LEGO Masters attracted the attention of millions of viewers with its first season in the first half of 2020. The reality competition show was hosted by Will Arnett and pit teams of two against each other to take on LEGO building challenges and prove themselves to be LEGO Masters. Builds were judged by two Lego Group creative designers and the show incorporated various guest stars to serve as hosts and judges. On November 11, 2020, it was announced that the show had been renewed for a second season which would begin filming in 2021. The Veterans Day announcement was coupled with the announcement of a partnership with the Merging Vets & Players charity.
Founded in 2015 by FOX Sports NFL Insider Jay Glazer and former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawk Nate Boyer, MVP connects combat veterans with former professional athletes to provide them with a new team, assist in their transition and show them that they are not alone. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MVP is currently working to help veterans remotely—that’s where LEGO Masters comes in.
Lockdowns and quarantines forced people all around the world into their homes. While the new reality was difficult for some, the effect it had on combat veterans was even greater. To counter the stress of confinement, many people turned to building LEGO. “One of our vets, Robin Fox, [brought] up that he uses LEGOs to help his PTSD,” Glazer said. From that mention, other veterans in MVP were inspired to pick up LEGO sets and start building. The idea culminated in the partnership with LEGO Masters.
LEGO Masters provided hundreds of LEGO sets to MVP to allow vets to find the joy and peace of building during this challenging time. “I’m really proud to be able to be here as a representative for LEGO Masters to present these LEGO sets to MVP chapters all around the country,” Arnett said.
Currently, MVP has chapters in Los Angeles which serve the Pacific region, Las Vegas which serve the Rocky Mountain region, Chicago which serve the Midwest, Atlanta which serve the Southeast and New York which serve the Northeast. Combat veterans can join by submitting proof of eligibility including Authorized Campaign Medals, a military pay statement reflecting Hostile/Imminent Danger Pay, or Korea duty. Though a DD-214 can generally provide sufficient information for eligibility, MVP encourages interested veterans to reach out for assistance.
It’s probably common knowledge that when Old Glory is flying at half-staff (or half-mast), it indicates a period of mourning, but unless it’s Memorial Day or a president has just died, people might not know why the flag is at half-staff. Who gets to declare a period of mourning? How long does the period last?
Fear not, dear patriot. I will answer all these questions and more.
On March 1, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered a presidential proclamation codifying the display of the flag of the United States at half-staff. Here are the basics you need to know:
The American flag is flown at half-staff above the White House Sunday, Dec. 1, 2018, in memory of 41st President George H. W. Bush.
(Official White House Photo by Keegan Barber)
Death of the President: 30 Days
The flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions for the period indicated upon the death of the President or a former President for thirty days from the day of death.
The flag shall also be flown at half-staff for such period at all United States embassies, legations, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
Death of the VP, Chief Justice, retired Chief Justice, or Speaker of the House: 10 days
But for an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a member of the Cabinet, a former Vice President, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the Senate, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, or the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, the flag will fly at half-staff from the day of death until interment.
Honoring the seven astronauts who lost their lives aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2003, the American flag was flown at half-staff over the White House Monday, Feb. 3. President George W. Bush has directed the government to fly the flag at half-staff through Wednesday, Feb. 5.
(White House photo by Paul Morse)
Other deaths “as appropriate”
For example, the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia on the day of death and on the following day upon the death of a United States Senator, Representative, Territorial Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and it shall also be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the State, Congressional District, Territory, or Commonwealth of such Senator, Representative, Delegate, or Commissioner, respectively, from the day of death until interment.
In the event of the death of other officials, former officials, or foreign dignitaries, the flag of the United States shall be displayed at half-staff in accordance with such orders or instructions as may be issued by or at the direction of the President, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law.
Visitors on the USS Arizona Memorial as the flag flies at half-staff.
On Memorial Day and other notable dates
According to the VA, on Memorial Day the flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only, then raised briskly to the top of the staff until sunset, in honor of our nation’s fallen heroes.
There are other notable dates throughout the year that are honored with the half-staff display, such as September 11th (Patriot Day), December 7th in honor of the attacks at Pearl Harbor, or October 7th in honor of fallen firefighters.
The president is also authorized to order the flag to half-staff in response to tragedies, such as mass shootings or the Challenger tragedy.
Anyone who wishes to can receive notifications for when to fly their flag at half-staff, including nation-wide or state-wide alerts.
There have been times when officials have been confused about their authority with regards to “ordering” the American flag to half-staff. The National Flag Foundation gives the example of the late Attorney General Janet Reno ordering the flag to half-staff on all U.S. Department of Justice buildings after the deaths of several DEA agents. Though it was a well-intentioned gesture, legally Attorney General Reno did not have the authority to give such an order.
“NFF points out these ‘good-faith misunderstandings’ not to criticize or embarrass anyone, but rather to head off a growing trivialization of this memorial salute, and to preserve the dignity and significance of flying the U.S. flag at half-staff. To any readers who may think that NFF is insensitive for raising these breaches of etiquette, please be assured that our motives are pure. We grieve these human loses deeply; however, we believe proper respect for our flag must be maintained – no matter the circumstances. We owe that respect to our living, our dead, and our flag.”
“When Salvador Dalí died, it took months to get all the flagpoles sufficiently melted.”
(Image by xkcd)
One final note: proper etiquette dictates that the flag must not just be raised to half-staff. “The flag should be briskly run up to the top of the staff before being lowered slowly to the half-staff position.”
1989 aerial view of the Kowloon Walled City (Wikimedia Commons).
Within the borders of British Hong Kong, Kowloon Walled City was an anarchic and highly inhabited Chinese enclave. Chinese government fortifications were turned into a British enclave in 1898 after China leased the New Territories from China. Due to the Japanese conquest of Hong Kong during World War II, the city’s population exploded. Around 50,000 people lived inside the city in 1990. The area was under the influence of local mafias from the 1950s through the 1970s, when trafficking of women and illegal drugs were common.
Administration intentions to destroy the Walled City of Hong Kong were revealed in January 1987 by Hong Kong’s authorities. The destruction started in March 1993 and was complete in April 1994, following a lengthy evacuation procedure and the handover of sovereignty from China to Britain. Walled City Park was established in December 1995 and encompassed the erstwhile walled city’s landmass. This has allowed for several ancient monuments from the walled city to be conserved. Its yamen structure and fragments of its southern gateway were also preserved.
The City was established as an installation during the Song Dynasty (960–1279) to handle the salt trade. A few security officers were posted in 1668, but little more happened for decades. About 1810, Chinese troops evacuated Tung Lung Fort as well as built a small coastal fort. Hong Kong Island was surrendered to Britain by the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842, under the throne of Daoguang, the Qing Emperor. Therefore, the Qing authorities made it mandatory to upgrade the castle concerning the conduct over the territory and prevent future British influence. The construction of a strong defensive wall and other upgrades were finished in 1847. 1854 saw insurgents conquer the walled city as during Taiping Rebellion, only to be recaptured days prior. It used to be Lai Enjue’s citadel, and is now the “Dapeng Association House” within the walled city.
China proclaimed its intention to recapture the walled city in 1945, following Japan’s capitulation. “Revised Framework Program for Restitution of Governance” was prepared by patriotic Chinese authorities in November 1946. It featured a school, a police department and other services. Regarding the Chinese Civil War, many refugees fled to Hong Kong, then by 1947, the city’s walls were occupied by more than 2,000 people. It was 1948 when the British made an unsuccessful plan to persuade them out of the walled city.
China’s Ruling party decided to send a policy statement to the British ambassador on January 8, 1948. Ashton stated, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs presently officially recognize to the British Embassy which, in conformity with the terms of such Agreement, China relishes sovereignty well over the City of Kowloon and though they have hardly any willingness of giving up this purview at any time.” The range of options was examined by the British Foreign Office on 4 February 1948, notably converting Kowloon Walled City into a Nationalist Chinese Consulate-General. However, the Chinese have agreed not to seek to execute that authority in practice. Furthermore, the British Foreign Ministry suggested that a public garden administered by the local corporation of Kowloon Leasehold landmass provides such a prospect.
It was reported on January 14, 1987, that both governments’ officials had agreed to demolish the city’s walls. By March 10, 1987, keeping up with the news that such a walled city would just be turned into park land, the Secretary for District Administration petitioned that the Urban Council offer to assume the responsibility of the land after its destruction. The Urban Resource Center questioned the necessity for it “besides one more park” from a planned and operational standpoint, so this council decided to approve the state’s offer on the provision that the state pay for park establishment.
It took four months to implement. On March 23, 1993, annihilation of the walled city was launched and ended in April 1994. The next month, construction set about on Kowloon Walled City Park.
Capt. James Hewitt wasn’t just in hot water, he was sitting in a pig pen. It seemed like everyone in the world wanted to get a word with him, get a photo of him or otherwise get ahold of him. But Hewitt wasn’t just worried about being seen in the international news media. He was worried about being hanged.
Hewitt was an officer in the British military. His assignment as he sat in the pigsty was that of the Household Cavalry, an officer of the Life Guards – the Queen’s royal bodyguards – and for a few years had been giving Diana, the Princess of Wales, riding lessons.
Somewhere in that time the soldier and the princess had struck up a romantic relationship. Such a romance was complicated by a number of factors. The first is that the princess was still married to Prince Charles. The second was the Treason Act of 1351, which stated that any party to adultery with the wife of the monarch’s eldest son and heir could be punished with a death sentence.
The army officer found himself in the mud with pigs because news of his affair with the world-famous royal had just leaked to the royal-obsessed British press and thus, the entire planet. He eventually picked himself up and convinced a friendly helicopter pilot to fly him to North London, where he hid in a friend’s attic for a while.
Hewitt’s relationship with Diana would last from 1986 to 1991, and the two were very much in love. They first met at a party thrown by one of Diana’s ladies-in-waiting. She asked him for riding lessons, and the affair began shortly after.
But getting down with a member of the royal family as someone who is not a royal is a notoriously difficult task. Hewitt was smuggled into Charles and Diana’s Kensington Palace in the trunk of various cars. It was no secret to Diana’s inner circle. Her chief bodyguard and others close to her have all given statements to that fact.
Even Prince Charles is said to have known about the affair. Charles and Diana maintained separate bedrooms at their palace, so Hewitt’s comings and goings were likely for the most part unnoticed by the Prince. Besides, he had his own thing on the side with Camilla Parker Bowles. In his opinion, the story goes, Diana’s affair with Hewitt was fine by him. It took the heat off of his own extracurricular activities.
Over the course of five years, Hewitt would serve as a Centurion Tank officer in the Persian Gulf War. There, his service was rewarded with a mention in dispatches, where his name was specifically mentioned by his commander for his gallantry in combat. By 1989, however, Hewitt was sent to Germany, which had a devastating effect on his relationship with Diana. In one of their many letters, Diana accused him of breaking a promise to always be there for her.
Rumors even circulated that Hewitt was the real father of Diana’s son, Prince Harry, now a military veteran himself. Hewitt always denied the rumor, stating that Harry was a toddler when the two first met.
Two years before her death and a year before her divorce from Prince Charles, Diana discussed the affair on the BBC, admitting she loved him, but also saying she felt very let down by him. Hewitt has written a book about his life and the affair with Diana. He also tried to sell their love letters for a hefty sum of almost $14 million.
Hewitt’s military career ended when he failed to pass for major three times. He retired in 1994 and was awarded the rank of major, a common practice in the United Kingdom.
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.
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.
Marines have been given the approval to let their hair down — at least some of it — while they work out.
Women with medium-length hair are now allowed to wear a “half ponytail” hairstyle during physical training. The style, which pulls the top portion of the hair away from the face and into a ponytail while the rest of the hair remains down — is one of several new uniform-related changes the commandant signed off on this week.
“The section of hair pulled back into the half ponytail should be secured over the ‘crest of the head,'” according to a graphic depicting the new authorized look. “The half ponytail must lay flat, and hair may not stick straight out or at extreme angles from the head.”
Female Marines with medium-length hair are now allowed to wear a “half ponytail” hairstyle during physical training.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pamela Jackson)
Half ponytails are allowed only for female Marines with medium-length hair. The style is authorized during PT, including when the Marine Corps combat utility uniform is worn during physical training. Women with long hair will still need to put their hair up, in a regular ponytail or free-hanging braid.
Half ponytails won’t be allowed with any Marine Corps headgear, the message states. And if the combat utility uniform isn’t being worn for PT, it’s back to the regular hair regs for all women, according to the message.
Women have also been given the OK to wear silver earrings with their service uniforms. Female Marines were previously allowed to wear only gold earrings with that uniform.
Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit participate in an endurance course.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caleb McDonald)
“Small, polished, yellow gold or silver colored, ball, or round stud earrings (post, screw-on, or clip), not to exceed 6 millimeters (about 1/4 inch) in diameter, may be worn with the service, blue dress, and blue-white dress [uniforms],” the message states.
The changes follow a survey the Marine Corps Uniform Board conducted earlier this year. Officials declined to provide the results of that survey, but it did ask Marines to weigh in on these two approved changes.
The commandant also this week granted men the approval to use black umbrellas when it’s raining while they’re in their service or dress uniforms.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The latest jobs report shows 21 million Americans out of work, largely attributed to the effects of the coronavirus and efforts to contain it, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Double-digit unemployment rates are nothing new for spouses who have seen increased efforts over the years to elevate the plight of a demographic working to establish a career around military life. But is there a career field immune from PCS moves and pandemics? The CEO of Squared Away thinks so.
Michelle Penczak, a Marine spouse, co-founded Squared Away in 2017 to give military spouses opportunities that demand a range of skills, like social media, project management, and human resources. The company has now grown to 95 and she says the field is “extremely sustainable” even with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Most of our clients are taking their businesses remotely and are leaning on us to make the transition as smooth as possible. We also add a great amount of value to teams who have been forced to downsize but still have the need of an assistant,” Penczak said in an email interview.
Squared Away was inspired by Penczak’s own challenges in maintaining employment as her husband, a Marine officer, received orders to different duty stations around the U.S. She initially worked as a personal assistant to a lobbyist in Washington, DC. until relocating to Jacksonville, North Carolina, near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The transition from a large city to a small military town was difficult in terms of finding comparable employment.
“No one would hire me … it was so defeating and I didn’t want anyone to ever feel that way,” she said.
Eventually, after many interviews and rejections, she found employment as a virtual assistant with Zirtual. However, it was not long after the business closed, but lingering clients wanted her to remain with their companies. Then her husband received orders to Hawaii.
“I was terrified I would lose my clients,” Penczak said because her clients operated on Eastern time. “So, I got up at 3 am to work with my East Coast clients.”
She said she told herself it would never work, but six months into it her husband encouraged her to change her thinking.
“He said, ‘It’s working.’ I would drive myself out of bed [at 3am PCT] and do my stuff. Then I’d have all the rest of the day to hang out in Hawaii which wasn’t a bad deal. I became more productive and it worked better for me. My co-founder [Shane Mac] told me, ‘I need you to build a company.’ I told him he was crazy. I had no idea how to run a company,” she said. “I thought about it for a couple of days and said let’s do this.”
Squared Away places virtual assistants with a myriad of companies to include venture capital firms, startup companies, and marketing firms. Penzcak added that the company does not invest in marketing. She notes her client base has grown exponentially over the past year strictly from a referral base.
“Anyone who needs extra supports … They become their righthand man … All of our clients are saying how much they love us, working with amazing people who believe in our mission. I’ve never felt more blessed in my life. My team is amazing,” she said.
Squared Away employs military spouses stationed within the U.S., along with remote assistants in Germany as well.
“Nothing feels better than one of my girls coming to say … you are making such a big difference to me and my family,” Penczak said.
The company’s structure also allows its team members to balance personal and professional responsibilities.
“All of our spouses have a unique story … We can be dedicated to our clients, but also be flexible to be there for our kids. Currently, we have 110 clients … it’s growing steadily. The more clients the more assistants we can hire,” she said.
Penczak’s 2020 goals include expansion of her team.
The US Army is not so strong anymore on its recruiting slogan —”Army Strong.”
The largest of the US military branches is struggling to find new recruits, especially those between the ages of 18 and 24, and is coming to the conclusion that the Army’s brand isn’t resonating with millennials.
“Army Strong” has been the Army’s slogan for a little over a decade, but it began to be fazed out of recruiting ads back in 2015.
The Army— which has nearly 1 million soldiers in the active-duty and reserve forces, and the Army National Guard— is now looking for a slogan that tells more of a story, Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey recently told reporters.
“I think we have to change our marketing strategy as an Army, and we are looking at that right now,” Dailey said.
“Army Strong” has also been the frequent butt of jokes and memes, often used with photos of overweight soldiers.
“One of the major responses we get when we survey folks who don’t have experience with military service is strength, so we know the ‘Army Strong’ resonates…but I don’t think it tells the story, the full story of being a soldier,” Dailey added.
“‘Army Strong’ is a good, I think, bumper sticker, ad campaign, but it doesn’t tell the story, so I think that we’ve got to do a better job telling the story of being a soldier,” he said.
In this sense, the Army wants a slogan that’s closer to “Be All You Can Be,” which it had great success with in the 1980s and 1990s. Dailey said people continue to tell him they remember the “Be All You Can Be” slogan to this day.
“‘Be All You Can Be’ was a national identity to the Army … it is still today,” Dailey said. “I can say, ‘Be All You Can Be’ and people just — it was the national identity to the Army.”
Dailey said other Army slogans like “Army of One” have struggled and they want something that not only appeals to young people but also influencers in their lives like parents and other family members.
When parents show enthusiasm for the military their children are more likely to enlist, according to research.
The US Navy has also struggled to find a recruiting slogan that captures the attention of millennials and their influencers. They recently retired their last slogan, “A Global Force For Good,” in favor of, “Forged By The Sea.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Military MWR provides many benefits, but one of the greatest is access to world-class golf courses. With well-manicured fairways, nice practice facilities, and cheap green fees, it’s hard to beat the value. Many military courses have epic views and are ranked along with private courses among the best in the world, plus they offer programs for the whole family.
Walking the beautiful fairways on any base is a great way to unwind after a tough day at work, on the weekends, or simply as an outing with family and friends. The military has excellent golf courses around the globe, no matter what time of year it is.
Here are the top courses to play in each season:
Fall: Eisenhower Golf Club, Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
Autumn is a fantastic time to visit Colorado Springs. With little rain and strong sun at an altitude of 7,000 feet, you can enjoy the fall colors and mountain views from the Academy’s two incredible 18-hole courses.
Eisenhower’s 7,500-yard Blue Course was designed by world-famous golf architect Robert Trent Jones. At slightly more than 6,500 yards, the Silver Course is shorter but still very challenging. Stay the weekend and play both.
Winter: Admiral Baker Golf Course (San Diego, California)
With very comfortable temperatures in the 60’s and little rain, San Diego is a great winter golf destination. The area has several outstanding military golf courses, but Admiral Baker, an independent facility that is not on a military base, is one you can’t miss.
The North Course is the more famous of the two 18-hole courses, but let’s be honest, winter golfing with warm weather is a win either way.
Spring: Fort Belvoir Golf Club (Fort Belvoir, Virginia)
Spring is one of the best times of year to visit the Washington, DC area, especially if you can catch the cherry blossoms — usually in early April. With average temperatures around 70 degrees, it’s the perfect weather for golf.
Fort Belvoir has two 18-hole courses, one of which was designed in part by the aforementioned golf architect Robert Trent Jones. This club is a must-play if you are in the DC area during spring.
The Pacific Northwest is one of the best places in the U.S. for summer golf. Bright, sunny days are common throughout July and August, but temperatures are comfortable with low humidity. A day on the greens is the perfect way to enjoy the short Washington summer.
Whispering Firs is a challenging 6,646-yard course that will take you through beautiful wooded areas, with large mature trees and receptive greens. Doglegs and changing elevation abound on this beautifully-designed course.
Year-round: Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course, Marine Corps Base Hawaii (Oahu)
Oahu is a year-round golf destination with averages temperatures in the 80’s. The Kaneohe Klipper is one of the top military courses in the world and a must-play.
The front nine offer beautiful mountain vistas, while the back nine boast spectacular coastline views that earn this course its international reputation. Total course length is 6,559 yards.
The signature hole is #13, a par 4, 471 yards, that hugs the coastline and can be particularly challenging on a windy day. Test your skills on this course, and don’t forget your camera.
In the wake of a startling report from the organization Open the Books showing massive federal government expenditures in the final month of the fiscal year, troops everywhere want you to know that they deserve steak and lobster every once in a while. But the Defense Department spending problems highlighted in the report may have little to do with surf and turf dinners.
The 32-page Open the Books report, published March 2019, showed the federal government as a whole spent an astounding $97 billion in September 2018 as the fiscal year was drawing to a close — up 16 percent from the previous fiscal year and 39 percent from fiscal 2015. DoD spending accounted for $61.2 billion of that spending spree, awarding “use-it-or-lose-it” contracts and buying, among other things, $4.6 million worth of crab and lobster and a Wexford leather club chair costing more than $9,300.
“This kind of waste has to stop. It’s an insult to taxpayers,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, tweeted, sharing a Fox Business story about the seafood buy.
Military veterans were quick to protest, however, saying the nice food is often used by military units to boost morale on grueling deployments or to soften the blow when bad news comes.
“Surf turf night was a regular thing even when I was in Iraq,” tweeted Maximilian Uriarte, a former Marine Corps infantryman and creator of the popular comic strip Terminal Lance. “Feeding troops lobster a few times a year is not a waste of money.”
Fred Wellman, a retired Army officer and the CEO of veteran-focused PR firm ScoutComms, also chimed in.
“Nothing that ever beat the morale boost like steak and lobster night downrange. Period,” he tweeted. “Taking care of the troops that you and your peers sent to war isn’t ‘waste.’ Gutlessly letting the war go without supervision of the actual effort is! But no…let’s take their good food.”
Focusing on the lobster, though, misses the point on how the Pentagon’s spending habits actually do troops a disservice, according to Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight.
“The lobster tail example captures one’s imagination, but that’s not where congressional oversight needs to focus,” Smithberger told Military.com. “As you see spending go up, you see the amount of this use-it-or-lose-it spending going up as well, and that’s really not to the good.”
She said the billions of expenditures demonstrated DoD efforts to “use money to paper over management problems.”
For the Pentagon, the biggest year-end expenditure was professional services and support, accounting for .6 billion of spending in September 2018. Then came fixed-wing aircraft, a buy of .6 billion. Other top spending items include IT and telecom hardware services and support, .7 billion; combat ships and landing vessels, .9 billion; and guided missiles, nearly billion.
(US Navy photo by Dale M. Hopkins)
More than the individual items and services purchased, the biggest problem may be the way the spending happens — and the perverse incentives not to end up with leftover money at the end of the year, because it might negatively impact efforts to obtain funds the following year.
“Congress is a lot of the problem,” Smithberger said. “Appropriators look and see whatever is not spent, they take and use for their pet project.”
As the Pentagon budget request continues to balloon year after year, Smithberger said she’d like to see incentives to save money and a system that would keep planners from worrying about a loss of resources the following year.
“If the department showed that it was able to save tens of billions of dollars, they would have a more credible case for the topline,” she said.
There’s plenty of evidence, Smithberger said, that money alone doesn’t solve or prevent institutional problems. For example, she said, the Navy was making big investments in shipbuilding when two guided-missile destroyers collided with commercial ships in separate deadly incidents within months of each other in 2017. While investigations did cite scarcity of resources, training was found to be a major shortfall contributing to the disasters.
When it comes to defense spending, “it’s a lot of hollow rhetoric and it’s really costly when we decide to only express our support through appropriations and not through real decision-making and responsibility,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Over 160,000 Black people are currently in the United States military, serving a critical role in keeping our country safe, and they’ve been doing so for a long, long time. In fact, many of the Black celebrities you know and love are veterans! Keep reading to learn about 10 of the most famous Black veterans…you might be surprised!
Born in 1956, Montel Brian Anthony Williams is best known for his work as a TV host and motivational speaker. His show, The Montel Williams Show, ran for 17 years, but that’s not his only claim to fame. Williams served in both the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy. After enlisting in 1974, he attended a four-year officer training program, graduating with a degree in general engineering and a minor in international security affairs.
After completing Naval Cryptologic Officer training, he spent 18 months as a cryptologic officer in Guam. He later became supervising cryptologic officer at Fort Meade, eventually leaving the navy after achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
He earned several awards including the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal.
Food Network personality Sunny Anderson grew up as an Army brat. Her family’s ongoing travels and her parents’ love of food gave her a chance to explore international cuisines, inspiring her future career. After graduating high school in 1993, she joined the United States Air Force, where she earned the rank of Senior Airman. She also worked as a military radio host in Seoul, South Korea, going on to work for the Air Force News Agency radio and television in San Antonio from 1993 to 1997.
Stanley Kirk Burrell, better known as MC Hammer, is one of the most well known American rappers of the late 80s. He rose to fame quickly both as a rapper, dancer and record producer, coming out with hits like “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit.” In addition to creating the famous “Hammer pants” and his successful entertainment career, Burrell served in the Navy for three years as a Petty Officer Third Class Aviation Store Keeper until his honorable discharge.
Tracy Lauren Marrow, AKA Ice-T, is a multi-talented entertainer with a tumultuous background. He had more than one run-in with the law in his youth, but after his daughter was born he decided to join the Army. Marrow served a two year and two month tour in the 25th Infantry Division.
Military life wasn’t for him, however, and he used his status as a single father to leave the Army and begin his career as an underground rapper. Since then, he has made a name for himself as a musician, songwriter, actor, record producer and actor, starring as a detective on Law Order SVU and hosting a true-crime documentary on Oxygen.
Jamaican-American singer, songwriter, activist and actor, Harold George Bellanfanti Jr is no stranger to hard work. He enlisted in the Navy at the start of World War II while he was still finishing high school. After an honorable discharge two years later, he focused on his music career, bringing Caribbean-style music to the US. One of his first albums, “Calypso,” was the first million-selling LP by a single artist.
He was also a passionate supporter of the civil rights movement, going on to advocate for humanitarian causes throughout his life. Since 1987, he has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and currently acts as the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador for juvenile justice issues.
Ever heard of Orville Richard Burrell? Don’t worry, I hadn’t either, but you probably know his stage name: Shaggy. Burrell was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1968. He began taking voice lessons in the early 80s, filling the streets with music. His talent was apparent early on, but in 1988 he joined the Marine Corps, serving with the Field Artillery Battery in the 10th Marine Regiment during the Persian Gulf War. He achieved the rank of lance corporal, and continued to sing while he did it. He went on to earn seven Grammy nominations, winning twice for Best Reggae Album.
James, better known as Jimi, Hendrix, began playing guitar in his hometown of Seattle at just 15 years of age. After enlisting for a short time in the Army and training as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division, he continued his music career to become one of the most renowned guitarists of all time. His music career, much like his military career, was brief, but powerful. He earned a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which describes him as “the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.”
Berry Gordy Jr
American record, film, and tv producer and songwriter Berry Gordy Jr didn’t get his start in the music industry. He dropped out of high school to become a professional boxer, which he excelled at until he was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1950. He was first assigned to the 58th Field Artillery Bn., 3rd Inf. Div. in the Korean War, later playing the organ and driving a jeep as a chaplain’s assistant. When his tour was over in 1953, his music career took off.
He founded the Motown record label, which was the highest-earning African American business for several decades. Several of his songs topped the charts, and he’s known for helping budding artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and the Supremes achieve greatness.
Actor and film narrator Morgan Freeman is yet another famous veteran. He earned a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University, but he turned it down to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. There, he served as an Automatic Tracking Radar Repairman, rising to the rank of Airman 1st Class.
After being discharged four years later, he moved to Los Angeles and studied theatrical arts at the Pasadena Playhouse. Considering he has since won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and many Oscar nominations, it looks like his hard work paid off!
James Earl Jones
Few voices are as iconic and recognizable as that of American actor James Earl Jones. Before launching his acting career, Jones served in the military, receiving his Ranger tab and helping to establish a cold-weather training command at the former Camp Hale. During his time in the military, he was promoted to first lieutenant. Following his discharge, he served his country in a different way, with over seven decades of theatrical excellence. In addition to winning numerous Tonys, two Emmys and a Grammy, he was presented with the National Medal of the Arts by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Nearly two decades later, President Barack Obama invited him to perform Shakespeare at the White House. Wow!
These Black veterans aren’t the only ones we should care about.
The history of African American military personnel is as old as our country itself. Countless Black Americans have made their mark on U.S. Military history, and they continue to do so today. Click here to explore the firsthand experiences of Black vets, or learn more about how to support them here.
On October 6, legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen lost his battle with cancer. The death of the rocker shocked not just his legions of fans but people around the globe. As a tribute to the late great, Army Staff Sgt. Austin West took to the internet to play through his grief and offer one of the most fitting tributes to the musician.
West knew what many of us inherently understand – music unites us, both in times of hope and in times of grief. Of course, West wasn’t the only person who took to the internet to offer their tributes, but his was definitely the best.
The three-minute video of West has been viewed more than a million times. West, who is a recruiter based in Watertown, New York, instantly became a viral sensation, not just because of West’s stellar guitar skills but also because it’s so very clear that his tribute to the late rocker is so heartfelt.
West successfully manages to play half a dozen of Van Halen’s best-known guitar riffs, including “You Really Got Me,” “Panama” and “Eruption.” The Army musician reportedly told Stars and Stripes that he feels connected to both his guitar and the late musical legend.
The 26-guitar player first picked up an ax after listening to an AC/DC cassette. He was hooked and immediately wanted to learn how to play. Then, he saw Van Halen live in 2008, and that sealed the deal. He’s been playing for 13 years now, and he once played a single song for an AC/DC tribute band.
That tribute was never rehearsed and played flawlessly, West said, so it’s no surprise that his Van Halen tribute has had so many views and rings so true.
In an interview with the Watertown CBS affiliate WWNY, West said that even his earliest attempts at learning Van Halen’s music made him feel like a “rock god,” and that’s one of the many reasons he kept practicing.
During his Army career, West has worked as both a signal soldier and then held a post as a guitarist for the US Army Bank.
A soldier spotlight video for the US Army Recruiting Command, released in February, features West. In the video, he says that getting out of bed every morning is easier knowing he’s going to help someone, “whether it be in recruiting and helping change someone’s life and hearing their success stories or going out and playing in front of all these beautiful people.”
The Van Halen tribute video isn’t the first time that West’s guitar playing has reached countless fans. Back in 2015, he performed in a tour with the US Army Soldier Show. The Soldier Show is an annual production that visits installations around the country to feature the musical and theater talents of service members and to help raise awareness that creative positions in the Army exist. During West’s participation in 2015, the Soldier Show stopped at 74 installations.
In a time of increasing social isolation, music is one of the few shared creative outlets that can exist across all communities. Uniting through music, no matter if it’s Van Halen or Mozart, can help bring people together in a way that other media can’t. West’s touching tribute proves that viral videos don’t need to be over the top or extreme to be shared, liked, and appreciated by people all around the country. Music is all around us and helps provide us the foundation to share our stories, which is exactly what West has been able to do with his tribute to Eddie Van Halen. As a universal language, it helps unit us across cultures and can comfort people in times of need, grief, or sadness – emotions all felt when the world learned of Van Halen’s untimely death.
Once his recruiting billet is complete, West will be joining the Army pop-rock group, As You Were, for a three-year assignment.
The High mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV), better known as the Humvee is the military’s modern Jeep. It’s used to carry troops, evacuate the wounded and even launch surface-to-air missiles. The light, four-wheel drive trucks saw extensive use during Operation Desert Storm and immediately gained a reputation for their off-road capability. Shortly thereafter, due to high demand, the Humvee was released to the civilian market.
The military Humvee was produced by AM General, a heavy vehicle manufacturer in Indiana. When they opened the truck up to civilian sales in 1992, its name was changed to Hummer. Built in the same factory as its military counterpart, the Hummer shared many components with the Humvee. These included brakes, axles, body panels and the frame. Hummers and Humvees even came off the same assembly line and only diverged for painting and finishing.
The Hummer saw widespread popularity in the civilian market. It was advertised with an enthusiastic campaign from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Beyond this, the Hummer was a capable off-roader in its own right. Whether a buyer opted for a gasoline or diesel engine, the Hummer had plenty of power and torque to tackle off-road trails. Of course, this came at the cost of fuel economy (not that that mattered too much in the late ’90s). The Hummer had 16 inches of ground clearance, approach/departure angles of 72/37.5 degrees, could ford 30 inches of water, and climb a 22-inch step. Most Hummers also had a Central Tire Inflation System to inflate or deflate the tires as needed from the cabin with a push of a button.
In 1999, AM General struck a deal with General Motors. GM purchased the marketing rights to the Hummer name and marketed it as the Hummer H1 in anticipation of a newer version. In the meantime, AM General continued to produce their true military-derived Hummers for sale by GM.
Although the Hummer H1 remained in production until 2006, GM introduced the Hummer H2 in 2002. While the H2 was built by AM General under contract at their Indiana facility, the truck was not based on the military Humvee like the H1 was. Instead, the H2 was built on a modified GMT820 platform. Other vehicles built on the platform were the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon.
Whereas the H1 retained the recovery points in the hood and/or bumpers that allow the Humvee to be recovered and air-lifted, the H2’s recovery points were purely decorative and did not connect to the vehicle’s frame. Additionally, the CITS on the H1’s wheels was shielded by a protective cover. Although the H2 didn’t have a CITS, its chrome wheels were shaped to imitate a CITS cover. Although the H2 was still a capable off-roader, it had drifted from its military origins and was marketed more as a lifestyle off-roader and status symbol.
The H2 remained in production until 2009. However, four years prior, GM introduced the Hummer H3. This time, AM General had nothing to do with the truck. The H3 was based on a modified GMT355 platform that was also used for the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks. It was also built in the same GM facilities as the compact pickups. Still, the H3 was modified to have better off-road capability than Colorado/Canyon. It retained the H2’s ability to ford 27 inches of water and had good ground clearance, approach, and departure angles. However, a struggling economy and demand for better fuel economy eventually killed off the H3 and the Hummer brand as a whole in 2010.
In 2020, however, GM announced the revival of the Hummer brand. With the GMC Hummer EV, GM aims to resurrect the Hummer as an electric pickup truck and SUV. The company invested $2.2 billion into its Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly plant for the production of the new vehicle. While GM has advertised the Hummer EV’s off-road features like crab walk, adaptive air suspension, and steel underbody armor, the electric vehicle is a far cry from the Humvees that spawned the H1 and still fill military motor pools.