When my daughter asked if she could interview me about where I was on September, 11, 2001, I didn’t hesitate with my answers. Like the rest of the country, I remember in vivid detail where I was when I heard a rogue plane had flown into the World Trade Center.
My grandfather had died just days before, and I was sleeping on an air mattress at my grandma’s house when an aunt rushed in the front door, imploring us to turn on the television. I remember exactly how I felt, watching the second plane, on live TV, careen into the South Tower. I so vividly remember the pause — the disbelief, the horror, of the news anchor, clamoring for words while the world realized we were under attack.
I can still feel the hot tears on my cheeks as the towers fell, thinking of the thousands of people trapped inside, waiting for a rescue that wouldn’t come. Nineteen years later, I can still hear the recordings of the phone calls from UA93 with messages of love and hope, sadness and resolve.
For so many of our military families, we remember with almost a painstaking detail the moments, hours, days and weeks that followed – the start of 19 years of war. Our operational tempo hasn’t slowed since, and while we may be weary, our commitment to service hasn’t faltered.
We all remember exactly where we were when we heard the news of a terrorist attack on that beautiful, clear Tuesday morning in September.
But what I can’t remember is the night before. I don’t remember September 10, 2001. Who I called. What I said. How I spoke to or treated the people I love the most. I can’t remember how I felt that night, or how I made others feel. While the rest of the world will remember 9/11 – as we all should – I seem to always spend more time reflecting about 9/10.
I’ll spend today and tonight in deep reflection — hoping that the mommies made time for one more story, the daddies had patience for one more hug. I pray that couples went to sleep holding hands instead of onto arguments or petty fights. I’ll hope that friends found words of forgiveness and that the children too busy to call their parents made time.
Today, I think of the hundreds of people who packed suitcases, briefcases, even diaper bags thinking that “tomorrow” would be just another day. Today, I’ll spend a little extra time practicing gratitude, being intentional with my children and offering more words of support, tenderness and empathy. I hope you’ll join me.
In a time of such great divisiveness of our country, let us take today to remember that we are better United. We are stronger as humans, as brothers and sisters, and as Americans, when we can find tolerance, kindness, mercy and love.
Let the heroes of 9/11 — and their unfinished stories on 9/10 — remind us that tomorrow is never “just another day.”
Tessa Robinson serves as Managing Editor for We Are The Mighty and she loves showcasing military spouse and veteran voices. Email her at email@example.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.
How do you get 38,000-plus World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the country’s memorial to their service? Fly them, of course. That’s roughly how many vets and caretakers are on the Honor Flight Network’s waiting list. But United Airlines, American Airlines, and most others aren’t just giving away free seats for veterans. That’s where Honor Flight comes in, but it can’t do it alone. Like any other non-profit, it needs to raise money.
Good thing Honor Flight has the NFL’s most dominant defender at their side. The Houston Texans’ JJ Watt is putting his legendary fundraising skills to work for the 348 World War II veterans who die every day.
On Veterans Day 2019, JJ Watt launched a new shoe line with Reebok, calling it “Valor 2.” The shoe is dedicated to the memory of his late grandfather, who fought in Korea, including at Pork Chop Hill. Most importantly, the proceeds that would normally go to Watt for his work on the shoe will instead go to the Honor Flight Network, along with an additional ,000 kicker from Reebok.
Watt is no stranger to lending his name and time to support great causes. He raised an incredible .6 million to help rebuild Houston after it was devastated by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Now he’s using his clout and his status to make another miraculous save. This time the beneficiary is the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit whose mission is to take war veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated to their respective wars giving priority to World War II vets.
As he mentions in the above video, the Valor shoe Watt produced with Reebok in 2018 was a massive success, benefitting the Navy SEAL Foundation. The shoe sold out three times and Reebok restocked it three times. This shoe, along with the same camouflage pattern, also features the Korean War stripe on the back along with his name tape and unit, right up to the division level. Watt’s younger brother TJ Watt, an outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, wore the shoes during the Steelers’ Nov. 10 game against the Los Angeles Rams.
The JJ III, as it’s called on Reebok’s JJ Watt website, retails for 0 for men’s sizes and for boys. If you’re in the market for a new pair, pick up the JJ III and help a World War II or Korean War veteran see the monument to the work he or she did overseas.
Rescuer turned rescuee this week as a British diver involved in saving the trapped Thai soccer team last year needed the help of emergency services himself when he got trapped in a cave in Tennessee, The Guardian reported.
Josh Bratchley was rescued on April 17, 2019, after spending more than a day underground. Bratchley was part of the British cave diving team that helped in the high profile rescue of 12 Thai school boys and their soccer coach from the flooded Tham Luang cave last summer.
He had explored a cave in Jackson County, Tennessee on April 16, 2019, but failed to return to surface with the rest of his group at around 3.00 p.m. His fellow divers alerted 911 at 1.00 a.m. the next morning.
The Jackson County Emergency Management Agency said that specialized divers from Arkansas and Florida had to be flown in to help with the “highly technical issue,” CNN reported.
This NBC News video shows the moment the expert diver was brought to safety that same evening.
Diver Rescued After Being Trapped For 27 Hours In Tennessee Cave | NBC Nightly News
The expert diver was awake, alert, and oriented, EMA spokesman Derek Woolbright said a press conference.
“His only request when he got to the surface was that he wanted some pizza,” Woolbright said, according to The Guardian.
Edd Sorenson, a veteran technical cave diver, told journalists that he found Bratchley waiting in the mud with his gear off, NBC reported. The British diver’s expertise likely saved his life, Sorenson said.
“Most of the time on rescues, when I get there, they’re hysterical, they’re panicked, and that makes it very dangerous for me,” he said. “[Bratchley’s] mental state was impeccable. He’s a consummate professional.”
Sorenson said he was expecting the worst because there was limited visibility in the small cave system.
“Putting people in body bags all the time is no fun, and when you get to send one home, it’s an exceptional feeling,” he said.
Lieutenant Brian Krebs, from Chattanooga Hamilton County Rescue Services, also praised Bratchley’s composure, saying: “Most of what happened today here was Josh. His mental state when he came out was excellent.”
The former meteorologist was honored by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and was appointed to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, according to The Guardian.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thiisInsider on Twitter.
Comedian Kevin Hart stepped down from hosting the coming Academy Awards Presentation, leaving the job empty for the time being. Enter Adam Keys: A veteran and triple amputee, Adam lost his limbs after suffering from an IED attack in Afghanistan that left him with a massive infection. 100 surgeries later, Keys has never lost his sense of humor.
Now, he wants to showcase that humor by stepping up to host this year’s Oscar ceremonies.
Keys isn’t aiming for the Oscar job just because he wants to further his comedy career. As the video says, he wants to show that veterans aren’t broken and people with disabilities are as capable as anyone else. He wants to showcase that on Hollywood’s biggest night, with the whole world watching.
There’s not much Adam Keys can’t do, despite his disabilities. As the video states, he climbed Kilimanjaro and performs stand-up comedy in the DC area. Considering how he came to his injuries, his spirit and good humor are the stuff of legend. The blast broke the combat engineer’s jaw, left shoulder, humerus, and ankles. It killed three of his friends and nearly killed him, too. He wasn’t even able to speak for two months.
When he came to, he thought he was still in Afghanistan and needed to know where his rifle was. He was in a hospital in Bethesda – and the nurse had no idea what he meant. He was a wounded warrior, but now he’s ready to move past that. He says terms like “disabled veteran”and “wounded warrior” don’t apply to him.
“Yes, I was wounded,” he says. “But now I’m not. I want to get rid of that title and move past it, move forward. Move us all forward.”
There’s literally nothing he can’t do.
The idea for hosting the Oscars in place of Hart came to him while watching TMZ, looking for material for his standup act. The thought occurred to him, why not? He’d be nervous, but he’s nervous before any show he does.
“It will be a challenge for me,” Keys says. “I love challenging myself. And I get to help people and try to move us [veterans] all forward. I don’t know where it’ll take me, but anything is a step forward. I will hope I’ve done the right thing and made people proud of me, of us. Helping people is the added benefit.“
The 6th Marine Regiment color guard marches towards the parade field at Aisne-Marne American Memorial Cemetery in Belleau, France, May 29, 2016. The ceremony marks the 98th anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood and continues as a symbol of the everlasting brotherhood between the U.S. Marines and the French military. The cemetery, lined with epitaphs, marks hundreds of plots where military members from all around the world rest after giving the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Photo/Preston McDonald
I nearly died just days after arriving in Iraq. This was my first deployment and although I had never seen combat, I was a well-trained, physically fit, mentally prepared Marine. None of that mattered when a grenade landed near us. Luckily, we all walked away. That first patrol seemed like a blur at the time but years later the memory is still scarred into my brain, like a small burn on a child’s hand. It’s not about what happened that day but the reminder of what could have.
That reminder came just days after I returned home. One of my fellow Marines, a friend, was killed by a sniper’s bullet, then, another fell from a roof and died, and yet another lost his legs in an IED attack. I had survived months without a scratch but my friends who were just as well-trained were killed and injured within a week. My brain couldn’t understand the logic of what happened … because there is no logic in war.
You don’t get to pick where the bullet goes, you just have to face it. Since the founding of the United States, thousands of men and women have stared down our enemies. Many have paid the ultimate sacrifice and are still buried on the battlefields where they said their last words.
Sunrise in Section 35 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 25, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser/ Arlington National Cemetery / released)
Today, the living reminder of the fallen remains in places like Gettysburg, Arlington National Cemetery and Aisne-Marne, France. Over 100 years before I stepped foot into Iraq, thousands of Marines patrolled the forests of Belleau Wood. They were all that stood to protect Paris, and the war effort, from a German assault. Outnumbered, isolated and low on ammunition, they fought and held the line. Their tenacity in battle earned them the name “Teufel Hunden” or “Devil Dogs” by the Germans. This is a name that Marines proudly still use today.
In battle, words matter. “Covering fire” has a completely different meaning than “take cover.” “Fix” is different from “flank” and so on. In peace, words matter even more. When we think of war in terms of winning and losing, we not only do ourselves the disservice of simplifying the chaos of battle but we negate the reminder that the fallen give us.
A Sailor assigned to Special Operations Task Force West folds an American flag during a memorial marking the anniversary of the death of Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Trahan, an explosive ordnance disposal technician. Trahan was killed in action April 30, 2009 in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. U.S. Navy photo/Aaron Burden
While war may have a clear victor, there are no winners on the battlefield. The gravestones, memorials and scars – both physical and invisible – that veterans carry are the reminders of that.
We are the land of the free because of the brave. Countless men and women have raised their hand to serve our country with nothing expected in return. As it’s said, “All gave some, some gave all.” The very least we can give those who paid the ultimate price is to honor their memory, acknowledge their unyielding patriotism and cherish their last great act with awe and humility, for they willingly gave their lives in service of our great nation.
Whether you have lived in your house 10 days, 10 months or 10 years (is that even possible?!), there is always a need for more organization.
Military spouse or not, becoming more organized is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. Pinterest, TLC and Mari Kondo capitalize on these goals and provide wonderful ideas, tips and tricks. In addition to these marvelous tools, we have a few of our own military spouse-specific organization tips to help you get set in 2020.
1. Label all drawers, baskets and cupboards
Have you ever planned to put an item away only to realize you were envisioning its location in your previous home? Labels help us remember where we store things as well as inform our significant others. After deployment, readjusting is hard enough without having him/her put things away in areas they do not belong. Use a label maker to help clear your own brain fog and prevent lost items as result of misplacement.
(Photo by Tim Gouw)
2. Utilize a scanner
Medical records and school records are very important. Utilize scanning abilities to import documents into organized computer files and/or print documents to manually file them in a binder or a filing cabinet.
3. Update your Addresses
Perhaps you have a collection of ‘return to sender’ Christmas cards from military friends who moved within the last year. Now is the time to register with an online address collector (make your friends do the work), update your excel spreadsheet or use a pencil in an address book. Be sure to also include addresses from each home you have lived in. This will ease the task of filling out job applications that have you list each residence within the past five years (insert facepalm).
(Photo by Alejandro Escamilla)
4. Schedule everything
Just kidding. We all know once your calendar gets organized, duty will call and everything will need to change.
5. Add information to the contacts in your phone
When you scroll through your phone and find three Sarahs and two Johns listed, but you cannot remember who these people are, it is time to organize your contacts with more than just first and last names. Try listing the installation you were at, the city you lived in or some kind of description. This way you can identify the caller quicker than five minutes into the conversation when she finally mentions something that sparks a memory in your brain.
Moving may seem like the complete opposite of getting organized, however, it offers a great opportunity to purge, the first step in organization. Consider a PCS as a Personal Clearing of Stuff, and thank the military for allowing you to ask the question ‘does this spark joy?’
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
There you are, marching in a perfectly structured formation when you hear the command to halt. Along with the rest of your platoon, you stop on a dime. The whole unit looks well-disciplined as each service member stands up straight, assuming the position of attention.
You stand proudly in front of all your friends and family with your chest out and eyes forward. Then, suddenly, something weird begins to happen. You start to feel weak and your legs give out. You fall directly to the ground like a sack of potatoes.
The next thing you know, your eyes open, you see the medic, and you realize you just passed the f*ck out in front of everyone. How freakin’ embarrassing, right?
Well, you just experienced what medical professionals call “syncope,” which is the loss of consciousness due to decreased blood pressure. During bouts of hypotension (lowered blood pressure), our brains aren’t getting the oxygen or glucose they need, so it shuts down as it tries to recover.
So, why would someone pass out in formation? Well, it could be one of several happenings within the body.
Fainting can be a reaction to intense stress triggers, like seeing something crazy, being exposed to heat, or standing for long periods of time. This is called a vasovagal syncope, and it occurs when the part of your brain that governs heart rate malfunctions in response to an external trigger. So, if you’re standing completely still in the heat for long enough and you start to feel lightheaded, this might be what’s happening behind the scenes.
A sudden change of position may also be to blame. Our blood vessels change width to make sure every part of our body is getting the supply it needs. Sometimes, however, our vessels can’t keep up with the rapid changes to the body’s position. If you’re laying or sitting down, our heart rates are low. If we then quickly stand, our hearts have to speed themselves up in mere moments — sending blood rushing to the brain. This can cause momentary lightheadedness — and, in extreme cases, you might pass out.
Hunger may also be a factor in why your body shuts down. Your brain needs glucose to function — and glucose comes from eating. So, remember to snack before you take on those high-impact activities you like to do on the weekends.
Lastly, not properly hydrating is also to blame. Without enough water, your blood becomes thicker than usual. This causes your heart to work overtime to supply your brain with the oxygen and glucose it continually needs to sustain itself.
In general, some people are prone to passing out due to poor circulation while others may sometimes experience episodes of vasovagal syncopes. Unless injured by the fall, typically, no treatment is required. Most cases of syncope only last a few seconds, but if this event begins to happen more frequently, that person might have a cardiac condition.
Chief Kuryla being promoted on the Glienicke Bridge, aka the “Bridge of Spies”. Photo credit Kuryla.
Steve Kuryla spent a lifetime serving in the intelligence community and in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in West Berlin and other hot locales around the globe. He has written a book titled “Six to Days to Zeus: Alive Day” that has been optioned in a screenplay and film production by two heavyweights in the Hollywood industry. A Deadline article in April of this year covers the production and is titled “Phillip Noyce To Direct Secret Iraq Mission Thriller ‘Alive Day;’ Mike Medavoy Producing.” He currently runs a program called Tier One Tranquility Base that helps veterans transitioning home where more information can be seen at https://tieronebase.org/index.html.
1. Can you share about your family and your life growing up?
I was born into a very poor Catholic family in Upstate New York, the Finger Lakes region. The house was a single travel trailer that we added onto as more kids came along. The house was built from recycled ammunition boxes as my dad drove explosives for the U.S. Army Depot. He’d bring the boxes home, then take the truck back to the owner. Our job was to have the boxes stripped and nails straightened before he got home. Eventually, there was enough lumber to build the house, but the floors were hardwood and dirt until I was in my teens.
2. What made you want to become a soldier and what was your experience like?
The only other option I had was to go work at a foundry, putting green sand into boxes so pump parts could be poured in “sand castings.” By 14 years old, I was living in the woods, showering in the school gym. Playing lacrosse, football and wrestling meant I was a year-round athlete. I joined the service as a way to get away from home. Suffice it to say, steel toed boots and Jack Daniels had a lot to do with my motivation to leave.
3. What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?
At this point in time, I’m not really proud of anything. We played “Whack-a-Mole” against the terrorists of the world, as far back as The Baeder-Meinhof Gang, Abu NIdal, the Red Army, PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc……and I assumed our impact would be greater and bring peace. This is a hard question to answer that I am still pondering. The ripples go away from us. But maybe the one thing that I reflect on and “smile” about, not really pride…is the good we did in places that were hell holes. Srebrenica, Somalia, Bosnia, Bogota and some Central and South American places…….. we brought light to some very dark places.
Chief Kuryla received a Meritorious Service Medal (center) while stationed in West Berlin. The left patch is the Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOMM) patch. The right patch is the Berlin Brigade. Photo credit Kuryla.
4. What values have you carried over from the Army back into the civilian world?
Values I brought back into my civilian life: Never quit. “Life is about what you do to other people”…. do five meters, even when it sucks, just keep moving forward. Integrity is everything. Honor is a lost concept in the civilian world, but that doesn’t mean you should give up yours. Fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves is a way of life, not just a bumper sticker.
5. What was one of the toughest lessons to learn coming from the service to Hollywood?
One of the toughest lessons I learned coming from the military to Hollywood: Not everyone has a moral compass. There are those who are in it for the money only, others for fame and they’ll stab you in the back in two seconds and step over your corpse just to get two seconds of limelight. In the military, I was in a place where soldiers HAD TO climb through the filters of Ranger School, BUDS, Airborne Training…and when they finally got to my unit, or like units, they stood for something: those filters don’t exist in Hollywood. Eventually, you can find like-minded souls and “your tribe” and I am very lucky to have found Phillip Noyce and Mike Medavoy.
My respect for their character and what they’ve accomplished runs deep, so I’m very proud to know them and be working with them. They stand for the same moral compass I have lived my entire life. They make movies that resonate, make people think and it’s not just about “entertainment or money!” They make movies that are about the human condition and the SOUL…and that’s what I write about. Anyone can make a military recruiting movie that makes kids “wannabe” a SEAL, or Green Beret, but the people I’m involved with currently go way past the box office. They go straight to the soul and make people think, reflect and hopefully motivate the viewers to become better human beings. It would be very easy to have changed what I wrote in “Alive Day” and make it into some action movie that made a lot of money. But they stuck to the spirit of the story, the journey of Warriors and the consequences of a lifetime of war on the soul. I’m very, very lucky that Karma and Synchronicity came together, and I get to be among these Hollywood giants.
Steve’s book. Photo credit Amazon.com
Director Phillip Noyce on set for the filming of The Saint. Photo credit IMDB.com.
Mike Medavoy receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo credit UPI.
6. What has it been like working on your book and soon to be feature film “Six Days to Zeus: Alive Day?”
Cathartic. Therapeutic. Had anyone told me I would be writing; I would have called them nuts. This started out to be a chronological document so a shrink and I could sort through my trauma closet and start working on my nightmares and PTSD. That turned into “The Observing Ego” template and I hit my stride and was able to start working on my issues. I came home with a rage syndrome that scared the hell out of people. Combined with my “adrenaline seeking behaviors,” I was socially unacceptable and targeted routinely by Law Enforcement as a possible “ax murderer.” And I loved it. It kept people away from me. I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I self-isolated, and was taking way too many narcotics and other meds from the VA. After 39 spinal reconstructions and surgery to repair my body from a T.O.W. missile strike, “Friendly Fire,” I found myself climbing back out of the crab bucket, living in a wheelchair as a homeless veteran in a park in N.C. to coming to California to see a Dr. G in Daly City who eventually got me out of the chair, surgically implanted a “Dorsal Column Stimulator” in my spinal cord, fused my pelvis and spine finally the correct way and turned my life around.
Photos of the surgery completed on Kuryla’s back. Photo credit Kuryla.
Photos of the surgery completed on Kuryla’s back. Photo credit Kuryla.
Broken screws and items removed after failed surgeries to repair Kuryla’s back. Photo credit Kuryla.
My wife has been a rock-solid warrior as well, sticking with me through thick and thin, when others simply walked away to preserve their own comfort zone. I was still in a chair most of the time when I met her, so she was either so very desperate that she’d marry a cripple guy with a brain injury and baggage from hell, or there is something about this woman that America missed. I often tell her she’s a SEAL that didn’t go active duty. She wrestles large animals every day as an Equine Veterinarian….. so wrestling with me is right up her alley.
Working on the book has been like peeling an onion. I had NO IDEA how deep I was into the Intel World. We never had time to reminisce. We just went to the next mission, sometimes having six or seven missions going at the same time in differing phases of “pre-deployment” to “planning” to active operations and then post mission BDA and assessments….. Everything from Non-combatant Evacuation (NEO) Operations to combat support missions to High Value Target (HVT) take downs, to Embassy clearing and hostage rescue, the Cold War, the War on Drugs and the Global War on Terrorism all blended together.
Pictures from Chief Kuryla’s time in West Berlin. Photo credit Kuryla.
Over a 30 year period, the mission tempo was pretty active at points that you just never kept up with it all. You just went to the next mission. So, taking the time to go back in time, from 1976 to 2006 and reconstruct the chronology has been very cathartic. Fleshing out the writing, changing names and dates to get through the Pentagon Pre-Publication Review process has been a hurdle, but I firmly believe in the process and signed the “non-disclosure agreements” with full honor and intent. This is a nine book series now…and future endeavors include a TV series as well as several other movies. T
here are 180 covert missions and seven combat tours to write about. Simple things like a 10 year war in Bosnia, Islam against Christianity, led to 9/11 the same day (in 1683 or there abouts) September 11th, for Bin Laden to hit the towers. No one in America seems to understand that the 10 year war in the Balkans led directly to 9/11. “The Asset” was a singular chapter, now a separate book will document American Intelligence, success and failures that led to the 20 year war we are currently in. As well as a look into future wars based on American Foreign Policy and future intent.
The night the wall came down in Berlin. Photo credit Kuryla.
A guard tower from Berlin. Photo credit Kuryla.
Before the Wall came down in Berlin. Photo credit Kuryla.
7. What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
Listening more than talking… learning all the facts, not just those I want to hear, evaluating and taking the time to look at other perspectives were “leadership” skills that I emulated from some of the great men in uniform that I got to work with. Henry Shelton, David Patraeus, William B. Caldwell, Colin Powell, Stormin Norman Schwartzkopf, Keith Alexander, “Buck Kernan,” Kellog, Keene and a list of names no one would know… my mentors and those I tried to emulate are great Americans.
And those around me who were aware, conscious, watched me and recognized my potential are the ones I credit with my success in life. I never knew I could write. Didn’t know I had anything to say. “Talking about it” was contrary to everything I knew as honorable in the military. Compartmented Intelligence was just that. Compartmented with a “Must Know” caveat. When I got out, I was shocked at what American Society didn’t know about the rest of the world and what our soldiers were doing. Not just the TS/SCI stuff, but the basic foreign policy that put men and women in harm’s way. America, especially Congress, seem to be completely unattached, uninvolved in sending troops to war. I found a new mission in life, writing about soldier stories, explaining the chaos in a way that resonates at the human “vulnerability” level. When you connect with another human at the soul, then you’re doing something worth doing. Then you’re communicating, educating, making a difference. And that’s what the “Six Days to Zeus” series is doing. Connecting at the soul and revealing the journey of Warriors in a modern age.
Teufelsberg, German for Devil’s Mountain, in West Berlin during the Cold War. Photo credit Kuryla.
Book one, Alive Day is about “what happened.” Book two, “Please don’t call me Hero” is about the consequences of War on our bodies, brains and families back at “Fort Livingroom.” It’s a glimpse into the problems, but the unconscious damage we do to our families. They pay the consequences of the US going to war, but they never signed up for it. They get to pay anyway… even when we bring muddy boots back into Ft. Livingroom. Book three, “Walking off the War” is a glimpse into the awakening, the move to conscious intentional living and the medical miracles that got me out of a wheelchair and back on my feet.
The series continues for six more books going back to Berlin in 1976 and Covert Operations against Soviet Illicit Agents and Soviet Special Operations personnel, Spetsnaz working the Morse Code problem for NSA and other US Intelligence Agencies including the Potsdam mission and Field Station Berlin at “Devils Mountain” or Teufelsberg! Operation Elsa, stealing a brand-new Soviet T-72 Tank, Operation Porch Light that broke a Russian cypher and tore down 14 terrorist networks throughout Europe and the US, and many, many more.
Items that came with the Russian T-72 that Chief Kuryla “acquired”. Photo credit Kuryla.
Items that came with the Russian T-72 that Chief Kuryla “acquired”. Photo credit Kuryla.
Items that came with the Russian T-72 that Chief Kuryla “acquired”. Photo credit Kuryla.
Items that came with the Russian T-72 that Chief Kuryla “acquired”. Photo credit Kuryla.
8. As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
Veterans have to be willing to talk. There is a syndrome where veterans don’t think they did anything special. It’s part of the problem that comes with honor and the “code” we live by. I am working to get a section on my author site for soldiers to write in, tell me their story and see if it’s worth pursuing. When guys like me don’t think they did anything special and are willing to bury it….they get shocked (like me too!) when they begin to tell their story and find out the world wants to know. The ripple effect of me telling my story has affected so many veterans and so many civilians, that it’s truly humbling. For some reason, after they read the book and the two weeks of silence goes by, (digesting time), they now have permission and they come tell me their story. Their trauma and how my writing has affected them, allowed them to heal and talk about what happened. And then I get to help them learn what I have learned: It’s no longer about what happened…it’s about what you do NEXT that counts!!!
A picture of one of the patches they took of Manuel Noriega (pictured). Photo credit Kuryla.
9. What would you like to do next in your career?
Make more movies, learn as much as I can about financing, producing, and getting the stories out there. Tour and talk to our next generation. We need to teach the lessons we’ve learned as soldiers, teach critical thinking skills, make them aware that “Freedom isn’t free” and engage our young minds in active communication. Our children are being hijacked…with our permission, by our silence and preoccupation and our lack of parenting involvement. The America we all fought for is being sliced and diced, subverted and our children’s minds are being targeted. We all need to influence that change, through writing, movies, plays, music and active communication and engagement! Our veteran population are some of the most gifted humans on the planet. I hope to be a part of that change.
More pictures of the morning they took Noriega and the patches removed from his uniform. The center photo is a breakfast with Noriega the morning of. Photo credit Kuryla.
10. What are you most proud of in life and your career?
Pride is not a luxury I indulge in. I am more grateful than anything else. I can’t say I’m proud of anything, but I am the luckiest man on the planet that I got to live the life I did. That I got to meet the people I love and fought with. Even the disasters, the trauma and the adversity….it all made me a better human being. After all this reconstruction and medical miracles, I truly am coming to a place of PEACE now…finding my inner strength again, counting my blessings and realizing just how lucky I have been. How blessed I have been to have worked with and fought beside some of the finest human beings God ever put on this planet. And that’s not a bumper sticker. I truly believe that “All evil needs to succeed is for good men to sit back and do nothing.”
I don’t mourn the loss of those I served with, I thank God that such men lived.
Seventy-five years ago, tens of thousands of men were churning their way through the hedgerows of Normandy, fighting tooth and nail to liberate French towns and to ensure the security of the tenuous toehold that the Allies had opened against Germany in Operation Overlord on D-Day. This toehold would grow until it was a massive front that made it all the way to Berlin in less than a year.
Now, 75 years later, the U.S. and Allied militaries are celebrating their forebears’ success with a series of events in the U.K. and France. As part of these celebrations, the U.S. Air Force flew two F-15E Strike Eagles with special, heritage paint jobs over the fields and hedgerows of modern day Normandy on June 9, 2019. Here are 13 photos from an Air Force photographer sent to document the event:
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
The special Strike Eagles are part of the 48th Fighter Wing and took off from Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath, England, for the flyover. During the D-Day invasion, U.S. Army Air Corps fighters and bombers took off from English air bases to support the landings on the beaches, pushing back the Luftwaffe screens and reducing the number of bombers and dive bombers that troops on the ground would have to endure.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
The Army Air Corps’ bombs softened targets and reduced enemy artillery positions and other defenses, but the fight in the hedgerows was still bloody and vicious. And the German coastal artillery had to be eliminated to keep as many pilots in the sky as possible.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
But the pilots who preceded the modern Air Force began the important preparations for D-Day months ahead of time, sending increased bomber formations against Germany, including Berlin, for five months ahead of D-Day. These bomber formations doomed the Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force, in two ways.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
First, there’s the obvious. The bombers destroyed German factories and war machines, annihilating German equipment and crippling the country’s ability to rebuild it. But Germany responded by sending up their fighters to stop the bombers, and that’s where new American fighters came into the fray.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
The P-47s with drop tanks led the charge in 1943, but other fighters joined the fray at the end of ’43 and start of ’44. The P-51B, along with other fighters including the British Spitfires and Typhoons, slayed the German fighters that rose to counter the bombers. By June 1944, the Luftwaffe was a shadow of its former self.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
Army Air Corps pilots gave their lives to prepare for June 6, 1944, and other pilots would make the ultimate sacrifice on D-Day and in the weeks and months that followed. But that perseverance and sacrifice paid dividends, allowing for the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945.
We don’t mean to alarm you, but Christmas is right around the corner. We know many of you are out there defending our freedoms on the streets of U.S. cities or in foreign countries, which makes it easy to lose track of the holidays. At Coffee or Die, we understand that time is a valuable commodity, so we took the liberty of highlighting some must-have items (coffee!) from badass companies (Black Rifle Coffee Company!) that should satisfy everyone on your list (everyone!).
Save the sweat for when your New Year’s resolution kicks in — here’s our easy-to-follow holiday gift guide.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
BRCC Holiday Bundle
Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like an image of America’s rifle decked out in twinkle lights and a hot cup of America’s coffee in a freedom-loving mug. There are other holiday coffee packages, but we can pretty much guarantee that if your loved one opens up anything besides the BRCC Holiday Bundle, they’ll be disappointed. Don’t be that guy. BRCC, or die.
(Photo courtesy of Beyond Clothing Facebook page.)
Prima Loche Reversible Jacket from Beyond Clothing
For the outdoor enthusiast, staying warm in an outlayer that can withstand extreme activity is a must. Beyond Clothing has all the options for the adventure-seekers on your holiday shopping list. The Prima Loche Jacket is made of 70-denier quilted micro ripstop with durable water repellent (DWR) finish to withstand the elements. It’s also fully reversible, compressible for easy packing, and features a sweat-wicking Poloratec Alpha Insulation.
(Photo courtesy of @wrm.fzt on Instagram.)
Wrm.fzy “Cowboy Advice” Tee
Our friends over at WRMFZY make some of the most unique lifestyle apparel around, with something for the whole family including kids tees and bodysuits. All of their shirts are made from 50 percent polyester, 25 percent ring-spun combed cotton, and 25 percent rayon for maximum comfort. One of our favorites is the “Cowboy Advice” Tee.
(Mat Best, center, on deployment. Photo courtesy of Mat Best.)
Books by Army Rangers
Contrary to popular belief, U.S. Army Rangers are capable of stringing words together to form coherent — and even intelligible — sentences. Need proof?
This year, Black Rifle Coffee Company co-founder and vice president Mat Best added “best-selling author” to his impressive resume with the release of “Thank You For My Service.” The memoir topped several best-seller lists, including the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal. Best’s timely memoir provides fresh insight into the minds of the men and women on the front lines of the Global War on Terrorism. But don’t worry, this is still Mat Best we’re talking about — you’ll also be laughing your ass off.
Luke Ryan, BRCC’s social media manager, has also authored a book — or three. The former Army Ranger currently has three books available: “The Gun and the Scythe: Poetry by an Army Ranger,” “The Eighth: A Short Story,” and “The First Marauder,” which is the first installment of a three-part series. “The First Marauder” is set in a post-apocalyptic U.S. after a deadly virus wreaks havoc on the planet. The story follows Tyler Ballard, a 15-year-old boy who seeks revenge for the death of his older brother. “The Gun and the Scythe” is a poetry book written for veterans, and it explores various facets of war in a way simple narratives cannot.
Coffee or Die executive editor Marty Skovlund Jr. has also been known to put pen to paper occasionally, and his seminal work makes a worthy addition to anyone’s library. “Violence of Action” is much more than the true, first-person accounts of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the Global War on Terror. Between these pages are the heartfelt, first-hand accounts from, and about, the men who lived, fought, and died for their country, their Regiment, and each other.
(Jack Carr’s “The Terminal List” was released in 2018; “True Believer” in July 2019.)
… and a book by a Navy SEAL
Former U.S. Navy SEAL sniper and author Jack Carr has written books so badass that even Chuck Norris can’t put them down. Jack Carr uses his 20-plus years of experience operating as a Navy SEAL to write some of the most thrilling fiction books we’ve ever read. Protagonist James Reece is on a quest for vengeance after he discovers that the ambush that claimed the lives of his SEAL team and the murder of his wife and daughters was all part of a conspiracy. The first two installments, “The Terminal List” and “True Believer,” will have you on the edge of your seat. If you can’t get enough of James Reece, Carr’s third book, “Savage Son,” is coming in April 2020.
(Photo courtesy of Evers Forgeworks.)
The Maverick EDC from Evers Forgeworks
For the true blade lover in your life, check out Evers Forgeworks. Veteran John Evers has a passion for all things with a blade, which is apparent in his work. His hand-forged blades are as functional as they are beautiful. We are particularly impressed with the Maverick EDC, which is the perfect blade to add to your battle or duty belt, and the Maverick Hunter — fast, lightweight, and ready to serve whatever purpose you have in mind.
(Photo courtesy of Activision.)
“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” Reboot
The anticipated reboot of the popular “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” video game was released in October and features new characters, new storylines that are eerily similar to real-world events, and new play modes. Developers Infinity Ward brought in Tier 1 operators to consult on the game, upping the realism and exciting for players. This is a no-brainer for the FPS gamer on your holiday shopping list.
(Photo courtesy of Kifaru International Facebook page.)
A Kifaru International Woobie
The USGI poncho liner (woobie) is quite possibly the most popular piece of government-issued equipment on the planet. And it’s basically a baby blanket for some of our nation’s most hardened warriors. Kifaru International took this fan favorite and enhanced it to meet their demanding standards. With their proprietary RhinoSkin coating with DWR for water resistance, this woobie‘s durability is unmatched. Their Apex insulation is a continuous filament that requires no quilting, unlike the USGI version. This lack of quilting or stitching anywhere but the edges eliminates cold spots. We never leave home without ours.
(Photo courtesy of Combat Flip Flops Facebook page.)
The Shemagh from Combat Flip Flops
Combat Flip Flops has a righteous reputation for their durable products and mindful philanthropy. While their signature product makes a great gift, this time of year isn’t exactly flip flop season in many parts of the country. The shemagh (square scarf), however, is a versatile item that can be used in many different environments. It’s perfect for that person on your list who is always looking for new and unique accessories — or is always cold.
(Photo courtesy of High West Distillery Facebook page.)
A bottle of High West Whiskey
For the whiskey connoisseur, our friends at High West Distillery have something for everyone. From American Prairie Bourbon to Double Rye to Rendezvous Rye to Campfire — which is a blend of scotch, bourbon and rye whiskeys — there are plenty of options, and they’re all good. You may even inspire the recipient to visit the distillery in Park City, Utah, for a tour. While they’re there, they can also stop at the saloon or the Nelson Cottage, which offers coursed dinners and whiskey pairings.
(Courtesy of STI International’s Facebook page.)
STI Staccato C pistol
STI pistols are made in America with their own unique pistol platform called the 2011. Every STI handgun is backed by a lifetime warranty and unmatched performance. We recommend the Staccato C for the everyday carrier in your life — it contains all the speed, power, and accuracy that STI is known for in a compact, easy, and comfortable-to-carry firearm.
(Photo courtesy of Bison Union.)
Bison Union 16-oz. Buffalo Mug
Bison Union is a veteran-owned company that started out making awesome T-shirts but have added other products to their lineup over the years — like this no-nonsense 16-ounce Buffalo Mug. Each mug is handmade in Sheridan, Wyoming, by a friend of the company, who also happens to be the mother of a U.S. Army veteran. From their website, “At Bison Union Company we firmly believe coffee is one of the best ingredients for hard work each day… so stop talking and earn your coffee!”
(Photo courtesy of Sitka Gear.)
Kelvin Active Jacket from Sitka Gear
Sitka’s motto — “Turning Clothing into Gear” — holds true in every piece that we have worn. Sitka makes the most highly functional technical hunting clothing we have ever used. One of our favorite pieces is the Kelvin Active Jacket, which can be used as a quiet outlayer to ease the chill on mild mornings or as an insulating layer in frigid temps. It’s lightweight and easily compressible, so it won’t take up much space in your pack. If you’re shopping for an outdoorsman, you can not go wrong with anything from Sitka.
The Mission Flannel contributes to helping our furry friends find forever homes.
(Photo courtesy of Dixxon Flannel Facebook page.)
Dixxon Flannel’s Mission K-9 Charity Flannel
Check out the BRCC office on any given day of the week and there’s a good chance you’ll catch someone in Dixxon Flannel. Their flannels feature their signature D-TECH material, which makes them breathable yet durable and minimizes wrinkling. Dixxon Flannel offers apparel for men, women, and children — flannel for the whole family! Plus the Mission K-9 Charity Flannel supports an incredibly worthy cause.
(Photo courtesy of Traeger.)
Traeger Signature BBQ Sauce
Specialty food items are a great go-to gift during the holidays. Need to fill a stocking? Need a host gift? Need to get something small for that ” or less” office gift exchange? There are plenty of options, but we like the idea of gifting something that requires a little more thought than a bottle of wine or meat-and-cheese box. In addition to their cooking implements, Traeger has a whole line of delicious sauces. We like to start with the Signature BBQ Sauce since it has the most broad appeal. If the recipient is a backyard pitmaster you know and love, there are also sweet and spicy options, depending on their taste … or you could just, you know, pony up the money to buy them a badass grill.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
BRCC Coffee Club subscription
The gift that keeps on giving, BRCC’s Coffee Club delivers high-quality coffee delivered to your door each month at a discounted rate and with free shipping. The Club keeps it simple — just choose whether you’re purchasing for home or office, pick a texture (ground, whole bean, or rounds), select your blend (or let us choose it for you!), the number of bags, and the frequency of delivery. Done! Coffee equals love, so if you really love someone, you should make sure they never run out of America’s Coffee again.
Want to buy awesome gifts for a loved one but also support a great cause? Check out these BRCC-favorite nonprofit store items:
The HMS Thunderbolt was lost in combat on March 14, 1943, after a short but successful World War II career that saw it sink multiple Italian vessels, which might have been surprising to some since the submarine had actually sank three years prior in 1940 with a loss of nearly all hands.
That’s because the HMS Thunderbolt was once the HMS Thetis, or, more properly, it was almost the HMS Thetis. It was a submarine launched in 1938 as part of the interwar buildup of arms. The submarine was scheduled to become the HMS Thetis when it was commissioned.
But the planned commissioning didn’t happen. As the submarine went through its sea trials, a tragic accident occurred. Most torpedo tubes, then and now, work using two doors. One door opens to the sea when a torpedo is launched, one door opens into the sub when the crew needs to load a new torpedo. The best subs have mechanisms that make it physically impossible to open one door if the other isn’t closed.
But the N25 had an indicator instead, that was supposed to tell the crew the outer door was open so they wouldn’t open the inner door. But the indicator was really just a small hole in the door that would spurt water if the tube was flooded, and a painter had accidentally filled the small hole in.
During a dive on June 1, 1939, this resulted in the inner door being opened while the outer door was also open. The crew was able to seal a bulkhead after significant flooding, but the boat was filled with 53 members of the defense industry and public, and air was already in short supply in the flooded sub.
The crew managed to raise themselves back to the surface for a short period, and four crewmembers escaped, but it crashed back to the seafloor, and 99 people were killed.
The HMS Thunderbolt was successful, even though it seemed like it would be cursed. First, sailors don’t always like it when a vessel’s name is changed, an old superstition. And if any sub could be a ghost ship, the Thunderbolt was a top contender. Worse, Thunderbolt was, itself, an auspicious name for British vessels as two previous HMS Thunderbolts had been lost in crashes.
All of this likely weighed on the crew, especially when they saw the rust line on the walls of the sub from the original sinking. But it destroyed an Italian sub in the Atlantic on Dec. 15, 1940, and helped destroy an Italian light cruiser and a supply ship in early January 1943 in the Mediterranean.
The Cicogna forced the Thunderbolt under and, when the British crew tried to resurface for air, spotted the boat’s periscope and hit it with depth charges, ending the ill-fated sub’s career and killing its crew, the second time the submarine was lost with all hands.
Whether you’ve served or not, you know the difficulty of leaving a job and moving away. For all you civilians out there, take the struggles and anxieties that come with moving away from a place, a people, and a function you know and amplify them ten-fold. In the military, you spend all day, every day getting to know your coworkers and becoming a family. When you finally leave that family and return to civilian life, it sucks — all of your best friends are now thousands of miles away.
Thanks to the age of the internet and social media, that gap is easily closed — but one thing us veterans (especially us grunts) miss the most is playing soldier with our brothers and sisters. Strangely enough, we’ve found that there is a way to reconnect with our veteran friends in the way we prefer, which is getting into gunfights.
If you’re a veteran and you’ve been looking to reconnect with your buddies, here’s why you should do it over a few rounds of a battle royale game:
Just like the old days, eh?
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)
Teamwork is essential
By playing with your friends, you’ll have a distinct advantage in a battle royale game. You already know how to work together and function in combat scenarios and that chemistry takes you far. You also know how to communicate with each other because you speak the same military language.
If you’re like us, this is the part you miss the most.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Hurtado)
You spend time with your veteran friends
While it may not be an in-person visit, you still get to hang out with your friends. In a way, the settings are surprisingly similar — you never really know what lies ahead.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Ryan Carpenter)
Your knowledge can help you dominate
In games like PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, employment of real-world tactics is crucial. You didn’t know it at the time, but all that time you spent in training wasn’t just preparing you for real war — it was preparing you to dominate the digital domain, too.
The fact that you and your buddies have training and experience with each other gives you a distinct advantage — and we all love winning, so why not use everything you know? You’ve already done the hard part — once you get the controls down, it’s smooth sailing.
You’ll enjoy it.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Katherine M. Solano)
It’s just plain fun
Hanging out with your buddies and sh*t talking each other is the world’s greatest pastime. Even if you’re not dominating other teams, you’re still having fun reminiscing and joking with each other. So, why not take a crack at it?
Textron is gambling that its 14 years of work on case-telescoped weapons research will satisfy the U.S. Army‘s ambitious requirements for an M249 squad automatic weapon replacement.
The service recently awarded Textron and five other gunmakers a contract to build prototype weapons for its Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle program.
The contract awards are the result of a Prototype Opportunity Notice the Army released in March 2018 in an effort to develop a futuristic replacement for the three-decade-old M249. The Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle, or NGSAR, is one of the Army’s primary efforts under its soldier lethality modernization priority.
“The NGSAR will address operational needs identified in various capability-based assessments and numerous after action reports,” according to the PON solicitation document.
“It will combine the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a rifle, yielding capability improvements in accuracy, range, and lethality,” the document continues. “The weapon will be lightweight and fire lightweight ammunition, improving soldier mobility, survivability, and firing accuracy.”
Wayne Prender, vice president of Applied Technologies Advanced Programs at Textron Systems, talked to Military.com about his firm’s approach to the prototype effort.
Sgt. Carl Hawthorne of the 273rd Military Police Company (Rear Detachment), District of Columbia National Guard, fires tracer rounds from an M249 machine gun during crew-served weapon night fire training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., May 5, 2012.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Miranda Summers Lowe)
“We are leveraging and building upon our lineage of lightweight squad weapon technologies that we have been working on over the last 14 years,” he said.
Textron was notified in late June 2018 of the contract award to deliver one prototype weapon, one fire control system, and 2,000 rounds of ammunition within 12 months, Prender said.
Military.com has asked the Army to identify the other five companies that were awarded contracts, but the service did not have an answer by press time.
The Army intends to evaluate the prototypes in an attempt to refine the requirements for the NGSAR.
“It was disclosed at industry day: The result of this prototype opportunity will be yet another full and open competition,” Prender said.
The Army wants the prototype weapons — including sling, bipod and suppressor — to weigh no more than 12 pounds and have a maximum length of 35 inches, according to the PON document.
The weapon must have a sustained rate of fire of 60 rounds per minute for 15 minutes without requiring a barrel change, the document states.
Under the weapon controllability requirement, a soldier “firing standing with optic at a 50-meter E-Type silhouette given 3 to 5 round burst must be able to engage in 2-4 seconds placing two rounds 70 percent of the time on target,” it adds.
The Army also wants ammunition to weigh 20 percent less than the current brass-cased ammo, the document states.
This is where Textron has invested a large amount of research into its case-telescoped ammunition technology. The futuristic cartridges — featuring a plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell — offer significant weight reductions compared to conventional ammo.
Linked 5.56mm ammunition stands upright on a table behind the firing line as soldiers of the 23rd Engineer Company, 6th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Engineer Brigade, U.S. Army Alaska, train with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)
Textron has developed light and medium machine guns that fire 5.56mm and 7.62mm case-telescoped ammunition under the Lightweight Small Arms Technology program, an effort the Army has invested millions of research dollars into over the last decade.
In 2017, the company unveiled its new Intermediate Case-Telescoped Carbine, chambered for 6.5mm.
Despite Textron’s experience in this arena, Prender admits it will not be easy to deliver what the Army wants.
“They have some pretty aggressive goals with respect to lethality and weight and size and some other performance characteristics,” he said. “All of those things individually may be relatively easy but, when you start stacking them all together, that is really where it becomes complex and you need a new design.”
Prender would not give specifics about the prototype Textron is submitting, but said “we are taking lessons from all of our case-telescoped projects to include the 5.56mm, 7.62mm and the intermediate caliber — all that information is informing this new design.”
“There is not an easy button here. Certainly, we think our case-telescoped solution is an ideal one to meet these requirements … but there is development that is necessary over and above what we have done to date,” he added.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.