It was the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Everyone involved in this Southern invasion of the Union knew how critical a victory would be for either side – and everyone was willing to risk everything to get the upper hand. That’s when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee ordered Lt. Gen. James Longstreet to charge the Union lines and take Cemetery Hill from Union Gen. George G. Meade.
Among the Union defenders was Joseph H. DeCastro – and he was about to become the first Hispanic Medal of Honor recipient.
As a matter of pride, often times damaged Civil War flags would not be repaired.
DeCastro was the flag bearer for the 19th Massachusetts Infantry, a job that was arguably one of the most important in any unit. Troops put a lot of faith on their flag and the man who held it. They would give their lives to protect their regimental flag, and there were few humiliations worse than losing the unit colors to an enemy. In practical use, the flags told the men attached to those units where they were on the battlefield. When they couldn’t hear commands over the din of the fighting, they would still be able to see their colors.
For the flag bearers, the job was an incredibly important honor. Walking the battlefields unarmed, the color bearers could never run away from the fighting and always had to be in front towards the enemy. If the colors broke and ran for safety, the rest of the entire unit might instinctively follow. This is why Joseph H. DeCastro was so brave: He spent the entire Civil War as a bright-colored, slow-moving artillery target.
But the flag bearer for the 19th Virginia infantry didn’t know that. So when Pickett’s Charge slammed right into the Union lines near Cpl. DeCastro’s position, the two unarmed flag bearers began to go at it like everyone else in the melee around them. DeCastro used the staff of his regimental flag, knocked out the opposing flag bearer, stole the 19th Virginia’s flag, and then left the battlefield to present it to Gen. Alexander Webb. Webb remembered the event:
“At the instant a man broke through my lines and thrust a rebel battle flag into my hands. He never said a word and darted back. It was Corporal Joseph H. De Castro, one of my color bearers. He had knocked down a color bearer in the enemy’s line with the staff of the Massachusetts State colors, seized the falling flag and dashed it to me.”
Color guards used to be serious business, guys.
DeCastro then went right back into the fighting at Gettysburg, again taking up his position as regimental flag bearer in the fighting. He would survive Gettysburg and the Civil War, but not before being awarded the Medal of Honor for his courageous capture of the enemy’s colors in the middle of a battle that became well-known as the Confederacy’s high water mark, in a victory that ensured the Confederate Army could never again mount an invasion of the North, that sealed the South’s fate forever.
In October 2010, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines started clearing the Taliban insurgency from the Sangin District in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Once 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines handed over the area of observation to 3/5, things escalated quickly, making this campaign one of the bloodiest in American history.
Marines who headed out to clear the enemy-infested area were met by a dangerous environment and an extremely complicated IED threat — as a result, casualty rates climbed.
Eventually, the actions of the Marines of 3/5 were unofficially dubbed, “Bangin’ in Sangin.” The narrative that unfolded there was very close to that of a story set in the Wild West. Here’s why:
Paved roads were scarce
In most parts of the world, people drive on paved roads with designated lanes. Well, for British and American forces, the only option was to drive and patrol on roads made from loose gravel. The main roads in the district were described as nothing more than “wide trails.”
Since the majority of the Sangin population uses animals to haul their cargo, in the troops’ perspective, it was like jumping into a time machine and transporting back to the Old West.
The local cemeteries
How many Westerns have we seen where the cowboys, on horseback, encounter an eerie cemetery as they travel through uncharted land? Too often to count, right?
Well, Sangin was no different. Many of the graves were decorated with rocks and flags tied to wooden staves — just like the movies.
The nasty terrain
In many Westerns, the cowboys add days to their journeys because of some unmarked obstacle blocking their path, forcing them around.
In Sangin, the rough terrain provided for some unique challenges. Harsh conditions plus the fact that mud structures can be destroyed and rebuilt quickly made keeping maps current nearly impossible.
The locals lived in tribes
In the old days, Native Americans lived in settlements and did every they could to make ends meet while answering to the chief of the tribe. In Afghanistan, Marines commonly patrolled through similar villages — and the locals answered to their Islamic religious leader, known as the “Mullah.”
Though modern in many ways, social organization on the local level remains tribal.
The Marines lived like cowboys
When Marines left the wire for several days, they packed ammo, food, and their sleeping system. Since they didn’t know where they were going to be sleeping each night, Marines found rest in places most people couldn’t even imagine.
As the final season of Game of Thrones rapidly approaches, a lot of questions about the show remain: Will Dany and Jon be able to find a way to defeat the White Walkers? Is Cersei really pregnant? Will Jamie finally apologize to Bran for pushing him out a window so he could keep his incestuous love affair a secret? But one thing is abundantly clear: A lot of people are going to die in the last six episodes. And in anticipation of the onslaught of death that millions of us will be witnessing, we decided to create a list of 11 characters that need to be dead by the time the final credits roll.
To be clear, this isn’t just a list of the characters we hate the most (though there are a few of those). Instead, it’s a look at whose deaths make the most sense in the scope of the larger story. So we are offering our perspective on which character deaths are the most appropriate narratively. With that in mind, here is our Arya-esque list of 11 characters who need to join Ned, Joffrey, and Ygritte in the great orgy in the sky.
This one is simple. From day one, Cersei has been nothing short of a monster and any hope she had of redeeming herself disappeared when she revealed she was going to leave Jon and Dany to fight the White Walkers without her help. It could be Jamie or Arya or literally anyone but for Game of Thrones to have an ending that feels satisfying, Cersei has to die.
Westeros’ last remaining gossip (RIP Littlefinger) doesn’t really have a role to play now that the never-ending game of thrones has been temporarily tossed aside in favor of fighting the White Walkers. He seems to mainly just look concerned while other people make decisions. Plus, Melisandre has already predicted his death and so it would be kind of weird if he lived.
3. The Moutain
It could be argued at this point that, technically, Gregor Clegane isn’t even really alive, as he seems to be more of some kind of Frankenstein’s monster than a human. But regardless, viewers have been clamoring for the Cleganebowl since Season 1 and hopefully, we finally get to see Sandor complete his redemption tour by murdering the shit out of his brother.
4. Theon Greyjoy
The disgraced ruler formerly known as Reek has experienced a lot of grief over seven seasons (to be fair, a good portion of it was caused by his own selfishness and disloyalty) but he has made some steps towards cleaning his filthy conscience and is now leading a mission to rescue his sister Yara. At this point, the best ending for Theon would involve him sacrificing himself to save Yara and perhaps even kill off his dickhead uncle Euron for good measure. Bittersweet? Absolutely but that’s about as good as it’s going to get for the guy.
Game of Thrones is filled with iconic villains but Euron has been mostly disappointing as a wrongdoer who seems to have been tossed into the mix to stir up chaos, to underwhelming results. At this point, if he doesn’t die in some grotesque fashion, then what has all of this been about?
This one hurts to write but hear me out. Our favorite quick-witted mercenary has always made a point of choosing survival over loyalty every time but it seems only fitting that at some point, he’s going to decide to turn on Cersei and join Jamie and Tyrion in the fight against the Whites. And knowing this show, he will probably be rewarded for this choice by getting viciously killed doing something heroic.
7. Bran Stark
One of the Starks has to die, right? Sansa and Jon seem like the most likely to live and while most people will put their money on Arya, I think Bran dying actually makes the most sense. As the new Three-Eyed Raven, Bran clearly still has a large role to play in the final season. But once the war is over, what does an emotionless prophet like Bran do? Looking at his awkward reunion with his sisters, it’s pretty clear a return to normalcy isn’t an option. So is he going to hang out in a tree like his mentor? Sounds depressing so I think the best send-off would be him kicking the bucket while putting a plan in motion that will allow the remaining Westerosians to take down the Night King and his crew.
Game of Thrones 7×04 – Arya reunites with Sansa and Bran
Right now, these kissing cousins are blissfully residing in Bonetown but the idea of them both somehow surviving and then ruling Westeros together seems too good to be true for Game of Thrones, right? This is a show that delights in subverting happy endings so it feels like the bittersweet ending would be for one of them to die heroically in battle, leaving the other to rule on their own. My money is on Dany but don’t be surprised if Jon becomes the first person since Lazarus to die twice.
9. Jorah Mormont
The traitor turned Dany devotee has managed to avoid death over and over again, which naturally means death is going to catch up with him to collect at the end. It will make me sad but it feels right that he goes out in a blaze of glory, perhaps even saving his unrequited love.
10. A Dragon
A major theme of the last season is going to be the sacrifice it takes to achieve victory and while it will break all of our hearts, that tells me that a second dragon is going to have to die. Which one? Most people have predicted Rhaegal but it wouldn’t surprise me if the show goes for the gut-punch and kills off Drogo, Dany’s favorite. Brutal? Absolutely but let’s not forget this is a show that turned a wedding into one of the most visceral bloodbaths in TV or movie history.
11. The Night King
Do I even need to explain this one? He’s the main villain and if he is alive at the end, that means every non-White Walker is probably dead. So this motherfucker’s gotta go.
Jon Snow vs The Night’s King – Game of Thrones 5×08 – Full HD
November 2018 marks 100 years since Germany signed the armistice that brought World War I to a close. Yet in many ways “the war to end all wars” has never really ceased. From the outbreak of a second world war just twenty years later to the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s and the current perilous state of Turkish Democracy, the smoldering ashes of WWI have ignited time and time again. These nine books — arranged by genre and covering the hostilities from the home front, the trenches, and the hospitals where soldiers were treated for a new injury known as “shell shock” — are essential to understanding how a century-old feud shaped the world we live in today.
(Random House Publishing Group)
1. The Guns of August
By Barbara Tuchman
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and one of the Modern Library’s top 100 nonfiction books of all time, this is the definitive history of the first 30 days of the war—a month that set the course of the entire conflict. Tuchman brings a novelist’s flair to her subject, from the spectacle of King Edward VII’s funeral procession—”The sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendour never to be seen again”—to the dust and sweat and terror of the German advance across Belgium. She captures the war’s key figures with flair and precision and enlivens her analysis with a dry-martini wit: “Nothing so comforts the military mind as the maxim of a great but dead general.” Most astonishingly of all, she creates genuine suspense out of the inevitable march of history, convincing her readers to forget what they already know and turn the pages with bated breath.
(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)
2. The First World War
By John Keegan
Twenty years after its original release, this gripping chronicle remains the best single-volume account of the war. Keegan, an acclaimed British military historian, brings a refreshingly clear-eyed perspective to some of the 20th century’s most confounding questions: Why couldn’t Europe’s greatest empires avoid such a tragic and unnecessary conflict? And why did so many millions of people have to die? By foregoing radio and telephone to communicate by letter, Keegan explains, world leaders effectively rendered themselves deaf and blind. The problem was grotesquely amplified on the battlefield, where weapons technology had advanced to the point that entire regiments could be wiped out in a matter of hours. No other history brings the war’s mind-boggling magnitude — 70,000 British soldiers killed and 170,000 wounded in the Battle of Passchendaele alone — into sharper focus.
By Alan Moorehead
As an acclaimed correspondent for London’s Daily Express, Moorehead covered WWII from North Africa to Normandy. But the Australian once swore he’d never write about the most famous military engagement in his nation’s history: the Battle of Gallipoli. He’d heard more than enough stories from ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) veterans back home and had grown bored with the subject. Thankfully, he changed his mind — and his eloquent, elegiac account is a modern day masterpiece. From Winston Churchill’s plan to “launch the greatest amphibious operation mankind had known up till then” to the costly, avoidable blunders that doomed 50,000 Allied troops (11,000 of them from Australia and New Zealand), Moorehead vividly captures the grand ambition and tragic folly of the campaign. His sketch of army officer Mustafa Kemal, later known as Kemal Atatürk, is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand how the seeds of modern-day Turkey’s independence were sown at Gallipoli.
(Random House Publishing Group)
4. Paris 1919
By Margaret MacMillan
WWI brought about the fall of the Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires and displaced millions of people across Europe. Faced with the monumental task of reshaping the world, Allied leaders convened the Paris Peace Conference in January 1919. Over the next six months, delegates from 27 nations redrew international borders, hashed out the terms of Germany’s surrender, and laid the groundwork for the League of Nations. Above all, they aimed to prevent another world war. They failed, of course — Hitler invaded Poland just 20 years later—but this engrossing, comprehensive history debunks the harshest judgments of the Treaty of Versailles and provides essential context for understanding its myriad repercussions. MacMillan covers impressive ground, from the Balkans to Baku to Baghdad, without losing focus on the colorful personalities and twists of fate that make for a great story
(Orion Publishing Group, Limited)
5. Testament of Youth
By Vera Brittain
The daughter of a well-to-do paper manufacturer, Vera Brittain left her studies at Oxford in 1915 to join England’s Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) as a nurse in London, Malta, and France. Like so many others of her generation, she felt called to be a part of something larger than herself. By the war’s end — and before she turned 25 — she had lost her fiancé, her brother, and two of her closest friends. Her chronicle of the war years, her return to Oxford, and her attempts to forge a career as a journalist is both an elegy for a lost generation and a landmark of early 20th-century feminism. Upon the book’s original publication in 1933, the New York Times declared that no other WWI memoir was “more honest, more revealing within its field, or more heartbreakingly beautiful”. Eighty-five years later, that assessment still rings true.
(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)
6. Goodbye to All That
By Robert Graves
This spellbinding autobiography is by turns poignant, angry, satirical, and lewd. It’s also, according to literary critic Paul Fussell, “the best memoir of the First World War.” A lieutenant in the Royal Welch Fusiliers (where he fought alongside his friend and fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon), Graves was severely wounded in the Battle of the Somme and reported killed in action. His family had to print a notice in the newspaper that he was still alive. As befitting a man returned from the dead, Graves breaks all conventions, mixing fact and fiction to get to the poetic truth of trench warfare. Sassoon, for one, objected to the inaccuracies, but Good-bye to All That touched a nerve with war-weary readers and made Graves famous. It has gone on to influence much of the 20th-century’s finest war literature, from Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honourtrilogy to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.
(Penguin Publishing Group)
7. Storm of Steel
By Ernst Jünger
An international bestseller when it was originally published in 1920, this fiercely lyrical memoir is the definitive account of the German experience during WWI. Jünger, a born warrior who ran away from home at the age of 18 to join the French Foreign Legion, fought with the German infantry in the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras, and the Battle of Cambrai. He was wounded seven times during the war, most severely during the 1918 Spring Offensive, when he was shot through the chest and nearly died. He received the German Empire’s highest military honor, the Pour le Mérite, for his service. Taken from Jünger’s war diary, Storm of Steel has a visceral, in-the-moment quality that separates it from other WWI autobiographies. Some have criticized it as a glorification of war, while others, including Matterhorn author and Vietnam War veteran Karl Marlantes, think it’s one of the truest depictions of the combat experience ever written.
(Random House Publishing Group)
8. All Quiet on the Western Front
By Erich Maria Remarque
This iconic German novel was first serialized in 1928, 10 years after the armistice. The book version sold millions of copies and was quickly adapted into an Academy Award-winning film. By then, the Nazi Party was the second largest political party in Germany; Joseph Goebbels led violent protests at the film’s Berlin screenings. Three years later, he banned and publicly burned Remarque’s books in one of his first orders of business as Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda. Why the intense hatred for the story of a young man who volunteers to fight in WWI? Because it is one of the most powerful anti-war novels in Western literature. In Remarque’s downbeat tale, one nameless battle is indistinguishable from the next and the lucky survivors are doomed to lifetimes of disillusionment and alienation. No other book, fiction or nonfiction, conveys the existential horror of trench warfare so clearly.
(Penguin Publishing Group)
By Pat Barker
This audaciously intelligent, powerfully moving historical novel, the first in a trilogy, opens with the full text of Siegfried Sassoon’s letter refusing to return to active duty after receiving treatment for gastric fever. The declaration, which was read in the House of Commons, earned him a mandatory stay at Craiglockhart War Hospital, where he was treated for shell shock by the noted neurologist Dr. William Rivers and became friends with fellow poet Wilfred Owen. From these facts, Barker fashions one of the most original works of WWI literature, intertwining fact and fiction to explore Freudian psychology, the doctor-patient relationship, nationalism, masculinity, and the British class system, among other fascinating topics. Foregoing battlefields and trenches to explore the terrain of the human mind, Barker gets to the essential truth of WWI: No one who lived through it — man or woman, soldier or civilian — saw the world the same way again.
Airmen from the 822nd Base Defense Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, are always primed to deploy at a moment’s notice to secure and defend bases around the world. On Oct. 11, 2018, that moment came.
However, they weren’t traveling to faraway lands to set up security in foreign territory. They were driving to Tyndall AFB, Florida, to protect a base that had been ravaged by a category four hurricane one day prior.
“Our sole purpose is to be a global response force,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Beil, 822nd BDS base defender. “We have to be prepared to deploy anywhere in the world, anytime, just like that, and secure an entire base.”
Tyndall is only a three and a half hour drive from Moody, but what the 822nd BDS defenders found when they arrived was outside of the expectations many had when setting out.
Airmen from the 822d Base Defense Squadron depart Moody Air Force Base, Ga., as they convoy en route to Tyndall AFB, Fla., to provide base security during Hurricane Michael recovery efforts, Oct. 11, 2018.
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)
“Our group commander told us before we left to keep a sympathetic and empathetic mindset,” Beil said. “I tried to keep that in my head, but nothing could have prepared me for the damage that was done. The first thing that went through my head was that they definitely needed all the help they could get.”
For airmen accustomed to rapid global response, the call to action so close to home brought a whole new set of experiences.
“For them to have us come down here, this was definitely something new,” Beil said. “We’ve never done anything like this before. Once we took over, we had new procedures for making sure the right people were getting access to the base.”
Defenders from the 822d Base Defense Squadron load ammunition prior to departing Moody Air Force Base, Ga., to provide base security at Tyndall AFB, Fla., during Hurricane Michael recovery efforts, Oct. 11, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)
The many airmen who have joined the recovery team at Tyndall AFB have undertaken a demanding task and produced real results that lend hope to the future of the base.
“The key here has been adaptability,”Beil said. “That’s always been ingrained in us at the squadron, but coming out here to do this has been a true test of that.”
Among the experiences unique to securing a base within the United States, Beil has found comfort in lending a hand while at home.
“For me, it’s heartwarming,” Beil said. “These are Americans I’m surrounded by. They appreciate the work that we do for them. They appreciate how we’re here trying to represent the Air Force and making sure everyone is safe. We’re the first faces that they see when they come through the gate.”
Traditionally, naval gunnery is challenging. Even with radar providing fire-control data, when fired, shells are committed to a flight path. This means an enemy ship can sometimes dodge the salvo with a radical change of course.
Guided missiles were developed in the 1960s and made their mark when Egyptian missile boats sank the Israeli destroyer Eliat in October of 1967 by using SS-N-2 Styx missiles. There was a problem with guided missiles, though — ships couldn’t carry many missiles, even if they carried a big punch.
That said, a ship can carry many rounds per gun. For instance, the 16th Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World notes that an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer carries 600 rounds for its five-inch gun. That’s a wellspring of ammo next to the standard load of eight RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles and up to 96 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles (and you know a Burke won’t carry 96 Tomahawks).
The Italian company Leonardo, though, has come up with a solution. Their creation, called Vulcano, is a long-range, guided shell package. It comes in three varieties: Five-inch (awfully convenient for the Burke-class destroyers and Ticonderoga-class cruisers), 76mm, and 155mm (which could solve Zumwalt-class destroyers’ need for a new round).
The Vulcano infra-red guided rounds have an effective range of just over 43 nautical miles, while the round’s heat-seeking allows it to track ships, even if they radically change course. Granted, the heat-seeker is only fitted on the five-inch round, but the 155mm version has the option for a laser-seeker (much like the Copperhead round developed in the 1980s). In short, now a ship can pack a couple hundred small, anti-ship missiles.
Check out the video below from Leonardo Company to learn more about this new ammo:
Like many post-9/11 veterans. Amanda Burrill is all about physical fitness. She’s very conscious of what food she eats, she makes sure to get enough sleep, and she’s very, very active. She has to be — this is how she beats TBI every day of her life. Now, the Navy officer who nearly had to relearn how to walk is set to run — for her fellow veterans, that is.
As a young Navy officer on a deployment, Burrill slipped in a sewage leak and lost consciousness. Soon after, she began to have memory problems. When she went to get it checked out, she was diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury. But that didn’t deter her — she spent a total of eight years in the Navy. After leaving the service, she became an advocate for veterans suffering from TBI, but first, she became an amazing example for them to follow.
She spent two years in surgeries, rehabs, and therapies. She spent a great deal of time studying as well, attending Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and becoming a trained chef at the famed Le Cordon Bleu. She even studied wine in Paris. Next, she started running. She runs marathons and Iron Man triathlons on top of competing in fitness competitions. Now, she’s a writer and on-air talent for the Travel Channel and uses that fame to advocate for anyone who is suffering from TBI.
But she’s not finished running. She’s just running for her fellow veterans now.
In September, 2018, Amanda Burrill will run in the Relay for Heroes, benefiting the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. Endurance athletes from all over the world will converge on New York City’s Intrepid Sea, Air Space Museum to follow a route along the banks of New York City’s Hudson River. The goal isn’t 26.2 miles or any number of miles — the goal is to run as many miles as possible during the 12-hour race.
If you’re there, you just might see Amanda Buriill, the Navy rescue swimmer who climbed Denali after her TBI diagnosis, running for the first time since 2015.
“We summited Denali unguided!” Burrill told WATM. “I’m an avid, record-breaking mountaineer; not despite my injuries but because of them. The mountaineering interest started while I was in brain injury rehab, as I needed a fun hobby to replace my first and true love: running.”
After her injury, Burrill’s balance and gait were poor and it affected her running ability. Doing marathons and Ironman races with busted form “messed her up,” as she says. She now has a metal shank foot, full of screws, that’s been opened lengthwise five times.
“Mountaineering is more about suffering well than having stable feet,” she says.”I WILL OUT-SUFFER ANYONE. Knowing that in my heart is pretty damn awesome.”
She is running to highlight female veterans, TBI awareness, and resiliency. From firsthand experience, she believes female vets are underserved when it comes to TBI treatment and believes self-advocacy is an essential element in furthering the cause of women getting the help they need — even if that just means receiving a diagnosis.
“I hope to raise awareness — and money — and bond with my teammates in a show of Lady Vet solidarity,” she says.
The Relay for Heroes will start on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in New York City. The starting line can be found at West 46th Street 12th Avenue, New York, NY 10036. You can run as an individual or in 4-6 person teams. For more information or to register, visit the Relay for Heroes website. If you’re unable to run or support a runner, you can still donate to Burrill’s Relay for Heroes team here.
Editor’s note: Graybeard Publishing, a company owned and operated by military veterans, was planning on putting together a book of humorous combat stories called “SNAFU”. While it’s unclear whether the book was published, the following excerpt from SNAFU was submitted by an anonymous lieutenant who came up with a unique way of dealing with belligerent civilians in Iraq:
Charlie Brown by Lieutenant Anonymous
I was about to hit the road from Baghdad to Al Jaber Air Base one day and stopped by the TOC to get the latest intel updates. When I got there I found another Lieutenant freaking out about an incident he’d just had. He was driving through Safwan when he approached a bridge and saw a bunch of kids holding hands blocking the road. This Lieutenant stopped his convoy and suddenly got ambushed by citizens throwing bricks down onto his convoy from the bridge overhead. But that wasn’t the worst part. While his troops were covering up from the bricks, a bunch of Haji’s dropped grappling hooks and took everything they could off the vehicles. Rucksacks, boxes of MREs, you name it, they got it. And some were even bold enough to run up to the Hummers and steal stuff straight off them.
So before I left I told my guys “when we get to that bridge, we’re going to blow right through anyone there. I don’t care who’s on the road, we keep going.” They all nodded and away we went. Sure enough, we were driving down MSR Tampa and got to that bridge and a bunch of kids were holding hands blocking the road.
“Keep going!” I yelled at my driver, knowing they would move if he hit the gas. “Don’t slow down!”
But he did. He slowed and stopped dead under the bridge, which was the wrong place to be.
Next thing I know bricks and cinder blocks were raining down from above, which could have killed my guys since we weren’t in armored Humvees. In seconds we we’re surrounded by a bunch of Haji’s who were trying to steal stuff off the vehicles.
One guy in particular was wearing a yellow Charlie Brown shirt. He reached into my window and tried to steal my radio right in front of me until I punched him square in the face four times. I nearly stabbed the fucker, but I hit him solid in the face enough that he backed away.
Finally we get going again and I’m fucking livid. I yelled at my driver repeatedly all the way to Al Jaber Air Base and then spent the next few days steaming mad about the incident. We got punked. Our vehicles were damaged, we lost some shit, and the worst part was we didn’t have to. We knew it was coming and still they got us.
So I’m sitting there for days wondering how to get back at those fuckers until one night I had to take a piss. The latrine was too far away, so I got out of my hooch and pissed in a water bottle. A big one too, something like a gallon. And then it hit me. An idea. For the next few days I filled that thing with as much piss as I could muster then went to the chow hall to get as much powdered grape drink mix that I could find. I mixed it up, found myself a cooler and iced it down for a day before we were scheduled to leave.
The next day we hit the road and I’ve got this big bottle of purple piss in my cooler and a whole shitload of skittles and candy packs. I made my guys secure everything inside the trucks so nothing else would get stolen and told my driver to go ahead and slow down when we hit that bridge.
So we approached the bridge and sure enough the crowds came out to stop us. I immediately threw out all the skittles bags to keep the kids away and looked for Charlie Brown because I knew he only owned one t-shirt and would be wearing it again. It took a minute, but sure enough I spotted him, his shirt, and the bruises I gave him a few days ago. When he ran up to my vehicle I pulled out the ice-cold bottle of purple piss, gave it to him, and told my driver to take off.
As the convoy started rolling I watched him like a hawk in my rear view mirror. Charlie Brown lifted the frosty bottle high above his head and drank my piss. And he didn’t just take a swig and spit it out, but he kept drinking, probably thinking it was some exotic tasting American energy drink that would give him vim and vigor. I watched him as long as I possibly could and laughed my ass off for the next ten miles.
He may have puked it out a few minutes later. He may have fallen ill and been in agony for days. Or he may have died. I really don’t care either way. All I know is I went past that spot at least three more times before I redeployed, but never saw Charlie Brown again.
If you have a funny story to tell or are a veteran trying to get published, send a note to Kelly Crigger at email@example.com.
An Army spouse has found her purpose after overcoming homelessness and creating her own organization that gives back.
When Marla Bautista was 18 years old, she was thrown out of her home by her abusive step-father with only a trash bag of clothes and a teddy bear that belonged to her deceased mother. For almost two years she lived a transient lifestyle staying in shelters, with friends and on the streets. It was the generosity of a local Catholic church that changed the trajectory of Bautista’s life.
“There were volunteers who handed out sandwich bags with hygiene items and they didn’t want anything from us. It was just ‘this is for you because you need it.’ And that was something that truly touched my heart. I promised myself that if I ever overcame that situation of homelessness that I would do the same,” she said.
Bautista and her husband, Staff Sgt. Ulisses Bautista, started serving their community as a family in 2011 and would later become The Bautista Project Inc. They began by using their own funds to distribute meals and hygiene bags for the homeless. Their nonprofit now provides basic living essentials, educational resources, support groups, veterans services and community resources for reintegration.
The impact they’ve created near their assigned duty stations has fostered an environment where the homeless can feel like they belong. With this, PCS’ing affects the Bautistas differently.
“Every time we move, we feel like we are leaving a community behind,” she said. But due to the vast amount of homeless in the U.S., there is always a new part of the community to impact.
In the state of Florida alone there are over 28,000 homeless Americans, of which 1500 are local to Hillsborough County in Tampa where the Bautistas currently reside. Although homelessness in America has decreased by 12% since 2007, according to the National Society to End Homelessness, there are still over 567,000 homeless people in the US.
The Bautistas have served the homeless population in Germany, Colorado Springs, New York and now Tampa.
Within a week of PCS’ing to south Florida, they were volunteering in a shelter.
“We have to reintegrate ourselves in that new community,” she adds.
Consistency matters. Her entire family goes out twice a month with meals and care packages, and instead of giving and going, they sit and interact with the locals in need. They get to know them and eventually build friendships.
In 2018 Bautista, with a desire to do more, began reaching out to her fellow military spouses and Facebook friends. With their help, her nonprofit has been able to provide winter jackets, gift a color printer to a shelter, create a small library of free books, raise funds to host a Christmas party at a homeless shelter getting what she calls “real gifts” for the attendees and shelter volunteers and distribute disposable masks. They also continue to collect uniforms to make belonging blankets for homeless youth in group homes or shelter setting.
The Army has been a vehicle allowing them to help in different parts of the world and Bautista’s husband shares her passion for giving to those in need, including homeless veterans. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reports that as of January 2019 there were 37,085 homeless veterans in the U.S.
Bautista doesn’t judge any of them. “We’ve all fallen on hard times before. It just looks different for everyone,” she said.
One simple thing that she says anyone can do to start giving back is to purchase four gift cards at an essentials store or fast-food restaurants.
“That’s just and you can hand those out,” she says, adding that something this small can provide a meal for a person and the act can change their life.
To donate to The Bautista Project Inc. visit www.thebautistaprojectinc.org. You can purchase items from their Amazon Wishlist or donate directly to their nonprofit.
Comedian Kevin Hart stepped down from hosting the coming Academy Awards Presentation, leaving the job empty for the time being. Enter Adam Keys: A veteran and triple amputee, Adam lost his limbs after suffering from an IED attack in Afghanistan that left him with a massive infection. 100 surgeries later, Keys has never lost his sense of humor.
Now, he wants to showcase that humor by stepping up to host this year’s Oscar ceremonies.
Keys isn’t aiming for the Oscar job just because he wants to further his comedy career. As the video says, he wants to show that veterans aren’t broken and people with disabilities are as capable as anyone else. He wants to showcase that on Hollywood’s biggest night, with the whole world watching.
There’s not much Adam Keys can’t do, despite his disabilities. As the video states, he climbed Kilimanjaro and performs stand-up comedy in the DC area. Considering how he came to his injuries, his spirit and good humor are the stuff of legend. The blast broke the combat engineer’s jaw, left shoulder, humerus, and ankles. It killed three of his friends and nearly killed him, too. He wasn’t even able to speak for two months.
When he came to, he thought he was still in Afghanistan and needed to know where his rifle was. He was in a hospital in Bethesda – and the nurse had no idea what he meant. He was a wounded warrior, but now he’s ready to move past that. He says terms like “disabled veteran”and “wounded warrior” don’t apply to him.
“Yes, I was wounded,” he says. “But now I’m not. I want to get rid of that title and move past it, move forward. Move us all forward.”
There’s literally nothing he can’t do.
The idea for hosting the Oscars in place of Hart came to him while watching TMZ, looking for material for his standup act. The thought occurred to him, why not? He’d be nervous, but he’s nervous before any show he does.
“It will be a challenge for me,” Keys says. “I love challenging myself. And I get to help people and try to move us [veterans] all forward. I don’t know where it’ll take me, but anything is a step forward. I will hope I’ve done the right thing and made people proud of me, of us. Helping people is the added benefit.“
Captain Sam Axelrad was a U.S. Army doctor in the Vietnam War. One day in 1966, a North Vietnamese soldier, Nguyen Quang Hung, was brought to Axelrad to amputate an arm because gangrene had started to spread in his wound. What happened to the lost arm next might surprise you.
“When I amputated his arm our medics took the arm, took the flesh off it, put it back together perfectly with wires,” Axelrad told BBC World Service. “And then they gave it to me.”
Dr. Axelrad kept the arm for more than 50 years. In 2013, he returned to Vietnam determined to give Hung his arm back.
“I can’t believe that an American doctor took my infected arm, got rid of the flesh, dried it, took it home and kept it for more than 40 years,” Hung said, adding that he was very lucky to only lose an arm when so many of his fellow soldiers were killed.
Hung, whose Army paperwork had been lost in the years since the end of the war, will use his arm as proof of service in an effort to get a veteran’s pension.
“I’m very happy to see him again and have that part of my body back after nearly half a century.”
The US and Russia, the world’s two most powerful militaries and biggest nuclear powers, appear set to clash over a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, with President Donald Trump tweeting on April 11, 2018, for Russia to “get ready” for a US missile strike.
“Russia vows to shoot down any, and all missiles fired at Syria,” Trump tweeted. “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
The first part of the tweet referred to comments by a Russian diplomat threatening a counterresponse to any US military action against the Syrian government, which the US and local aid groups have accused of carrying out several chemical weapons attacks on its own people.
According to Reuters, Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, told the militant group Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV that, “If there is a strike by the Americans,” then “the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired.”
Trump canceled a trip to South America over the latest suspected chemical attack, which killed dozens on April 7, 2018, and is instead consulting with John Bolton, his new ultra-hawkish national security adviser. Trump and France have promised a strong joint response in the coming days.
The president and his inner circle are reportedly considering a much larger strike on Syria than the one that took place almost exactly a year ago, on April 7, 2017, in which 59 US sea-based cruise missiles briefly disabled an air base suspected of playing a role in a chemical attack.
This time, Trump has French President Emmanuel Macron in his corner— but also acute threats of escalation from Syria’s most powerful ally, Russia.
“The threats you are proffering that you’re stating vis-à-vis Syria should make us seriously worried, all of us, because we could find ourselves on the threshold of some very sad and serious events,” Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, warned his US counterpart, Nikki Haley, in a heated clash at the UN.
The US wants a massive strike, but Russia won’t make it easy
Syrian government forces present a more difficult target than most recent US foes. Unlike Islamic State fighters or Taliban militants, the Syrian government is backed by heavy Russian air defenses. Experts on these defenses have told Business Insider the US would struggle to overcome them, even with its arsenal of stealth jets.
It was US Navy ships that fired the missiles in the April 7, 2017, strike. If Russia were to retaliate against a US Navy ship with its own heavy navy presence in the region, the escalation would most likely resemble war between the two countries.
Vladimir Shamanov, a retired general who heads the defense affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, would not rule out the use of nuclear weapons in an escalation with the US over Syria, saying only that it was “unlikely,” the Associated Press reports.
The US has destroyer ships in the region, The New York Times reports, as well as heavy airpower at military bases around the region. While Russian air defenses seem credible on paper, they seem to have done nothing to stop repeated Israeli airstrikes all around Syria.
US’s and Russia’s military reputations on the line
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)
On both the Western and Russian sides of the conflict, credibility is on the line. The leaders of the US and France have explicitly warned against the use of chemical weapons, saying they will respond with force. Russia has acted as a guarantor of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s safety in the face of possible Western intervention but has found itself undermined by several strikes from the US and Israel.
Experts previously told Business Insider that an outright war with the US would call Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bluff and betray his true aim of projecting power at low cost, while destroying much of his military.
Additionally, the Syria government, backed by Russia, has struggled to beat lightly armed rebels who have lived under almost nonstop siege for the past seven years.
For the US and France, failure to meaningfully intervene in the conflict would expose them as powerless against Russia, and unable to abate the suffering in Syria even with strong political will.
For now, the world has gone eerily quiet in anticipation of fighting.
European markets dipped slightly on expectations of military action, and the skies around Syria have gone calm as the pan-European air-traffic control agency Eurocontrol warned airlines about flying in the eastern Mediterranean because of the possibility of an air war in Syria within the next 48 hours.
David Bellavia, who received the nation’s highest military honor June 25, 2019, for his heroic actions in Iraq, offered rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment at the Pentagon on June 24, 2019, revealing the thoughts and emotions that flooded his brain as he charged into a house filled with insurgents in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004.
Former Staff Sergeant Bellavia and his team were clearing houses in support of Operation Phantom Fury. In one house, insurgents ambushed his squad, pinning them down. Bellavia rushed inside the house to provide suppressing cover fire so that his fellow soldiers could exit the building safely.
Ret. Sgt. First Class Colin Fitts told reporters that had it not been for Bellavia, he probably wouldn’t be here today.
After Bellavia and his squad got out, a Bradley fighting vehicle hit the war-torn house hard, but not hard enough to eliminate the threat. It was necessary for someone to head inside and clear the building of insurgents, who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, among other weapons.
“David Bellavia had to go back into a darkened, nightmare of a house where he knew there were at least five or six suicidal jihadis waiting,” Michael Ware, an embedded reporter who was with the staff sergeant and personally witnessed the Medal of Honor moment, told press at the Pentagon.
Engagements on the first floor.
Supported by one fellow soldier inside and three outside, Bellavia re-entered the house, fighting room-to-room, killing four insurgents and mortally wounding a fifth in the fierce fight.
Engagements on the second floor.
“A lot of things go through your mind. Some are very rational. Some are completely irrational,” Bellavia explained. “The first thing you’re thinking about you’re scared, you’re life is on the line. The second thing you’re thinking is you’re angry. How dare anyone try to hurt us. How dare anyone try to step up against the US military.”
“You’re angry. You’re scared,” he said, telling reporters that it’s a certain kind of peer pressure that keeps you moving forward. “When you’re peer is asking for help … it’s easy. Peer pressure might make you smoke cigarettes at 13. But, peer pressure can also make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. It’s about who your peers are.”
Bellavia talked a little about the house he cleared, and it sounded horrific. He explained that the scenes when he first entered and when he re-entered the house were very different due to the extreme redecorating the Bradley fighting vehicle did prior to his re-entry.
“The water had ruptured. All of the plumbing inside. Fallujah had been abandoned for months. So, that water was very unpleasant. It assaulted your senses,” he revealed, adding that there were propane tanks lying about, broken mirrors, makeshift bunkers, and insurgents hopped up on experimental drugs in the dark.
“It was tough. The mind is playing tricks on you,” he said, “You don’t know if you are firing at the same individual or if this is a new individual. A person gets dropped, then they disappear.”
Bellavia said he “thought it was a real possibility” that he wouldn’t make it out.
Bellavia is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, an upgrade of the Silver Star he initially received, for “conspicuous gallantry” during his time in the Army. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon June 24, 2019, he said that this honor “represents many different people,” including many who never came home.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.