In the hours before the Arizona Cardinals kicked off against the Los Angeles Rams, an even more special thing happened in the Cardinals’ end zone. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it was only one of two events that took place in their end zone all night. Arizona fell to Los Angeles 31-9, but 45 U.S. troops were sworn in or reenlisted that night.
You win some, you lose some.
West Point NFL player conducts mass oath of enlistment ceremony
But wait a minute. According to 10 U.S. Code § 502, the oath has to be administered by a commissioned officer. So who is swearing in these kids and troops? That’s 1st Lt. Brett Toth, who is a beneficiary of the recent rule changes to service academy athletes. Toth’s military service requirement was deferred in order to play offensive tackle for the Arizona Cardinals while he was in prime physical condition. Toth is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and a former player for the Army Black Knights football team. He played in two of Army’s most recent wins over Navy.
The group of 45 future soldiers and Marines gathered in front of him before the game’s kickoff were recruits from the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion and was part of the local Salute to Service celebration within the Cardinals franchise. The Cardinals, former home of a deceased Army ranger and former Cardinal Pat Tillman, are very excited to celebrate Salute to Service every November. It doesn’t hurt to have an actual lieutenant on hand, either.
(U.S. Army photo by Alun Thomas)
As Toth, who is currently on the team’s disabled list, led the mass Oath of Enlistment, the crowd began to cheer wildly. After taking the oath, the 45 newly-christened U.S. troops were able to stay for the game. When the Cardinals took the field, the first people out of the locker room were Capt. Edward Donaghue, commander of the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion, and Staff Sgt. Gregory Hunter, one of the battalion’s recruiters.
Though the game started on a very high note for the Cardinals players and for America’s newest troops, it didn’t take long to turn for the worst. The Cardinals were soundly defeated in a 31-9 loss to the Rams.
There are so many war movies out there to choose from, yet not many come from the perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was the Vietnam War.
Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into that politically charged time in American history, where the war efforts of our service members were either overlooked or disdained upon returning home, with Platoon.
With his unique perspective, Stone filmed one of the most iconic death scenes in cinema history — the dramatic end of Sgt. Elias.
But there are a few interesting things you probably didn’t know about Sgt. Elias’s onscreen death.
5. Dafoe was “self-contained” during the scene
The acclaimed actor was given a walkie-talkie and was instructed by Stone to run from point A to point B while avoiding all the explosions.
Besides that, he had no further communication with cast or crew during the scene.
4. It only took 3-4 takes
For anyone who understands the process of filmmaking, 3-4 “takes” is extremely few, especially for such a dynamic scene that turned out so strong. Oliver Stone set up several cameras to capture the drama of the moment that gives you chills.
3. Not all of the bombs exploded
As Dafoe dashed through the uneven terrain, he knew the locations of the squibs and the controlled detonations — some of which failed to explode, but the audience can’t tell.
2. Dafoe had the squib detonator in his hand — which he threw
If look closely at Dafoe’s left hand, you can see him carrying the squib detonator, which he used to set off the devices attached to his wardrobe. Since not all the squibs exploded as planned, Dafoe ended up throwing the detonator to the side during the take that made the final cut.
Few American veterans will ever officially earn both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the title of Crow War Chief. Joe Medicine Crow might be the only one. His other awards include the Bronze Star and the French Légion d’Honneur. How he earned the title of War Chief of the Crow tribe is a feat unheard of for decades before World War II started.
But for all his feats, he was still a Private in the U.S. Army.
“Promote ahead of peers.”
There are four criteria to become a Crow War Chief, all of which Joe Medicine Crow accomplished during two years of service with the U.S. Army in Europe:
Touching an Enemy Without Killing Him
Taking an Enemy’s Weapon
Leading a Successful War Party
Stealing an Enemy’s Horse
The Crow did not likely think this would be so difficult in the age of machine guns and tanks, but as Joe Medicine Crow showed, it was clearly not impossible.
Also, that’s Dr. Joe Medicine Crow. Just sayin.
The Native American GI was working in a shipyard in Washington state for the first part of World War II. In 1943, he decided to join the U.S. Army. He came from an incredible nomadic warrior tradition. He was the last person to hear a first-hand account of the Battle of Little Bighorn and his grandfather served as a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer before the general’s last stand. Joe Medicine Crow would carry this tradition forward, as well as many others.
Before he left for the war, a medicine man provided him with a painted eagle feather he would wear under his uniform before fighting. He would also paint traditional war paint under his uniform, placing two red stripes on his arms. And then, he became a War Chief, the last Crow War Chief.
Crow lived to the ripe old age of 102.
While fighting at the Siegfried Line, the border fortification that would take the U.S. Army into Germany, the warrior was ordered to take a team – a war party, if you will – and cross a field under a hail of bullets to retrieve some dynamite from a previously destroyed American position. Joe Medicine Crow and seven fellow GIs crossed a field of devastating fire that probably should have killed all of them, grabbed the explosives and blew a huge hole in Hitler’s vaunted line. No one was killed. One down.
After penetrating the line, Joe Medicine Crow and the 103d Infantry advanced on a nearby town that turned out to be heavily defended. As a scout, Joe was ahead of most of his unit. After they were ordered to flank some German defenders, Joe was separated and decided to take a shortcut. That’s when he ran right into a Nazi defender while running at full sprint.
For anyone else, this might have been embarrassing at the least and deadly at the most, but this is Joe Medicine Crow. He sent the Nazi flying and the Nazi’s rifle across the lawn. The American was still standing as he bent over and grabbed his enemy’s weapon. Two down.
Instead of killing the German, Joe decided to drop the weapon and let his warrior skills take over. The two men fought hand-to-hand for what seemed like hours. When Joe finally got the upper hand and started to kill the Nazi soldier with his hands at the man’s throat. But the German began to whimper, and Joe let him go. Three down.
Then, there’s the task of stealing a horse.
Joe Medicine Crow was scouting a farmhouse behind enemy lines one night when he realized it was full of high-ranking SS officers. They all rode there on horses, which were corralled under guard near the house. Joe Medicine Crow snuck through the guards with only his M1911 to protect him. Having grown up learning to ride horses bareback, mounting one of them in Europe was no problem. He let out a Crow war cry and sang a song as he herded all the horses out of the corral and into U.S. Army lore.
Just before New Year’s Eve 1973, NASA’s mission control center in Houston lost contact with the crew of Skylab 4. For 90 minutes, no one on the ground knew anything about what was happening in Earth’s orbit. The three crew members had been in space longer than any other humans before them. The astronauts were all in orbit for the first time.
All NASA knew is that the rookie astronauts had a tremendous workload but roughly similar to that of previous Skylab missions. They didn’t know that the crew had announced a strike and had stopped working altogether.
Skylab 4 Commander Gerald P. Carr, floating in Skylab.
The Skylab crew had been up in space for six weeks, working a particularly rigorous schedule. Since the cost of a days work in space was estimated to be million or more, there was little time to lose. NASA didn’t see the problem, since previous crews had worked the same workloads. The crew of the latest – and last – Skylab mission, however, had been there with a rigorous schedule for longer than anyone before.
Skylab missions were designed to go beyond the quick trips into space that had marked previous NASA missions. The astronauts were now trying to live in space and research ways to prevent the afflictions that affected previous astronauts who spent extended time in weightless orbit. Medical and scientific experiments dominated the schedules, which amounted to a 24-hour workday. On top of that, there was the cosmic research and spacewalks required to maintain the station.
NASA had purposely pushed the crew even harder than other missions when they fell behind, creating a stressful environment among the crew and animosity toward mission control. Mission control had become a dominating, stressful presence who only forced the crew to work excruciatingly long hours with little rest.
So after being fed up with having every hour of the stay in space scheduled, they decided to take a breather and cut contact with the ground. Some reports say they simply floated in the Skylab, watching the Earth from the windows. After the “mutiny” ended and communications were restored, the astronauts were allowed to complete their work on their own schedule, with less interference from below. They even got a reduced workload.
But none of the astronauts ever left the Earth again.
From working at McDonalds, to attending Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), to serving more than 18 years each in the U.S. Army Reserve — identical twin master sergeants are mobilized together for the third time.
Master Sgt. Bryant Howard and his identical twin brother, Master Sgt. Joseph Howard, motor transport operators, 450th Movement Control Battalion (MCB), are currently deployed together to Kuwait — marking the third time they have deployed together.
Bryant decided to join first.
“I was in high school, (and) I was also working at McDonalds, and my mom called me lazy.” he said. “I figured I wasn’t, so I was going to get her mad and join the Army.”
For Joseph, the decision to join the Army was much easier after he found out that his brother was joining.
“I tried joining the National Guard. The recruiter didn’t take me seriously.” Joseph said. “I was going to back out, then I found out my brother was joining the Reserve, so I went ahead and joined too.”
From left to right — Master Sgt. Joseph Howard, S-3 (operations) noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC), 450th Movement Control Battalion (MCB), and Master Sgt. Bryant Howard, Trans-Arabian Network (TAN) NCOIC, 450th MCB, stand back to back at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Oct. 24, 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Dakota Vanidestine)
Once their decision to join was finalized, Bryant and Joseph needed to pass through Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) before leaving for basic training.
“We were still in high school, just turned 18. We were trying to get on the battle buddy system, but something happened at MEPS and Bryant wasn’t able to join the same time I did.” Joseph said. “He had to go back four months later. Because of that, they couldn’t get us to Basic (Training) together, even though we went at the same time. I went to Fort Jackson; he went to Fort Sill.”
Although the buddy system was not possible for Basic Training, the brothers were reunited at Advanced Individual Training (AIT).
“We did go to AIT together at Fort Leonard Wood though. It took the drill sergeants a month to realize there was twins in the unit. They threw a fit because they thought we were just one super high-speed person” Joseph said.
Confusion on the brothers’ identities, like at AIT, has allowed them to play pranks all of their life.
“Our last day of high school, we switched classes.” Bryant said. “We had a different style uniforms in school — I had a pullover, and he had a button up shirt. Joseph’s teacher could tell us apart, even though she didn’t know me — but my teacher didn’t recognize him.”
After high school, the military was not the only time that Bryant and Joseph’s paths have crossed.
“We both worked at one time at Direct TV” Joseph said. “Also, we both had some sort of experience in law enforcement. I became a police officer, he worked in a jail — he was a corrections officer. The weird part about that was if I dropped somebody off at jail, they might run into him and think he was me. We don’t necessarily try to follow each other – that’s just the way things happen. It really is a small world.”
Even today their civilian careers have brought them not only to the same state, but the same location.
“Now were both mill-techs. Joseph works in the RPAC (Reserve Personnel Action Center) and I work for a unit” Bryant said.
From left to right, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Howard, Sgt. Michael Howard, motor transport operators, 498th Transportation Company, and Sgt. 1st Class Bryant Howard, motor transport operator, 850th Transportation Company, pose for a photo as Bryant prepares to redeploy back to the U.S. at Kandahar Airfield, April. 28, 2014.
“We actually work in the same building — two different units. I work for the 88th Readiness Division, he works for the 383rd Military Intelligence Battalion” Joseph added.
When Bryant and Joseph heard about an opportunity to deploy together with the 450th MCB, they took full advantage.
“We deployed together in 2003 and 2009 to Iraq” Bryant said.
“He deployed to Afghanistan at the end of 2013, and I deployed there in the beginning of 2014 — so we were actually at the same place” Joseph added. “Our older brother actually deployed with me.”
Currently, Bryant is the Trans Arabian Network Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC).
“I am the NCOIC over all the movement within Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, and the surrounding locations.” Bryant said.
While Joseph serves as the S-3 (operations) NCOIC by taking care of “the personnel, administrative, and operational aspects.”
Once this deployment is complete, the brothers may finally part ways. Joseph is considering retirement from the Reserve.
“I do want to hit my 20 year mark.” Joseph said. “It’s really hard to keep up with the changing Army — the trends and everything. Depending on what happens when I get to the States, I may stick it out longer, or I may get out.”
“I’m just going to stay in until I can’t stand it anymore” Bryant added.
Together, Bryant and Joseph have dedicated over 37 years of service to the U.S. Army Reserve — both wearing the rank of master sergeant and have seven combined deployments to show for it.
Ed Timperlake was VA assistant secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs from 1989 to 1992, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a fighter pilot and squadron commander.
One of the little-known facts of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is that the nature of combat wounds has changed dramatically.
For most of human history, the most common combat wound was a piercing injury. Primitive spears, the Roman gladius, medieval lances and bullets all create piercing wounds, and battlefield medicine was largely focused on treating these types of injuries.
As an assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs during the George H. W. Bush administration, I saw up close how VA health care responded to the after-effects of these combat wounds. But in the years since, veteran care reflects an entirely new and complex type of injury.
Most of these troops have returned to duty, but one of the most common and least seen aspects of these injuries is hearing loss. The auditory sense is highly vulnerable to explosive mechanisms and, unlike most of the human body, many tissues associated with hearing do not regenerate themselves. When they are destroyed, they are destroyed forever. Tinnitus, otherwise known as ringing in the ears, while less serious than absolute hearing loss, is still harmful in the long term and is pervasive among troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Hearing loss is personal for my family. One of my nieces was born with significant hearing loss, and another is pursuing her doctorate at Gallaudet University, developing better ways to accurately test and address hearing loss. My own hearing has been degraded due to military noise. I can never forget the roar that reverberated through my head the first time I was catapulted from the deck of an aircraft carrier. As a young Marine Corps fighter pilot, the “scramble orders” I and my squadron mates received in response to threats from Cuban MiGs resulted in ear-shattering experiences with every sortie, for months at a time.
Today, more than 1.25 million veterans suffer from hearing loss, with nearly two million suffering from tinnitus. Combined, they represent the top two service-connected disabilities addressed by the VA. To its credit, the VA is doing a good job of addressing the problem with hearing conservation programs and high-tech hearing aids.
But the Defense Department is playing catch-up on the issue. After having issued faulty hearing protection to active-duty forces over the past decade, leading to countless cases of unnecessary hearing loss, the Pentagon is now testing several different styles of hearing protection for troops in the field, and confidence is high that the next generation of combat hearing protection will represent a substantial improvement.
Once these troops muster out of uniform and transition to veteran status, a large part of the challenge in helping these vets with hearing loss is technological. Low-cost hearing aids that simply amplify sound do little good, often making background noise too loud to provide any meaningful improvement in hearing conversation, music and other audible intelligence.
The private sector is making good progress on developing and improving this technology with Bluetooth capabilities and even fitness trackers, offering hope to veterans with hearing loss as they re-acclimate to civilian life.
The prospects for better hearing protection and improved service to veterans with hearing loss and tinnitus is encouraging. But we have to keep our eye on the ball to make sure our warfighters get the combat gear they need, and that veterans receive the care they earned through their sacrifice.
As an Afghan-American linguist, Sgt. Zabi Abraham strives to help the two countries he loves.
Originally from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province near the border of Pakistan, Abraham first served as a contractor to support U.S. Special Forces units.
Before and during operations, Abraham, now 35, would translate for the soldiers and share knowledge about his country’s customs and traditions.
“They respected me a lot,” he recalled, “and also gave me the chance to explain every situation to them.”
The soldiers also taught him about America, and he became interested in the opportunities it offered.
Years later, those opportunities led him on a path to U.S. citizenship. He also had the chance to return to Afghanistan, where he now serves as an advisor for one of the U.S. Army’s newest units, the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.
Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, interprets a conversation between Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, right, the battalion commander, and an Afghan National Army officer during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
In Afghanistan, about a quarter of the labor force is unemployed and more than half of the population lives below the national poverty line, according to the most recent data provided by The World Bank.
Determined to have a better life, Abraham’s hard work as a contractor helped him be recommended for a special immigration visa. In 2013, he was approved and moved his family to the United States to start a new journey.
His first taste of America left him amazed when he and his family first stepped foot onto U.S. soil while switching planes in Chicago.
Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, speaks with Afghan soldiers during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.
(Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
“We saw everything was very nice and very fresh. We said that this is the life,” he said, smiling.
His family chose to live in Missouri and, at first, it took some time to adapt to the American way of life.
The endless choices at megastores, a variety of pay systems (Afghanistan mainly relies on cash), and the other differences in American culture presented some challenges.
“At the beginning, it was little bit hard,” he said. “Everything was very new for us.”
Abraham and his wife also wanted to be a dual-income family, so both obtained learner’s permits so they could drive themselves around.
Although it is legal for women to drive in Afghanistan, many families restrict them from doing so due to safety concerns.
Abraham and his wife studied for the driver’s test and frequently practiced behind the wheel. Once the test came, they both passed.
“It was such a big experience and a good day for us,” he said.
Joining the Army
While things went well in his new home, his heart still longed for Afghanistan and he searched how he could help rebuild the war-torn country.
In 2015, he walked into an Army recruiter’s office and told them he once served as a linguist with U.S. soldiers. Impressed, a recruiter suggested he become an active-duty interpreter.
“My main reason was to come back and use my skill,” said Abraham, who speaks Dari and Pashto, the two most widely spoken Afghan languages.
In traditional Afghan attire, Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 2013.
At basic training, Abraham, still an Afghan citizen, was issued sets of the Army combat uniform along with the other trainees. When the time came to wear the uniform, he could not help but share the moment with his family.
“I was very proud and took some pictures and sent them to my family,” he said. “They were proud of me, too.”
Abraham eventually earned his citizenship and was stationed at Fort Irwin, California, where he and other interpreters helped rotational units at the National Training Center prepare for deployments.
Speaking in his native tongue, Abraham and others role-played as peaceful villagers, insurgents and even detainees to gauge how soldiers responded.
News then spread across the training base about a new unit designed to bolster the train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan.
The more he heard about the 1st SFAB and its experienced soldiers, many of whom have been deployed to Afghanistan, the more it appealed to him.
“I wanted to be involved with such professional people,” he said.
Now based at the New Kabul Compound in the middle of the country’s capital city, Abraham is one of the most impactful advisors within the brigade’s 5th Battalion.
Often, he is at the battalion commander’s side, translating conversations between him and senior Afghan leaders.
His respectful demeanor and extensive knowledge of Afghan traditions make him a popular soldier to almost every Afghan he meets.
Zabi Abraham, right, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, prepares to do the Oath of Enlistment while at a military entrance processing station.
“They see him as serving us, but also as serving them,” said Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, the 5th Battalion commander.
During important discussions, Abraham is sort of Miller’s key advisor to ensure things are not lost in translation or to pick up on cultural cues.
“It’s the word choice they are choosing. It may be the way they did or did not answer a certain question,” Miller said. “So, if you got a really quality cultural advisor and interpreter, like we do with Sgt. Abraham, he will stop you from asking a question that is not the right time to ask.”
When the time is right, Abraham will ask those sensitive questions in private to support the mission.
“Even if you get trained on the Dari language,” Miller said, “you’ll never be able to pick up on those things if you’re not a native speaker.”
Wearing the same combat gear as every American soldier over here, Abraham also surprises Afghans when he speaks in their language.
“They don’t realize because I’m in full kit, but after I speak with them they realize I am Afghan,” he said, laughing. “I tell them about the service I provided when I was a linguist with them and right now how I support both countries.
Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo with his wife and two children during a trip to San Diego.
“They are appreciative of my service.”
With his unit’s deployment ending this month, Abraham recently spoke of where his career may go next.
If his family approves — most importantly his wife and two young children — he would like to retire as a soldier.
“Without their support, I could not do anything and achieve my goal here in Afghanistan,” he said. “They are part of my heart.”
Another part of his heart belongs to Afghanistan.
Abraham is in the process of completing his bachelor’s degree and raising his test scores to perhaps re-class to 35P, a cryptologic linguist. That job deals with identifying foreign communications using signals equipment.
Even if he does switch careers, Abraham aspires to be halfway across the world again helping his native country.
“My hope is that one day there is peace in this country,” he said.
The Nintendo Switch is a delight, but it will never replace the Nintendo 64 in our hearts. Released in 1996, the N64 as it was lovingly known was Nintendo’s first true 3D console. Its roster featured absolute classics like Super Mario 64 (the bestselling game of its generation), Super Smash Bros., and, of course, Goldeneye 007.
Nostalgia for the late ’90s and the undeniable quality of the N64 mean it’s still a treasured console and one that’s popular online. Jason Brody, a video game streamer and commentator better known as Darkhorse, is a part of this with his effort to beat all 296 Nintendo 64 games on Twitch. (He’s at 85 so far.)
But Brody recently earned viral fame not for his ambitious project but for his clever use of the infamous N64 controller to open a beer. He posted a video to Twitter that shows how the expansion port on the bottom of the controller, when it isn’t holding a rumble pack or Gameshark unit, is the perfect size to fit on a bottle of beer and, with minimal effort, pry off the bottle cap.
Next to going from second to first in Mario Kart 64 thanks to a well-placed shell, this is one of the most satisfying things you can do with an N64 controller, and people are noticing. Brody’s tweet has garnered over 85,000 likes and almost 22,000 retweets.
In the comments section, people are loving Brody’s innovation. And if you’re psyched to try this trick but afraid of damaging your valuable vintage equipment, Brody says there’s nothing to worry about.
So while we continue to wait—hopefully not in vain—for an updated version of the N64, it’s nice to know that people are still finding new ways to have fun with the console that’s old enough to buy (and well-equipped to open) its own beer at this point.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
SAN ANTONIO – The Thanksgiving holiday is often synonymous with family gatherings and a shared meal. But for many, this year will look different as COVID-19 has had a health and financial impact on millions of American households. USAA today announced a commitment of $5 million to two dozen nonprofit organizations in six of the company’s campus communities that are helping to address food insecurity needs exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic.
“Since the pandemic began in March, many families across the country have experienced hardships related to food insecurity, limited access to technology and connectivity for remote schooling, lack of childcare and sometimes even homelessness,” said Harriet Dominique, Chief Diversity, Inclusion and Corporate Responsibility Officer at USAA. “Aligned with our mission, we hope this continued support that we are able to provide to key nonprofit organizations helps with some of the burdens families are experiencing.”
Studies show that more than 24 million adults in the country reported that their households didn’t have enough to eat. Additionally unemployment numbers show that tens of millions of people continue to struggle to afford adequate food and housing expenses. Remote learning also can contribute to increased financial and emotional stress, widening the ‘digital divide’ for families who do not have access to necessary technology and connectivity.
This year, USAA and The USAA Foundation, Inc. have assisted over two million people through more than $47 million in philanthropic support to pandemic-related efforts. This represents over half of the $90 million the company has pledged to nonprofit organizations in 2020. Additionally, USAA employees – along with matching funds from the company – have given more than $14.3 million to nonprofit organizations and volunteered 141,000 hours – mostly virtually – to support our communities and those in need.
In addition to philanthropic efforts to support COVID relief, USAA has returned more than $1 billion in auto insurance dividends as a result of fewer drivers on the road. Additionally, the company provided special payment assistance and arrangements for members facing financial difficulties in the wake of the pandemic.
To learn more about the nonprofit organizations receiving pandemic-related support or if you are a military service member in need of financial assistance as part of USAA’s Military Family Relief Initiative, visit usaa.com/coronavirus.
Senior Master Sgt. David Snyder put on his physical training uniform and fought the tension inside his chest. It was the day of his annual PT test. Like all his tests before, he had been preparing for months. But this time, he was a lot more nervous.
He bent down and tied his single black shoe, mentally preparing himself to push himself harder than he ever had before.
He drove himself to the site. He did as many push-ups and sit-ups as he could in 60 seconds, he ran a mile and a half, and he got his waist measured. In the end, he easily passed the test with a score of 84.4 – with a prosthetic where one of his legs used to be.
Five months prior, Snyder had lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident.
“It’s a series of unfortunate events that led to it,” he said, recalling a change to his planned route. “I have an Apple iPhone, and of course it want[ed] to save me 7 minutes.”
Riding his sleek black Harley Davidson on an empty back road in Alabama, Snyder was heading back from a weekend trip to Florida with his uncle. The California native was on his way to Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama where he was attending Senior NCO Academy.
He said the morning ride was going well as they passed a lake.
“I have cruise control set on 55,” said Snyder, currently the Air Combat Command command propulsion program manager on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. “I’m doing everything right, and here comes this silver Malibu.”
The oncoming car quickly caught his attention and he became defensive.
“I saw his wheel start to point out, and I knew it was too late,” he said. “I tried as smoothly as possible to veer around him. I get all the way to the edge, as far as I can, and he catches me.”
Snyder had his legs propped on the crash pegs, a cylindrical spoke that normally extends four to five inches to protect the bike from falling over. The car caught the peg and drove it into the bike. The bike tipped sideways, but didn’t go down. Shaken but steady, Snyder kept going until he found a house about a 100 yards down the road and pulled over.
Finally off the road, he assessed the damage. “[I] looked down and my foot was facing the wrong way,” he said. “I could see a huge bulge in my sock.”
Snyder asked his uncle to help him off of his bike. He looked down and noticed blood was pooling next to him as he sat in a stranger’s driveway.
Remembering his emergency response training, he quickly took action.
“I’m looking at my leg and I think a tourniquet is my only option,” he said. “I don’t know when anyone is going to get here. So I take my shirt off and I start making a tourniquet.”
It took about 30 minutes for first responders to arrive. After they saw the severity of his injuries, they air evacuated Snyder to Baptist Medical Center South Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama, where they did an external fix on his leg. They told Snyder he had a Pilon fracture, which meant that his tibia and fibula had exploded on impact.
“There were pieces missing, probably out on the Alabama highway somewhere,” he recalled. “Bones were turned and facing the wrong way. [The surgeons] took everything in there and ground it all up, put it back in there and hoped it took. They gave me four plates and about 20 screws that day.”
After working on his leg, doctors laid out his recovery options. They could opt for limb salvage or amputation. Snyder pursued one round of limb salvage, but said he didn’t put much hope into it after hearing about failed recoveries that ended in amputation.
At the first checkup three months after surgery, the hardware in his leg looked good and the prognosis on his leg was promising. However, things started to turn at the six month mark. The hardware started collapsing and everything shifting down in his leg. Things weren’t improving and amputation started to seem like the right choice for Snyder and his family.
“I was just ready to get on with the next step,” said Melissa Snyder, David’s wife and high school sweetheart. “He wasn’t able to do what he wanted to do. He could deal with the pain, but he didn’t like not being able to live his life.”
Snyder and Melissa both decided that amputation was the best option and set a date for May 8, 2018. “Before going into it, I told my wife I didn’t know how long it would take for me to look [at my foot],” he said. “I was like [screw] it. I pull the sheet back and I’m like, ‘Yup, it’s gone.'”
In the aftermath of his events, Snyder’s character was given a true chance to shine.
“From the get go, he had a very positive attitude,” Melissa said. “We have always kind of lived that way. In the end it is going to work out somehow.”
After the surgery, Snyder spent five months at Walter Reed National Military Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for physical rehabilitation, under Air Force District of Washington’s Airman Medical Transition Unit.
Snyder decided how he wanted to handle those five months right from the gurney, when he first needed to use the bathroom.
“It starts now,” he said. “Can I get up? Yeah, I can get up if I want. I got up, and took a walker to the bathroom.”
He spent the next five months pushing the limits in his recovery, so that he could make it back home sooner.
Snyder worked out almost every day, doing varying exercises to improve mobility and muscle control in his leg. He would run on the track at Walter Reed, swim, and bike along with other basic function exercises.
After all the hard work – and with the PT test in the rearview mirror — Snyder said he is thankful he can still serve in the Air Force. He said he knows active-duty service members with amputations have barriers while serving. His goal is to break through those barriers and continue to grow.
“I want to prove that I’m better,” he said. “I don’t care how severe my injury is, I want to be worldwide qualified as soon as I possibly can. It’s my job. I signed up for it.”
Army Emergency Relief (AER) was formed in 1942 with the mission to alleviate financial stress on the force. Since they opened their doors they’ve given out $2 billion dollars in aid. They remain a part of the Army, and assistance is coordinated by mission and garrison commanders at Army bases throughout the world. With the continual threat of the coronavirus looming, AER is ready and not just to serve soldiers – but all branches of the military.
Lieutenant General Raymond Mason (ret.) has been the Director of AER since 2016 and feels passionate about his role at AER and what the organization can do for military families. He shared that the one thing that keeps him up at night is the soldier or military member that doesn’t know about AER.
“If a soldier, airman, sailor, marine or coast guardsman is distracted by something in their life…. like finances, they probably aren’t focused on their individual training. They aren’t focused on their unit mission and if we send them into a combat zone with those distractions they are a danger to themselves and their buddies on their left and right,” said Mason. That’s where AER comes in.
AER is a 501c3 non-profit and receives no federal funding; instead they rely on the generous donations of others to make their mission a reality. Mason also shared that AER has close relationships with all of the other services relief organizations, with them often working together to serve those in need. For example, a coastie can walk into an AER office on post and get the same help as a soldier, although the representative they work with has to follow the guidelines of their branch’s relief organization.
Their biggest concern right now is information. “I want to make sure everyone from private to general knows about our program,” said Mason. He touched on the new environment of social media and the exploding availability of aid to military families. While he shared that it can be a good thing that there are so many organizations devoted to supporting the military; there are also some really bad agencies out there. Mason shared that AER is working hard on more strategic communication and marketing of their relief program to prevent that.
“This isn’t a giveaway program, it’s a help up. You get back on your feet and get back in the fight,” said Mason. AER is also open to all ranks, knowing that anyone can need assistance at any time. They can walk into AER and know that they’ll have their back. AER maintains a 4 out of 4 star rating with Charity Navigator, shared Mason, and it’s something they are very proud of.
There are military members who are reluctant to request help through relief agencies out of fear of reprimand or negative impacts to their career. While AER encourages members to go to their chain of command with their needs, even granting approval for first sergeants to sign checks up to 00 – Mason understands it isn’t always easy. As long as they are outside of their initial trainings and have been serving over twelve months, they can go through direct access to get help without involving command.
As the military orders a stand down on travel due to the coronavirus, guard families are concerned. Many of them are unable to hold civilian jobs due to the frequent schools, trainings, TDYs and deployments. With orders being canceled or held, this means financial ruin could be just a paycheck away. AER will be there for those families and stands ready to serve them.
But all of this costs money, something that AER will always need to continue to support military members and their families. They are stepping up their donation requests by engaging with American citizens and corporations. “We’ve never done that throughout our history and we are doing it for the first time,” said Mason. He continued by sharing although they’ve received support from them in the past, they’ve never asked. Now they are asking.
AER just began its annual fundraising campaign, which kicked off on March 1 and will run through May 15, 2020. For the first time, they are really involving the bases and have turned it into a fun event that each group can make their own, Mason shared. There will be an awards ceremony later on in the year to celebrate those who went the extra mile.
He also shared that AER and most relief societies receive a very low percentage of donations that are actually received from active duty, which is concerning. Mason stated that it isn’t about the amount that they give, but that they do give. “Military members fight for each other. When in combat you fight for your buddy on your left or right. If you aren’t willing to reach in your back pocket to help your buddy on your left and right, we have a problem,” said Mason.
“Leave no comrade behind” is the army’s creed – it is a motto that all should take to heart, especially at home.
To learn more about AER and how you can help their mission, click here.
When you’re young and living in the barracks, regardless of whether you’re legally old enough, you’re going to enjoy a beer or some hard liquor. Underage drinking in the barracks happens every day. Although we don’t condone the act, there’s not a whole lot for troops to do when you don’t have a car and you’re stationed at a base in the middle of nowhere.
So, if you’re one of those youngsters trapped on base and all you’ve got is a 12-pack in the fridge, then take note, because this article might make you look a lot cooler at one of those barracks parties.
So, let’s get freakin’ lit. But, as always, drink responsibly, people.
The idea of this game is simple. Tape two 40-ounce beers to your hands. Now, don’t remove the tape and free yourself until you’ve consumed the contents of both beers.
If you’re a lightweight and you have to pee just minutes into the game, good luck to you.
This game is played in teams of two or more and with a variety of mixable alcohols. First, one person fills up a cup with their booze of choice. Next, you swap your cup with another contestant. From this moment, they have one minute to move the contents of their cup into another, using a teaspoon. After the minute is up, the player must drink the reminder.
First, split a group up into two equal teams. Line up the teams, man for man, on either side of a table. Set a cup in front of each player and distribute a couple beers. Starting at one end of the table, two opposing players drink the beer in front of them, set the empty cup rim-up on the edge of the table, and attempt to flip it over by tapping the bottom of the cup. After you successfully flip your cup onto its head, the next player in line begins the same process. Repeat this until every player on a team is done.
Now, this game is perfect for playing with four or more players, so get some of your buddies together. Arrange your closest friends around a table and bow your heads. After counting to three, quickly lift your head up and make eye contact with another player.
If you do make eye contact with another player, the one who says “Medusa” last, loses and they have to take a drink. If you don’t make eye contact with another person, well, then, we guess no one wanted to look at you.
Other than the National Anthem, there really isn’t another song out there that evokes the pride of country like Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” So when the iconic singer teamed up with the United States Air Force band to perform it during COVID-19, it’s no surprise the rendition is truly breathtaking.
Home Free – God Bless the U.S.A. (featuring Lee Greenwood and The United States Air Force Band)
Army Chorus and Lee Greenwood sing a capella God Bless the USA impromptu at the Winter Classic
While Greenwood never served, he has long supported the troops and military community. In a 2000 interview with Military.com, Greenwood was asked why he thought the song has such a powerful message for the military. He responded:
“I knew we had a song that touched the heart of the public. I knew that it was a song that gave proper salute to the military and its job. I knew that it honored those that had died, and I knew it made people stand up. I actually wrote those words: “I’d proudly stand up and defend her still today,” [meaning] even though pride had been gone in the past, it’s back and we should stand up at any time and defend this free country. So those who are away from home, it has much more impact on. I am a world traveler as well, and have been with the USO for 15 of the world USO tours with my celebrity cast. It does mean much more. You’re in another country where you’re subject to attack, and you long for the protection of the United States and all the things you find familiar about it.”
Here’s to you, Mr. Greenwood. Thanks for continuing to serve all of us.