This viral letter from Santa helps military, first responder parents - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This viral letter from Santa helps military, first responder parents

When Stephanie Lynn found out that her husband had to work on Christmas, she came up with a way for her family to still celebrate the holiday together. In a letter from Santa that’s going viral, the mom explains to kids of military and first responder families that Christmas will be happening on a different day this year.

“I know sometimes your mom or dad can’t be home on Christmas Day because they’re working — keeping us safe and healthy,” the letter, which Lynn shared to Facebook on Dec. 11, 2018, reads. “I want your whole family to have a very special Christmas morning — together.”


Santa goes on to explain that he and the elves have set up special delivery days for the kids, from Dec. 23 to 27, 2018 (Lynn and husband Brent will be celebrating with her kids on the morning of the 24th, she says). There’s also an “other” option for families who aren’t able to be together during Christmas week.

This viral letter from Santa helps military, first responder parents

“Always remember, Christmas isn’t about a box on the calendar, but the feeling we keep in our hearts,” Santa writes. “Thank you for being such great children, and sharing your moms and dads with us all when we need them the most.”

Lynn’s letter is receiving a lot of attention on social media, with almost 42,000 shares so far and over 7,100 likes, as parents in similar situations understand the struggle of “juggling shift work… on-call hours, deployments, TDYs, etc.”

Even NORAD, the popular Santa tracker, is spreading the word about Mr. Claus’ special deliveries, noting that while they do not report on them, those days are “no less special than the date of December 24.”

Because of the letter’s popularity, Lynn has since created other versions (the original was just for military and first responders) for medical professionals, pilots and flight crews, divorced families and just general use. “Merry Christmas- whatever day that may be for your family!” she writes.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Marines succeeded at Belleau Wood in World War I

In 1918, World War I was in its fourth year. Imperial Russia had succumbed to the Communist Revolution and capitulated to Imperial Germany. In the West, a race against time was on. The Allies of Great Britain and France were watching with mounting concern as German armies from the Eastern Front began reinforcing those on the Western Front. Their armies, having been bled white and wracked by mutiny after three horrific years of trench warfare, were at the breaking point. The last hope for Allied victory was the United States. It had entered the war in April 1917, and its troops began arriving in France later that year.


The American forces were hastily trained for the demands of total warfare in the European model, and for the most part were equipped with a hodge-podge of weapons supplied by their allies. The question on both sides of the trenches was not if the growing number of American units would fight, but rather how well? Only combat would answer that question. Field Marshal Paul von Hindenberg and Gen. Erich Ludendorff of Germany were determined to shatter Allied resolve and achieve victory with an offensive launched before the full weight of the U.S. Army could be felt.

On May 27, 1918, specially trained “shock units” led a three-pronged offensive that smashed into the British and French lines. At Aisne, the French lines bent, then broke. In less than two days, the German army was at the Marne River at Chateau Thierry. Once again, the German army had victory within its grasp, and once again, the road to Paris, about 50 miles away, was wide open. In 1914, France, and the Allied cause, was saved by a sudden influx of troops delivered to the front by Parisian taxis – the “Miracle of the Marne.”

This time France had no miracles of her own remaining. Allied Commander-in-Chief Gen. Ferdinand Foch turned to Gen. John Pershing, commanding general of the American Expeditionary Force. Previously, Pershing had resisted releasing units piecemeal to reinforce depleted British and French divisions. He stated that when Americans fought, they would do so as a unified army.

But Pershing recognized that the present crisis overrode national considerations and temporarily released his five divisions to Foch’s command. The American 2nd Division, containing the 4th, 5th, and 6th Marine Brigades, was assigned to Gen. Joseph Degoutte’s French 6th Army, located along the Marne Front. Not since the Civil War had American troops been involved in a conflict of such magnitude. And it had been more than 100 years, at the battles of Bladensburg and New Orleans during the War of 1812, since the Marine Corps had faced an armed foe at the professional level as it did now against the 461st Imperial German Infantry regiment.

Though Pershing, an Army general, harbored little love for the Marines, he did not allow service parochialism to blind him to the Marines’ capability. Shortly after Ludendorff’s offensive began, when the 4th Marine Brigade’s commander, Brig. Gen. Charles Doyen, had to return to the States due to a terminal illness, Pershing assigned command of the brigade to his chief of staff, Army Brig. Gen. James Harbord, telling him, “Young man, I’m giving you the best brigade in France – if anything goes wrong, I’ll know whom to blame.”

It was not without some concern that Harbord assumed his new command. He was replacing a respected and loved commander; he was a National Guard cavalry officer, a temporary brigadier general; and his two regimental commanders were Col. Albertus Catlin and Col. Wendell “Whispering Buck” Neville, both recipients of the Medal of Honor. He worked hard at his new command and earned the respect of the Marines. Harbord would retire a major general and later write of his experience, “They never failed me. I look back on my service with the Marines Brigade with more pride and satisfaction than on any other equal period in my long Army career.”

This viral letter from Santa helps military, first responder parents

The fighting ended, exhausted and seriously depleted ranks of the 6th Marines gather outside Belleau Wood before moving on.

(USMC History and Museums Division)

The 4th Marine Brigade was ordered to shore up defenses and assume a blocking position north of the important east-west Paris- Metz highway. They dug into position along a line just above the village of Lucy-Le-Bocage. Immediately in front of the Marine line was a large wheat field, and beyond that was a mile square game preserve. The French called it Bois de Belleau. To the Marines and America, it would be immortalized as Belleau Wood. The Marines had barely gotten into position, digging shallow individual trenches they called “foxholes,” when the German army renewed its offensive on June 2. Demoralized French troops in the forest began falling back. One French officer, as he passed through the Marine lines, advised the Americans to join in the retreat. Capt. Lloyd Williams responded, “Retreat, hell! We just got here!” The French officer and the other French troops continued on. Soon the Marines were alone.

The rest of the day and the following morning were quiet. The heat of the early June sun parched the throats of the Marines as they waited for the enemy to appear. Finally, in the early afternoon, movement was seen at the southern edge of the forest, and the distinct shapes of German soldiers in their feldgrau began to emerge. Long line after long line of soldiers, slightly crouched and weapons low, began trotting through the ripening wheat. Veteran Marines of the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion in China, and the Veracruz Expedition lay side by side with unblooded men whose memories of the profane injunctions of their drill instructors were still fresh. The Germans confidently advanced. What they did not know was that no longer before them was a demoralized French foe. Instead, they were marching toward a fresh enemy with high morale that took pride in training its men in how to shoot. The Germans also did not realize they were already within range of the Marines’ shoulder arm, the .30-06 Springfield M1903 rifle.

The accepted combat range of rifles during World War I was a maximum of 250 yards. The Springfield ’03 was rated with an effective range of 600 yards. In the hands of an expert marksman, it could be deadly at ranges well beyond that. The line of gray-clad troops advancing through an open field presented the Marines with a shooting gallery. At 800 yards, the order was given, and sustained fire commenced. German soldiers spun, collapsed, and fell as bullets from the first volley tore into them. The German advance wavered, then astonished survivors fell to the ground seeking cover. Their officers ran through their ranks, shouting for them to get up and continue the advance. The troops rose and were hit with another volley fired at long range. A third attempt to advance was met by a third deadly volley that was also accompanied by machine gun fire. The stunned survivors retreated into the woods to take up defensive positions and plan their next move.

The commander of the German 28th Division facing opposite the American 2nd Division confidently told his men, “We are not fighting for ground – for this ridge or that hill. It will be decided here whether or not the American Army will be equal to our own troops.” It was a prescient statement. Unfortunately, for him, not in the way he expected.

After receiving news that the German attack had been blunted at Belleau Wood, Degoutte ordered the 2nd Division to counterattack the following day, June 6. The attack began with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines launching a dawn attack on the German-held Hill 142 on the division’s left flank. German machine guns raked the Marine ranks during the half-mile advance. The Marines succeeded in capturing the hill at about noon. But doing so had cost the battalion 410 casualties. It was a foretaste of what was to come.

Meanwhile, two battalions of the 6th Marines and one battalion of the 5th Marines were preparing for the main attack on Belleau Wood. The attack was launched at 5 p.m., and the Marines advanced in a formation and at a fast pace taught by the veteran French officers who had rounded out their training shortly after the Marines arrived in France. It was the same formation that had doomed thousands of French poilus during the disastrous offensives of 1914 and 1915. It achieved the same results on the Marines. As the Marines began crossing the battle-scarred wheat field, it was the German machine gunners’ turn. The lead troops were quickly cut down. Surviving Marines dove for the ground and continued the advance crawling on all fours, pausing and, like pop-up targets, taking aim and quickly firing back before dropping down for cover in the wheat stalks. Even so, the advance slowed dangerously, with the German machine gun fire continuing seemingly unabated. It appeared that the attack would fail just 50 yards before the Marines reached the German lines.

Reporter Floyd Gibbons was with the Marines during the attack and lay terrified among the dead and wounded in the wheat field. Not far from him was Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Daly, a double Medal of Honor recipient for heroism in the Boxer Rebellion and Haiti. In a report he later filed, Gibbons wrote, “The sergeant swung his bayoneted rifle over his head with a forward sweep, yelling at his men, ‘Come on, you sons-of-bitches, do you want to live forever?'” The Marines with him stood up, and with a roar, charged. By the end of the day, the first line of German defenders was overrun and taken. But the cost of the attack was severe. On that day, the 4th Marine Brigade had suffered 1,087 casualties, making it the bloodiest day in Marine Corps history up to that point. More Marines had fallen on June 6, 1918, than in the entire 143-year history of the Marine Corps.

The Battle for Belleau Wood would continue to almost the end of June and was fought in a series of savage actions. It was during this battle that, according to legend, the 461st Imperial German Infantry gave the Marines the nickname “Teufelhunden” – “Devil Dogs.” Finally, on June 26, Maj. Maurice Shearer of the 5th Marines sent to headquarters the message: “Woods now U.S. Marine Corps entirely.”

Convinced that the Marines had saved Paris, the French government renamed the game preserve Bois de la Brigade de Marine. And, more importantly, this action, as well as American success at Cantigny and Ch’teau-Thierry, Pershing later wrote, “… gave an indication of what trained American troops would do.” But the German high command was not finished. A final German offensive was launched on July 15. This time, the 2nd Division and its Marines joined the French XX Corps and repulsed the German attack at Soissons, sustaining another 2,000 casualties. When the German offensive was stopped, the initiative shifted to the Allies. They responded with the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

On July 29, 1918, Pershing made Gen. John A. Lejeune commander of the 2nd Division. His first assignment was to reduce the dangerous German salient at St. Mihiel. After four days of fierce fighting by the combined Marine and Army units, the salient was eliminated. The 2nd Division then was assigned offensive operations in support of the French Fourth Army, commanded by Gen. Henri Gourand. But German defenses along the Meuse River succeeded in slowing the French advance until it was stopped before Blanc Mont, or White Mountain, a ridge that dominated the region for miles. The Germans had held Blanc Mont since 1914 and had heavily fortified the ridge. To restart his stalled attack, Gourand wanted Lejeune to break up his division and disperse it into depleted French units. Lejeune’s reaction was quick and hot. Following Pershing’s example, he was not about to have his division broken up, particularly since there was no dire crisis now confronting the Allies. The Marine general told Gourand, “Keep the division intact and let us take [Blanc Mont].”

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U.S. Marines in Belleau Wood (1918) by Georges Scott.

Gourand looked at Lejeune skeptically, then nodded his assent. Lejeune’s plan was to assault the German position with lead attacks from both flanks and, when they had closed to pinch out and isolate the center, the rest of his troops would advance and overwhelm the defenders. In what Pershing would later call “a brilliant maneuver against heavy machine gun resistance,” the attack kicked off on Oct. 3 with a short, five-minute artillery barrage of 200 guns. As soon as the cannon fire stopped, the 3rd Infantry Brigade launched its attack on the German right flank. Simultaneously, the 4th Marine Brigade attacked the German left. This was followed by an advance by the 6th Marines. Supporting the overall attack were French tanks. By noon, the 6th Marines had seized the crest and were clearing the heights. Additional troops from the 5th Marines moved up to add overwhelming power to the 2nd Division’s punch. On the left flank was a heavily fortified position known as the Essen Hook that was assigned to French units who were temporarily held in reserve. As the battle progressed, the French troops were released to seize the Essen Hook. When the French proved unable to do so, a company of Marines from the 5th Regiment led by Capt. Leroy P. Hunt was ordered to help. Hunt’s company succeeded in throwing out the Germans, and the Marines then handed over the Essen Hook to the French. The Germans returned and quickly overwhelmed the French defenders at Essen Hook, whereupon the 5th Regiment was forced to drive the Germans out a second time. This time they secured the position for good. When the day was over, Blanc Mont was in the hands of the 2nd Division.

Lejeune followed up the capture of Blanc Mont with an advance on the nearby village of St. Etienne on Oct. 4. The 5th Marines, who were leading the attack, literally ran into the Germans’ counterattack designed to retake Blanc Mont. Unfortunately, the Marines’ advance in the offensive had outpaced the French units beside them, causing them to form a salient that left them exposed to enemy fire from both flanks as well as their front. Despite the murderous fire falling on them, the Marines grimly kept the pressure on. After four days of intense fighting in which the Marines suffered more than 2,500 casualties, including the seemingly indestructible Daly, who was wounded, St. Etienne was liberated and, by Oct. 10, the Germans were in full retreat.

Not long after the battle, the grateful French government awarded the 5th and 6th Marines and the 6th Machine Gun Battalion their third citation of the Croix de Guerre for gallantry. As a result, the members of those outfits were now entitled to wear the scarlet and green fourragère. Field Marshal Henri Petain, the hero of Verdun, would add his own accolade, stating that, “The taking of Blanc Mont Ridge is the greatest single achievement in the 1918 campaign.”

Of the Marine Corps contribution in World War I, Col. Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret.) wrote in his book, A Fellowship of Valor, “Less than 32,000 Marines served in France. More than 12,000 of those given the opportunity to fight in France became casualties; 3,284 died. The survivors had given their country and their Corps a legacy of courage, esprit, and ferocity which would remain the standard of combat excellence for the remainder of the violent century.”

This article originally appeared on Argunners. Follow @ArgunnersMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways the military protects the environment

The U.S. Military prides itself on serving our country in all situations, foreign and domestic. The Military coordinates with government agencies to issue out destruction to the enemies of freedom, but it also focuses on preserving this beautiful land of ours. Researchers routinely find rare or endangered species of plants and animals on bases because of the way we preserve training areas.

The cohesion between military and civilian organizations, coming together to preserve our wildlife, has grown stronger over the last decade. All branches take painstaking care to protect nature; the inheritance of generations yet to come. Here’s how:


This viral letter from Santa helps military, first responder parents

“Many years ago, [red-cockaded woodpeckers] decided to plant themselves in our training area and we decided that we wanted to help save these birds,” – Colonel Scalise

(Lip Kee)

The Marine Corps plants trees to save woodpeckers

In April, 2018, Col. Michael Scalise, Deputy Commander of MCI East, Camp Lejeune, met with Representative Walter Jones to plant Longleaf Pine Seedlings at Stones Creek Game Land. The Longleaf tree is a favorite of the red-cockaded woodpecker, a species that has made nests under the protection of the Marine Corps for generations. Camp Lejeune shares land with a nature preserve that further protects the woodpecker and other endangered species alike.

The ceremony of planting new trees was the culmination of state and federal conservation agencies, such as the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Recovery and Sustainment Program partnership (RASP), to encourage the species to relocate their nesting grounds off ranges and onto safer areas. Training schedules are adjusted regularly to accommodate the woodpeckers’ preservation.

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The Coast Guard battles the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Coast Guard spearheads oil spill disasters

The Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy’s mission statement is to:

Provide guidance, policy, and tools for Coast Guard Marine Environmental Response planning, preparedness, and operations to prevent, enforce, investigate, respond to, and to mitigate the threat, frequency, and consequences of oil discharges and hazardous substance releases into the navigable waters of the United States.

They are the first line of defense against oil spills that threaten the health of our citizens and wildlife. Coast Guardsmen are the first responders in the event of a hazardous substance release polluting our waters on a very real, catastrophic scale. Coasties are the stewards of our oceans, the most precious of national treasures, and risk their lives in the name of public health, national security, and U.S. economic interests.

Rare butterfly thrives on, and because of, US military bases

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The Army saves endangered butterflies with controlled burns

Across many Army Installations, a variety of endangered butterflies would rather take their chances living on artillery impact areas due to habitat destruction. Species such as the St. Francis Satyr need disturbance to keep their populations at a thriving level. The fires set by explosions burn across forests and wetlands that benefit the frail little ones. Even if an impact kills some butterflies, even more are able to take their place. At least three of the world’s rarest butterflies have found safety among the howitzer shells of Fort Bragg, NC.

The Army partners with biologists to retrieve females and relocate them to a greenhouse the Army built. The butterflies are bred and released into new areas for the population to continue to grow. Biologists and the Army recreate zones that resemble the impact areas to ensure the population won’t have to resort to living amongst unexploded ordinance.

Other species, such as the one in the video below, also call Army bases home.

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It’s as if the military was never here…

(USAF Civil Engineer Center)

The Air Force prevents the contamination of wildlife after training

The Air Force has a division that specializes in Restoration Systems and Strategies. Their mission is to promote efficient and effective restoration of contaminated sites. They provide expertise on clean-up exit strategies and implementation of effective remediation using science and engineering. They ensure that the Air Force keeps up with their environmental responsibilities and tracks progress to prevent adverse long-term effects of training.

Performance-based remediation has become the standard for the Environmental Restoration Technical Support Branch that keeps the homes of wildlife clean.

Navy Marine Species Research and Monitoring

www.youtube.com

The Navy shares their data with marine researchers

The Navy has a program called Marine Species Research and Monitoring and has invested over 0 million dollars to better understand marine species and the location of important habitat areas. Civilian researchers have access to the Navy’s data about the migratory patterns of whales, sea turtles, and birds that can aid them when their work is peer-reviewed.

The benefit is mutually beneficial because the published works can then be used by the Navy to develop tools to better estimate the potential effects of underwater sound. The program empowers scientists with research they otherwise would never have had access to independently, and the Navy can safeguard marine protected species.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

Enlisted airmen have been part of the Air Force Academy in both instructor and mentor positions. But now they have a chance to be considered full time accredited faculty teachers.

The Air Force Academy was established in April 1954 after several years of consideration. Long before the Air Force was its own branch of the military, senior leadership argued they needed a school that would be directly focused on the war in the air – they needed a place to train future airmen.


In 1948, a year after the formal establishment of the Air Force, the Stearns-Eisenhower Board was formed to study existing military academies. They concluded that the Air Force absolutely needed its own school and that at least 40 percent of all future officers should be service academy graduates.

It took seven years for leadership to reach a consensus on site location and to receive funding. In 1955, construction began on the Academy in Colorado Springs. That same year, the first class of 306 officers were sworn-in at a temporary site – Lowry Air Force Base in nearby Denver, Colorado. Lt. Gen. Hubert R. Harmon was recalled from retirement by President Eisenhower to become the Academy’s first superintendent.

Women were allowed to enter the Academy beginning in 1975, and the first women cadets graduated in 1980. That flagship-class included the Academy’s first woman, who would later be superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson. To date, the Air Force Academy has graduated more than 50,000 officers.

Since its inception, the Air Force Academy has provided a corps of officers dedicated to upholding the standards of their profession and of the Air Force. In turn, the Academy offers cadets the right kind of access to a diverse and varied faculty. Now that faculty is even more diverse than ever.

After its first year, the Air Force Academy says that having noncommissioned officers serve as faculty shows real promise, but there needs to be further evaluation to decide if it’s worth keeping. The Academy is the first service academy that features enlisted service members as official faculty.

A report issued this summer, written by Chief Master Sgt. Sean Milligan and Senior Master Sgts. Ecaterina Garcia and Gloria Kuzmicki was released a year after the test pilot began. The Air Force reports that it will need several more years to explore the sustainability of the program, but initial findings are very promising – both for cadets and for the current faculty on staff.

The four enlisted Academic instructors, including the Chief mentioned above MSgt. Milligan, Senior MSgt. Garcia and Kuznicki, along with Senior MSgt. William Baez. Milligan manages the enlisted instructors and teaches part-time in the management department. Garcia teaches military strategy studies, Kuzmicki teaches leadership and behavior science, and Baez teaches intro statistics.

In a statement to Air Force Times, Milligan said that the program proves that the Air Force can select and hire appropriately qualified enlisted instructors to help increase faculty diversity. He went on to say that it seems like having an enlisted faculty component helps to have a positive effect on the cadets. The diversified faculty might also help cadets have a more collaborative learning environment, leading to greater career growth – not to mention significant experience with enlisted airmen.

The Air Force Academy created three enlisted teaching positions for the senior noncommissioned officers, all of whom hold advanced degrees.

After being hired, each instructor receives their department assignment and teaches classes relevant to their subjects of expertise. This initiative’s main goal is to provide enlisted airmen who have advanced degrees with a chance to put their education to work while continuing to serve the Air Force.

The report concludes that cadets will ultimately be better served with a more diverse staff. It still remains to be seen how the program will continue to unfold, but it seems clear the Air Force is committed to providing the right proving ground for America’s next generation of Air Force officers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Small, birdlike drones will provide eyes in the sky for the Army

The Army has plans to purchase 61 Black Hornet III small unmanned aerial systems, or SUASs, which are designed to provide reconnaissance support at squad level.

By the third quarter of 2019, 57 of those systems will be fielded to a yet-unidentified Infantry brigade combat team, said Capt. WaiWah Ellison, the assistant program manager for Soldier Borne Sensors, part of Program Executive Office Soldier.

Ellison spoke during the “Close Combat Lethality Tech Day” demonstration on May 24, 2018, at the Pentagon.

The Black Hornet III can fly a distance of up to two kilometers and remain aloft for 25 minutes, she said.

The system takes color photographs and videos and can do so simultaneously, she noted. The system is also equipped with thermal imaging, which gives it night vision capability.

Most importantly, the Black Hornet III weighs less than two ounces. With soldiers carrying so much gear, reducing their load is a top priority for everything PEO soldier produces. Hauling around too much weight results in fatigue and reduces the ability of soldiers to maneuver on the battlefield when dismounted, Ellison explained.

The Black Hornet III comes with a docking station, where the batteries are charged, and with a monitor, which is about the size of a tablet computer, she said. The SUAS, docking station and monitor have a combined weight of less than three pounds. While the Black Hornet III is aloft, another battery can be charged and ready when it returns.



Wireless commands and data sent between the soldier and Black Hornet III are encrypted, Ellison said, to ensure the system is not susceptible to being hacked.


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A Prox Dynamics’ PD-100 Black Hornet.
(photo by United Kingdom Ministry of Defense)

The Black Hornet III is not designed for long-term surveillance. Instead, it is designed to give soldiers a quick look at what’s ahead of them, over a hill, or on the other side of a building or wall, she explained.


After laboratory testing in early January 2018, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineer Center in Massachusetts, the Black Hornet III was put through its paces at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, beginning in late January. The “fly-off” gave soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, a chance to evaluate it in tactical conditions, she said.

It takes roughly 16 hours to train a soldier on how to pilot and maintain the Black Hornet III, she said, adding that operating it is fairly intuitive.

To fly it, you hold it in your hand and rotate it 90 degrees one way then 90 degrees the other way, Ellison explained. That wakes it up and gets the rotor spinning. You also turn on the monitor and it acquires a GPS signal. The entire operation from turning everything on to flight is a bit over a minute.

During the fly-off, Ellison said soldier feedback was positive. Soldiers liked the system’s reliability, saying it went where they wanted it to go and did not lose control sequences that were transmitted to it.

Don Sheehan, Integrated Product Team Lead for Small Unmanned Aerial Systems at Naval Air Systems Command, said the Navy had observers at Fort A.P. Hill during testing, as Marines and Special Operations operators are interested in the capabilities of the Black Hornet III and are likely to purchase a number of them.

Sheehan noted that the Black Hornet III is so quiet that during testing, one soldier was unaware that one of them was flying a few feet behind him.

Besides being stealthy, the Black Hornet III in its grey paint, is practically invisible in the forest or jungles and even if seen, could easily be mistaken for a small bird or large insect, he said.

Ellison noted that Black Hornet III is by no means the only model of SUAS that the Army is interested in.

More testing of the Black Hornet III and other types of SUAS from different vendors will take place in October 2018, at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, by soldiers from 7th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, she said.

There will be a number of industry days coming up where vendors can tout their own SUAS prototypes. She encouraged interested vendors to visit FedBizOpps.gov for more information on industry opportunities.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 reasons why ‘Black Hawk Down’ should have been about Hoot

In 1993, U.S. forces consisting of Army Rangers and Delta Force commandos stormed into Mogadishu, Somalia, to capture warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and key members of his militia.


During the raid, two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down, 18 Americans were killed, and 73 were wounded.

Director Ridley Scott brought the heroic story to the big screen in 2001’s Black Hawk Down, which portrays the power of human will and brotherly bonds between soldiers in the fight.

Although the film follows Sgt. Eversmann, did you ever wonder how different the film would have been if Hoot was the star?

We did, and here are four reasons why:

Related: 7 reasons ‘Top Gun’ should have been about Iceman

4. Hoot’s backstory

We first meet the brave Delta Force operator as he’s undercover, lurking around the city of Mogadishu with his eyes fixed on potential targets, gathering info. That’s a pretty badass thing to do and take a lot of balls in our opinion.

The only backstory we get from the film is that Hoot uses his trigger finger as his safety.

Maybe that’s all we need.

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3. There would have been more aerial target practice

Remember when that Black Hawk helicopter picked up Hoot in the middle of the desert and then he shot that wild pig looking thing off-screen? That was awesome!

Well, we bet that if Hoot were the star, that scene would have been a set up for a dope aerial-to-ground shootout with the Somali militia — just sayin’.

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2. He’s the most interesting character in the film

We understand that film is based on the real raids that took place, but take a step back from that, and we bet everyone can agree that we all felt like Hoot was always cool and calm even though the troops faced an uncertain future.

Shout out to the cast and crew for making this character so compelling.

Also Read: This is what the Marines from ‘Heartbreak Ridge’ are doing today

1. Why he does it

In the last scene where we see Hoot, he talks to Sgt. Eversmann about how he responds when people ask him “why we do it.”

Although his answer is epic and on point, if the film was about him, we’re freakin’ positive that would have seen that scene take place somewhere in the movie.

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Lists

5 things we wished we knew before joining the Navy

Joining the Navy is one of the best learning experiences for a young adult — especially if it’s their first time away from home.


When you talk to a recruiter about signing up, they’ll likely sell you on all of the positives and leave out most of the less attractive aspects.

That said, most of us don’t do enough homework on our own to understand what life is really like in the Navy.

Related: 9 reasons you should have joined the Marines instead

So, check out five things we wished we knew before joining the Navy.

5. All the additional duties

In some smaller naval commands, there typically aren’t enough Masters-at-Arms (the Navy’s military police) to guard all the bases’ gates. What’s even worse, there sometimes isn’t enough room in the budget to pay civilians to defend those iron fences either.

So, what does the Navy do to fill those roles? They turn to the junior enlisted personnel who aren’t even trained to guard a box of coloring books.

The Navy created A.S.F. — or Auxiliary Security Force — made from various Navy rates, like cooks and mechanics, to stand guard duty.

4. The rank of ‘seaman’ sounds worse when it’s yours

Some rates in the Navy aren’t even called seamen when they get to the rank of E-3 — so that’s a plus. Corpsman who are E-3s are referred to as Hospitalman while Seabees are called constructionmen, so we luck out.

Other ranks don’t have that privilege. It can be embarrassing saying, “Seaman Smith, reporting for duty.”

Catch our drift?

3. You can graduate boot camp as an E-3

Some young adults score so high on their ASVAB that when they pick an academically challenging rate, they’re automatically promoted in boot camp.

There are others ways to get promoted, like earning college credit before enlisting or recruiting other people, which most people don’t know.

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Seaman Richard Cassube (left) assists Seaman Jeremy Cryer (right) with the proper measurements of the ribbons on his dress uniform in preparation for their upcoming graduation.  (U.S. Navy Photo by Susan Krawczyk)

2. All the different bases you can be stationed at

Many people don’t know that the Navy integrates with the other branches. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a sailor to serve in an office building on an Air Force base.  So, not only can you serve on a ship or a Naval base, but you can be stationed on an Army, Air Force, or Marine Base, too.

Also Read: 6 reasons why Marines hate on the Air Force

1. Regardless of your junior enlisted rank, you’re going to clean… a lot.

This is the aspect most recruiters (if not all) forget to tell you about. Sure, you will frequently clean your berthing quarters, but you’ll clean areas you don’t usually occupy during the week.

We’re training to go to war, but first, we need to mop the senior chief’s floor. Son-of-a-b*tch!

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the 3rd Infantry Division is called ‘Rock of the Marne’

The 3rd Infantry Division, then known simply as the 3rd Division, was activated in November 1917 for service in World War I. They were fighting the Germans by April 1918. The green troops of the 3rd Division were thrown into the line in the midst of a strong German attack along the Marne River.


The Marne had been the site of a significant battle that had turned back the German onslaught into France in 1914. It would be remembered once again in 1918.

Also read: This is why 3/2 Marines call themselves ‘the Betio Bastards’

After the Germans’ Spring Offensives had ground to a halt, they still sought a breakthrough of the Allied lines. Hoping to draw forces away from Flanders, where the Germans hoped to eventually drive through to Paris, they launched a large scale offensive to the south in the vicinity of Reims.

In the early morning darkness of July 15, 1918 the Germans began crossing the Marne River in assault boats.

Under a massive artillery barrage, the German Seventh Army smashed into the French Sixth Army. Under the brutal bombardment and onslaught of German stormtroopers, the French fell back in disarray. All along the line the Germans were quickly gaining ground – except for one spot on their right flank.

This was the position held by the 3rd Division. Particularly stubborn resistance came from the 38th Infantry Regiment under the command of Col. Ulysses McAlexander. It was dug in along the riverbank with a secondary line holding a raised railroad embankment. As the Germans crossed the river they were met with murderous fire from the Americans.

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As they landed, the Germans quickly found themselves engaged in brutal hand-to-hand combat.

Unfortunately for the Americans, there were simply too many Germans and slowly but surely the advanced platoons on the riverbank were wiped out. The Germans were then met at the railroad embankment, where according to Capt. Jesse Woolridge, they gave a thousand times more than they took, but even those positions became untenable. Reinforcements were quickly rushed in and smashed the beleaguered German troops.

This effort finally broke up the attack.

In Woolridge’s account, he states “it’s God’s truth that one Company of American soldiers beat and routed a full regiment of picked shock troops of the German Army.”

While the rest of the 3rd Division was pushed back, the 38th Infantry was giving the Germans hell.  Refusing to relinquish his position despite his exposed flanks, Col. McAlexander pulled his two battalions on the flanks back to form a horseshoe shape. The shape of his defense and the stubbornness with which he held it earned McAlexander and the rest of the regiment an enduring nickname – the Rock of the Marne.

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General Ulysses Grant McAlexander.

The nickname eventually came to encompass the entire division for their stellar defense of their sector during the massive German attack. The Division would later adopt the special designation The Marne Division as well for their part in the battle.

At the Second Battle of the Marne, the 3rd Division also received its official motto. As French troops retreated, 3rd Division soldiers rushed to the scene to hold the line. The division commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph Dickman, gave his famous orders, in French so their allies would understand, “Nous resterons la!” – We shall remain here!

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The battle was significant. Not just to the 3rd Division but to the entire American war effort. The Americans were relatively untested at the time and their success in holding back the Germans at the Marne garnered great respect from their European counterparts.

Stopping the German offensive also opened the way for the immediate counterattacks of the Aisne-Marne Offensive and finally the Hundred Days offensive that would eventually lead to Germany’s capitulation. The division’s stand was called “one of the most brilliant pages in the annals of military history” by the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, Gen. John Pershing.

The 3rd Infantry Division would go on to distinguish itself once again during the Second World War. The 3rd was the only division to meet the Nazis on every front fighting from North Africa to Sicily, onto the Italian mainland, into Southern France before ending the war in Germany.

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The 3rd Infantry Division starts the long road home after WWII.

During its spectacular march against the Axis, some 35 members of the division were awarded the Medal of Honor for their action in combat including their most famous member, Audie Murphy.

The Marne Division later fought in the Korean War before spending the Cold War guarding Germany against possible Russian aggression. Since 2003, the division has been actively involved in the Global War on Terror and led the US Army’s invasion of Iraq.

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The U.S. 3rd Infantry Division secures an abandoned UN position on the Kuwait-Iraqi border in March 2003.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Pre-order your ‘Baby Yoda’ toy now while you still can

Hasbro finally announced that they are making holiday spring wishes come true with ‘Baby Yoda’ toys.

Well, not Baby Yoda, because obviously that character isn’t Yoda, but he doesn’t have a name or a species yet and “The Child” isn’t as much fun to say.

So if the Baby Yoda Funko Pop didn’t do it for you or your children or your husband, then check out these collectibles:


Baby Yoda Talking Plush – Official Teaser

www.youtube.com

Baby Yoda Talking Plush – Official Teaser

BAHAHAHAHA watch that video with the sound on.

So far, this plush is the only physical toy we’ve seen but the other mock-ups look pretty cute.

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Don’t forget to use Amazon Smile.

The Child Talking Plush

This little guy comes with 10 sound effects, as seen in the video above, and is soft and cuddly, which honestly makes sense because we all want to just cuddle the sh** out of the Yoda Baby.

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The Black Series

The Black Series will feature other characters from The Mandalorian so you can collect them all! Each sold separately.

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6.5-inch Posable Action Figure

You can make this little guy raise his teeny tiny little arm and use the Force! Don’t pretend like you won’t.

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This viral letter from Santa helps military, first responder parents
This viral letter from Santa helps military, first responder parents

These guys all seem to be really into his whole “eat a live frog” phase…

For the Bounty Collection, you can be just like our Mandalorian and collect the baby! Isn’t that fun? These little 2.2-inch Yoda Babies come in three 2-packs “to choose from.” None in the bassinet, though. Interesting.

Um. One of those poses is called “don’t leave” — talk about manipulation.

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Funko

Oh, and don’t forget the obligatory Funko Pop! version.

So, which of these are your favorites?

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Canadian officer rescued the real Winnie the Pooh

We’ve written before about how the stories of Winnie the Pooh were, at least in part, the result of a World War I veteran trying to explain war, and his own PTSD, to his son. But Pooh bear was inspired by an actual bear at the London Zoo, Winnipeg, rescued by a Canadian cavalry veterinarian on his way to France for combat.


The Winnipeg connection to Winnie the Pooh

www.youtube.com

Harry Colebourn was born an Englishman but moved to Canada to study veterinary surgery. When World War I broke out and British subjects were called up to defend the empire, he joined the unit of Fort Garry Horse to treat the horses. On Aug. 24, 1914, he was traveling with his unit by train when they stopped at a small lumber town.

Colebourn got off to stretch his legs like everyone else, but he spotted a trapper standing near the train, trying to sell a small bear cub. Colebourn got into veterinarian sciences because of his love of animals, and the baby bear captured his heart almost immediately.

The trapper explained that he had killed the mother, but then couldn’t do the same to the cub. He was asking for the cub, about the same as 0 today. It was a princely sum for a bear cub, but Colebourn paid it out. He named the cub “Winnipeg Bear” after his adopted hometown.

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1914 photo of Colebourne and Winnipeg the Bear.

(Library and Archives Canada)

The bear cub followed Colebourn around during training, climbing trees and begging for treats as the cavalrymen and the veterinarian trained to take on the Kaiser’s armies. Winnie quickly rose to be the regimental mascot. By October, the men were on their way to England with Winnie in tow for final training and then deployment.

In England, Winnie was once again popular, but it was quickly clear that the front in France would be no place for the animal. Colebourn, hoping that the war would be over within months, arranged for Winnie to spend a little time in a brand new bear habitat at the London Zoo. He promised her that they would return to Canada together once the war ended.

But, of course, the war did not end quickly. Colebourn went to the front in December 1914, and the war would go on for almost four more years. He visited Winnie whenever the unit was granted leave or pass in England, but the war dragged on too long for their relationship. By the time it was over, Winnie was well-established in London and pulling her out would have been a disservice.

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Harry Colebourne and Winnipeg the Bear when Winnie was still young.

(Manitoba Provincial Archives)

So she remained there, a celebrity of the post-war city. Children, especially, loved their war-time gift from the Canadian officer. It was there that a young Christopher Robin Milne, the proud owner of a Teddy Bear named Edward first met Winnie. He was smitten with the black bear and renamed his teddy to “Winnie the Pooh,” combining her name with the name of a swan he used to feed.

The boy’s father, A.A. Milne, began using Christopher’s stuffed animals to tell him stories, including stories about his own responses to the war. A.A. Milne had fought on the Western Front, same as Colebourn, and it was a horrible place to be.

The stories that the prolific author told his son were first included in a collection in 1924, followed by a book of stories focused on “Winnie-the-Pooh” in 1926. Today, the stories of the adorable bear and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood endures, largely thanks to a Canadian veterinarian who saved the cub and an English veteran who told the stories.

By the way, Winnie really did love honey, and Christopher Robin was able to feed it to her on at least one occasion. Unfortunately, her sweet tooth and the tendency of the English to let her indulge led to her developing periodontitis, a painful gum disease.

Articles

This is the Russian infantry weapon that has the US military so worried

Soviet military weapons have an odd tendency to stay both dangerous and relevant decades after they’re issued. They might lack the creature comforts and modularity of modern firearm designs, but whether a bullet finds its mark from a World War I Mosin Nagant rifle, or a next generation Russian bullpup SVD sniper rifle, the result is the same.


The largest example of this, is the infamous AKM/AK-47. Every tin-pot dictatorship or ex-Soviet satellite nation has churned out terrifying numbers of these reliable automatic rifles. While the AKM is a deadly adversary at close and medium range, it is handily outclassed (both in accuracy, and effective range) by modern Western-made military rifles like the M4A3 and M16A4.

That said, there is one Soviet firearm that continues to confound and frustrate American military forces in the Middle East: the PKM.

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The internal workings of the PKM aren’t dissimilar to those of the AK, and because of this, the PKM is remarkably reliable and resilient to negligent treatment. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The PKM or Modernizirovanniy Pulemyot Kalashnikova (PK Machinegun Modernized) is a belt-fed, open-bolt, long-stroke light machine gun chambered in the hard-hitting 7.62x54R cartridge — the same round used by Russian infantry in World War I, Vietcong snipers in Indochina, and modern Russian Federation snipers wielding the infamous Dragunov.

The internal workings of the PKM aren’t dissimilar to those of the AK, and because of this, the PKM is remarkably reliable and resilient to negligent treatment.  This robust construction combined with its powerful cartridge, make for an extraordinarily dangerous weapon against Western militaries — especially since the PKM has an effective range of 1,000-1,500 meters, putting it on par or surpassing most DMR rifles, and light machine guns in service.

Personally, after firing less than 100 rounds through a stateside PKM at an ordnance-testing facility in Nevada, I was able to successfully engage human-sized steel targets with iron sights at 600 yards with frightening regularity. This was with 60-year-old ammunition out of a PKM built in the 1970s with more than a half-million rounds fired through it.

The threat posed by this LMG to American and NATO forces is not lost on military thinkers or modern weapon-makers. In fact, the PKM is the impetus behind the latest evolution of the medium machine gun – the lightweight, medium machine gun, or LWMMG.

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Marines with Company A, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-West (SOI-West), fire the M2A1 .50 caliber heavy machine gun as part of their basic infantry training Sept. 20, 2016, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. (Offical Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado/released)

Historically, machine guns are grouped into three categories: light, medium and heavy (and occasionally general purpose). The last two, medium and heavy, are crew-served weapons, normally fired from either a tripod or vehicle mount. These are generally not considered man-portable, but are designed to provide constant fire on an area.

The light machine gun, or LMG generally fires a smaller caliber round than the medium or heavy machine gun, and is designed to be used and transported by a single soldier. These weapons are fired from a bipod, but are light enough to be quickly repositioned in the field.

The 5.56mm caliber M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) is a prime example of a light machine gun, while the .50 BMG M2 is a perfect example of a heavy machine gun. The M2 is tremendously more effective at all ranges than the M249, but its tremendous weight and size make it a poor choice for urban environments.  The M240B almost splits the difference, but its 7.62 cartridge is still out-ranged by the Soviet PKM.

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The General Dynamics Lightweight Medium Machine Gun chambered in .338 Norma Magnum has the reach and lethality of a .50 cal M2. (Photo from General Dynamics video screen grab)

Thus the idea behind the LWMMG, is to combine the lightweight, portable nature of the the LMG with the extended range, and increased ballistic effectiveness of the MMG.

The engineers at General Dynamics are attempting this by incorporating a new “Short Recoil Impulse Averaging” method of operation coupled with a new modified .338 cartridge. At first glance, this seems like the scribblings of someone with no practical experience behind any of these weapon systems. On paper, a man-portable machine gun with the effective range of a .50 BMG, that weighed at little as the M240B with no more recoil than the 240, seems impossible.

If the footage of the new LWMMG released by General Dynamics is any indication, the new machine gun is more than just a concept. What remains to be seen, is whether or not the Pentagon puts enough importance on infantry combat and their equipment, to justify spending millions on upgrading it.

If nothing else, the likelihood of the General Dynamics LWMMG finding its way into the hands of US Special Forces is all but guaranteed. And while the increased effective range of the new cartridge is very impressive, the .338 round lacks the ballistic effectiveness of the .50 BMG. After all, it isn’t intended to double as an anti-material round, nor does it have the anti-vehicle lineage of the .50 BMG cartridge.

That said, the .338 is designed with an ideal ballistic coefficient in mind — meaning the projectile itself sails through the air with minimal resistance. In effect, this means the rounds travel closer to where the soldier aims them.

In the traditional role of an MMG or HMG, this is sometimes seen as detrimental, as the weapon is supposed to be used to provide a field of fire to an area. If the rounds are too precise, the area might be under less wide-spread fire, and potentially leave some enemy combatants unsuppressed.

However, in this case, precision is key. Since the impetus behind the design is to counter insurgent PKM/PKP light machine guns. Conceptually, this should allow our soldiers to out-range insurgent elements, as well as provide more accurate counter-fire.

As for results, we’ll have to wait and see if the idea gains more traction – and if it does, wait a few months or years for an official reports of its combat effectiveness to surface.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

Not many remember the Australians’ commitment to aiding the United States in Vietnam, but the Aussies were there, and they sent their best. Australia’s best troops included their very own Special Air Service, special operators in the mold of Britain’s SAS, formidable fighters capable of bringing the enemy’s method of irregular warfare right back home to Hanoi.

The Aussies weren’t content with the M-16, for a number of reasons, so they opted instead to do a little frontier mechanical work on their weapons. The end product became known as “The Bitch.”


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When you want to use an M-16 but your standards are higher.

When the M-16 first took over for the M-1 Garand as a standard-issue infantry weapon, the result was less than stellar. It jammed. A lot. Frustrated troops began leaving their M-16s at home and using AK-47s captured from the enemy instead. The Aussies preferred a weapon that worked. Even after the weapon was updated to fix its issues, the Australians still opted for a different solution. They liked how handy the M-16 could be, but they wanted the stopping power of a 7.62 round.

But the barrel of the S1A2 self-loading rifle was so heavy… what to do?

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“Cor, mate… I ‘ave an idea…”

The Australian special operators lopped that heavy barrel and its tripod off at the end of the gas block. Then, the MacGuyvers from Down Under fashioned special flash suppressors for the new muzzle for those who wanted it. For those who didn’t, they just left the weapon without any kind of suppression at all. The new, shorter barrel was louder and produced a much bigger bang for the buck.

They wanted the Communists to know who was pulling the triggers and raining death on their Ho Chi Minh Trail parade. If that weren’t enough, sometimes the operators would put a pistol grip on the end so they could control the weapons in fully automatic settings. Others preferred a grenade launcher attachment.

Fun was had by all.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Gifts helped POWs escape during WWII…. and 12 other crazy Christmas facts

Christmas has been around for over two millennia. Two thousand years is plenty of time for funky traditions, tall tales and strange stories to pop up. Hallucinating reindeer?  Carols in outer space? Illicit Christmas dinners? Which tales are true? Keep reading to separate Christmas facts from festive fiction. Some may surprise you. 

  1. Gaining a pound just from Christmas dinner is totally possible.

    Technically, you can gain almost two over the course of the day without breaking a sweat. Just add up an indulgent breakfast with all-day appetizers, honey-baked ham, buttery mashed potatoes, rolls, and pie, and you’re already getting up there. Cocktails add even more, and eggnog? The average 8 oz cup has about 343 calories. And who has just one? According to Associated British Foods, the average person eats more than 7,000 calories on Christmas day. 
  1. Santa’s signature style was shaped by the Civil War and Coca-Cola.

    Originally, Santa resembled a saint. Then, a political cartoonist named Thomas Nast drew him to drum up support for the Union. Santa suddenly became a lot more cheerful looking, and a lot more American. About three decades later, Coca-Cola decided to step up their holiday ad game. They hired an artist named Haddon Sundblom to design Santa-themed print ads, which painted the chubbiest, most wholesome version of Santa yet
  1. Beware…Christmastime is peak breakup season.

To be more specific, two weeks before Christmas is the most frequent period for couples to split. A couple of weeks post-Valentine’s day is another popular time, as is spring break. While the Facebook data didn’t define why, it’s safe to say that our relationship expectations often rise over the holidays, as do our odds of disappointment. Sigh. On the upside, Christmas Day was the least popular breakup day. If you make it that far, you’re probably in the clear! 

  1. “Xmas” doesn’t take the Christ out of Christmas. 


Some Christians worry that the abbreviation “Xmas” removes the religious significance from the holiday, but a quick lesson in Greek should relieve any concerns. The letter X is the first letter of the Greek spelling of the word Christos, aka Christ. That said, not everyone who celebrates Christmas is Christian. The holiday represents warmth, generosity, and gratitude, and that’s a wonderful reason to celebrate the season too!

  1. Jingle Bells was the first song played in outer space.

    A few days before Christmas in 1965, astronauts Wally Schirra and Tom Stafford decided to pull a clever prank on Mission Control. They were aboard Gemini 6 when they called in with a concerning report; an “unidentified flying object” was traveling from north to south, potentially entering Earth’s atmosphere. The broadcast was interrupted by the sound of sleigh bells and the tune of “Jingle Bells” played on Wally’s harmonica. Mission Control wasn’t amused, but Santa probably was. 
  1. Mistletoe was originally a symbol of fertility.

    The Druids believed the holiday weed was an aphrodisiac. While this one’s more myth than fact, if someone invites you to meet under the mistletoe, kiss with caution! Why people thought mistletoe was so *ahem* invigorating remains a mystery, especially considering the word’s roots; the Germanic version of the word means “poop on a twig”. Really adds to the ambiance, don’t you think? 
  1.  “Jingle Bells” was written for Thanksgiving, not Christmas.

    Written by James Lord Pierpont in 1857, the song was originally written to be performed in the school’s Sunday school class around Thanksgiving. It was called “One Horse Open Sleigh”, and it wasn’t about Santa or Christmas at all. It was about the famous local sleigh races, and with talk of picking up girls and living while you’re young, the original was considered risque!
  1. Decorating can be dangerous.

    When you’re putting up last-minute lights, do yourself a favor and have someone hold the ladder. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that holiday decorating accidents account to over 14,000 trips to the ER each year, all in the span of two months. 
  1. For awhile, Christmas was illegal.

    Puritans settled in Boston quite early on, and they weren’t huge fans of Christmas celebrations. From 1659-1681, it was actually forbidden by law, with fines doled out to rogue carolers. Even a century later, Christmas wasn’t all that popular. After the American Revolution in 1789, Congress even held its first session on Christmas. It remained nondescript for some time, not earning federal holiday status until June 28th, 1870
  1. Santa has an official Canadian postal code.

    Where do letters to Santa go? Canadians have quite the reputation for being good-natured and kind, and they definitely live up to the hype at Christmastime. Canadian Post Office workers started replying to letters themselves, and eventually they gave Santa an official address: Santa Claus, North Pole, HOH OHO, Canada. While it’s been tough to keep up, the Santa Letter-Writing Program there does its best to respond to as many letters from kids as humanly (or elfishly?) possible. 
  1. Tinsel used to be pricy and poisonous.

    Invented in Germany in 1610, tinsel was originally made of actual silver. It was considered an item of luxury, but it was also a bit dangerous. It often contained lead, leading to widespread bans on its production. Today, it’s much cheaper and made of harmless plastic. Just don’t let the cat eat it and you’re good. 
  1. Were flying reindeer actually on shrooms?

    Probably not, but one scholar named R. Gordon Wasson thought they might have been. Reindeer in Siberia used to consume Amanita muscaria mushrooms, supposedly leading them to hallucinate and leap about. He believed this was the root of the flying reindeer myth. While other scholars agreed there may be a connection, there’s little proof. “Flying” reindeer became a popular pop culture origin story nevertheless.
  2. Christmas gifts helped POWs escape during WWII.

    This one sounds fake, but it’s not. The US Playing Card Company teamed up with Allied intelligence agencies for a noble cause: helping allied prisoners of war reach safety. They created decks of cards as “Christmas gifts”, but the cards came with a secret. Some of them could be peeled apart when wet, unveiling detailed escape routes. The map decks were a closely-kept secret for years after the war ended, but they likely helped more than one prisoner get home safely. What Christmas gift could be better than that? 
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