The 82nd Airborne Division is getting in the holiday spirit early this year with the annual ‘All American Presents from Paratroopers.’
“All American Presents from Paratroopers is an annual event the 82nd Airborne Division hosts in order to give back to the surrounding Fayetteville community with holiday gift donations while enhancing our Airborne capability and giving our paratroopers the opportunity to earn coveted foreign jump wings,” MSG Alex Burnett, PAO NCOIC of the 82nd Airborne, told We Are The Mighty.
The paratroopers who donated toys received a raffle ticket for a chance to earn foreign jump wings during the two-day airborne operation.
“Paratroopers from across Fort Bragg donated a present and were given a raffle ticket early Monday morning,” Burnett said. “Later in the day, the Division held a lottery and those with matching tickets were given a slot to jump on December 2nd and 3rd with a Chilean Jumpmaster.”
2020 marks the second year the division has hosted this event, which is open to any current paratrooper serving at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“In years past, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command hosted an event called Operation Toy Drop which was a similar event, but their last event was in 2018,” Burnett shared. “In the spirit of that tradition, last year the 82nd decided to create All American Presents from Paratroopers.”
This year, the event collected more than 1,500 toys, which will go to the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, Fort Bragg USO, Armed Services YMCA, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department and the Fayetteville Urban Ministry.
“I wanted to participate in Presents from Paratroopers, because it’s important to me that we give back to the local community and help those in need,” Staff Sgt. Alina Zamora, 82nd Airborne Division Paralegal said. “The fact that we can do that and earn a set of foreign jump wings makes the event even more special. I am glad I got to be a part of it.”
The 82nd Airborne Division is an airborne infantry division of the United States Army specializing in joint forcible entry operations and the primary fighting arm of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Since its initial members in 1917 came from all forty-eight states, the unit acquired the nickname “All American,” which is the basis for its famed “AA” shoulder patch.
“The All American Division is fortunate to be a part of the Fayetteville community and we are proud to be able to give back while providing our paratroopers the opportunity to jump and earn a set of foreign jump wings,” Burnett stated.
“It’s a sport of millimeters,” said Specialist Sagen Maddalena of her upcoming Olympic debut.
The seasoned shooter is slated to compete in the women’s 3×40 rifle event – three positions, 40 shots each. That’s standing, sitting, and prone – all at 50-meters away. She also made the Olympic team as an alternate in the air rifle event, pictured above.
“The target isn’t moving, so we try to be as accurate as possible,” she said. Even the slightest change in how she stands, her sights, could throw the shot off by, well, millimeters. And in the 3×40, it’s a change that could make all the difference.
This month, she’ll be representing the U.S. and the Army’s Marksmanship Unit as she heads to Tokyo. Shooting a .22 caliber Bleiker, Maddalena comes prepped with three sights – one set for each position – three rests, and specialty-wear galore. Depending on the position, she also adds various weights and cheek pieces. Because of the length of time it takes to shoot all 120 shots, 3×40 athletes ready their entire bodies with a thick, leather-like suit, shoes with plywood bottoms so the soles are completely flat and visors to block glare.
It’s layers of gear, and a long-lasting event.
“One of the challenges for the sport is that you’re competing against yourself. The mind and the conditions can be huge for handling pressure,” she said.
Adding that keeping up a strict routine is key for her to remain in focus. By getting to the range early, she’s able to set up equipment, practice mindfulness and perform relaxation exercises, all while keeping her mind clear and heart rate down.
Maddalena’s routines aren’t just present on competition day. She trains that way most days of the week. Scheduling her shooting drills, looking at her shot data (yes she tracks where each round lands on target), physical training, carb-loading and icing her muscles — it’s all planned by the day. Much of her shooting, she said, is muscle memory. Maintaining those daily habits allows her body to do what it needs to when it matters most.
“It’s action, perform and do. You have to just do it. You can’t stop and think,” she said. “It’s almost like a dance; I’m in tune with the wind and how it affects the bullet. My mind is sharp and I can adjust. It just flows. To be able to sustain that kind of dance with the mind and the flow of the body, it’s kind of an addiction.”
Maddalena took second in the 2016 Olympic trials, when the U.S. only brought one female air rifle athlete to compete. This time around they’re taking two and she nabbed the top spot.
She began shooting at 13 in her hometown of Groveland, California and went on to compete collegiately with the University of Alaska- Fairbanks, where she also switched specialties. Formerly a service rifle shooter, she transferred to the Smallbore/three-position rifle.
“I got the realization that I could shoot internationally and go further in the sport,” she said. “I had coaches telling me that I had options, and I wanted to travel. I wanted to see new places and see how far I could go.”
A dream which she’s now made a reality. Maddalena has traveled to India, Korea and Europe many times over.
“I think that’s my favorite part of going to these different countries; you’re not just a tourist and you get to become more involved,” she said.
Soon she’ll add one more country to her checklist, as she heads to Japan as an Olympic athlete.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources Management, she enlisted in the Army in 2019 and joined their Marksmanship Unit. She came with an impressive shooting background: an eight-time All-American with the Alaska-Fairbanks Rifle Team, a two-time World Championship team member, and breaking two national records in 2020, at the Blackhawk Championships and the ASSA National Championships.
On why she chose such a difficult practice, Maddalena said she enjoys the pressure, and improvements over time, even if they are slight.
“I like the progression of it. It slows down incredibly once we get to the top of our game, to see that improvement and progress. It keeps you going back for more,” she said. “When I first started shooting, the scores were not even close to what you needed to win. And now I’m here to test myself amongst the best in the world.”
In a recent scandal, the Air Force came under fire for reportedly spending over $300,000 on specialized, fragile coffee cups. That’s right — the Air Force has been buying, breaking, and replacing cups that reheat liquids in air refueling tankers mid-flight at the low, low price of $1,280 a pop.
But one of the most peculiar things about this scandal is how civilians are shocked and outraged, while those in the military aren’t batting an eye. Why? Because of course the Air Force has that kind of money to blow on stupid crap. And of course they’d be spending exorbitant amounts of money on coffee cups. In fact, it’s probably the most Air Force thing on the planet.
To be fair to the airmen, we get that it’s important for your KC-10 Extender to have nice, warm coffee to keep you alert on long flights. We get it — but, seriously? You guys get to toss out broken, four-figure coffee mugs while we’re training with sticks and tape?
You guys should just give us the money. The other branches would find a better use for that much-needed cash.
Judging from the sailors I know and work with, that may only be enough to get the party started…
Every branch likes to talk about how much they consume, but the expression is “drink like a sailor” — not “drink like a soldier.” A fact that, as a soldier, I am sour about. Nearly every single time sailors get shore liberty, they’re out proving this stereotype true. But beer costs money.
Let’s say it costs around 0 for a keg of beer. That means, rounding down, we’d be able to get 12 kegs for the price of one Air Force coffee mug. At 15.5 gallons of beer per keg, that gives us a grand total of 186 gallons of beer, which would mean one hell of a Friday night for the 340 enlisted sailors aboard a Ticonderoga-class Guided Missile Cruiser.
It’s funny how all the Marines will get to shoot but those 4000+ rounds will all be police called by six or so lance corporals.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)
If there’s one thing Marines love more than talking about how bad they have it compared to other branches, it’s shooting. So, it should come as no surprise that, given some extra cash, they’d buy some ammunition to hit the range and prove that every Marine is, indeed, a rifleman.
At 30 cents per round, the cost of one specialized cup means roughly 4,266 rounds — which would give a platoon of Marines a single afternoon of fun.
You do what you gotta do downrange — even if it means weekly kidney stones.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jb Jaso)
The Army is a hodgepodge of different people, professions, and missions, so it’s kind of hard to find one unifying thing that connects all soldiers together — except for an undying love for the one thing that gets the specialists ready for war: energy drinks.
At the cost of about dollar per full-sized can, you’d be able to get an entire brigade’s E-4 mafia a round of the “official soft drink of war!” (trademark pending).
Or it could be used to post bail for the Coastie who started a fight at the local bar with someone who mocked their branch. Personally, I believe this would be more effective at proving their “realness.”
(Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin)
The Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces, despite being under Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense. And, despite the fact that they’re generally seen as the smartest branch (considering their high ASVAB score requirements), we’re sure that Coasties are also debilitating alcoholics who try to pick up strippers in the Mustang they’re paying for at a 28% interest rate. That’s the true test of a troop’s “realness.”
So, if there’s one thing that pisses off Coasties more than anything, it’s having their branch status brought into question.
For the bulk price of 9.99 per 500 copies, the Coast Guard could buy 4,000 single-sided pieces of paper that simply read, “the Coast Guard is a real branch. Change my mind” and drop that sh*t from a MH-65 Dolphin like they’re on a PsyOps mission.
Before he was wielding lightsabers in Star Wars or blowing up Twitter with Marriage Story, Adam Driver was a Marine with 1/1 Weapons Company, 81’s platoon, out in Camp Pendleton, California.
“I joined a few months after September 11, feeling like I think most people in the country did at the time, filled with a sense of patriotism and retribution and the desire to do something,” he stated in his opening remarks.
He joined the Marines and found that he loved it.
“Firing weapons was cool, driving and detonating expensive things was great. But I found I loved the Marine Corps the most for the thing I was looking for the least when I joined, which was the people: these weird dudes — a motley crew of characters from a cross section of the United States — that on the surface I had nothing in common with. And over time, all the political and personal bravado that led me to the military dissolved, and for me, the Marine Corps became synonymous with my friends,” he shared, voicing the brotherhood that many veterans feel while in service.
Then, months before deploying to Iraq, he dislocated his sternum in a mountain-biking accident and was medically separated.
“Those never in the military may find this hard to understand, but being told I wasn’t getting deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan was very devastating for me,” he confessed.
Those of us who wore the uniform but never deployed know exactly what he means.
It’s a different type of survivor’s guilt, a common response to surviving a life-threatening situation. In this case, it’s about not even going into that situation. In the eighteen years since the 9/11 attacks, our military has kept a high deployment tempo. Many of our friends never returned.
And for those of us left behind — whether because our mission was elsewhere in the world or, like Driver, we were medically ineligible for combat — well, it’s a shitty feeling.
“I have a very clear image of leaving the base hospital on a stretcher and my entire platoon is waiting outside to see if I was OK. And then, suddenly, I was a civilian again,” blinked Driver.
“It’s a powerful thing, getting in a room with complete strangers and reminding ourselves of our humanity, and that self-expression is just as valuable a tool as a rifle on your shoulder.” Or a lightsaber at your hip?
“I was surprised by how complex the transition was from military to civilian. And I was relatively healthy; I can’t imagine going through that process on top of a mental or physical injury. But regardless, it was difficult,” he shared, voicing what many veterans have felt after their service.
He struggled with finding a job. “I was an Infantry Marine, where you’re shooting machine guns and firing mortars. There’s not a lot of places you can put those skills in the civilian world,” he joked.
He also struggled with finding meaning in acting school while his friends were serving without him overseas.
“Emotionally, I struggled to find meaning. In the military, everything has meaning. Everything you do is either steeped in tradition or has a practical purpose. You can’t smoke in the field because you don’t want to give away your position. You don’t touch your face — you have to maintain a personal level of health and hygiene. You face this way when “Colors” plays, out of respect for people who went before you. Walk this way, talk this way because of this. Your uniform is maintained to the inch. How diligently you followed those rules spoke volumes about the kind of Marine you were. Your rank said something about your history and the respect you had earned.”
Find out more about how he went from Marine to actor in the video above — and how he has found peace in service after service — in the video above.
Roland Emmerich is the writer and director behind some of the most badass military military movies of our time. He loves to combine state of the art computer graphics with amazing battle sequences. You can thank him for the dogfights in Independence Day and for the famous “Aim Small, Miss Small” quote from ThePatriot (I still whisper this line every time I snap in at the rifle range). But now, Emmerich is taking on the most pivotal moment in the U.S. Navy’s 244 year history: the Battle of Midway.
We Are The Mighty joined the director for a sneak peak into the film’s key scenes and to discuss how he had to convince the Navy that he was the right man to direct a film about their greatest comeback — a film that he’s been trying to make for over 19 years.
Roland Emmerich speaking with us at his edit bay in Hollywood
“You can’t tell the story of Midway without Pearl Harbor,” Emmerich explains before we watch the opening sequence. He’s right. That infamous day, December 7, 1941, was arguably the U.S. Navy’s greatest defeat, but it was also the first key moment that led the American Navy towards their victory at Midway. The film’s depiction of the surprise Japanese attack is incredibly accurate — especially the scenes on battleship row, as well as the salvage operations afterwards. The U.S. carriers were away from Pearl Harbor that day and this stroke of luck would come back to haunt the Japanese fleet.
“The Navy is a family and I wanted to show that,” Emmerich tells us. Many of the Naval Aviators who would be pivotal during the Battle of Midway returned to Pearl Harbor as the fires still raged and oil slicks covered the water. In the following hours and days, the sailors of the carriers USS Enterprise and USS Hornet would learn that their friends from basic training, prior deployments, and even the Naval Academy had been killed in the attack. Midway depicts the personal toll that the attack took on these sailors and we watch the seeds of revenge being planted.
Woody Harrelson stars as ‘Admiral Chester Nimitz’
In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy and the entire military struggled to determine a response. With only a few carriers and support ships left to fight against the massive Japanese Navy, there could be no room for mistakes. The U.S. needed to make a comeback and fast. “It’s important for the audience to understand how bad the situation really was for Nimitz… morale was low,” Emmerich describes. He goes on to explain how Admiral Nimitz, played by Woody Harrelson, took command of the Pacific Fleet facing not only a daunting enemy but also a shortage of experienced sailors to strike back. The coming battle would depend upon a series of unknown heroes.
Patrick Wilson stars as ‘Lieutenant Commander Edwin Layton’
However, Nimitz did have one advantage: the intelligence unit under command of Lieutenant Commander Edwin T. Layton, played by Patrick Wilson, had broken the Japanese code and were ciphering through thousands of messages in an underground bunker nicknamed the “Dungeon.” Even members of the Navy Band were pulled in to help with the effort. However, the codebreakers could only guess as to the location of the Japanese fleet and the leaders in Washington decided it was time to hit the Japenese homeland instead.
Despite their desire for revenge on the Japanese fleet, the crews of the carriers Enterprise and Hornet were assigned to escort duty, and to make matters worse they would be escorting Army Bomber pilots. The mission known as the “Doolittle Raid” is a key moment both in history and in the film. As the massive waves of the North Pacific rage over the carrier decks, we are transported into the ready room where dive bomber pilot Lieutenant Dick Best, played by Ed Skrein, is frustrated that the Army pilots are given the chance to strike the Japanese first.
Aarron Eckhart stars as ‘Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle’
When the fleet is detected before the scheduled departure point, the bomber pilots under Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle, played by Aarron Eckhart, make the pivotal decision to launch despite the weather and the risk of running out of fuel. Emmerich reinforces the tension in this scene on the flight deck where Navy pilots take bets that the massive B-25 bombers won’t even make it into the air. The entire scene is incredibly powerful and only reinforces Emmerich’s reputation for blockbuster filmmaking. While this is a scene we can watch over and over again, it was a moment the carrier crews would never forget. They wanted their own piece of history and it would soon come with a gamble from a gutsy Admiral Nimitz.
With only one chance left for a strike on the Japanese fleet, Nimitz relied on Layton’s codebreakers to determine the exact location of the next battle so that the U.S. could surprise the enemy just as they had surprised the U.S. months before. Layton and his team were not able to directly read the Japanese code, but they could make predictions based on bits of information. All signs pointed to Midway as the target, and even with the risk of failure, Nimitz ordered the two carriers into battle. In addition, Nimitz knew that his Naval Aviators, especially Lt. Dick Best, were prepared for the gloves to come off.
Dick Best (Ed Skrein, left) and Clarence Dickinson (Luke Kleintank, right)
“The World War II generation was special and I wanted to ensure their heroism was not forgotten,” Emmerich explains, as we prepare to watch the final battle of Midway. We are in the cockpit of an American Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber above the same Japanese fleet that struck Pearl Harbor. With enemy aircraft swarming overhead and massive fires from anti-aircraft guns below, Emmerich’s Midway shows the insane odds these pilots faced as they thrust their aircraft into nosedive attacks. In a matter of minutes, a series of bombs strikes the Japanese fleet. The explosions and smoke remind us of the first few moments of the movie, when the Americans are left bruised, but not broken. As the lights come on, it’s obvious that Emmerich has indeed created a film that honors the U.S. Navy’s greatest comeback.
However, as we discuss the challenges of making a movie of such epic portions and detail, Emmirch recounts how the production was a series of endless problems. “None of the carriers from that time still exist, and it’s hard to even find aircraft… I knew we would need the Navy’s help,” Emmerich explains. But the Navy had to make sure Emmerich was the right man for the job.
The Battle of Midway is such a pivotal moment in U.S. Navy history that it had to be told right. When Emmerich met with the U.S. Navy Admiral he’d have to convince, he explained that this is “a movie about Dick Best and the other unknown heroes of the Enterprise and Hornet.” That’s what the Admiral needed to hear, and the Navy agreed to support the production and even provided current Naval Aviators to ensure every scene was as accurate as possible. In some cases, Emmerich had to start from scratch to rebuild 1942-era planes and carrier decks.
Director Roland Emmerich (right) behind the scenes on the set of Midway
From first look, Midway is poised to not only to be an iconic depiction of the Navy’s greatest comeback but also a film that depicts the human variables that are so crucial in determining the fate of battles. Roland Emmerich’s film Midway releases on November 8th, 2019, and will be an amazing way to honor the sacrifices of all servicemembers this Veteran’s Day.
You probably know the name James Hatch — or maybe you’ve heard of Jimmy Hatch. He’s famous for one of the worst days of his life. The Navy SEAL was on one of the ill-fated missions to rescue Bowe Bergdahl after the soldier walked off of his base in Afghanistan. This mission resulted in the death of a military canine and left Hatch with a crippling wound to his leg.
This is what happens when a SEAL brings a dog to an elementary school.
The Piper Campaign focuses on cold-weather gear and is named for a dog that kept wildlife safely away from planes, even when the snow was a foot deep on the ground. The Diesel Campaign covers medical expenses for wounded or retired working dogs. And the Krijger Campaign raises money for ballistic vests for dogs, vests that might have saved Hatch’s dogs, Spike and Remco.
The fund says that it has helped 710 dogs so far, and that’s no small feat. Ballistics vests for dogs can easily cost over ,000, and veterinary services for wounded, injured, and retired dogs can quickly become quite pricy as well. But dogs save lives in combat situations, so saving the dogs can help save police officer lives.
And the fund has had some high-profile successes, including when they convinced Anderson Cooper to not only donate himself, but also to speak and get others to open their wallets.
The video at top tells the story of a dog that was shot in the line of duty, but was able to go back to work with a vest provided by the students of an elementary school.
Having a cough has never been more nerve wracking than during the current pandemic. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a cough. Needing to go to the doctor for any reason can send a quick thought of panic, due to current protocols. Needing something as simple as a prescription refill suddenly got complicated.
But fear not, military families! There is an easier way. Thanks to ongoing efforts to increase the logistics of telemedicine and over-the-phone appointments, Tricare beneficiaries can video chat with their doctors to receive a quick fix to many questions or prescription needs.
This includes video calls, but will not include phone calls or texts.
If you or a family member is in need of a non-urgent appointment, you can call your normal doctor’s number and ask what their options are for telehealth appointments.
If you or a family member has an upcoming appointment scheduled, you’re likely to be contacted about rescheduling or moving the appointment to your phone. Services covered include:
Mental health services (individual psychotherapy, psychiatric diagnosis interviews/exams, and medication management)
In addition, from March 31 through May 31, Tricare has announced they will also cover telehealth services for “applied behavior analysis (ABA) parent or caregiver guidance services under the Autism Care Demonstration.”
Don’t skimp on important healthcare appointments just because you can’t be seen in person. These distancing appointments allow Tricare patients to get the care they need, without risking germs. Additional distancing measures have been put into place on military bases, such as drive-through pharmacies, or in-vehicle triage.
Talk to your healthcare team to see if telehealth is available at your base.
The men and women who serve our country deserve our gratitude and our support, but historically they’ve received a whole lot less. Many veterans in recent decades have struggled to make a smooth return to civilian life, and the programs available to them were lacking. Thousands ended up on the street- a grievous injustice and betrayal to those who deserved our support the most.
The good news is, Americans wanted to do better, and we did! According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the number of homeless veterans has dropped by 43.3 percent since 2011. Those are some amazing stats, but our work still isn’t done. In 2019, over 37,000 veterans were still without roofs over their heads. The more people who are aware of the problem, the easier it is to fix it. Here’s how you and your family can help bring that number to zero!
We all love to think we’re openminded and understanding, but there’s still a strong stigma against people who have become homeless. Many people in shelters struggle with substance abuse or mental illness. If I give them money, one might think, they’ll just buy alcohol. Why should I fund that? Why should I help someone who won’t help themselves?
Before you go any further, imagine a day in their shoes. Imagine you don’t have a job, and you can’t afford a haircut or clean clothes, so no one will hire you. You might not have a degree, either. You spend most nights alone, cold and shunned from the society you swore to protect. Statistically, 90% of homeless veterans are men, and only 2% are part of a family. In other words, if you’re a homeless veteran, you probably came back from war to no job, no family and no support. Considering substance abuse is closely tied to low income and lack of emotional and social connections, is it any wonder these veterans are struggling? Then, factor in conditions like PTSD and chronic pain, and well…that would push ANYONE to the brink.
Understand that being homeless doesn’t mean a person doesn’t care about getting back on their feet. It means they need help to do it. An easy way to show your support is by offering bottled water, nutritious food or a warm coat. These are small acts of kindness, but they help.
Reach out to your local government officials to discuss what your city is doing to help reduce the number of veterans in shelters each night. Push for plans that include affordable housing for veterans, treatment programs for substance use and employment programs. If they don’t have plans in place, ask how programs like that can be launched.
If no one’s listening, make them
If there’s a marked lack of support for homeless veterans in your area, consider starting a coalition. Gather people you know who support the cause and work together to make a difference. Start a canned goods drive, a coat drive or a meal train. Plan a peaceful march to boost awareness. The more visibility your group has, the more city officials will listen.
Volunteer your services
If you happen to be a lawyer, why not use your powers for good? Visit local shelters to help veterans apply for benefits and housing programs that they may not know are available to them. Medical professionals can also help by treating minor injuries and illnesses.
Hire a veteran
If you own a business and need more employees, consider hiring a veteran! While their individual skillsets and qualifications may not match every industry, they’re likely to be hardworking, quick learners, and a great fit for most entry-level jobs.
Not everyone has time for hands-on involvement, and we get it. If that’s the case for you, just donate! Organizations like DAV, U.S. Vets and Volunteers of America are great charities to donate to at the push of a button.
And remember, if you see a veteran, whether at a family reunion or on the street…say thank you. A little appreciation goes a long way.
The Air Force has officially pushed back the required uniform change for the OCP uniform from today until September 1, because, you know, literally everything that’s going on in the world right now.
That’s awesome for the troops who’ve been preoccupied and a nice pat on the back for the few that actually took the initiative early. But kicking that can down the road just means that there’s still going to be a bunch of E-2’s in three months still showing up to formation with the wrong boots.
Anyway, here are some memes.
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Call for Fire)
(Meme via Not CID)
(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)
(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)
(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)
(Meme via US Space Force WTF Moments)
(Meme via Dank MP Memes)
I’ll defend my answer from the board. There is nothing in the truck of damn near every flagpole. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
If the “razor, match and bullet” thing were true, you’d think there’d be a single recorded instance of it somewhere in any of the military’s vast catalogue of regulations, documents and photos. And even if it were true, the idea that the bullet is supposed to be used for the pistol also buried somewhere nearby is also extremely counter-productive. But sure. I’m the dumba** for saying it’s nothing because I’m not willing to believe a superstition.
On a Sunday a little over 12 years ago, on a battlefield far from home, US Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. John Wayne Walding, then in his mid-20s, suddenly found himself in an intense firefight that changed his life forever.
The mission was to capture or kill a local terrorist leader holed up in a mountain fortress occupied by Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin forces in eastern Afghanistan.
The plan was to insert US Special Forces soldiers and Afghan commandos into a valley below by helicopter and take the enemy by surprise. Once they were on the ground, the joint force was expected to climb into the mountains on foot, infiltrate the town, neutralize the hostiles, and get out.
Some of the troops called to execute the mission questioned whether it was too risky. Their concerns were brushed aside, and the mission moved forward as planned. A fellow Green Beret who went with Walding on the mission told Insider it was “cursed” from the start.
This is the story of not just that fateful mission, but Walding’s refusal to give up after tragedy struck.
John Wayne Walding and Ryan Wallen, a fellow Green Beret who accompanied Walding on the fateful mission. (Courtesy photo)
‘A very long day at the office’
On April 6, 2008, a handful of troops with Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, 3rd Special Forces Group and a number of Afghan commandos flew into Shok Valley. It was the start of what Walding called “a very long day at the office.”
Shok Valley (US Army graphic)
Their troubles began almost immediately upon arrival.
“We couldn’t even land, the terrain was so f—ing bad,” Walding’s friend and fellow Green Beret, former Staff Sgt. Ryan Wallen, recalled. “Our helicopter just kind of hovered about 10 feet up over a freezing cold river and gigantic rocks, and we had to jump out of the back. This was already a rough start.”
Their situation quickly got worse. As the lead element made its way toward the objective, the mountains suddenly erupted with gunfire. A large force of several hundred enemies ambushed the American and Afghan troops, upending the mission and turning it into a terrifying fight for survival.
“Gunfire just opened up on us,” Wallen said. He was positioned down by the river near the base of the mountain when the bullets started to fly.
“I took a [rocket-propelled grenade] and kind of got blown out,” Wallen continued. “I was laying half in the water, bleeding out of my throat and chest, beaten up a little bit. The overpressure kind of f—ed me up.”
Nothing vital had been damaged in the blast, so the team’s medic, Staff Sgt. Ron Shurer, was able to get him patched up and back in the fight. Farther up the mountain, the lead element was pinned down and taking heavy fire.
An Afghan interpreter had been killed, and two US soldiers, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr and Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, were severely wounded. Supporting, Walding moved into position between them and the incoming fire. “That’s when I got shot,” he said.
An enemy sniper shot Walding in the leg, nearly tearing it from his body. “It was hanging on by like a tendon or two,” Wallen said. “I’ve never seen an injury that looked that bad.”
“I never will forget falling forward and then rolling over to see that leg just hanging there by only about an inch of flesh,” Walding recalled. “It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life.”
Walding was not done fighting though. After putting a tourniquet in place to stop the bleeding, he used his boot laces to strap the bottom part of his leg to his thigh, picked up his rifle, and got back to it.
Most of the US Special Forces team suffered wounds of one kind or another, but “as f—ed up as everybody was, we didn’t have time for anybody to lay there bleeding and dying,” Wallen said.
American planes were called into conduct dozens of danger-close airstrikes with large bombs that Walding said blacked out the sun with debris.
Unable to move forward with their mission, the US and Afghan troops fought fiercely for hours just to stay alive until they could be pulled out.
Wallen and a few others helped get Walding down the mountain and to the evacuation point. “As the medevac birds were coming in, we were dragging casualties across the river, and it was freezing,” he said.
They tried a couple of times to get Walding on a helicopter but were unsuccessful, as the helos were either full or taking rounds, and each time they failed, they had to carry him back across the river to a safe position shielded from the gunfire.
“Finally, a third bird came in, and we took JW back across the river a fifth time,” Wallen said. “We were finally able to get him on that bird, but we ended up giving John hypothermia along with all of his damn injuries. It was like bad things kept stacking up.”
All of the US troops that went into Shok Valley made it out alive. Some of the Afghans, however, did not. Although they were unable to complete the mission, the US and Afghan forces left behind hundreds of enemy dead.
Ten members of Walding’s team, himself included, would later be awarded the Silver Star. Not since Vietnam had that many Silver Stars been awarded for a single engagement. And, two of the soldiers who were in Shok Valley later received the Medal of Honor for their courage under fire.
The immediate aftermath was no celebration though. Walding, who had hoped that his leg could be saved, went into surgery. “I never will forget waking up the next day,” he recalled. He said he was afraid to look down. When he finally did, he cried.
John Wayne Walding (US Army Photo by Capt. David Chace)
‘A leg was not going to stop me’
John Wayne Walding was born on the Fourth of July in Texas. His father named him after the famous actor who starred in classic Westerns and war movies because, in his words, if “you have a cool birthday, you need a cool name.”
But while Walding was named after the man who directed and starred in the 1968 film “The Green Berets,” he never thought much about the military until he was about 20 years old and realized he needed a real job.
Walding talked to a recruiter who asked him if he wanted to shoot missiles. He said “Hell yeah” and joined the Army as a Patriot missile operator.
He found his true calling after he joined up though. “As soon as I saw the Green Berets and what the tip of the spear really is, that really got my gears spinning,” he told Insider.
Wallen met Walding when the latter joined his team as a Green Beret, and they quickly became good friends.
“It was one of those connections that, just right away, we just kind of hit it off,” Wallen said. “We developed a really strong bond, and then it was just solidified when we were baptized in blood together.”
Wallen said he was one of the first people to see Walding when he came out of surgery after being wounded in Shok Valley.
Walding had been torn apart in battle, something not easily overcome, something that some never overcome, but he determined he was not done being an elite soldier. “Donning that Green Beret was one of the most profound moments of my life, and a leg was not going to stop me from doing that,” he told Insider.
Being a Green Beret meant being a part of something special, something meaningful that’s bigger than any one person. Reflecting on the events that unfolded in Shok Valley, Walding said, “We didn’t get through that day because I was great or any of our guys. It was because we were willing to fight to the death to keep each other alive.”
“You don’t just wake up the day after all of that and say, ‘Well, I guess I’ll hang up the hat.'”
John Wayne Walding (Courtesy photo)
‘You do it because you love it’
Walding said that he tries to live his life in such a way that he is not simply good, but great. Following his recovery, he decided to become a Special Forces sniper.
Just two years after he sustained a life-altering injury, Walding began the intense seven-week Special Forces Sniper Course at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina equipped with a ruggedized prosthetic and a determination to excel against all odds.
“Why did I keep going? Because I loved it,” Walding said.
“You don’t do what I did because you like it. You do it because you love it,” he continued. “To become a Green Beret, there’s a lot of people that quit because they just liked it. They liked the idea of being one, but that’s not how I live.”
Snipers are essential assets who provide battlefield intelligence and long-range precision fires, and the training is challenging across the military.
For the Special Forces, sniper training can be even more demanding. Through shooting and marksmanship sessions, gun runs, stalking, fast rope training, and climbing exercises, Walding held his own despite his prosthetic. “I never finished last,” he said.
Walding made history in the summer of 2010 by becoming the first amputee to graduate from the elite special warfare sniper course.
“His story is incredible,” Wallen said. “I don’t know that many people on the planet have the kind of resilience he does.” That’s not to say that there weren’t bad days, but when times got tough, it was his faith, family and friends, and love of country that got him through.
Walding wanted to return to his team and operational status, but he ultimately decided against it, opting instead to stay on as an instructor.
“I knew that no matter how good I was with one leg, a Green Beret with two was always going to be better,” Walding told Insider, explaining that he would never want to be in a scenario where one of his brothers or sisters was injured or killed because of him. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself,” he said.
John Wayne Walding (Courtesy photo)
‘Forever remember the cost of freedom’
After serving 12 years in the military, Walding retired in 2013 as a Sergeant First Class. He now lives in Texas with his wife and four kids.
As a civilian, Walding continues to serve.
He started Gallantry Global Logistics, a company named after the words on the back of his Silver Star, which reads “for gallantry in action.” He hopes to see it become the largest veteran employer in Texas. He is also the co-founder of Live to Give, a water bottle company that donates half of all profits to veteran and first responder charities.
Walding named his shipping company after his Silver Star, but the Purple Heart he was awarded for the injuries he suffered in Afghanistan has tremendous meaning too.
“I wear that Purple Heart figuratively every day,” Walding said. “Every single day, I wake up and I see my leg is missing. I will forever remember the cost of freedom. It really is a driving factor for me to not be good, but be great.”
You can talk about them but you can’t talk without them — that’s pretty much the commo creed. One U.S. Army information technology specialist took to the mic to remind everyone just how important that is.
The signal specialist here is known as Mark Vision, aka Marcus Twitty, a Germany-based soldier and Christian rapper who woke up one morning wanting to rap and ended up writing an entire EP. His track about being a commo soldier is called “This Is The Life (S6 Anthem),” and it’ll be stuck in your head for days.
For those not in the know, the ‘S’ in S6 means staff and the ‘6’ means communications. In the case of the U.S. Army, the S6 is the signal officer at the battalion or brigade staff level. In the song, he also mentions a “25 Uniform,” referring to the Army MOS 25U, Signal Support Systems Specialist, who works with radio and data, provides technical support for computers and networks, and maintains comms-related terminals, equipment, and data.
The song goes through the most common questions an IT specialist comes across on a daily basis, like:
What’s the wifi password?
Why can’t I login?
Why is my account disabled?
Also mentioned in the song is why people ask him about their account status while he’s eating lunch, second lieutenants trying to throw their rank around to get better service, and that TKS, the leading cable and telecomms service provider for U.S. troops in Germany, set up their civilian wifi and not the Army – but soldiers come to him for help anyway.
This is hilarious because we all know it’s 100 percent true. Be good to your communications staff: These are the kind of things they have to put up with every day.
HailCaesoo asks: What all happens when the queen of England dies?
Queen Elizabeth II has reigned over the UK and the Commonwealth for almost seven decades, but it turns out what happens when she sheds this mortal coil has been planned out in detail going all the way back to shortly after she ascended the throne in the 1950s, with the Queen herself planning some of the elements.
As you might imagine, the whole affair includes an amazing amount of pomp and circumstance, though this was not always the case, or at least not nearly to the extent we see today in various Royal ceremonies. For example, going back to the funeral of King George IV it is noted in the book Royalty Inc: Britain’s Best Known Brand,
Dozens of pickpockets arrived in Windsor and lifted watches and money from sightseers who had turned up to see if any celebrities were attending. The funeral itself, hurried through in St. George’s Chapel at nine o’clock in the evening, was largely undignified. The congregation crowded in, jostling for the best seats, and then chatted noisily among themselves. ‘We never saw so motley, so rude, so ill-managed a body of persons,’ The Time’s’ correspondent reported… At least the undertakers were not drunk, as they had been at the funeral of George’s daughter and heir, the Princess Charlotte who died in childbirth in 1817.
As for his successor, William IV’s, coronation,
William only reluctantly agreed to have a ceremonial coronation and the money spent on the occasion was less than a fifth of that expended on his brother’s behalf ten years earlier… Among the other changes to royal protocols, the new King opened the terraces at Windsor Castle and the nearby great park to the public access and reduced the fleet of royal yachts. All this, his lack of pomposity and his visceral dislike of foreigners, particularly the French, tended to endear him to the populace…. When William IV himself died in June 1837, there was also a private funeral at Windsor and, if not quite as undignified as George’s had been, it was a perfunctory affair.
The ultra elaborate more public ceremonies now associated with the monarchy wouldn’t begin in earnest until the late 19th century, in part because of public protest over not being included in many of these events. For example, there was significant backlash over the fact that the 1858 wedding of Princess Victoria and Prince Friedrich Wilhelm had not been more public. As noted in a contemporary report by the Daily Telegraph at the time, the people lamented the “growing system of reserving the exclusive enjoyment of State ceremonials and spectacles for particular classes.”
In 1867, British journalist Walter Bagehot would postulate of all of this, “The more democratic we get, the more we shall get to like state and show, which have ever pleased the vulgar.”
That said, initial efforts to improve things were apparently somewhat lackluster. For example, the eventual Marquess of Salisbury, Lord Robert Cecil, after watching Queen Victoria open parliament in 1860, stated:
Some nations have a gift for ceremonial. No poverty of means of absence of splendour inhibits them from making any pageant in which they take part both real and impressive… In England the case is exactly the reverse. We can afford to be more splendid than most nations; but some malignant spell broods over all our most solemn ceremonials, and inserts into them some feature which makes them all ridiculous.
Nevertheless, by the time of Queen Victoria’s death things had started to improve somewhat, though this particular funeral ceremony too was almost made “ridiculous”. You see, while pulling the cart containing the queen’s coffin up a steep hill, a harness on one of the horses snapped, with the result being two of the other horses rearing back and bucking. The result of all of that, in turn, was the Queen’s coffin coming extremely close to being ejected from the carriage. Had it done so, it would have gone careening down the steep hill, possibly ejecting the Queen’s body at some point…
As for her successor, Edward VII, he would double down on improving public ceremonies, essentially turning every opportunity for pageantry into an elaborate affair and including the public as much as possible. Notably, upon his death in 1910, he had his body placed in a coffin at Westminster Hall with over 400,000 people reportedly coming to see it, helping to popularly bolster the old practice of certain members of the monarchy lying-in-state in the UK.
This all now brings us to the exact plan for what happens when Queen Elizabeth II dies. Code — named Operation London Bridge, meetings have been held a few times per year in the over six decades since the plan was originally created in order to tweak it as needed with the times, with the overarching plan going over every possible contingency the architects can think of.
Beyond logistical plans by the government, in more recent times, British news outlets have also had in place pre-planned obituaries, with some TV outlets rumored to occasionally rehearse the broadcasts they will give to announce the Queen’s death, right down to what they’ll wear.
If you’re wondering — a whole lot of black, including black ties for the men, extras of which are actually kept on hand at the BBC just in case needed on short notice. This reportedly became a thing after Peter Sissons of the BBC inadvisably wore a red tie when announcing the Queen Mother’s death. Certain members of the general public did not react kindly to this.
Moving back to the official side of things, to begin with, first, immediately upon her death the Queen’s private secretary, Edward Young, will send a coded message to the Prime Minister, with the message originally “London Bridge is down”. However, given the whole point here of using such a coded message is to help reduce the chance of premature leaks of the news of the Queen’s death, it’s possible the exact coded phrase has been changed since that one was discovered. (If you’re curious, when King George VI died, the code was “Hyde Park Corner” and for the death of the Queen Mother “Operation Tay Bridge” was used.)
George VI and British prime minister Clement Attlee (left), July 1945.
From there various entities, such as the media, will be officially notified and the Radio Alert Transmission System (RATS) will be activated announcing the death to the public. That said, it’s likely given social media is a thing that the news will leak much quicker that way to the wider public.
This all essentially kicks off a 12 day sequence of events, outlined in the plan as D-day (the day of the Queen’s death), D+1, D+2, etc. (Interestingly this is also exactly the reason the famed military operation now commonly known as D-Day is called such — just standing for “Designated day”, allowing for ease of coordinating a sequence of events when the actual start date is unknown, or in some cases where there is a desire for it to be kept as secret as possible.)
Perhaps the most noteworthy thing of all that will occur on D-day, beside the Queen’s death, is Prince Charles will assume the position of King, even though actually being sworn in as King will not take place until the following morning.
As for the coronation ceremony, this can potentially take many months to finally take place. For example, Queen Elizabeth II’s own coronation after the death of King George VI on February 6, 1952, did not take place until almost a year and a half later, on June 2, 1953. In this case, the decision to wait this lengthy period was made by Winston Churchill.
That said, there is some speculation that Charles’ coronation will be relatively swift in comparison in order to forestall any momentum building in public sentiment that may push for an abolishment of the monarchy, especially given the relatively lesser popularity of Prince Charles compared to the almost universally loved Queen he is replacing. To help further forestall such from happening, steps have been actively taken in recent years to try to bolster Charles’ profile among his subjects.
It should also be noted here that Prince Charles may choose to not become known as “King Charles III”, as he is free to choose any of the names from his full name of Charles Philip Arthur George. From this, there is some speculation that he may wish to honor his grandfather King George by taking the name King George VII or he may go with King Philip after his own father.
In any event, after Charles takes the oath the day after the Queen’s death, Parliament will be called to session that same day (the evening following King Charles’ oath) to swear allegiance to him. Likewise, police and military forces under his rule will also be called wherever they are to swear their allegiance to their new King.
Also on that evening, the new King will address the nation for the first time in that role. In her own such broadcast, Queen Elizabeth, among other things, swore “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
This is a good thing as we’ve previously noted the monarch of the UK is for all intents and purposes above the law in virtually every nation in the world, not just their own. On top of that, from a legal standpoint, their power in their own little empire is almost absolute for a variety of reasons, though of course, Queen Elizabeth II at least has very rarely used any of this authority.
Queen Elizabeth II waving to crowds.
But given this, as you might expect it’s quite important that the person made monarch in Britain is mentally stable and trustworthy as it would take a literal revolution or rebellion to take such powers away from that person from a legal standpoint, assuming said British monarch did not wish to have those powers taken. This would also place the military, police, Parliament and others in the awkward position of having to very publicly break their sworn oaths to said monarch to take their powers away against their will.
Going back to the Queen, what exactly happens to her body directly after her death will depend on where she is at the time, with Operation London Bridge attempting to plan for any contingencies. For example, should she die in her frequent summer home at Balmoral Castle in Scotland a special Scottish ceremony is planned before her body will be sent back to London. In this case, along with appropriate preservation being done, her body will be placed in Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh for a short time, and then her coffin carried to St. Giles’s Cathedral where a service will be held.
After this, the coffin will be put aboard the Royal Train at Edinburgh Waverley railway station and then will make its way down to London where it will be ultimately placed in Buckingham Palace. Given mourners will likely throw flowers and other things at the train as it passes, plans are in place to have another train follow behind shortly thereafter to clear the tracks as needed before the tracks are put back in general use.
On the other hand, should she die abroad, a jet from the No. 32 Royal Squadron will be dispatched with the Queen’s coffin to collect her body. (And if you’re wondering, yes, such a coffin is already made and waiting in case of a Royal’s death — called the “first call coffin”, kept by the Leverton Sons royal undertakers for when it’s needed.)
Wherever it’s coming from, the Queen’s body will, as alluded to, make its way to the Throne Room of Buckingham Palace and be held there for at time. Four days after her death, her coffin will be placed in Westminster Hall, available for public viewing almost 24 hours a day for four days.
Given approximately 200,000 people went to view the Queen Mother’s coffin in 2002, it’s expected the number going to view Queen Elizabeth’s coffin will be vastly more than this.
The Queen Mother’s funeral carriage.
Finally, the night before the funeral takes place, special church services will be held across the UK to commemorate the death of the head of the Church of England. The funeral will then take place the following day, with said day being deemed a national holiday.
On that day, the coffin will be carried from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey where approximately 2,000 guests will be invited into the Abbey to witness the funeral directly, with the service conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. After that ceremony is over, the the Queen will likely be laid to rest in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Finally, at some yet undetermined point after the mourning period, the coronation of the new King will take place, which will also be a national holiday.
As for other logistics, with the change to the new King, various official things like certain physical money, stamps, etc. will switch from Queen Elizabeth’s visage to the King’s, and an awful lot of official documents and the like that formerly said “her” and “Queen” will be switched to “him” and “King”, such as the national anthem having the words slightly altered to “God Save the King”.
Along with being the only person in the UK to not need a passport when traveling abroad, the Queen similarly doesn’t need a driver’s license to drive either. This is because, like passports, driver’s licenses are issued in her name. So she’s allowed to simply vouch for her own driving ability in person should she ever be pulled over.
Now, you’d think given her status and wealth, the Queen would never drive anyway, but you’d be wrong, though she did a few months back voluntarily cease driving on public roads at the urging of her security team who worried about the elderly Queen’s safety in driving on public roads at her age. But before that, it turns out the Queen loved driving and cars. In fact, during WW2 the Queen (then a princess) badgered her father to let her do her part for her country and subsequently ended up serving as a mechanic and driver with the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service at the tender age of 18. (She’d actually registered to serve at age 16 but King George wouldn’t allow it).
The Queen took her position incredibly seriously, becoming, by all accounts, a competent mechanic and driver, trained to fix and drive a host of military and suburban vehicles.
Fast-forwarding a bit through history, a humourous story about the Queen’s driving prowess comes from 1998 when she was visited at her estate in Balmoral, Scotland by the then Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The story was later revealed to the world by one-time Saudi ambassador Sherard Cowper-Cole.
Knowing Abdullah’s stance on the rights of women and the fact that women are essentially banned from driving in Saudi Arabia (there’s technically no law that says women can’t drive, but licenses are only issued to men), the Queen, demonstrating quintessential British passive aggressiveness, offered the Prince a tour of her palace grounds.
Dutifully, the Prince agreed and the pair headed outside where a large Land Rover bearing the Royal insignia was parked. After waiting for the Prince to climb into the passenger seat where he no doubt assumed a chauffeur would drive the pair around, the Queen then nonchalantly climbed into the driver’s seat and proceeded to drive the car, much to the Prince’s astonishment. According to ambassador Sherard, the Prince was extremely nervous about this arrangement from the start.
Things didn’t get better for him.
The then 72 year old Queen, knowing that Abdullah had never been driven by a woman before and no doubt observing his anxiety, decided to mess with him by purposely driving as fast as possible on “the narrow Scottish estate roads”.
As she sped along at break-neck speeds, the Crown Prince screamed at the Queen through his interpreter to slow down and pay closer attention to her driving. The Queen, ignoring his admonishments completely, continued pleasantly chatting away as if she wasn’t doing her best Fast and the Furious impression. We can only imagine Abdullah’s reaction if the Queen had mentioned to him that she never got her driver’s license…
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
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.