The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

Say what you want about President Nixon, the man knew what the greatest asset in the U.S. military was – the people who served. As a veteran himself, he could appreciate what it was like to be in the military during wartime. What Nixon couldn’t know as a vet was what it was like to be captured and tortured by the enemy. As Commander-In-Chief during the Vietnam War, he knew exactly how many Americans were held captive.

When they came home, he showed his appreciation in style.


The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

President Richard Nixon and Pat Nixon on stage at the White House Dinner for the American Prisoners of War (POW) who were returned by the North Vietnamese government. On stage with President Nixon and Mrs. Nixon are singer Vic Damone, comedian-actor Bob Hope, “God Bless America” songwriter Irving Berlin, and singer-actor-dancer Sammy Davis, Jr.

(National Archives)

It was three months after the repatriation of American POWs from North Vietnam that a huge tent was erected on the back lawn of the White House. The President and the First Lady were about to throw the largest White House dinner in the history of the American Republic. The guests of honor were every single Vietnam POW who just came home, more than 590, 34 of which couldn’t make it due to continued treatment. Along with them came a star-studded guest list that included John Wayne, Bob Hope, and Jimmy Stewart.

“President Nixon made us feel like we were the stars,” said retired Air Force Col. Robert Certain. “President Nixon is one of our heroes.” Nixon also took the time to meet every single of the POWs.”

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

“He was a hero to us. He will always be revered by us as a group because he got us home,” said retired Marine Corps Capt. Orson Swindle, who spent more than six years in a Hanoi prison camp.

Some 40 years later, the same POWs re-gathered for a reunion at the Richard Nixon Memorial Library in Yorba Linda, Calif. They brought their families along to celebrate the anniversary of their release as well as the unforgettable dinner the President threw for them, taking them from eating with their hands in a cell to eating on White House china and shaking hands with the stars.

As of the 2013 reunion, the 1973 dinner was still the largest dinner ever held at the White House.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

First Lady Pat Nixon greets touring POW families during the evening events.

The POWs were also given unfettered access to areas of the White House normally off-limits to the public. They were able to tour the historic mansion without guides or maps. One pair of veterans even told ABC news they accidentally walked into President Nixon’s private study, with the man himself seated at its desk. He told them it was alright and he would be out to greet them in a minute.

But the President could not stay up all night with the troops and retired before the evening was over, ordering the staff to let everyone stay until they wanted to go. But before leaving he told the POWs:

“I have spoken to many distinguished audiences. I can say to you today that this is the most distinguished group I have ever addressed, and I have never been prouder than I am at this moment to address this group.”
MIGHTY CULTURE

Why squadrons are the ‘beating heart’ of the Air Force

In the Air Force, squadrons are the basic level of operations, its “beating heart” as Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein calls them.

To better understand how significant the squadron is to the Air Force, it’s also important to know what a squadron is.

Within the Air Force, the squadron is the lowest level of command with a headquarters element. Squadrons are typically commanded by a lieutenant colonel, though smaller squadrons may be commanded by majors, captains and sometimes even lieutenants. Squadrons can also vary in size and are usually identified numerically and by function. An example would be the 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron or the 355th Communications Squadron.


Two or more squadrons form a group. In the Air Force, groups are usually based upon the assignment of squadrons with similar functions. For example, the supply squadron, transportation, and aircraft maintenance squadron would be assigned to the Logistics Group, the flying squadrons would be assigned to the Operations Group and the Dental Squadron and the Medical Squadron would be assigned to the Medical Group. Groups, in turn, are then assigned to a wing with the same number. For instance, the 49th Logistics Group is assigned to the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

However, the squadron actually predates the Air Force. In March 1913, the first squadron was created when the Army ordered the creation of the Army Air Services’ 1st Provisional Aero Squadron – known today as the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, the U.S. military’s oldest flying unit.

The creation of higher echelons came later as the role of air power grew during World War I. Groups and wings were formed in order to remedy the difficulty of coordinating aerial activities between dispersed aero squadrons. Though WWI saw the first great military mobilization, it also saw the first huge drawdown. What was more than 660 aero units diminished to a little over 70 squadrons by 1919, with an air component that was 19,000 soldiers strong reduced to around 5 percent of what it used to be. No one would have predicted that after two decades, the air component found itself expanding once again.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

108th Bombardment Squadron during the Korean War activation formation in 1951.

(US Air Force photo)

With the advent of World War II, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt acknowledged the growing importance of airpower. He believed, according to his adviser, Harry Hopkins, “that airpower would win the war.” What was then renamed to the Army Air Corps was well funded and grew rapidly, seeing more planes and squadrons than it ever will in its history – from a workforce comprised of 26,500 soldiers in 1939 to a staggering 2,253,000-strong by 1945.

The aerial component saw a considerable drawdown after the war ended, and, despite becoming its own department through the National Security Act of 1947, the number of airmen and squadrons continued to fluctuate and shrink over the years.

In the current Air Force, led by Wilson, Goldfein, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, the push for revitalizing squadrons, empowering airmen and supporting innovation is stronger than ever, but unbeknownst to many, these concepts have been implemented by many successful military leaders of the past. A prime example is one of the U.S. Air Force’s most iconic figures: a man known for his prowess in the aerial battlefield and his famously distinctive lip foliage, Big. Gen. Robin Olds.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

“Wolfpack” aviators of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing carry their Commanding Officer, Colonel Robin Olds, following his return from his last combat mission over North Vietnam, on 23 September 1967. This mission was his hundredth “official” combat mission, but his actual combat mission total for his tour was 152. Olds led the 8th TFW Wolfpack from September 1966 through September 1967, as it amassed 24 MiG victories, the greatest aerial combat record of an F-4 Wing in the Vietnam war.

(US Air Force)

Along with inspiring the Air Force tradition, Mustache March, Olds was known as a triple ace for shooting down 17 enemy aircraft during his career. Along with the accolades he received as a skilled fighter pilot, Olds was known for his innovative leadership. In Vietnam, he led the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing to 24 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 jet aircraft kills – an unsurpassed total for that conflict.

One of the most significant moments in his career was on Jan. 2, 1967, during Operation Bolo, where he, as a colonel, entrusted the planning of an experimental and high-stakes mission to a quartet of veteran junior officers and pilots in his unit. Operation Bolo was conceived in response to the North Vietnamese use of MiG-21s to successfully shoot down F-105 Thunderchief aircraft. Olds noticed that F-4 Phantoms and F-105 Thunderchiefs routes became predictable. Enemy intelligence analysts would listen in on radio transmissions and were able to recognize F-105 and F-4 call signs and flight patterns and used the information to target the more vulnerable F-105s. Olds charged his men to come up with a plan to trick the North Vietnamese into thinking the F-4s were the F-105s. The F-4s were then fitted with the jamming pods usually carried by F-105s so that their electronic signature would be the same and also used the same call signs and flew the same routes and pod formations as the F-105s. Needless to say, the operation was a success and lead to the most MiGs shot down during a single mission.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

Francis S. Gabreski (left) congratulates another World War II and Korean War ace, Maj. William T. Whisner (center). On the right is Lt. Col. George Jones, a MiG ace with 6.5 kills.

(US Air Force)

In a commentary commemorating Olds in March of 2018 written by Lt. Col. Bobby Schmitt, 16th Space Control Squadron commander, he said that Operation Bolo “showed innovation could work when the leader trusted and empowered his people to think of and implement new and better ways to do business.”

He also referred to Olds as “an innovative leader” at a time when the Air Force was in dire need of innovation to face difficult missions where a lot of people’s lives were at stake.

Just like Olds, Goldfein and Wilson ask airmen to help come up with ideas to reinvigorate squadrons for the force to be ready for the 21st-century fight.

They have gone as far as reviewing all Air Force instructions and empowering commanders to maneuver and make decisions as well as encourage wing commanders to let squadron commanders make important decisions.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

Capt. Lacey Koelling, the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge, and 34th Bomb Squadron members Capt. Lillian Pryor, a B-1 pilot; Capt. Danielle Zidack, a weapon systems officer; Capt. Lauren Olme, a B-1 pilot; and 1st Lt. Kimberly Auton, a weapon systems officer, conduct a preflight briefing prior to an all-female flight out of Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 21, 2018. The flight was in honor of WomenÕs History Month and consisted of routine training in the local area.

(Air Force photo by Sgt. Jette Carr)

During an Air Force update in September 2017, where Goldfein talked about creating healthy squadrons who excel in multi-domain warfare and ready to lead the joint force, he concluded by saying, “It’s the secretary and my job to release the brilliance found throughout the airmen in our Air Force,” a sentiment that echoes the voices of great Air Force leaders of the past, the present and the future.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tyndall F-22s will be appraised by Lockheed engineers

The F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets left behind at Tyndall Air Base when Hurricane Michael damaged or destroyed virtually every building on site will be visited by structural engineers from Lockheed Martin, the defense contractor tweeted.

Tyndall Air Base serves as a critical training and maintenance ground for about 50 F-22s, or nearly a third of all of the world’s most capable air superiority jets near Panama City, Florida, Dallas News, who first reported the story, said.

Hurricane Michael hit Tyndall with unexpected force and sooner than expected, and the Air Force left some of the jets, which cost in the hundreds of millions apiece, behind in the base’s most hardened hangars.


But the storm proved historically powerful, and images of the aftermath show the hangars torn open. Initial assessments said that up to 17 of the planes had been destroyed, but top US Air Force officials later visited the base and said the damage wasn’t as bad as first thought.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., taxi after landing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio for safe haven.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley Farnsworth)

While the Air Force still won’t share how many F-22s were left behind, or how bad they were damaged by the storm, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sounded hopeful on Oct. 16, 2018.

“I’m not ready to say it can all be fixed, but our initial review was perhaps more positive than I anticipated … in light of the amount of damage,” Mattis said, as the Air Force Times notes.

The Air Force did manage to relocate a number of air-worthy F-22s before the storm, and they’ve returned to training stealth pilots in the world’s most capable combat plane. The limited run of F-22s, their stealth shaping and coating, and rare parts make repairing them a costly endeavor.

But with Tyndall all but wiped off the map by Michael, it remains unclear when the US’s top fighter jet will get back on track.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 20th

Female sailors seem to be getting the hair regulations loosened to allow a more natural look. This (obviously) caused a gigantic backlash among male soldiers demanding the permitting of beards. Honestly, it doesn’t really make sense to disallow sailors to grow beards in the first place. After all, naval history tied to glorious beards, in both the U.S. Navy and around the world. As long as they keep their beards groomed, it’d be a boost to morale and it’d cut out the crappy rush to shave each morning.

But we’ll see. 7th Fleet will probably crash another ship into a civilian fishing vessel and blame it on sailors having beards instead of actually taking responsibility for it.

Anyways. Have some memes, you glorious bastards.


The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Buck Sergeant)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Military Memes)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Navy Memes)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Private News Network)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme by The Salty Soldier)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme by WATM)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Grunt Style)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Tweet via Pop Smoke)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme by WATM)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Humor

6 disappointing things new recruits discover after basic training

Civilians have grandiose ideas about what happens in the military. Those fantasies drive eager, bright-eyed youngsters into recruiters’ offices who land in basic training thinking they’re going to be the most badass Green Beret sniper who’s ever lived.


Sadly, the actual number of badass Green Beret snipers out there is a tiny fraction of the people who think they can cut it. Keep that chin up, recruit. Ending up just another cog in the machine isn’t a bad thing.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

An entire unit sweeping the sidewalk? It’s more common than you think.

(Photo by Glenn Sircy)

A solid 95% of military service is about cleaning and bureaucracy

So, you’ve learned that “Green Beret sniper” isn’t something you can enlist into right away and you’ve picked a far more boring job. Well, if it makes you feel any better, you likely won’t be doing that job, either.

You’ll actually end up somewhere between janitor and secretary. This isn’t even a grunt vs POG thing — if anything, grunts will be doing far more cleaning than anyone else. Everyone scrubs floors until they make rank enough to do paperwork on the guy who didn’t want to scrub floors.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

Or you’ll be using gear your NCO just picked up at Walmart

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kyle Steckler)

You rarely do the things you learn in schools

Not only will you be spending god-knows-how-many weeks learning your less-fun profession, you can basically forget almost all of it because it’s either out of date, doesn’t apply to your unit, or your unit does things completely differently.

Take radios, for instance: New radios are fielded left and right. The last people to get the new stuff, however, are the schools. This means you’ll spend months trying to master a Vietnam-era radio system only to later be grilled at your unit for not knowing satellite communication.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

There will also be so much commotion going on that you’ll forget how to PLF and probably eat sh*t upon landing.

(Photo by Spc. Henry Villarama)

You’ll find out that the things you learn at the “fun” schools still suck

Nearly every school that troops try to get into is fully booked. Most of the time, you’ll attend the ones that occasionally help make you more valuable to your unit. But every now and then, you’ll be thrown a bone and wiggle your way into something awesome, like Airborne or Air Assault school.

Just how “awesome” are these schools, really? First, you’ll be required to learn all the technical specs of every aircraft you may, possibly, one day (maybe) jump out of. Then, when it’s time to actually jump, well, the military has ways of making that less fun, too. Airborne jumps usually involve 14 hours of waiting for two minutes of action that you barely have control over.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

Don’t worry, shared pain will get you there.

(Photo by Sgt. William A. Tanner)

Camaraderie isn’t given to you — it’s earned

You’ll hear the phrase “one team, one fight” echoed by nearly every NCO to help motivate the formation. They’ll even assign you a battle buddy to help keep an eye on you. They’ll even toss you into the barracks where there’s basically a party every night.

But no one will automatically give a sh*t about you. You need to earn your right to make a brother for life.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

Even grenades become boring once you learn they don’t explode like in the movies.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christian J. Robertson)

You won’t be having much fun at the range

The most satisfying moment of any military career is range day — but don’t get your hopes up. The range safety NCO will rarely call weapons free. And when they do, don’t worry — the big green weenie knows how to suck the fun out of that, too.

Nearly every time you go to the range, it’s to qualify or to learn the fundamentals of marksmanship. There’s a lot of time, money, and effort that goes into setting up a range for a single unit.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

On the bright side, you’ll laugh at people who think the wait at the DMV is bad…

(Photo by Jesse Weinstein)

Most of your career will be spent waiting.

The one skill learned by all troops of all ranks across all eras is how wait in one place for long periods of time, doing nothing but standing still in absolute silence. You’ll wait on formation. You’ll wait on Pvt. Snuffy to arrive with the arms room key. You’ll wait on mission SP, on guard duty, and on the tarmac to fly anywhere.

If you think the waiting ends when you get out of the service, think again. Let me welcome you to the biggest waiting room of them all: the VA healthcare system.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the injury that Jodies everywhere should fear

We’re all familiar with the story of Joe D. Grinder, right? Joe the Grinder was a fictional ladies’ man who seduced the wives of hard-working men, prisoners, and soldiers while the husbands were away. The character dates back to the 1930s, and is a staple of the military where he’s known as “Jody.” Turns out, there’s an injury named for jerks exactly like that.


It’s known as either the “Lover’s Fracture” or the “Don Juan Fracture.” And it’s so named because if you jump out of a second- or third-story window because the spouse of your lover just got home, you’re probably going to suffer the fracture yourself.

It’s a break of the heel bone, specifically the calcaneus. It’s diagnosed with X-rays, but symptoms include pain, bruising, and trouble walking. But best-case scenario when we’re talking about a recently active Jody, the fracture commonly happens at the same time as fractures in the hips and backs.

So, yeah, Jody’s gonna have a lot of trouble walking when his heel, hips, and back are all fractured at the same time.

Usually, we don’t root for other people to be severely injured. But we’re willing to make exceptions when it comes to Jody. Seriously, military marriages have enough stress without some jerk flying circles over them like vultures, waiting for deployments or other stress.

No one needs Jody around. And if he wanted healthy heels, he should have learned to do a parachute landing fall or dated single women. When a stranger sleeps with paratroopers’ wives, he should learn to jump like one. And that goes for female Jodies as much as the male ones. And while we’re not rooting for anyone to inflict physical violence on someone else outside of combat, a 10- or 20-foot fall is likely safer than being captured by an irate Marine. Or soldier, sailor, airman, or Coastie.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy’s first World War II ace shot down five bombers on a single mission

Lieutenant Edward “Butch” O’Hare’s Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter carried about 30-40 seconds worth of ammunition. He was one of two Wildcats held in reserve as the rest of his squadron attacked a formation of Japanese bombers coming for the carrier USS Lexington. 

A similar plane to the one used by O'Hare.
A similar plane to the one used by O’Hare.

As the fighting in the Pacific raged on that day above the Lexington, radar screens picked up another formation coming for the carrier from the other end of the battlefield. Nine enemy bombers were on approach so, Butch O’Hare and his wingman made a beeline for the enemy.

When Thatch’s guns jammed, that left O’Hare as the sole fighter to take on a nine bomber formation. He would take down five of them and earn the Medal of Honor.

The USS Lexington was part of a task force on its way to raid the Japanese-held island of Rabaul on Fed. 20, 1942. The carrier launched its planes when it started picking up Japanese seaplanes on its radar screens. The naval aviators were soon fully engaged fighting bombers on their way to sink the Lexington. 

The first formation to appear were nine Mitsubishi G4M Betty Bombers, which the Americans quickly took on. As they pursued their quarry, Lt. O’Hare and Lt. Marion Dufilho held back with the carrier in case any other threats should appear. They didn’t have to wait long. Less than an hour after the first wave, another nine-plane formation appeared on the other side of the carrier.

Only Dufilho and O’Hare could engage the newcomers, and that’s exactly what they did. But Dufilho’s guns jammed. In an age before missiles, it made his presence useless in the defense of the ship. O’Hare would go in alone. 

Dropping in on the bombers from 1,500 feet above their formation, O’Hare came in guns blazing, even though he only had precious few seconds of ammunition. He started in on the formation’s right flank, taking two out immediately, but temporarily. He next came in on its left side, forcing one to abort his bombing run and shooting down another.

For his third pass, he hit the left side again, permanently taking down three more, including the enemy’s lead plane. On his fourth pass, the first two that had dropped out rejoined the formation and now O’Hare was out of ammunition. Four bombers were still on their way to the Lexington.

The four remaining Japanese Mitsubishi bombers dropped their ordnance, but luckily for the Americans, they all missed. Only two of them were able to return to base, the rest were destroyed, shot down or lost. O’Hare’s Wildcat had only one bullet hole in it. 

Only two U.S. Navy planes were lost that day and the Lexington successfully participated in the raid Rabaul. O’Hare became the first U.S. Navy flying ace of World War II and the first naval aviator to receive the Medal of Honor. 

Butch O'Hare
Lt. Butch O’Hare seated in the cockpit of his Grumman F4F “Wildcat” fighter, circa spring 1942. The plane is marked with five Japanese flags, representing the five enemy bombers he was credited with shooting down

O’Hare briefly trained new naval aviators in Hawaii before returning to combat duty in 1943. He would go on to earn the Navy Cross, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and a Purple Heart. But disaster struck during another Navy first. 

O’Hare led the Navy’s first fighter attack launched from a carrier at night. He was shot down fighting the Japanese at night and his plane was never found. In 1949, Chicago’s main international passenger airport was named in his honor. 

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

See Rosie run! Military spouses run for elected office

There has never been an active-duty military spouse elected to Congress. As overall military representation has fallen by roughly 20% over the past 60 years, spouses of service members are seeking to close the military-civilian representation gap.

Military Families Magazine spoke to three military spouses running for elected office in 2020 to see what led them to take the leap from concerned citizen to candidate.


First active-duty spouse in Congress? 

If elected in November, Lindsey Simmons, a candidate for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District, would be the first active-duty military spouse elected to Congress. To put that in context there are currently 535 representatives in the 116th Congress. Since the election of the first female representative in 1917 there have been 51 sessions of Congress and thousands of opportunities to elect an active-duty military spouse.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

Army spouse Lindsey Simmons is running for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Her political journey began when she started working with and for veterans in her community, trying to close the civilian-military representation gap. (Military Families Magazine)

Like many military spouses, Simmons’ journey into public service started through her advocacy for military families, with a desire to improve schools and health care access.

“I recognized that There was a huge gap between military families and civilian families,” Simmons said. “And so much of the policies coming down from Washington and how they were affecting our families never made the news.”

Representation gap

On the surface, the military population seems diverse, with increased participation from women and minorities. However, those who join the military are more likely to come from military families. With the overall size of the military in decline, the average citizen’s connection to someone in the military has dropped. Seventy-nine percent of baby boomers have a military connection as compared to only 33% of millennials.

If military families choose not to participate in a “second service” by running for elected office, then their voices and experiences are left out of the political process, widening the civilian-military representation gap.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

Simmons is running for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Her political campaign was born out of her concern for her communities’ access to healthcare and other services. (Military Families Magazine)

With fewer experienced representatives in Congress, “their [politicians’] only notion of the military is what they see,” Simmons said. “And often the liaisons that DOD sends are going to be higher-ranking officers.”

Because military spouses are not subject to DOD Directive 1344.10 — the regulation that prevents active-duty service members from engaging in politics — there is no reason they cannot attempt to close the gap. According to Sarah Streyder, Director of the Secure Families Initiative and active-duty Air Force spouse, there is a lack of clarity surrounding what level of political engagement is acceptable for military families. Military programming is “missing a call to public sector engagement,” Streyder said. There are no reasons spouses should not “lobby our representatives, by voting, by speaking up in order to be a more active part of the conversations that drive war and peace.”

Serve where you want to see change

Not everyone feels called to serve in Congress, but their participation is no less valuable. Navy spouse Alexia Palacios-Peters is running for the school board in Coronado, California. Things shifted for Palacios-Peters during a parent-teacher conference.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

Coronado, California School Board candidate and Navy spouse Alexia Palacios-Peters participated in #thefrontstepsproject while actively running for elected office. Photo credit: Katie Karosich. (Military Families Magazine)

“It became clear that the teacher didn’t realize dad was deployed and had been extended four times,” Palacios-Peters said. “You’re in a military town and how many kid’s parents are on the [U.S.S. Abraham] Lincoln?”

It seemed that Coronado, a proud Navy town with a high military population, didn’t have strong military representation.

“Not all of them are residents here or are able to vote here,” Palacio-Peters said. As a politically-active resident, she hopes to “be that voice for military families because decisions are going to affect our kids.”

Being a voice in local communities is not out of reach for the average disinterested citizen.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

Before Melissa Oakley decided to run for elected office, she actively participated in politics, founding the Onslow Beat Conservative News Blog. Oakley is pictured interviewing Congressman Dr. Greg Murphy (R) after his first town hall. (Military Families Magazine)

“I really wasn’t into politics,” Melissa Oakley, a Marine Corps spouse who is running for the Board of Education in Onslow County, North Carolina, said. “I had the mindset ‘I’m a military spouse and they know I’m going to move, and they don’t want us.’ But in reality, they really do want us.”

Oakley’s call to service was born out of her personal conviction to help her community. She founded a food pantry and supported local like-minded political leaders. According to Oakley, local government involvement is vital.

“A lot of people think that we need to focus on the president; no not really. Because if you’re a homeowner your local government is controlling your property taxes being raised,” she said.

Military spouses can make a difference in the communities in which they live. The only hurdle is finding a way to get involved.

Where do I start?

Because Melissa Peck, a Navy spouse, was stationed in Japan with her family, she felt removed from the 2016 election cycle. Rather than throwing up her hands in frustration, upon her return to the U.S. she immediately joined her local political committee and brought her family along for the ride.

“All four of my kids have gone canvassing with me,” Peck said. “They have attended political rallies. We hosted a meet and greet for a congressional candidate in our home.”

Today, Peck is an elected leader of her local political party.

All candidates agree. You don’t have to run for office to make a difference. Whether you contribute one hour a month, or you turn your volunteering into a full-time job, it is appreciated. It’s attainable. And it makes a difference.

Wondering what you can do to make an impact on your community? You don’t have to run for office to make change happen:

Easy next steps

  1. Register to vote.
  2. Volunteer for a candidate or political party you support.
  3. Research candidates for the 2020 election via Vote411.org.
  4. Go to school board meetings.
  5. Show up to virtual and in-person town halls.
  6. Sign a petition for a cause you support.
  7. Involve your kids. Show them the process isn’t just for politicians.

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

Articles

How the U.S. smuggled weapons-grade uranium out of the former Soviet Union

The United States isn’t big on bipartisanship in Congress these days, but if any single event testifies to what America can do when we unite, it would have to be Project Sapphire – the secret removal of nuclear material from the former Soviet Union.

Long before the USSR fell at the end of 1991, it was clear to many in the U.S. that the “Evil Empire” was on its way out. The Cold War ending was a good thing, but it opened up a host of all new problems. For Congress, that problem was the potential for weapons-grade uranium ending up in the hands of Pakistan or North Korea, who didn’t yet have nuclear weapons. Even worse, it could end up in the hands of terrorists. 

Terrorists hadn’t yet committed some of the most egregious terror attacks against American assets in recent memory, such as the Khobar Towers attack, the World Trade Center Bombing or the attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Islamic Jihad had claimed responsibility for the 1983 Beirut barracks attack that killed 299 Americans and the U.S. now had a large presence in Saudi Arabia.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs
Map of Kazakhstan within the USSR (Wikimedia Commons)

There was 24 nuclear bombs’ worth of weapons-grade uranium sitting in the Kazakh SSR – modern-day Kazakhstan. The Soviet government was powerless to secure it and Iran and Iraq were motivated to secure it on the black market. 

That’s how Project Sapphire, a clandestine mission to secure and repackage 90% enriched, weapons-grade uranium in Kazakhstan for shipment to the United States. With state and non-state actors around the world looking to build nuclear weapons, the material had to be secured, packed, and shipped in total secrecy.

Seeing the writing on the wall for the USSR, Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn and Republican Sen. Richard Lugar created the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program in 1986. The idea was to dismantle Soviet weapons and secure the fissile materials used to build them – the weapons-grade uranium. 

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs
Senators Nunn (left) and Lugar (center) with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (right) at the Nunn-Lugar Conference Room at the Pentagon following a ceremony commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program held at the Pentagon May 9, 2016.(DoD photo by Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)(Released)

They also wrote and introduced the Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act of 1991, which provided money for former Soviet states like Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan to decommission old Soviet weapons and ship them to Russia for destruction. Nunn and Lugar wanted to keep track of that material because they believed Russia could not. 

By 1994, the Soviet Union was long gone and Kazakhstan was an independent country. Its relations with Russia were still vital to its economy and its interests, though. It did not want to risk its relationship with its benefactor but still wanted to rid itself of its excess nuclear material. 

Its biggest concern came from a former Soviet submarine plant in the country that had been abandoned. The fissile material was sitting in the remote facility and the workers hadn’t been paid in months. 

On Oct. 14, 1994, a 31-person team slipped unnoticed into Kazakhstan and secured the submarine production facility with the help of a few of the workers. For nearly a month, the team worked 12-hour shifts six days a week to remove and repack the highly enriched uranium. When they finally finished in late November, it took two Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft to move all the material from the former USSR to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. 

Upon their return, the mission was not only declassified, it was celebrated when announced to the press by the Clinton Administration and members of Congress who were instrumental in creating the means for its success.   

When American political parties are united, there’s nothing we can’t do, even if that means smuggling nuclear material out of a foreign country.


Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube.

Military Life

6 effective ways to discipline your troops without paperwork

Discipline is of paramount importance to the military’s operation. There are so many moving pieces in the armed forces that when one gear goes off course, many others feel the disruption. When a leader inevitably finds themselves in charge of a subordinate that’s not pulling their weight, it’s time to break out what the military is best known for: ass chewings.

A good leader knows that, even when it comes to discipline, every problem should be solved with the right tool — no using sledgehammers for thumbtack-sized problems. The “sledgehammer,” in this case, is paperwork. Paperwork should always be the last resort in a leader’s disciplinary arsenal.

For most problems an idiot may give you, there are more effective options outside of paperwork. You can get the same, if not better, results by using methods that don’t leave a blemish on a troop’s permanent record for being late to formation that one time.


The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

Any exercise is hard if you add 45 lbs of resistance.

(Photo by Spc. Nicholas Vidro)

Physical training

No single method is more tried and true than making someone do push-ups until you get tired of watching them push. “Sweating out the stupid” (as it was so eloquently put by one of my NCOs) should be the first response to anything that warrants a slap on the wrist.

But don’t just stick to the standard push-ups — that’s child’s play. Break out some of the free weights your supply sergeant has in the locker and really make them feel it.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

Find a relevant example for every problem. It may be other troops who’ve failed.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Raughton)

Show them why it matters

Nobody’s perfect and mistakes happen. Most troops don’t know what they did wrong because they don’t understand why it’s wrong in the first place. By telling a troop why what they did was wrong, you’re applying the same logic used when the garrison commander places vehicles wrecked from DUI-related crashes near the main gate. That is what happens when people don’t follow the rules of drinking and driving and that is the result.

You could have a genuine heart-to-heart with your troop and explain the situation to them on an adult level — or you could take extremes. Say they missed shaving: take them to the CS chamber and they’ll quickly understand.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

Your knifehand should be sharp enough to make your drill sergeant proud.

(Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

A good, old-fashioned ass chewing

Sometimes, the easiest way to show someone they f*cked up is to let them know. When something looks more like a pattern of misconduct than a genuine mistake, it’s time to take action: Inform them of wrongdoing with a proper ass chewing.

You’re not yelling, you’re speaking with your rank. There should be no empathy in your voice. Showing signs of emotion distracts from the point. Don’t use body language — but if you do, only use knifehands.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

What would really drive the point home is to actually take their ass to the barbershop and dictate the haircut to the barber.

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jordan KirkJohnson)

Inverting the problem

Was a soldier ten minutes late to work call? Make them show up ten minutes early until they get it right. Is someone lacking a proper haircut? Shave their head bald. Did somebody lose their weapon? Make them carry something twice as heavy.

This one takes some creativity — each consequence should directly juxtapose each given problem. The goofier you can make the discipline, the more readily the lesson will stick.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

But if the company area actually does need cleaning…

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Austin Livingston)

Extra duty

If there’s one thing young troops have, it’s time. When it comes time for discipline, take advantage of that fact and fill that time.

Honestly, the more menial an extra duty the better. A troop shouldn’t think that what they’re doing is just part of the job — it’s punishment, and there should be no doubt in their mind of that fact. The reason they’re “giving the stones a new paint job” is because of their mistake.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

That’s what this is all about anyways. Not to hurt your troops but to make them grow.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Give them responsibility over others

This may sound like the dumbest idea at first, but hear me out. Troops don’t usually see the bigger picture from where they’re standing in the formation. The moment someone else depends on a troop is the moment that many would-be NCOs step into the bigger world.

This is the most psychologically deep disciplinary action on this list. When others hold them accountable, any failure is compounded by all the troops who look to them for guidance. If the experiment fails, cut sling-load and take back over. If not, you just set up someone to be a fine NCO some day.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Virginia is in a fight with Minnesota over this piece of history

No matter how you feel about the Confederate States of America or the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, it’s undeniable that relics from the Civil War belong in a museum.

But which one?


The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

A face that screams “wanna fight about it?”

In 1863, a Pvt. Marshall Sherman from the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment captured a Confederate battle flag from the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pa. His bravery that day earned him not only the keepsake of his heroics, but also the Medal of Honor.

“We just rushed in like wild beasts. Men swore and cursed and struggled and fought, grappled in hand-to-hand fight, threw stones, clubbed their muskets, kicked, yelled, and hurrahed,” said Minnesota soldier William Harmon, according to the Minnesota Historical Society.

The flag, no longer on public display, resides at the Minnesota Historical Center in St. Paul. And Virginia wants it back.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

“Come get it. Sincerely, the 1st Minnesota Infantry”

The 1st Minnesota wasn’t only at Gettysburg, though the unit took a beating there. They were also at First and Second Bull Run, Antietam, Seven Pines, and First and Second Fredericksburg, just to name a few. It was at Gettysburg that the 1st was ordered to charge a Confederate position where they would be outnumbered by at least five to one to keep a faltering Union line together. They suffered 82 percent casualty rate but still helped hold off Pickett’s Charge the next day.

The Regiment has their own monument at the Gettysburg Battlefield today.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

And Minnesota has a war trophy.

For a century, Virginia has tried to get it back, through any means necessary. They tried asking nicely. The answer was no. They tried an act of Congress. Minnesota said no. Even after a Presidential order, Minnesota declined. In 1998, 2000, 2003, and in 2015, the answer remained the same. When Virginia demanded the piece of their heritage back, then-Governor Jesse Ventura replied that it was now Minnesota’s heritage.

Check out the story from Minnesota’s Historical Society.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of June 21st

It’s official. U.S. troops in South Korea will have their curfew lifted. The United States Forces Korea put out the memo on June 16th, and it’s now in effect on a temporary basis to try this whole “treating troops like grown-ass adults” thing out. It’ll be up until around September 17th, when they will evaluate if the troops can handle not f*cking up the one good thing they’ve gotten in years.

Every U.S. troop in Korea has been briefed on this. One single f*ck up and it’s over for everyone. They’ll be on their best Sunday Morning behavior the entire time. This may have something to do with it not being a payday weekend and everyone’s NCO will be hounding them all weekend to not even consider doing dumb sh*t.


Who am I kidding? We know there’s still going to be that one asshole who screws it all up anyway and it’ll be gone before next weekend… Here are some memes for everyone not planning to be the biggest Blue Falcon in USFK.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Not CID)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme by WATM)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This guy is certain that Hitler was ‘high as a kite’

German crime novelist Norman Ohler rocked the boat with historians when he published “Blitzed,” his well-researched and compelling argument that Adolf Hitler was high as a kite during World War II.

“Nazi Junkies” (out now on DVD and Digital) is a documentary series that relies heavily on Ohler’s research for “Episode 1: Hitler the Junkie,” digging deep into the Führer’s relationship with sketchy doctor Theodor Morell, a man whose “vitamin shots” were laced with cocaine and Eukodal, a German version of oxycodone.


Ohler appears in the documentary, which uses excellent footage from the war years to support the case that Hitler’s questionable military decisions were fueled by the sense of invincibility his drug habit caused.

We’ve got an exclusive clip from “Hitler the Junkie” below.

NAZI JUNKIES 101 clip

www.youtube.com

“Episode 2: Nazi Junkies” explores the widespread use of methamphetamine in the German military. After its introduction in the 1930s, Pervitin became widely used all over Germany and was even sold mixed into chocolate bars. Meth supported the booming economy, and historical records indicated that it fueled the troops during the Blitzkrieg.

The use of drugs in battle by the Nazis is far more established in WWII historical literature, and this episode seems to have been made before Ohler’s research into Hitler caused such a stir. His book also tells this story, but the novelist-turned-historian didn’t participate in this part of the documentary.

The largest formal White House dinner ever was for Vietnam POWs

The filmmakers make a point of emphasizing the fact that German doctors insisted that troops have their access to Pervitin severely curtailed before they began fighting on the Eastern Front. The size of the territory they aimed to conquer was far bigger than they’d tackled in Poland and France, but could their effectiveness have also been undercut by a lack of access to drugs?

Both episodes make the case that drugs were a critical part of Nazi Germany’s rise and fall. The conclusions are logical, and the arguments are coherent. “Nazi Junkies” takes these arguments from history books and shares them with the audience that loves WWII documentaries. It’s worth a look.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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