Soldier’s Angels, a national non-profit organization, is continuing its annual tradition of collecting Valentine’s Day cards to send to veterans in VA hospitals and to those who are forward deployed. But this year they are asking volunteers to include a financial donation of $1 to their cards.
Each year, Soldier’s Angels collects thousands of Valentine’s Day cards to send to veterans around the country as well as to service members who are deployed overseas. However, this year, with the increase in the cost of shipping, the non-profit cannot afford to send the boxes of cards.
“This year the organization is asking for those who send Valentine’s cards to include $1 per card. The money received will help to offset the cost of shipping boxes of cards overseas or shipping to representatives for distribution at VA Hospitals,” a press release statement said.
Soldier’s Angels is a non-profit organization that provides aid, comfort, and resources to active military, veterans, and their families. It was founded in 2003 by the mother of two soldiers and it currently has thousands of volunteers that assist veterans, deployed service members, and their families. Solider’s Angels volunteer network is mostly virtual this year due to COVID-19 restrictions but they continue to provide support in the form of care packages, hand-crafted items, and cards and letters.
Although the act of sending a simple card is small, the leaders at Soldier’s Angels note that it can mean a great deal to veterans and those who are deployed.
“Many deployed service members do not receive any mail from home,” said Amy Palmer, Soldiers’ Angels CEO, and a U.S. Air Force Veteran in a press release.
“Receiving a card from someone they may not know, but who supports them nonetheless, is a fantastic way to boost the morale of our service members.”
In addition to those who are deployed, veterans in VA hospitals are experiencing even less interaction from family due to COVID-19 precautions.
Many are staying in a hospital that may be many miles or several states away from their nearest family members,” Palmer said.
“And, due to COVID-19 restrictions, these patients may not have any visitors so receiving a card or other support helps to keep them going.”
If you would like to send a Valentine’s Day card, along with a $1 donation per card, to Soldier’s Angels, you can send it to the address below:
Soldiers’ Angels 2700 NE Loop 410, Suite 310 San Antonio, Texas 78217
If you would like more information about their Valentine’s Day project, you can visit their website here.
If you would like to volunteer with Soldier’s Angels, visit their website here.
The Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are concluding their 2019 deployment this week, just in time for Thanksgiving.
Departing in waves from the three ships of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, the 11th MEU conducted an amphibious landing aboard Camp Pendleton, California, and aircraft landings at Miramar, California, and Yuma, Arizona.
At each site, Marines and sailors were greeted by family members and welcomed home after seven months away.
During the deployment, the Boxer ARG and 11th MEU spent time in the U.S. 7th Fleet and U.S. 5th Fleet areas of operations, and conducted training in Kuwait, Jordan, Djibouti, Brunei, the Philippines, and Malaysia.
Families and friends of Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), await their loved ones at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Nov. 25, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jaime Reyes)
“We have traveled a long way and the Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU have risen to every challenge. They have built important partnerships and have been ready to help, ready to respond, and ready to fight if necessary,” said Col. Fridrik Fridriksson, commanding officer of the 11th MEU. “I am incredibly proud of each and every Marine and sailor in the ARG/MEU team.”
11th MEU consists of the command element; the aviation combat element comprised of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced); the ground combat element comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/5; and the logistics combat element comprised of Combat Logistics Battalion 11.
Boxer ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P Murtha (LPD 26), and Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).
The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego and began their deployment May 1, 2019.
We get it. No one likes to do manual labor. Unfortunately, you’re one of a handful of people assigned to a crappy detail and you realize that, for some reason, a certain someone else is “too busy” to help out. You work your ass off and they take it easy. If they’re the same rank as you (and same time in service), they’ll get the exact same amount of money from Uncle Sam as you — and worked half as hard for it.
So, you want to take the easy route, too? Alright. Gotcha. We can’t stop you — but we suggest you read the following points before you try to wiggle your way out of the working party.
F*cking your buddies is one of the only sins that can get you banished from the E-4 Mafia.
1. You could be blue falconing your guys
First and foremost, things need to get done. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bullsh*t detail made up to keep you guys busy until close-out formation. If the task came from up higher, someone will have to do it before everyone can go home.
If it’s something stupid that everyone — including the chain of command — agrees is exclusively for the purpose of killing time, alright. But if it’s something that obviously needs to be taken care of, like police calling the smoke pit, someone else will have to cover down for your laziness.
Yep. You’re totally “helping” with that clipboard in your hand.
(U.S. Air Force)
2. You’re being watched by everyone
The military may be big, but your unit isn’t. Word gets around. If you sham out of something, people will know that you weren’t there. If you show up and just do the bare minimum amount of work so you can still claim “you were helping,” people will know you really weren’t.
Things like this get remembered down the road. When you need a favor, people will bring up that time you screwed them that one time on a working party.
Dental is always a good excuse, but they give you appointment slips and your NCOs know this.
3. Your excuse may not be that valid
There’s a huge difference between having a reason and having an excuse. A reason can be backed up with physical proof; an excuse is made up on the spot. If you’re going to try to use an excuse, at least have something to back it up.
If you’re going to try to pretend that you’re going to be “at dental” at 1600 right before a four-day weekend, you’d do well to actually look up when the dental office is open that day. You’ll look like a complete idiot when someone looks at the printed-out schedule and points out that it closed at 1300.
Then again, being commo opens up a whole new world of skating. You’re not often lying when you say you have “S-6 business to handle.”
(U.S. Marine Corps)
4. You shouldn’t ever skate out of what is your job
There’s a general consensus that police calls, cleaning connexes, and mopping the rain off the sidewalk are all menial tasks that anyone could do. But units are only assigned so many people of your specific MOS or rating. If they came to you for a task and that is literally what you told Uncle Sam you’d do, you’re going to get in trouble under the UCMJ for not doing it.
Side note: if you really want a perfect way to get out of a detail, be a master at your job. If you’re a commo guy, be the best damn commo guy the military has ever seen. There may not be any computer or radio problems right when you’d otherwise be filling sandbags, but if you’re so valuable, they won’t even risk sending you out.
You do you, man — but never blue falcon your guys.
5. If you do it too often, you’ll lose all trust
Taking it easy everyone once in a while is fine. It’s the military, sure, but everyone is human. Skate out of something once in a blue moon, no one may even notice. If you bolt for the door every time the first sergeant says, “I need three bodies,” your career could be dead in the water.
Outside of the obvious UCMJ action that could easily be dropped on you, no one in your chain of command will believe you’re ready for the next rank. Your name will never be brought up when a school slot comes up. Even your peers will give you the cold shoulder — after all, it’s them you’re really f*cking, not the chain of command.
Early Sunday, a fire broke out below decks on the USS Bonhomme Richard which is currently docked in her home port of San Diego.
The fire was reported to be as a result of an explosion below deck, possibly originating in the hangar bay of the amphibious assault ship. The first reposted call went out around 10am and was later expanded to a three-alarm call for the San Diego Fire Department.
Injuries have been reported for 17 sailors and 4 civilians, but no details have been confirmed.
The Bonhomme Richard, named after Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones’ famous ship, is primarily used to embark, deploy and land elements of a Marine assault force in amphibious operations by air, landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles. It can also act as a light aircraft carrier. The ship was commissioned in 1998 and San Diego became its home port in 2018. She has deployed numerous times in support of Operation Iraq Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and was part of humanitarian efforts in during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster.
I’ve known for a long time that some men and women really don’t enjoy the holiday season. In recent years I’ve had encounters that really brought home to me how many people there are in this situation, and how deep is their pain.
I’ve been convicted that we – the VA – and we – the community of faith – really should find some way to address this deep, aching need that some of our brothers and sisters feel.
Planning this service brought home to me many reasons why people might suffer during the holidays.
The first one that comes to mind is grief — loss of a loved one or a friend — but it’s not the only reason.
Alienation from family or even geographic distance from them can do it.
Painful memories of events that happened in the holiday season might be a reason.
Some people are experiencing loss of a job or other economic difficulty.
Even good things might make the holidays difficult; think about retirement, empty nest, or moving to a new home.
Any big change that affects a strong part of your self-identity might cause loneliness and feelings of isolation.
Even the loss of what might have been can be so painful.
I’m supposed to say something helpful, here, but I don’t want to offer quick fixes or simple tips; What brings healing is going to be distinctive for each person. Still, there are some principles that can help many.
Chaplain Jonathan Landon.
We may suppress our painful feelings, because we don’t want to burden others, but giving ourselves freedom to acknowledge the pain may be helpful by itself. Concealing those feelings can leave us feeling lonelier, and leaves those who care about us helpless to comfort us. So if you need to cry, then cry. And if you need to be hugged, say that, and let your family members and friends reach out to you and meet your need.
I can’t be so presumptuous as to guarantee it, but if you acknowledge your pain, and people offer space to let it out, and make that giving of mutual support into a time for bonding, maybe you can let the pressure off a little bit. Maybe you can relieve the tension of those who care about you, who are trying to avoid stirring up painful feelings. Then you may just find that there’s some room for laughter, smiles, and enjoyment.
You see, what most of us really need is not the quick fix or the simple solution; it’s caring relationships. One of the key themes of the time leading up to Christmas is the prophecy that foretold the coming of Jesus, giving him the name or title of “Emmanuel”, which means, “God with us.” This Word teaches me that I am never alone in any loss or pain, no matter what my emotions may tell me.
But the message is not only about God being with us; we have the opportunity to show the presence of God to others, by living God’s love in truth and caring for them. Some people came here today because they’re struggling with the holidays. Some people came here because they care about who is struggling with the holidays. Some care because of their faith. Some of them just care because they see a human in pain and they don’t want anyone to suffer alone.
Don’t forget: in the midst of your own pain, you have opportunities to come alongside of others — to be with them, as God is with us.
In this fairly recent tradition, the Blue Christmas service usually happens on or close to the 21st of December, the night of the winter solstice, the longest and darkest night of the year.
It’s an appropriate symbol for a time when many people feel alone, lost and in pain. But that’s not the only meaning of the night of the 21st. Because what happens at sunrise on the morning of the 22nd?
The days begin to get longer. At first, it’s by tiny increments and you hardly notice it, and then it grows faster and faster and you can’t miss it. It’s inevitable. The light returns. That, too is part of the symbolism of this night and this service. The light returns. No matter how long the night will be — or has been — the light returns.
Chaplain Jonathan Landon is the chaplain at the Eugene VA Health Care Center.
One of the most celebrated World War II tank gunners received the bronze star during a surprise award ceremony 74-years in the making.
Clarence Smoyer, 96-year-old former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, never bragged about the five tanks he destroyed in the war, including an infamous Nazi tank he leveled during a dramatic duel in war-torn Cologne, Germany.
He didn’t ask for anything, either. To Smoyer, he was just doing his job to protect the men he considers family.
(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, and Joe Caserta, World War II veteran of Omaha Beach, Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, attend a Bronze Star award ceremony, with Smoyer as the guest of honor, Sept. 18, 2019, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was nicknamed the “Hero of Cologne” for his efforts destroying a German tank during the battle.
(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)
Duel at the cathedral
It was March 6, 1945, and WWII was winding down, much of Germany was left in ruins.
Cologne, one of the country’s largest cities, was no exception. Once a bustling metropolis, Cologne had been reduced to rubble, with only a few identifiable buildings remaining — including its cathedral.
As the Americans entered Cologne, Smoyer recalls the now-infamous words of his lieutenant, Bill Stillman, who said, “Gentlemen, I give you Cologne, let’s knock the hell out of it.”
Clarence Smoyer (top middle) was a 21-year-old Pennsylvania native when he, and his fellow tank crew members, were photographed in Cologne, Germany, in 1945. This photo, courtesy of the National Archives, was taken moments after the battle of Cologne, Germany, and Smoyer delivered the fatal shots that destroyed a German tank.
“So… we obliged,” Smoyer joked, thinking back to that day.
American forces, before making their way east toward Berlin, had to conquer Cologne first. Their goal was to secure a bridge over the Rhine River, but a nearby Nazi tank had other plans.
“Attacking such a large city gave the enemy plenty of places to hide,” Smoyer said. “Not just in the horizontal plane, but from the basements to the tops of five-story buildings — Cologne put us to the test.”
“We were chosen as the first tank(s) into the city,” he added. “Everyone else followed us in. So, for us, it was constant firing. You fired at anything that moved. That’s when a gunner’s instinct kicked in.”
One street over from Smoyer, the Panther tank, used by the Nazis, took out an American Sherman tank, killing three soldiers inside, including Karl Kellner. The Wisconsin native, and Silver Star recipient, had received a battlefield commission to lieutenant just two weeks prior.
(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, receives his long-awaited Bronze Star Sept. 18, 2019, during a ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was recognized for his heroic efforts during the battle of Cologne, Germany, where as a tank gunner, he delivered the fatal blows to a German Panther tank and was nicknamed “The Hero of Cologne.”
(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)
After being hit, Kellner’s leg was amputated at the knee. He jumped from the tank and landed on his remaining leg. Smoke lifted from his stump like a ghost fading into the air, witnessed remembered.
Nearby, Stars and Stripes reporter, Sgt. Andy Rooney — the future acclaimed television journalist — along with another man sprinted toward Kellner. He was lying near the destroyed American tank. They moved him to onto a jumble of debris, safely out of the way, and attempted to stop the blood as it flowed from Kellner’s severed limb.
Rooney, the future 60 Minutes newsman, held Kellner in his arms as he died. Later, Rooney would say it was the first time he witnessed death. The other two tankers, both killed by the Germans, never escaped the Sherman tank. Meanwhile, Smoyer and his crew were slowly approaching the battle.
The Panther tank idled quietly in the street, as the Americans approached.
Veterans Clarence Smoyer and Joe Caserta stand near a Pershing tank, similar to the ones they were both crewmembers of during World War II, Sept. 18, 2019, near the National World War II Memorial in Washington. Both men were present in their respective tanks in Cologne, Germany, March 6, 1945, when Smoyer’s tank crew “Eagle 7,” took out a German tank.
(Photo by C. Todd Lopez, DOD)
“Experience taught me it’s impossible to knock out a German tank in one shot,” he said. “So, I worked a plan with our driver. He was to edge into the intersection, I’d shoot, and then he’d back up — fast! When we roared into the intersection to shoot, everything went out the window.”
Instead of “seeing the flank of the Panther in the periscope,” like he planned, Smoyer looked at the Panther’s super velocity muzzle pointed at street level, right at him, he said.
Smoyer added “his heart stopped.” The driver, also staring down the barrel of the German’s muzzle, panicked and “floored the gas.”
“We were totally vulnerable,” Smoyer said. “I snapped off a quick shot and hit him first. I kept yelling for (armor-piercing) rounds and kept hitting him until he caught fire. I could hardly breathe as we backed out of there.”
Smoyer’s finger squeezed the trigger of his tank, and he fired 90mm rounds into the side of the Panther tank, garnishing three direct hits.
World War II veterans Clarence Smoyer, Joe Caserta and Buck Marsh stand for the chaplain’s invocation during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
“People always ask why I fired three times,” Smoyer said. “Some say I was butchering that German crew by not giving them a chance to flee the tank. Any crewman still alive in that Panther could have pulled the trigger and with that powerful of a gun still pointing at us, we’d all be dead.”
But, that wasn’t the case. The Americans won, and Smoyer, the thin, 21-year-old curly blonde haired corporal, earned the nickname “the hero of Cologne.”
Footage of the battle, captured by Tech. Sgt. Jim Bates, a combat cameraman attached to the 165th Photo Signal Company, made its way into movie newsreels worldwide, including back home in Pennsylvania, where Smoyer called home.
“That’s Hon!” Smoyer’s sister-in-law yelled during an airing of the newsreel, Hon was Smoyer’s family nickname.
She later convinced the theater owners to replay the reel, so Smoyer’s parents, who had never been to a movie theater, could see their son was still alive.
Author Adam Makos and World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer walk to a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee)
History in the making
For his actions that day, Smoyer was notified he earned the Bronze Star. However, this was short-lived after Smoyer talked to German children, who were begging the soldier for bubble gum. This small act of charity cost him the medal.
“They wanted bubble gum and I was still searching my pockets when a jeep full of (military police) turned the corner,” Smoyer said. “Fraternization was a no-no.”
Smoyer added, he felt bad for the kids, who had been on the frontlines of war longer than him. The MPs took his name, tank, serial number, and indirectly, his Bronze Star.
Army Maj. Peter Semanoff salutes World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer after awarding him the Bronze Star during a ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
“I could have avoided all that if I just had a stick of gum!” He joked.
But, it was never about the medals and glory. As decades passed, the war ended, and Smoyer returned to civilian life. His neighbors in Allentown, Pennsylvania, never knew they lived by a war hero.
That all changed after an author, Adam Makos, who wrote a book on Smoyer’s story, happened upon information that changed everything.
“Smoyer’s tank commander and an Army combat cameraman both received Bronze Stars for their actions that day — yet, Smoyer got nothing,” Makos said.
This inspired the author to change that. He used witnesses to Smoyer’s actions, evidence he collected, including Bates combat camera footage, and contacted the Army.
World War II veterans Joe Caserta and Clarence Smoyer embrace during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
In the end, a military review board agreed with Makos, and Smoyer was awarded the Bronze Star. Three additional Bronze Stars were also awarded to the rest of the tank crew, making Smoyer’s tank crew “one of the most celebrated in Army history,” according to Makos.
To keep the surprise, Smoyer’s loved ones convinced him he was visiting the WWII Memorial as a tourist. The monument was filled with soldiers, fellow WWII veterans, news crews, and onlookers. Then, overwhelmed with emotion, he received the long overdue medal.
With the Bronze Star pinned to his chest, Smoyer promised to, “Wear the medal to remember the ones who lost their lives” that day, nearly 75 years ago.
Padres’ mascot, the “Swinging Friar,” pumps up the crowd during the San Diego Padres Military Appreciation Sunday game opening ceremony at Petco Park, San Diego, April 13. (U.S. Marine Corps / Cpl. Benjamin E. Woodle)
Opening Day is quickly approaching! The San Diego Padres and USAA, the Official Military Appreciation Partner of the Padres, are honoring the military community all season long with two key initiatives:
35% off MLB.TV Subscriptions
To thank military, veterans and their families for their service, USAA has teamed up with the Padres to offer a 35% discount on MLB.TV subscriptions for this season. The discount is available for all tiers of MLB.TV and online authentication verification by GovX is required. To purchase your subscription, please visit Padres.com/USAA.
Military Padres Fans Cutouts
USAA is helping military Padres fans “get inside” Petco Park this season, via fan cutouts that will appear in seats all season long. Military and veterans were invited to upload a headshot photo of themselves in Padres or military themed gear. This free experience courtesy of USAA was fulfilled within minutes of being released. The military fan cutouts will be placed within “USAA’s Military Appreciation Section” – Section 325.
In 1995, the Padres were the first professional sports team to have a Military Affairs department, and since have been recognized as ‘The Team of the Military’ throughout professional sports. For more than two decades, the Padres have looked for ways to recognize and honor the men and women who serve. The Padres efforts in recent years have expanded to include First Responders under a broader ‘Those Who Serve’ initiative, paying respect to the sacrifices made by Americans who provide us the freedom and safety we enjoy.
Support for ‘Those Who Serve’ has become one of the signature identities for the Padres, continuously striving to deliver a best-in-class program.
The Padres and USAA thank the military and their families for their service and offer special pricing on Padres tickets
For more information on how USAA and the Padres honor the military community, please visit padres.com/military.
Arguably the most famous (or infamous) male writer of the 20th century has a new short story coming out. An unpublished 1956 short story written by Ernest Hemingway will hit the pages of The Strand Magazine this weekend, 62 years after Papa wrote it, and 57 years after his death.
Known for his supposedly “masculine” style of writing and equally macho personality, Hemingway is probably most beloved for his novels The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea. But for true Hemingway aficionados, the short stories are where his real brilliance shines. Whether it’s two waiters complaining about their lives in a ‘Clean Well-Lighted Place,’ or a young boy having a brush with mobsters in ‘The Killers,’ the smaller bites of Hemingway are often the best. Fatherly got in touch with the editor of The Strand, Andrew F. Gulli, to get a sense for what the new story is all about.
“This is a tale about men who fought a war and were regrouping for the next big challenge,” Gulli says. “Their drinking and chatting about books, life, relationships, and the narrator for a brief moment questions if the sacrifice was worth it all.”
The story is called ‘A Room on the Garden Side,’ and was written by Hemingway in the last years of his life as a reflection on World War II. According to CNN, Hemingway sent a batch of stories to his publisher at some point after this story was written saying the stories were “boring” and that the publisher could “always publish them after I’m dead.”
For fans of Hemingway, the existence of a short story previously unavailable to the public is anything but boring. Although the 1999 posthumous Hemingway novel, True At First Light, was considered something of let-down by critics, the odds for a short story being decent are high while the stakes are considerably lower.
The Strand Magazine is available in every single Barnes and Noble bookstore nationwide in the magazine section. Though primarily a mystery magazine, The Strand has a long history of publishing long-lost manuscripts from beloved and deceased authors. The new issue, featuring ‘A Room on the Garden Side’ is out this weekend. You can also buy it directly from The Strand here.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Ah, another Valentine’s Day has come and gone. By law of averages, at least a few people somewhere in the military spent a nice evening with the person they genuinely love. The rest of us are in the field, deployed, or stationed god-knows-how-far away from our beloved.
Sure, sure. Many of those in the military marry extremely young and the spouse is often quick to put eighty-seven bumper stickers on the minivan saying they have the hardest job in the military… But on Valentine’s Day, we can let them pretend being bored, worried, and lonesome during a deployment is more difficult than serving as a nuclear submarine’s engine mechanic. After all, military spouses do put up with a lot of our sh*t, so one day with an inflated ego is fine.
Anyways. Knowing the average memer is probably stuck in the barracks and taking Hooter’s up on their order of free buffalo wings for single people, here’re some memes to take your mind off the crippling loneliness. Enjoy!
Everybody does dumb stuff, and military spouses are no exception. (Example: eating Ben & Jerry’s for dinner every night during a deployment and then wondering why we didn’t hit our goal weight.)
But there are a few dumb things that only military spouses do, such as:
Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy. But give me your number. And be the emergency contact for my baby.
Every PCS means starting over, in every way. We get three to five weeks to unpack and arrange everything, get everyone registered for school, find a doctor, find a dentist, find a … oh yeah, find a place to live. Wonder of wonder, during that mad dash, what we didn’t manage to find was a friend we would trust with our child’s life.
For military spouses, emergency contacts are the proverbial Canadian girlfriend/boyfriend from summer camp. “I swear I know people, and they like me enough to take my kid to the ER, but they just don’t live here.” So, we list the name of, literally, the very first person we meet, cross our fingers and hope no one gets hurt this year.
Ooh! PCS stickers! I can craft with those!
When the ever-lengthening “Home is Where” plaque in the entryway doesn’t make the point loudly enough, we peel those little PCS stickers off the backs of our furniture and use them to make Christmas ornaments, maps, and other crafts.
Because nothing says “holiday spirit” and “welcome home after a hard day,” like a passive-aggressive homespun visual that basically means “remember that time your job forced the whole family to move to Ft. Huachuca? Where there are TARANTULAS! Good times…”
As if we don’t see enough camo…
Make a purse out of a uniform.
Why, and I mean why, do we do this? The ACU pattern was ugly and impractical when soldiers wore it. Multi-cam and MARPAT look like a pigeon flew over after an all-night sugar binge. Basically, anything that ends in “uniform” was not designed to be stylish, except for maybe the Navy blueberries (Why did they want sailors to blend in with the OCEAN? If a sailor is in the water, don’t we need to see him so we can fish him out? I digress.) None of these handbags are cute.
But that doesn’t even touch on the real issue, which is – these are old clothes. Worn by people who get paid to do dirty, sweaty, disgusting things. You don’t see the wives of garbage collectors making diaper bags out of threadbare, bright orange coveralls for a reason. Why are you putting your baby’s bottle and snack pack of Cheerios into something your husband wore on the Darby Queen, Kayla? It’s not even hygienic.
Gauge life events by location and childbirth.
Forget journals and Facebook memories, we can tell you what was going on in the world in any particular year by recalling where we lived and which child was born there. “Let’s see, we were at Camp LeJeune, and Jackson was a newborn … he had the worst colic, you know … so that must have been 2016 and Hurricane Matthew.”
Get itchy every three years.
Fish and houseguests start to smell after three days. For duty stations, it’s more like three years. Three years into each move, the grass starts looking greener elsewhere, and the luster of our current location begins to wear off. We’ve eaten in all the good restaurants, visited all the local sites, shopped in all the cute boutiques, and now all we notice is what this duty station doesn’t have.
At the first rumor of a new base, we start googling, joining Facebook groups, and surfing real estate apps. If Uncle Sam wanted us to be settled and content, he wouldn’t keep moving us all over the planet.
Prom photo? Military ball? What’s the difference?
Go to Prom every year until menopause.
Okay, so it’s not really prom, but it’s the same rubbery chicken, the same DJ, the same up-do and mani-pedi, and the same expensive dress we’ll never wear again (or at least not until we PCS). Military balls feel a lot like prom, except there’s alcohol, uniforms, symbolism, and patriotism.
Well, even if it isn’t prom, we still feel like Cinderella getting ready for the ball, just like we did in high school.
The Army is investigating a TikTok video in which an unidentified 18th Airborne Corps soldier at Fort Bragg drinks from an Ocean Spray bottle while lip-syncing Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” during a static line jump. The video in question was inspired by the viral TikTok video by Nathan Apodaca which caught the attention of Ocean Spray CEO Tom Hayes and earned Apodaca a new truck.
However, while the unidentified paratrooper has found himself in hot water due to the addition of juice and “Dreams” to his jump, another soldier has made her dreams come true under the canopy of a parachute.
Vivian C. “Mille” Bailey was born in Washington, D.C. in 1918. In 1942, she commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. During WWII, she commanded a WAC detachment and earned several awards throughout her career. Bailey was honorably discharged in 1946 as a 1st Lt. She continued her service in the government working for the Veterans and Social Security Administrations. At the height of her career, Bailey served as a division director responsible for roughly 1,100 employees. She is also a long-time community activist, having served 23 years on the Howard County General Hospital Board of Trustees in Columbia, Maryland.
Though Bailey retired in 1975, she has stayed active as a volunteer and adventure seeker. In fact, at the age of 102, she checked off the most extreme item on her bucket list: to make a parachute jump. Bailey was inspired by President George H. W. Bush who celebrated his 75th, 80th, 85th, and 90th birthdays with parachute jumps. With the help of Skydive Baltimore, Bailey made her dream come true.
On October 18, 2020, Bailey took on her latest adventure which she called, “The thrill of a lifetime.” Bailey had wanted to make the jump for 10 years. “At one point when we were tumbling in the air, I felt like I was by myself. I thought, ‘Where did the paratrooper go?’”
On top of her service in WWII, long career of public work and volunteering, and successful jump, Bailey has received honors from President Trump and the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, had a police award named after her—the Vivian Millie Bailey Making a Difference Award, and now has a park in Howard County named for her as well. “So there are a lot of things that I can look back on,” Bailey said. “I am thoroughly happy and feel blessed that I’ve been able to do whatever I’ve been able to do.”
The last month of deployment can either drag slowly on or fly by, depending on how you keep your mind busy. If you’re looking for an escape from the drudgery, keep yourself distracted. And there’s no better way to keep your mind off the present quite like imaging all of the food you’ll eat when you arrive stateside. America is the melting pot of all the world’s cultures, which also means we have the very best of the world’s cuisine.
I can guarantee you, based on personal experience, that the question of, “what’re you going to eat first?” will come up. If you’re looking to start the discussion off with a delectable imaginary dining experience, fantasize about the spots on this list:
Pinch Kitchen — Miami
Restaurants overseas never perfectly nail the taste of American cuisine — and I do not mean fast food (admittedly, foreign countries can’t get that right, either). If you’re lucky enough to be stationed in Florida, or you’re planning on using some of your post-deployment leave days down south, make sure to stop by Pinch Kitchen in Miami, Florida.
They take American classics and add a dash of this and that to really bring out the taste in the classic meals we love. Now, before people start saying that hamburgers and hotdogs are not American because they originated from Germany, I’ll say this: Just like we did to the moon, we put our flag on them and now they belong to us.
Two executive chefs, John Gallo and Rene Reyes, put every effort into ensuring the food is perfect, the ambiance is unpretentious, and the place is filled with all of our favorite beers.
This is a piece of art that you’re encouraged to eat. What a concept.
Delmonico Steakhouse — Las Vegas
If Vegas is in your future, do not miss Delmonico Steakhouse. The genius in the kitchen is Emeril John Lagassé III who, as you might know, had his own show on the Food Network. This restaurant is more upscale, and I’d strongly recommend taking someone you’re more serious with than that stripper you just met thirty minutes ago.
Regardless, the filet mignon and other steaks here are so good you’ll wish you were exclusively carnivorous. Treat yourself to a quality meal because you’ve earned it. Vegas has buffets and deals around every corner, and there are plenty of comfort foods for after you have stumbled out of the casino (and almost married that stripper I told you not to take to the Steakhouse while successfully evading capture from the police and being black-out drunk). So, take some time to enjoy a meal that isn’t self-served, warrior.
It’s a family restaurant… I swear!
(Twin Peaks, Front Burner Restaurants, LP.)
Twin Peaks is a sports bar that started in Texas, but now has franchises all over the U.S. and is the primary competitor of Hooters. They serve beer at 29 degrees and have a made-from-scratch menu that includes American favorites, like burgers and nachos. It’s themed like a hunting lodge and goes to great lengths to put forth a degree of manliness, like offering “man-size” 22oz beers.
It’s a wholesome family restaurant with friendly waitresses that will make sure your table receives the attention a patron deserves. The themed events are fun and, sometimes, they have bikini car washes. The best part is that new franchises are opening every year so you won’t have to travel far if you’re lucky.
Worth every penny.
Sushi Iki — Los Angeles
Sushi Iki is in Los Angeles County, not the city itself. It’s in what the locals call “The Valley,” a barren wasteland of broken dreams. Just kidding — the Valley’s fine. It’s just really far from Hollywood, Santa Monica, or anything LA you’ve seen on television. However, don’t let the distance from your hotel deter you from this place; the sushi is legendary.
The variety of fish and shellfish served here can’t be found in just any sushi restaurant, and some are prepared so fresh that they were alive when you walked in the door. This is an expensive restaurant, but if you find yourself in L.A. this is one of those places you should not miss. Expect to pay around 0 per person for the full experience and for something modest.