The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

Since its opening in 2004, the World War II memorial had consistently been one of the top sites visited by those exploring the National Mall. More than 4.6 million people visited the site in 2018. It was designed by Friedrich St. Florian, the former chief of the Rhode Island School of Design. 

The WWII memorial is full of metaphors and helps illustrate the relationship between the home front and the battlefront. It showcases not just the sacrifices of service members but also Americans at home and illustrates the defining years of the 20th century. The memorial consists of 56 pillars and a pair of triumphal arches, all of which surround a square and fountain. It sits on the former site of the Rainbow Pool at the eastern end of the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

It opened on April 29, 2004, and was formally dedicated on May 29, 2004, by President George W. Bush. 

Each of the 56 granite pillars on the memorial grounds is 17 feet tall. The pillars are arranged in a semicircle around the plaza with two 43-foot arches on either side. Each pillar is inscribed with the name of one of the then 48 states of America, along with the District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory, the Territory of Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands. There are two wreaths on each pillar. The wheat wreath represents agriculture, and the oak wreath represents industry. Together, these wreaths symbolize that states and territories gave their citizens to serve and also their resources, fruits of their labor, and hard work. 

The northern arc is inscribed “Atlantic,” and the southern arc is inscribed “Pacific,” meant to indicate WWII’s two theaters.

(National Parks Service)

The memorial includes two inconspicuously located “Kilroy was here” engravings to acknowledge the symbol’s significance to American soldiers who served during WWII. Kilroy was here is a symbol that became popular during WWII and represented military presence and protection wherever the symbol was inscribed.

When entering the memorial from the east, a visitor can walk along either the right wall or left wall, both of which picture scenes from the war. In base relief, the scenes progress as the country ramps up to go to war. On the right wall, the scenes show soon to be military service personnel getting physical exams, taking their oaths, and being issued gear. On the left wall, the scenes are more typical of the European theater, and some take place in England and show preparations for air and water assaults. The last scene is a handshake between the American and Russian armies, symbolic of the meeting of the western and eastern fronts. 

The place of honor at the WWII memorial is the Freedom Wall. This field of gold stars symbolizes the number of American dead from WWII. The state pillars are arranged from the Freedom Wall outward. The first state listed is Delaware, the first to ratify the US Constitution. To the left is Pennsylvania. The states go back and forth in this manner in a staged sort of military march to represent when each state entered the union. 

There are 4,048 gold stars on the Freedom Wall. Each one represents 100 American military deaths. More than 400,000 Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, sailors and military personnel lost their lives or remain missing in action. Of the 16 million men and women in military service during that time, that means that one person out of every 40 died. 

The Gold Star has long been a symbol associated with the American military family. The tradition started in WWI when American families began displaying blue stars stitched on flags to show that they had family members fighting in the war. The Gold Star indicates that the service member was killed in action and is a hallmark symbol of American military family sacrifice. 

“Here We Mark the Price of Freedom,” is inscribed below the Freedom Wall, a sentiment that’s echoed in the other war memorials located at the National Mall.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best tactical gifts to buy dad this year

Enough messing around. Dad’s got the gag gifts and the cushy hunting gear. He doesn’t need another beautiful knife or the latest gizmo for convenience in the field. No, what Dad wants is to be ready for when shit hits the fan, dammit. Time to get tactical.

That means simple, effective gear that’s built to be tough and trustworthy in the field. Finding the gear you can trust your life with is the tricky part, friends. That’s why we went to our experts: The entire team here at SOFREP put our heads together to pick our favorite tactical gear. So whether it’s a solar panel that will never fail, a contingency knife that’s always ready to go, a tactical boot that’ll help you pound ground, or the ultimate loadout box for all the important stuff you’ve already got, here’s the gear we stand by. It certainly stands by us.


The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

1. Overland Solar Bugout Panel

When things go south, power is… well, power. Overland Solar makes the daddy of all solar chargers for a serious off-the-grid setup. It’s good for 130 watts of power in various conditions and produces seven amps an hour thanks to high solar cell efficiency. It charges in low angle light, and when it’s overcast, rainy, and even lightly snowing. Plug and play with your camper, or throw it on the roof of your micro-cabin for solid power basics.

Overland Solar: 5

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

2. Browning Range Kit

Everything needed for a range kit, nothing more. Polycarbonate shooting glasses, soft foam earplugs, adjustable fit muffs. It’s the perfect replacement gear for the old, beat up shit you’ve had for years. The earmuffs and earplugs are good for 31 and 27 decibels, respectively. And anyway, the best gift you can receive this year is healthy eyeballs and eardrums in old age.

Cabela’s:

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

3. Bulldog Quick Vault

What’s the right level of protection for your bedside equalizer? This thing. It’s got just the right pairing of quick access and safety: open it using RFID access card or keycard or LED-backlit access code. Its Soft Stop door technology means you can open it silently, or set it to a decibel mode for family safety. Oh, and it’s heavy-duty 12-gauge steel.

Cabela’s; 0

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

4. Real Avid Armorer’s Master Wrench

Nobody in the movies ever needs to fix a jammed rifle or disassemble one for cleaning. This is not the way of the world, though. The Real Avid Armorer’s Master Wrench has everything you need for rifle housekeeping: torque wrench attachment point, armorer’s hammer, castle nut wrench, multiple hammerheads, muzzle brake wrench, and more. With it, as long as you have ammo, you’ll be fine.

Cabela’s:

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

5. Sig Sauer Red Dot Sight

Zese Germans make a sehr gut firearm. They also make a prime red dot sight for MSR platforms of all calibers. It’s waterproof, runs off one included battery for up to 20,000 hours, has 10 daytime brightness settings, and two for night vision use. At just a hair over a Benjamin, it might be the perfect tool for target acquisition at close and mid-range.

Cabela’s: 0

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

6. WK Contingency Knife

Curved handle, simple sheath, skeletonized, full-tapered tang, and a 3.5-inch blade: this knife is ready to go when it needs to be. It’s intended as an everyday carry, but you’d be forgiven for showing off its maple handle and black oxide no-glare finish 80CrV2 steel blade. Its beauty is terrible to behold, especially if the beholder is trying to fuck with you.

Tactical Distributor: 0

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

7. Rapid Dominance Carbon Fiber Knuckle Combat Gloves

What does a glove buy you? Try serious hand protection in a combat situation thanks to carbon fiber knuckles, a reinforced synthetic leather palm, and rubberized grip padding. Gloves so affordable rarely come with bonus features, but these ones do: their four-way spandex helps with a comfortable fit, and each glove has two-way touchscreen-friendly fingertips. They’ve got everything you need to throw hands without hesitation.

Sportsman’s Guide:

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

8. VISM Soft Body Armour Panel

Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene is a hell of a material. Ask a scientist if you want the nitty-gritty, but basically, it’s got the highest impact strength of any thermoplastic humans can currently manufacture. It can stop 9mm and .44 rounds up to 1,400 fps, which means you want it in your vest. And because it’s flexible and lightweight, you won’t mind it in your carry-on luggage, or wherever else you have to take it.

Sportsman’s Guide: 0

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

9. Smith & Wesson Tactical Range Bag

SW’s Recruit Tactical Range Bag is made out of ballistic fabric, with oversized zippers and rubber foot skids for protecting your gear. Its two internal pockets are big enough for your handguns, and the main compartment has all the room you need for ammo, ear protection, and the like. External pockets include seven magazine slots, plus tons more room for all the extra crap you’re lugging around.

Smith Wesson:

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

10. Otis Elite Gun Cleaning Kit

The best way to get serious about cleaning your gun properly is to get all the right gear. This one has everything you’ll ever need, and then some: 22 bronze bore brushes for every caliber of shotgun, rifle and pistol, cleaning patches, memory-flex cables, obstruction removal tools, precision cleaning tools, and quality solvent. It totals over 40 components and comes in a nylon case. If you don’t keep everything clean with it, well, that shit’s on you.

Cabela’s: 0

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

11. Viridian TacLoc Holster

Viridian makes a mean laser sight. Their Tacloc holsters pull triple duty: they secure your weapon; aid in a smooth, accurate, quick draw; and activate the integrated laser sight instantly when that draw happens. The company makes them for your Beretta, Glock, MP 45, Sig Sauer, and several other guns. And, thanks to rugged Kydex construction and a seven-year warranty, it’ll last.

Viridian:

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

12. Salomon Quest 4D Tactical Boot

The perfect tactical boot is well suited to any situation. That’s what makes the Salomon Quest 4D our go-to. It’s got the support and grip of a mountain boot, thanks to a serious outsole and supportive midsole. And its uppers are built for combat: anti-reflective, with anti-debris mesh, mudguard, and waterproofed materials like Goretex. Oh, and the Ranger Green looks damn sharp, too.

LA Police Gear: 0

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

13. Notch Brim Multicam Operator Cap

Finally, a fix for the annoying, simple problem: you can’t get your brim low enough when you’re wearing your eye protection. A simple notch in this cap fixes that problem. But it’s also just a quality cap: button-less at the top, so your hearing protection fits smoothly, 98 percent breathable, stretchy cotton, moisture-wicking headband, low profile fit, hook-and-loop for your patch of choice. It might be the last ballcap you ever buy.

McGuire Army Navy:

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

14. Hackett Equipment Tactical Plate Carrier

Minimalistic in all the ways you want, full protection where you need it. That’s the deal with this plate carrier, which is fully adjustable to fit all body types, holds a front and backplate, and is made of durable, rigid, weather-resistant 600D polyester with PVC coating. The straps are padded so you’ll stay cozy, princess.

Hackett Equipment:

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

15. Darn Tough Socks

When it comes to thinking tactically, it’s easy to forget your feet. Don’t. Darn Tough makes some of the best socks out there today. They’re built around performance merino wool with durable, breathable, comfortable design elements. They’re the perfect tool for staying light on your feet all day, no matter the terrain or operation.

Darn Tough: +

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

16. Kelty Tactical Redwing 50 Pack

Kelty’s been the name behind top U.S. forces tactical gear for decades. This one is issued to spec ops soldiers, and its features make it clear why. It’s got easy access through top and side loading panels, storage options for all your gear, and then some, and its aluminum suspension system is lightweight but durable. And 50 liters of storage is just right for most ops.

Kelty Tactical: 9

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

17. PMAG 30 Round Magazine

It’s the best AR-15 mag on the market. What else is there to say?

Palmetto State Armory:

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

18. Grey Man Tactical Vehicle Weapon Rack

This modular vehicle rifle rack and rigid MOLLE panel will mount to any vehicle to help you haul your gun plus MOLLE pouches and extra accessories. It’s made of injection-molded glass-reinforced nylon, perfect for holding plenty of weight. The panel can be installed in under a minute with no tools thanks to mounting straps.

Grey Man Tactical: 0+

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

19. YETI LoadOut GoBox 30

Our favorite cooler company already makes indestructible boxes to keep stuff cold — so the pivot to indestructible boxes for important gear is an easy one. This is our favorite gearcase around: it’s waterproof, dustproof, and stackable, and can be outfitted with dividers and caddies to organize and store your gear just the way you like.

YETI: 0

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

20. SOFREP Team Room Subscription

Stay up to date on the latest news, insider info, and the best tactical gear and equipment reviews. Annual subscribers to the Team Room get full access to all SOFREP stories, plus the TeamRoom’s award-winning military documentaries, SPEC OPS training footage and war stories, forums and community chats, podcasts, and exclusive interviews.

SOFREP:

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Army wife competes on NBC’s ‘The Titan Games’

When a locked-down America tunes into the May 25 premiere of NBC’s “The Titan Games”, sports-starved viewers may notice a familiar face competing for the title and $100,000 grand prize: Chantae McMillan Langhorst, the track and field Olympian and nude high-jumper for The BODY Issue of ESPN The Magazine.

“One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do “The Titan Games” was its challenges that I have never faced before and will never face again,” McMillan said. “I’m doing obstacles on the show that are strength and cardio all at one time. Each event is over in five minutes, but you’re so fatigued afterward.”


The 32-year-old from Rolla, Missouri knows all about pushing through fatigue. McMillan is not only an elite athlete, but an Army wife to Warrant Officer 1 Devon Langhorst, a helicopter pilot stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama and mom to 18-month-old Otto. She is also the daughter of two career soldiers.

McMillan competed in the 2012 Olympics in London as a heptathlete and was training for the 2020 Olympic Trials as a javelin thrower when the coronavirus pandemic caused mass cancellations of sporting events. After competing in one track meet in March, organizers of future meets canceled their competitions.

At first, McMillan was unruffled.

“I thought, okay, my next meet will be in May, then trials in June,” she said.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

The Tokyo Olympics and its trials were postponed until 2021. The initial disappointment turned out to be a “blessing in disguise,” she says.

“I was like, ‘Alright, let’s go,'” McMillan said. “It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders, because from March to June I didn’t know if I could be where I wanted to be, so I was kind of stressed out.”

McMillan lost her 64-year-old father in 2015 to appendectomy complications, right before failing to qualify for the 2016 Olympic games. She bounced back, becoming an Army wife and mom in 2018 and switching from heptathlon to javelin, one of her strongest events.

She’s still aiming for Olympic glory — just a year later than originally planned. She and her coach, two-time Olympic hammer thrower Kibwe Johnson, are training her body as if she were throwing her way through a normal season.

“A couple weeks ago, coach asked me where my strength is, and I feel the strongest I’ve felt in years,” McMillan said. “I feel very powerful. Now it’s just translating onto the field. I feel so strong.”

That strength has not gone unnoticed by those outside the track and field world. In November, a casting producer for “The Titan Games” asked McMillan to audition for the show’s sophomore season after seeing her training photos and videos on Instagram.

McMillan auditioned alongside thousands of others to be a competitor. She succeeded and spent the first two weeks of February filming in Atlanta. Not only did she get to meet Dwayne Johnson, the show’s host, McMillan also connected with plenty of fellow athletes.

“It was very amazing, being around so many people who are likeminded and striving to be the best they can,” McMillan said. “It has still carried on to this day to motivate me to be better.”

The show’s obstacles, designed for 13 episodes with entertainment in mind, were vastly different than the pure “run-jump-throw” actions McMillan said she is used to in track and field.

“They’re just weird obstacles that challenge you in ways you never thought you could be challenged,” McMillan said.

This season of NBC’s show pits professional titans like Super Bowl champion Victor Cruz, UFC fighter Tyron Woodley and “American Ninja Warrior” star Jessie Graff against “everyday” athletes like McMillan. Four of the 36 competitors are active-duty military members.

Viewers can expect to be surprised at who makes it to Mt. Olympus, the show’s ultimate event, McMillan said.

“I think people will be able to connect with all of us, the way our stories are going to be told,” she said. “It’s not every day you’re around motivated people like that.”

Visit https://www.nbc.com/the-titan-games for information on upcoming episodes of The Titan Games.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Omaha veteran honored by France for WWII service

A World War II veteran who served with the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division in multiple campaigns, including Normandy where he landed on Omaha Beach with the second wave of troops on D-Day, was awarded the French Legion of Honor.

Edward H. “Ed” Morrissette, age 96, was presented the award by France’s Consul General from Chicago, Guillaume Lacroix, during a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center, surrounded by dozens of family, fellow veterans and distinguished guests.


“It means a lot to be here in Omaha, Nebraska, with you 75 years after you landed on Omaha Beach,” Lacroix said. “Our gratitude, sir, is forever because you changed the destiny of France and the destiny of Europe forever.”

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

Hon. Guillaume Lacroix, Consul General of France in Chicago, shakes the hand of WWII veteran Edward Morrissette after presenting him the French Legion of Honor medal Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)

The medal pinned on his jacket, Morrissette walked slowly to the lectern, thanked everyone, and said he accepted the award for others who served and many who never returned home.

“I don’t know that I particularly deserved it, but I know that the men and women of the First Division that landed in Europe deserve it, especially those that are not back with us now,” Morrissette said. “I had some friends that didn’t make it off of that shore, and I miss them terribly. But I want to say one thing: I’m glad that we helped France… got them out from under the heels of Nazi boots.”

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

WWII veteran Edward Morrissette shares thoughts with the audience after receiving the French Legion of Honor in a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)

On June 6, 1944, Morrissette was a squad leader in charge of machine gun crews with the 16th Infantry Regiment headquarters. It was his third beach landing, having already landed and fought in North Africa and Sicily.

Speaking with reporters after the award ceremony, he shared a story of what happened as he and his men jumped out of the landing craft just short of French soil.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

A photo of Edward Morrissette is displayed at a ceremony in which he was presented the French Legion of Honor Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(US Army photo)

“It was difficult for our boat to get into shore, and when it did we jumped out into water up to our chest,” Morrissette said. He and another soldier were carrying a roll of telephone wire above their heads, in addition to their rifles, and as they realized the roll of wire was drawing the aim of enemy gunners they decided to jettison the extra load.

“If they need to communicate, I guess they’ll just have to holler,” Morrissette said, holding his arms above his head and reenacting the struggle to get ashore.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

WWII veteran Edward Morrissette tells a story of jumping out of landing craft into chest deep water off Omaha Beach while carrying a rifle and a roll of telephone wire above his head, speaking to reporters Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)

On the beach he found cover behind a concrete block, and eventually crawled the rest of the way to higher ground.

By the time Germany surrendered in May 1945, Morrissette and the Big Red One fought their way through Northern France, the Ardennes, and were headed to Prague.

“This country should be proud of our soldiers,” he said. “They are remarkable people, and they can do remarkable things.”

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

Nebraska Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division’s Main Command Post – Operational Detachment gather for a photo with Big Red One WWII veteran Edward Morrissette after he received the French Legion of Honor in a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(US Army photo)

Morrissette was nominated for France’s Legion of Honor by his family. Although the number of medals awarded each year is limited, most American veterans of World War I and II can be inducted. Past American recipients include Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Adm. Michael Mullen.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Marines want you to quit tobacco

The first step in quitting tobacco is thinking about it. If you think about quitting tobacco someday, whether it’s tomorrow or in five years, then you can develop the intention of changing your behavior.

The Great American Smoke Out is an event started by the American Cancer Society to help motivate people to quit tobacco. The event, which challenges you to quit tobacco for a day, is held on the third Thursday each November. This year, the Great American Smoke Out took place on 21 November.

Can you quit tobacco for a day? By quitting even temporarily, you are taking an important step toward living a healthier life. You will start to feel the health benefits of being tobacco-free within the first twenty minutes of quitting.


This article originally appeared on Marines.mil. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

18 photos of troops lighting up the night

The U.S. military and its allies create some of the best light shows on the planet, filling the night sky with everything from tracer rounds to bursts of artillery fire to missile engines.

Here are 18 of our favorite nighttime light shows from American troops and their buds in battle:


The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Owen Kimbrel)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class William McCann)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Barker)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Timothy Jackson)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Trey Fowler)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kallysta Castillo)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Gregory T. Summers)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Coast Guardphoto by Petty Officer 1st Class Phillip Null)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Raymond Schaeffer)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anthony Zendejas IV)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Justin Schoenberger)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anthony Zendejas IV)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Army Central Command)

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Strangers brave snow and ice to attend the funeral of a 91-year-old veteran

In the military community, there’s nothing more important than honoring our fallen and showing up. Earlier today, at Pikes Peak National Cemetery in Colorado Springs, CO, that’s exactly what happened.


MIGHTY CULTURE

This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

Transitioning out of the military and back into civilian life can be pretty overwhelming — and no one should have to brave this rocky terrain alone.

DAV (Disabled American Veterans) is a nonprofit charity that is committed to keeping the promise made to our nation’s heroes: Their sacrifices would be met with gratitude and support.


One of the ways in which DAV offers its support is empowering service members and providing them with opportunities for success in the workforce. DAV recognizes how valuable service members are to society and knows how to connect them to employers in such a competitive job market.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families
DAV provides free transportation to VA medical facilities for injured and ill veterans.
(DAV photo)

Not only does the organization act as a resource for employment opportunities, but it also assists in obtaining the health care benefits that veterans and their families deserve.

“DAV assists veterans with more than 250,000 benefit claims annually. In 2017, DAV helped secure more than $4 billion in new and retroactive benefits to care for veterans, their families and survivors. DAV employs over 260 national service officers who are ready to review your medical records, help you establish your disability rating, set up health care benefits, and connect with services that support your civilian life,” said Navy veteran and We Are The Mighty host August Dannehl.

Beyond just helping veterans directly, DAV also focuses on educating the public about all of the sacrifices made by our service members and the the support needed for them to comfortably ease back into civilian life.

“DAV works on Capitol Hill as a highly motivated, knowledgeable and respected advocate for veterans,” continued Dannehl.

Check out the video below for five ways that DAV will aid your transition out of the military:

We Are The Mighty is proud to partner with DAV, the leader in lifetime support for veterans.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

Thousands of pieces, elaborate instructions, and finished products that are intricate and impressive: That’s what fans get in adult-level LEGO kits. Projects that come with as many as 9,036 serialized bricks – creating a Roman Coliseum – and cost hundreds of dollars each. Yes, hundreds – that same kit retails at $449.99 a pop.

It’s a hobby that veteran Eric Rickards and girlfriend, Charlotte Murnan, know well. In fact, they have an entire dedicated “LEGO room.” It wasn’t an afterthought with an extra bedroom, however, they purchased their house near Tampa, FL with their hobby at the forefront of “new home must haves.”

The room is lined with heavy shelves that display completed LEGO builds, like a replica of Central Perk from Friends and the Hogwarts Quidditch field. Meanwhile, Ikea tables host in-progress builds. 

“LEGO can be really intricate and that’s what I love most about it,” Rickards, who served 12 years active duty in the Army, said.

Murnan added, “It’s such a fun thing to do to take our minds off other stuff.”

The hobby began after the pair had been searching for an interest they could share. Rickards suggested building the LEGO Hogwarts Castle. Murnan, an avid Harry Potter fan, agreed, and they began their first build.

“I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did, but there’s something therapeutic about seeing it come to life,” she said.

The hobby has only grown since the onset of COVID-19. Former travel buffs, the couple hunkered down in their Memphis house at the start of the pandemic, before permanently relocating to Tampa for Murnan’s job as a Senior Financial Analyst in Investor Relations. Meanwhile, Rickards, who was medically discharged, dealt with a recurring injury. He realized it wasn’t feasible to remain a mechanic, and went to school to study history.

The move prompted them to do away with one of the biggest inconveniences about their former house: not enough space for LEGOs.

From there, the duo began seeking out and buying new LEGO projects, even buying new kits as they’re released, just so they can get their hands on the goods before they sell out.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

“We have 15 in the box right here, so [my favorite] could change,” Rickards said. He cited his current favorite build as their Nintendo screen; it’s a retro tv that has a turn crank, causing Mario to jump up and down.

They have retired sets – kits that LEGO no longer manufacturers – these they find on eBay or through niche Facebook groups. Rickards cited Wall-E as a project he’s excited to tackle next. 

“You have to track them down and they’re a little pricey. It took me a while to pull the trigger, but I finally got it.”

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

There’s also the Ghostbusters car, a Land Rover, an incredibly detailed flower bouquet, even more Harry Potter builds, including a house crest made up of 17,000 individual dot pieces, the carousel they built with Rickards’ mom – she’s a long-time carousel collector. And Murnan’s favorite, a custom selfie portrait of the two; she likes the sentimental touch. The latter was made at a LEGO portrait studio in London wherein users can take a photo and purchase a custom brick set. 

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

As for the finished project themselves, the pair remains in awe of LEGOs engineering and completed designs. For instance, a T-rex that seemingly defies gravity to stand on its hind legs, a book they received as a free gift with purchase where the bricks come together to look like real pages. All of which, and more – for a total of over 40 completed builds – are shown throughout their home.

“It’s such a fun thing to do to take our minds off of other stuff. And with COVID – all bets are off – we could be in there building on a weeknight,” Murnan laughed. “We can work on builds and relax; it’s such a stress relief.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Jeff Struecker — Army Ranger, pastor, author

This week’s Borne the Battle episode features guest Jeff Struecker, who discusses his life as a soldier, pastor, and author.

In 1987, Struecker enlisted in the army when he was 18. He excelled, serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment, and he played a pivotal role in the Battle of Mogadishu. He also won the 1996 Best Ranger Competition and was also recognized in 1998 as the U.S Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Noncommisioned Officer of the Year.


Black Hawk Down – KIA Sgt. Dominick Pilla – Convoy Scene

www.youtube.com

‘This Week’ Sunday Spotlight: Return to Mogadishu

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’

September 11, 2001 means different things for different Americans. For some, the events of that date will forever be seared in their memories. For others, they were too young to know what was going on, yet they sensed something big had happened. For a younger generation, 9/11 is history. They read about it in textbooks that are absent the feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress that plagued so many Americans on that morning and the days following.

But, it’s an important date. It’s a date that represents sacrifice. Many people died, putting the lives of others before theirs. It’s a date that represents unity. Americans came together to offer up support to the families of the fallen. It also represents mistakes. Following the events of 9/11, Muslims and Middle-Eastern Americans had to weather the racial blowback that came from 19 men flying planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.


What’s important is that we remember. And that our kids know what happened that day, so the sacrifices, the story of Americans coming together, as well as the mistakes we made are not forgotten. And a great way to share memories is through stories. In her debut middle-school novel, Caroline Brooks DuBois gives us The Places We Sleep. It’s a story about a young girl navigating a new school (because her dad is in the Army) during the events of September 11, 2001. I recently interviewed Caroline to learn more about her book.

WATM: This novel touches on so many different themes: 9/11, racism, being a military kid, being a middle schooler, and being a young girl in middle school. Could you talk a little bit about the story you tell in The Places We Sleep?

Caroline: With Abbey, I attempted to create a middle school character who is as multifaceted as the pre-teens and teens I know and teach (and adore). Middle schoolers currently are living through very complex times, yet they are still concerned about their complexion, their hair, what to wear, who said what to whom, getting embarrassed in front of their peers, and so much more. In the story, Abbey navigates challenging world events along with the struggles of middle school and adolescence. Currently, teens and children are facing their own difficult world events, so I hope readers will see how Abbey perseveres and strives to be a good friend, to be kind, and to express empathy and tolerance to others.

Although I did not grow up in a military family, both of my grandfathers served in the military, as well as both of my brothers, my brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. In the years that followed 9/11, my brothers and my brother-in-law were all called into active duty and deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. These events were the seed for Abbey’s story. I knew I wanted to write about how world events have rippling effects on individuals and families in unexpected ways. But I also wanted to tell a story about a girl with whom readers could relate. Abbey’s story is about being a military child, but it’s also about identity, loss and grief, creating art in the face of tragedy, and friendship.

WATM: Who should pick this book up? Is this a book a parent could read with their middle schooler to talk about 9/11?

Caroline: Middle grade students I’ve taught have had only a fuzzy understanding of the events of 9/11 and are curious and want to know more. There are several great books for young readers on 9/11 that I’ve incorporated into my teaching over the years, as I’ve found reading stories offers an opening to difficult subjects. I hope The Places We Sleep will spark curiosity in young readers about 9/11 and the monumental lessons we learned and are still learning from that tragedy.

Although the story is written for middle-school age kids, adults have told me the story resonates with them as well. It allows readers to visit, or revisit, 9/11 in the safe space of a story. The current national trauma of the Coronavirus pandemic may have a similar traumatic impact on youth and adults. Reading with a child about a dark time in our history is one way to open up conversation on important topics such as resiliency, strength, attitude, and hope. My hope is that the book will leave readers with a memorable story about a girl who may not be all that different from themselves. If they see Abbey journey through difficult times and come out stronger, they too may be inspired and optimistic in the face of their generation’s own difficult times.

WATM: You chose to tell the story in Verse. Could you talk about that decision and why you think it will appeal to readers?

Caroline: As a teacher and parent, I’ve noticed the appeal of shorter and/or alternative forms of story-telling (e.g., books in verse, flash fiction, graphic novels, epistolaries, etc.), undoubtedly influenced by technology and reading online. Even though I have a love for long form and traditional novels, I’ve noticed how books in verse can create more white space between scenes as well as playful or dramatic visual messages with syntax, punctuation, and form, which can motivate or hook adolescent readers.

Abbey’s story came to me naturally in poetry, perhaps as a lyrical way to process 9/11 and my brothers’ deployment, but also likely because I’d recently completed my MFA in poetry. The snapshots or scenes that poems allow you to write provided me with the perfect medium for Abbey’s story.

Books in verse make great shared read-aloud opportunities. You’re never too old to be read to or to enjoy reading aloud to someone else. Where you may not have time to read an entire chapter with someone, there’s always time for a poem or two.

WATM: On top of all the other crazy events in the book, Abbey also deals with the struggle of puberty. A lot of middle school books gloss over this. But, it’s a main part of Abbey’s story. Could you discuss why you chose to address it in your novel?

Caroline: When I was a pre-teen, one of the few sources for making sense of puberty was Judy Blume novels, which we passed covertly between friends (Think: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t). Changing bodies were cringe-worthy and carried heavy feelings of shame. Not enough has changed since then. I should know: I taught 7th grade for three years recently, and I saw it when girls cornered me at my desk to signal with their eyes they needed an emergency bathroom break, or when boys shut down in class conversations, avoiding branding themselves as not part of the pack. Novels that talk about puberty openly and other difficult issues are lifesavers for youth. Now more than ever, young readers need to be able to see themselves in books. Sometimes it takes a character in a book to show a reader they are not alone. Forewarning, my second reason is a little cerebral and a slight spoiler regarding Abbey’s character arc. Through her journey, Abbey makes a connection between coming of age (a.k.a, getting her period) and possessing the power to create life. She contemplates how the terrorists on 9/11 chose to destroy life. Coming of age brings with it many choices about how to act, and sometimes acting with integrity and authenticity means not following your peers—and that’s a true test of character.

WATM: Outside of classical literature, this is the first time I’ve ever read a novel in verse. Since you got your MFA in poetry, what are some of the must-reads in this genre?

Caroline: In this space, I’ll mainly mention notable middle-grade novelists who write in verse, but there are also numerous young adult novelists who write in verse as well. Disclaimer: These are a few of my own personal favorites and there are many others not included: Kwame Alexander (sports-themed Crossover and Booked), Sharon Creech (Love that Dog and Hate that Cat), Thanhha Lai (Inside Out Back Again), and Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming). Additionally, Ellen Hopkins is a must-read author of books in verse for young adults; she tackles challenging topics such as drug addiction and mental illness in her unapologetic, in-your-face verse. One of my all-time favorite novels in verse is Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, which tells the story of 14-year-old Billie Jo, who struggles to help her family survive the Dust Bowl.

The Places We Sleep is available on Amazon.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 best bottles of Scotch whisky to grab before new tariffs hit

Fall and winter are single malt whisky seasons. But, thanks to new Trump administration tariffs, the already pricey Scotch is about to become even more expensive: On Oct. 18, 2019, the cost of a bottle will increase by 25 percent.

Why is your favorite brown spirit taking the brunt of the tariffs? It’s all thanks to a decades-long spat with the European Union over the way member nations had subsidized the airplane manufacturer Airbus. Recently the World Trade Organization deemed European nations ran afoul of international rules, and gave the green light to the US to add $7.5 billion in additional tariffs on a variety of European goods, including Italian cheese, French wine, Spanish ham, and Scotch whisky.

The U.S. is the single largest market for Scotch whisky, importing north of $450 million a year worth of the spirit. That amounts to roughly a third of all the booze the small country produces. Of course, as we know, tariffs are paid by consumers, not by the countries or industries targeted. That means you, my whisky drinking friend. After the 18th, for every four bottles you buy, you could have had five.


This means only one thing: it’s time to head to your local shop stock up on a few bottles before prices jump through the roof — especially if you enjoy drinking and handing out bottles during the holiday season. Here are the 10 bottles of single malt scotch we’d pickup before the tariffs take effect.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

1. Glenmorangie Signet

Glenmorangie Signet is one of our go-to special occasion whiskies. This deep amber whisky is beautifully complex thanks in part to the roasted chocolate barley used in the distilling process. After a lengthy time maturing in virgin American oak, the result is flawless and like all great whisky there is something new to discover in every bottle.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

2. Balvenie 14 Year Caribbean Cask

After aging for 14 years in traditional oak casks, the Balvenie 14 Year Caribbean Cask is finished with a short stint in ex-rum barrels. The result is a delicious Speyside single malt with subtle notes of tropical fruit and nuts — a great whisky for sipping or whipping up some stellar cocktails.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

3. Ardbeg Uigeadail

Easily one of our favorite Islay singe malts, Ardbeg Uigeadail is a smokey treat. Sweet and spicy, notes of honey, cookies and pepper punch through the peaty smoke. A supple dose of chocolate joins the smoke for a finish that can linger into the wee small hours.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

4. Aberlour A’bunadh

It’s a good idea to keep a bottle of Aberlour’s A’bunadh on the bar at all times, not just for your own sake, but for any Scotch drinkers that might show up. If they are ‘in the know’ it lets them know that you know and if they aren’t, you get to drop some knowledge and introduce them to something incredible. Thick and rich, it’s a Scotch with tons of dried fruit, chocolate and sugary notes that make it a delightful yet slightly dangerous single malt (each release clocks in at around 120 proof). In fact, one pour of this cask strength gem is the equivalent of a glass-and-a-half of a typical 80 proof dram.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

5. Lagavulin 16

Not only is it Nick Offerman’s go-to fireside whisky, but Lagavulin 16 is one of ours as well. Islay whisky can be a bit intense for the novice Scotch drinker. But once you develop an appreciation for the hallmark peaty smoke, you’ll savor every drop. Lagavulin 16 is an Islay classic with loads of subtle flavors to discover and a salty sweetness that balances out the intense smoke.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

6. GlenDronach 18

Once you’ve had a dram of GlenDronach 18, you may find yourself totally enamored with this highland whisky. Every glass evokes the warmth of a great, well-worn club chair. It’s soft and rich, with notes full of wood, leather, tobacco, and a finish that keeps you cozy well into the night.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

7. Oban 14

Oban 14 is a bottle we like to have on hand at all times. It’s a richly flavored Highland whisky with a touch of salt from the sea and hint of peaty smoke. It’s hard to thrill every Scotch drinker you might entertain, but Oban is a standard nearly everyone can appreciate.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

8. Glenfarclas 25

At under 0 (for now) a 25-year-old bottle this Glenfarclas is a value proposition. Family-owned since 1865, Glenfarclas ages the whisky in Oloroso sherry casks chosen from a single Spanish bodega. It is a delicious, a classic sherried whisky, with flavors of fruit cake, spice, and a hint touch of cocoa.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

9. Bruichladdich Black Arts

Since price of the bottle of Bruichladdich Black Arts at our local shop is about jump nearly . It might be time to pull the trigger. It’s a 26-year-old Islay single malt, but unlike the traditional varieties, it’s un-peated. Sure, the bottle looks like a prop from Rosemary’s Baby, but the contents are extraordinary. It’s a staggeringly complex dram, with notes of mission figs and chocolate that give way to coconut and tobacco.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

10. Talisker 25

The Isle of Skye is one of those places on the globe that feels not of this earth. Much like the island on which it was made, Talisker 25 has that same other-worldly quality. After 25 years in American and European oak barrels, the heavily peated whisky’s smoke has been tamed by wood. The result is mature, flavorful mouthful of near perfect whisky, with smoke playing off citrus and salt while a whiff of heather magically whisks you off to Skye with every sip.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how a Marine sniper earns a real ‘HOG’s tooth’

When a newly-minted Marine Corps Scout Sniper graduates from the sniper school where they learn their trade, they will be presented with a 7.62 round, the ammunition commonly used by the Marines’ elite scout sniper corps. But earning the actual HOGs Tooth is a much, more difficult task – because a Marine will be squaring off against another sniper looking for a HOGs Tooth of his (or her) own.


The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

Before graduating sniper school, Marines are called “PIGs” – professionally instructed gunmen.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos)

Before we all drown in Facebook comments, let it be known that the point of this isn’t to make one tradition seem greater or more badass than the other. We’re talking about two different traditions that just have similar superstitious origins. It was once said there was a round out there destined to end the life of any sniper – the bullet with your name on it. The idea behind the HOG’s Tooth is that if anyone could acquire the bullet with their name on it, they would be invincible.

For a sniper to acquire the tooth of a “Hunter Of Gunmen,” a sniper must go through three steps, each more difficult than the last. The first step is to become an actual sniper, not just someone who’s really good at shooting. This means snipers need to go through a sniper school and deploy to an active combat zone. Don’t worry, deploying to a combat zone definitely won’t take long.

The third step is a doozy.

The WWII Memorial and the role of Gold Star families

Candidates for Scout Sniper Platoon dig deep to complete the two-week preparation course.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)

The third step to getting that HOG’s Tooth trophy actually has a few sub-steps. It starts with forcing a duel against another sniper (preferably an enemy). Once a sniper defeats an enemy sniper in sniper-on-sniper combat, they must then make it over to the enemy position where they will hopefully find the scene undisturbed. This will likely be difficult because they’re supposed to be in hostile territory. If they get there before anyone else, they should capture the enemy’s rifle. But more important to the trophy process is capturing what’s in that rifle: the round in the chamber.

That round is the “bullet with your name on it.”

If a sniper captures this bullet, superstition says, that sniper cannot be killed by gunfire on the battlefield because no one there has the bullet that is destined to kill them. Separate the bullet from the cartridge and use 550-cord or some other tried-and-true stringing method and feel free to use the round as a necklace. The bullet meant for you will always be around the neck of its potential victim rather than inside him somewhere.

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