MIGHTY CULTURE

The 10 most popular US states for off-the-grid living, according to HomeAdvisor

HomeAdvisor has identified the 10 most popular US states for living off the grid.

The home improvement site used an algorithm to comb through Instagram posts tagged #offgridliving, focusing on posts with location data, to identify where off-gridders are congregating.

Off-grid living involves disconnecting from the electric grid and pursuing an independent lifestyle without relying on municipal services like water supply.


Not all off-gridders are showcasing their life on social media, HomeAdvisor acknowledges, but the #offgridliving hashtag is a good place to go “hunting for signs of life” in the off-grid community, the company said.

Motivations of casual off-gridders vary but generally include wanting to “get away from it all for a while” and lead an “eco-conscious life,” HomeAdvisor wrote.

Here, in ascending order, are the 10 most popular US states for off-grid living, according to HomeAdvisor.

Editor’s note: The legality of living off-grid can vary by county within a given state, so be sure to check local laws if you’re thinking of going off-grid.

10. New York

ercentage of #offgridliving posts: 3.46%

Off-grid tip: Diane Vuković, an author and writer for the blog Primal Survivor who regularly updates a list of off-grid laws relating to water, electric, and waste in each of the 50 states, deemed New York “one of the strictest” when it comes to regulations.

“However, this does not mean it is impossible to go off-grid in New York,” she said. “It just means that you will likely have to do a lot more research to find a place where off-grid living is allowed and get numerous permits, licenses, and inspections.”

Source: HomeAdvisor

9. New Mexico

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 3.71%

Off-grid tip: The Earthship Biotecture in Taos, New Mexico, is an off-grid community that has made headlines over the years for its eye-catching designs. Founded by Michael Reynolds in the 1970s, it consists of self-sufficient, solar-powered homes and buildings made with upcycled material like car tires and glass.

Source: HomeAdvisor

8. Utah

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 3.73%

Off-grid tip: Utah Homestead Properties, a brokerage specializing in self-sufficient homes, highlights Utah’s vast wilderness, affordable real estate prices, and “independent, self-sufficient mindset” as reasons why the state is a great place to set up an off-grid life. The arid climate and extreme temperatures require off-gridders to get creative about heating and cooling, but there are “lots” of builders in the state that understand how to work around these challenges, the company writes on its website.

Source: HomeAdvisor

7. Alaska

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 4.14%

Off-grid tip: Alaska’s microgrid laws are “very progressive,” Vuković wrote for Primal Survivor. “However, off-grid solar may not be feasible in many areas of the state where there isn’t much daylight during winter,” she added.

Source: HomeAdvisor

6. Florida

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 4.24%

Off-grid tip: Reports of a woman who was evicted from her off-grid home in Cape Coral, Florida, back in 2016 have contributed to the belief that off-grid living is illegal in Florida, according to Vuković and the blog Off Grid World.

“Many people have exaggerated on a story going around the internet that Florida doesn’t allow off grid living, but the story is completely false,” Off Grid World wrote in a recently updated post.

In reality, living off-grid in Florida is legal: Residents can set up off-grid solar power systems, collect rainwater, and with permission, install compost toilets, Vuković wrote.

Source: HomeAdvisor

5. Hawaii

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 4.46%

Off-grid tip: “Although unplugging from public utilities isn’t practical everywhere, the mild temperatures; abundance of sunshine, wind, and rain; and fertile soil make Hawaii an attractive place to go off grid,” LiAnne Yu wrote for Hawaii Business magazine in November 2017.

The Big Island, or Hawaii Island, is home to several established off-grid communities. “Living off the land here is a way of life,” Sean Jennings wrote of the Big Island on his blog Homesteadin’ Hawaii.

Source: HomeAdvisor

4. Oregon

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 7.37%

Off-grid tip: One of Oregon’s notable off-grid communities is the gated Three Rivers Recreation Area. Spanning 4,000 acres near the Metolius River arm of Lake Billy Chinook, it comes with its own marina and airstrip. It is home to 600 properties and between 75 and 80 full-time residents, according to Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty.

Source: HomeAdvisor

3. Arizona

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 8.64%

Off-grid tip: In 2019, early retirees Steve and Courtney Adcock settled down at an off-grid home in the Arizona desert powered by solar. “Residential solar energy systems aren’t cheap, but they are game-changers,” Steve wrote in a blog post. “Solar power systems save money in the long run, include a tax credit in the US and, of course, it’s clean energy. We love not having an electric bill.”

Source: HomeAdvisor

2. Colorado

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 9.57%

Off-grid tip: A popular Colorado destination that draws a steady steam of novice and veteran off-gridders is San Luis Valley in Alamosa County, Tom McGhee reported for The Denver Post. “Mountains carve the sky in all directions, and the promise of cheap land and life beyond the confines of civilization lures many. It is dream land beyond the reach of electricity and other infrastructure considered necessary by most,” he wrote.

Source: HomeAdvisor

1. California

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 12.91%

“If you live in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Diego, you may well have an off-gridding Instagram-user right next door,” HomeAdvisor wrote of the most popular state for off-grid living, according to its report.

HomeAdvisor describes the #offgridliving asethetic as a happy medium between a plugged-in life and homesteading. “You’ll still find baskets of eggs, but they’re surrounded by bushcraft knives, off-road vehicles, and ornate water filtration systems,” the company said.

Source: HomeAdvisor

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.


Articles

These are the differences between Airborne and Air Assault

Short answer: One is still used as a tactically viable way of getting troops into the fray and the other is more ceremonial.


Benjamin Franklin once said “Where is the prince who can afford to cover his country with troops for its defense, so that ten thousand men descending from the clouds might not, in many places, do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?”

Both of these troops fit that bill over two hundred years later.

Out of all of the current military rivalries, this one still ranks pretty high on the list. As someone who’s Air Assault and let his personal rivalry simmer a bit, there’s no reason to keep it up. The differences between the two just keeps growing with each conflict.

(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Sean McCollum, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

By World War II, many forces developed their own form of Airborne infantry that soared into combat. Allied forces captivated folks back home with the tales of jumping into the European theater. Over the years, airborne operations can be performed in essentially two ways: static jumps (think of the age-old cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door! Jump right out on the count of Four!”) and HALO/HAHO, or High Altitude, Low Opening and High Opening (free-falling).

Air Assault rose in the Cold War and became more prominent in the Vietnam War. There are usually two means for getting troops into combat, FRIES, or Fast Rope Insertion/Extraction, where you grab a piece of rope and slide out of a hovering helicopter and just Air Insertion, where the helicopter lands on the ground and troops hop out. Technically, there’s also Sling Load operations, where you attach things underneath a helicopter, but that’s more of a special task that’s assigned to Air Assault qualified troops.

There’s several more ways of leaving a helicopter. Like SPIES and Helocasting, as seen above (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Codie Mendenhall)

But in the wars since 9/11, you can count on one hand the number of combat jumps performed by US troops. They were done twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan — and all three to command and control airfields.

Making a combat jump authorizes you to wear a Combat Jump Device. It’s a gold star that adorns the Parachutist Badge and is often referred to as a “mustard stain.” Finding one of these bad asses outside of Jump School is like finding a CW5 — you know they have to exist somewhere because you’ve seen the badges at the PX, but it still sounds as plausible as any other barracks rumor.

There isn’t as comprehensive list on total Air Assault missions because it’s far more common. It’s just another way to get around.

Many combat arms guys can tell you that they never went to Air Assault school, but still do Air Assault operations in country. The only Air Assault task restricted to someone who actually went to the school is the previously mentioned sling load operations. Even that has its “volun-told” feel to it. Sling loading has a risk to it that could be deadly if not done properly. Only Airborne school qualified personnel are allowed to complete airborne jumps (because of the weeks they spend just learning how to fall properly).

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston)

Sure. We have our disagreements and will probably flame each other in the comment section. They’re both ways to get men out of a perfectly good aircraft.

We both deal with a heavy amount of prop / rotor wash that training can never prepare you for. And both of our badges are still highly sought after by badge-hunters — usually a staff lieutenant or junior NCO. And they both will probably correct you by saying “well actually, according to Army regulation…”

Wear your blood wings proud, my brothers and sisters.

Lists

8 tips and tricks to get better at ruck marching

The one exercise that will never leave the military is also the one exercise that requires the most thought. Push-ups? Just find a good form and knock them out. Runs? Just get a good pair of shoes and be fast.


But ruck marching, especially if you’re going over 12 miles, takes more brains than brawn.

If you’re still in or looking forward to Bataan Memorial Death March, this helpful guide will help get you through a ruck march.

Preparation:

1. Carry heavier weights higher in the pack.

The problem most people have with ruck marching is the weight of their pack dragging them down after the first mile. The lower the weight hangs, the more effort it requires. It also causes more knee and back pain, which means more visits to the doc and, eventually, the VA if done incorrectly.

Bring the weight up to your shoulders, not your hips (Photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)

2. Always use your best boots, but not the fancy boots.

The best boots are the ones that will give your feet and ankles the best support. The standard-issue boots are actually very good in this respect. Funnily enough, the “high-speed tacticool” boots that everyone seems to buy are actually far worse for your feet on longer ruck marches.

And don’t be that fool who wears the nice boots they regularly wear in uniform. They’ll get dirty fast. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Molly Hampton)

3. Anti-chafing powder and good underwear.

Common sense says that your feet will chafe, but what some people don’t get is that there are also other parts of the body that will rub against itself.

I mean, unless you’re comfortable with that rash and awkward conversations with medics… (Photo by Capt. Michael Merrill)

4. Wear a good pair of socks and keep more on standby.

When it comes to socks, you’ll want to spend a little extra money to get some good pairs. Make sure you bring plenty durable, moisture-wicking socks, because you’ll need to change them constantly.

Every stop. No exceptions. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez)

During the Ruck:

5. Don’t run.

If you do find yourself slowing down or getting left behind, take longer strides instead of running.

If you run, you’ll smack the weight of your pack against your spine and exhaust way too much energy to get somewhere slightly faster. Practice that “range walk” that your drill sergeant/instructor got on your ass to learn.

Just find a good pace and stick with the unit. (Photo by Spc. Jonathan Wallace)

6. Daydream.

Pretend you’re somewhere else. Think about literally anything other than the weight on your back or your feet hitting the ground. The hardest part of a ruck march should only be the first quarter mile — everything after that just flies by.

7. Plenty of water, protein and fruits.

There is nothing more important on a ruck march than water. Keep drinking, even if you’re not thirsty. Drink plenty of water before the march, plenty of water during, and plenty of water after the march.

You’ll also lose tons of electrolytes along the way, so stock up on POG-gie bait (junk food) to help keep that water in your system.

After the Ruck:

8. Take care of your blisters.

Even if you follow all of this advice, you may still end up with blisters by the march’s end. Use some moleskin to help take care of them, crack open a cold one, and relax. You earned it.

We decided not to end this on a picture of blisters, so, you’re welcome, everyone-who-isn’t-a-medic-or-grunt. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Audrey Hayes)

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea said to be completely nuclear capable in 6 months

North Korea could launch a full-blown nuclear strike on the US as early as July 23, 2018, according to a prediction from Britain’s Ministry of Defense.

A government minister gave the assessment to a parliamentary committee in early 2018 as part of its efforts to assess Kim Jong Un’s ability to precipitate a nuclear war.


Lord Howe, a British defense minister, told parliament’s Defense Committee that the Defense Ministry thought North Korea would be fully nuclear-capable within “six to 18 months.”

The statements, made at a Jan. 23 hearing, were published April 5, 2018, in a committee report on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The earliest possible date for a strike in Howe’s time frame is July 23, 2018; the far estimate is the same date in 2019.

The Defense Ministry on April 5, 2018, told Business Insider it stood by the dates.

“We judge that they are now certainly capable of reaching targets in the short range, by which I mean Japan, South Korea — obviously — and adjoining territories,” Howe told MPs. “Our judgment is that it will probably be six to 18 months before they have an ICBM capability that is capable of reaching the coast of the United States or indeed ourselves.”

North Korea’s Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, which the country claims can reach the US.
(Photo from KCNA)

North Korea tested multiple nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017. Based on the tests, experts said North Korea could probably get a missile to hit the US mainland — but still lacked the technology to carry a heavy nuclear warhead that far.

The Defense Ministry believes the country is now working on that technology; attaching a nuclear weapon to an ICBM would allow North Korea to carry out a nuclear strike in most of the world.

“A nuclear strike capability depends on marrying up the ballistic missile with the warhead, and that is, we judge, work in progress,” Howe said.

The Defense Ministry confirmed Howe’s assessment on April 5, 2018.

“We stand by our defense minister’s comments,” a spokesman told Business Insider.

Though there appears to be a growing rapprochement between North Korea and the US, Pyongyang appears to be preparing a satellite launch that could ruin the coming discussions with US President Donald Trump.

North Korea has scuppered multiple talks about disarmament by launching satellites in the past.
MIGHTY TRENDING

An Eagle Scout became the kingpin of a drug empire

Aaron Shamo went from being a clean-cut Eagle Scout and deacon in the Mormon church to a clean-cut but alleged fentanyl drug lord on the darknet. When police raided his home in 2016, they found $1.2 million, another $2.2 million worth of product – some 95,000 pills.


Shamo was just 26-years-old, living in a quiet, affluent suburb in Utah when police took him into custody. He was playing his Xbox like any other twenty-something when DEA agents and a SWAT team kicked in his door.

Shamo grew up like most kids in Suburban Utah, a member of the church of Latter-Day Saints, and a pretty normal kid by his sister’s account. He may not have been good at sports and didn’t excel at his studies, but he wasn’t in any serious trouble as a teen, either. His parents still thought he was headed down a bad path because he rebelled against their authority, skipped school and church, and began smoking marijuana, so they sent him to a “lockdown facility” in La Verkin, Utah. That’s where Aaron graduated from high school and earned his Eagle Scout status.

He seemed to have changed, no longer had a temper, and was even pleasant to be around. He soon went to college, but that wasn’t for him. He would much rather spend time outdoors than going to class. His parents soon stopped paying his tuition. It was in college he got interested in Bitcoin, the popular cryptocurrency. He thought he could make real money in Bitcoin. But he went a different route.

A Dark web drugstore similar to the one Aaron Shamo ran as “Pharm-Master.”

Shortly after his interest in Bitcoin grew, around 2014, he and a partner ordered latex gloves, postage, bubble wrap and gelatin capsules – everything needed to set up a pill press. His skills using the dark web for Bitcoin also provided an area of exchange to ship those pills. Aaron Shamo was now Pharma-Master on AlphaBay, the biggest darknet market. He was ordering his product from China and having it delivered to the homes of nearby friends and was the only bulk distributor around.

Pharma-Master offered anything from valium, Xanax, oxycodone, and MDMA, to Viagra and fentanyl powder. His wealth surged during this time, and everyone thought it was solely due to Bitcoin. Because few people truly understand how Bitcoin works, that was usually as far as the questioning went. Not for U.S. Customs or the Drug Enforcement Agency, however.

Pure fentanyl is so powerful, it can cause an overdose with direct skin contact. Officers wore HAZMAT suits to raid Shamo’s house.

The Feds began seizing his shipments in June 2016, but that didn’t stop Shamo from conducting business as usual. His longtime partner became less involved with the business. Shamo began to feel like he was being followed, and he was right. Homeland Security flipped a number of confidential informants who spilled the beans on his whole operation. Shamo was shipping fentanyl labeled as oxycodone around the country, significantly contributing to the nationwide opioid crisis and causing potential overdoses everywhere he shipped.

On Aug. 30, 2019, Shamo was convicted by a federal jury in Salt Lake City of organizing and directing a drug trafficking organization that imported fentanyl and alprazolam from China and used the drugs to manufacture fake oxycodone pills made with fentanyl and counterfeit Xanax tablets.

“The opioid crisis has devastated individuals, families, and entire communities across the nation. Aaron Shamo controlled and led a highly profitable organization that delivered fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills to every state in the union. Though his customers remained faceless on the dark web, their despair was real. Shamo profited off that despair and a jury of his peers has held him accountable,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said.

Shamo will be sentenced on Dec. 3, 2019. Prosecutors want him to spend the rest of his life in prison.

MIGHTY TRENDING

All DoD branches will have role at US border

Troops from all the services will take part in the southern border buildup, either on duty to back up U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in the border states or serving as base support in other areas, according to U.S. Northern Command.

Base Support Installations chosen for Operation Faithful Patriot include Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Fort Huachuca in Arizona; and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton; Naval Air Facility El Centro, Naval Base Coronado, Naval Base San Diego, and Naval Base Point Loma in California.


In Texas, the Base Support Installations will be Fort Bliss, Lackland Air Force Base, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Naval Operations Support Center Harlingen, and Naval Air Station Kingsville, NORTHCOM said in a statement.

Those bases will serve troops actually going to the border, who will be strictly limited to supporting CBP and will not have law enforcement authorities of detention or arrest in the event of the arrival of the “caravan” of migrants and political asylum seekers now heading north through Mexico.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers.

The NORTHCOM statement also identified units that have already been notified to deploy in support of CBP, but said the actual number of troops on the border will change daily with the flow of units.

NORTHCOM said the initial estimate is that about 7,000 total active-duty troops will deploy, in addition to the 2,000 National Guard troops who have been on the border since April 2018, although President Donald Trump said earlier at the White House that the number of troops could rise to as many as 15,000.

NORTHCOM said the units slated to deploy are:

From Fort Bragg, North Carolina:

  • Headquarters Command, 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment

Command

  • 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division
  • Headquarters Headquarters Company, 16th Military Police Brigade
  • 51st Medical Company, 28th Combat Support Hospital
  • 172nd Preventive Medicine
  • 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion
  • 329th Movement Control Team
  • 403rd Inland Cargo Transfer Company
  • Headquarters Detachment, 503rd Military Police Battalion

From Fort Carson, Colorado:

  • Headquarters Company, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division
  • Headquarters Company, 68th Combat Sustainment Support

Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division

From Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado:

  • Joint Enabling Capability Team and Aviation Planner from U.S. Northern Command

From Scott Air Force Base, Illinois:

  • Joint Public Support Element — Public Affairs

From Fort Meade, Maryland:

  • 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera)

From Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia:

  • 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade Headquarters, 3rd Infantry Division
  • 90th Human Resources Company, 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade

From Joint Base San AntonioFort Sam Houston, Texas:

  • Defense Logistics Agency Contingency Contracting Team
  • 4th Expeditionary Sustainment Command Assessment Team
  • Headquarters Company, 505th Military Intelligence Brigade

From Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington:

  • 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, I Corps
  • 87th Engineer Sapper Company, 555th Engineer Brigade

From Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina:

  • 1st Combat Camera Squadron

From Fort Bliss, Texas:

  • 24th Press Camp Headquarters, 1st Armored Division

From Fort Hood, Texas:

  • 89th Military Police Brigade, III Corps
  • Headquarters, 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade
  • 937th Engineer Sapper Company, 8th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade
  • 104th Engineer Construction, 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade
  • 289th Quartermaster Company, 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 1stCavalry Division Sustainment Brigade

From Fort Knox, Kentucky:

  • Headquarters Detachment, 19th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade
  • 15th Engineer Company (Horizontal), 19th Engineer Battalion
  • 541st Engineer Sapper Company, 19th Engineer Battalion

From Fort Campbell, Kentucky:

  • 887th Engineer Support Company, 101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade
  • 372nd Inland Cargo Transfer Company, 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade
  • 74th Transportation Company, 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion,101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade

From Fort Riley, Kansas:

  • Headquarters Detachment, 97th Military Police Battalion, 1st Infantry Division
  • 977th Military Police Company Combat Support
  • 287th Military Police Company Combat Support
  • 41st Engineer Company (Clearance), 4th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade.

At a welcoming ceremony for South Korean officials at the Pentagon on Oct. 31, 2018, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the deployments are not unusual and should not be seen as other than routine military support occasionally provided for other federal agencies, according to a released pool report.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis meets with the Minister of Defense for the Republic of Korea Jeong Kyeong-doo during the U.S. hosted 2018 Security Consultative Meeting at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Oct. 31, 2018.

(DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Angelita Lawrence)

He also rejected the charge that the border buildup is a “political stunt” by Trump to boost support for Republicans in the midterm elections.

“The support that we provide to the Secretary for Homeland Security is practical support based on the request from the Commissioner of Customs and Border police, so we don’t do stunts in this department,” Mattis said.

He likened Operation Faithful Patriot to the military assistance provided after hurricanes.

“We do this following storms, we do this in support of the Department of Homeland Security. This is a different aspect of it, but that’s what we are doing,” he said.

Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of NORTHCOM, gave the first indication that all services would be involved at the border at a gaggle with Pentagon reporters Oct. 30, 2018.

He said that “every airman, soldier, sailor, and Marine going there” would be fully trained for the mission at the border.

Citing an internal document, The Washington Post reported this week that the deployed force will include a special purpose Marine air-ground task force, among other elements.

However, a Marine Corps spokeswoman said earlier Oct. 31, 2018, that no specific Marine units had yet been tasked by NORTHCOM for the operation.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New VA appeals process is starting and it looks promising

Over the last 18 months, VA has been dedicated to implementing the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act). The Appeals Modernization Act was signed into law by President Trump on Aug. 23, 2017, and has been fully implemented beginning Feb. 19, 2019. VA is proud to now offer veterans greater choice in how they resolve a disagreement with a VA decision.


Veterans who appeal a VA decision on or after Feb. 19, 2019, have three decision review lanes to choose from: Higher-Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board). VA’s goal is to complete Supplemental Claims and Higher-Level Reviews in an average of 125 days, and decisions appealed to the Board for direct review in an average of 365 days. This is a vast improvement to the average three to seven years veterans waited for a decision in the legacy process.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)

Before appeals reform, pending appeals grew 350 percent from 100,000 in Fiscal Year 2001 to 450,000 in Fiscal Year 2017. In November 2017, VA initiated the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) to afford Veterans with a legacy appeal the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of the new process. RAMP ended Feb. 15, 2019, but VA remains committed to completing the inventory of legacy appeals.

This is a historic day for Veterans and their families. Appeals Modernization helps VA continue its effort to improve the delivery of benefits and services to Veterans and their families.

For more information on Appeals Modernization, visit http://www.va.gov/decision-reviews.

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

Articles

This policeman survived bayonet wounds and torture to save the Marines at Guadalcanal

Jacob Vouza was already a hero when the Marines landed at Guadalcanal. When a pilot from the USS Wasp was shot down over his island, Vouza led that aviator to safety. That’s where he first met the Marines.


Vouza spent his life as part of his native island’s police force. When the Japanese invaded the British-controlled island in 1942, the lifelong policeman was already a year into retirement.

He joined the Coastwatchers, an allied intelligence gathering outfit on remote islands run by ANZAC officers and fielded by local islanders.

Vouza and British Col. George Tuck on Guadalcanal.

The policeman met the Marines later in 1942, accepting an American flag as a gift from one of the men. With the rank of Sgt. Major of his outfit and his lifelong experience in the island’s constabulary, he had valuable services in American invaders – and he did.

That’s what nearly cost him his life.

Vouza was captured by the Japanese defenders who found the U.S. flag he’d been given. The Japanese tortured Vouza for hours for information on the American positions, but the policeman gave up nothing.

The Japanese clubbed him with their rifle butts, then bayoneted him in the throat, chest, arms, and stomach, then left him for dead. Vouza passed out from blood loss.

Jacob Vouza in 1942 and in 1967.

But he woke up, chewed through the ropes that held him, and weakly escaped the scene. He crawled on all fours to get back to the Marines and warn them that the Japanese were coming.

Vouza crawled for three miles. When he finally arrived, he was able to describe the enemy’s numbers, weapons, and vehicles. The Marines took the information and got Vouza to a surgeon. After 12 days of surgery and blood transfusions, Jacob Vouza was back on duty. The old islander was the Marines’ chief scout on Lt. Col. Evan Carlson’s 30-day raid behind enemy lines.

Jacob Vouza dressed and ready to raid.

He received the British George Medal for gallantry and devotion, the American Silver Star, the American Legion of Merit for his actions with the 2nd Raider Battalion on Guadalcanal, made a Member of the British Empire in 1957, and knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1979.

In 1962, Vouza sent a message to the First Marine Division Association that read, “Tell them I love them all. Me old man now, and me no look good no more. But me never forget.”

Sir Jacob Vouza memorial at Rove, Honiara Solomon Islands.

Sergeant Major Sir Jacob Vouza died in 1984.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 special benefits reserved for Purple Heart recipients

The Purple Heart is the U.S. military’s oldest medal — but it’s more than just a medal. It’s a symbol of a sacrifice made on behalf of a U.S. troop for his or her unit, mission, and country. It represents a tangible, physical offering — a risk to life or limb. An officer can’t write themselves a Purple Heart package with some fancy wordplay. To get one, a military member must be wounded or killed in action against an enemy. There’s a reason people, veteran and civilian alike, take notice when they see it — it always means something.

So it’s nice to know that those who made such a sacrifice get a little bit extra.


President George W. Bush awards a Purple Heart medal and citation to U.S. Navy sailor Jefferson Talicuran of Chula Vista, California, on Thursday, July 3, 2008, at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

(White House photo by Eric Draper)

1. Medical Priority Upgrades at the VA

The VA prioritizes veterans into eight categories, ranging from Group 1, those with a 50-percent military disability rating or higher, and Group 8, veterans who have no service-connected conditions and are ineligible for medical care. A Purple Heart recipient will automatically be placed in at least Group 3, so they’re never responsible for a copay for medical treatment.

2. The Forever GI Bill

In order to qualify for GI Bill benefits, most troops must serve at least 36 months on active duty. Purple Heart recipients will get full benefits no matter how long they spent on active duty — and they get the full benefits offered in the bill.

President Barack Obama awards Sgt. James N. Rowland, a Rohnert, Calif. native, the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. The ceremony was held in Al-Faw Palace on Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq on Apr. 7, 2009.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kimberly Millett)

3. Preferential hiring in government jobs

When applying for a federal government job, all honorably discharged veterans who served active duty get hiring preference over non-veterans. Vets get five-point preference if they served during a war, served during a campaign for which a campaign medal was created, or served during certain periods or for certain lengths of time.

Ten-point preference is given to veterans who have a service-connected disability — including Purple Heart recipients.

4. Commissary and MWR access

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act makes Purple Heart recipients eligible for on-base shopping and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation area use starting in 2020.

President Trump shakes hands with U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Alvaro Barrientos, after awarding him with a Purple Heart, with Tammy Barrientos at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, on Apr. 22, 2017 in Bethesda, Maryland.

(CBS News)

5. State Benefits

Many states offer some sort of extra benefit to Purple Heart recipients. In Arizona, in-state university tuition can be waived for Purple Heart recipients. In South Carolina, children of Purple Heart recipients are eligible for free in-state university tuition. Check with your state VA to be sure — individual states offer property and income tax breaks that you may never hear about in a national discussion.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UK is sending another warship to the Persian Gulf

The UK is deploying an additional frigate and a support ship to the Persian Gulf region, although the UK Ministry of Defence said the deployments were not related to increasing tensions in Iran.

The Type 45 frigate HMS Duncan is in transit to the region, as the UK announced it would also deploy Type 23 frigate HMS Kent and support ship RFA Wave Knight. The moves were reported first by Times of London reporter Lucy Fisher and confirmed by MoD.

British frigate HMS Montrose successfully stopped Iranian gunboats from seizing a tanker on July 10, 2019.


The MoD issued a release confirming that the ships would be deployed as part of Operation KIPION, its “commitment to promoting peace and stability as well as ensuring the safe flow of trade, and countering narcotics and piracy.”

“RFA WAVE KNIGHT’s role is to deliver food, fuel, water and other essential supplies to [Royal Navy] and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) ships,” according to the release. The MoD states that the HMS Kent will take over for the HMS Duncan, a warship currently deploying to the Gulf to “maintain a continuous maritime security presence” in the region.

The news caps off over a month of high tensions between Iran, the US and its allies.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that a UAE-based tanker has gone missing in the Strait of Hormuz.

The 190-foot, Panama-flagged Riah oil tanker entered Iranian waters and stopped transmitting location data more than two days ago, according to the AP. Capt. Rajnith Raja from data firm Refinitiv told the AP that losing the signal from the Riah was “a red flag.”

The Riah was last heard from in Iranian waters, near Qeshm Island, the AP reported, citing a US defense official. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the US designated as a terrorist organization earlier this year, has a base on the island.

Escalating tensions: Iran calls on United Kingdom to release oil tanker

www.youtube.com

The US official told the AP that the US “has suspicions” that the Riah is in Iranian hands.

On July 4, 2019, the government of Gibraltar, a British territory, seized an Iranian tanker it said was carrying oil to Syria through the Straits of Gibraltar; Iran vowed retaliation, and attempted to block a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz a week later. Britain sent a second warship to the region to replace the HMS Montrose, which had been patrolling the British tanker and prevented the seizure.

Britain has agreed to release the Iranian tanker under the condition that it will not transit to Syria.

In June 2019, Japanese and Norweigian tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman; the US blamed Iran for the attacks, but Iran has denied responsibility.

The US has proposed a plan for a coalition of allies to patrol Iranian and Yemeni waters as incidents in the Gulf increase.

“We’re engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab,” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said July 2019.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 weirdest names for military operations in history

While researching another story, I came across a recent exercise designed to steel NATO for battling Russian subs. The war game was named for a ferret-like creature that subsists on insects and worms.

Exercise Dynamic Mongoose.

Nothing like a small mammal to drive terror into an adversary’s heart.

How do military leaders come up with these? In the case of the US, military commands are assigned blocks of the alphabet, say from AA to AD, from which they can choose two word names. Such as Agile Diver. The rules forbid “commercial trademarks,” “anything offensive to good taste,” or that are similar in spelling to a code word.

They also set aside words for certain commands. “Cheese,” for example, is only to be used by the chief of naval operation’s office. Ditto “rabbit.”

(Great Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill specifically warned about “frivolous” words, saying no one would want to tell a grieving mother her son died in an operation named “Bunnyhug.”)

Here’s a totally objective guide to the worst-named military operations and exercises of all time.


Bold Alligator is a large-scale amphibious exercise that showcases naval forces like the US Marines.

(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nicholas Guevara)

1. Exercise Bold Alligator

Alligators are cold-blooded and pretty low energy most of the time.

Ferrets make great pets.

(Photo by Alfredo Gutiérrez)

2. Operation Black Ferret

Ferrets are small, furry mammals that have been domesticated. The wild ones are known to dance a gig to hypnotize their prey, according to Mental Floss.

Operation Black Ferret was a search and destroy mission in Vietnam.

Mermaid performer Paisley Easton.

(Weeki Wachee Springs State Park)

3. Operation Mermaid Dawn

In addition to not finding ferrets frightening — setting aside “The Big Lebowski” scene where a ferret scares the Dude in a bathtub — I don’t especially find the prospect of mermaids at dawn threatening.

Rebels named their 2011 assault on Tripoli, according to this excellent overview of military naming by Mental Floss.

This was the name for a 2005 mission to seize weapons and propaganda before a referendum on the Iraqi constitution.

(US Army)

4. Operation Flea Flicker

Got an itch?

(Photo by Ricky Kharawala)

5. Operation Cajun Mousetrap III

What about the mousetrap makes it Cajun? And did this mousetrap work better the 3rd time around?

This was the name of a nighttime raid on Samarra, Iraq in 2004.

The saxophones of the US Air Force’s jazz ensemble.

(Airman 1st Class Jalene Brooks/US Air Force)

6. Exercise Steadfast Jazz

This is one jazz set that just doesn’t quit!

Fully 6,000 troops in NATO’s ready-response force participated in this ludicrously named 2013 exercise.

Hat tip to Business Insider’s Pentagon Correspondent Ryan Pickrell for the suggestion.

The mongoose’s connection with this massive NATO naval exercise remains unclear to the author.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda S. Kitchner)

7. Exercise Dynamic Mongoose.

Notably, NATO also has an Exercise Dynamic Manta.

(Photo by Jan Kahánek)

8. Operation Therapist


How does it make you feel?

The was the name of a 2005 Army mission in Tikrit, Iraq.

A US war game had a name pretty similar to a Nirvana hit.

Notable mentions.

These operations and exercises almost made the cut.

Gringo-Goucho: Aircraft carrier exercises involving the US and Argentine navies. The term “gringo” occasionally has a pejorative meaning for English-speaking Americans.

Team Spirit: A joint US-South Korea training that ended in 1993, and that keeps reminding me of Nirvana’s 1991 hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Operation Desert Snowplough: Reportedly a name for a Danish operation during the Iraq War.

Operation Frequent Wind: The evacuation of civilians from Saigon in 1975.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

If you happen to ever find yourself slated to have society as a whole decide it would be best if they killed you, the silver lining is that in many parts of the world where this is still a thing, the last meal you ever eat is likely to be significantly better than the ones you’ve been consuming up to that point in prison. So how did this rather odd meal tradition come about and is it actually true death row inmates can get anything they want to eat?


To begin with, while it’s commonly stated that the whole idea of the last meal request came about due to Christ’s famed last supper, there doesn’t seem to be any direct evidence of this.

So how did the tradition actually start?

While history is absolutely littered with various cultures having feasts associated with death, such as the public feast for Roman gladiators the night before their potential date with death, called the coena libera, it wouldn’t be until slightly more modern times where we start seeing those being executed widely granted such a courtesy en masse. Once this did start to become a thing, in the early going, while wealthy individuals slated for execution, as ever, could generally request whatever they wanted any time, and were even often allowed servants to attend them as they awaited their execution, common things granted to the poor before their execution seem to have been at best a swig of some alcohol or the like.

Things began to pick up steam considerably on this front around the 16th century, however. Or, at least, things appear to have. It is entirely possible that such courtesies were widely granted before this to even the poor, with documented evidence of it simply not surviving. On that note, things like the printing press’ invention in the 15th century began making documented history of rather mundane events like the executions of random Joe Citizens more, well, documented. Thus, it may or may not be coincidence that accounts of such courtesies started to pop up more and more around the 16th century and progressing from there.

Whatever the case, by the 18th century, particularly in places like England, such practices were definitely around and relatively common. For example, in London it was common to allow the condemned to enjoy a meal with various guests, generally including the executioner, on the eve of the execution. Further, there is record of Newgate Prison death row inmates being allowed to stop at a pub on their march to their death at the Tyburn Fair gallows. At the pub, they would typically share drinks with their guards and executioner.

Over in Germany, perhaps the best documented case of the food practice around this time was that of Susanna Margarethe Brandt of Frankfurt. On January 14, 1772, Brandt, a poor servant girl, was executed for allegedly killing her newborn child. Eight months before this murder, she’d become pregnant by a journeyman goldsmith who she never saw again after they had sex. She subsequently successfully hid her pregnancy all the way to the eighth month when she gave birth secretly and alone in a laundry room on August 1, 1771. Unfortunately, when the baby came out, whether because newborn babies are insanely slippery or she just failed to realize it was about to drop, it fell from her and smacked its head against the stone floor. The child then, according to her, wheezed momentarily and then ceased to breathe. Brandt subsequently panicked, hid the baby in a stable and fled the scene. However, having no money or means to support herself, the next day she returned to Frankfurt where she was eventually arrested for murdering the child. Whether she did or not, and even if it would have survived anyway given it was premature, is a matter of debate even today, but she was nonetheless convicted of the murder and sentenced to death.

Shortly before her execution, however, she was the guest of honor at what has been dubbed the “Hangman’s Meal”- a rather large feast prepared for the condemned and various officials who had condemned her. If you’re curious, the meal in this case supposedly was “three pounds of fried sausages, ten pounds of beef, six pounds of baked carp, twelve pounds of larded roast veal, soup, cabbage, bread, a sweet, and eight and a half measures of 1748 wine.” Of course, the young Susanna reportedly ate none of it, merely drinking a little water as the officials feasted around her. Not long after, her head was lopped off.

Moving over to the United States where the idea of the “last meal” is perhaps best known today, it would appear this tradition did not initially jump across the pond when Europeans began setting in the Americas. Or, at least, surviving accounts of executions don’t seem to mention such courtesies, with some exceptions usually having to do with drink or something to smoke. For example, in 1835, the New York Sun reported shortly before his execution, murderer Manuel Fernandez requested and was granted a bit of brandy and some cigars, courtesy of the warden at Bellevue prison.

As the 19th century progressed, this sort of thing became more and more reported, as did eventually the practice of granting last meal requests, which by the early 20th century became quite common.

This all leads us to why. Well, as far as more historic cases, such as the early known instances in Europe, it’s generally hypothesized that people did it as a way for officials and executioners to more or less say to the prisoners “We’re going to kill you, but it’s nothing personal.” In essence, offering a bit of kindness to the condemned before their death with the prisoners themselves seemingly appreciating the courtesy, at least when it came to the alcohol.

On that note, it’s widely reported from this that the practice was instituted as a way to ensure the ghosts of the executed would feel friendly towards their condemners and executioners and thus not come back and haunt them, but we couldn’t find any primary documentation backing such a notion.

Whether that’s true or not, moving on to more modern times, the underlying reason why prison officials started doing this is not any better documented and there doesn’t ever seem to have been any laws requiring it, for instance. It’s just something people did on their own and the idea spread, presumably thanks to the media’s then love of reporting everything about the last hours of those being executed, and the general public eating it up across the nation.

Whatever the case, law professor Sarah Gerwig-Moore, co-author of Cold (Comfort?) Food: The Significance of Last Meal Rituals in the United States, posits of all this,

Last meals may be an offering by the guards and prison administrators as a way of seeking forgiveness for the impending execution, signaling that ‘it’s nothing personal.’… There are standard operating procedures that put up a wall between guards and prisoners, but nevertheless, there is a fondness between them… The last meal as a tradition is really a way of showing humanity between the caregivers of people on death row who are completely powerless and who come to care about these people — they feel complicit, and conflicted. The last meal is a way to offer, in a very, very small way, a show of kindness and generosity.

On this point, she also notes from her research, “The most generous meals correlate to the states that execute the most people — except for Texas…”

Texas, of course, having executed about 1,300 people in the last two centuries and trending the opposite of everyone else- actually increasing the number of executions in recent decades. For reference here, they’ve conducted 562 executions (almost half their couple century total) since 1982- apparently doing their best to adhere to the supposed 13th century Papal decree at the Massacre at Béziers, “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.” This translates to, “Kill them. For the Lord knows those that are His own.” Or to put it in the form that is apparently Texas’ state motto- “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out.” (Joking asside, Texas’ state motto is actually the single word- “friendship”, owing to the fact that the name of the state derives from the Caddo word for “friends” or “allies”.)

On the note of Texas, last meals, and being friendly, in 2011 Senator John Whitmire very publicly pushed for an ultimately got the special meal requests for those about to be executed abolished, at least officially. He noted of this, “It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege… enough is enough… If you’re fixing to execute someone under the laws of the state because of the hideous crime that someone has committed, I’m not looking to comfort him… He didn’t give his victim any comfort or a choice of last meal.”

That said, proponents on the other side of that argument generally state that part of the point of offering such courtesies is to demonstrate that while the state is killing someone on behalf and with the express consent of the public as a whole, if it’s not done in a humane way, the public and the state are no better than the person being killed. As Professor Kathy Zambrana of the University of Florida sums up, “It comes down to how do you treat one human being when you’re about to take someone’s life.”

History professor Daniel LaChance of Emory University further chimes in, “These last meals — and last words — show the state is democratic and respects individuality even as it’s holding people accountable. As horrible as the deed they’ve been convicted of [is], the person still has some kind of dignity that we’re acknowledging.”

As to what drew the ire of Senator Whitmire to come against the then almost century old Texas tradition of the last meal, it was the meal request of death row inmate Lawrence Russel Brewer, who was sentenced to death for taking part in the rather horrific and senseless racially motivated murder of James Byrd Jr in 1998. So what did Brewer ask for? A couple chicken fried steaks, a triple decker bacon cheeseburger, a beef and cheese omelet, fried okra, a full pound of BBQ, a half loaf of bread, three fajitas, and a meat lover’s pizza. For dessert, he requested a container of Blue Bell ice cream and peanut-butter fudge. To wash it all down, he asked for three root beers.

When the time came, however, he ultimately ate nothing.

This all brings us to whether inmates can actually request and receive basically anything they want. While the media widely reports this is the case, including with this specific example of Brewer, this isn’t correct at all. In fact, in the vast majority of cases where inmates request something elaborate like this, what they actually get is just a simple, one-person version of it.

As famed “death row chef” Brian Price, who prepared well over 100 such meals, states, “The local newspaper would always say they got 24 tacos and 12 enchiladas, but they would actually get four tacos and two enchiladas… They only get items in the commissary kitchen. If they order lobster, they get a piece of frozen pollack. They quit serving steaks in 1994. If they order 100 tacos, they get two or three.”

That said other states and prisons sometimes do it differently. For example, in nearby Oklahoma, they allow the meal to be purchased from a local restaurant if desired, though capping it at … Other states that allow similar, such as Florida, are more generous, allowing for a budget of .

Of course, as you might have guessed from all we’ve said so far, those actually involved in making or acquiring the last meal may or may not pitch in if they so choose to go beyond. For example, in Cottonport, Louisiana, when one unnamed death row inmate requested lobster, the warden at the Angola prison, Burl Cain, went ahead and paid for a full lobster dinner, with Cain then dining with the inmate. You see, much like many historical instances of this sort of thing, before Cain’s recent retirement, he would always extend an invitation to the condemned to have their last meal with him and sometimes other select guests.

Of course, as with Susanna Brandt and Lawrence Brewer, it’s quite common for death row inmates to forgo eating their “last meal”, as the whole impending death thing generally leaves many without an appetite. To try to get around the problem, the so-called last meal is sometimes not actually the last meal at all, with it generally designated the “special meal” by prison officials. Even when it is literally the person’s last meal, it is usually scheduled far enough ahead that they might still be able to eat, but not so far away that they’ll have to go an extended time without eating before their execution. For example, in Virginia the rule is the meal must be served at least four hours before the execution. In Indiana, they go even further with the special meal often coming a few days before the big show, in a time when the person can actually enjoy it on some level.

For those who don’t have an appetite, they often share. For example, in places like Florida, in certain cases family or friends may be allowed to enjoy the meal with the condemned. Some inmates instead donate it to others. For example, in 1951, Raymond Fernandez, one of the “Lonely Hearts Killers” along with his lady love Martha Jule Beck, made a request that his meal be given to another inmate to enjoy.

On a similar note, in the early decades of this tradition in Texas, it was relatively common for the condemned to order and be given large portions of food for their special meal precisely so they could have enough to share with every other inmate on death row in the prison. This extra food request was usually honored by prison officials because it was seen not just as a mercy, but something that helped keep all those on death row in line directly before executions.

That said, not all inmates have trouble eating. Perhaps the most famous case of this was murderer Rickey Ray Rector. After committing two rather senseless murders, he attempted to kill himself by shooting himself in the head. However, he ended up living through the ordeal owing to shooting himself in the temple- a common way to kill one’s self in the movies, but in reality very survivable if medical aid is nearby, with the person effectively having just given themselves a lobotomy.

Despite his rather deficient mental faculties as a result of the whole bullet through the brain thing, Rector was controversially sentenced to death. The issue became even more of a media sensation after the fact when it was learned that while he happily ate his last meal, he chose not to eat the pecan pie that he got with it. Why? He told the guards he was “saving it for later.”

Once again showing the humanity of the guards involved, they went ahead and saved the piece of pie just in case there was a last minute stay of execution.

This all brings us to what prisoners actually usually request for their last meal. While exact fare is rather diverse (for example in one case a person simply requested a “jar of pickles” according to the aforementioned Brian Price), if categorizing this into groups, it often comes down to either things you’d find at McDonald’s or KFC (or literally McDonald’s or KFC meals in many cases), something fancy, or a favorite home cooked meal from the person’s childhood or the like.

As for the first two categories there, it’s noted that the vast majority of death row inmates come from rather impoverished backgrounds, and thus often go with favorite food items they are accustomed to and haven’t gotten while in prison- things like fried chicken, cheeseburgers, french fries, and soda, or the like. That said, some go the other way, picking foods they couldn’t really afford when in the land of the free, or may have never even tried at all, like lobster or filet mignon. As for favorite home cooked meals, the aforementioned Brian Price states when he prepared these meals, he always did his best to make it just as the inmate described, or even potentially getting a specific recipe from the condemned’s loved ones.

Regardless of what camp one goes with, some choose their last meal not on what they necessarily intend to eat, but rather to make a statement.

As for such statements, going back in time a bit in 1963, murderer Victor Feguer requested nothing more than a single solitary unpitted olive for his last meal. He then requested the seed be buried with him in the hopes that it would grow an olive tree as a symbol of peace and rebirth.

On a similar note, one Jonathan Wayne Nobles, who apparently had been on drugs since he was 8 years old living in foster homes, as an adult murdered two women while high on a cocktail of substances. In prison, however, he got off the drugs and became a devout Catholic and, not just model inmate, but model person. As one example, at one point he attempted to save the life of a random woman he heard about who was dying from kidney failure. However, while he did successfully find a doctor willing to perform the procedure to take one of his kidneys out and give it to the woman, it ultimately turned out the pair were did not have matching blood types and the woman died. Doubling down, Nobles later attempted to have all his organs donated after his execution, but this request was denied as Texas did not allow death row inmates to donate their organs. Going back to his last meal request, he simply asked for the Eucharist (communion).

To end on a lighter note- well… relatively speaking…- in the 1940s Wilson De la Roi, who murdered a man while in prison, was slated to be killed via a somewhat newly minted poison gas chamber in San Quentin. When asked what he wanted for his last meal, he merely requested a bunch of indigestion tablets. When asked why, he stated that he felt sure he was soon to have rather severe case of gas…

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why America has always had a silly history with turkeys

Every Tuesday before Thanksgiving, there’s a ceremony held in which the President of the United States gives an official proclamation before a large crowd, pardoning a turkey for all the crimes they may have committed.

The turkey pardon is a fun — albeit goofy — ceremony that helps the country get into the holiday spirit, even if it began in ’87 as a means of distracting people from the Iran-Contra Affair. Since then, every president has kept the tradition going because, well, America seems to love turkeys this time of year.

As strange as this tradition might seem, it’s really not all that out of place. The relationship between Americans and turkeys has been weird since the beginning.


In those days, the meal was “scraping together what they had.” By today’s standards, a feast of venison, lobster, and duck is far more fancy than a deep-fried turkey.

(“The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth.” 1914. Painting. Jennie A. Brownscombe)

Long before the Europeans arrived in the Americas, indigenous peoples had sort of domesticated the turkey and started breeding them, making them plumper so that they’d make for a better meal. And it made good sense to do so. Turkeys are simple creatures that, when nourished, develop into large birds with plenty of delicious meat and they’re covered in large feathers that are great for crafting.

Furthermore, wild turkeys can survive in a range of environments. They were found all across the New World, from the Cree peoples’ lands near the Hudson Bay in Canada to the lands of the Aztecs in Mexico. Columbus himself even once remarked on how great the birds tasted. Eventually, turkey became a staple in most settlers’ diets… which makes it all the more odd that there wasn’t any turkey served for dinner at the first Thanksgiving.

The Wampanoag people were well known for their hunting skills and brought venison because it was showcased their talents as hunters. The pilgrims brought lobster and water fowl because they were much more common. Since the settlers didn’t really leave Plymouth, turkey was of off the menu unless they ventured into native territory.

Not going to lie, that’s kind of badass.

(U.S. Diplomacy Center)

When everyone’s gathered around the table eating turkey this Thanksgiving, you’re bound to overhear that one uncle say, “Did you know the US almost made the turkey its national bird?” in an attempt to look smart. Unfortunately for your uncle, no. That never happened. Not even close. That’s fake news. Yes, all of these links go to a different source disproving your uncle. But it’s not your uncle’s fault — this myth has been perpetuated for hundreds of years.

This myth got its start just two years after the creation of the Great Seal of the United States when Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter about the design choices. He jokingly said that bald eagles had “bad moral character.” He also said the bird of prey was more of a scavenger (they’re not). He went on to praise the seal of the Order of the Cincinnati, a fraternity of military officers, that had a turkey on it.

In case you were wondering, Franklin’s actual recommendation for the Great Seal was of Moses parting the Red Sea with fire raining everywhere and the motto of, “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.”

These loud, slow-moving, flightless birds will wreak havoc on farms in the spring time when the seeds are sewn. That’s why turkey season falls around then… in most states, anyway. Some states hold it in fall so that citizens can hunt down their own Thanksgiving dinner. Happy Thanksgiving!

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Soon after the United States became the United States, Americans quickly started hunting down and eating wild turkeys. They hunted them so thoroughly that pioneers would almost drive them to extinction wherever they went. The turkeys survived westward expansion and steadily climbed — then, the Great Depression hit and, for obvious reasons, they almost went extinct again in the 1930s.

After World War II, some troops returning from war went on to become game wardens, and began relocating turkeys en masse to avoid their being hunted into extinction. But how did these military veterans manage to catch large quantities of elusive turkeys in the wild? With modified howitzers shells that launched nets, of course!

No, seriously. These turkey-net cannons actually worked. The turkey populations went from just under 500,000 across the entire U.S. in 1959 to the roughly seven million that are fair game for hunting each and every year.