to the FBI, “The Santa Muerte cult could best be described as [following] a set of ritual practices offered on behalf of a supernatural personification of death…she is comparable in theology to supernatural beings or archangels.” Unlike Death or the Virgin of Guadalupe, as she is often represented, her scales don’t actually work, a reflection of her amoral nature. Since many narco foot soldiers will end up dying a brutal death, the appeal of worshipping a death-like figure is obvious. In the meantime, Santa Muerte advocates are enjoying the world’s earthly pleasures.

While the FBI stops short of calling the worship of Santa Muerte a full-blown religion, it does have its own belief system, as well as priests, temples, and shrines, along with all the rituals associated with religion – including ritual killings.

The best holiday gifts for military service members

A statue of Santa Muerte in a practitioner’s home.

Ritualistic Santa Muerte killings are abundant in Mexico and South America amongst narco-traffickers, but the killings are now making their way into the United States, albeit, primarily close to the border cities already struck by violence that has become the signature of the War on Drugs, and only four have been confirmed as related to Santa Muerte.

Border agents and local police have been thoroughly trained on the ins and outs of the religion and its followers, but luckily very few have been seen on the U.S. side of the border.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New study shows energy drinks can actually hurt returning troops

Rip-Its are a comforting old friend to American Post-9/11 veterans. Most American probably don’t even know they exist, unless you happen to be a regular at your local Dollar General store. In war zones, Rip-Its are widely available for sale and, in some cases, are free. Move over, coffee, this is the unofficial beverage of the Global War on Terror.

The problem with this is overindulgence may actually be hurting troops as they transition back home.


Rip-It, the military’s favorite brand of energy drink (when deployed), is sold to the military by National Beverage Corp., the same team of drink magicians who brought us Faygo and La Croix. It’s sold in much smaller cans than the ones available in the U.S., but anyone naive enough to believe that keeps U.S. troops from drinking too much is sadly mistaken.

While American troops are big fans of Rip-Its and other energy drinks, a recent study published in the Military Medicine journal found an association between continued, excessive consumption of energy drinks and mental health issues in returning troops.

No one gets enough sleep in a war zone as it is. And when soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are awake, they need to stay vigilant about their work, any external threats, and, in some places, internal threats as well. This is one reason coffee has been a mainstay of the U.S. military for so long.

The rise in popularity of energy drinks like Rip-It happened to coincide with a huge number of young people, the primary consumers of energy drinks, heading off to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The love affair’s timing is a perfect storm. It became a little slice of home and comfort while pulling double duty keeping people awake when they needed to be.

Even people who never drank an energy drink before were likely to try at least one while deployed.

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Eventually, these same troops returned home from their combat deployments. The study found 75 percent of soldiers were still drinking them after coming home. Of those,16 percent were drinking two or more per day, an amount the study defined as “excessive.”

Those found to be drinking more were more likely to exhibit signs of mental distress or other mental issues, especially aggressive behaviors, sleeplessness, alcohol misuse, and excessive fatigue after being home for seven months after their combat deployment. Not only that, those drinking to excess “are associated with being less responsive to evidence-based treatments for PTSD,” the authors of the study wrote.

Troops who consumed fewer than two drinks reported a lower rate of these symptoms.

The study didn’t address Rip-It specifically, though it did ask what size study participants were prone to using. The use of drinks by this Army sample was five times higher than in a previous study of airmen and civilians in the general population.

Military leaders aren’t likely to call for an end to the widespread use of energy drinks, but many have already called on their troops to cut down on consumption.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Nonprofit to collect Valentines for veterans and forward deployed

Soldier’s Angels, a national non-profit organization, is continuing its annual tradition of collecting Valentine’s Day cards to send to veterans in VA hospitals and to those who are forward deployed. But this year they are asking volunteers to include a financial donation of $1 to their cards.

Each year, Soldier’s Angels collects thousands of Valentine’s Day cards to send to veterans around the country as well as to service members who are deployed overseas. However, this year, with the increase in the cost of shipping, the non-profit cannot afford to send the boxes of cards.

“This year the organization is asking for those who send Valentine’s cards to include $1 per card. The money received will help to offset the cost of shipping boxes of cards overseas or shipping to representatives for distribution at VA Hospitals,” a press release statement said. 

The best holiday gifts for military service members

Soldier’s Angels is a non-profit organization that provides aid, comfort, and resources to active military, veterans, and their families. It was founded in 2003 by the mother of two soldiers and it currently has thousands of volunteers that assist veterans, deployed service members, and their families. Solider’s Angels volunteer network is mostly virtual this year due to COVID-19 restrictions but they continue to provide support in the form of care packages, hand-crafted items, and cards and letters.

Although the act of sending a simple card is small, the leaders at Soldier’s Angels note that it can mean a great deal to veterans and those who are deployed.

“Many deployed service members do not receive any mail from home,” said Amy Palmer, Soldiers’ Angels CEO, and a U.S. Air Force Veteran in a press release. 

“Receiving a card from someone they may not know, but who supports them nonetheless, is a fantastic way to boost the morale of our service members.” 

In addition to those who are deployed, veterans in VA hospitals are experiencing even less interaction from family due to COVID-19 precautions.

Many are staying in a hospital that may be many miles or several states away from their nearest family members,” Palmer said. 

“And, due to COVID-19 restrictions, these patients may not have any visitors so receiving a card or other support helps to keep them going.”

If you would like to send a Valentine’s Day card, along with a $1 donation per card, to Soldier’s Angels, you can send it to the address below:

Soldiers’ Angels
2700 NE Loop 410, Suite 310
San Antonio, Texas 78217

If you would like more information about their Valentine’s Day project, you can visit their website here.

If you would like to volunteer with Soldier’s Angels, visit their website here.

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

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