The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated on November 10, 1982, with 57,939 names. Since then, more names have been added. Currently, there are 58,282 names listed. Ten new names were engraved in 2020, including the name of a Marine corporal whose 2006 death was determined to be the result of wounds received in action in 1967.
Listing the names of the fallen matters for all the obvious reasons and the way returning veterans were treated in the US after coming home from war. The memorial is dedicated to honoring the courage, sacrifice, and devotion to duty and country of all who served in one of the most divisive wars in US history.
The memorial was built without using any government funds
After watching the movie The Deer Hunter, Jan C. Scruggs, a wounded Vietnam War veteran, and advocate, stepped up his efforts to create a war memorial to honor those who died in Vietnam. He donated $2,800 of his own money to form the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in 1979.
By 1981, that fund had grown to $8.4 million, thanks in part to celebrities helping out with fundraising. All donations for the memorial came from the private sector, even though many politicians expressed their support in funding the site. Congress passed legislation to reserve three acres in the northwest corner of the National Mall for the monument.
What happens to items left at the memorial?
Items are gathered by park staff. Non-perishable items are archived in a storage facility. Tens of thousands of items have been left at the memorial since its opening. These so-called artifacts include letters, POW/MIA bracelets, photographs, military insignia, and religious items. Someone once left a motorcycle. Rangers from the National Park Service collect items every day. Except for unaltered US flags and perishable items, all artifacts are sent to a storage facility in Maryland. The facility isn’t open to the public, but sometimes certain memorial artifacts are put on view as part of traveling exhibits. A virtual collection can be seen at www.vvmf.org/items.
How are the names arranged on the wall?
The names are arranged chronologically by date of casualty. The first names appear at the center of the wall at the top of panel 1E. The panels are filled like pages of a journal listing the men and women’s names as they fell. Upon reaching the farthest east end of the memorial at panel 70E, the pattern continues from the far west end of the memorial at panel 70W, continuing back to the center at panel 1W. In this manner, the memorial evokes a theme of closure or completion; the first are with the last.
All of the names have been read out five separate times
As part of the Wall’s 30th commemoration in 2012, all 58,282 named were read out loud just before Veterans Day. This was done five times – in 1982, 1992, 2002, 2007, and 2012. Volunteers, Vietnam veterans, family members of the deceased, and employees from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund read the names. In 2012, the team began reading on a Wednesday afternoon and didn’t finish until Saturday night.
How can I find a name on the memorial?
Printed registries available at the memorial are organized alphabetically by last name. Electronic registries available online or accessible by park staff in the information kiosk at the memorial allow users to search by several data including first name, last name, branch of service, rank, date of birth, date of casualty, state, and/or city where they enlisted.
Registry entries include a panel number and row number corresponding to its location in the memorial. Panel numbers are engraved in the memorial at the bottom of each panel. For row number, count down from the highest row on the panel. Each row contains five names (six where a name has been added since the wall was originally installed).
The next time you’re stuck in a conversation that feels as awkward as an FRG meeting, try inserting one of these random and obscure military facts. They’re just weird enough to help divert a boring conversation into something a little livelier (no guarantee that they’ll work though since FRG meetings are notoriously rough).
The ultimate Commanders-in-Chief
How many US presidents served in the Army? Thirty Presidents have served, with 24 serving during war. Bonus fact: Two have earned the rank of 5-star General (Washington and more recently, Eisenhower). One earned the Medal of Honor (T. Roosevelt).
Speaking of presidents, only one served as an enlisted soldier. James Buchanan didn’t go on to become an officer, either.
Only two presidents served as airmen. Ronald Reagan served in the USAF when it was still known as the Army Air Force, and George W. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard before being transferred to the Air Force Reserve.
Mascots for the win
The Legend of Bill the Goat
Every great military academy needs a solid mascot. Bill the Goat has been the Naval Academy mascot since the early 1900s. Legend says that way back in its history, a Navy ship used to keep a goat on board as a pet. On the way back to port, the goat unfortunately died, so two ensigns were supposed to have the goat stuffed. As ensigns are known to do, the pair got distracted by a football game. Sometime before halftime, one of the ensigns dressed up in the goatskin that was supposed to be stuffed. The crowd loved the new mascot, and Bill the Goat has been around ever since.
For their part, the USMC has an English bulldog named Chesty as their mascot. Chesty was named after Marine Lt. Gen. Louis “Chesty” Puller. Puller was the only Marine to earn five Navy Crosses.
The Marines have issued the title of “Honorary Marine” to less than 100 people. This honor can only be bestowed by the Commandant of the USMC and comes with rank. Notable people to receive the title include Chuck Norris and Bob Hope.
Female Marines recently got an update to their wardrobe in the way of authorization to wear small, polished gold or silver-colored round or ball earrings. Earrings can only be worn when the women are dressed in uniform, but this is still a big change of policy for the USMC.
Speaking of Marines, now both male and female Marines are authorized to carry umbrellas while in uniform. This recent 2019 change allows for a small black umbrella to be carried with either a dress or service uniform. This update to policy took 200 years!
Maps, maps and more maps
The Army was tasked with mapping out the entire continental United States, and that started with Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Army officers were some of the very first to explore and see places like the Grand Canyon and Pike’s Peak.
Marines are a superstitious bunch. Take, for example, their avoidance of certain foods.
Marines won’t eat the Charms that come in MRE because they think they’re bad luck. The multi-flavored fruit candy has routinely been tossed from MREs since 2003. Even more spooky is the Marine rating system for Charms. Lemon Charms spell vehicle disaster, and lime ones mean rain is going to be on its way.
So there you have it. Ten random facts that probably won’t ever help you win Jeopardy but might keep you entertained the next time you’re stuck in a “voluntold” meeting.
“We may have been a conquered people, but we were not a defeated people, and our warriors will always rise to the call of battle.” – Hopi leader
“The Native American Veterans Memorial is for healing,” monument designer, Cheyenne and Arapaho citizen, peace chief, and Vietnam veteran, Harvey Pratt said. In addition to serving with the 3rd Marine Division in 1963, Pratt worked in law enforcement over 50 years. His career consisted of being a renowned forensic artist and he is now a multimedia artist inspired by his heritage. When asked why he and so many Indians voluntarily join the military, Pratt explained their warrior tradition of defending their people and homeland, despite the history of oppression by the U.S. government.
“God gave this land to the Indians first and so this is Indian country and will always be Indian country. Our blood is spilled all over this country and world, fighting for this country. We will always fight for this land.” Pratt described the design, stating not only could his great-grandfather, Edmund Guerrier, a Sand Creek massacre survivor, recognize its symbolism, so could his children, grandchildren and every member of America’s 573 tribes.
Located at the entrance of the National American Indian Museum in D.C. and surrounded by gardens, a paved, lit path will lead visitors to a large stainless-steel circle mounted on a stone drum fountain. The symbolism of a drum’s beat, reverberating through the rippling water, will be a call for healing across the land. And on ceremonial occasions, the circle’s base will ignite in flame.
Pratt explained how the round design is timeless and in sync with the other features of the memorial, symbolizing the cycle of life and death and nature’s connection with everything. He detailed how the site will also include four benches for visitors to sit and reflect. And spaced according to the four cardinal directions, four lances will point skyward with feathers in the four battle colors of white, yellow, red, and black, as well as battle streamers.
Veterans, family members, tribal leaders, and visitors will have the opportunity to tie their own prayer cloths to these lances.
He concluded, “Although the memorial is for American Indians, ‘war mothers,’ and their families, all vets are welcome to come feel the power and strength and to feel blessed.” Dr. Herman Viola, historian, curator emeritus at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and senior advisor for this memorial, explained the significance of the monument, with Indians serving since the Revolutionary War at a greater percentage than any other ethnic or racial group – currently almost 19 percent.
Viola described their history of service. American Indians are “fiercely patriotic,” he said. They have been at “the forefront of our nation’s military conflicts despite the fact that until WWII many tribal people were not citizens and could not vote in their own country.” For example, “Though not liable for the draft during the Great War, of the “10,000 Native Americans who served in the Army and the 2,000 who served in the Navy… three out of four were volunteers.” And “World War II witnessed an even more remarkable wave of American Indian patriotism… All told, 10 percent of the country’s Native population of 350,000.” This included one third of able-bodied men, ages 18-50, as well as 800 women.
“In fact, had all eligible Americans in the United States enlisted in the same proportion as did tribal people there would have been no need for a draft,” Viola said. “It is an exemplary record of military service that continues to this day.” Viola ended by relaying the words of a Hopi leader speaking on the importance of appreciating the sacrifices made by Indians and their families. He said “The fact American Indians are fighting for this great country of ours needs to be recognized. We may have been a conquered people, but we were not a defeated people, and our warriors will always rise to the call of battle.’”
What’s for dinner? No really, we are all tired of cooking the same things, so can we have some new ideas? Quarantine has the vast majority of folks cooking more than normal. And naturally, we want to switch it up a little.
Don’t get bored from cooking the same dishes over and over again. Instead, use your current duty station to help provide some inspiration.
Start by looking at where you’re stationed and what local fare they have to offer. Then consider what dishes you can find around town and how you could be making them at home. Simple? Sure. But it’s also an easy way to switch up your current menu.
Go straight to restaurant menus, or Google based on town or local ingredients for even more variety.
What base is home-for-now?
Southern states have soul food and countrified home cooking. There’s pimento cheese (YUM), chicken salad galore, and about as much banana pudding as you can stand.
In the Midwest there’s BBQ, deep-dished pizzas, so many casseroles, Cincinnati-style chili and bierocks.
Overseas you’ll find European dishes, Hawaiian fare, sushi and noodle dishes — but in their true forms, not Americanized versions.
And that’s only the beginning.
Fresh ingredients for the trying
Finally, you can find new ingredients to inspire your cooking by checking out local markets. Now is a great time to support small businesses, but they’re also hot spots for items you don’t normally use. Ask a worker for recommendations (from a distance) for some insider experience while you’re at it. Or, when planning your garden, add in some unique locally based plants.
As a military family, one of the biggest perks is the chance to move around and experience new cultures. Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t still use your location to try new things. Consider cooking outside of your comfort zone — while drawing inspiration from the locals — for tasty new dishes that the whole family can enjoy.
As reported by CBC, the Canadian Armed Forces will now authorize their troops to grow a beard — within certain limits, of course. Canadian service members’ beards must not exceed two centimeters (roughly 3/4th of an inch) in length, must be kept off the neck and cheekbones, and may not be in any non-traditional, trendy style.
This puts our brothers to the north in league with the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and most of our other NATO allies in realizing that beards aren’t as detrimental to troops as once believed. This leaves the United States and Turkey as the last two beardless, major US powers — but the Turkish Armed Forces haven’t yet taken the debate off the agenda.
With the Global War on Terrorism winding down and garrison life becoming an ever-growing aspect of a troop’s career, it’s about time the Pentagon at least entertains the idea of allowing conventional troops some leeway on facial hair grooming standards.
Even a tiny bit of stubble will stop a gas mask from completely sealing and let all that nastiness inside.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton)
The current policy that requires U.S. troops to be clean-shaven comes from the need to properly seal a gas mask in the event of a chemical attack. In World War I and II, such a policy made absolute sense. Chemical weapons were used extensively against Allied troops and anyone fighting in areas where the enemy was known to use them kept their mask close by.
Today, the use of chemical weapons against US troops is not a complete impossibility. After all, Saddam Hussein used nerve gas against Iranian troops and the Kurds in 1987, sarin gas was used in 2013 during the Syrian Civil War, and many terrorist organization — including ISIS, Aum Shinrikyo, and Al-Qaeda — have been known to use chemical weapons in their attacks.
While a chemical weapons attack against U.S. service members could happen, today aren’t taking gas masks with them on patrol. Ounces make pounds and any additional weight slows troops down — especially when the odds of needing a mask are so slight. So, most troops opt to leave their mask back at the tent, unless mission dictated.
But even if the worst should happen, the Canadian military developed a gas mask that fits over the entire face and chin and is designed specifically with beards in mind. In the absence of such a mask, troops can just slather a bunch of Vaseline on their beard before putting the mask on — believe it or not, that does the trick, too.
Shaving while deployed also runs into the issue of wasting a valuable resource — water — on an arbitrary task.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Rosalie Chang)
The next argument against beards is that they’re not in line with a “professional appearance.” The problem here is that there’s no real, defined standard as to what’s considered “professional.” That being said, we all know there’s a fine line between having a well-kept beard and looking like a bum.
On the same side of the coin, certain Special Operations Command units have turned a blind eye toward facial hair standards. You’d have to be very firm in your convictions if you’re going to call out a Green Beret, a quiet professional, for being unprofessional.
The two loudest voices on the matter are that of Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who opposes beards as he believes it would loosen discipline standards in the ranks, and the Command Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey, who is in favor of beards as long as they are kept to a strict standard. And Dailey supports a caveat that would revoke beard privileges in environments with a high risk of chemical attacks.
There are pros and cons on either sides of the facial hair debate but, as it stands now, the need for a clean-shaven face simply isn’t as dire as it once was. And, as shown in an informal study done by Military Times, a vast majority of troops and veterans are in favor of loosening the grip on facial hair standards now that troops are spending more and more time in-garrison.
U.S. Marines with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldiers conducted military working dog detection training exercises at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Nov. 21, 2019.
JMSDF MWD handlers visit MCAS Iwakuni quarterly for training. The purpose of the training is to give them the opportunity to train their dogs with U.S. Marine Corps training aids, use different facilities on the air station and share knowledge between the two different services regarding MWDs.
“Training with the JMSDF is a great experience for everybody,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Justin Weaver, operations officer of the Provost Marshal Office. “They learn from us and we learn from them.”
U.S. Marine Corps military working dog with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldier conduct military working dog detection training at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Nov. 20, 2019.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Triton Lai)
The PMO military working dogs train almost four hours every day depending on the specifics of the working dog. They train for real life scenarios, patrolling, odor detection, and to increase physical fitness.
“Our K-9 units perform very well,” said Weaver. “They are in charge of every kind of customs sweep that comes through for every event.”
Weaver said that in the future, there may be the opportunity for PMO Marines from MCAS Iwakuni to use JMSDF facilities for more bilateral exercises and to further build their relationship with JMSDF.
You found a place! Time to get your stuff out of storage and find out what broke during the PCS. You’re not sure how your dresser was shattered into five million pieces, but who cares? You’re too excited.
But lying awake with your bum ear ringing (and/or your knees throbbing, back hurting, your amygdala telling you you’re about to be eaten by a bear in the comfort of your own bed), you’re beginning to question the wisdom of that decision. Ok, maybe it’s time to file a claim.
You call in reinforcements in the form of a VSO. For the low, low price of zero dollars and your medical records, they’ll take care of it for you. Score! Asking for help isn’t that bad. You should do it more often.
You realize you haven’t talked to any of your old military friends in months, so you text a buddy who separated around the same time. As it turns out, they’re dealing with the same stuff. You communicate through memes, which is surprisingly cathartic. You’re not alone!
Everybody from your therapist to your partner to your Facebook ads seems to think you’ll feel better if you start exercising again. You attempt an old PT workout, but it’s not the same when nobody is yelling at you. Time to try something new.
At some point, you begin to realize that your military service will always be a part of who you are (a huge part), but it’s not your entire identity forever. You have an opportunity to use your skills and experience to benefit your community, to learn new skills and have new experiences, and to write your next chapter. It’s actually pretty exciting.
There’s an old saying within the writer’s world. “Write what you know.” Meaning that every artist should always put a bit of their own life experiences into their creations to help create the feeling that the world they’re creating is real enough – regardless of its fictional setting. This is especially important when it comes to analyzing works created by war veterans when they tell stories dealing with war.
This leads us to literature’s biggest question about authorial intent: Is The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien an allegory for WWI? From the mouth of Tolkien himself, it’s not. Yet scholars still debate this.
The honest answer is that it’s much deeper than a surface level “the orcs are really these guys” and “the ring actually means this thing.”
If you’re still not convinced… If the One Ring was about the bomb, then the eagles would have definitely been the ones to drop the Ring in Mt. Doom and not about the struggles of two hobbits going in on foot.
(United States Department of Energy)
The novel was released in 1954, and, as people do, there was speculation that it was about either World War I or World War II. The straight-forward nature of Sauron being purely evil and the works of the Fellowship purely good puzzled Tolkien’s life-long friend and Jesuit priest, Father Robert Murray, who also questioned if it was a message about Christianity – since Tolkien himself was a devout Catholic.
His response to both was included into the forward to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien has this to say:
As for any inner meaning or ‘message,’ it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical…. I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.
Later on in life, many questioned if the One Ring was also symbolic of atomic weapons. This is easily debunked by the simple fact that he began writing The Lord of the Rings in 1934 – many years before the Manhattan Project was even known.
Need to come up with a war-torn hellscape that’s riddled with death and decay? Tolkien’s mind went to the worst hell he could imagine: the swamped trenches of the Battle of the Somme.
In Tolkien’s eyes, his work were, and always should be viewed as, a fairy tale. This is why the chapters of The Hobbit feel slightly disconnected from each other – because they’re meant to be bedtime story-sized chunks to read to children at night.
When it came time for his magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings, it was intended as a more mature follow-up to that world while still holding true to its fairy tale spirit. Sauron is the unequivocal embodiment of evil. Frodo Baggins, though flawed and unlikely to be the hero, was a nuanced embodiment of good. The core of the series is always that good, no matter where it comes from, will always triumph over evil.
The debate lies in the unexpected journey of how that happens, which brings us back to writing what you know.
To be fair, this place would be what Tolkien’s friend Father Murray may have called an allegory for Heaven.
As every combat veteran can tell you, war is a hell that you can never really get out of your mind. Tolkien himself saw his two best friends die within the first day of combat, a first aid station he was at destroyed with many inside, and he would be sent back to the rear for health reasons. He would eventually learn his battalion, and everyone he knew would be destroyed by the end of the war.
Tolkien’s survivor’s guilt would haunt him throughout the rest of his life. This is reflected in the most powerful moment of The Lord of the Rings – Frodo’s return to the Shire. Frodo lost many of his friends along the way. What was once a happy, cheery little town felt alien to him. He couldn’t just slip back in like nothing had happened because, it did. His scars healed but still hurt while his mind wandered. This is not unlike what happened to Tolkien, but it’s not unique to him.
But this isn’t where Frodo’s story ends. Neither is it for every returning veteran. For all of his good deeds, Frodo is allowed passage into the Undying Lands. He can be free of his pain and know that he fought the good fight. His battles with his trauma were over. This pained and injured hero can finally have his happy ending.
There is no allegory for the pure good and pure evil of The Lord of the Rings. The Orcs weren’t the Germans (from either war), and the Hobbits weren’t the peaceful Welsh. The story is meant to be interpreted by anyone who sees themselves in Frodo’s shoes (well, in the metaphorical sense. Hobbits never wear shoes.)
Tolkien wrote the fairy tale he’d have wanted to hear as a returning veteran. To be told that no matter where you’re from, no matter how big or small, no matter the pain you endure, no matter the friends you lose along the way, your story will eventually have a happy ending.
This is the basis for the Fox Searchlight film Tolkien about how his life experiences influenced his writing. Check it out in theaters May 19th.
The Super Bowl came and went. If you’re a Patriots fan, good going. Now your boy has enough Super Bowl rings to snap half of all life out of existence. Tom Brady was somehow the “underdog” that game… because reasons? The Rams didn’t do anything spectacular after being given a free touchdown via a no-call against the Saints and they got flag after flag for seemingly pointless reasons, and they they still couldn’t… You know what? Whatever. I’m a Detroit Lions fan. We’re used to terrible calls and disappointment.
The real military highlight on Sunday was the Google Ad that inspired everyone to search for civilian jobs for their given MOS for the hell of it. Sometimes, the algorithm was hilariously off. Other times, to be honest, we all kinda knew what the results would be: Aircraft repair guys got told to repair aircraft, commo guys got system admin jobs, water dogs got water treatment jobs, and so on.
On that note, here’re some memes to help soothe over the pain of knowing you could be getting paid six figures for doing a less-stressful version of what you’re doing now.
Nothing beats the lazy Fridays of a four-day weekend – like today! Everyone probably did something patriotic for Independence Day. Whether it was seeing the fireworks with the family or getting roaring drunk in the barracks with the guys, we all did something extravagant yesterday.
And now today’s a day where nothing really happens after a big holiday. Now it’s time to just recoup and recover from the hangover by sitting on our collective asses with video games, movies, or whatever on a regular weekday… Only to do it all over again the moment your buddy calls you up or knocks on your barracks’ room door.
So here’s to sitting on our collective asses! Enjoy some memes. You earned it!
The Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie is an experimental stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicle designed and built for the United States Air Force Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator program, under the USAF Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology project portfolio.
Artificial Intelligence refers to the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, for example — recognizing patterns, learning from experience, drawing conclusions, making predictions, or taking action — whether digitally or as the smart software behind autonomous physical systems.
The Air Force is utilizing AI in multiple efforts and products tackling aspects of operations from intelligence fusion to Joint All Domain Command and Control, enabling autonomous and swarming systems and speeding the processes of deciding on targets and acting on information gleaned from sensors.
An illustration depicting the future integration of the Air Force enabling fusion warfare, where huge sets of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data are collected, analyzed by artificial intelligence and utilized by Airmen and the joint force in a seamless process to stay many steps ahead of an adversary. Illustration // AFRL
Sensors are data collection points, which could be anything from a wearable device or vehicle, all the way up to an unmanned aerial vehicle or satellite. Anything that collects information, across all domains, helps comprise the “Internet of Battlefield Things.”
This mass amount of data is processed and analyzed using AI, which has the ability to speed up the decision-making process at the operational, tactical and strategic levels for the Air Force.
Dr. Mark Draper, a principal engineering research psychologist with the 711th Human Performance Wing at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, stands in the Human Autonomy Lab where research focuses on how to better interconnect human intelligence with machine intelligence.
“The world around us is changing at a pace faster than ever before. New technologies are emerging that are fundamentally altering how we think about, plan and prepare for war,” said Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper. “Whichever nation harnesses AI first will have a decisive advantage on the battlefield for many, many years. We have to get there first.”
In 2019, the Air Force released its Annex to the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy, highlighting the importance of artificial intelligence capabilities to 21st century missions.
The strategy serves as the framework for aligning Air Force efforts with the National Defense Strategy and the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy as executed by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. It details the fundamental principles, enabling functions and objectives necessary to effectively manage, maneuver and lead in the digital age.
“In this return to great power competition, the United States Air Force will harness and wield the most representative forms of AI across all mission-sets, to better enable outcomes with greater speed and accuracy, while optimizing the abilities of each and every Airman,” wrote then-Acting Secretary of the Air Force Donovan and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein in the annex. “We do this to best protect and defend our nation and its vital interests, while always remaining accountable to the American public.”
In March, Wilma L. Vaught, Brigadier General, USAF (ret) is turning 90, and there is a celebration of her life and legacy at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial on March 14 from 1-4 p.m EST. She is one of the most highly decorated military women in United States history. Not only did she pioneer history for women with her many accomplishments, but she was also instrumental in the funding, building and creation of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, which tells the story of military women and keeps their stories as a record of history.
Brig. Gen. Vaught joined the military in 1957. She graduated from the University of Illinois in 1952 and began working, but saw very little chance of advancement. Having come across an Army recruiting letter that offered her an opportunity to work in a management position (officer), she started looking into joining the military. In her research, she was given the advice to see if the Air Force had a similar program and when she found out they did she decided to join the Air Force.
1957 was after the Korean War but before the Vietnam War. When Vaught went through her training, she wasn’t taught how to use a weapon, instead, she went through a course on how to put on makeup and how to get in and out of a car tastefully. When she arrived at her first assignment at Barksdale AFB, she was assigned to the Comptroller Squadron but was sent to manage all the ladies on base until another female officer arrived.
Vaught always did the best at whatever job she assigned, and worked to take care of the Airmen below her. Throughout her career, men would find out that a woman was their next commander and try to get transferred. After a few months, people would come up to her and say, “When I heard you were coming, I wanted to be reassigned because I didn’t want to work for a woman. But I just want to let you know I don’t feel that way anymore, I would work for you anyplace.”
When asked what the key to her success was, she talked about the stories of helping people. She was known for taking over commands that may have been meeting the mission, but no one was taking care of the people. She knew how important it was for people to be put in for awards and promotions and made it a point to ensure that happened while still meeting the mission. She also continually pushed those she worked with to get their education or take required courses for promotion. Story after story of people whose lives were impacted by Brig. Gen. Vaught involved her pushing them harder to be their best.
Not only did those who worked for her want to follow her wherever she went, but her leadership also didn’t want to go anywhere without her. In 1966, when her bomber unit was preparing to deploy, her wing commander asked her to deploy to Guam with bomb wing in support of the Vietnam War. She told her boss she thought she couldn’t deploy, but he found a way to make it so that she would deploy. She was the only female deployed with 3,000 men, and spent six months working for the wing commander as a management analyst. She was the first woman to deploy for Strategic Air Command, but that wasn’t her only deployment. She was also deployed to Vietnam. While she wasn’t the first to deploy to Vietnam, she was still one of very few, and she was not issued a weapon or given fatigues to wear. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t have a weapon hidden in her hotel room in case she needed it. She was assigned to the MACV headquarters.
In June of 1948, President Truman signed the Women’s Armed Service Integration Act to replace the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) that was set to expire.
In November of 1967, President Johnson signed Public Law 90-130. This law removed the promotion and retirement restrictions on women officers in the armed forces. These laws had far-reaching effects and were a tipping point in the role of women in the military.
In 1982, she became the first woman to reach the rank of Brig. Gen. in the comptroller career field. The second woman to reach that rank as a comptroller didn’t happen for another 22 years. When she retired in 1985, she was one of the three female Generals in the Air Force and one of the seven female Generals in the U.S. Military.
She was a woman who changed the course of history for the women who followed behind her. With her can-do attitude and perseverance to get the job done, doors opened that stayed open for the women who followed her. But one of her most lasting impacts is the Women in Military Service for America Memorial located at Arlington. As president of the Women’s Memorial Foundation board of directors, she spearheaded the campaign that raised some million dollars for the memorial that was opened in 1997. It stands today as a place of record where visitors can learn of the courage and bravery of tens of thousands of American women who have pioneered the future.
No matter if you’ve been in for two months, two years or you are two generations removed from the military, everyone knows that tattoos and the service go hand in hand. Ever since the first tattoo shop opened its doors in America in 1846, ink has had a well-deserved place in the hearts and on the skin of service members.
Of course, tattooing didn’t get its start in America. Warriors from Maori tribes in New Zealand, to ancient Greeks, marked themselves to show strength, courage and confidence. Viking raiders tapped magical symbols into their skin using the ink made from sacrificial animals.
Even service members in the Revolutionary War were getting new ink to reflect their units and identities (not to mention to prevent being illegally conscripted by the British).
During the Civil War, pioneer tattooist Martin Hildebrant traveled to battlefields and inked various patriotic designs into service members’ skin. Records show that by 1925, as much as 90 percent of all US service members were tattooed; the Navy made up the bulk of those decorated. Apparently, sailors used new tattoos to showcase where they’d been, as a sort of secondary service record, and to showcase their achievements.
For example, a shellback turtle meant they’d crossed the equator, a golden dragon meant they crossed the International Date Line, and a golden shellback turtle meant they’d crossed both at the same spot.
But for as much as there’s always been ink in the military, there have also been regulations. It seems like every few years, some leadership gets it in mind that a new tattoo policy is in order. For years, there was a limit to the number of tattoos soldiers could have on their arms, but that’s no longer the case. However, the Army still doesn’t allow face, neck or hand tattoos, though a small ring tattoo can exist on each hand. As with all branches, there are always a few waivers that are granted by recruiters each year if it seems like a tattoo isn’t too distracting.
Just like the Army, the Air Force is revisiting some of its strict tattoo policies and lessening the regulations a bit. Before 2017, Airmen weren’t allowed to have tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs that were larger than 25 percent of the exposed body part. Now, they’re allowed to have full sleeves or large back pieces, which is a big deal for anyone who’s been stuck halfway through getting a tattoo only to have to stop because of regulations.
So it goes without saying that getting a tattoo is as much a rite of passage in the military as is getting that first haircut in basic training. Of course, barbershops have been embedded at installations worldwide for decades, but for new ink, service members have always had to go off base. That’s led plenty of people to wonder why there isn’t a place to get new ink and a fresh fade all at the same place. Now, that’s no longer the case.
Nellis Air Force Base, located just outside Las Vegas, now has its own tattoo shop, making it that much easier to get a new tattoo. Senior leadership at Nellis said in a press release that they’re always looking for ways to improve the quality of life for Airmen and to lead from the front. So naturally, an on-base tattoo shop makes sense.
This is the first tattoo shop to be inside any Air Force or Army installation, making it incredibly unique. Now, we can’t speak to the quality of work you might receive there, but it’s still pretty cool that leadership is finally recognizing that there’s a very real, inky culture within the military and are taking steps to provide that service.
Maybe the decision to open the tattoo shop on base is a signal that leadership hopes artists and the Airmen can better handle the Air Force guidance on tattoo size and placement. Of course, that’s not to say whether or not the tattoos will be any good, but at least they’ll be within regs.