Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments

For a man who is 95 years old, Marv Levy has an ambitious drive that is inspiring. He’s thinking of his next literary challenge, with an eye on writing another novel.

“But I’m not sure what it is,” the celebrated NFL coach said in a recent interview. “I keep telling myself I’m going to sit down and plot out what it will about. I’ll figure it out.”

Levy, who earned a master’s degree in English history at Harvard University, has been busy since retiring from coaching in 1997. He has authored a children’s book, “Go, Cubs, Go,” about his hometown Chicago Cubs winning the World Series in 2016; a memoir titled “Where Else Would You Rather Be,” about his nearly five-decade coaching career, which is most remembered for his Buffalo Bills reaching four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s; and a novel called “Between The Lies,” a New York Times bestseller about a coach who cheats to win the Super Bowl.

`The greatest generation—a title deserved’

He has also written a book of poems, one of which he recited during a recent ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of V.J. Day, the Japanese surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, that ended World War II. Speaking by Zoom to “Friends of the National World War II Memorial,” Levy recognized the significance of that day:

“World War II is over, at last it was done. Oh, how we celebrated, was it ever fun. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in our spiffy dress uniforms flooded the scenes. Pretty girls wearing gloves and cute little hats, in high-heeled shoes rather than flats, greeted us now wherever we’d go, in the streets or in bars, or at the USO… I’ll remember all of those with whom I served. The greatest generation—a title deserved.”

Enlisted right after high school

Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments
Levy served in World War II in the Army Air Corps. (Photo courtesy of Buffalo Bills)

Levy served during World War II at the Army Air Field in Apalachicola, Florida. He enlisted right after graduating from high school in 1943 and wanted to be a pilot in the Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force. A sergeant refused to let him in the air corps because he lacked 20/20 vision, but he managed to train on the base.

“The sergeant found out I was dating his sister in high school,” Levy remembered. “He said, `I’ll let you in. But after basic training, you won’t be able to go to pilot school.’ So I became a meteorologist. I was a meteorologist at Apalachicola and one or two other bases. But most of my time was at the Apalachicola base.”

Just as Levy’s unit was to deploy to the Pacific theater, the war ended. He said he felt terrible that he couldn’t be a pilot but remains proud to have served. Three of his high school classmates and one from grade school were killed in the war.

A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Levy explained why World War II struck an emotional chord with him. He had a grandmother who was born in Russia and immigrated to the United States but left behind four brothers who were doctors and college professors. They were among the more than 30,000 Jewish people who were massacred at Babi Yar near the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, within a two-day span in 1941 when the city was under Nazi occupation.

“World War II has tremendous meaning for me,” Levy said. “I have high regard for the people with whom I served. Our cause was essential because of Nazi Germany, in particular.”

Years later, Levy coached the Bills to Super Bowl appearances in the 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 seasons. The Bills lost each one, but Levy is still the only NFL head coach to ever take a team to four straight Super Bowls. He compiled a 154-120-0 record (.562 winning percentage) in 17 NFL seasons and is enshrined today in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

World War II a `must win’

At a press conference before his final Super Bowl, a reporter asked Levy if he considered the game a “must win.”

“I said, World War II was a must-win,” Levy remembered. “The media were all there, so it came out. The next day at the hotel where we were staying, a man in a restaurant called me over and said he heard my comments and admired them. He told me how meaningful they were. That was a huge compliment for me because I knew and admired him.”

That man was Andy Rooney, the renowned radio and television writer who was best known for his long-running weekly broadcast on the CBS News program “60 Minutes.” Rooney was also an accomplished war correspondent during World War II.

“Serving in World War II was what I wanted to do,” Levy said. “The whole country was totally immersed in the war. Most of us wanted it to be over with. It was quite a day when it ended.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Holiday coffee cocktail: The Skrewy Espresso Martini

The holidays are rolling in fast. The time for gift giving, massive meals, and too many parties and get-togethers. The perfect drink to keep you going while still catching a nice buzz is the Espresso Martini.

The Espresso Martini as we know it was created in 1983 by Dick Bradsell at the SOHO Brasserie in London. The cocktail was originally called the Vodka Espresso and consisted of a generous shot of vodka, two types of coffee liqueur — his choices being Kahlua and Tia Maria — and a shot of espresso. But as the 1980s came into full swing, Bradsell rebranded the Vodka Espresso as the trendier Espresso Martini, and the rest is history.


But we’re going to turn that cocktail on its head by throwing out the vodka and coffee liqueur entirely. If we have to deal with our extended family, we’re going straight to whiskey. So we’ve opted to use Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey and an Irish cream liqueur — our preference is Five Farms, but any Irish cream will do. The result is a nutty and sweet cocktail with a tinge of smotky bitterness from the espresso.

Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments

(Recipe by Tim Becker/Coffee or Die. Photo by Lacey Whitehouse/Coffee or Die. Graphic by Erik Campbell/Coffee or Die.)

11 Questions & A Cup of Coffee: Fox News Correspondent Katie Pavlich

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why we all need to understand the Medal of Honor

There’s an extraordinary brotherhood that exists among us but few will ever actually meet these honored members. Like our sacred flag, woven together by humility, valor and extreme courage, this is a community of men who never sought recognition — rather earned it — through their own strength, service and sacrifice. These incredible heroes are the recipients of the Medal of Honor.

In the military community, these men are treated with an indescribable reverence; a gratitude that runs deep because of the understanding of the gravity of the citation. Most of these men shouldn’t be alive and many who have earned the Medal never lived to see it. But in the civilian community, the awards often blend together, confusing hearts with crosses, silver with purple.


Now, a major motion picture is closing that information gap, educating the public on the Medal of Honor while pulling at your heartstrings. The Last Full Measure, in theaters nationwide on January 24, has an all star cast that tells the incredible, true story of William H. Pitsenbarger. Pitsenbarger was a U.S. Air Force Pararescueman credited with saving over 60 men after an ambush on the Army’s 1st Infantry Division during a battle in Vietnam. The story couples his heroic actions with the relentless efforts, spanning three decades, made by the men he saved to ensure he was posthumously honored.

Following the Washington, D.C. premiere screening of The Last Full Measure, We Are The Mighty had the opportunity to sit with Medal of Honor recipient First Lieutenant Brian M. Thacker and Medal of Honor Foundation Vice President of External Affairs Dan Smith, to get their take on the movie.

WATM: Tell me your thoughts on the movie.

Thacker: This fills in so many blanks. I knew the Pitsenbarger story and then all of a sudden it kind of happened. In the story, it becomes very clear. The question you have is what was the Air Force guy doing with a leg unit in the first place? And then you think about it and yeah, it’s exactly how it works: the guys closest respond to the call. They were doing joint operations back then and they didn’t even know it. The movie is no frills, a straight story of not just Pitsenbarger, but the whole unit that kept the dream of the award moving forward. It’s a story that needs to be told. There’s a story like that behind every Medal of Honor ever presented.

If you were over there, you know there are many other stories that deserve to be recognized. For a long time, Pitsenbarger was one of them.

Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments

WATM: I understand why this story is so important for the Medal of Honor brotherhood and to the veteran population. Why do you think it’s critical for civilians to see as well?

Thacker: First of all, they need to learn what the Medal means. It’s not a me award. Pitsenbarger is the medic with the award, but it really goes to all of the men in that company that were put in an untenable situation. The stories that came out of what happens as a result are equally as important. It’s not over when the shooting stops. The camaraderie and the close bond of serving together is what gets us through.

WATM: There’s a great line in the movie about how the medal means so much more than a battle; it’s the story behind it that connects us all. What story does your medal tell?

Thacker: The other half of the story behind mine is that of a Recon Sergeant that got an assignment he didn’t want but came out with a DSC. My guess is that his citation, like mine, was written at the highest level. But our unit was a Joe six pack, a bunch of people from all over the country that didn’t realize how untenable our situation was really going to be until the first shot was fired. Then it was, ‘Oh Lord, just let us hang on. We just need to get through this day.’ It all comes down to everyone just trying to help each other get through the day. Certainly you don’t do it by yourself.

WATM to Smith: What does having a MOH recipient in the audience tonight mean to you?

Smith: It’s beyond special. Young airman Pitsenbarger’s story is inspiring and remarkable. What we try to do and what our mission is, is to raise resources to let recipients tell their stories and to bring that and the legacy of the Medal to the communities. The most senior leaders in our military and our government talk about the less than one percent who serve and this growing civilian and military divide.

For these gentlemen to be able to tell their stories, not just to the military but to the community will close this gap. I’m hopeful that everyday people will see this movie, hear these heroic stories and change the ambivalence that often comes without knowing the impact of the award. So many men came home from Vietnam and weren’t able to tell their stories. I’m hopeful this will reach not just veterans of that generation but the younger generations as well.

WATM: What do you think this film teaches the next generation?

Thacker: We did everything we could to bury Vietnam. The young people that were born after the war grew up in the dark, unless you were living with a Vietnam veteran and you were living it right with your dad. It’s very symbolic. We see the same thing with young people who volunteered after 9/11; this mentality that I need to be a part of this. It’s 50 years later but it’s the same ethic that bubbles up.

You can take that notion of service far beyond the military. It’s in the fire departments, police departments and even the teaching community; this sense of service above self. You see bits and pieces of that in this movie and I hope it’s one the kids will watch because it’s living history.

Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments

WATM: Was there any particular scene in this movie that really resonated with you?

Thacker: When Pitsenbarger realized he had to go down to help them to teach them how to use the litter. Being in that position does something to your pucker factor. People who have been there, you can ask them: ‘Do you remember what it felt like?’ They’ll tell you they were very afraid. Knowing you are in over your head and wondering who you turn to for help, that happens all the time. There will be a lot of people who understand that feeling of all of a sudden being in charge.

WATM: As a MOH recipient, I imagine you’re invited to events like this all of the time. Is there a particular event you have been a part of that has had a profound impact on your life?

Thacker: Being able to attend an Inauguration and to witness the peaceful transfer of power was an incredible experience. I don’t think people understand how truly special and uniquely American that is.

WATM: Is there anything else you want people to know about either you or the Medal of Honor Foundation?

Thacker: We still have something to say. I remember when the Baby Boom generation wasn’t going to amount to much. Now we’re saying the same thing about Millenials, and I promise you, we’ll be as wrong about them as our parents were about us. That willingness to stand up and take the risk is fairly common.

Smith: These men have incredible stories to tell. My hope is that through films like The Last Full Measure we’ll be able to connect communities with this heroism.

The Last Full Measure will be in theaters January 24. These stories deserve to be told and the valor of The Medal of Honor should live on through all of us. Perpetuating the legacy should be our collective Last Full Measure.

You can buy tickets to see the film and support this story and legacy on The Last Full Measure’s website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

They’re the oldest and the most recognized armored division in the Army. The first division to see combat in Germany during WWII and the first mash-up of reconnaissance and cavalry units in all of Army history. Here’s everything you thought you knew but didn’t about America’s Tank Division.


Kentucky Wonders, Fire and Brimstone or Old Ironsides?

After the division was organized in 1940, commanding general Maj. Gen. Bruce Magruder was the division’s first commander. His friend, Gen. George Patton, had just named the 2nd Armored Division “Hell on Wheels,” and Magruder didn’t want to be left behind. So, he held a contest to find an appropriate nickname for the new division.

Over two hundred names were submitted, including “Kentucky Wonders” and “Fire and Brimstone.” Gen. Magruder hated all the names submitted and decided to take the weekend to find the best one. It just so happened he’d recently purchased a painting of the USS Constitution, whose nickname was, wait for it, Old Ironsides. It’s said that Magruder was impressed by the correlation between the Navy’s unwavering spirit during the war and his new division’s. It was then that he landed on the nickname Old Ironsides, and the name’s been the same ever since.

The first enemy contact was in North Africa, and it was rough.

Contrary to what many think, the Old Ironsides didn’t engage with the Germans as their first combat experience. Instead, they traveled to North Africa and participated in Operation Torch, part of the Allied Invasion.

Operation Torch was intended to draw Axis forces away from the Eastern Front and relieve pressure on the Soviet Union. It was a compromise between the US and British planners. The mission was planned as a pincer movement with the Old Ironsides landing on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. The primary objective for the Old Ironsides was to work toward securing bridgeheads for opening a second front to the rear of German and Italian forces. Allied soldiers experienced unexpected resistance from Vichy-French units, but the Old Ironsides helped suppress all resistance and were heading toward Tunisia within three days.

The invasion of Africa helped win the war

The invasion of North Africa accomplished a great deal for the Allies since American and British forces finally had the offensive against the Germans and Italians. For the first time, US and UK directives were able to dictate the tempo of events. Forced to fight on both the western and eastern fronts, the German-Italian forces had the additional burden of having to plan and prepare for attacks in North Africa.

However, the harsh conditions of North Africa were quick teachers for the new Old Ironsides soldiers. In February 1943, the Old Ironsides met a better trained German armored force at Kasserine Pass, and the division sustained heavy losses in both service members and equipment.

The division was forced to withdraw, but the Old Ironsides used their retreat time to review the battle and prepare for the next one. After three more months of hard fighting, the Allies claimed victory in North Africa.

The Old Ironsides were recognized publicly for their efforts and then moved to Naples to support Allied forces there.

The Infamous Winter Line Attack

As part of the 5th Army, the 1st Armored Division took part in the attack on the Winter Line in November 1943. Old Ironsides flanked Axis forces in the landings at Anzio and then participated in the liberation of Rome in June. The unit continued to serve in the Italian Campaign until German forces surrendered in May 1945. One month later, Old Ironsides was moved to Germany as part of the US occupation forces stationed there.

WWII to present 

In the drawdown after WWII, the 1st Armored Division was deactivated in 1946 but was then reactivated in 1951 at Fort Hood, where it was the first Army unit to field the new M48 Patton tank. Currently, the unit home is Fort Bliss, Texas, but it previously was housed at Baumholder, Germany. With the relocation, the unit went from roughly 9,000 soldiers to more than 34,000.

In 2019, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team turned its smaller vehicles in for Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

MIGHTY CULTURE

All this World War II veteran wants for his 100th birthday is cards. Here’s how to send.

Alvin “Bob” River was born on December 25, 1920. A Missouri native, he once traveled with his family by wagon at 12 years old when they moved from one town to the next. His middle name is actually Edward, but he got the nickname “Bob” from a memorable childhood indiscretion. In the first grade, a girl sitting in the desk directly in front of him had long hair and one of her curls kept ending up on his desk. Tired of it, as only a six year old could be, he cut it off. Thoroughly punished and forced to apologize profusely, the deed was done and the nickname stuck. He would be “Bob” for the rest of his life. 

His family made their living farming, something his oldest brother took on when he was old enough. World War II had other plans for Bob – he was drafted into the Army in 1944. Deployed to Frankfurt, Germany – he was responsible for the upkeep of the motorpool. “They kept all of the jeeps going for all of the generals,” Betty shared. He spent two years overseas, seeing and experiencing things he rarely discussed with his family. He returned back to Missouri in 1946 and began building a life after war. 

Bob found himself at a basketball game fundraiser for Polio not long after getting home. Unbeknownst to him, his future wife was there too. “He was standing by the door as I was leaving the game and my sister ran back to ask him if he’d be my date to the dance we were going to. He said yes,” Betty said with a smile in her voice. Soon after that dance, they began dating in earnest. Betty shared that they loved to go to the local skating rink together. They were eventually married. Bob and Betty have now been married for 66 years. 

Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments

A good natured man, Betty shared that he was always kind to everyone. He lived his life by the creed of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. They had two children together and now boast two grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren – with one more on the way. Betty said that they always “ran around” with a younger crowd, staying busy and never letting their age stop them from adventure. When Bob turned 99, he began to slow down and forget some things. 

Dementia started a decline that eventually led to “sundowners syndrome,” a pattern of confusion, agitation, paranoia and fear. In April of 2020 Betty went with Bob to their daughter’s home for help but after two weeks and a bad fall, they knew it was time for outside assistance. Bob was taken to the Harry S Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital in Columbia, Missouri. Doctors there told Betty what she knew, he could no longer remain at home for care. Although devastated, the family recognized that it was the best thing for him. 

As COVID-19 continued to create havoc throughout the world, the VA home closed its doors to protect its residents. But Bob wasn’t alone, for the staff there immediately fell in love with him just like everyone else. The maintenance staff in particular loved him dearly, adopting him as their own. Although he was initially going to transfer to a different hospital to be closer to family, the VA home begged to “keep” him. Seeing how adored he was and how happily settled he was becoming, the family made the choice to keep him where he was.

When the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved, Bob was the first resident to receive it. 

Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments

On Christmas Day, Bob will turn 100 years old. The family is giddy with excitement because they’ve been granted approval to come on his birthday to sing to him and be together for the first time since the pandemic started. With restrictions on socializing still in place, there isn’t much he can do to stay busy. It is their hope that they can shower Bob with birthday cards and letters, to show him how much he is loved. 

It will also show him that he hasn’t been forgotten. 

Bob is one of the last of his generation of World War II veterans. Their stories of courage and sacrifice will soon be gone and lost forever. Take this holiday season to remember them and truly recognize what they did for America. A true “thank you” for their service lies not in words, but in action and how you live your life. Do it in a way that honors them and all veterans, every single day.

To mail Bob a letter or card for his 100th birthday, send it to the address below:

Harry S Truman Memorial VA Hospital 

Attn: Alvin “Bob” River, CLC Third Floor

800 Hospital Drive 

Columbia, Missouri, 65201

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to make restaurants a healthy part of your meal plan

Whether it’s dinner from your neighborhood carry out or going to lunch with friends, eating out is a part of everyone’s life. Having diabetes can make this tough, but with planning and thoughtful choices, you can enjoy a variety of healthy foods away from home. Use these tips to enjoy eating out while still sticking to your routine of eating healthy for diabetes.


Plan ahead

While restaurants are in the business of selling food, and not necessarily helping you stick to your diet, many offer healthy food choices and alternatives. You can plan what you want to order ahead of time by looking at menus online. It’s also easier to make healthy food choices if you’re not starving, so before a party or dinner, enjoy a diabetic-friendly snack. If you are going to a friend’s house, ask if you can bring food to share. That way you’ll know there are healthy options to eat.

Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments

Know the amount of carbs you should have in each meal.

If you have diabetes, it’s important to know the number of carbohydrates you should have in each meal. Carbs can raise blood sugar levels more than other nutrients, so it’s best to monitor them. Try limiting cheese, bacon bits, croutons, and other add-ons that can increase a meal’s calories, fat, and carbohydrates.

Mind your portions

Many restaurants pack their plates with portions that are often twice the recommended serving size. You can avoid the temptation to overeat by:

  • Choosing a half-size or lunch portion.
  • Sharing meals with a dining partner.
  • Requesting a take-home container to put half your food in before you start to eat your meal.
  • Making a meal out of a salad or soup and an appetizer.
Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments

Fresh fruit and vegetables promote healthy eating habits.

When at parties, choose the smallest plate available or a napkin to keep from overeating. A good rule of thumb is to fill half of your plate with vegetables or salad. Then split the other half of your plate between protein and non-starchy carbohydrates. If you have a sweet tooth, fruit is a good choice for dessert. Since you likely don’t have a measuring cup or food scale handy, you can estimate serving sizes based on your hands:

  • 2 to 3 ounces is about the size of your palm
  • ½ cup is about the size of your cupped hand
  • 1 cup is about the size of your full fist

Healthier alternatives

As you decide what foods to add to your meal, consider how they are prepared. Rather than ordering something breaded or fried, ask that your food be:

  • Broiled
  • Roasted
  • Grilled
  • Steamed
Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments

Don’t settle for the side dish that comes with your meal. Instead of fries, choose a side salad with fat-free or low-fat salad dressing, or extra vegetables. You can also control how much fat you eat by requesting butter, sour cream, gravy and sauces on the side. If you choose a sandwich, swap house dressings or creamy sauces for ketchup, mustard, horseradish or fresh tomato slices. Drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks is an easy way to rack up calories, so instead opt for water or unsweetened ice tea. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one serving and choose options with fewer calories and carbs, such as:

  • Light beer
  • Dry wines
  • Mixed drinks made with sugar-free mixers, such as diet soda, diet tonic, club soda or seltzer

Add it to your food journal

Keeping a food journal is a great way to stay aware of what you eat each day. Diabetic veterans can track both their meals and vitals with My HealtheVet’s Track Health feature. Before your meal, take and enter your blood sugar level. Once you are done eating, record the foods you chose. This will help you – and your doctor – understand your eating habits and create a diabetes meal plan that meets your lifestyle and health needs.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time India took half of Pakistan to pay for a motorcycle

In 1947, British officer Yahya Khan offered his colleague 1,000 rupees for his spiffy red motorcycle. His colleague, Sam Manekshaw, agreed. But before Khan could pay, he was off to what was going to become Pakistan. The British split its Indian colony, and things on the subcontinent have been pretty tense ever since. To top it all off, Yahya Khan didn’t pay for the motorbike.

But he would, even if it took almost 25 years.


Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments

Manekshaw (middle) whose mustache game was top notch.

The Partition of India was much more than the splitting of the British Raj into two independent states. It was a catastrophic split that tore apart the country and created millions of refugees, cost millions of lives, and split the armed forces of the country in two, all based on religion. Violence erupted almost immediately between the two groups on such a large scale that much of it has never been forgotten or forgiven. Animosity continued between both sides for decades, and the two have fought war after war because of the myriad issues left unaddressed.

By 1970, Sam Manekshaw was a Field Marshal, the Chief of Staff of India’s Army, and war hero known to the people as “Sam the Brave.” Yahya Khan was a General who fought for Pakistan against India in 1947 and again in 1965. Now he was the president of Pakistan who had taken power using the Pakistani military. East Pakistani refugees were flooding into India because Yahya would not accept the most recent elections, and India’s President, Indira Gandhi, told Manekshaw she wanted Pakistan split into two by force, creating the new country of Bangladesh. Gandhi gave him free rein to do it however he could.

Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments

Khan would be deposed and die under house arrest after being stripped of his honors during the rest of the decade.

In Pakistan, the ever-present tensions with India were ready to boil over once again. But the Pakistanis didn’t send the Army to India; they sent it into East Pakistan – where the Pakistanis immediately began slaughtering Bengalis in East Pakistan. By 1971 Bengalis in Pakistan declared independence from Pakistan in response. India immediately supported the new country, first vocally, then though training the Bangladeshis, and next with air support. Finally, in 1971, Manekshaw was ready. He had spent much of the year readying and positioning Indian armor, infantry, and air units. On Dec. 3, 1971, he struck.

The Pakistani Navy’s fuel reserves were destroyed. The Indian Air Force hit Pakistan with almost 6,000 sorties in the next two weeks, destroying much of Pakistan’s Air Force on the ground as the Indian Army advanced, capturing some 15,000 square kilometers. Within two weeks, Pakistan folded like a card table. All Pakistani forces in East Pakistan surrendered to India, the genocide ended, and Bangladesh was born.

After the surrender agreement was signed, Manekshaw was said to have remarked:

“Yahya never paid me the 1,000 rupees for my motorbike, but now he has paid with half his country.”
MIGHTY CULTURE

Everything you need to know about today’s National POW/MIA day

Established in 1979 through a proclamation signed by President Jimmy Carter, National POW/MIA Recognition Day is an annual event held on the third Friday of September. This event is usually held at the Pentagon and is often observed at military installations around the country.

Generally somber events, the observances at installations around the country mark the fact that the American military does not forget about our Prisoners of War or those Missing in Action. Here’s everything you need to know about this important day.


The first POW/MIA Recognition Day included a ceremony held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The 1st Tactical Squadron from Langley Air Force Base flew the Missing Man formation.

The Missing Man Formation

This formation is an aerial salute performed as part of a fly-past of aircraft at funerals and memorial events. There are several variations of this formation, but the most common is based on the “finger-four” aircraft combat formation, which includes two pairs of aircraft.

Aircraft fly in a V-shape with the flight leader at a point and his wingman on his left. The second set of aircraft replicates the shape, with a wingman on the right. The formation flies over the event low enough to be seen. Once seen, their airman leading the second set pulls out of formation, and the remaining three aircraft continue in level flight until all are out of sight.

You Are Not Forgotten

This is the central phrase belonging to all POW/MIA remembrances to remind family members that America still concerns itself with those who are missing in action or who are suffering as prisoners of war.

POW/MIA Recognition Day aims to ensure that every American remembers to support those who serve in the military and risk their lives for our freedoms.

POW/MIA by the numbers

A Congressional research service report on POWs showed that 37 service members had been imprisoned during conflicts since 1991. This includes both Gulf Wars. At the time of writing, none of the POWs are still in captivity. However, during WWII, 130,201 service members were captured and imprisoned, and 14,072 died.

During the Korean War, 7,140 service members were imprisoned; 2,701 of them died. Of the 725 service members imprisoned during the Vietnam War, 64 died.

Of all the service personnel who participated in these wars, there are still 83,114 missing Americans. This includes six from conflicts from 1991, 126 from the Cold War, 1,626 from the Vietnam War, 7,841 from the Korean War, and approximately 73,515 from WWII.

Roughly 75 percent of all missing American personnel are thought to be somewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. More than 41,000 have been presumed lost at sea.

There’s a little bit of hope 

Efforts to find these service members, identify them correctly and bring them home are constant. In 2019, 41 MIA service members from the Korean War were accounted for, and of them, ten were previously buried as unknowns. Remains turned over by North Korean authorities helped identify 26, one was a recovery operation and four were combinations of recovery operations and the return of remains.

Fly the POW/MIA Flag

WWII pilot Newt Heisley designed the very famous POW/MIA flag, which features a black background and white lettering. The black and white color scheme was selected by Heisley to represent the sorrow and anxiety that accompanies POW and MIA service members. The hope that we all must have is represented by the image of a gaunt man featured on the flag.

Since 1982, for every POW/MIA Recognition Day, the flag has flown just below the National Colors at the White House, and it’s the only flag ever to do so. The flag is also flown on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.

Flying a flag at home helps remind us never to forget our POWs and those missing in action. No matter if you fly the colors or choose to wear a bracelet or piece of clothing to show your support, it’s important to remember the sacrifices that POWs and MIAs have made for our country and how we have to live up to our end of the bargain to help them make it back home.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret Foundation announces historic accreditation by Veterans Affairs

The Green Beret Foundation is the premiere benevolent organization dedicated to the Special Forces soldiers and their families. The organization is now poised to do even more thanks to its newly announced Veterans Services Organization accreditation by the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The Green Beret Foundation’s accreditation by Veterans Affairs is an accomplishment that GBF is extremely proud of. At this time, it is the only special operations charity to hold the distinction. The organization recognizes the deep impact and importance the accreditation offers and leadership states that they look forward to being able to greatly expand their ability to serve. 

“The overall health and wellness of a Green Beret and their family is our priority, and this accreditation is a testament to our expertise and level of support as the premier benevolent organization in the Special Forces community,” Brent Cooper, Executive Director of GBF shared. 

While the GBF has been supporting its Special Forces soldiers with their needs from the VA for some time, its hands were tied with how much help they could give in many areas. With the new accreditation, the GBF can now walk alongside its soldiers throughout the entirety of the VA claims process, which is known to be cumbersome and difficult to navigate even with support.

John Armezzani is the Veterans Services Director for the claims process with the VA. In a statement posted to the GBF website, Armezzani shared that, “This process, which may range from initiating claims to carrying them through VA and Board of Veterans Appeals hearings when necessary, will greatly enhance the capability of the GBF and its Next Ridgeline program to provide unique assistance throughout the life of our Special Forces veterans.”

One deeply impactful way the Green Beret Foundation’s accreditation will help is by being able to more fully support its soldiers as they leave the military. “This [accreditation] allows the GBF to expand it’s Transition Assistance Program from providing general informational briefings on benefits to filing the benefits claims for those separating service members,” Armezzani explained. 

Not only will the organization be doing more to ensure its Special Forces soldiers receive the support they may need as they get out, but it will be able to be there throughout issues of hardship too. “GBF now has the ability to provide benefits assistance to Green Berets with life events such as change of career or in the event of a catastrophic health event. This includes dependents too,” Armezzani stated. 

As the Special Forces soldiers from the Vietnam War era continue to age, their needs will most likely increase. The VSO accreditation will allow the GBF to step in and support these honored veterans by being their voices in the benefits claims process. “Inherent in this accreditation is the ability to provide benefits assistance to our legacy holders from the Vietnam era as they enter into the twilight of their lives,” Armezzani said.

Perhaps one of the most impactful parts of the announcement is the ability for the GBF to now represent its Special Forces Soldiers in the appeal process. “We will be able to represent Green Berets in appellate actions before the Board of Veterans Appeals when they disagree with a VA decision,” Armezzani said. No longer will they have to fight appeals without support, the GBF will be right there with them and will fight to ensure they are heard.

The ultimate goal of this newly-expanded program is to be able to install a representative at each location where a Special Forces Group is located. This will all be made possible through the generosity of donors and future fundraising efforts. 

The Green Beret Foundation remains committed to ensuring that every single Special Forces soldier is not only honored for their service to this nation but also cared for the way they deserve. Although the VA VSO accreditation is an impressive and important feat to have achieved, GBF is ready to do even more. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

How one former Green Beret is changing everything about NFL recruiting

Making it through selection to serve in one of America’s elite special operations units marks an unusual milestone in a service member’s career. Making the cut serves as the culmination of a lifetime of preparation and hard work, while simultaneously ushering in a new era full of brutal challenges, higher stakes, and even longer days ahead. Becoming a Green Beret is a lot like earning a spot on a professional football team: when everyone is elite, it takes something special to stand out.

Former Green Beret and current Director of Player Development for the Indianapolis Colts Brian Decker knows that, and he’s managed to quantify that something special into a model that improved candidate selection rates by thirty percent in his last Special Forces unit. Now, he’s brought that same model to the NFL.


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Brian Decker

(Courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts)

“What Brian did was change the paradigm,” said Col. Glenn Thomas, Decker’s former boss at Fort Bragg. “People get accustomed to looking at things the same way and applying the same solutions to the same problems. Brian challenged our assumptions. He took things that had generally been intangibles and turned them into tangibles.”

Football is, in many ways, analogous for war, with a combination of strategy and brute force playing out in a melee of individual skirmishes with the singular goal of advancing deep into enemy territory. The stakes in a football game are lower than in war, of course, but in the minds and hearts of those playing, themes like sacrifice and commitment are just prevalent between the hash marks as they are on the battlefield.

The thing is, despite the hard metrics both NFL teams and military units have been measuring for decades (using tests to assess things like speed and strength), many would contend that once a person has proven their physical ability to perform at that level, the real elements that dictate success or failure tend to be less tangible. A timed run can’t measure a soldier’s ability to dig deep in a firefight, nor can a series of drills determine if a rookie could handle the incredible pressure of playing at the professional level.

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Decker believes there are some things that set elite operators apart in all fields, whether we’re talking combat operations or professional football.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lewis)

“One of the things about professional sports, rock climbing, parachuting, jumping from 123,000 feet in space to Earth, they’re all really hard things to do,” Decker explains.

“I think if you remove the sport, specific skills and domain from it, you find that (elite performers) are a lot alike. I think the demands placed upon greatness look a lot alike, regardless of field.”

Roughly half of all first-round draft picks in the NFL wash out of the league, and with so much money riding on these decisions, NFL teams have spent years trying to devise ways to predict a player’s success before they sign the contract. From Decker’s perspective, however, they simply haven’t been measuring the right things.

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Teams are taking big financial risks with their draft picks. The entire franchise could be effected by these decisions for years to come.

(Swimfinfan on Flickr)

So Decker set out to quantify the unquantifiable–to find a way to use numerical measurements for seemingly intangible elements of a player’s personality like their drive or desire to succeed, their responses to stress, and their emotional intelligence. If all other things are equal, Decker’s approach states, it’s those qualifiers that will indicate the likelihood of a player’s (or Special Forces candidate’s) success.

The hard part is assigning hard numbers to such things in a uniform way, and while Decker won’t reveal the exact metrics he uses for his assessments, the success his program has been enjoying in the Colts’ locker room seems to speak for itself.

“Every team in the league is doing a lot of work in terms of psychological evaluations, and has been doing it forever and ever,” says Joe Banner, the former Browns CEO who gave Decker his first job in the league in 2014.

“But his approach, and the types of questions he asks, and his ability to synthesize information and get to the right conclusions, that part of it is absolutely groundbreaking. There is nobody in the league doing what he’s doing as effectively.”

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Last season the Colts went 10-6, marking a turnaround for the franchise.

(Indianapolis Colts)

Once Decker has met with a prospective player and made his assessments, he always follows the math up with five specific questions meant to steer his line of thinking:

Does this player have a favorable development profile?

Does he have a profile that supports handling pressure and adversity?

Does he have a good learning and support system?

Is he a character risk, and if so, how do we understand that risk and help this player?

Is he a good fit?

But it takes a lot more than assigning some figures and asking lofty questions. Prior to this season’s draft, Decker interviewed and assessed over 160 players. Next year, he plans to top 300.

“This is a commitment industry,” Decker, who served in the military for 22 years, explains. “That’s another thing I like about football. You can’t just be here for the T-shirt. You gotta give a pound of flesh to do this.”

Articles

Former SEAL uses life lessons to mentor at-risk youth

“It’s really hard for me to quit anything … I expect to have bad days. I expect to make mistakes and have setbacks. It’s just second nature for me to keep moving.”

Writer, producer and former Navy SEAL Remi Adeleke doesn’t fit into molds. His life has been filled with a gamut of opportunities for which he didn’t qualify. But with help from a recruiter and the voice of his mom in his mind reminding him of excellence, he proved that he would overcome the bad choices he’d made as an at-risk youth to master his future.

Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments

Now, he’s passionate about motivating young people of the same background to know what they can accomplish beyond the limitations society has put on them based on their race or what area they’re from.

Adeleke didn’t grow up with hopes of becoming a Navy SEAL. He’d never seen one in person or thought about becoming a member of the highly-trained elite team of special operations forces. They were just the intriguing cool guys in the movies.

His father died when he was a young boy, and his mom was left alone to care for him and his brother Bayo. So, she moved her family from Africa to the Bronx in New York City. Unfortunately, inner-city communities like the Bronx are plagued with crime, high unemployment, inadequate educational opportunities, and extreme poverty, and Adeleke became a product of his surroundings. He was selling drugs and getting into other illegal activities. By the time he tried to join the military, he had two warrants out for his arrest. But Adeleke had an unexpected supporter that changed his life. His recruiter, Tianna Reyes, was a fellow Bronx native who understood his environment and went to bat for him because she knew no one else would give him a chance.

“She really believed in me,” he said. As a result, his record was expunged, and on July 2, 2002, he was sworn into the U.S. Navy.

Adeleke’s first time learning about special operations forces was in boot camp, and he was hooked.

“My mom always preached excellence to me … and to me, being a SEAL was excellence personified,” he said.

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But once again, he didn’t fit the bill.

“I was totally unqualified to go to BUD/S (basic underwater demolition SEAL training) because I didn’t have the academic scores. My ASVAB scores weren’t high enough. I couldn’t swim. I couldn’t run. I was super skinny, and I was not in shape for the program,” Adeleke explained.

But during his first command at Camp Pendleton, he took matters into his own hands.

“I created a regimen and started training. I would run three miles to the pool, jump in the shallow end, and try to figure it out. Over time I began to get better, and I would run three miles back to my barracks,” he said.

He also purchased the book “ASVAB for Dummies” and eventually retook the test.

Adeleke then went even further and asked his leading petty officer to give him a split shift schedule so he could train harder. He qualified for SEAL training within six months, but this still didn’t seal the deal for him. After a year of being in SEAL training, he had failed his aquatic test so many times that he was kicked out.

“I failed a dive test four times and ultimately got kicked out of school,” he added.

Still, he refused to quit after being sent back to the fleet. Adeleke trained for a-year-and-half with the Marines and went back to SEAL training and became a SEAL.

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In his book “Transformed,” he documents his life, the challenges he’s faced, and the lessons he’s learned. His driving force now is giving back to communities like the one he grew up in. Acting in a major film — “Transformers: The Last Knight” — and now working as a screenwriter and director aren’t enough if he can’t share the lessons. He attributes this to one thing — his faith.

“This is not about me. It’s about people. How can I serve people? How can I bless people?” he said.

Adeleke emphasizes a desire to expose Black youths to the Navy SEALs, as he was the only Black graduate in his class of SEALs. Since 2012, the U.S. Navy has stated it is actively looking for minority SEALs, yet less than 1% of them are Black. Adeleke says part of the blame goes to Hollywood for the lack of positive Black images they put in the world.

“You don’t see a Black James Bond … A lot of white kids see themselves every time they turn on a TV or every time they watch a movie.”

The idea that white people can do anything is normalized and reinforced by Hollywood, while Black children rarely see themselves in strong, affluent roles.

Exposure to proper education is another mission. Not only are the kids not exposed to SEALs, but urban schools also lack essential tools required to join, like access to pools to learn to swim.

“You don’t see educators allowing top tier military professionals such as special operators, pilots, or doctors into their inner-city schools to say you can do this too,” he explained.

To add to the lack of representation, Adeleke has received layers of pushback from inner-city schools and prisons when his team asks if he can speak to the inmates or students.

“The schools that give me the hardest time to get into [to speak] are inner-city, predominantly African American schools,” he said.

His frustration is palpable. The root of the problem is that predominantly white schools are financially backed with an outpouring of community support to expand and better their students’ opportunities. In contrast, minority community schools, which mostly receive funding from property taxes, still fall victim to the American system’s discrimination.

Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments
Read Remi’s story on page 10 of the February issue of the Military Influencer Magazine.

“You’ve got to go through all this red tape. But when you go to these schools in suburbia, it’s, ‘Hey, you want to come speak? Come!’ I’ve got an open-door policy to so many schools in suburban areas, but I don’t in urban areas,” Adeleke shared.

And when asking the reason, he is told it’s the city officials and their rules. But Adeleke has a knack for breaking down barriers.

“Overcoming adversity has become second nature to me,” he said. “I kind of learned that through osmosis by living with my mother.”

During 2020, as big brands claimed they would actively diversify and seek out Black creators, one major studio stuck to their word and sought Adeleke out to produce a show.

“In the Hollywood side, I have seen some things change,” he said.

As his weight in Hollywood grows, Adeleke hopes to help give minority youth more exposure and experiences through the imprint of his future television and film work.

To purchase a copy of “Transformed: A Navy SEAL’s Unlikely Journey from the Throne of Africa, to the Streets of the Bronx, to Defying All Odds,” visit any major book retailer including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments
MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the only female Harrier pilot in the Corps

When people meet Capt. Kelsey Casey, they don’t initially think the petite, young woman with an energetic personality is a pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps, but once she starts talking, her charisma becomes apparent, and it’s understandable why she’s the only female AV-8B Harrier pilot in the Marine Corps.

Her dream of flying started at space camp at a young age. To her delight, she was picked to be the simulated pilot and climbed into a small, fake cockpit built to simulate a spaceship taking off.


“Coming out of the final mission, we walked down a hall and all along the walls were these giant posters with every single astronaut team that had been to space,” Casey’s voice changed as she remembered, her eyes searching for the memory. “There were women in some of the later ones. I looked up at that and thought, ‘if they can do it, maybe I can too.’ That’s where it started.”

Casey attended the U.S. Naval Academy following high school. She planned to major in aerospace engineering and Chinese, but learned she would have to attend a year longer than planned, putting her at the bottom of the list to be a pilot. This eliminated her goal of becoming a pilot via the academy route. To fulfill her dream, Casey had only one option — leave the academy.

Casey found herself trekking across the country with everything she owned, trying to navigate her way through a snowstorm. She was alone, scared and her dreams seemed unattainable.

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Capt. Kelsey Casey.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)

It was her insatiable tenacity and refined grit which led her through the years that followed.

“I’m driving across the country, calling my mom for directions while she also signs me up for courses at a community college in California,” Casey said. “All I could think was ‘wow, my family is going to disown me, I just left this amazing school with a full-ride scholarship, what am I going to do?’ It was a scary thing to go through as a 19-year-old, but it made me better.”

The way Casey saw it, she had only two options: give up or complete her degree and fly. She chose the latter, and like all Marines, attacked the obstacles in front of her to accomplish her mission.

“She was always a little fireball and tireless,” said Nyna Armstrong, Casey’s mother. “She never grows any moss, she’s always moving and is always going in whatever direction she wants despite what challenges she might [face].”

After leaving the academy, Casey made her way to the Bay Area to attend San Francisco State University. During her senior year at SFSU, Casey found herself longing to return to the Naval Academy to fulfill her dream. Again she applied to the academy but was denied. At this point in her life, she was accustomed to adversity and was experienced at overcoming it.

Refusing to give up, she sought out information and spoke to mentors, who encouraged her to pursue a career as a military officer. As a result of her unwillingness to quit, she found a way to accomplish her dream. After she earned a Bachelor of the Arts degree in political science at SFSU, Casey left for Marine Corps Officer Candidate School.

“My daughters and I never look to have special treatment because we are women,” said Armstrong. “The fact she is the only female is a testament to her skill and her drive and her work ethic.”

Though her experience with the Marine Corps has been mostly positive, there have been interesting moments for Casey.

While sitting at breakfast with her Marines, a nice older gentlemen with a veteran hat approached them, Casey explained. They all were in flight suits and wearing the same patches when the gentleman asked their table if they were all pilots. He seemed surprised to see Casey and specifically asked her if they let her fly. She laughed and informed him that not only was she a pilot, but she was also the one in charge.

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Capt. Kelsey Casey.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)

Interactions like these are somewhat common and highlight a misconception of gender roles in the military; situations such as this motivate Casey to keep proving them wrong.

“As you move, you just keep on making that shift until you finally look around and realize you’ve made it,” she said. “But I don’t feel like I’ve really made it until I’m at an event somewhere and someone comes up to me, and they say ‘I want my daughter or my son to be like you, you are a fantastic role model.'”

Casey believes that the most important lesson is to keep moving forward — an ethos she learned from her uncle, who told her “they can’t kill you, and they can’t stop time.” This advice has helped her overcome many obstacles.

“It’s okay if it doesn’t work out the first time, and you make horrible mistakes because the next thing you know, I ended up getting internships, worked at the state department as an intern, and I worked in a congressman’s office,” said Casey. “I also moved to Colorado to be raft guide for a while before going to The Basic School because I could and then I still ended up going to TBS, commissioning as an officer and becoming a pilot.”

Casey has come a long way since being that wide-eyed little girl with aspirations of flying.

“I don’t think I’m better than anybody else ever,” she said. “I’m very good at failing but I don’t give up after I fail. Just don’t give up. It might take way longer than you thought, it might be really, really hard but anything that’s worth it is going to be hard but it will be worth it.”

Despite a difficult start, Casey succeeded and continued to excel. She completed her training and earned her wings of gold.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines and sailors visit Iwo Jima for ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’

74 years ago the U.S. Marine Corps underestimated their enemy, what they had anticipated to be a short battle against the outnumbered Japanese troops ended up as a 36-day siege resulting in nearly 7,000 Marines losing their lives. There was no doubt the U.S. would successfully complete their mission, however the landing forces were not prepared for the Japanese that were well entrenched and had prepared for battle, resulting in one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. Marine Corps history.

Iwo Jima has since become a memorial ground to honor all of the American and Japanese troops that died in the battle. Today Japan and the U.S. are allies, on occasion service members are able to visit the island and reflect on the history. Stepping foot on an iconic battle site of World War II is a once in a lifetime opportunity that most service members do not get to experience. Marines and sailors of Okinawa were fortunate enough to visit the island and learn about some of the history of that Battle.


A professional military education presentation was given on the beaches by U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Evan C. Clark, the training officer of 7th Communication Battalion, July 2, 2019. The Marines and sailors hiked the 5k trail from the flight line to the beach, along the way were various memorials of those who fought during this 36-day battle.

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U.S. Navy Lt. Hal Jones prays at the base of Mt. Suribachi, Japan, July 2, 2019. Jones, the Navy Chaplain of 7th Communication Battalion, spoke with the Marines and sailors and did a moment of silence to honor the service members that died in the Battle of Iwo Jima.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)

“One memorial stood out to me as especially moving,” said Clark. “There was a memorial built where U.S. and Japanese veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima were brought back, where they met stands a plaque honoring their reunion.”

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Marines and Sailors of 7th Communication Battalion hiked to the beaches of Iwo Jima, Japan, July 2, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)

The plaque was made for the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima when American and Japanese veterans of the war returned to the island. They came together in friendship to honor the sacrifices of those who fought bravely and honorably.

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Marines and Sailors of 7th Communication Battalion collect sand from the beaches of Iwo Jima, Japan, July 2, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)

Following the presentation, U.S. Navy Lt. Hal Jones, the Chaplain for 7th Comm. Bn. offered a prayer and proposed a moment of silence to honor and respect all of the people that died during the events that took place on Iwo Jima.

“Any person that has served has seen pictures from Iwo Jima, particularly the raising of the flag on Mt. Suribachi,” said Jones.

But it’s impossible to fully comprehend from just pictures as to how many bodies were here strewn all over the beach and the extreme difficulty they went through. Being here has brought a better understanding of what took place here. — U.S. Navy Lt. Hal Jones, the Chaplain for 7th Comm
Famous NFL coach, World War II Veteran eager to add to his literary accomplishments

Marines and Sailors of 7th Communication Battalion listen during a Professional Military Education on the beaches of Iwo Jima, July 2, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brienna Tuck)

Both Clark and Jones said they believe the presentation to be important and beneficial to the Marines and sailors serving their country.

“More than anything, it is a reminder of our history,” said Clark. “This is why we exist as a service. This is where we rediscover the importance of what the Marine Corps does.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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