For the past 75 years, the French Senate has claimed Paris’ lush Luxembourg Palace, former home of Marie de Medici, mother to King Louis XIII, as its home. During that entire time, rumors swirled about a large bust of Adolf Hitler, the man who once tried to burn Paris to the ground, hiding beneath the Senate chambers.
It turns out the rumors are not only true, but other Nazi paraphernalia are down there with the Führer’s giant head.
The Luxembourg Palace Gardens in World War II.
When Nazi troops were forced to abandon Paris in 1944, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler ordered the last commander of the Nazi occupation, Gen. Dietrich von Choltitz, to level the city. Hitler said the city must not be given to the Free French except laying in rubble. When the Germans finally abandoned the city, Choltitz surrendered 17,000 men to the Free French and left Paris the way it was. Hitler was furious.
During the German occupation, the Luxembourg Palace was the headquarters building for the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force. After the Germans left, the palace was turned into the home of the French Senate, where the legislative body has been ever since – and ever since, the rumors of the Nazi leader’s bust have persisted but never been proven.
Until Sept. 5, 2019.
The Luxembourg Palace today.
The French newspaper Le Monde and reporter Olivier Faye conducted a serious investigation into the persistent rumor, finding not only the bust of Hitler, but a 10×6.5-foot long Nazi flag along with various other documents left over from 75 years ago. The only thing is, besides the palace’s history of headquartering the Nazi Air Force general staff, no one really knows how the Nazi memorabilia came to be in the basement of the French Senate.
In the waning days of the Nazi occupation, Luftwaffe personnel made a fast break for the exit, leaving the Luxembourg Palace in a state of disrepair and outright chaos. The Free French forces looted everything they could from the Nazi occupiers, and Nazi memorabilia became very valuable on the black market (it still is today). It’s believed these particular pieces of Nazi culture were hidden away by someone intent on selling them, hiding the pieces in the basement until a buyer could be found. That clearly never happened.
None of the Senators interviewed by Le Monde knew of the Nazi bust or flag in the basement – and no one knows what to do with them now.
Remember how awesome The Empire Strikes Back was? You can stream that particularly great Star Wars movie on Disney+ right now. And, as of Nov. 15, 2019, Disney+ just added some context to one classic Boba Fett and Darth Vader beef. In the latest episode of The Mandalorian, we finally understand why Darth Vader said “no disintegrations.”
Spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian Chapter 2: The Child.
In the second episode ofThe Mandalorian, our titular bounty hunter continues his make-it-up-as-you-go-along journey to protect a little baby Yoda-looking creature. Throughout his misadventures in this episode (which culminate in getting a giant space rhino egg) the Mando tangoes with a bunch of Jawas who have stripped his spaceship of much-needed parts. In an effort to get his stuff back, the Mando busts out his nifty rifle, which, as it turns out, turns anyone he points it at into a puff of smoke. He vaporizes a few of the on the lizard-like Trandoshans who ambush him at the top of the episode, and later on, a few pesky Jawas.
The Mandalorian gets ready to disintegrate some punks.
Later, when he has to make peace with the Jawas to barter for some of his parts back, he mentions “I disintegrated a few of them.” In terms of what we’ve seen in the Star Wars movies so far, this specific tech hasn’t been witnessed, but it has been mentioned. When Vader hires a bunch of bounty hunters to capture the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back, the Dark Lord very pointedly shakes his finger at Boba Fett (a dude who rocks Mandalorian armor) and says “no disintegrations.”
Boba Fett and IG-88 in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’
So, there you have it. Vader was well-aware that this weapon was probably in Boba Fett’s arsenal, and now, just a about six years after the events of Empire Strikes Back, in The Mandalorian, we get to see what that weapon looks like. The most surprising thing? In The Mandalorian, the disintegrations are shockingly mess-free. Less like a blaster, and more like a civilized vacuum for a more elegant bounty hunter.
After every episode of The Mandalorian you watch on Disney+, it invariably suggests you watch The Empire Strikes Back. Kind of makes sense now, right?
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The Air Force has been granted an exception to policy enabling it to offer Selective Retention Bonuses to a wider population of Explosive Ordnance Disposal senior noncommissioned officers, if they agree to continue serving in EOD for a minimum of three years.
The Air Force is offering this SRB instead of a Critical Skills Retention Bonus to SNCOs who have completed more than 20 but less than 25 years of active duty and who serve as EOD specialists in Air Force Specialty Code 3E8X1. The bonus amount for a three-year service agreement is $30,000. The amount for four years is $50,000 and a five-year service agreement is $75,000.
“The SRB program is a monetary incentive paid to airmen serving in certain selected critical military skills who reenlist for additional obligated service,” said Edgar Holt, Reenlistments Program Manager at the Air Force’s Personnel Center. “The bonus is intended to encourage qualified enlisted personnel to reenlist in areas where we have retention shortfalls or high training costs.”
Under this new authority, master sergeants who accept an SRB at 20 years of Total Active Federal Military Service or more may have their high year of tenure adjusted up to 25 years. Senior master sergeants who accept an SRB at 20 years TAFMS or more may have their HYT adjusted up to 28 years.
“In order to extend and receive this SRB, airmen must have a service-directed retainability requirement such as Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer, (date estimated return from overseas) extension or permanent change of station, for example,” Holt said.
This bonus is effective Jan. 29, 2019, and retroactive payments are not authorized. For more information regarding the SRB program, visit the myPers website or contact your local Military Personnel Flight Career Development section.
Marines and sailors from the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) participated in Exercise KAMANDAG 3 from Oct. 8 to Oct. 18, 2019, in the Philippines.
KAMANDAG 3 is a Philippine-led, bilateral exercise with participation from Japan.
KAMANDAG is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the US and Philippine militaries.
Philippine marines operate an M102 105 mm howitzer gun line at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 13, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)
A Philippine marine looks through the sights on a US Marine Corps M777 towed 155 mm howitzer at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)
Philippine marines observe US Marines wit during a fire mission at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines as part of exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 13, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)
“KAMANDAG 3 provided us a unique opportunity to integrate with the Philippine Marine Corps while conducting realistic, valuable training,” said Capt. Trevor Hall, the commanding officer of Alpha Battery, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 11th MEU.
“Over the course of our nine days ashore, we participated in several subject matter expert exchanges and joint exercises, which increased our interoperability with the Philippine marines.”
US Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriel Alcantar, a howitzer section chief, opens the breech on a Philippine marine corps M102 105 mm howitzer during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, Oct. 15, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)
US Marine Corps Cpl. Dominic Rosado, a light armored reconnaissance Marine, fires an M107 .50-caliber Special Applications Scoped Rifle during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base, Philippines, Oct. 14, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Adam Dublinske)
“The US Navy has a longstanding tradition of partnering with the Philippines and Japan,” said Capt. Kevin Lane, the commanding officer of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26).
“It truly is an honor to continue that tradition and to uphold our shared goals of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”
A US Marine Corps light armored vehicle fires its main gun during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, Oct. 11, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Adam Dublinske)
US Marines bivouac at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 16, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)
The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego for a regularly scheduled deployment on May 1, and entered the US 7th Fleet on September 22 after roughly two months deployed to Central Command’s area of operations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Perhaps even more so than the queen, dry humor, and flavorless foods, Brits love their tea. There’s nothing more stereotypically British than tea. That’s why it’s absolutely hilarious to the rest of the military world that British tanks come standard with a device that can make tea.
That’s right. British tanks come equipped with a “boiling vessel” that, as you can imagine, is commonly used to brew up a cup of tea during the tankers’ downtime. But there’s more to this device than you might think. Yes, it’s there so tankers can fit teatime into their war schedule, but the boiling vessel can also used for a plethora of other things.
Not much of kettle, but I guess it gets the job done.
(Think Defense Co.)
In complete fairness to our allies across the pond, the boiling vessel is not a kettle installed exclusively for the sake of tea. It’s more of an electric thermos that’s designed for cooking in general. It’ll heat up anything can be put inside, not just hot water — soups, rations, coffee, you name it. And, so it doesn’t get in the way, it’s small enough to be tucked in the back.
So, if you put in some hot water (and clean any residual stuff out), you can theoretically use it for afternoon tea… if that’s your thing.
It was also said that 37 percent of all tanker casualties during WWII occurred when they were outside of their vehicle. Any little thing to keep them inside, and alive, is a good thing.
(Imperial War Museum)
This little vessel is actually brilliant. All tanks are designed in a way that, should the worst happen, the tankers remain safely in their tanks until they get somewhere better to exit the vehicle. In case of a NBC attack, the tank is completely sealed from the outside world.
Which brings us back to the boiling vessel. There’s no need to exit the “luxurious” interior of the tank to heat up meals for the tankers or risk a potential fire hazard inside.
It might sound like a niche use case, but keep tankers in their tanks during meals was a very serious concern back in WWII. It was said that on June 12th, 1944, just six days after D-Day, a British tank brigade left their respective vehicles for a meeting and for some chow. When the Germans found out the Brits were completely exposed, they struck.
In a matter of 15 minutes, the British lost 14 tanks, nine half-tracks, four gun carriers, and two anti-tank guns at the Battle of Villers-Bocage — because they left their vehicles for just a moment.
But, for obvious reasons, Americans aren’t as in to tea as the Brits…
The thing is, the Brits aren’t the only ones who have boiling vessels inside their tanks. Nearly every first-world nation has them. Abrams and Bradleys now come standard with them. They’re all fundamentally the same thing, just a fancy water heater that keeps troops safely inside their tanks.
John A. asks: Are there any real examples of medieval castles having alligators in the moat to keep out intruders?
A common image in pop-culture is that of a castle moat filled to the brim with water and hungry crocodiles. So did anyone ever actually do this?
The short answer is that it doesn’t appear so. That said, while there’s no known documented instance of crocodiles intentionally being put into moats, we do know of at least one castle that had (and has, in fact) a moat full of bears…
Before we get to that and why crocodiles in moats are probably not the best idea in the world, or at least not a very efficient use of resources if your concern was really defense of a fortress, we should address the fact that the common image most people have in their heads of a moat isn’t exactly representative of what historical moats usually looked like.
To begin with, moats have been around seemingly as long as humans have had need of protecting a structure or area, with documented instances of them appearing everywhere from Ancient Egypt to slightly more modern times around certain Native American settlements. And, of course, there are countless examples of moats being used throughout European history. In many cases, however, these moats were little more than empty pits dug around a particular piece of land or property- water filled moats were something of a rarity.
Bodiam Castle, a 14th-century castle near Robertsbridge in East Sussex, England.
You see, unless a natural source of water was around, maintaining an artificial moat filled with water required a lot of resources to avoid the whole thing just turning into a stinking cesspool of algae and biting bugs, as is wont to happen in standing water. As with artificial ponds constructed on certain wealthy individuals’ estates, these would have to be regularly drained and cleaned, then filled back up to keep things from becoming putrid.
Of course, if one had a natural flowing water source nearby, some of these problems could be avoided. But, in the end, it turns out a water filled moat isn’t actually that much more effective than an empty one at accomplishing the goal of protecting a fortress.
And as for putting crocodiles (or alligators) in them, introducing such animals to a region, beyond being quite expensive if not their native habitat, is also potentially dangerous if the animals got out. Again, all this while not really making the act of conquering a fortress that much more difficult- so little payoff for the extra cost of maintaining crocodiles.
Unsurprisingly from this, outside of a legend we’ll get to shortly, there doesn’t appear to be any known documented cases of anyone intentionally putting crocodiles or alligators into their water filled moats.
It should also be mentioned here that while at first glance it would appear that the key purpose of a moat is to defend against soldiers attacking at the walls, they were often actually constructed with the idea of stopping soldiers under the ground. You see, a technique favoured since ancient times for breaching cities, fortresses and fortified positions was to simply dig tunnels below any walls surrounding the position and then intentionally let them collapse, bringing part of the wall above that section tumbling down. Eventually this was accomplished by use of explosives like gunpowder, but before this a more simple method was to cart a bunch of tinder into the tunnel at the appropriate point and set the whole thing ablaze. The idea here was, after all your diggers were out, to destroy the support beams used to keep the tunnel from collapsing while digging. If all went as planned, both the tunnel and the wall above it would then collapse.
North view of the fortress of Buhen in Ancient Egypt.
To get around this very effective form of breaching fortifications, moats would be dug as deeply as possible around the fortification, sometimes until diggers reached bedrock. If a natural source of water was around, surrounding the fortress with water was a potential additional benefit over the dry pit at stopping such tunneling.
Either way, beyond making tunneling more difficult (or practically impossible), dry and wet moats, of course, helped dissuade above ground attacks as well thanks to moats being quite good at limiting an enemy’s use of siege weaponry. In particular, devices such as battering rams are rendered almost entirely useless in the presence of a large moat. Though the later advent of weapons such as trebuchets made moats less effective overall, they still proved to be formidable barrier capable of kneecapping a direct assault on a castle’s walls.
All this said, it wasn’t as if proud moat owners didn’t put anything in them. There are plenty of ways to beef up moat defences without the need for water and crocodiles. Pretty much anything that slows an enemy’s advance works well. And, better year, anything that is so daunting it deters an attack at all.
In fact, archaeological surveys of moats have found evidence of things like stinging bushes having once grown throughout some moats. Whether these were intentionally planted on the part of the moat owners or just a byproduct of having a patch of land they left unattended for years at a time isn’t entirely clear. But it doesn’t seem too farfetched to think this may have been intentional in some cases. As you might imagine, wading through stinging or thorny plants while arrows and rocks and the like are raining down at you from above wasn’t exactly tops on people’s lists of things to do.
As for moats that were filled with water, while filling them with crocodiles or alligators wasn’t seemingly something anyone did, some savvy castle owners did fill them with fish giving them a nice private fishery. (As mentioned, artificial ponds built for this purpose were also sometimes a thing for the ultra-wealthy, functioning both as a status symbol, given maintaining such was incredibly expensive, and a great source of food year round).
Moving back to the dry bed moats, when not just leaving them as a simple dug pit or planting things meant to slow enemy troops, it does appear at least in some rare instances fortress owners would put dangerous animals in them, though seemingly, again, more as a status symbol than actually being particularly effective at deterring enemy troops.
Most famously, at Krumlov Castle in the Czech Republic there exists something that is most aptly described as a “bear moat”, located between the castle’s first and second courtyard. When exactly this practice started and exactly why has been lost to history, with the earliest known documented reference to the bear moat going back to 1707.
Whether designed to serve as a stark warning to potential intruders, a status symbol, or both, the castle’s grizzliest residents were tended to by a designated bearkeeper until around the early 19th century when the practice ceased. This changed again in 1857 when the castle’s then resident noble, Karl zu Schwarzenberg, acquired a pair of bears from nearby Transylvania intent on reviving the tradition. From that moment onward, outside of a brief lapse in the late 19th century, the castle’s moat has almost always contained at least one bear.
Today the bears are most definitely completely for show, and each year bear-themed celebrations are held at Christmas and on the bears’ birthdays during which children bring the bears presents.
If bears aren’t you thing, Wilhelm V, the Prince Regent of Bavaria, in the late 16th century supposedly kept both lions and a leopard in the moat of Trausnitz Castle while he lived there. However, again, it appears that Prince Wilhelm kept the animals more for show and fun than he did for defence. Beyond dangerous creatures, his moat also contained pheasants and a rabbit run.
Moving back to crocodiles being put in moats, the earliest reference to something like this (though seemingly just a legend), appears to be the legend of the Coccodrillo di Castelnuovo.
This story is recounted by the 19th and 20th century historian and politician Benedetto Croce in his “Neapolitan Stories and Legends“:
In that castle, there was a moat under the level of the sea, dark, humid, where the prisoners, who they want to more strictly castigate, were usually put. When, all of a sudden, they started to notice with astonishment that, from there, the prisoners disappeared. Did they escape? How? Put a tighter surveillance and a new guest inside there, one day they saw, unexpected and terrifying scene, from a hole hidden in the moat, a monster, a crocodile entering and, with its jaws, it grasped for the legs the prisoner, and dragged him to the sea to eat him.
Rather than kill the creature, the guards decided to make the fearsome creature an “executor of justice”, sending prisoners condemned to death to meet their end in its toothy maw. Exactly where the crocodile came from and when this supposedly happened depends on which version of the legend you consult, though our favourite version suggests that Queen Joanna II smuggled it over to Naples from Egypt sometime in the 15th century with the sole intention of feeding her many, many lovers to it.
A consistent element in most versions of the legend is that the beast bit off more than it could chew when it tried to eat a leg of a giant horse, ultimately choking on it.
Of course, this is generally thought to be nothing more than a legend, with no evidence that it actually occurred or even exactly when. At least the story does show that the idea of a crocodile in a moat isn’t just something found in modern pop culture.
Moats are starting to make a bit of a comeback in modern times, such as used to protect certain embassies from car bombings. There’s also a concrete moat around the parts of Catawba Nuclear Station that isn’t bordered by a lake, again for the purposes of protecting against car bombings and the like.
On the note of poky plants planted in moats, there are variations of a popular Scottish legend that have the thistle playing a key role in foiling the attack of an invading force. In one such version of the legend, a nighttime raid on Slains castle in modern day Aberdeenshire was foiled when sneaking Norsemen stepped on the thistles and cried out in pain, alerting the guards that a surprise attack was eminent. It is sometimes further stated that this is how The Most Noble and Most Ancient Order of the Thistle of Scotland was established and how the national flower of Scotland was chosen. Of course, there isn’t any documented evidence that exists to support the various versions of this legend.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Those mad bois over at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency are at it again. This time, they want to create a system that would let you eat your own trash, and to be honest, you’d probably like it. (The system, not the taste.)
Senior Airman Frances Gavalis tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit March 10, 2008, at Balad Air Base, Iraq.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)
Right now, the U.S. military either carts out or burns much of its trash, depending on security and environmental factors. This is resource-intensive for a force, especially during missions that are already logistically strained like special operations, expeditionary task forces, and disaster response.
But that means that the military has to burn fuel to bring supplies in on trucks, then use more fuel to cart out the trash or burn it. If the trash can be recycled locally instead, especially if it can be turned into high-need items like fuel, lubricants, food, or water, it could drastically cut down on the logistics support that troops need.
And that’s why DARPA wants you to eat your own trash. Not because they find it funny or anything, but because macronutrients can be pulled out of trash and re-fed to troops to supplement their diets.
A DARPA graphic shows how a military force’s trash and forage could be fed through a system to create organic products like fuel and food.
And that leads us to ReSource, a new program under DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. It’s led by Program Manager Blake Bextine, and he said in a press release that, “In a remote or austere environment where even the basics for survival can’t be taken for granted, there can be no such thing as ‘single use.'”
A successful ReSource system will be capable of completing three main processes: breaking down mixed waste, including recalcitrant, carbon-rich polymers like those in common plastics; reforming upgradeable organic molecules and assembling them into strategic materials and chemicals; and recovering purified, usable products. In the case of food, the ReSource output would be a basic product composed of macronutrients ready for immediate consumption.
Spc. Mary Calkin, a member of the Washington State National Guard, takes a plate of food at the Freedom Inn Dining Facility at Fort Meade, Maryland.
(U.S. Army photo Joe Lacdan)
Operators would feed waste into the system and then select what supplies were most valuable to them at the time. Need food? Well, it sounds like you’re getting a paste, but at least you’ll have something to keep you going. But when there is plenty of MREs or locally sourced food to go around, commanders could opt for fuel for generators and lubricants for equipment.
And there’s no reason that the feedstock would necessarily be limited to strictly trash. After all, a bunch of tree branches may not be edible for troops, but the ReSource setup might be able to extract the nutrients and create something that troops could consume, maybe with a lot of spices.
Systems would range in size depending on what is needed, potentially as small as a man-portable system for small teams but going as high as a shipping container that could support much larger operations. Ideally, no specialists would be needed to run the system. Troops don’t need to know how the system works; they just feed waste in and take supplies out.
It’s a new DARPA program, meaning that DARPA is looking for researchers to bring ideas and nascent technologies to the table for consideration.
Their Proposers Day meeting for ReSource will take place on August 29 in Phoenix.
Every one who’s ever work the uniform loves that military discount. No matter how hard you try to deny it or blow off a small discount, that extra ten percent ain’t bad. In California, that’s like not paying sales tax. While we all love them and appreciate them when it happens, many of us don’t really go looking for them. Let’s be real: shopping purely for military discounts can be a lot of work. Now you can find everything you’ll ever need discounted in one place.
And what’s more, your shopping spree will go toward helping your fellow veterans.
Then you can keep your savings in one place.
GovX has access to the products and brands everyone loves, not just veterans. From outdoor gear by The North Face to Ray-Ban accessories, this site covers most anything you can think of wanting or needing for work or play. Like the A-10 being a tough plane designed around a giant gun, GovX is a retailer designed around providing amazing discounts to military, veterans, and first responders.
The site is like the exclusive Costco for the military-veteran and uniformed community. A membership with GovX provides access to discounts on brands like 5.11 Tactical, Propper, Vortex Optical, Under Armour, and – amazingly – Yeti.
If you’re unfamiliar with this miracle brand, I suggest you head to the Google posthaste.
But wait. That’s not what really makes GovX stand out. The real power of this site is that every month, the company selects a new nonprofit organization who does work related to first responders, military members, veterans, and their families and donates a portion of its revenues to the chosen groups. This is what GovX calls “Mission: Giveback.”
Previous Mission: Giveback recipients include the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Firefighter Aid, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the Semper Fi Fund, Team Rubicon, The Pat Tillman Foundation, and the Green Beret Foundation.
In 2019, GovX is supporting the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event that brings together entrepreneurs and veterans from all walks of life to share knowledge, build one another up, and help mentor each other through the rigors of starting their own businesses. Learn more about it by visiting the website and look for a Military Influencer Conference near you.
Now feel free to splurge on those yoga shorts you were iffy about buying – and feel good about doing something for your brothers and sisters in arms.
After enduring countless hardships and overcoming unimaginable obstacles, Airman 1st Class Guor Maker, a dental assistant currently in technical training, found his way out of war-torn South Sudan, Africa and into the U.S. nearly 20 years ago.
As one of roughly 20,000 children uprooted by the gruesome Second Sudanese Civil War, Maker’s childhood was far from normal. After losing 28 family members, including eight of his nine siblings, 8-year-old Maker set out on foot from South Sudan to live with his uncle.
“The country I came from was torn apart by war,” said Maker. “It was all I knew growing up, nothing else. I’ve seen people die in front of me, but I knew no matter what, I had to make it.”
During his harrowing journey, Maker was captured and enslaved twice: once by Sudanese soldiers, and once by herdsmen.
“When I was captured, I was forced to be a slave laborer,” said Maker. “I would wash dishes or do anything else needed to get by. I slept in a small cell and rarely got to eat… but not always.”
Both times, Maker successfully escaped from enslavement and was finally able to join his uncle in Khartoum after three perilous years. However, his journey to safety was far from over.
During a nighttime attack on the perceived safety of his uncle’s home, Maker sustained serious injuries when he was beaten unconscious by a soldier who smashed his jaw with a rifle.
“My mouth was shut for two months and I could only consume liquids because my jaw was broken,” he said. “We fled to Egypt after that, and the United Nations treated my injuries.”
After two years of filling out paperwork at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Egypt, Maker and his uncle’s family were finally granted permission to enter the United States.
“I was very excited to come to the U.S.,” said Maker. “Looking back at everything my family and I endured, it is a miracle that we made it out of there.”
When Maker first arrived in the U.S. in 2001, he settled in Concord, New Hampshire. Not only did he want to survive, but he wanted to thrive.
“I wanted to change my life, help my parents back in South Sudan, and give my future children a better childhood than the one I had,” he said. “And the only way to do that was through education and determination.”
Maker started with the basics and began learning English by watching children’s cartoons and spending plenty of time with other high school kids just listening to their conversations and absorbing all that he could.
“Within a short amount of time, I was able to communicate with effectively with other students and teachers, order food, and really get by on my own,” Maker said.
While learning English was a crucial step in his personal journey, Maker’s high school career really took off when one of his teachers introduced him to running.
“Running was always just natural and easy for me,” said Maker. “It was a great high school experience and it helped me meet a lot of friends, build confidence and it was genuinely fun.”
After winning the National High School indoor two-mile title, Maker received a scholarship to compete at Iowa State University, where he allowed himself to dream of things that had never been done before.
“When I got to college in 2005, I remember hanging a piece of paper on my wall that said I was going to run in the Olympics in 2012 for South Sudan,” said Maker. “I thought ‘Why not me? Why can’t I do it?'”
Maker graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and reached All-American status as a student-athlete, Ready to start his new life. Maker planned to head to Flagstaff, Arizona to train for the 2012 Olympics.
The same day he left for Arizona in 2011 was the day South Sudan officially gained its independence.
“I drove the whole way celebrating and it was a very special day that I will always remember,” said Maker.
Following his year of training, Maker qualified to run the marathon in the 2012 Olympics in London.
Even though South Sudan officially gained its independence, the country was not yet a member of the International Olympic Committee and Maker was still not an official U.S. citizen.
“State senators from New Hampshire and Arizona presented my case to the Senate in Washington D.C. so the International Olympic Committee allowed me to run in the Olympics without a country,” said Maker.
Even though his dream of running for South Sudan had not yet come true, Maker accomplished a great deal as an unaffiliated Olympian.
“All of the people in South Sudan knew where I was from,” said Maker. “I wanted to be the inspiration for the children to say, ‘Hey, if Maker can do it, you know what, I can do it too.'”
After the 2012 Olympics, Maker was undeterred and set a new goal for himself and his country.
“I said to myself, ‘In 2016, I’m going to bring South Sudan to the Olympics for the first time,'” said Maker. “I wanted to try to do more for my country and the 2012 Olympics only strengthened my conviction to accomplish my goal.”
This time around Maker’s dream became a reality in Rio de Janeiro 2016 when he became one of three athletes to be the first to represent South Sudan in an Olympic games, as well as South Sudan’s flag bearer for the opening ceremony.
“Walking into that stadium, carrying the South Sudan flag was just indescribable,” said Maker. “The people of South Sudan were in my mind the whole time I was running into the stadium with that flag and it meant so much to me.”
While it was a truly incredible and improbable moment for Maker, his thoughts were filled with the people of his home country while he was running with that flag.
“Over 50 years of civil war and my country finally got independence,” said Maker. “So many lives were lost for our freedom, it was just ringing in my head that we have done it, we have done it. On that day, everyone in South Sudan was at peace watching the Olympics for the first time.”
The 2016 Olympics were an enormous accomplishment for the former slave and South Sudan native that went far beyond his 82nd overall finish.
“I couldn’t have accomplished any of it without all the support I received from my family and the opportunity the United States gave me. It’s the highlight of my athletic career so far and a moment I’ll treasure forever.”
The next chapter in Maker’s life began when he decided to join the U.S. Air Force to serve the country that gave him so many opportunities.
“All of the things I’ve accomplished have derived from the opportunities the U.S. has afforded me,” said Maker. “When I first came to America, I didn’t have hardly anything, but with the support and opportunity this country has given me, I’ve been able to completely change my life.”
The staff at basic military training had no idea who Maker was, but he quickly stood out to leadership at the 324th Training Squadron.
“I went out to the track and saw the instructors were putting their attention on one trainee in particular,” said Maj. John Lippolis, director of operations for the 324th TRS. “I could see him running noticeably faster than everyone else and the instructors explained to me that we had a two-time Olympian at BMT.”
In addition to Maker’s Olympian status, his unique personal story also stood out Lippolis.
“I was just absolutely floored when I talked to him about what he went through to get to where he is today,” said Lippolis. “Not only did he get survive, he wanted to better himself and he has accomplished so much. He has an amazing story and the drive he has displayed to succeed like that in the face of such adversity is truly inspiring.”
Maker not only inspired Lippolis, but other members of his flight were inspired too.
“All of his wingmen said the same things when I talked to them,” said Lippolis. “They told me what an inspiration he was within the flight; that the flight rallied around him and he doesn’t do anything he’s supposed to do for himself until he helps out everybody else.”
While Maker has accomplished a great deal in his lifetime, he’s not done dreaming.
Maker hopes to join the Air Force World Class Athlete Program, a program designed to allow elite athletes the opportunity to train and compete in national events to make the Olympics. He also wants to make the 2020 Olympics where he’ll have the opportunity to represent his new home and the country that gave him so much.
“Joining the greatest Air Force in the world has been an absolute miracle,” said Maker. “I can’t wait to see what this next chapter holds for me.”
Communications troops don’t get nearly the amount of love that they deserve. Sure, the job description is very attractive to the more nerdy troops in formation and they’re far more likely to be in supporting roles than kicking in doors with the grunts, but they’re constantly working.
In Afghanistan, while everyone else is still asleep, the S-6 shop is up at 0430 doing radio work. This is just one of the many tasks the commo world is gifted with having.
(U.S. Army Photo)
The reason they’re up so early is because they need to change the communications security (or COMSEC) regularly. In order to ensure that no enemy force is able to hack their way into the military’s secure radio systems, the crypto-key that is encoded onto the radio is changed out.
Those keys are changed out at exactly the same moment everywhere around the world for all active radio systems. Because it would be impractical to set the time that COMSEC changes over at, the global time for radio systems is set in Zulu time, which is the current time in London’s GMT/UTC +0 time zone.
For troops stationed in Korea or Japan, this gives them a pleasant 0900 to change the COMSEC. Troops on America’s west coast have 1600 (which is great because it’s right before closeout formation.) If they’re stationed in Afghanistan however, they get the unarguably terrible time of 0430.
Each and every radio system that will be used needs to be refilled by the appropriate radio operator. When this is just before a patrol, the sole radio operator with the SKL (the device used to encrypt radios) will usually be jokingly heckled to move faster. The process usually takes a few minutes per radio, which could take a while.
This is also why the radios themselves are set to Zulu time. If the radio is not programmed to Zulu time — or if it’s slightly off —it won’t read the encryption right and radio transmissions won’t be effective. This goes to the exact second.
So maybe cut your radio guy some slack. The only time they could be spending sleeping is used to program radios.
Visiting France for the first time as an 18-year-old from the Midwest was a trip I will always treasure. After spending several days in and around London. I was ready to put my high school French to the test, and immerse myself in the French culture. I traveled by train from London to the southern coast to board a ferry to Northern France.
As the ferry got further away from the English coastline, the gray skies began to clear and I could see France in the distance. There was a subtle breeze blowing across the English Channel, which created a serine feeling. When the ferry slowed, signaling the final moments of the ride. I gazed at the beauty before my eyes. The lush green fields and trees on top of the slopes leading onto the beaches looked like a slice of heaven.
My first few steps in France were ushered in by the smell of freshly cut flowers being sold on the street. It was only a matter of minutes before the pastel hues of the flowers and landscape revealed their inspiration for the birthplace of Impressionism. For a moment, I felt I had been transported into a Manet painting.
Turning back around to look at the English Channel, I was overcome with an eerie stillness. It had been 55 years since Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944, known as D-Day.
There were two contrasting French coasts viewed by an 18-year-old in 1999, and an 18-year-old in June of 1944. In those waters off the French coast, thousands of Americans boarded transporters that resembled an open-air commercial sized dumpster on water. There were young men from every corner of the country, split between the transport boats. On some of those small boats there were 18-year-old boys, who had never traveled far from home until that moment.
It’s likely they weren’t focused on the beautiful scenery they were about to disembark upon. Their final thoughts before stepping down the ramp into the choppy waters of the Channel weren’t of eager anticipation to sample the French cuisine, or leisurely strolls through street markets of small French villages. They were of their families back home, who were unaware of the impending horror their loved ones were about to endure, or unaware that by the end of the day, history would change course. Within hours, thousands of American families would be forever changed. Sons, brothers, husbands and fathers would meet their destiny on the shores of Northern France.
At the top of those slopes leading to the beach, Nazi forces opened fire on the thousands of Allied forces storming the beaches. Suddenly, dreams of owning a home or business paled in comparison to the hope of surviving long enough to feel the grass beneath their feet as they continued the bloody campaign inland.
For the American GI’s lucky enough to survive long enough to reach the sandy beaches. The water washing ashore was bright red. It became impossible to tell if the blood shed by Allied forces had overtaken the waters of the Channel.
If a famous Impressionist artist like Cezanne were to capture the moment in a painting, the landscape in the artwork would be void of any gentle pastels. Instead, grey, brown and red would capture the ominousness of the harrowing invasion.
Before the horror besieging the shores, the dark, early morning sky was littered with planes depositing thousands of American paratroopers scattered throughout Normandy. Many planes were shot from the sky as paratroopers leaped from them. Some blasts were so violent they knocked weapons out of the paratroopers’ possession. For those who landed safely on the ground, many found themselves alone in a foreign and hostile land. As they dodged German fighters, paratroopers began to link up to form a stronger offensive force.
The invasion took years to plan, and careful coordination between American, British and Canadian forces comprised of over 150,000 troops. Among the 150,000 troops, 14 Comanche “code-talkers” relayed critical messages in their Native American tongue, which German forces were unable to translate.
By the end of June 6,1944, the Germans had been bombarded by air, land and sea from Allied forces. The Atlantic theater began to shift from Nazi control of Europe to a liberated Western Europe. More than 4,000 Allied troops lost their lives in the D-Day invasion.
The success of D-Day was the turning point, and beginning of the end for the Nazis.
In the 76 years since D-Day, millions of people have blissfully explored the rich history, beauty and diverse cultures of Europe. It was the bravery and sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of Allied forces on D-Day that helped save the world.
I was privileged to experience all the beauty Europe offers as an 18-year-old, because thousands of 18-year-olds on June 6, 1944 had the courage to face evil directly in the face.
Winston Churchill summarized it best, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi achieved international recognition after he threw both of his shoes at President George W. Bush. Now, Iraq’s most well-known political activist is running for the office of Parliamentary member.
He first grabbed the media’s attention in December 2008 when then-President George W. Bush was at a farewell press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad.
Partway through the conference, al-Zaidi stood up and shouted, “this is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog!” and threw the first shoe. He shouted, “this is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq” when he threw the second. Both missed. He was quickly arrested for attacking a head of state.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki argued that he should face 15 years in jail or execution. Al-Zaidi alleges he was tortured by the Prime Minister’s security detail. Eventually, he was sentenced to three years for the incident because of his age and clean criminal record, had it reduced to one year, and was released in nine months for good behavior.
During his imprisonment, crowds called for his release and a monument was erected to the shoes that lasted a whole day before being torn down by the Iraqi central government.
(Screengrab via YouTube)
Ever since the incident, President Bush has taken it in stride saying, “I’m not angry with the system. I believe that a free society is emerging, and a free society is necessary for our own security and peace.” Al-Zaidi, meanwhile, went to Geneva where he announced that he started a humanitarian agency to build orphanages and children’s hospitals in Iraq.
Now, Al-Zaidi is running for one of the 328 seats of parliament on May 12th, making this the first open election since the Iraqi government declared victory over ISIS last December. His goals include efforts to rebuild Iraq after the country’s tumultuous recent history.
There are at least 11 NFL players that would be dead now had it not been for the lifesavers that came to their rescue. An ad set to air during Super Bowl LIII pays tribute to them and the many, many like them who risk their lives to save others.
“The Team That Wouldn’t Be Here” is comprised of 11 players and a coach who share their rescue stories as they came close to death in natural disasters, car accidents, and more. One iteration of the campaign aired during the NFC and AFC Championship games, but an all-new one is set to air during the big game.
included in the campaign is a microsite, AllOurThanks.com, that houses a dozen stories, told by the NFL players who were rescued, as they offer their thanks to the first responded who saved their lives and the lives of their loved ones. The stories were directed by Peter Berg, the Emmy-nominated director of Friday Night Lights and 2013’s Lone Survivor.
“The idea of acknowledging first responders is something I believe in,” Berg told USA Today. “It’s something that I don’t think ever gets old.”
Raiders Quarterback A.J. McCarron would be dead now after a jetski accident as a child. The Packers’ Clay Matthews wouldn’t be here because of a bicycle accident. For the Texans’ Carlos Watkins, it was a car accident. The videos also feature the players family and other loved ones – as well as some of the first responders who actually rescued these players.
The website, launched by Verizon, allows anyone to give thanks to a first responder by uploading a photo along with your first name and last initial. The beautiful, heartfelt thank-yous play on a rotating ticker at the bottom of the page as the ad reads “First responders answer the call. Our job is to make sure they can get it.”