Each year over Veterans Day we witness a wonderful outpouring of love for our veteran community. “Happy Veterans Day,” parades, free meals, “thank yous,” and vet-centric events are par for the course over the holiday and the weekends that proceed and follow it.
But what about the other 51 weeks of the year?
While many of you are veterans yourselves, some of our readers are in a relationship of some kind with a currently serving veteran or a veteran of past conflict. We know how to support the veterans in our own homes.
But I believe we also have a responsibility to support the other veterans around us, and help our civilian neighbors do the same. We can lead by example.
So how do we do that? Here are five ideas.
1. Listen. Over Veterans Day weekend this year I worked with our community and the local Team Red, White Blue chapter to run a Veterans Town Hall. Inspired by an idea in Sebastian Junger’s book “Tribe,” the town hall had a simple goal: give veterans a space to talk about their service, and the community a space to listen. While we did not have a huge turnout — only around 50 people — we were able to light a fire on what I hope will be a long-term movement of saying “happy Veterans Day” by listening. Through the simple act of listening we extended grace and understanding to our veteran neighbors. We can do more of that, and we can do it beyond Veterans Day weekend.
2. “Thank a Vet” in a video. Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has an awesome way to create a keepsake to #ThankaVet. You can upload a customized message and a few photos, and the site will turn them into a tribute video. The videos are something you can create and share year round.
3. Serve all year long. Veterans don’t just exist on Veterans Day. The Veterans Home in my little town’s downtown is there every day of the year. Veterans are homeless in our nearest major city. My veteran neighbor will always need his driveway shoveled after it snows. Not every act of service to our community takes a big effort. But every act matters.
4. Tell your civilian friends. When you get ready to help your community’s veterans, invite your civilian friends to come along. I find that my civilian friends don’t ignore veterans on purpose — they just don’t really know any. We can be the people who can help make that connection.
5. Join a veteran organization. Your local VFW and American Legion both have auxiliary memberships for non-veterans. Team Red, White Blue exists purely to connect veterans with their communities, and getting involved is incredibly easy. Team Rubicon is constantly seeking volunteers for the important work they do with disaster relief. Military spouses often focus their volunteer efforts on the currently serving population — and maybe you just flat out don’t have time to add something else to your plate. But if you do, consider even just showing up for one of these groups’ (or countless others’) events. You won’t be sorry.
There’s nothing wrong with wishing anyone a “happy Veterans Day” or using Veterans Day to shine the spotlight on veterans in our community. But let’s keep the momentum going all year long.
The U.S. Department of Defense is exploring options that would see drones fitted with lasers that could shoot down incoming enemy missiles.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency tested a “directed-energy airborne laser” that can be fired from a drone, according to a report by the Last Vegas Review-Journal. Theoretically, the new weapon would allow the U.S. to fly drones over suspected enemy ballistic missile launch sites, allowing them to shoot down any missiles shortly after launch.
“Our vision is to shift the calculus of our potential adversaries by introducing directed energy into the ballistic missile defense architecture,” agency spokesman Christopher Johnson told the Review-Journal. “This could revolutionize missile defense, dramatically reducing the role of kinetic interceptors.”
The laser-mounted drones would add another layer of missile defense to U.S. capabilities. The drones offer an advantage over current missile defense systems, which rely on an intricate system of radars and satellites that guide a missile interceptor to a target. The laser drones would be much simpler and possibly just as effective, as they could loiter in a potential launch area and take out an enemy missile before it gets too far in its course. Current systems require an enemy missile to be in mid-course or descent phases before a traditional interceptor can be deployed.
North Korea would be a likely potential deployment for such a system. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un has engaged in more than 20 missile tests, the most recent of which occurred Feb. 12. The missile tested was propelled by solid fuel, as opposed to combustible liquid, marking a major advance in missile technology. Solid fuel missiles are more dangerous, as they can be concealed on mobile launchers.
The idea for drones armed with lasers originated with former President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” missile defense shield, part of which envisioned using space-based lasers to shoot down incoming Soviet missiles. While Reagan’s contemporary critics scoffed at the project, it helped spawn missile defense systems used today.
Laser-armed drones as an effective missile deterrent is still in the planning stages. The top major defense contractors — including Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon — are all currently involved in a $230 million, five year-long demonstration program at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The Pentagon will engage in the first official demonstrations of laser-armed drones in 2020 and 2021, according to Johnson.
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Nuclear-powered submarines are considered one of the most lethal weapons in the American arsenal and have been protecting it citizens for decades from deep down in the dark oceans. You can’t see them, but they are out there defending the United States and hunting the enemy.
In modern times, many subs have the ability to dive over 170 meters, stay below the water line for up to six months without resurfacing, and can operate for 20-years before having to refuel.
The Ohio Class is the largest submarine in the US fleet and must deliver enough oxygen to the men aboard the well-designed vessel for months while remaining cloaked for days or weeks in the ocean’s depths.
On average, each crew member needs 12 cubic meters of oxygen every single day to function — or more, depending on their level physical activity.
Typical vessels would have to come up for air every seven days, but with the innovative scientific method of extracting oxygen from the seawater that surrounds them, today’s subs can stay under much longer.
Modern submarines now use a process known as electrolysis to separate water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, thus creating the components for breathable air.
On Dec. 16, 1944, Nazi Germany launched a counteroffensive against the Allied powers. The sneak attack began with a massive assault of over 200,000 troops and 1,000 tanks, aimed to divide and conquer the Allied forces. Some English-speaking Germans dressed in American uniforms to slip past the defenses.
After just one day of fighting, the Germans managed to isolate the American 101st Airborne Division and capture a series of key bridges and communication lines. Over the next two days, Patton’s Third Army would batter through miles of German tanks and infantry to reach the trapped paratroopers.
The fighting continued through the beginning of Jan. 1945 when Hitler finally agreed with his generals to pull back the German forces.
Here are 18 photos from the historic battle that show what life was like in the winter Hell.
1. American and German troops battled viciously for Belgian villages that were destroyed by artillery, tank fire, and bombs.
2. The battle was fought across a massive front featuring forests, towns, and large plains.
3. With deep snow covering much of the ground, medics relied on sleds to help evacuate the wounded.
Medics remove an American casualty from the wood near Berle, Lusxembourg on Jan. 12, 1945
4. Troops lucky enough to get winter camouflage blended in well with the snow.
Two elements of the 84th Division meet up at an abandoned mill near River L’Ourt, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945
5. Troops who weren’t so lucky stood out in stark contrast to the white ground during the Battle of the Bulge.
6. Troops were often separated from their units due to the chaotic nature of the battle. They would usually find their way back on foot.
101st Airborne Division paratroopers Pfc. M.L. Dickens of East Omaha, Nebraska, Pvt. Sunny Sundquist of Bremerton, Washington, and Sgt. Francis H. McCann of Middleton, Conn., set out to rejoin their unit near Bastogne on Jan. 11, 1945.
7. Each side lost about 1,000 tanks in the battle and the burned out wrecks littered the countryside.
Infantry supporting engineers pass a knocked out German tank on their way to the front at Compogne, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945.
8. In towns, Luftwaffe bombing killed many soldiers and civilians while destroying the buildings and equipment everywhere.
9. Medics would evacuate the wounded from these areas to safer hospitals when possible.
10. In caves and bomb shelters, Allied doctors and medics treated the civilians wounded by battle or sick from exposure to the elements.
11. The soldiers could also fall prey to the elements. The extreme cold and sometimes rugged terrain posed challenges for the defenders.
Two paratroopers advance through a snow-covered, wooded section of the battlefield near Henumont, Belgium on Jan. 14, 1945.
12. Many of the forces holding the line were tank and airborne units.
13. Camouflage was used to protect equipment when possible.
14. Until the Third Army was able to open a land corridor through the siege of Bastogne, 101st Airborne Division paratroopers relied on air drops for resupply.
15. The Luftwaffe and U.S. fighters fought overhead, each attempting to gain air dominance.
16. Though the Allies would eventually win in the air and on the ground, a number of aircraft were lost.
A crashed plane lies in the snow near Remagne, Belgium on Jan. 13, 1945.
17. As more Allied troops were sent to reclaim the lost territory in Jan. 1945, they were forced to pass the remains of those already killed.
18. Troops held memorial services for their fallen comrades whenever possible.
The designers are doing the obvious things, such as adding more doors and washrooms to create separate sleeping and bathing areas for men and women and to give them more privacy. But they are also making more subtle modifications that may not have been in everyone’s periscope when the Navy admitted women into the Silent Service.
You know what this sub is missing? A girl at the helm! (U.S. Navy photo)
For example, they are lowering some overhead valves and making them easier to turn, and installing steps in front of the triple-high bunk beds and stacked laundry machines.
The first vessel built with some of the new features, the future USS New Jersey, is expected to be delivered to the Navy in 2021.
The Navy lifted its ban on women on submarines in 2010, starting with officers. About 80 female officers and roughly 50 enlisted women are now serving on subs, and their numbers are expected to climb into the hundreds over the next few years.
For now, the Navy is retrofitting existing subs with extra doors and designated washrooms to accommodate women. But Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut, is at work on a redesign of the Navy’s Virginia-class fast-attack subs and is also developing a brand-new class of ballistic-missile submarines, relying on body measurements for both men and women.
“We have a clean sheet of paper, so from the ground up, we’ll optimize for both men and women,” said Brian Wilson, Electric Boat director of the new ballistic-missile sub program.
Electric Boat officials had no immediate estimate of how much the modifications will cost.
As anyone who watches war movies knows, submariners are always turning valves, whether to operate machinery, redistribute water between tanks or isolate part of a system that has been damaged.
On the Columbia-class boats, valves will generally be placed lower, Wilson said. Sometimes there will be an extension handle, and some will be easier to turn. Sailors will be able to connect their masks into the emergency air system at the side of passageways, instead of overhead.
Emergency air masks are being moved on fast-attack submarines, too, but the bulk of the changes on those subs are to ensure privacy.
Seats in the control room on the ballistic-missile submarines will adjust forward a little more so everyone can touch each display and reach every joystick. Steps will be added so shorter people can climb into the top bunk or see into the washers and dryers, since clothes that get stuck in the machines are a fire hazard.
The first Columbia-class ballistic-missile sub is scheduled to join the fleet in 2031.
At 5-foot-6, Lt. Marquette Leveque, one of the first women to serve on a submarine, said that she didn’t have any trouble reaching valves and other equipment but that the ergonomic changes will be helpful for shorter crewmates.
Leveque was assigned to a compartment with two other female officers on the USS Wyoming. They shared a washroom with male officers. A sign on the door could be flipped to show whether a man or woman was using it.
With so few women on board, the timesharing worked, she said. But with more on the way, the need for separate spaces is greater, she added.
“Privacy is important anywhere you are,” she said. “We live on this boat, as well as work there.”
Living in American can be tough when you have to deal with problems most people in other countries can’t even imagine, such as having so much food in the fridge that there’s no room for leftovers. Yes, the struggle is real.
Being a sailor in the U.S. Navy brings its own set of unique hardships, which service members of other branches and sailors from other nations just wouldn’t understand. Here are seven first-world problems that sailors can relate to.
1. “I have so much cash in my wallet during port visits, it hurts my butt when I sit.”
Yes, this is a thing. You can’t always rely on vendors to accept your credit card, but cash is internationally accepted.
2. “The steak and lobster we have every Friday is just terrible.”
MRE, what’s an MRE? Sailors eat warm meals, silly grunts.
3. “We have to buy small souvenirs during port visits because we don’t have anywhere to put them.”
Instead, they have to settle for small things like jewelry, video games, and DVDs.
4. “Amazon always gets the ‘expected delivery date’ to my FPO AP address wrong.”
Amazon forgets the part about packages being delivered to ships. What’s up with that Amazon?
5. “They called ‘general quarters’ so I have to be in my rack, but I’m not really tired.”
The ship’s personnel hate it when people get in the way of their drills, so they make airedales and Marines jump in their racks.
6. “My fat uniform is now my uniform.”
Lobster and steak can take its toll on a sailor’s uniform allowance. Hopefully by that time, you’re ready to become chief.
7. “It’s so hard to choose between Master and Commander, Top Gun, and The Hunt For Red October when the ship plays them at the same time.”
It’s rare, but it happens, sometimes the ship’s movie programmers schedule these Navy staples on different channels at the same time.
Can you think of more first-world sailor problems? We’d like to know, leave them in the comments area below.
War can be hell…and war can be absolute boredom. There are few better ways to pass the time than by playing cards. Anyone who served in the military and made it past basic training probably ended up in a game of cards with their fellow troops.
They’re easy to carry: small and lightweight, they fit into a rucksack, duffel bag, or Alice pack without having to sacrifice any piece of essential gear. Plus, they’re cheap. It just makes sense that the troops and playing cards would pair so well together.
Wartime decks have been used to help soldiers in the field learn about their enemies and allies, to identify aircraft, and even teach a little about American history. Even in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, American forces used playing cards to identify the most wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Playing cards themselves can be traced back to 12th century China. Some scholars think they made their way to Europe through Italian traders. The cards (and maybe even the games) predate the United States. But Americans have their own love affair with cards, and the military is no different.
Early special decks were released depicting Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and (John Quincy) Adams as the kings of the deck. By the time of the Civil War, playing cards were in every American camp, Union or Confederate.
Since troops in the Civil War spent a lot of time in camp and had easy access to decks, alcohol, and firearms, a cheater could make the game go very badly for himself. The war actually shaped the way playing cards are printed, so players could hold a tighter hand.
Another innovation of that era was the design on the backs of cards. Before then, most were made with plain backs, ones that were easy to mark and see through. The new back designs made short work of that problem.
In 1898, the Consolidated Playing Card Company created a cheap deck and poker chips for troops deploying to the Spanish-American War. For World War I, the U.S. Playing Card Company released special decks just for a few specialties of service in the Great War, namely Artillery, Navy, Air Corps, and Tank Corps. The German High Command in WWI considered the game so important to morale, they called the cards kartonnen wapens – cardboard weapons.
Many playing card factories converted to war production during World War II, but that certainly didn’t mean no decks were printed. The aforementioned cards used to identify aircraft, known as “spotter cards,” were essential to the war effort.
During the Vietnam War, playing card companies sent deployed soldiers and Marines special decks comprised of just the ace of spades, believing the Viet Cong considered the symbol to be a deadly serious omen.
Watch below as magician Justin Flom recounts the oft-told story of a Revolutionary War soldier and his deck of cards, which acts as his bible, calendar, and almanac. Be sure to watch til the end for a magician’s tribute to American troops overseas.
Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.
One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)
For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.
But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.
This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.
The Kurdish Peshmerga has been battling the ISIS terror group since it swept through much of Iraq and Syria in 2014, and one of its most unique aspects has been the use of female fighters on the front lines.
Unlike most other militaries, the Peshmerga not only allows women within its ranks, but they also serve shoulder-to-shoulder with men in combat. According to Zach Bazzi, Middle East project manager for Spirit of America, there are about 1,700 women serving in combat roles within the Peshmerga.
“We are not meant to sit at home, doing housework,” says Zehra, a commander who has served for 8 years. “We are on the frontlines, fighting to defeat ISIS.”
In partnership with The Kurdish Project, Spirit of America recently profiled female fighters serving on the front lines with the Peshmerga — a Kurdish word for “those who face death.” The video interviews were published on a new website called “Females on the Frontline.”
“From what I have observed, these women are patriots fighting to defend their families and their homelands from the threat of ISIS,” Bazzi told Business Insider. “But there is no doubt that they also want to send an unmistakable message, that, as women, they have a prominent and equal role to play in their society.
Bazzi told Business Insider that it depends on the policies of individual Peshmerga units for the mixing of male and female fighters. Still, he said, most women are accepted and fully integrated into the ranks.
“As a matter of fact, people in the region view it as a point of pride that these women share an equal burden in defense of the homeland,” he said.
The Females on the Frontline site features short interviews with Sozan, Nishtiman, Kurdistan, and Zehra, four Peshmerga soldiers who have served in different roles and in varying lengths of duty.
“On our team, we women are fighting along with the men shoulder to shoulder on the front lines,” says Nishtiman, a 26-year old unit commander who has served for four years in the Peshmerga. She fights alongside her alongside her husband and brother, according to the site.
The Office of Strategic Services, the World War II-era agency that preceded the CIA and many special operations units, deployed teams into France for months starting just before D-Day. A map slide produced after the war showed just how insanely successful the 423 men assigned to the mission in France were.
(National Archives and Record Administration)
We’ve previously written about the “Jedburgh” teams, commandos from the U.S., Britain, France, and other countries who deployed into France to counter the Nazis. This mission officially kicked off June 5 as the teams jumped in just hours before the larger D-Day invasion.
These teams contained only two to four personnel each, but they partnered with local resistance forces and protected key infrastructure needed by the invading forces while also harassing or destroying German forces attempting to reinforce the defenses.
These original OGs operated as guerrilla bands, destroying German infrastructure and conducting ambushes and hit and run against Nazi formations. They deployed with their own medical support and were well trained in infantry tactics, guerrilla operations, demolition, airborne operations, and more.
These two forces, the OGs and the Jedburgh Teams, were the primary OSS muscle, providing 355 of the OSS’s 423 men in France. As the map above shows, they deployed across France and inflicted almost 1,000 casualties against German forces and destroyed dozens of vehicles and bridges.
And the OGs were tightly partnered with the French Maquis, a partisan group that resisted the Nazis. The Maquis and OGs captured over 10,000 prisoners.
Not bad for a force with less than 500 members.
It’s easy to see why the post-war government re-built the OSS capabilities. Even though the OSS was broken up, the modern military’s special operations units, the CIA, and other teams now carry on the missions and legacy of the OSS, including the OGs and Jedburgh teams.
Everyone always remembers the sheer bad*ssery and battle prowess of the vikings, the samurai, and the Roman legionnaires — but the Winged Hussars of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth a rarely find a way into the conversation.
Don’t let the flamboyant wings fool you. These shock troops were some of the most devastating cavalrymen to ever mount a horse.
Creighton Abrams may be remembered for it, but Polish-Lithuania lived by the mantra, “they’ve got us surrounded again? The poor bastards…”
They defeated nearly every “unstoppable” empire that came at them
When history buffs bring up the three most formidable empires in history, they’ll often include the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, and the Khanates. Smack dab in the middle of those three was the little commonwealth of Polish-Lithuania. As history buffs also know, everyone always tries to come grab a piece of Poland. What kept them at bay for so long were Winged Hussars.
Marching into battle looking like Roman angels was steeped religious symbolism. After all, Polish-Lithuania was (and Poland remains) a very Roman Catholic nation.
Their wings weren’t just for decoration
It might sound silly that heavily armored cavalrymen felt the need to include giant, feathery wings on either their saddles or their backs, but it wasn’t just a fashion statement — it was an effective strategy.
Hussars were shock troops, meaning that they needed to instill as much fear as they could as fast and effectively as they could — before the enemy has a chance to realize what’s going on. In an era when it was unlikely that you’d ever even see a neighboring city, what were you supposed to make of the rapidly approaching, heavily armed legion of vengeful, glittering angels?
Best thing about a sword is that you never have to reload it.
They adapted extremely well to firearms
As new technologies are introduced to the battlefield, old tactics get thrown out. No single piece of military tech changed warfare quite like firearms.
Firearms instantaneously made arrows obsolete and swords pointless — if you can keep your distance. The Hussars never really got the memo, though, and they’d still charge into battle, decked-out in armor that could take a bullet or two and close the distance before their enemy got a chance to reload.
The Hussars eventually got their own firearms, which meant their enemies now had to deal with a heavily armored Hussars charging at them with spears, swords, warhammers, and rifles.
Seriously, Hollywood? Why isn’t this a movie yet?
They put the Battle of Thermopylae to shame.
Everyone praises the Spartans for pitting 300 troops against the mighty Persian army. But when you start looking deeper into it, you’ll quickly realize there are plenty of things they left out for the sake of the comic (and, later, film adaption), like the actual numbers of Greeks aiding them and how poorly trained most of the Persians were. The Spartans were bad*sses, yes, but some elements of their most famous tale are questionable.
Want to know who undoubtedly pulled off a heroic victory when faced with 62-to-1 odds? The Polish Winged Hussars.
A 400-strong Hussar unit was being attacked on two fronts by the 25,000+ Crimean Khanate forces and they were backed into the tiny village of Hodow. The Hussars had only a single night to turn the town into a fortress, to defend themselves with no supplies and no backup.
The Crimean forces raided the half-defended town and ran out of ammunition so fast that they needed to turn enemy arrows fired at them into improvised rounds for their long rifles. Six hours of intense fighting later and the Crimean Khanate started to retreat. The dust settled and thousands of the Khanate Tatars lay dead on the floor while less then a hundred Hussars had fallen.
The famous winged banners weren’t needed.
They never really went away
As tanks took over the battlefield, people generally stopped riding into battle on horses. For the Polish, that was kind of true. Officially, the Winged Hussars ended in the 1770s because of political reforms, but heavily geared-out, horse-mounted, Polish troops existed throughout World War I and World War II.
Since Poland was being attacked from all sides and had little room to breathe, local militias needed to pick up some of the slack. The militias didn’t have tanks, but the farmers did have horses, rifles, and an undying will to fight.
The fight for Mosul has been expected for some time and the U.S. military has built up logistics and command and control capabilities at nearby bases to assist the Iraqis in their fight. Army Col. Brett G. Sylvia commands some of the soldiers operating in Northern Iraq. He sent a Facebook update to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team “STRIKE,” 101st Airborne Division’s families on Oct. 3 to prepare them for the Battle of Mosul:
The tireless work of STRIKE Soldiers has set the conditions for the final push against Daesh in Iraq. In the coming months, your Soldiers will advise and assist the Iraqi army from disparate locations, working together as one team towards the final objective: the liberation of Mosul, defeat of this cowardly enemy, and the establishment of a stable environment for the peace loving citizens of Iraq.
American, Iraqi, Kurdish, and other forces are expected to slowly push ISIS from the city in the coming weeks.