The holiday block leave period is the time of year that bases empty out and most troops return home to spend time with family and friends. During the holidays, you might see more than a few service members back home. Here are 3 kinds of troops that you could see around town, and one that you won’t.
1. The war hero
“So no shit, there I was in the middle of hell. Guns firing everywhere, people shouting, my battle buddy crying next to me. That’s when he got hit. His MILES gear went off and I checked his casualty card. Lucky S.O.B. was D.O.A. He never even got reconstituted. He just sat at the rear and swiped on Tinder. Yup, JRTC at Fort Polk was one helluva deployment.” We’ve all seen it. This guy is still rocking his high and tight, a unit t-shirt, wearing his dogtags out, and probably has his jeans bloused too. Don’t bother confronting him. Just let him spin his war stories before he goes back to his squad leader who smokes him for losing his CAC on a daily basis.
2. The quiet professional
This one may be tough to spot, but with a keen eye, you might see one. Is that Garmin watch for land nav or are they just an avid outdoorsman? Their hair might be a grown-out medium fade or just a regular civilian cut. They’ve got some facial hair, but maybe they’ve grown it out on leave or they’re just operator like that. They’re very well-spoken and project confidence, but it’s hard to pinpoint if they’re a service member. But then it happens. The cashier was thinking the same thing as you and asks if they’re military. They humbly admit that they are and pull out their CAC. After all, it’s hard to turn down a military discount.
3. Are you even in the military?
If you can spot this one you should probably apply with National Geographic. This service member is probably near the end of their contract and is ETSing within the next few months. They’re likely a Terminal Lance or maybe a member of the E-4 mafia. Long scraggly hair, a generic hoodie and sweatpants. This person has one foot out the door and is trying to pretend that they’re all the way out. It doesn’t matter what kind of discount they are offered, they are not pulling out their CAC. After leave, they might not even show up to formation.
4. Staff duty
Well, someone has to do it. Whether they’re on duty as a punishment, had nothing better to do, or took a buddy’s shift in exchange for monetary compensation, this is one service member that you won’t see around town. You also won’t see the troops that decided to stay on base during the holidays and throw barracks parties. They’ll make sure that the folks on duty won’t have a silent night.
Military and law enforcement working dogs are vital. They not only add capabilities for the units they serve with, like finding the enemy faster due to their powerful sense of smell; they also save their lives in the process. These dogs willingly sacrifice themselves in the process of saving their team. Atos was one of them.
Randy Roy served four years in the 2nd Ranger Battalion of the Army in the 1980’s and went on to become a law enforcement officer in Iowa. He began working with the K9 unit and training dogs. In 2007 he was approached by the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) to become a Contract Trainer for their military working dogs. Roy and his family left their home in the Midwest and settled outside of Ft. Bragg in North Carolina shortly after that.
Atos was the first military working dog he trained.
Roy shared that USASOC acquired Atos in the summer of 2007. “Atos was a goofball, hard head, Malinois. He was awesome. Atos was kind of stubborn but very trainable and learned quickly,” said Roy. He continued on saying, “He was very sociable with everyone. They truly become part of the team and he certainly became a team member.” When Atos finished his training, he deployed to Iraq.
It was while in Iraq that he was assigned to his handler. The handler had just lost his previous military working dog, Duke, who was killed in action during a firefight. Roy shared that at first, Atos’ handler didn’t want to like him, most likely because the loss of Duke was so fresh. But Atos grew on him quickly.
Jarrett “Fish” Heavenston and Roy connected on that deployment, with Heavenson often volunteering for Atos’ training and happily donning a bite suit. Heavenston joined the Army at seventeen in 1991 and completed seven years as a ranger. He also worked in jungle warfare and USASOC. Heavenston wanted to do something different, so he left the Army and joined the Air Force in 2001 as a Combat Controller where he stayed until he retired in 2016.
“They [working military dogs] recognized who their tribe or pack was and they were very protective of them. We are kind of look, dress and walk the same; if you weren’t part of that pack they were alert and watching you and on guard,’ said Heavenston. As a Combat Controller, he was with many different dogs; he shared that some dogs were approachable, and friendly and that’s how Atos was described.
On Christmas Eve in 2007, Heavenston and his team were tracking enemy combatants. The brush was incredibly thick and woody. “It was very tough to move in the brush. We knew they were in there and waiting for us,” he shared. Heavenston said that he was helping to guide the handler as he was casting Atos out. The dog was able to find and track the guy they were looking for because of his keen sense of smell; but that meant that the team lost sight of Atos.
Although Atos quickly made his way through the brush, the team moved behind him much more slowly due to the difficulty of navigating the tough terrain. “You have the best-trained guys in the world out there, but it doesn’t negate that what you are doing is really hard,” said Heavenston. He shared that between the rough terrain and fading daylight, it was a tough operation.
“The dog is on him the dog is on him” is what Heavenston remembers hearing from the communications with an aircraft above them. They didn’t realize it was Atos at first, but eventually, they heard the commotion.
Shortly after that, the enemy combatant blew himself up, killing not just himself, but Atos.
Four members of their team were wounded that night, some grievously. “Had Atos not done what he had done, it would have been much worse,” shared Heavenston. He knows that if Atos hadn’t engaged with the enemy and forced him to detonate his bomb early, there would have been certain loss of human life that Christmas Eve.
“There are hundreds of dogs out there who have made the ultimate sacrifice. There are many of us within the military that are here today because of what they did,” said Heavenston. It was with this in mind that his company, Tough Stump Technologies (which Atos’ trainer, Roy, became a part of), decided to hold an event in Atos’ honor.
Touch Stump Technologies partnered with K9 for Warriors to raise money through their event for the organization, which is working to end veteran suicide and return dignity to America’s heroes by pairing them with service dogs. Dogs are paired with veterans who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or have suffered military sexual trauma (MST).
The event will celebrate the life and sacrifice of Atos and all working dogs on March 13, 2020.
Heavenston also shared that his company is working hard to develop technology that would allow the military to better track their military working dogs. “If we had this on Atos that night, that narrative would have been a lot different,” said Heavenston. The hope is that with specialized GPS tracking capabilities, they won’t lose dogs like they lost Atos.
Working dogs are an integral part of the military and law enforcement. On this K9 Veteran’s Day, take a moment to remember the dogs like Atos that willingly sacrificed their lives to save their people. Every loss is felt deeply, and the gratitude for the lives they’ve saved is unmeasurable. Don’t forget them.
After finishing his second Boston Marathon in 2013, Maj. Ken Parisi, a logistics specialist at Marine Corps Systems Command, wanted to tackle a new challenge — triathlons.
He has completed four full-distance 140.6-mile races and 10 half-distance 70.3-mile races. He said this passion for triathlons gave him confidence and made him a better Marine.
“I realized I got myself into something pretty big, so I did what all Marines would do — I made a plan, hired a coach, bought a bike, and then just actively and aggressively pursued my training plan until I crossed each finish line,” Parisi said.
In 2018, he participated in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship at Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, placing in the top 25 percent of 4,500 competitors. The race included a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run.
Maj. Ken Parisi, a logistics specialist at Marine Corps Systems Command, talks about his passion for triathlons and how they gave him confidence and made him a better Marine.
It was Parisi’s first World Championship race, and he had to overcome a few obstacles: it rained the entire race and his bike never arrived in time after he shipped it from the U.S. Luckily, he was able to rent a bike and was only six minutes short of his fastest time. He also beat his personal record in running by six minutes and matched his fastest swim time.
“It was an incredible experience competing with the best athletes and Olympians across the globe,” said Parisi. “I enjoy triathlons because they push me past my uncomfortable limitations into becoming a better athlete and a better person. I’m more patient and confident in myself and what I can do because of this sport.”
Parisi said training for a full-distance Ironman consumes his off-duty time. He alternates between swimming and running one day, then biking and running the next day, training at least 14-18 hours a week. This does not include the time he spends on travel, preparation, cool down, stretching, and calorie consumption.
Maj. Ken Parisi, a logistics specialist at Marine Corps Systems Command, crosses the finish line at the Ironman World Championship at Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
“On Saturdays I’ll wake up at 5:00 a.m. and go for a five or six-hour bike ride, follow it up with a run, try to get home early enough to have a late lunch or early dinner, go to bed, and then do another workout the following day,” he said. “I’m a very goal-driven Marine and individual. I think if you are going to be a successful and competitive athlete, having realistic, identifiable and attainable goals is critical.”
Parisi said he believes competing in distance triathlons has increased his endurance and strength, which makes him a better Marine, even after 23 years of service. He earned a perfect score of 300 on his physical and combat fitness tests, and is more driven and disciplined to conquer every goal he sets.
Maj. Ken Parisi, a logistics specialist at Marine Corps Systems Command, shows off his Ironman World Championship coin which signified his qualification into the race at Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
“As Marines, we are put in hard situations and expected to come out on top,” said Parisi. “It’s really up to us to focus, drill down, and get the job done, and I believe this sport challenges me enough to know that I can do anything.”
Parisi will continue working toward his goal to compete in the Ironman World Championship, a 140.6-mile journey, which is double the distance from the Ironman in South Africa.
“It is very challenging, but I’m focused on the common quote ‘failing doesn’t make you a failure,'” he said. “I know that every workout I do will make me a little bit stronger for the next workout, and getting across the finish line at the world championship one day is my ultimate goal.”
Looking for a last minute gift for that whiskey lover on your list who also happens to love history? Why not buy a bottle of small-batch whiskey from George Washington‘s distillery?
Even though it’s not the original location, it’s a pretty close replica and it churns out recipe-exact whiskey. So you’re basically sipping on the same stuff that the big guy himself liked to sip on.
Who doesn’t love whiskey?
Just like now, alcohol played a significant role in the lives of people in the 1700s. In addition to social drinking, alcohol was used a lot for medicinal purposes, so having a distillery meant that Washington could sell his booze to many different markets. Distilleries were super common in early American life, just like now. Currently, America produces about 37 million cases of whiskey each year in 129 distilleries.
Way back in 1799, Washington’s distillery produced something like 11,000 gallons of whiskey, making it one of the largest distilleries in all of America at the time. Admittedly, America’s size in 1799 wasn’t nearly what it is today, but still – 11,000 gallons is pretty impressive. For comparison’s sake, other distilleries in Virginia at the same time only made about 600 or so gallons of fine, fine whiskey.
Whiskey making was even one of the earliest “cottage industries” in America. Cottage industries are the kinds of businesses people can run out of their homes. In the digital age, that could be anything. Back in Washington’s day, running a successful shop out of a kitchen or farm, or in Washington’s case, a still, required a different kind of setup. And that’s exactly what Washington did.
First, the basics
So you already know Washington was our first president, and he did a lot for the future generations of whiskey loving Americans who would come after him. But one thing that lots of people don’t know is Washington was all about a good side hustle.
In fact, he was working on side jobs before that term even entered our lexicon.
Throughout his life, Washington was forever trying to reduce his expenses and make more money on the side. That’s how he got his start with the distillery in the first place! He just wanted to make some extra cash. It’s wild to think that the first president and former General of the Continental Army trying to keep up a side job is hilarious. But it also sort of embodies the whole American work ethic of always looking for opportunity. And, even though he had no previous experience with distilling, Washington decided to give it a go after realizing how much money he could make.
A diverse product line
At its height, Washington’s distillery produced more than just whiskey. His original recipe was a blend of 60% rye, 35% corn, and 5% malted barley and it was distilled twice then sold under the label, “Common Whiskey.”
But his distillery also featured more expensive whiskeys flavored with cinnamon and persimmons. Brandies made with apple, peach, and persimmons were also sold along with kinds of vinegar.
One big difference between Washington’s Mount Vernon whiskey and the whiskey produced today is that Washington’s wasn’t aged, which meant that it never took on the color of the casks. Today, the distillery maintains that heritage – its whiskey remains unaged and clear.
It can often be overwhelming to plan travel as a military family — from coordinating schedules to budgeting, let alone ironing out all the details of the actual trip. Thankfully, many travel-related businesses from airlines to hotels offer military discounts that are worth looking into for your next big adventure.
A couple of points worth noting regarding military travel discounts:
Finding the military discount is not always straightforward. It often requires calling the company directly as the military fare or price is not published online. Take that into account when trying to figure out pricing; sometimes it is worth the extra step of calling to save!
A valid military I.D. card will be required at check-in to validate all military pre-bookings or reservations.
Allegient Air – Allegiant Air offers two free checked bags for military members.
American Airlines – American Airlines honors military members flying with their dependents by honoring free checked baggage. Discounted flights (up to 5%) apply by calling the airline directly.
Delta – Delta recognizes service members and their families with discounted fares (must contact Delta Reservations directly by phone), as well as free checked baggage.
Frontier – Frontier offers two free checked bags for military members who show a valid I.D. card upon check-in.
Hawaiian Airlines – Hawaiian Airlines offers four free checked bags for military personnel on orders and two free checked bags for leisure travel.
Jet Blue – Veterans Advantage members can save 5% on Jet Blue flights, and a special military fare class rewards active duty personnel with a 5% discount off base fares when not traveling on orders. Baggage discounts are offered for both duty and leisure are also offered with valid I.D. at check-in.
Southwest Airlines – Southwest does not publish a military discount on their website (or information regarding their policy), but military fares are offered to personnel who call the airline directly.
United Airlines – United offers military members and their dependents free checked bags, as well as up to 5% off for Veteran Advantage members.
Did you know that there are 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans nationwide, and that 250,000 more service members will leave active duty this year to join them? These veterans often face isolation, lack of physical fitness, and a lack of purpose in a world that doesn’t understand the military.
Team Red, White & Blue‘s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Utilizing a nationwide network of chapters, Team RWB hosts and participates in events designed to bring veterans together and engage in the communities where they live and work.
Whether it’s workouts, races, social activities or community service projects, Team RWB members, also known as Eagles, support each other through shared values and experiences; there’s probably an RWB chapter near you.
Joining Team RWB is easy
Visit the Team RWB homepage to sign up. New members also receive a free Team RWB Nike t-shirt ( shipping and handling charge). New eagles are also quickly connected to their local chapter to learn about upcoming local activities. More than 160K veterans, their families, and non-military supporters have already joined Team RWB.
Team Red, White Blue is a nonprofit founded by veterans working to solve the epidemic of loneliness through physical activity. Team RWB is the bridge connecting communities where veterans and civilians work together to gain common understanding.
Team RWB takes the best of military service–the camaraderie and physical challenges–and creates a new family of Eagles connected through physical activity.
“Staying active both physically and socially is key for a lot of veterans, especially those who have been wounded, ill or injured,” said Tampa VAMC Chief of Recreation and U.S. Army veteran Geoff Hopkins. “It’s very important for those veterans with ‘invisible wounds,’ such as PTSD, to engage in activities in the community, to draw them out of their dark places and get them interacting with others.”
Take the 1776 Challenge
Independence Day is for celebrating our nation’s freedom. This summer, Team Red, White Blue will showcase their commitment to the men and women who have fought for our freedom with the 1776 Challenge.
Team RWB invites you to join all Team RWB Eagles across the nation. Whether you do it with someone else or weave it into your workout, you will know that thousands of others will be taking on that day’s unique challenge with you! Dedicate your hard work and sweat to celebrate our nation’s veterans and their commitment to this great nation. Every time you “check in,” you will be entered into a chance to win prizes!
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
There are many unfounded superstitions within the military. Don’t eat Charms candy. Don’t whistle on a Navy vessel. Pilots won’t take off without being given a thumbs up. The list goes on.
Many of these superstitions have traceable roots that run back to a time when someone did something and terrible results followed, but there’s seldom any empirical evidence behind the practices. To that end, Marines and Marine veterans from all eras and battlefields will all attest to one fruit being such bad luck that even uttering its name will cause them to freak out.
This fruit is, of course, the apricot.
Vietnam was bad enough. Even if you liked the taste of the fruit, you probably shouldn’t do anything to make everyone ostracize you.
While most troops tend to stay away from apricots — typically referred to as ‘cots, forbidden fruits, or A-fruits, to avoid being jinxed by uttering its true name — the biggest contributors to this superstition are Marine tankers and Marines on Amphibious Assault Vehicles.
Officially, the myth began in WWII. Many of the AAVs that were hopping around the islands of the Pacific would carry the fruit, as it was often found in rations. All the AAVs that were destroyed with their crewmembers inside were said to have a single piece of cargo in common: apricots. Of course, there isn’t much proof to back up this statement, as many vehicles that didn’t carry the forbidden fruit met the same fate.
The superstition continued into the Vietnam War. There, Marines were hesitant about even being near someone eating a ‘cotbecause they thought it meant that rockets or artillery were soon incoming. The belief was so strong that Marines would often force someone out of the tent if they tempted fate by biting into one of the stone fruits.
You still won’t find any of them in a Marine Corps chow hall. Just grab an apple, they taste better and probably maybe won’t cause everything to explode or break down. Probably.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon)
It was also said that ‘cots were to blame for many Marines vehicles breaking down during the Persian Gulf War and the early days of the Global War on Terrorism before they were all but banned by the military overseas.
Until apricots were removed from MREs in 1995, many Marine tankers would opt out of bringing MREs into their vehicles altogether on the off chance that the A-fruit was hiding in one of the sealed bags. The myth continues to this day, and most Marines won’t even utter the name of the fruit, let alone touch them.
In high school, Jordan Way played football and lacrosse, as well as participating in ballroom dancing. He worked with the school’s Best Buddies program, partnering with special needs students in a mentoring capacity. “One of our nicknames for him was ‘Adventure,'” said his father, Dana Way. “Hiking, fishing, shooting, bow and arrows — he did not turn down a challenge.” Jordan was devoted to his family and devoted to his role as a U.S. Navy corpsman.
Yet only four years into his time in the Navy, Jordan was dead from opioid toxicity following shoulder surgery at the military hospital at Twentynine Palms Base. His parents were shocked to discover that a longstanding legal precedent known as the Feres Doctrine prevented them from suing the government for medical malpractice.
“My son never left the United States,” said Suzi Way, Jordan’s mother. “He was not in a war situation. He was having routine surgery, and he died. And he has no voice because of the Feres Doctrine.”
U.S. Navy sailor Jordan Way died following shoulder surgery and while under the care of military medical professionals.
(Photos courtesy of Suzi Way.)
Jordan was one of thousands affected by the Feres Doctrine in the 70 years it has been in effect. But as of Dec. 20, 2019, active duty military personnel will finally have legal recourse in cases of medical malpractice. President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2020, which includes a new mechanism holding the Department of Defense accountable for medical malpractice in military medical facilities. It was a hard-fought battle, but one that has potentially far-reaching consequences for service members who suffer from negligent care.
In 1950, the case Feres v. United States was heard and decided by the Supreme Court. The court held that the United States cannot be sued by active duty personnel under the Federal Torts Claims Act for injuries sustained due to medical negligence. As clarified four years later in United States v. Brown, “The peculiar and special relationship of the soldier to his superiors, the effects of the maintenance of such suits on discipline, and the extreme results that might obtain if suits under the Tort Claims Act were allowed for negligent orders given or negligent acts committed in the course of military duty, led the Court to read that Act as excluding claims of that character.”
Natalie Khawam, the lawyer representing the Way family as well as other families that have been affected by Feres, saw this as a fundamental insult to the civil rights of active duty service members and has been fighting to change the precedent through an act of Congress. “We consider ourselves a superpower, but our military has less rights than our civilians, and less rights than other countries, our allies,” Khawam said. “Shame on us.”
Dana Way vociferously agreed. “Our active duty servicemen who volunteer by signing that line — where in that document does it say, ‘I give up my Constitutional rights’?”
In eighth-grade Pop Warner football, Jordan Way severely broke his wrist. “His hand was hanging almost 180 degrees off his arm,” said his mother Suzi. She added that he was a longtime “fitness nut” and injured his shoulder in 2017. His parents wanted him to return home to see the surgeon who had fixed his wrist years earlier. But as a corpsman, Jordan trusted in the team of military medical professionals who would be overseeing his care.
This proved to be a mistake. Following the shoulder surgery, Jordan was left in agony. Five hours after the surgery, he went to the emergency room and lost consciousness from the pain. ER doctors increased his oxycodone dosage and sent him home. The next day, when nothing had improved, his surgeon increased the dosage again. But the doctors had all failed to see what was happening.
“He was getting the physical effects of the opioids; he was not getting the analgesic pain relief,” explained Dana. As a result, the high dosage of oxycodone left his body unable to move food through his digestive tract — he was not processing any nutrients. He became hypoglycemic and his organs began to shut down. In the end, he fell asleep and never woke up.
Jordan Way, back row center, with his family.
(Photo courtesy of Suzi Way.)
“These doctors, they didn’t maliciously kill our son,” Suzi said. “I pray for them all the time because I know they have to go to bed at night with the woulda, coulda, shoulda. But they also didn’t help Jordan. They were negligent. They were complacent. They didn’t do their jobs.”
After a long and arduous process of trying to determine what exactly had happened to their son, Army Colonel Louis Finelli, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System Director, admitted to the Ways that Jordan’s case was a “preventable and avoidable death.”
Dana Way sees the Feres Doctrine as a roadblock to quality medical care within the military. “The people in power know ultimately nobody’s going to get held responsible for it,” he said. “If you’re active duty military, you’re essentially a piece of equipment. You are a typewriter, you’re a calculator. If you break, you get thrown into a pile and they move on to the next one. To me, that’s wrong.”
Although Feres has not been overturned, it will be substantially diminished in scope by the NDAA signed last week. Service members will still be unable to sue in federal court for damages caused by medical malpractice, as was originally proposed in the Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act. That act was part of the House of Representatives’ version of the bill, named after another of Khawam’s clients who is battling terminal stage 4 lung cancer. Instead, active duty military personnel will be able to submit claims to the Department of Defense itself.
Rich Stayskal and lawyer Natalie Khawam in Washington.
(Photo courtesy of Natalie Khawam.)
Khawam sees this as an unmitigated victory. “I don’t think anybody will be upset that they can’t go to federal court if they have the remedy, the recourse, of federal court decisions,” she said. “It’s the best of both worlds.” As specified in the NDAA, the Department of Defense will be held to the same standards as those outlined in the Federal Torts Claims Act, and Khawam hopes that it will actually lead to much faster resolution of claims than if the cases were to be seen in federal court.
In its original form as the Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act, all claims would have been seen in federal court, but that proposal faced a roadblock from Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Graham was a staunch opponent of any changes to the Feres Doctrine, stating that such changes would be like “opening Pandora’s Box.” Despite a concerted effort among Stayskal and his advocates, any attempt to contact Graham was met with “crickets,” according to Khawam.
In an innovative tactical maneuver, by taking the process out of federal courts and into the Department of Defense itself, the proposal was approved by the far-more-amenable Senate Armed Services Committee. By doing an end-run around Graham, the act, in its new form, made it into the final reconciled version of the NDAA and was signed into law by the President.
Jordan Way’s funeral.
(Photo courtesy of Suzi Way.)
Fittingly, Trump was revered by Jordan Way, who was buried with a Trump/Pence button on his dress uniform. Given their struggle to get answers about their son’s death from the military, Suzi Way is wary that claims will now be handled by the Department of Defense. “I know how exhausting it has been for my husband and I to find out how and why our son died. That took hundreds of phone calls, hundreds of emails to our elected officials, hundreds of emails to DOD from the very top of the food chain down. How can one ensure the standards are being upheld if they are standards that are privileged to the DOD’s eyes only?”
Khawam, however, is “on cloud nine,” she said. “I feel like it’s been Christmas every day. 70 years of this awful injustice — I felt like it was this locked-up vault that everybody kept saying, ‘It’s never going to change, it’s never going to change.’ And we finally unlocked that vault and cracked it open.”
Of course, “now the work starts from here,” Khawam added. The next step is actually pursuing the claims for Stayskal, Way, and others who have been denied legal recourse because of the Feres Doctrine.
Even Suzi Way, despite her hesitance about the final form of the bill, is glad that there has been momentum. “I went to bed last night,” she said, “and for the first time in almost two years, I didn’t hear Jordan in my mind saying, ‘Mom, I did nothing wrong. I did everything the doctors told me to do, let people know!’ My son’s voice is being heard that was once silenced due to Feres, and this is balm to my grieving soul.”
Back pain is something that 80% of adults are expected to experience at some point in their life. For some, it comes much, much earlier — and the advantages are endless!
It’s no secret that those who engage in manual labor from a young age are more susceptible to back pain. It makes sense then, that young vets are oh-so-lucky enough to be some of the chosen few with significant back pain while barely being young enough to crack open a cold one (legally).
Here are some of the fun benefits young back pain sufferers all experience!
You know what kinda day it’s gonna be the night before!
Most people have to spill coffee on themselves or pour a bowl of cereal before realizing they don’t have milk before they know they’re going to have an awful day. With chronic back pain, there’s no need to wait until 7am to figure that out — you’ll know by 2am at the latest! Your unending nightmare of discomfort will let you know that tomorrow will, in fact, suck.
What a treat to know in advance!
You’ll accrue advanced stretching knowledge!
Most under-30-year-olds know how to touch their toes. Maybe they’ll occasionally grab a foot and stretch out their quads before a run. Not those with chronic back pain! Those lucky sons of guns have advanced knowledge of stretches so intricate and strange-looking it would make the author of the Kama Sutra blush.
You’ll never need another excuse to avoid helping your friend move!
This one goes without saying. Gone are the days of saying, “Oh, uh, actually dude, I have to pickup my uncle from the airport” or “I would, but I actually told my girlfriend I would take her to shop for potted plants” or the vintage classic move of waiting until the day after and hitting them with, “I JUST got this text — still need help?” Nope. Now you can just tell them straight up you can’t help. Not you “won’t.” You physically cannot.
You get a desirable “dad bod” without even trying!
Okay so there’s not a lot of people that try to have a “dad bod.” But for those who do — it can be difficult. Luckily, with chronic back pain, you can get a dad bod before you even have children! Spend hours not being able to get out of your rolly chair. Be unable to go on light jogs without immediately experiencing immobilizing muscle spasms. Then, eat away your feelings through endless bags of Cool Ranch Doritos. It’s like having the opposite of your own personal Hollywood trainer.
You get the best seat in the house to watch your friends have fun!
You’re playing basketball with your friends, you drive in for a layup, nobody touches you, and then wham: your back completely locks up on you for no reason whatsoever. Now you can’t walk, let alone play. Sucks, right? Wrong.
Now you get to sit and watch all your friends air ball uncontested 3s — from the front row! Sound too good to be true? Don’t worry, it’ll happen plenty more times!
You can do a perfect impression of the AT-ATs from ‘Star Wars!’
Impressions are hard. Star Wars impressions are especially hard. Don’t believe me? Ask literally anyone to do an impression of Yoda. It will be terrible.
But with insane chronic back pain, you can constantly walk like an AT-AT! The lumbering, stiff, slow movement will wow all your friends. You’ll get the posture of C3P0 for free, too.
Dak Lak Montagnard Museum, Buon Ma Thuot April 2017
When I attended Special Forces training at Fort Bragg, NC I learned that one of the primary tenants was something called Foreign Internal Defense (FID). What this was based on was learning how to work with people indigenous to the area we were operating in, helping them gain the ability to defend themselves and in turn gaining their trust and getting them to help us with their knowledge of the operational area.
In Vietnam, this meant working with the Montagnard people who were supporting our camp and in my case our cross border operations to gain intelligence about the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.
Rich’s Montagnard team at CCS (Command and Control South) in Buon Ma Thuot.
Rich’s Montagnard team at CCS (Command and Control South) in Buon Ma Thuot.
Rich’s Montagnard team at CCS (Command and Control South) in Buon Ma Thuot.
Rich’s Montagnard team at CCS (Command and Control South) in Buon Ma Thuot.
Many of the Montagnards at Command and Control South came from villages in the local area: Buon Ea Katour, Buon Ho, Hoa An, and Buon Krong to name several. As I got to know and become friends with the men on my team, I was invited to their village to attend dinners and Nam Phe parties. Nam Phe is the rice wine, strong but tasty, made to the exacting specifications of each individual who brews it and these parties would occasionally go to excess.
I had Rade, Jarai, and Mnong tribes on my team. Once you bonded with them they were extremely loyal (I owe my life to some of them) and were great practical jokers. When inserting by helicopter, my point man (Pai Hdoc a Jarai) would always let me jump out first so he could jump on me and not get hurt.
In my Vietnam tours, I believe I learned far more from them than they did from me – but we were a real team that depended on each other for daily survival – lessons that have helped me all my life.
Get ready for a new A-10 budget fight. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein wants to fund new initiatives in connectivity, space, combat power projection, and logistics starting in 2021 – to the tune of $30 billion on top of what it is already using. One way to do that, says Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is to retire $30 billion worth of legacy aircraft.
That is, get rid of the old stuff to make room for the new.
While getting rid of these aircraft isn’t the only way to make room for the new initiatives and save $30 billion, it is the fastest route to get there, and many of the retirements make sense. Some of the planes’ missions are obsolete, some of the airframes are currently being updated with newer models, and at least one can’t even fly its primary mission due to treaty obligations.
The B-1B is already scheduled for retirement in the 2030s, but retiring the program early could save up to .8 billion. At 32 years old, the Lancers are already struggling with a 50 percent mission-capable rate. It can’t even complete the missions for which it was designed as a nuclear deterrent. The Air Force’s fastest bomber, the one that carries the biggest bomb loads, can’t carry nuclear weapons under the terms of the 1994 START I agreement with Russia.
Also scheduled for retirement in the 2030s, the B-2 Spirit has a mission-capable rate of 61 percent and is scheduled to be replaced by the new B-21 Bomber in the late 2020s. Retiring the B-2 early could save as much as .9 billion.
A-10 Thunderbolt II
The Air Force’s 281 A-10s are mission capable 73 percent of the time and are its primary close-air support craft. The average A-10 is 38 years old, and even though the bulk of the A-10 fleet has just been scheduled to get new wings, canceling the re-winging and retiring the Warthog could save as much as .7 billion.
Retiring the 59 heavy tankers in the U.S. Air Force fleet would save the service billion if they do it before 2024 – when they’re scheduled for retirement anyway. This may create a tanker shortage because the new Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tanker isn’t quite ready for prime time.
RC-135V/W Rivet Joint
This signals intelligence and optical and electronic reconnaissance aircraft is more than 56 years old but still kicking around the Air Force waiting for a yet-undeveloped Advanced Battle Management System to replace its old tech. While retiring it before 2023 would save .5 billion, it would create a gap in electronic and signals intelligence capacity.
E-3 Sentry AWACS
These 39-year-old planes are mission-ready just 66 percent of the time and are undergoing modernization upgrades. If the Air Force scraps its modernization along with the rest of the airframe before 2023, it could save billion.
U-2 Dragon Lady
Getting rid of the 37-year-old U-2 would save some billion for the Air Force. The Air Force could then rely on the much more efficient RQ-4 Global Hawk drone for ISR.
Also waiting for the unknown advanced battle management system, the 16 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar aircraft in the Air Force are already scheduled for retirement. But actually retiring the aircraft would save the USAF .7 billion.
The one thing that seems to be a constant in Saigon is the delicious smell of food cooking – from the street vendors, open air cafes, coffee shops, and bakeries – it was that way in the late 60’s and remains so today. The first time I came to the city I remember walking to the headquarters with an officer I’d served with in Ban Me Thuot and stopping at a small coffee shop for a coffee and croissant – both were delicious and the whole event seemed surreal given what was going on in the rest of the country at the time.
This time, when I arrived at Tan Son Nhat airport in Saigon the first thing I saw were customs officials wearing what I remember as North Vietnamese Army uniforms – a bit of a flashback. Stepping out of the terminal I breathed deeply of the humid tropical air – a familiar scent that almost seemed comforting. Driving through the city on the way to the hotel I noticed the beautiful French inspired architecture which added a touch of grace to the cityscape.
In 1969 Saigon was a multi-faced city, bustling with the business of war. The people were pursuing their livelihood as best they could, while hip deep in the middle of a war zone. They were trying as hard as they could to make life tolerable and better for their families. Today, later generations of those families are doing that same thing, less the war, making life better and succeeding on a grand scale.
Revisiting Saigon and Vietnam after forty some years reaffirmed my faith in humanity – it doesn’t matter who won or lost, doesn’t matter who is in power – it’s all about the people. The Vietnamese people have always been entrepreneurs, caring for their families and their country and have made it a powerhouse in Southeast Asia. It gladdened my heart and closed a circle for me in a most positive way.
This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.
It seems like every veteran entrepreneur opens a coffee shop, a t-shirt company, or a brewery. We ain’t mad atcha, especially if it’s a brewery.
This Veterans Day, raise a glass full of veteran-brewed goodness to toast all the great ones before us, those who have served with us and those yet to come. Here are 8 veteran-brewed beers to drink this Veterans Day (and hell, all year round):
What could be better than toasting the brotherhood than by buying a beer that gives back to it? A portion of every beer sold in the series is donated to the Navy Seal Foundation.
According to their website, this brew is fermented at a higher temp (72F) to blow up the fruity and juicy yeast strain esters. This series features a single hop profile of Azacca Hops to bring big citrus and tropical fruit tones. Protector is one of the fastest-growing breweries in SoCal and is owned and operated by a veteran Navy Seal.
Start your day right with a W.A.S.P. Waffle Ale that honors the Women Air Service Pilots (W.A.S.P.) from World War II. While it was brewed by women to honor women in uniform, this beer is for anybody who likes to be happy. With subtle caramel notes and a maple vanilla finish, Callsign promises you’ll be saying “leggo my beer.” We’ll drink to that.
The Frogman Lager is a fan favorite at this Norfolk brewery with a combination of caramel and bready-malt flavors and floral and earthy notes courtesy of the Bold Saaz hops. With 24 IBU, this is an easy beer to drink and an easier one to love.
We give the KA-BAR Brown Ale two fierce knife hands. Their flagstaff beer, this is a rich, dark brown ale with notable nuttiness up front. It’s also described with a “slight roasty character and a hint of chocolate and toffee come through before ending with a subtle bitterness.”
While this beer is bottled, if you can make a trip to the taproom, it’s worth seeing in person: the tap handles for the KA-BAR Brown Ale come directly from the KA-BAR factory in New York.
One of our favorite beers to drink, the pineapple hefeweizen, is packed with sweet and tangy fruit flavors, perfectly complemented by spicy clove and hints of banana. This is one pin you’ll want to pull over and over again.
“The foot soldiers of the Infantry belong to the oldest and proudest branch of the army, their boots ‘always ready, then, now and forever.’ Our Ground Pounder Pale Ale honors those that have worn out their soles preserving the freedoms we cherish.”
The Ground Pounder is all around a great beer. It has nice spice and citrus notes with some bold, piney hop and a little bit of caramel. And, just because we know the Army is always a little extra, there’s some lime and crushed black pepper in this bad boy.
No matter what you’re drinking this Veterans Day, raise your glass not only to those around you who have served, but give a little toast to yourself, too. Here’s to you – cheers.