Maybe it’s the half dozen major life changes or the low-grade depression you ignored the last few years you were on active duty, or maybe the less-than-healthy coping mechanisms you developed to help you get through the tougher times, but you’re feeling…low.
Therapy is validating, and soon you’ve got some insight about what you want. Oh, you’re actually less stressed in high-stress situations? Good to know. You’ve got zero work-life boundaries? Hmmmm, tell me more.
As states continue to reduce restrictions on cannabis use, more and more military veterans are rejecting opioids and prescription pain medications while experiencing positive results from cannabis products. CBD products are being used over prescription drugs to help treat pain and symptoms of PTSD, as well as for anxiety or sports recovery.
Combat veterans, like world-record base jumper and skydiver Andy Stumpf and Omar “Crispy” Avila, are huge proponents of CBD, specifically the hemp-derived offering available from Kill Cliff, a veteran founded/run organization that makes clean sports beverages.
I had the chance to chat with both guys and find out a little more about their military background and why they turn to CBD, as well as which strands/methods they prefer to utilize.
Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf set world records as a BASE jumper and skydiver.
Andy Stumpf enlisted in the U.S. Navy while he was still in high school, hell bent on becoming a Navy SEAL. While on a combat deployment, he was shot at close-range by an insurgent. Despite the severity of the injury, Stumpf continued his SEAL career by becoming a BUD/S instructor and the first E-6 selection commissioned through the Limited Duty Officer Program in the history of Naval Special Warfare. After commissioning, he joined SEAL Team Three for his final combat tour in Afghanistan. He was medically retired after seventeen years of service and hundreds of combat operations throughout the world.
In 2015 he jumped from 36,000 feet and flew over 18 miles in a wingsuit in an effort to raise one million dollars for the Navy SEAL Foundation.
“In the military, if you went to the medic with any symptoms, whether headache or bodyache, they used to give — and I’m not judging when I say this — a literal sandwich bag of 800mg Motrin, which certainly works for pain suppression but also liver liquidation and stomach upset. I could have asked for narcotics, but my body never responded well to it,” reflected Stumpf.
Now, he uses hemp-derived CBD for pain relief and the ability to sleep. He enjoys the Kill Cliff CBD drink after a two-hour training session to help “round the edges.” The 25mg CBD recovery drink gives him zero neurological suppression which is why he prefers it over something like a sublingual edible or a topical product.
“I’ve tried everything from topicals, salves, pills, and they all have a time and place. What I like about this product is that I can use it to maximize my recovery and health,” he shared.
Omar “Crispy” Avila on active duty before his life-threatening attack.
Omar “Crispy” Avila shipped out to Iraq in 2004 for what would be his first and last deployment. Near the end of his 11 months in country, his convoy was ambushed and his Humvee was struck by an IED that hit the fuel tank and exploded violently, propelling the vehicle into the air and killing one soldier instantly.
Avila climbed into the turret of his Humvee to provide cover fire for his team as flames engulfed the vehicle. He caught fire as grenades and ammunition succumbed to the heat, forcing him to jump from the roof of the burning vehicle. He broke both of his femurs and attempted to extinguish the flames.
He woke up three months later at a VA hospital in Texas. More than 75 percent of his body was covered in third and fourth degree burns and part of his right foot had been amputated.
“I weaned myself off a lot of medications and I find myself waking up every single day with a lot of pain. I’m not saying that this CBD drink is the cure for everything but at least for me, it brings the pain and anxiety down,” Avila stated.
Avila opened up about anxiety (“it creeps up on you like a mother f***er”) and said the Kill Cliff drinks help him at the end of the day or when anxiety builds but he still wants to feel productive.
Launched in June 2019, Kill Cliff CBD is the fastest growing CBD brand in the country. The bioavailability of a CBD beverage is superior to other forms of CBD. It is nano-encapsulated and easily dissolved in the stomach before going straight into the bloodstream. Kill Cliff offers three flavors: The G.O.A.T., Orange Kush and Mango Tango.
For what it’s worth, I had the chance to try out the (very delicious) Mango Tango and it launched me into a calm state of concentration. Their promise that it “won’t alter your routine” held up remarkably well.
Anyone curious about trying it out for themselves can find the CBD products and other Kill Cliff clean energy drinks online and take comfort in knowing that the company was founded and is run by former Navy SEALs as a sustainable way to give back to the special warfare community through the Navy SEAL Foundation. Since 2015, Kill Cliff has donated over one million to military charities.
There can be no doubt that terrifying things can happen in times of war. However, in most cases it can at least be counted on that the enemy one faces is a living human being.
What happens when other, more supernatural forces creep into war zones? What are soldiers to do when faced with mysterious phantoms, ghosts, apparitions and entities against which they have no experience and which they have not been trained to fight? War zones have attracted tales of hauntings and supernatural phenomena since time unremembered, and certainly one of the more modern such places of paranormal terror is the desolate battlefields of the war in Afghanistan. This is a place that is not only plagued by fighting and violence, but also apparently strange forces that have shown some soldiers here that human enemies are not always the only thing to be scared of in these bleak, violent wastelands.
Several mysterious reports came from a United States Marine who had just come back home after serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The witness tends to be quite secretive about his role in the war, only stating that his unit was “relatively safe,” and only suffered two non-combat related casualties. The witness claims to have had a couple of potential encounters with ghosts during his service, and one of them occurred as he was sitting with some superiors and colleagues within a makeshift office in the desert which had three rooms. There were reportedly four other people in the cramped room with him when, as he was standing near the backdoor, he noticed his Lieutenant step through the door and enter a small adjoining contractor’s office. He saw the man clearly, but at this point there was nothing particularly strange about it, and the witness explained “he was wearing a FROG suit and everything. Nothing unusual about him. Even had the moustache.”
Just 30 seconds later a call came through asking for the Lieutenant and the witness went to the contractor’s office to fetch him. Strangely, the room was completely empty – nobody was there. Since there was no other door out of the office, the witness asked if anyone had noticed the Lieutenant leave, but nobody had, even though there were four others in the enclosed space and it seemed that somebody would have noticed such a thing. The witness went to the rear door of the office they were in and looked around but there was no one there either. Even a look outside showed no signs of anyone. It was as if the Lieutenant had just disappeared into thin air. The witness explained:
I said ‘Disregard Sgt., nobody is around, looks like I was seeing things.’ Then, my roommate a fellow Lance says to me “That’s bull****, you and I both know somebody is in that room,” and I just said “Nope. You saw it too. Someone walked in, and nobody came out, but nobody is there.
Another incident in the very same office happened one evening at around 10PM. The witness claims that he was alone after working late and on his way out when the door to the contractor’s room opened by itself and stayed open. He went to investigate and shone a flashlight about into the dim space but no one was there. He said that at the time he had a very strange feeling like he was being watched and that it was quite unsettling. The very same witness claimed to have seen other strange things during his tour. He also says that there was a mysterious heat signature that would be seen on infrared equipment wandering and pacing around out in the desert outside in the dark, yet when it was observed with different cameras or the naked eye, nothing was there and there was no response when they called out into the night.
Another witness who reported strange, ghostly figures in the desert claimed that his unit was plagued by a mysterious phantom that would appear around the outskirts of their camp and vanish in the blink of an eye. The first time it appeared was a little after dusk, a couple hundred yards from their position. One of the men, described as a “random PVT,” told the others that there was a person out in the wilderness just standing there. The witness looked and at first couldn’t see anything but after a moment could make out a dark blob in the vague shape of a person. The Sergeant apparently was called over and saw it too. When asked where the figure had come from, the private explained that it had “just popped up.” Whoever was out there there was just standing motionless with its back to them. The witness described the eerie scene and what happened next:
So we watch this “person” for about 3hrs, who just stands there, motionless, with its back to us. You could put optics on it and see it was a person, adult male, average height and build. Best part: we “borrowed” a thermal monocular and this f*cker doesn’t register in it. ZERO F*CKING HEAT SIGNATURE. Then randomly, just poof, gone. Random PVT spends the next 6 weeks telling everyone about the ghost we saw.
Around 6 months later, the same witness was out on patrol when two of his unit reported seeing two figures standing on top of a berm a couple of hundred yards away. Anticipating an enemy IED (Improvised Explosive Device), they stopped the vehicle and examined the figures, which appeared to be men just standing with their backs to them. They were motionless and would not respond when called to, just like the strange phantom previously seen 6 months earlier. The Lieutenant called it in and some of the men got out to go investigate. The witness would explain what happened next thus:
We dismount, LT calls over terp asks if he knows what’s up. Terp gives blank stare and shrugs. LT decides we should go have a look-see and do some hearts-and-minds sh*t. I stay in the truck (which feels like 140 f*cking degrees), 20min goes by LT comes back with weird look on his face and says ‘we’re outta here.’ Later that day I asked another guy WTF happened, he says they get within 50yds of aforementioned “persons” and, presto, gone. I ask “what do you mean, gone?” and he just looks at me with this blank stare and says “gone. They were there, and then they weren’t. Weird huh?’
In another account, a marine who served in Afghanistan and Yemen from 2009-2013 relates an odd experience. One evening at 1AM, the witness had just finished setting up a patrol base with four members of his squad while the other seventeen men slept. In front of the patrol base was a huge, open field and to the left was, rather spookily, an Afghan cemetery. As the witness was looking out over the field on watch duty, he claims that a rock came hurtling through the air to land at his feet. Thinking this to be peculiar he peered out into the darkness over the field, which was wide open with no blind spots or hiding places, but he couldn’t see anyone there nor any movement. As he was looking, another rock reportedly was tossed in his direction from the field. The witness put on night vision equipment but could still see no one there, and infrared turned up no heat signatures either. The night was completely quiet and that field was totally empty. Yet another rock would be lobbed at him as he tried to figure out what was going on, and the whole thing was quite unnerving. The marine would say of the eerie incident:
At this point I’m kinda freaked out. This happened right after my team leader died. So I was freaked out and nothing to rule out what threw rocks at me because no one was there.
Equally as bizarre as any of these accounts of strange intruders is that of another soldier who was operating with a special forces squad in the mountains of Afghanistan with the mission of setting up a hide-to-survey in a village several miles away that was believed to be harboring a Taliban person of interest who the military had been tracking for years. The squad’s main goal at the time was to observe the village for a few days for any suspicious activity or persons, as well as to collect any useful information that could be later used in a raid. To this end they set up a team of six men at the base and two others whose job was to creep in closer to observe from a different vantage point.
Things went well at first, but on the second day the squad began having trouble maintaining radio contact with the observation team and the TOC (Tactical Operations Center). They found that transmissions were plagued by static and sometimes would not go through at all. It was chalked up to the magnetic content of the rocks in the area and the witness and some of the men went out to re-position the Satcom in order to get a better signal. As they were doing this at around dusk, one of the soldiers said he spotted a man wearing a white robe who looked to be flitting and running through the rocks outside of the village. When this was reported the men were immediately suspicious, and the witness would say:
There was something odd about the way he described it, but we were more worried about being compromised. Needless to say, we folded up our sh*t and got ready to move out. We weren’t going to end up in some Lone Survivor type clusterf*ck. We were the f*ck out of there. So at this point it’s late dusk, and we were moving pretty quick. Everyone is on high f*cking alert, we are a small element in a remote area without ready access to any kind of quick reaction force and we had no reliable comms.
The team continued their hasty trek back towards their outpost, and the witness took up the rear, walking backwards and making sure they weren’t being followed or leaving a clear trail, his gun trained on the darkness the whole time. As he did this he spotted a fleeting glimpse of something white moving in the distance, although he could not be sure just what it was or if it was following them. Oddly, he would later report that at the time he had begun to sense the smell of freshly baked bread permeating the air and a sudden onset of a feeling of peace and relaxation, which he sensed was emanating from the direction they had come from. This sensation was so profound that he actually slowed down, and thoughts danced through his head of running over to this comfortable place he felt pulling at him from where they had been. He shook off this daze and reported to the other men what he had seen and that he thought they were possibly being trailed, to which an officer replied that he had seen something white moving as well. The witness would say:
I asked my dudes to keep their eyes open for anything, because I thought I had seen someone trailing us. Our senior scout piped in “That’s strange mom, (I was mom, long story) I thought I saw some dude in white on the ridge in front of us.” At this point all the hairs on my neck are standing up. Everything felt strange. The air felt heavy, and sort of sweet. The silence hummed loudly.
With the night steadily moving in, a sense of urgency, panic, and dread set in and the men picked up the pace, even though they were already exhausted from hauling their heavy packs over the uneasy, rugged terrain. As darkness creeped over the landscape to slowly envelope them in pitch blackness, they put on their NODS (night vision goggles), turning the world into a green haze. The night was incredibly silent, even more than usual, and there was no movement out there in the mountainous moonscape bathed in the green cast of the night vision goggles. But this eerie silence would not last, and this is when things allegedly got very strange indeed. The witness describes it best:
Hallucinations happen. But what happened was beyond comprehension. First, we heard a sound like a huge airplane taking off. A loud low buzz that slowly increased in pitch. We had to yell over comms to hear each other. Everywhere I looked, I kept seeing what looked like glowing eyes staring back at me, but once i would center my focus on where I saw them, they would disappear. We were f*cking panicked. Everyone was holding their rifles at the high ready, we were expecting some kind of ambush attack and we started talking out the RP we would meet at if we needed to start a peel and move. Then it all just stopped. Everything got dark. The only thing I could hear was my breath and the blood pumping in my head. We stopped, dug into the side of the mountain, and performed SLLS (Stop look listen Smell) for about 10 minutes. Nothing. Not even bugs. The air and the land were silent.
Baffled, frightened, and overcome with fatigue, the men quickly resumed their trudge through the wilderness back to their camp, very aware that something very possibly malignant and beyond their experience was out there in the dark somewhere. As they scrambled over loose rock and through scrub and brush the witness claims that he suddenly noticed on a parallel hillside the very clear sight of a man dressed in light colored robes, which seemed to be slowly making his way towards their position. Bizarrely, it seemed that that the stranger was just passing through any obstacles he came across as he moved slowly but inexorably closer. The witness would describe the rest of the surreal encounter thus:
He seemed to melt over and around the rocks, it was f*cking unnatural the way he was moving. Through the NODS, his eyes glowed. I scoped up on him, and saw that he was looking directly at me. It was pitch black, there is no way he could have saw us from that distance without any kind of night optics. Suddenly, he stopped. He picked up one of his limbs and held it in the air, almost like he was waving at me. Then the arm melted back into his form, like it wasn’t an arm at all, but some kind of extendable proboscis that was meant to look like an arm from a distance. I was about to ask the guy’s if they could see him, when he suddenly disappeared.
The witness also saw lights flickering in the distance near the town, which he presumed to be the enemy closing in on the area where the booming sound had originated. The team moved on and managed to make it back to their recovery location. They went on to recount their strange experiences and were reportedly told that it was probably all attributable to weariness, panic, and adrenaline. The whole thing was more or less forgotten until a few days later, when the story would take another weird turn. According to the witness:
The reason we did the observation was so we could bring the intel back for a raid that was to be conducted. The raid was ‘successful’, in the sense that finding a deer hit by a car is a successful deer hunt. Apparently, the team that moved into the village found it completely abandoned. They also found several men in the area where I had seen the lights the night we were hauling ass out of there. The corpses had been ripped to shreds, and based on the sheer amount of blood, the general consensus was that there were more men that were killed there than just the bodies that were found. It went in the official records as a successful raid with several enemy KIA’s. Unofficially? No one has any idea what killed them. All I know is whatever it was…it chose. It chose those men and not us.
Whatever that “it” was remains unknown. Another account that most certainly belongs here is one given by a commenter on another article of mine on mysteries in the war in the Middle East. It is an account that seems hard to really categorize, but seeming to deal with ghosts, demons, or some other supernatural beings. The commenter, Jerry Aberdeen, related a truly bizarre experience that happened to him when he was stationed in Mosul, Ninewah Province in 2004, and it is so intriguing and fitting that I felt compelled to share it here. Jerry Aberdeen explains his very weird story thus:
I was attached to 2/3 INF 3 SBCT at FOB Patriot. A call went out on the radio that FOB Diamondback (the airfield) was under attack. Everyone on every FOB from, Courage, Blickenstaff, Patriot and Marez jumped into the closest vehicle and headed to the airfield to counter the attack. I was in a vehicle with some other infantry guys, an engineer and a PsyOps guy. When we got to the airfield we saw some dudes trying to climb over the wall. The gunner opened up on them and the rest of us took up a position in a ditch on the other side of the road and opened fire. There were three of us side by side, the engineer, the PsyOps guys and myself. We fired and one guy and he dropped from the top of the wall (hard to tell who actually shot him). Right after he fell there was stream of black smoke coming out of him. The engineer made that comment that he must have been wearing a suicide vest and it malfunctioned. A few seconds later the black smoke grew larger and started to take a human looking form. What happened next all three of us saw and there was no doubt. The now fully materialized black smoke was standing upright and now had red smoky glowing eyes and a weird looking mouth. The damn thing actually smiled at us and turned to, sort of run but it just dissipated after it took a few steps. Very hard to describe how it all happened. All three of us just looked at each other wide eyed for a second or two. After it was all over we only spoke about once then never again.
So far here we have been looking at assorted isolated incidents of the strange and supernatural, but the war in Afghanistan also seems to have certain places that draw in such bizarre tales. One such place is a lonely outpost called Observation Point Rock, also known as simply “The Rock,” which sits exposed around 20 meters (65ft) above the desert and situated near what appears to be a looming, giant rock, but which is actually the ruins of a caved-in, ancient mud fort, complete with arrow slits and the crumpled remains of turrets. Captured from the Taliban in 2008, the isolated outpost typically holds a small contingent of U.S. Marines to keep watch and guard it, and in addition to its reputation as being a harsh, forbidding place full of dust and grit and sporadic rocket attacks by Taliban fighters, it has also gathered about it an even more sinister reputation of being an intensely haunted and cursed one.
Almost as soon as the Marines moved in there were strange stories and dark rumors swirling about the place. It was said that Taliban fighters had been buried alive in the caves below, and that there were numerous bodies of Russian soldiers buried here during the failed Soviet invasion of these lands. One group of Marines digging a trench claimed to have come across a human leg bone, which led to the discovery of another piece of human remains, followed by another and another, including skulls and whole desiccated corpses and skeletons, which were all believed to have possibly been Russian since a stake with Russian writing was found. They would later find out that a contingent of Russian soldiers had been supposedly executed there in the 1980s after being found by the Taliban while using the rock as a hideout. Also among the macabre remains were found shards of ancient pottery long buried within the dry earth with more inscrutable, unknown origins.
With the creepy ambiance and all of the bodies said to be entombed here it was perhaps no surprise that weird reports would start popping up amongst those stationed here in these badlands. Noises with no discernible source, objects moving on their own, strange lights, disembodied cries or screams, the sound of footsteps or crunching gravel even when there was no one there, the sudden onset of heavy feelings of dread … the men serving here were often plagued with various strange phenomena. Electrical equipment was also said to often malfunction here, and that fresh batteries had a habit of going dead within minutes. On some occasions, machine gun fire or incoming rockets could be heard, but nothing was hit and none of the guns had been fired. There were cases of movement seen on the perimeter only to turn up no trespassers on thermal equipment and no footprints. A Sergeant Josh Brown, 22, once said of Observation Point, “The local people say this is a cursed place. You will definitely see weird-ass lights up here at night,” and another soldier named Lance Corporal Austin Hoyt, 20 has said:
This place really sucks. The Afghans say it’s haunted. Stick a shovel in anywhere and you’ll find bones and bits of pottery. This place should be in National Geographic — in the front there are weird-looking windows for shooting arrows. You know, they say the Russians up here were executed by the Mujahidin.
Strange phenomena were said to have been going on before they had even arrived. The British soldiers who had occupied the base before them also supposedly had experienced such strangeness, and even warned the American troops of what to expect when they got there. They claimed that lights prowled the bleak landscape, that phantoms and shadows moved about in the desert which were only briefly glimpsed by infrared cameras before vanishing, that there were dancing lights that could be observed through night vision goggles, that there were often noises and voices from nowhere, screams or shrieks out in the desert at night, and that to touch any relics or bones found there was to invite great misfortune.
Although the tales of the supernatural surrounding the haunted base are numerous, some stand out as particularly creepy. One Corporal Jacob Lima had a few spooky stories to tell concerning the Observation Point Rock. In one account he claimed that one night he was startled by a chilling scream coming from one of the men. When Lima ran to investigate, he found a Corporal Zolik cowering in fear at his guard post. Zolik claimed that as he had been sitting there, he had felt breath on his ear and heard a clear voice whisper something in Russian. The man was so terrified that he begged Lima to stay with him until his shift was finished. As they waited there together Lima said on several occasions they heard footsteps up on the observation post above them, even though no one else was there. At one point during the night Lima was scanning the area with thermal imaging and allegedly saw what looked like another soldier with “balled fists” standing out in the desert. As he tried to discern whether it was friend or foe, the mysterious figure vanished into thin air right before his eyes. The whole incident was enough to make Zolik desperately requested a transfer out of there. Interestingly, other men also frequently reported hearing disembodied whispers in Russian around the outpost.
On another occasion, Lima was on watch and suddenly heard a dog that was kept there, named Ugly Betty, barking wildly at something. Thinking it could be the enemy, Lima put on his night vision goggles and scanned the night for movement, which turned up what appeared to be a figure in the distance. Not sure what he was seeing, he switched to thermal imaging and tried to find the figure again but it was gone. When he went back to night vision he was able to see the mysterious figure again, which had inexplicably closed a large distance in just moments. A switch back to thermal once again turned up no heat signatures at all, even though Lima was sure that the whatever-it-was was still there. At some point in all of this switching between thermal and night vision, he lost sight of the figure altogether, at which point he claims he felt a heavy tap on his shoulder. When he turned around there was supposedly no one there. Somewhere out in the night, the dog was still barking.
Observation Point Rock is not the only supposedly haunted military outpost in Afghanistan – another notorious one is called Forward Operation Base Salerno. The location of the base already lends itself well to spooky tales, as on its outskirts is an old Afghan graveyard, which is overlooked by two high watchtowers. Indeed, it is these towers that are said to be intensely haunted by what appears to be the spirit of a little girl, said to be sometimes heard or seen wandering around aimlessly either in the towers themselves or in the area around them.
One frightening report concerns two paratroopers with the 2nd Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment named Painter and Jackson, who one night were on watch duty when they were startled by a blood curdling, shrill laugh emanating from their radio, so high-pitched as to almost cause pain. The laugh was described as sounding like that of a little girl, and Painter would claim that “No grown man in the Army could have made it.” When the unearthly laugh stopped, the two men radioed to others on watch but it turned out that no one else had heard a thing. The very next evening, the two men were on watch duty again in the same place, still rather unnerved by what had happened the night before. As they sat there in the dark, they claim that they heard movement and footsteps in the tower, particularly on the trap door that led to another level, even though they were the only ones there. The room also allegedly suddenly became very cold for no apparent reason.
This was unsettling enough, but then there came a call over the radio from the other watch tower, claiming that they were detecting a small, 3-foot-tall figure wandering around in the dark outside. Creepily, although no details of the strange phantom could be seen, what did appear to be clear was that whatever it was reportedly seemed to be waving at them. Jackson says he went out onto the balcony to investigate but saw nothing but the desolate nighttime landscape and that graveyard out in the murk. A scan of the surroundings with thermal imaging equipment also turned up no heat signatures of any kind. After that, the scared men reluctantly continued the rest of their shift with no further such phenomena. Interestingly, although this incident was indeed frightening, neither of the men felt that the ghost was malevolent, but rather that it seemed to just want to play.
In this case the figure had been small but rather indistinct, yet other stories add more eerie detail. On another occasion that supposedly happened years earlier, two Marines were in one of the watch towers when they looked out and clearly saw through their night vision goggles a young girl walking along in the desert night with a goat, but when they took the goggles off the both the girl and the goat were gone. As soon as they put the goggles back on the girl was back, this time shockingly standing on the watchtower balcony, much to the horror of the guards. The event was so upsetting that these toughened Marines were supposedly reduced to tears and refused to go back to the tower. This is not even an isolated incident, and there have been other sightings of a ghostly little girl out walking abut, either by herself or with a goat, both always undetectable by thermal imaging or night vision.
Adding to ghostly lore of Forward Operating Base Salerno is the account of an Airman who had done two deployments in Afghanistan and had spent much of that time stationed at the base, where he stayed at a compound designated for aviation personnel. One night, he says he was out with another person from his platoon to go visit a friend of theirs who was doing guard duty at one of the towers. The friends spent some time chatting and, by the time they left the guard, it was quite late and the moonless night was pitch black, making it hard to get back to their compound since they did not have night vision goggles with them. They got lost and decided to head back to the guard tower to ask for directions back. As they set out into the night again towards the compound, they claim they heard a rustling and footsteps like someone coming up behind them, but when they looked, no one was there. This would happen several times as they picked up their pace and finally reached their destination. Could this have been the same spectral little girl? The mysteries of this place have yet to be explained, and there have been so many strange, unexplained phenomena at Forward Operating Base Salerno that it has become almost legendary in the region among military personnel.
What lies behind cases like these? Is there anything to them, or is this all the result of a scared mind seeing the world through the cracked sense of stress, horror, fatigue, and hallucination? There are many who say that this is precisely what it is. However, although I can see this being the case with lone, isolated individuals, it becomes harder to explain in these terms when the apparition is seen and experienced by several men at once. Is this possible that it is just a mass hallucination where each one sees exactly the same thing at exactly the same time down to every detail? Is this something that truly happens with mere hallucinations? There is also the fact that they may be lying, which is a possibility, but then again we are dealing with men with more on their mind, like staying alive and combating the enemy, than coming up with fanciful tales for the amusement of it all. Then there is the possibility that something truly strange is really going on, but what that could be remains evasive.
In the end, it certainly seems that war zones can attract just as many strange specters, phantoms, and assorted entities and spooky tales of hauntings as any old derelict house or secluded, darkened forest. In fact, some of the most haunted places in the world are places that have been cast under the shadow of violent battle and strife, whether that is happening now or a dark piece of history from centuries ago. War zones and battlefields consistently draw to themselves such eerie stories, as if they are not only collecting ghosts in the sense of memories of a bloody past, but also literal ones as well. Is it because places so saturated with killing, anguish, and horrific struggle somehow tether the spirits of the dead to them? Does all of this negative energy manifest itself in some bizarre and mysterious fashion beyond our understanding? Is it because the gruesome horrors of war have managed to pervade the landscape and etch themselves onto the very fabric of reality, like light onto film, with events and individuals playing back like a video? We may never know the answers to questions such as these, but one thing that becomes apparent when looking at these accounts is that sometimes those in the field face terrors both human and otherwise, and must come face to face with fear both living and dead.
Sgt. Samantha Alexander, Distribution Management Office freight noncommissioned officer in charge aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal on Nov. 13, 2019, for saving the life of a local teenager April 25, 2019.
She was driving home with her daughter and as she turned into her neighborhood the car ahead of her slammed on the breaks and swerved, hitting two boys on their bicycles.
Alexander pulled safely off the road, and began to approach the scene. As she was getting closer, she noticed that the woman who had hit the two boys was standing over them screaming frantically, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry!” Another gentleman ran to attend to one of the boys, so Alexander helped the other.
“While I started talking to the (boy), I asked him his name, how old he was and I told him who I was. He said he had just got released from high school, and they were riding their bikes home.”
Three Marines receive The Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal Nov. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aidan Parker)
As she talked to the boy, she examined his body for trauma.
“I noticed that he had blood on his pants and they were torn. I (moved) the sweatpants, and could see bone and fatty tissue. I pulled off my belt and I tied it as far above the laceration as possible.”
Alexander kept telling the boy to brace for the pain, but due to the traumatic leg injury he couldn’t feel his leg.
“Once I got it tightened down as much as I could, I locked it in place and sat there talking to him.”
Despite seeing tunnel vision, and having spiked adrenaline, Alexander remained calm for the boy until emergency services arrived.
Shortly after EMS arrived, the boys were taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital where the 15-year-old was immediately medevacked to Savannah. The doctors confirmed that it was an arterial bleed, and Alexander’s quick reaction to stop the bleeding saved his life.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
It’s no joke, on April 1 the government will hold the 2020 Census, counting all people who reside in the United States. But for members of the military this somewhat unfamiliar process forces them to yet again ask themselves, “where am I from?”
If you are a new recruit, you may not remember the last census, as it was a full 10 years ago. For the purposes of the census, military members are counted where they are physically stationed, not where you are a resident. And to make matters more confusing, it is UP TO YOU to show up and be counted.
2020 Census PSA: How Will 2020 Census Data be Used? (:30)
2020 Census PSA: How Will 2020 Census Data be Used? (:30)
Learn how census data helps governments make funding decisions, nonprofits perform services, and businesses create jobs. Understanding changes in a populatio…
4 Reasons You Should Care
Hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars from the federal budget are allocated to individual states and communities based on the information collected from the 2020 population survey. This translates to improvements to schools, housing, health care and firefighting and more. To be under-represented is to be under-funded.
Not only will funding be diverted to the most populated areas, this data will determine how many electoral votes and congressional representatives to allocate and will determined how congressional district lines will be drawn. This may sound dull, but accurate numbers make the electoral process less susceptible to manipulation, making the process invaluable.
3: Community Planning
Do you want a new Trader Joe’s or Starbucks in your neighborhood? Well, if you live in a heavily populated area, businesses will be looking to this data to select where they place these new business and key services. The government will also look to this info to update infrastructure across the country.
4: Invest in the Future
Even if your family will not to be at your current duty station for much longer, you will have a replacement. Someone will come after you and their presence will be felt in the community. They will need medical services. They will need good schools for their children. Your participation affects them.
How to Be Counted
The US Census Bureau will send out mailers to all homes in mid-March with details. You can respond by phone, mail or online – the first time this option will be offered. If you do not receive instructions by late March you can call (800) 923-8282 or visit the 2020 Census website.
Active Duty (deployed outside the US)
If you are deployed or stationed outside the US you do not need to respond, as the Department of Defense (DoD) will submit existing personnel data on your behalf.
Active Duty (not outside the US or deployed)
If you live on a stateside military base you will be able to participate by working with military officials who will collect your 2020 Census data. If you do not live on a military installation, but are stationed within the 50 US states and Washington, DC. you will need to respond by phone, mail or online.
If you live in military-affiliated housing, you will be contacted by a military representative to be counted. If you are not living on a military facility you will need to respond by phone, mail or online.
If your spouse is deployed internationally you need to respond via phone, mail or online. If you are stationed Outside the Continental United States (OCONUS) with your spouse, you do not need to participate as the DoD will submit this data on your behalf. If your spouse is on a non-deployable tour within the US how your family responds will depend on if you live in military housing.
Not only is participation patriotic, it is a legal requirement. Those who fail to fill it out completely can be fined up to 0, with those falsifying information seeing fines of up to 0. However, participation should be fueled by facts, not by fear. While military families face a more complicated process to be counted, facts are available and only you can #shapeyourfuture.
On Dec. 13, 1636, the National Guard was officially formed, combining militia regiments from Massachusetts into one organized unit. The Massachusetts National Guard — pictured above at its first muster in the spring of 1637 — has the four oldest units in the US Army: 181st Infantry Regiment, 182nd Cavalry Regiment, 101st Field Artillery Regiment, and the 101st Engineer Battalion. Since the National Guard’s inception, these citizen soldiers continue to serve the nation’s call.
On the National Guard’s 384th birthday, we put together a list of four times it has saved the day.
The 30th “Old Hickory” Division
Fast-forward 281 years from its birth to 1917. The entire National Guard was drafted into the US Army for service in World War I. This meant 17 divisions were off to Europe for the first time in the nation’s history. Among the most famous and battle hardened was the 30th “Old Hickory” Division, aptly named in honor of general and former President Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson. He had ties to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, the three states from which the initial draftees were pulled.
The Old Hickory Division earned more Medals of Honor — 12 — than any other division during the war. They were called other names out of respect for their ferocity in combat, including “The Workhorse of the Western Front” and “Roosevelt’s SS Troops,” the latter coinage by the German High Command.
In World War II, the men who made up the Old Hickory Division lived up to their name, serving 282 total days on the battlefield. The division had 3,435 soldiers killed in action and 12,960 wounded. They received six Medals of Honor, 65 Distinguished Service Crosses, 1,718 Silver Stars, 6,319 Bronze Stars, and 20,000 Purple Hearts. Some soldiers received the Purple Heart more than once.
The Guard Tanks of World War II
The first tank-to-tank combat was fought by the 192nd Tank Battalion in the Philippines in 1941. First Lt. Benjamin Morin was the first tank commander to engage enemy forces in World War II. The battle was not a victorious one, as his M3 Stuart Tank was disabled and caught fire, forcing him and his men to surrender to the Japanese. He went on to endure three and a half years as a prisoner of war.
The Guard tanks of the 192nd Tank Battalion were later asked to hold their position for six hours to cover the retreat of forces to Bataan. They held the position for three days. There were 596 soldiers who answered the call of duty, and among them 325 were killed in combat, executed, died in POW camps, or were killed by American submarines aboard unmarked “Hell Ships” tasked with transporting POWs. The 194th Tank Battalion also saw action in the Philippines. Staff Sgt. Emil C. Morello earned the Silver Star for ramming his tank over an enemy roadblock, destroying a Japanese weapon position, and firing his main gun until his tank was disabled. His crew pretended to be dead and escaped on foot, only to be killed or captured in Bataan, where the rest of the battalion forces would later surrender.
The Air National Guard
When the US military must move heaven and earth in response to a crisis, they call the Air National Guard. Even before the unit was officially established alongside the Air Force in 1947, it was involved in the Border War between the US and Mexico. The 1st Aero Company, New York National Guard, mobilized in 1916 to provide assistance. The Air National Guard has earned a proud reputation, both in combat and for disaster relief.
Master Sgt. Keary Miller, a pararescueman assigned to the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, was first awarded the Silver Star for bravery in the 17-hour gunfight during the Battle of Takur Ghar in Afghanistan. He provided lifesaving aid to a wounded helicopter pilot and set up multiple casualty collection points for Army Rangers on that snowy mountaintop in 2002. He also distributed ammunition to his teammates while under heavy enemy fire. In recent years, this battle has come under the microscope of the Defense Department to properly award these airmen, Rangers, and SEALs for their heroism that day. Miller’s Silver Star was upgraded to the Air Force Cross; John Chapman, an Air Force combat controller, and Britt Slabinsky, a Navy SEAL, each received the Medal of Honor.
In the midst of the Global War on Terror, the Air National Guard also responded to international and domestic crises such as the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. These are a few notable exploits, but the Air Guard has long provided aid and support as well as rescued countless victims in distress. The 210th Rescue Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard, famously known as the “Guardians of the North,” are one of the busiest search and rescue units in the world.
The National Guard in 2020
We may not think of this immediately because we are currently living through it, but the National Guard has saved the day countless times this year. They remain on the front lines to provide aid during the current pandemic, entering the battle against COVID-19 in March. The Tennessee National Guard flew 500,000 swabs to Memphis to resupply COVID-19 test kits, and the New York National Guard helped with distribution of food in hard-hit areas.
They have also deployed to suppress wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. In September, a 1,000-member force was sent to Oregon to give assistance. California National Guard aircrew members responsible for rescuing 242 people from the Creek Fire were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism. They flew in Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters on three daring flights to carry the trapped campers to safety.
In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic and the wildfires in 2020, the National Guard has also served to support public safety amid the civil unrest across the country, including in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd. The year isn’t over yet, but the National Guard is equipped to handle any problem that may arise with the same professionalism and dedication it has exhibited thus far.
Unless you’re a Guamanian local, been stationed on Guam or have participated in the drop itself, Netflix’s new holiday movie may be the first time that you’ve of Operation Christmas Drop. In fact, the operation is the Department of Defense’s longest-running mission and the longest-running humanitarian airlift in the world. Here are five incredible facts about Operation Christmas Drop.
1. It started with a random act of kindness
During the Christmas season of 1952, a WB-29 Superfortress of the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Wing was flying a mission from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. While over the Micronesian atoll of Kapinga-Marangi, the crew spotted islanders waving at them from down below. In the spirit of Christmas, the airmen collected supplies that they had on board, placed them in a container with a parachute attached and circled around to drop the care package. Since then, the operation has grown and continued every year.
2. It benefits islanders and airmen
According to an Andersen Air Force Base statement, “The event provides readiness training to participating aircrew, allowing them to gain experience in conducting airdrops while providing critical supplies to 56 Micronesian islands impacting about 20,000 people.” Aircrews coordinate the drops with the islanders via ham radio. Using Low-Cost Low-Altitude air drops, containers are dropped in the water just off the shore to avoid hitting any locals. In 2011, the drop included 25 boxes of IV fluids for Fais Island to combat an outbreak of dengue fever. In 2013, the drops included critical supplies of food and water for 30 recovery workers on Kayangel Island after it was hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan. In 2020, though additional safety measures will be put in place due to COVID-19, Operation Christmas Drop will go on. This year’s drop targets 55 Micronesian islands across a 1.8 million square nautical mile operating area.
3. The drops are completely legal
Unlike how it’s portrayed in the Netflix film, there is no Congressional issue with Operation Christmas Drop. The drops are conducted under the protection of the Denton Amendment. Also known as the Denton Cargo Program, it was launched in 1985. The program allows for space available on military aircraft to be used to carry humanitarian aid supplies to countries in need and for disaster relief. Aid under the Denton Program comes at minimal or no added cost to taxpayers since it utilizes excess space on scheduled military flights. Today, the program is administered jointly by USAID, the Department of State, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and the Department of Defense.
4. The operation involves units across the Pacific
As mentioned in the Netflix film, Operation Christmas Drop involves international partners like Japan, Australia and the Philippines. While the U.S. Air Force’s 36th Wing and 734th Air Mobility Squadron are based at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and play a major part in the operation, other organizations support the drop, too. The 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, the University of Guam and the “Operation Christmas Drop” private organization all help to make the drop possible.
5. The drops are all donations
In the months leading up to the drop, volunteers set up donation boxes and raise money from local businesses and citizens. A week before the drop, volunteer service members, civilians and contractors collect and sort through the donations. Afterwards, riggers at Yokota and Andersen volunteer their spare time to build boxes to hold the donations. The majority of items dropped are school supplies, clothes, rice, construction materials, fishing equipment and toys.
While many service members will be quick to point out military inaccuracies in the film, the positive effect that the drop has cannot be argued. The relief and joy that Operation Christmas Drop brings to the people of Micronesia every year is an incredible achievement and a testament to the hard work and dedication of the volunteers that make it possible.
Alvin “Bob” River was born on December 25, 1920. A Missouri native, he once traveled with his family by wagon at 12 years old when they moved from one town to the next. His middle name is actually Edward, but he got the nickname “Bob” from a memorable childhood indiscretion. In the first grade, a girl sitting in the desk directly in front of him had long hair and one of her curls kept ending up on his desk. Tired of it, as only a six year old could be, he cut it off. Thoroughly punished and forced to apologize profusely, the deed was done and the nickname stuck. He would be “Bob” for the rest of his life.
His family made their living farming, something his oldest brother took on when he was old enough. World War II had other plans for Bob – he was drafted into the Army in 1944. Deployed to Frankfurt, Germany – he was responsible for the upkeep of the motorpool. “They kept all of the jeeps going for all of the generals,” Betty shared. He spent two years overseas, seeing and experiencing things he rarely discussed with his family. He returned back to Missouri in 1946 and began building a life after war.
Bob found himself at a basketball game fundraiser for Polio not long after getting home. Unbeknownst to him, his future wife was there too. “He was standing by the door as I was leaving the game and my sister ran back to ask him if he’d be my date to the dance we were going to. He said yes,” Betty said with a smile in her voice. Soon after that dance, they began dating in earnest. Betty shared that they loved to go to the local skating rink together. They were eventually married. Bob and Betty have now been married for 66 years.
A good natured man, Betty shared that he was always kind to everyone. He lived his life by the creed of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. They had two children together and now boast two grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren – with one more on the way. Betty said that they always “ran around” with a younger crowd, staying busy and never letting their age stop them from adventure. When Bob turned 99, he began to slow down and forget some things.
Dementia started a decline that eventually led to “sundowners syndrome,” a pattern of confusion, agitation, paranoia and fear. In April of 2020 Betty went with Bob to their daughter’s home for help but after two weeks and a bad fall, they knew it was time for outside assistance. Bob was taken to the Harry S Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital in Columbia, Missouri. Doctors there told Betty what she knew, he could no longer remain at home for care. Although devastated, the family recognized that it was the best thing for him.
As COVID-19 continued to create havoc throughout the world, the VA home closed its doors to protect its residents. But Bob wasn’t alone, for the staff there immediately fell in love with him just like everyone else. The maintenance staff in particular loved him dearly, adopting him as their own. Although he was initially going to transfer to a different hospital to be closer to family, the VA home begged to “keep” him. Seeing how adored he was and how happily settled he was becoming, the family made the choice to keep him where he was.
When the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved, Bob was the first resident to receive it.
On Christmas Day, Bob will turn 100 years old. The family is giddy with excitement because they’ve been granted approval to come on his birthday to sing to him and be together for the first time since the pandemic started. With restrictions on socializing still in place, there isn’t much he can do to stay busy. It is their hope that they can shower Bob with birthday cards and letters, to show him how much he is loved.
It will also show him that he hasn’t been forgotten.
Bob is one of the last of his generation of World War II veterans. Their stories of courage and sacrifice will soon be gone and lost forever. Take this holiday season to remember them and truly recognize what they did for America. A true “thank you” for their service lies not in words, but in action and how you live your life. Do it in a way that honors them and all veterans, every single day.
To mail Bob a letter or card for his 100th birthday, send it to the address below:
This week, We Are The Mighty’s President Mark Harper sat down with the Suit Soldier podcast to talk about his time in service with the U.S. Air Force’s Combat Camera, and how that prepared him to lead a global company. From photographing the front lines to running a business that tells engaging stories about the military, Harper’s path wasn’t quite as unconventional as other transition stories. That doesn’t mean it was easy.
In this episode, Harper shares some of his tactical tips for transitioning, helpful recommendations for resumes as well as other practical guidance for the service member getting ready to leave active duty. But more than that, Harper tells his story. How his dad’s time in the Army instilled a deep calling to serve, how he captured poignant portrayals of life on the front lines through the lens of a camera, and why he moved to L.A. without a job to pursue his dream.
The Suit Soldier podcast is created by Chris Coker, a Business Architect and Career Coach who talks with today’s top veterans to get their story on transitioning from the military so you can understand the path from military service to business success. Discover the traits you already have within yourself that you can deploy into your career and business to achieve your own definition of success.
It was only a matter of time before the current climate of unrest led back to the U.S. military — and its 10 Army bases named for Confederate generals, all spread throughout the former Confederacy.
Whether to rename them continues to be a contentious political issue, but the practical-minded among us have moved on. If they are renamed, what will they be called?
So, without once using the term “Forty McFortFace,” here are a few suggestions — some entirely serious, some very not — for changing those 10 antiquated base names.
1. Fort Benning (Georgia)
This Columbus, Georgia, base was named after Confederate Gen. Henry L. Benning, who fought against the Union armies at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam and Gettysburg. It was named for him in 1918, while many Civil War veterans were still alive. That doesn’t mean it needs to keep the name.
For sheer coolness factor, the base could be renamed for former NFL Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson, whose hometown is just an hour away from Columbus. Enemies would think twice if they knew they would be facing soldiers from Fort Megatron.
They both also have a lot of touchdowns. (U.S. Army photo by Ismael Ortega)
In all seriousness, though, renaming Fort Benning will likely be the easiest rechristening of this whole list, as the military’s basic paratrooper training is conducted here. The base could be named for Maj. General William C. Lee, the “Father of the U.S. Airborne,” and the first commander of the Army’s “jump school.”
Naming it “Fort William C. Lee” isn’t weird, either. Just ask the residents of Fort George G. Meade.
2. Fort Lee (Virginia)
So what to do with Fort Lee, Virginia, now that Fort William C. Lee is in Georgia? The current Fort Lee was named for Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Even though the federal government seized his estate and turned it into Arlington National Cemetery, it still somehow thought it appropriate to name a base after him.
Robert E. Lee, history’s most undeservingly beloved loser.
A decent thing to do would be to name the base, once a training center for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), after the WAC’s first director, Oveta Culp Hobby. As the WAC accepted women of all races, it would be a fitting rebranding effort. Gen. Douglas MacArthur did call the WACs “his best soldiers,” after all.
If that doesn’t garner enough support, renaming the installation for Lee’s famous adversary should. Situated in the greater Richmond region, renaming Fort Lee to Fort Grant would send a positive message to the people who look up to the U.S. Army. Grant owned one slave in his life, acquired from his father-in-law, and set the man free in less than a year.
3. Fort Bragg (North Carolina)
Besides being named for a Confederate general, Fort Bragg should be renamed because it’s the home of Army Special Forces, the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Air Force Combat Control School — and it’s named for American history’s worst general.
Is this who we want the home of Army Special Forces to be named for?
Lemme answer that for you: No. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)
There are a bevy of candidates that would be better suited for the name of such a place. “The President of the Underground Railroad,” Levi Coffin, got his start helping fugitive slaves in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Fort Coffin,” however, sounds, well … So maybe that’s a no.
Then there’s Hiram Revels, born a free man in Fayetteville, he helped organize two regiments of the then-called United States Colored Troops and served as their chaplain. Later, he became the first African American U.S. senator, representing Mississippi.
Fort Revels sounds like a name appropriate for a base in Fayettenam.
4. Fort Hood (Texas)
This Killeen, Texas-based installation is named for John Bell Hood, a Confederate who wasn’t even from Texas. Known for his bravery, all that bravado didn’t help him even slow down Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman on his way to burn down the South and everything they loved. Surely, Texans have a number of people they would prefer to honor over a Confederate. It’s Texas. TEXAS.
For starters, how about the most decorated soldier who ever lived, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient born in Kingston, Texas, who went from enlisted man to officer, then starred in the hit movie about his own life: Audie Murphy.
Fort Murphy would have much better pedigree than Fort Hood, named for a general who peaked before the Civil War was even halfway over.
5. Fort Polk (Louisiana)
What does one rename the most reviled duty station in all of the U.S. Army? Surely, we can honor someone other than a guy with no previous military experience whose Civil War claim to fame is that he died in it.
Louisiana is one of the most unique states in the Union, with a history unlike any other. But again, for sheer coolness factor, we could rename this for Union Col. Algernon Sidney Badger. Badger was from Massachusetts but served at the Battle of Mobile Bay and ended up in Louisiana. He liked it so much, he stayed there when the war was over. Plus, the symbolism of a badger killing a snake is too good to pass up.
Who wouldn’t want to be stationed at Fort Badger?
But the top candidate for Fort Polk‘s new name has to be William C.C. Claiborne, the first American governor of Louisiana. He was conciliatory toward native tribes under his jurisdiction and tried to secure clemency for the captured organizers of the largest slave revolt in U.S. history. He also negotiated for the help of the pirate Jean Lafitte for the defense of New Orleans during the War of 1812.
Fort Polk is dead. Long live Fort Claiborne.
6. Fort Gordon (Georgia)
Only in the old Confederacy could you be hailed a hero upon your return from losing a war. Besides getting that particular participant trophy, John Brown Gordon’s career can’t be discussed without mentioning how many times he was wounded in action.
This photo would be more accurate if you could see the four wounds on his head.
This installation also housed Camp Crockett, a training area for special operators and airborne troops preparing for action during the Vietnam War. It would be an easy historical nod to American legend Davy Crockett, who fought against the Indian Removal Act and later died fighting at the Alamo. If we want to stick to soldiers of the U.S. Army, Fort Gordon is notable because Alvin York, the famed conscientious objector-turned Medal of Honor recipient in World War I, was trained here.
Fort York has a nice ring to it. But Fort Flipper would be more appropriate.
Georgia was home to Henry O. Flipper, the first African American graduate of West Point. Can you imagine the level of harassment this man endured? Commissioned and sent to the frontier areas, he did his job well until he was improperly accused of embezzling quartermaster funds and court-martialed, an injustice to which the Army later admitted. President Bill Clinton would later pardon him.
7. Fort Pickett (Virginia)
Fort Pickett is a National Guard Base in Virginia named after a guy who led one of the most ill-advised infantry charges in history. Not just in American history, but all of world history. While Maj. Gen. George Pickett didn’t order the charge at Gettysburg (Robert E. Lee did, despite all advice against it), his name got slapped on it, whether he liked it or not.
Just like no one cares what they called meat on bread before the 4th Earl of Sandwich started passing them out on card night.
Pickett’s charge led to the defeat of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, a loss from which the South couldn’t recover and ultimately ended their war with loss. And we named a base after him.
A much better choice for the name of the fort would probably be Gibbon, named for Brig. Gen. John Gibbon, commander of the Union forces who stopped Pickett’s part of the infamous charge.
But since this is a base belonging to the Virginia National Guard, they might want to name it after a Virginian. Luckily, there’s no shortage of good Virginians, and two of them are giants of the U.S. Army’s history. Gen. Douglas MacArthur considered Norfolk his home, and Gen. George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff during World War II, attended the Virginia Military Institute.
Pick one, Virginia.
8. Fort A.P. Hill (Virginia)
Then, use the other one to rename Fort A.P. Hill.
Although one of the more capable commanders on the list, this Confederate general’s accomplishments include not being Stonewall Jackson, getting shot seven days before the war ended and having gonorrhea for 21 years.
9. Fort Rucker (Alabama)
Fort Rucker is named for Col. Edmund Rucker, a Confederate Army chef who designed a way for Confederate troops to live on eating grass. While that’s not even remotely true, no one outside of Fort Rucker knows that or cares to Google it. Rucker wasn’t even from Alabama, he just made a lot of money there.
The first suggestion for renaming the base goes to Gen. Oliver W. Dillard, the fifth African American flag officer in Army history, the first black intelligence general and a National Intelligence Hall of Famer. He joined during World War II and served through Korea, Vietnam and most of the Cold War.
But if time in service is what we’re looking for, look no further than Alabama’s own Sgt. Maj. Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson. Johnson first enlisted in the Army in 1923 and was discharged as a corporal six years later. After four years as a civilian, he again enlisted, this time in the Navy. “Hashmark” was aboard the USS Wyoming when it was attacked at Pearl Harbor. Later that year, he was one of the first black men to join the United States Marine Corps.
If there’s a problem with an Army base named for a Marine, look at who it’s named for now, then look at this photo of Hashmark. (U.S. Marine Corps)
Johnson spent another 17 years in the Corps, with a total of 32 years in service. He earned the name “Hashmark” because he had more service stripes than stripes indicating his rank. Welcome to Fort Hashmark.
10. Camp Beauregard (Louisiana)
Louisiana’s National Guard runs this base, named for Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, one of the South’s most able commanders — and one who would end up arguing for racial cooperation after the Civil War’s end.
While that’s admirable, there’s a good chance he just wanted the votes of newly freed black men against Reconstruction-era radical Republicans, so let’s not go crazy about how reconstructed Beauregard was. If we’re going to choose a Louisianan with questionable motives, let’s name the camp after the aforementioned pirate Jean Lafitte.
Who wears the same facial expression as your First Sergeant.
Lafitte turned from sailor/pirate/merchant to soldier in nearly a heartbeat to help the Americans defend the port city of New Orleans from outside attack, and if that doesn’t sound like the National Guard, I don’t know what does.
Going to sick call is seen as optional by many troops. I mean, who wants to waste a nice morning run when you can just treat whatever ails you on your own? After all, it worked that one time, so why wouldn’t it work again now?
There’s a tendency among troops to take it upon themselves to try and fix minor medical problems without bothering the doc and missing out on a super critical 6-mile ruck. You wouldn’t want to be accused of malingering, would you?
In the minds of troops, it’s often better to roll the dice and hope you can treat yourself — and, as you can imagine, this isn’t always the best answer.
The truth is that some of the common “treatments” employed by troops are either not all that helpful or they make matters worse. Here’s the best advice we can offer: Don’t be an friggin’ idiot. Use common sense. If the sickness or injury is bad enough, go see the doc. The only prize for “toughing it out” is a f*cked up body. And by skipping out on a visit to sick call, you miss out on putting your issue on your medical records, which can be a big problem down the road.
The following are the unofficial tools for avoiding sick call — and why you might want to reconsider:
If you don’t feel it immediately, you’ll sure as hell feel it in the morning…
(U.S. Air Force)
“It ain’t called “Grandpa’s cough syrup” for nothing! It’s like taking Benadryl — only more fun, right? After all, you can’t feel sick if you’re passed out!”
Ask anyone who’s ever tried drinking while sick and they’ll probably tell you it’s a terrible idea. Being sick dehydrates you — so does drinking. By consuming alcohol, you’re flushing the water your body needs to heal itself. In the end, this just prolongs your recovery.
Beware the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide…
(U.S Army photo by Sgt. Leo Jenkins)
2. Guzzling down water
“If there’s one thing that the medic kept getting on your ass about, it was to keep drinking water. The surest way to detect how healthy your body is by comparing your pee to that chart that’s hanging in the latrine. It’s like a check-engine light for your body.”
This is a fantastic idea. Drinking water is a perfectly healthy thing to do. But if you quickly go from consuming barely any water at all to chugging gallons of it, you can actually become overhydrated. Your kidneys can’t process that much water and you’ll lose it all — along with some other needed stuff, like sodium. If you really want to use the pee chart, know that “pale lemonade yellow” is the healthy medium.
At least get a sick call slip. It’s an official order from a medical officer that says you can be lazy for a few days.
3. Ignoring it
“Sometimes, all you need is a good night’s rest and you’ll be right as rain. If that doesn’t work, ignore whatever’s going on until things get better. If it still hurts, well, just toughen up and stop complaining.”
If it’s a cold or a sore muscle, roger — get some rest and carry on. This mentality becomes a problem when whatever’s ailing you doesn’t show signs of improving. Say you tear some kinda muscle — if your body is given the proper time to heal and you take it easy, it could heal on its own. If you try to shrug it off and continue to push yourself, things are only going to get worse with each passing day.
If it remains a problem, get some help.
If you are going to pop the blister, at least use extreme care to keep it clean. Bandage it and use moleskin.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Brian A. Barbour)
4. Popping blisters
“It’s only natural to poke at something when it hurts. See that blister? Screw waiting around! Pop that sucker with a needle so it can start healing and let’s get a move on.”
It doesn’t take a medical degree to know that popping blisters on your feet is a terrible idea. For starters, blisters are your body’s way of repairing itself. Popping blisters only prolongs the healing process and leaves the wound open for infection. And since it’s oftentimes on your nasty-ass feet, it’s definitely going to get infected.
If you don’t want to be literally sh*tting out blood, don’t exceed 800mg per 6 hours.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Spain)
5. Lots of ibuprofen
“Why bother the corpsmen when you already know what they’re going to give you? No matter what you tell them, the solution is always the same: Motrin and a bottle of water. Skip the line and just pick some up at the local grocery store and pop a few. Besides, it’s totally funny to watch peoples’ reactions as you down three 800mg pills of ibuprofen and wash it down with an energy drink.”
Ibuprofen is not a super drug that can cure everything. First of all, it’s really only used to treat fevers and soothe pains and inflammations. Secondly, despite what you might think, there’ is such a thing as too much ibuprofen — quit popping 800mg pills whenever you start feeling a cramp. Finally, don’t be taking the huge-ass ones without food or water unless you feel like ripping your stomach and intestines up.
With less than 100 days until the 2020 election, Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has a core mission of serving America’s post 9/11 veterans. It is with this in mind that they launched The Vote Hub.
“We are absolutely bi-partisan, 100 percent. We got the idea for The Vote Hub from anecdotal things we were hearing from the community… The process is just so confusing,” Hannah Sinoway, Executive Vice President of Organization, Strategy and Engagement for IAVA explained. She shared experiences of moving and hitting roadblocks on even being able to register to vote as a veteran spouse herself. More challenges exist this year with COVID-19.
“This effort was really with one goal: to provide simple and easy access for veterans and civilians alike to be able to register to vote and/or to find polling information,” Sinoway said. “So, we built the tool on our website, which is completely free… we don’t even take anyone’s information.”
She explained that the new IAVA tool is for the people and not for any other reason. “We are excited to have people exercise their right to vote, use their voice and be heard,” Sinoway said.
Voting for military members and their families has long been a struggle, with certain studies finding that as much as 67 percent of their absentee votes haven’t been counted. One study in 2009 called it an obstacle course. “When we look at veterans, they fought for the rest of us along the way for pretty much all of our freedoms. To be able to have this tool available to them and their community, we felt was really important,” Sinoway said.
IAVA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established in 2004. Founded by Army Iraq War Veteran Paul Rieckhoff, it was created to make a space for resources and community for the veterans of the post-9/11 era. They are headquartered in New York City and have a policy office in Washington, D.C., as well. They’ve grown and evolved to continue supporting veterans and ensuring they are honored.
Membership to IAVA is completely free to veterans. Their website states, “Members all paid their dues while serving our country. Our members are true heroes.” Their 2018 impact report indicates that they are currently connecting, empowering and uniting over 400,000 veterans and allies nationwide.
Sinoway herself is the longest tenured employee with IAVA and has been working for the company for almost seven years. “It’s honestly been the privilege of a lifetime,” she shared. She continued, “The social justice aspect of our work, I kind of have that in my blood. There are groups of people who don’t have a voice or a strong enough voice and we are that strength to bring them beside us — not to fight for them but fight with them. I think that’s been the best part for me.”
IAVA plans to continue the fight to ensure justice for America’s post 9/11 veterans as well as support all veterans with resources and initiatives. To learn more about IAVA and The Vote Hub click here.
The latest survey of active-duty and reserve-component service members’ spouses shows the spouses are, by and large, happy with the military lifestyles they lead.
Defense Department officials briefed reporters at the Pentagon Feb. 21, 2019, on the results of the surveys, which were conducted in 2017.
The survey of active-duty spouses and a similar survey of National Guard and Reserve spouses showed similar results, they said. Among active-duty spouses, 60 percent claimed they are “satisfied” with their military way of life. Among the reserve components, 61 percent were satisfied.
While both surveys showed a slight decrease from the last previous survey, conducted in 2015, the 2015 and 2017 results both were higher than results from the same question on the 2008 survey, officials noted.
James N. Stewart, performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told reporters the surveys cover areas including satisfaction with military life, spouse employment, deployment and reintegration. Questions also touch on issues such as finances and the impact of deployments on families and military children.
A soldier from the Florida Army National Guard’s 806th Military Police Company greets his family.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa)
Survey results inform decisions
Results are used to inform decisions about how the U.S. military provides services to families, he said.
“These surveys allow us to identify areas of concern and understand what’s working, and more importantly, what’s not,” Stewart said. “This information also helps our internal leaders evaluate programs, address issues and gaps, and determine the need for new services.”
Paul Rosenfeld, the director for DOD’s Center for Retention and Readiness, said positive results of the surveys included general spouse support for military members continuing to serve. Among reserve component spouses, for instance, 81 percent support continued service for their spouse.
Regarding financial matters, 71 percent of active-duty spouses report being comfortable with their financial situation, while 68 percent of reserve-component spouses say the same thing.
Of concern, Rosenfeld said, is that among active-duty spouses, 61 percent support continued military service for their spouse — that’s a drop from 68 percent in 2012. “Spouse support for service members staying on duty predicts actual member retention,” Rosenfeld said.
Other points of concern revealed by the surveys are high levels of “loneliness” reported by spouses when military members are deployed and unemployment rates for active-duty military spouses. Among active-duty spouses, Rosenfeld said, unemployment sits at 24 percent. Among the spouses of junior enlisted members in the E-1 through E-4 pay grades, he said, that number sits at 29 percent.
It’s all about the kids
When it comes to military spouses, Rosenfeld said, family is most important, and children top the list.
“Child care continues to be a key need for active-duty families,” he said, adding that 42 percent of active-duty spouses with children under age 6 report regularly using child care. It’s 63 percent for spouses who are employed.
Carolyn S. Stevens, director of DOD’s Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, said some 40 percent of military members have children. Of those children, she said, about 38 percent are under the age of 6.
Past survey results showed that availability of child care — in particular, hours of operation — had been an issue for military families, Stevens said. Where hours of operation for child care may have affected service members’ ability to do their mission, hours were expanded, she added.
Subsequent survey results show that now, among those who don’t make use of child care on installations, only 2 percent say it’s due to hours of operation, she said.
Sinead Politz kisses her daughter, Lorelai, at the return of Lance Cpl. Ryan L. Politz.
“We believe, then, that those responses are a confirmation that we’ve listened to a concern, that we’ve responded to that concern, and that in fact we’ve hit the mark,” she said.
Also of concern when it comes to child care is cost and availability. About 45 percent of respondents on the survey say cost of child care is a problem for military families, Stevens said. She noted that in some situations, appropriated funds can be used to lower the cost of child care for families who use installation child care. And for some families, she said, fee assistance programs can be used to lower costs for those who use community-based child care.
Still, Stevens acknowledged, that’s not possible for every family who needs it, and more work needs to be done. “We are unable to provide fee assistance to all of our families, and we continue to see this as an issue that requires more attention and focus as we try to find solutions for families,” she said.
Next survey: 2019
For the 2017 survey, about 45,000 active-duty spouses were asked to participate, and about 17 percent of those responded. Among reserve-component spouses, 55,000 were invited to participate, with a response rate of 18 percent.
Invitations to participate in the 2019 survey went out to reserve component spouses in January 2019. An invitation will be sent to active-duty spouses in May 2019.
A.T. Johnston, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said the results from the 2017 survey, and the now ongoing 2019 survey, will continue to be used to improve quality of life for military families.
“The research information we receive guides me and my team to ensure we provide the tools, information and services that military families need to be successful, fulfilled, and able to manage the challenges they may encounter during military service,” Johnston said.