Today, the modern soldier wakes up, eats chow, goes through a day of training with his or her squad before resting up. They follow this schedule every day from Monday to Friday. If the troop is on a deployment, they could work anywhere from 12 to 18 hours (if not more) per day, seven days a week, for nearly a year.
It’s a tough lifestyle.
Once a troop fulfills their service commitment, they can be honorably discharged or reenlist — the choice is theirs.
Now, let’s rewind time to around 15 C.E. The Roman Empire is thriving and you’re an infantryman serving in the Imperial Roman army under Emperor Tiberius. In many ways, life was quite different for the average sword-wielding soldier when compared to today’s modern troop. In other ways, however, things were very much the same.
Many young Romans joined the army at the age of 18. Of them, most were poor men with little-to-no life prospects due to being born into a family of low standing. Once they became soldiers, Roman troops had to overcome 36 kilometer (22 miles) marches in full battle rattle.
For these ancient troops, a full loadout consisted of body armor, a gladius (sword),a scutum (shield), and two pilum (spears). This gear weighed upwards of 44 pounds. To add to that weight, troops carried a scarina (backpack), which contained rations and any other tools needed to serve the Roman officers.
At the end of each grueling march, soldiers set up camp to get some rest. Men were assigned to stand watch and look over the others, the gear, and the animals hauling the heavy equipment. Being ambushed in the middle of the night was a constant possibility.
Like most troops, they feared the unknown. At any given moment, they could encounter a fierce battle, contract sickness from other soldiers or the environment, or be left to endure the elements. It was a consist struggle to survive in a cutthroat world that was all about expanding the Roman Empire.
In their downtime, most men would gamble, play instruments, or talk about future plans. If the soldiers served for their full 25-year commitment, they would receive several acres of land on which to retire — but surviving to the end was considered a longshot.
So, in many ways, the typical Roman infantryman was a lot like the ground pounders of today — only they were stuck in the suck for longer.
Several months ago, no one believed us when we said that there would eventually be a Space Force. Everyone thought it’d be a foolish idea. We were the biggest fans of the idea from the very beginning. It’s not like we’re mad or anything — just that we’re calling first dibs in line at the Space Force recruitment office.
Whatever. Here’s a bunch of memes that are about the Space Force curated from around the internet and a hand full of other ones that aren’t space related, I guess.
The Chinese military has been practicing sinking enemy vessels with anti-ship naval missiles in the South China Sea, CNBC reported July 1, 2019, citing US officials.
The Chinese military reportedly began testing these weapons over the weekend, as a week-long drill kicked off in the disputed waterway. CNBC reports that Chinese forces test-fired anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), which could include systems like the DF-21D or DF-26.
The testing of ASBMs would be an important first for the South China Sea and a significant step forward as China seeks to strengthen its anti-access, area-denial capabilities, although some expert observers suspect China may have been testing anti-ship cruise missiles.
For ballistic-missile tests, Chinese authorities typically issue Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) identifying “temporary danger areas,” Ankit Panda, senior editor at The Diplomat, explained. Such a NOTAM was issued for the period between June 30 and July 1, 2019, marking off two locations in the South China Sea.
The DF-26 medium-range ballistic missile.
Beijing previously moved land-based anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), such as the YJ-62 and YJ-12B, to Chinese-occupied territories in the region, a move the US condemned.
“China’s militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers, and more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft,” Jim Mattis, the former secretary of defense, explained last year. “Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion.”
Range limits require ASCMs be on islands in the South China Sea in order to reach surrounding waterways. Longer-range ASBMs could be fired from the Chinese mainland, allowing for more robust defenses around the batteries.
China argues that relevant deployments are a necessary response to aggressive US behavior.
China’s latest testing comes on the heels of joint drills in the South China Sea involving the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Escort Flotilla 1, which includes the Izumo multi-purpose destroyer that is slated to become Japan’s first carrier in decades.
The Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan operates with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Izumo, June 11, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo)
US officials told CNBC that while the US Navy has ships in the South China Sea, the missile testing did not endanger any US ship. The testing was, however, characterized as “concerning.”
Locked in competition with great power rivals, the US is looking more closely at the development of anti-ship capabilities as it prepares to counter near-peer threats, such as the massive Chinese navy.
Both the Army and the Marine Corps, for example, are looking at long-range artillery and shore-based anti-ship missile batteries to control the maritime space from land.
“You can imagine a scenario where the Navy feels that it cannot get into the South China Sea because of Chinese naval vessels,” Mark Esper, the former secretary of the Army who is now acting secretary of defense, explained earlier this year.
“We can, from a fixed location, on an island or some other place, engage enemy targets, naval targets, at great distances and maintain our standoff and yet open the door, if you will, for naval assets or Marine assets,” Esper said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If you were watching Super Bowl LIII, you were probably very interested in the commercials, because the game sure wasn’t of much interest. Maybe you saw an ad for Zaxby’s chicken featuring former NFL center Jeff Saturday and MLB legend Rick Monday.
Long story short, they were ripping on Chick-Fil-A for being closed on Sundays. That’s not important, but this story is.
Rick Monday’s name may not ring a bell for younger NFL and MLB fans, but it’s a guarantee your elders know who he is. Besides being the top prospect for the 1965 MLB draft, playing for the Athletics, Cubs, and Dodgers for 19 seasons and winning a World Series with Los Angeles, Monday is best known for defending the American flag in the middle of a game.
The left-handed center fielder was playing for the Chicago Cubs at the time against the home team LA Dodgers on April 25, 1976. At the bottom of the 4th inning, two strangely dressed hippies made their way onto the baseball field and crouched down in the left center of the outfield.
It was supposed to be an act of protest filmed on live TV. The two men started trying to set an American flag on fire, right there in front of Dodger Stadium, the U.S., and the world. But after the batter in play hit a pop fly, Monday saw what the men were trying to do, ran over to them, and snatched the flag away to thunderous applause.
“If you’re going to burn the flag, don’t do it around me. I’ve been to too many veterans’ hospitals and seen too many broken bodies of guys who tried to protect it,” Monday later said.
Monday had served in the Marine Corps Reserve as part of a service obligation for attending Arizona State University.
The two men were arrested and charged with trespassing. Monday took the lighter fluid-soaked flag over to the opposing dugout. When Rick Monday walked to home plate on his next at bat, he came out of the dugout to a standing ovation from the home team’s fans. The story doesn’t end there.
He received the flag as a gift after it was no longer evidence in a criminal case. It was presented to him at Wrigley Field on May 4th, from the LA Dodgers, and he has kept it throughout the years. These days, he and his wife take the flag on fundraising tours across America to raise money for veteran-related issues.
While I’d never give up Christmas at home, there are some things I miss about celebrating the holidays with my brothers in arms.
As I sit here comfortably at my desk, nursing a scotch in a plastic cup after my guard unit Christmas party, I can’t help but feel nostalgia for my time spent away from home. While I wouldn’t trade Christmas morning at home with my wife and daughter for anything, I will forever recall those Christmases spent overseas fondly. Surprisingly, the things I miss the most about Christmas in Afghanistan are the same things that I missed when I was stuck there among my fellow Army members.
5. We shared the holidays with our military families.
One of the great things about Christmas overseas is that there are no awkward family interactions, like trying to remember the name of your cousin’s boyfriend or watching Uncle Cletus get drunk and set the Christmas tree on fire. The bond and fellowship that soldiers try to create when they are stuck away from home is a thing of magic. Granted, I’m pretty sure that they either made some barracks hooch or got some stuff in the mail, but in the midst of rural Afghanistan, they found a way to have a good time and take care of each other. I fondly remember watching the original Indiana Jones and Star Wars trilogies back to back while making concept of operations and fragmentary orders in 2010. And though I’m pretty sure my wife won’t let that fly this year, being stuck in a plans cell was halfway nice that day.
4. We gorged ourselves on the food.
The Army always tried hard to get quality food to all locations, even to the most remote bases, on Christmas. Entire missions with combined arms and air support were involved in transporting ham and turkey to all the outposts. At our little base in Kunar, Afghanistan in 2008, our cook and his band of merry Afghan helpers worked two nights to cook enough food for the soldiers at our base and those flown in from a neighboring outpost. The giant cow femur from a bone in roast beef was left for “Pork Chop,” the black and white dog who served as the mascot to multiple outposts in the Kunar River Valley, who would trek from Monti to Fortress south of Asadabad between 2007 and 2009.
It wasn’t the way grandma cooked it, but between the noble efforts of Army cooks and care packages from home, I count it among my favorite meals.
3. We improvised holiday decorations.
(Image from Warner Bros’ National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation)
Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation would have been jealous of our Christmas tree. One of the remote outposts in our area of operations, which was under nearly constant attack with over 200 firefights in their six months in position, strung lights up through their base as a message to the Taliban. My wife mailed me a small artificial Christmas tree that I put in our small tactical operations center and gave our soldiers the mission to decorate. Slowly, we fleshed it out with M67 fragmentation grenades and individual ornaments of 7.62 rounds hung with care using the innards of a parachute cord. Lastly, we topped it with a Santa Claus Mr. Potato Head and a claymore at the base. We were full of Christmas cheer, surrounded by emergency munitions.
2. We had unique Christmas shenanigans.
Santa Claus (Lt. Jon Sunderland) directs aircraft movement during flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Christmas Day. Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a routine deployment to the region. Operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations are focused on reassuring regional partners of the United States commitment to security, which promotes stability and global prosperity. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David Mercil / Released).
One of the few days of the year when there was a general consensus for shenanigans to improve morale, the antics throughout were a thing of magic. From the secret targeting packets circulated on Santa Claus to the fellow staff officer that erected an inflatable Christmas decoration on the roof of our building to welcome the commander back from his Christmas tour, the practical jokers of the Army tried their best to make light of an otherwise crap situation being away from home.
1. There were occasional inexplicable Christmas miracles.
Somehow, some way, on Christmas the near impossible happened. It was eerily quiet — maybe because we weren’t out stirring up trouble — the Taliban generally left us alone and we enjoyed it. After weeks of no mail due to weather issues and unknown complications, a Chinook appeared on the horizon bringing hope in the Ring Route. We unloaded several thousand pounds of mail and other goodies on Christmas eve, and though it may seem silly, it was a real miracle to us.
There is a long history of the magic and merriment of Christmas for soldiers at war. From the Christmas Day Truce in 1914 to the ring route miracle of eastern Afghanistan, as I look at more inevitable deployments and more holidays away from home, it makes me cherish what I’ve experienced just a little bit more. As always it reminds me to enjoy this glass of scotch a little bit more for my friends and comrades overseas this season, and to not fear being gone from my family in the future. For those overseas this year, have a Merry Christmas and stay safe, but remember to have some fun while you are there.
It’s been 72 years since the end of World War II, and most vets who served have passed away, with many of them honored as being part of the “Greatest Generation.” However, a few of those still alive are fighting for the recognition they believe they are due, including the one of the last surviving aircrew who took part in one of the most famous attacks in World War II.
According to a report by the London Daily Mail, former RAF aircrewman Johnny Johnson, MBE, who took part in Operation Chastise – the attack on the Mohne, Elbe, and Sorpe dams in 1943, is among those campaigning for World War II veterans of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command to receive a medal. And he has some very harsh words for some historians.
“I have a pet hate of what I call ‘relative’ historians. I ask them two questions: ‘Were you there?’ and ‘Were you aware of the circumstances at the time?’ The answer is no, so keep your bloody mouth shut,” he said.
RAF’s Bomber Command, most famously lead by Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris, carried out numerous bombing missions against Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. According to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, 55,573 men who served in that command made the ultimate sacrifice.
Bomber Command notably launched missions against German cities, most notably the 1945 bombing of Dresden, often sending over a thousand planes to carry out area-bombing missions against targets at night. The Daily Mail noted that the tactic caused heavy civilian casualties, causing the same politicians who ordered the bomber crews to carry out those difficult missions to distance themselves from the bomber offensive after World War II.
A memorial to Bomber Command’s fallen was not commissioned until 2012. A clasp was also awarded to veterans of Bomber Command, but Johnson is not satisfied.
“All I’m asking for is a Bomber Command medal,” he told the Daily Mail. He also is advocating that ground crews receive recognition for their efforts.
The Navy’s tradition of honoring past American Presidents by naming aircraft carrier after them is alive and well. The USS Ronald Reagan, the Abraham Lincoln, and the Gerald Ford are all symbols of the projection of American naval power all over the world. There’s just one exception, one that goes unnoticed by many, mainly because it’s supposed to.
The USS Jimmy Carter is named after the 39th President of the United States, but it’s a nuclear submarine. And there’s a great reason for it.
Carter dreamed of attending the U.S. Naval Academy even as a three-year-old.
Like many 20th Century Presidents before him, Carter was a Navy veteran. Unlike Nixon, Bush 41, or President Ford, Carter’s contributions to the Navy didn’t happen primarily in wartime, however, it happened after the Second World War. Carter, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was immediately appointed as an officer aboard a Navy submarine, the USS Pomfret. He served aboard a number of submarines, mostly electric-diesel submarines, until it was time to upgrade them. All of them.
While the United States was embroiled in the Korean War, Carter the engineering officer, was sent to work with the Atomic Energy Commission and later Union College in Upstate New York, where he became well-versed in the physics of nuclear energy and nuclear power plants. He would use that knowledge to serve under Admiral Hyman Rickover, helping develop the nuclear Navy. Carter would have to leave the active Navy in 1953 when his father died and left the family peanut farm without an owner. In less than a year after Carter’s departure, Rickover’s team would launch the USS Nautilus, the world’s first-ever nuclear-powered submarine and the first ship in a long line of nuclear ships.
The USS Nautilus
According to President Carter, Rickover was of the biggest influences on the young peanut farmer’s life. Carter’s 1976 campaign biography was even called Why Not The Best? – after a question Rickover asked the young naval officer while interviewing to join the nuclear submarine program.
Rickover asked Carter what his standing was in his graduating class at Annapolis and when Carter replied, Rickover asked him if he did his best.
“I started to say, ‘Yes sir,’ but I remembered who this was and recalled several times I could have learned more about our allies, our enemies, weapons, strategy and so forth. I was just human. I finally gulped and said, ‘No sir, I didn’t always do my best.”
“Why not?” asked Rickover. It was the last thing the Admiral said during the interview.
Rickover (far right) with then-President Carter and his wife Rosalyn, touring a U.S. nuclear submarine.
Later, of course, Carter would become Hyman Rickover’s Commander-in-Chief, having taken in everything he learned from Rickover about nuclear energy and the U.S. Navy. The nuclear sub would become one of the pillars of American national security.
As President, Carter would restrict the building of supercarriers due to their massive costs, instead favoring medium-sized aircraft carriers, much to the consternation of the Navy and defense contractors. It would make little sense to have Carter’s name on a weapons program he discouraged as President – kind of like having Andrew Jackson’s face on American currency even though the 12th President was opposed to central banking.
But the Navy had to do something for the only Annapolis graduate to ascend to the nation’s highest office and serve as the Leader of the Free World. So naming the third Seawolf-class submarine after the former submarine officer and onetime nuclear engineer made perfect sense. The USS Jimmy Carter is the most secret nuclear submarine on the planet, moving alone and silently on missions that are never disclosed to the greater American public.
One of FOX News Channel’s most prominent news anchors is hosting a primetime special Sunday on race in America.
Harris Faulkner, co-host of Outnumbered and solo anchor of Outnumbered Overtime, elevated a number of critical subjects to the forefront since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, including a virtual town hall about COVID-19’s impact on mental health with retired Marine Johnny Joey Jones. This Sunday, FNC will debut a primetime one-hour special entitled Harris Faulkner Presents: The Fight for America. The broadcast will spotlight discussions surrounding the national conversation about race in America and the path forward for the country, according to a press release.
Faulkner is a founding member of the Diversity and Inclusion Council and Mentor Match programs at FOX News, helping to develop the next generation of diverse and dynamic television news talent. She brings a global perspective to her role as a journalist, too, having grown up in a military household. Faulkner explored her father’s Army service in a bestselling book titled 9 Rules of Engagement: A Military Brat’s Guide to Life and Success.
“I got to see someone do what he loved and that was a very powerful motivator in my life, from as young as I can remember. My dad was a combat pilot, Army, late stages of the Vietnam War — did two tours. And that was hard duty no matter when you went, but the political tide in the country made it doubly hard. He obviously, like me, African American fighting abroad in a war that wasn’t popular, came home and it was tough,” Faulkner said.
Like most military families, she moved frequently as a child, living around the U.S. and overseas in Germany. She was just a little girl when her father returned from multiple deployments to Vietnam.
“He did back-to-back tours, and these were pretty long. And I say all of that because the first layer of patriotic spirit for me came when dad returned home and those first few years of growing up around somebody who, I witnessed. I don’t remember every second of the struggle that was going on in America — both politically and racially and civil rights and all of that — but it’s been told to me throughout the years. My dad would say, ‘Yup, there were struggles in the U.S.A. and I fought in a war that maybe not everybody backed, but I was fighting for a country that I believed in — and I knew needed me’. And he said, I would rather fight for a country that’s going through struggle and have it be the United States of America than any other place in the world. He said because we are a nation of potential,” Faulkner said.
The ideals her father taught her about growing up American continue to shape Faulkner throughout her life, she said. It was in the fabric of their home.
“I’m someone who truly believes this nation has enormous, unmatched potential. And no matter what we deal with, we have an incredible way of making it through the fire and to the other side in a way that people watch us and say, how did they do that and how do we incorporate that into what we got going on,” she said.
And Faulkner has used her own national platform to address tough issues facing the nation at this critical time, like the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have the kind of contagion that coronavirus can’t match. Our contagion is resilience and love and potential. And I really do see us as a beacon of light around the world. We are facing this pandemic and there is no overestimating it. This is tough. This is tough if you’re trying to not get the virus or if you’ve had it and you’re trying to fight it off, or if someone you love has had it and was not successful. It is really hard,” Faulkner said.
She adds that despite the current challenges, “we will come out stronger and we are going to have to innovate and create and invent. This is a scientific challenge for us, but I believe we can do it.”
This Sunday, Faulkner tackles the other trending topic facing Americans about the state of race relations in the country. The one-hour primetime special includes a series of virtual guests for an open discussion on the complex issues, including Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), former NFL star Herschel Walker, Fraternal Order of Police Vice President Joe Gamaldi and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Topics to be discussed include the nationwide protests following the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement, debates over defunding the police, removing historical statues, and more.
Harris Faulkner Presents: The Fight for America airs live July 19th at 10 p.m. EST.
Faulkner started her career with FNC in 2005. Nearly two years ago, she was given another hour to anchor with a brand-new show called Outnumbered Overtime. The show debuted at #1 in its timeslot, where it has remained since launching with average viewership of 1.7 million per week.
It was an early morning in Smoaks, South Carolina, and humidity hung in the air. A truck pulled into the Valley Forge Flag driveway, a facility whose sole purpose is flag production. Valley Forge has been producing since World War I, and their flags have seen a number of fates, from being draped across the caskets of presidents to landing on Omaha Beach to navigating the jungles of Vietnam. Some say it’s one of their flags that is planted on the cold surface of the moon.
The truck began offloading countless rolls of an off-white fabric. The delivery man called them “greige goods,” and he was on his way as soon as he was unloaded.
Rolls of fabric used in flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo courtesy of Valley Forge Flags)
The Valley Forge material handler sent the greige goods to be dyed, and when the rolls returned, some were white and others had become a deep, brilliant red. They were cut into strips, and six white strips joined seven red strips, making a total of 13 stripes arranged into one neat pile.
A seamstress approached the pile and set herself to sewing. The sewing machines in this facility were automated, and three or four machines would be running at any given time under the watchful eye of Valley Forge employees. This woman watched them carefully as they stitched the strips of cloth together; she watched as the strips became stripes, the needle pressing into the fabric and joining them together with a firm bond.
The facility floor was filled with the sound of these sewing machines as each one was pieced together, beginning to resemble an American flag.
Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo by Tetteroo Media)
Rolls of blue cloth with embroidered stars were already waiting to join the stripes. The facility workers cut them to size and fit them next to the stripes, emplacing the final piece of the puzzle.
Another seamstress expertly sewed the fly-end of the flag, and yet another sewed on the white header. The real brass grommets were next, and soon the flags were sent for inspection. The inspector eyed them carefully as they were placed along the table in front of her. Her eye was impeccable; with pride she trimmed excess pieces of thread, and even the most minor defect would be quickly detected and remedied. When complete, she proudly placed a label on the flag indicating that she made sure this flag was of superior quality.
After being properly folded, the flags were placed into packages and taken out the large door in the side of the facility awaiting shipment to their final destination.
Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo by Tetteroo Media)
Of these flags, one sat among the rest, heading out to somewhere in the U.S. It looked identical to the others, but its fate was quite different. It would not fly during an American summer nor would passing soldiers salute it.
It wasn’t long before that flag was sitting on the shelf at the PX in Fort Benning, Georgia. It lay there still, amidst the bustle of basic trainees, airborne students, and the throngs of other transient service members in the area.
Eventually, a hand extended from amongst the countless uniforms and took it. After an exchange at the PX checkout counter, the flag was again on the move.
That hand belonged to a man named Patrick. He was of medium height with a strong build, a quiet demeanor, rough hands, and kind eyes.
He took it home to his wife. She had just moved to the area after their wedding; Fort Benning sat on the line dividing Georgia from Alabama, and they lived in the latter in a small apartment complex. Outside, he was an Army Ranger whose country demanded the most difficult tasks of him; here, he was a husband and a friend, a young man fixated on finding happiness in the four walls of a one-bedroom apartment. And he found it, for a while.
This was the home that American flag had been brought into.
Patrick Hawkins during a training exercise in Fort Benning, Georgia.
(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)
Patrick had a reverence for a precious few of his own valuables. A rosary hung nearby — he lamented when people wore rosaries around their necks, saying it was improper. He cherished his wedding ring as a sign of dedication to his beloved. And he felt that the flag, though it was merely a combination of cloth and stitching, represented the things he had fought so hard for during his last three deployments to Afghanistan, the freedoms he enjoyed as he grew from a boy to a Ranger.
Patrick was, for all his calluses and no-excuses leadership, a deeply sentimental man.
He unpacked the flag, but he knew it would not hang on his wall or be displayed on a flagpole. It had a purpose closer to his heart.
He folded it properly and brought it with him to work. He presented his military ID as he passed into Fort Benning, and then drove through the brown fence onto the Ranger compound. Patrick arrived early that day, and he entered the bowels of B Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment — a maze of lockers and bags neatly stowed to the side. Flags of all types were displayed above and the pictures of fallen Rangers lined the walls. Folded flag in hand, Patrick passed them by.
He heaved out a large duffel bag filled with the tools he would need to carry out a war in a far away place. It still had dust embedded into its canvas shell from the last deployment. Patrick placed the flag snugly next to his gear — his cold-weather jacket and extra boots, a laptop and hard drive filled with movies.
The bag containing the flag was loaded onto a pallet, ratcheted down, and covered in plastic sheeting to protect it from the weather. The pallet lay outside under the sun next to Patrick when he kissed his wife and embraced his parents. He was always a momma’s boy, and he hugged her for a few extra seconds; his father was career military, and their touch resonated with mutual respect as well as love.
Bagram Honor Guard members fold the American flag during a Memorial Day ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 29, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)
It seemed only moments later that Patrick and his flag stepped onto Kandahar Air Field (KAF), Afghanistan.
Upon arrival, Patrick retrieved the flag and carried it to the ready room. It was lined with small, plywood cubbyholes, a hardy wooden table in the center. Zip ties in hand, Patrick grabbed his body armor out of his cubby and placed it on the table. He carefully unfolded the flag and rolled it tightly. He zip tied it onto the outside of his armor, what he called his “kit,” and then placed it back in the wooden cubby.
The flag stayed with him as he donned his kit and grasped his rifle, as he stepped onto the MH-47 helicopter and barreled toward Taliban strongholds. It remained with him as he bolted across the Afghan countryside and dragged Taliban leadership back onto the helicopter and to American lines.
This U.S. Air Force PJ displays the American flag on his kit in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)
There came a moment when the stars on that flag had seen more stars in the Afghan sky than the American sky. It was rolled on Patrick’s back, and it was not properly folded — yet it could not have been in a more perfect state at a more perfect time. He was honored to carry it, and it was in carrying it that he defined why such things have value.
Then one night, Patrick stepped off the helicopter for the last time. A woman exited a small, dirt building, and his Ranger brother went to ensure that she was properly cleared and safely escorted off the battlefield. Instead, the night lit up as she exploded, a suicide vest detonating and sending Patrick’s friend careening back, severely wounded. Other Rangers were knocked off their feet. Smoke and debris hung in the air.
Patrick and the Ranger in his charge, Cody, leapt forward without regard to their own safety. The threat appeared to have been eliminated, and they sought to help their Ranger brethren who were bleeding out in the Afghan dirt.
With another step and a series of flashes, Patrick and Cody were gone. The blasts from several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried just beneath the surface ripped upward and tore through them both, searing through the flag strapped to Patrick’s back.
The night continued, fraught with chaos, but Patrick’s body remained still. The flag on his back, parts of it shredded and other parts covered in his blood, remained next to him.
An eternity of stillness passed in those moments of fire and shadow.
A hand appeared through the darkness. Patrick’s brothers grabbed what they could; they would not leave him in that place, even if the life had left his body. They were shaken and bleeding, but they gritted their teeth and carried him out with the flag on his back.
Patrick Hawkins’ flag, after being cleaned as well as possible, now awaits another deployment.
(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)
As Patrick was dragged away, the flag remained on the ground. Once it had been still for long enough, another hand extended from the darkness, picked it up, and stuffed it into a pouch on the belt of another Ranger, just as he left for the exfil helicopter.
The hand belonged to Patrick’s squad leader and mentor, Kellan. The wounded were many, and they had long since run out of litters — Kellan was using another flag to pick up the remains of another fallen soldier. In the pouch on his belt, Patrick’s flag returned to KAF. Tears mixed into the blood on its fabric, which had been stitched together those months ago in South Carolina.
Kellan would look at the flag often, sometimes in sorrow, sometimes with that familiar guilt of survival, and often in gratitude for having the opportunity to know a man like Patrick. To live together in the most extreme of circumstances.
That was not Kellan’s last deployment. He rolled up his sleeves, and he rolled up the flag. He put his kit on the hardwood table in a far away country, zip ties in hand, and secured Patrick’s flag to it. Then he stepped back into the war.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.
There’s nothing more debilitating than lower back pain. The grimaces, groans, and feeble feelings one gets from back pain happen because the area is full of nerve endings that react violently to any injury inflicted on them (like a twist while carrying a particularly squirmy kid). If you’ve strained a muscle, there is no real shortcut to healing: You have to rest, ice, and wait it out as your body repairs the microtears. But often, back pain is caused not by tears but by tightness or spasms, and these issues can be addressed through stretching.
These 7 moves are designed to target your lower back. In each case, the stretch should be no deeper than a position you can comfortably hold for at least 30 seconds, and should never be so intense as to cause pain. Slowly ease into each position, and when you reach a point of manageable intensity, focus on breathing in and out deeply for 30 seconds to one minute.
Funny, isn’t it, that a likely source of your back pain is also the name of the exercise to ease it? To perform this yoga-inspired move, start on all fours. Slowly sink your hips back toward your feet, until your butt touches your heels and your chest is pressed against your quads. Extend your arms in front of you and feel the gentle stretch along your back.
2. Cradle pose
Turn over onto your back and bend your knees, feet flat on the floor. Raise your feet and bring your knees toward your chest. Wrap your arms over your shins as if you are giving them a big hug. Gently pull your knees in closer to your spine, raising your head so that your back is rounded.
3. Figure 4
Start facing a chair back, table, or sturdy towel rack. Cross your right foot over your left knee, bending your right knee out to the side so that your legs form the shape of the number “4.” Holding the support in front of you, bend your left knee, stick your butt out, and sink into the stretch, rounding your spine and pulling away from the support to deepen the stretch in your lower back. Repeat on the opposite side.
4. Cat pose
Another yoga classic, start this move on all fours. Drop your head toward the floor and round your back, imagining the center of your spine being lift by a string toward the ceiling.
5. Floor twist
Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Spread arms out to either side for support. Gently let your knees drop to the right side while you rotate your head and torso to the left. Return to center, repeat the stretch on the opposite side.
Sitting in a chair, cross your right leg over your left. Place your left hand at the outside of your right knee. Gently press against your right knee as you twist your head and torso to the right, letting your legs turn slightly to the left. Return to neutral. Repeat on the opposite side.
7. Runner’s stretch
Sometimes, a tight lower back is exacerbated by even tighter hamstrings. For this stretch, start sitting on the floor, both legs straight in front of you. Turn your right leg out and bend your right knee, sliding your right foot up so it touches the instep of your left knee. Lean forward and grab your left toes with both hands (grasp your left calf if you don’t have the flexibility to reach that far) feeling the stretch down your back. Repeat on the opposite side.
Units from the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group returned home to Norfolk, Virginia, in July 2018, only three months after deploying.
The Truman’s time at sea was only about half as long as typical deployments, and the early return reflects the Pentagon’s shift toward “dynamic force employment,” a concept touted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as a way to make the military more responsive to emerging threats.
“The National Defense Strategy directs us to be operationally unpredictable while remaining strategically predictable,” US Navy Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Christopher Grady said a release announcing the return to port, which he said was “a direct reflection of the dynamic force employment concept and the inherent maneuverability and flexibility of the US Navy.”
Grady said the carrier group “had an incredibly successful three months in the US 6th Fleet area of responsibility,” an area that stretches from pole to pole between the mid-Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.
The Russian Yasen-class nuclear attack submarine Severodvinsk
However, the Truman and its accompanying vessels finished their time at sea much closer to home — in the western Atlantic closer to Canada than to Europe, according to USNI News.
The cruiser Normandy and destroyers Forrest Sherman and Arleigh Burke are set to return to Norfolk in July 2018, while the destroyers Bulkeley and Farragut remain at sea, a Navy official told The Virginian-Pilot. An official with Fleet Forces Command did not return a request seeking details about what operations these ships have been performing. But anti-submarine operations have become a bigger priority for the US and its allies.
The Truman’s anti-submarine capabilities are limited to the helicopters it carries, but the strike group did deploy in early 2018 with more destroyers than usual.
Those ships are outfitted with sophisticated anti-submarine-warfare assets that aren’t typically used in the Atlantic, Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a former submariner, told USNI News in June 2018. Operating in the Atlantic would give carrier strike groups opportunities to carry out high-end exercises with partner forces, he said.
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the “Dragon Slayers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11 alongside the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)
The North Atlantic become an area of renewed focus for NATO in recent years. Alliance officials have said Russian submarine activity in the area is at levels not seen since the Cold War (though intelligence reports from the era suggest that activity is far from Cold War peaks).
“The Russians are closing the gap,” Magnus Nordenman, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said in early 2018. “And they have departed from their traditional sort of approach — with lots of mass and lots of submarines but of sort of varying quality — and they are taking a page from our playbook, which is go for quality instead.”
The US and its allies have put more energy and resources into anti-submarine warfare. That includes a new focus on the Cold War maritime surveillance network that covered the sea between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK — known as the GIUK Gap. The US Navy has spent several million dollars refurbishing Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland to handle the advanced P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft, though the Navy has said those upgrades don’t necessarily mean a permanent presence will be reestablished there.
Nevertheless, focusing on the GIUK Gap may fall short of the challenge NATO now faces.
For much of the Cold War, the Soviet navy lacked land-attack cruise missiles and would have had to leave its “bastion” in the Barents Sea in order to engage NATO forces, which made the GIUK Gap an important choke point at that time, according to Steven Wills, a military historian and former US Navy surface-warfare officer.
But with the development of sub-launched missiles — especially the modern Kaliber cruise missile — “Today’s Russian Navy can remain within its Barents bastion and still launch accurate attacks against ships in the Norwegian Sea and NATO land targets without leaving these protected waters,” Wills argues in an article for the Center for International Maritime Security, a professional military journal focused on naval strategy.
NATO should adopt a deterrent posture like that of the Cold War, Wills says, “but the locus of the action is much further north than Iceland.”
NATO’s decision to reestablish an Atlantic Command, to be based in Norfolk, is a welcome one, Wills writes, but that headquarters should focus on air and port facilities around the Norwegian and Greenland seas, even forward-deploying to oversee activity there. Surface vessels may need to partner with unmanned assets to cover a greater area as sea ice recedes.
Russia’s Northern Fleet is based on the Kola Peninsula on the Barents Sea, and a more active NATO naval presence in the area would almost certainly draw protests from Moscow, which has accused the alliance of trying to box in it and its allies in Europe. But a presence in the northern seas is necessary, according to Wills.
“The real ‘Gap’ where NATO must focus its deterrent action is the Greenland, Svalbard, North Cape line at the northern limit of the Norwegian and and Greenland Seas,” he writes. “It is again time to consider deterrent action and potential naval warfare in the ‘High North.'”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Dec. 7, 1941, was a day of infamy for the United States, as the Empire of Japan’s naval and air forces savagely attacked American military forces in Hawaii.
It was a sad day for the entire country, but it also marked a milestone that often goes overlooked by history. That day was the first and only time a foreign power attacked a fire department on American soil.
Just as they would 60 years later during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, American firefighters were out the door and racing to the scene at Hickam Field as death rained down from above. The Honolulu Fire Department’s Kalihi Fire Station was just an 8-mile drive from Hickam Field and shared a mutual aid pact with the base. When Japanese planes started attacking Pearl Harbor and Hickam Army Airfield at 7:55 a.m., the military reached out to local firefighters, asking that they provide assistance as they had done many times before.
Though the morning started off like any other Sunday for the firefighters, the sheer volume of anti-aircraft fire coming from the base gave them a clue that something was up. In the joint training exercises they’d held with the military, the firefighters had seen the white puffs of smoke that signaled the use of training shells. That morning, the puffs of smoke were black — Oahu was under attack.
So when the men at Kalihi Station got Hickam’s call for help at 8:05 that morning, Engine Six of the Honolulu Fire Department prepared for war. Within 12 minutes, the fire department was coming to the rescue. By the time the first Honolulu Fire Department company arrived on the scene, bombs had completely destroyed Hickam’s fire department. The anti-aircraft fire had subsided, but the damage was done. The firemen thought the attack was over, and they went to work.
According to the Honolulu Fire Museum and Education Center, the immediate damage included a 4,000-man concrete barracks, bombed out and burning. A gas main was burning in the middle of a nearby road. Parked aircraft were on fire on the tarmac, and hangars containing B-17 Flying Fortresses were ablaze.
Hickam’s own fire department had attempted to respond to the attack, but its main engine was just feet from the bombed fire station. Japanese fighters had strafed the vehicle. The men inside both the building and the engine were all dead or missing. The Honolulu Fire Department was now the main first responder force.
Soon, two other HFD companies arrived on the scene and found a total disaster. The men joined the fight against a fire in a hangar, attempting to save the aircraft inside. They used whatever source of water they could find. The base’s water systems were damaged, and none of the hydrants were operational. The firemen eventually found water in a bomb crater filled by Hickam’s broken water main.
Honolulu firefighters were still fighting the hangar fire at 8:50 in the morning when the second wave of Japanese fighters came flooding into the area. Lt. Frederick Kealoha, the on-scene commander, saw the fighters first and shouted to his men to take cover. Men scrambled for the relative safety of destroyed buildings and burning hangars.
“For the next 15 minutes, hell rained down from the skies in the form of whistling bombs and screaming machine gun bullets, seemingly strafing everyone and everything in sight,” firefighter Richard Young said in an interview with author John Bowen years after the incident.
“That quarter hour seemed like an eternity to us as we tried to make ourselves invisible to the Japanese pilots and machine gunners,” Young recalled. “Finally, the onslaught of shrapnel and bullets dwindled and stopped. The second wave of the attack was over. The question in everyone’s mind was ‘How many more will there be?’ No one dared to even guess about that.”
Hoseman Harry Tuck Lee Pang was the first fireman killed on the scene when a Japanese Zero strafed the area where Pang was working. Two other firemen, Capt. John Carreira and Capt. Thomas Macy, were killed inside a hangar when an enemy bomb hit the roof of the building.
The firefighters’ equipment was also destroyed, either strafed by enemy bullets or hit by bomb fragments. Engines, tires, chemical tanks, and everything else they needed to fight the fires were completely useless by 9:15.
When it appeared the attacks had ended, military personnel and civilian volunteers were finally able to begin the terrible task of collecting the wounded and dead. The firefighters plugged holes in their engines and tanks using brown soap and toilet paper found in the debris of the demolished barracks. Their ability to fight the fires was limited to the proximity of the bombed water main crater, their only source of water.
Given their limited access to water and equipment, the firefighters could produce less than a tenth of the water needed to fight the fires in front of them. Still, the wounded, exhausted men of the Honolulu Fire Department worked through the day and into the next wherever they could.
Six additional members of the fire department were wounded in the second wave of attacking fighters. To this day, the Honolulu Fire Department is the only fire department on American soil whose members were attacked by a foreign nation.
In recognition of their assistance to the military, the six wounded men were awarded the Purple Heart shortly after the surprise attack. The firefighters killed that day — Pang, Carreira, and Macy — were awarded the medal posthumously in a 1984 ceremony aboard the USS Arizona Memorial.
With the Cynthia Erivo led biographical film Harriet recently released in November, the inspiring legacy of Harriet Tubman is fresh in our minds. The fearless Underground Railroad “conductor” was responsible for (either personally or indirectly) the hard-won freedom of thousands of enslaved African Americans.
This clever, unflinching woman is to be honored by the redesign of the $20 bill—now said to be coming in 2028. She has had statues commissioned in her likeness across several American cities, had the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park commemorated in her honor, and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
But what don’t we know about the woman behind the immeasurable legacy? Here are ten enlightening Harriet Tubman facts you’ll want to know.
Harriet Tubman was not the Underground Railroad conductor’s birth name.
When she was born in the early 19th century, Harriet was given the name Araminta Ross—her mother usually used an affectionate nickname, Minty. When Minty changed her name before her brave escape from slavery, it was her mother’s given name, Harriet, that she assumed. The ‘Tubman’ portion of her name came from the man she married in 1844, John Tubman, a free African American man who lived near Harriet’s owner’s plantation.
Even as Harriet carved an iconic path making her name a staple of history, she would earn several other nicknames along the way—abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison called Tubman ‘Moses’, while John Brown would refer to her as ‘General Tubman’.
A youthful head injury had an outsized impact on her life.
When she was a teenager, Tubman was struck on the head by a two-pound weight. The attack was meant for a nearby enslaved person attempting to make an escape—but the overseer missed their shot, instead hitting Tubman. The crack in Tubman’s skull caused her to have long-term sleeping complications. Throughout her life, Tubman would abruptly lose consciousness. It would be a struggle to rouse her from the spells.
Additionally, the injury caused Tubman to have vivid visions and dreams. She soon believed that her visions were coming directly from God. It was this deep religious faith that inspired her to put her own life on the line to aid slaves in their flight to freedom.
Her injury may have also compelled her own escape. Terrified that she would be seen as inadequate, Tubman attempted to work harder and harder to keep herself from being sold away from her family and loved ones. Eventually, she decided the risk of being caught on her way to freedom was a better one than remaining in place and being sold.
Later in life, her injury further complicated her life, making it difficult for her to fall asleep at night. She opted to have brain surgery and admitted herself to Boston’s Massachusetts General hospital. Though anesthesia was offered to her, Tubman refused. She was determined to bite a bullet as the soldiers did during amputations.
She utilized disguises and codes to allay suspicion along the Underground Railroad.
Once Tubman was known to slavers as a key participant in the Underground Railroad, additional precautions had to be taken. Tubman cleverly dressed herself as men, old women, and even free middle class African Americans to travel across the slave states undeterred. By walking around with chickens, Tubman would assume the identity of a field hand. In a stroke of true genius, she would pretend to read the newspaper, as it was widely known that Harriet Tubman was illiterate.
To send messages to her followers, Tubman implemented the use of spirituals and songs as a system of codes. Further utilizing her cunning mind, Tubman prioritized travel on Saturdays, as she knew that newspapers published their runaway notices on Monday mornings.
She was even tougher than you can imagine.
Harriet Tubman knew that traveling back and forth along the Underground Railroad meant that she and her followers were at risk of being attacked by the police, hunting dogs, mobs, bounty hunters, and notoriously cruel slave catchers. At one point, Tubman’s efforts freeing slaves led to a call for a ,000 bounty on her head. It’s unclear if this bounty was one single bounty, or the combination of a number of bounties offered around the slave-holding states and territories.
The fight for freedom was dangerous business, and Tubman was going to treat it as such—she threatened to kill anyone who was having second thoughts along the way, as anyone turning back during their escape was a liability to all of the others. Tubman also toted a handgun along with her on her travels for protection.
On her final trip on the Railroad, Tubman assisted the Ennals family. The Ennals had an infant child with them—a life-threatening risk with the unpredictable nature of a baby’s moods. However, Tubman was sharp and determined, and she carried on ahead after drugging the baby with paregoric, a tincture of opium.
She never lost a single follower on her journeys of escape.
The number of people Tubman personally guided along the Underground Railroad is widely disputed. Early accounts put that number around 300, while later biographies lowered the number to 70. At any rate, Tubman was proud to proclaim, “I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say—I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”
She was a vital part of the Union war efforts.
During the Civil War, Tubman did her part by acting as both a cook and a nurse for the Union Army. Thanks to her knowledge of plants and their properties, she was a great resource in aiding soldiers with dysentery. She was also used as a Union scout and spy—a role that was well-suited to her, judging by her Railroad tactics. In fact, she was the first woman to lead an assault during the war, arranging the Combahee River Raid. With the assistance of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, Tubman brought roughly 750 slaves to freedom with this raid.
Unfortunately, Tubman long went uncompensated for her war efforts, and continued to be under-compensated once she secured a pension. She received only 0 for her three-year commitment—payment only for her nursing contributions. She argued with the government that they owed her an additional 6 for her espionage services, but it took 34 years for her to receive a veteran’s pension.
Her second husband was 22 years younger than Tubman when they wed in 1869.
Her second husband was Nelson Davis, a veteran of the Civil War. At the time of their marriage, Tubman was 59 years old, while Davis was just 37. In 1874, the pair adopted a baby girl named Gertie. For two decades before Davis’s early death, they had a happy life together growing vegetables and raising pigs in their back garden.
After her work on the Underground Railroad, Tubman championed for women’s right to vote.
Later in her life, Tubman stood among other prominent women in the suffrage movement. She attended the meetings of suffragist organizations, and it wasn’t long before she was working alongside the notable Susan B. Anthony and Emily Howland to bring women the right to vote. Tubman traveled throughout the east coast to New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. to deliver speeches in favor of women’s suffrage, even at her own financial detriment.
Despite life-long financial struggles, she epitomized the generous spirit.
Tubman spent the last years of her life on the land that abolitionist Senator William H. Seward sold her in Auburn, New York. Though Tubman was well-known across the United States, her reputation did little to help her finances. However, her own poverty was not going to keep her from helping others, and so she gave what she had.
She used her plot of land as a place for family and friends to take refuge with her, embracing an open-door policy. In 1903, she donated a section of her property to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Five years later, the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged and Indigent Colored People opened up on that very location.
She passed away on March 10th, 1913.
Harriet Tubman was an estimated 93 years old when she succumbed to pneumonia. The brave woman was surrounded by loved ones upon her death. She was buried with full military honors in the Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York. Though this incredible woman has been gone for more than a century, her legacy lives on in the pages of history books, across the schools and museums which proudly bear her name, reflected by towering movie screens, and most importantly, through the lives of all of those her selfless risks helped to improve for generations to come.