To celebrate Ken Burns’ documentary, “The Vietnam War,” PBS and USAToday created a Vietnam War Draft Lottery calculator. Simply enter your birth month and day to find out if you would have been drafted for wartime service in Vietnam.
The calculator, of course, does not use your birth year because many of us were born well after the Vietnam War. For those born in 1950, however, being drafted in 1970 was a very real prospect. In today’s all-volunteer military, the idea of someone being forced into that lifestyle change can seem very bizarre. Most of the men who rotated through the country were volunteers, but a significant number were not.
Unlike World War II, there were no lines to sign up for service. And unlike the Civil War, there was no paying a substitute to take your place. But still, the perception existed that with money and connections, someone could avoid serving. So in an effort to make the draft more fair (or appear fair), a lottery was put in place.
Draft age men were assigned a number between 1 and 366, depending on their birthday. The lowest numbers were called first. This was all entirely at random.
Of course, that didn’t stop some of those who were called to service from further avoiding Selective Service. Some went to college or graduate school or faked medical conditions, while others fled to Canada. In all, half a million Americans dodged their Vietnam War service.
They were fugitives until 1977 when President Jimmy Carter ordered a general amnesty. Deserters, however, were not given amnesty.
Ken Burns’ film recalls the accounts of more than 100 witnesses to the war in what he calls a “360-degree narrative.” The 10-part, 18-hour documentary “The Vietnam War” is available for streaming on PBS.
Douglas Hegdahl walked freely around the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp, one of many American prisoners of war held there in 1967. He was sweeping the courtyards during the prison guards’ afternoon “siesta.” The American sailor that fell into their laps was known to the guards as “The Incredibly Stupid One.” They believed he could neither read nor write and could barely even see. But the “stupid” Seaman Apprentice Hegdahl was slowly collecting intelligence, gathering prisoner data, and even sabotaging the enemy.
He even knew the prison’s location inside Hanoi.
Hegdahl was a South Dakota native who was blown off the deck of the USS Canberra as the ship’s five-inch guns fired on nearby targets of opportunity. Once overboard, he floated in the South China Sea for 12 hours before being picked up by fishermen, who turned him over to the North Vietnamese.
Hegdahl’s enlistment photo and a photo of the sailor in captivity.
Certain he could be tortured for information, the Communists tried to get Hegdahl to write anti-American and anti-war propaganda. They showed him similar documents that other captives – higher ranking captives – wrote for the North Vietnam. Hegdahl thought about it for a moment, then agreed. The Communists were amazed. No other captured American did this voluntarily. They went off to get ink and paper.
The young sailor was thinking quickly. He figured the officers who wrote the propaganda material were probably coerced into doing it. He decided the best thing he could do was play dumb. He was very, very successful. The North Vietnamese thought Doug Hegdahl was a developmentally challenged “poor peasant” and set out to teach him to read and write. After failing at that, they decided to write a confession for him to sign, which he did:
“Seaman Apprentice Douglas Brent Hegdahl III United States Navy Reserve, Commanding Officer, USS Canberra.”
The sailor was first put into a cell with Air Force officer Joe Crecca, who taught Hegdahl 256 names of other POWs and then taught him how to memorize the information to the tune of “Old McDonald.” After that, Hegdahl was imprisoned with Dick Stratton, who was the ranking officer for a time.
Because they thought Hegdahl so developmentally challenged, the Hỏa Lò Prison guards essentially gave him free reign to do a lot of the cleaning and sweeping around the prison yard. He was even allowed to go and clean up around the front gates of the prison itself. That’s how he was able to later tell U.S. intelligence where the prison could be found within the North Vietnamese capital.
Hegdahl on sweeping duty at “The Plantation,” Hanoi.
But the sailor didn’t stop there. As the sailor swept the prison grounds, when the single guard assigned to him took his afternoon siesta, Hegdahl would add a little bit of dirt to the gas tank of the nearest truck. Over the course of his captivity, he managed to disable five NVA prison trucks this way.
Eventually, it came time for the NVA to offer early releases to some of the prisoners of the Hanoi Hilton. Even though there was a strict order among the POWs to not accept any early releases, Hegdahl was ordered to accept an early release — the only Hoa Lo prisoner ever ordered to do so — by his senior officer, Lt. Cmndr. Dick Stratton. He was not only the most junior prisoner in the camp, he also had all the information the U.S. government needed to expedite the release of the POWs — all of them. He didn’t want to, but someone needed to tell the U.S. about the torture they were receiving there.
When he was released, not only did Hegdahl recite the names of the 256 men who were shot down or captured in North Vietnam, he could say their dog’s name, kids’ names, and/or social security numbers. These were the means by which other POWs verified the information given. He picked up all of this information through tap code, deaf spelling code, and secret notes.
Released in 1969, Hegdahl was able to accuse the North Vietnamese of torture and murder of prisoners of war at the Paris Peace Talks in 1970. Flown there by H. Ross Perot, he accused the North Vietnam delegation of murdering Dick Stratton, assuring Lt. Cmndr. Stratton would have to be repatriated alive at the war’s end.
But the prisoners back in Hanoi didn’t have to wait long for treatment to change. Once Hegdahl described the treatment of POWs in public and to the media, the ones he left behind saw their treatment improve, receiving better rations and less brutality in their daily life.
In his memoirs, Stratton wrote of Hegdahl:
“The Incredibly Stupid One,” my personal hero, is the archetype of the innovative, resourceful and courageous American Sailor.
Awkward names for things that could save lives on the battlefield as well as on the streets of America. But these and other tools can be found in the search and rescue and personnel recovery arsenal of the elite Air Commandos.
Earlier in October, Pararescuemen and Combat Control operators from the 125th Special Tactics Squadron refreshed their extrication skills, showcasing along the way the importance of a little known but important skillset.
Utilizing old vehicles, the Air Commandos simulated the extrication of troops or civilians from wrecked vehicles with a variety of methods tools. However, it’s important to remember that the Air Commandos will often have to carry the tools on them, so the equipment must be effective yet portable.
An operator from the 125th Special Tactics Squadron uses a chainsaw during extrication training at Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Ore., Oct. 8, 2020, to simulate removing trapped personnel from a vehicle or aircraft. The members may use these techniques in combat environments or humanitarian assistance and disaster response zones. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Valerie R. Seelye)
“By using non-salvageable vehicles, we are able to develop a scenario in which all procedures and tools are utilized, enhancing proficiency in this specific Tactic, Technique, and Procedure,” said the 125th Special Tactics Squadron flight commander in a press release. “The non-salvageable vehicles provide the most realistic training possible.”
The advent of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has made extrication capabilities that much more important. If a vehicle, regardless if it’s armored or not, triggers an IED, chances are that it will suffer significant, if not catastrophic, damage. But if the explosive charge in the IED isn’t sufficient to destroy the vehicle altogether, the crew might survive, probably trapped inside the wreck. That’s why the extrication capability becomes important. But the skillset is also important in domestic or humanitarian scenarios, especially considering that this particular unit is part of the National Guard and might be called on to help civilians in distress as it has been doing in the past months.
“We also use this equipment during state emergency response operations or humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations to establish landing zones,” added the officer. “Or in the case of hurricanes, we’d possibly cut holes in the tops of houses to evacuate personnel by helicopter. These procedures were also utilized by Special Tactics Pararescuemen during the earthquake response in Haiti in 2010.”
Break it down, boys (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Valerie R. Seelye).
Part of the Oregon Air National Guard, the 125th Special Tactics Squadron is based in Portland.
Pararescue is the only career field in the whole Department of Defense (DoD) that is specially trained and equipped to conduct combat search and rescue and personnel recovery.
Back in 1993 and the Battle of Mogadishu, the Air Commandos’ extrication training proved crucial. When the first MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed during the “Black Hawk Down” incident, several of the crew members were trapped inside the twisted metals of the battered machine.
The moment the two pilots are finally extricated in the very realistic movie Black Hawk Down (Sony Pictures).
Even though the two Night Stalkers pilots who had been killed, the rest of Task Force Dagger resolved to not leave them behind. But only specialized equipped and trained men could extricate them. So, the burden fell on the Pararescuemen of the elite 24th Special Tactics Squadron. In the end, and after another day and night of fighting, the rescue force managed to extricate the two pilots.
‘Empire’ is such a great word. It evokes images of lasting power, strength, and historical importance — even when it has nothing to do with an actual empire.
When it does have to do with an actual empire, you expect some kind of lasting imprint on humanity — some kind expansive reach; some kind of anything, really. Empires aren’t supposed to just rise for no reason and collapse like the Cowboys in the playoffs.
6. The Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire has a glorious 600-year history of basically just scaring Europeans about the spread of Islam. If you look at the current state of affairs, it’s obvious that Europe never needed the help in the first place. When it came to actually spreading Islam, the Caliphate wasn’t quite so good at it.
At its height, the Ottomans didn’t even have full control over the lands they supposedly ruled. As soon as they reached a period of peace and prosperity in the 18th century, they kinda let the whole Empire decline. And even when Ottoman military power recovered, they still suffered losses in territory and in wars. After choosing the wrong side of WWI, they became modern-day Turkey. At only 100 years old, it already has a history and culture more unique than the Ottomans ever had.
5. The German Empire
Another victim of poor decisions during WWI, the German Empire only lasted 47 years. That’s not even long enough for the Kaiser to have a mid-life crisis.
Even though it saw a lot of technological and industrial achievements, it pretty much squandered those on a couple of World Wars that it somehow lost. It was late to the game of creating a colonial empire — one with a plan that can be best described as “oh yeah, me too,” as they simply took what Britain and France left behind.
4. The Galactic Empire
As dramatic as the changeover from Republic to Empire might have been (as painstakingly recounted in the Star Wars prequels), their biggest achievements include getting beaten by a fleet of space fighters that resemble your Uncle Todd’s Camaro after spending all their time enslaving and killing entire populations.
Not to mention their big goal was trying to build the same space station twice and they got trounced in their efforts both times. They left no cultural legacy on the people of the galaxy except for “I’m so happy they’re gone.”
3. The Russian Empire
This was an empire that was constantly trying to keep up with everyone else. The few Tsars who managed to drag Russia, kicking and screaming, into being competitive, had to do it by some extreme means — like publicly cutting off beards.
Peasants in parts of Russia were essentially slaves from the 11the century until the 19th century. They weren’t emancipated until 18-goddamn-61. With all that free labor, Russia still struggled to keep up with the rest of the world. And we wonder why the Soviet Union was so popular at first.
2. The Holy Roman Empire
What is it? No, seriously. WHAT IS IT? French philosopher Voltaire once said that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. Like an early European Union, a group of small kingdoms and principalities chose their Holy Roman Emperor to operate out of any city he wanted. He ruled basically nothing and the smaller kingdoms could ignore him at their will.
Sure, individual emperors could get things done, but that was because of who they were outside of being the Holy Roman Emperor, not because actually being Holy Roman Emperor. It’s especially sad for the Holy Roman Empire that a family or dynasty could overshadow the whole history of the empire.
1. Austro-Hungarian Empire
Besides the Herculean effort to stop the Ottomans at Vienna (we went over that), Austria-Hungary is most famous for getting kicked around by Napoleon and losing the World War they dragged everyone into.
Imagine a family of really dumb, inbred, rich people who owned a huge plot of land and put an army on it. Then they hired their stupid friends to command the army because uniforms are cool. Then, that family’s neighbors always come bail them out when they’re losing wars because they don’t want the neighborhood going to shit.
The venerable Sea Cobra first flew in 1969. Now, 50 years later, it’s descendant the Super Cobra is still a mainstay of Marine offense and defense, using missiles to destroy enemy strong points and firing its cannon to break up maneuver forces trying to hit American lines. Here are 11 photos from the Super Cobras of today and history.
(U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Jason Grogan)
AH-1W Super Cobra sends 2.75-inch rockets into an enemy mortar position during a close air support mission at Wadi-us-Salaam cemetery, near Najaf, Iraq, in Aug. 2004.
The Sea and Super Cobra variants of the AH-1 have decades of service. But their predecessor, the AH-1 Cobra, dates back even further to Vietnam. It was originally pitched to the Army as the UH-1G, basically a “tweaked” utility helicopter.
While anyone with eyes could easily see the design was something new, Bell had just lost an attack helicopter competition to Lockheed, and a brand new attack helicopter would’ve required another competition, delaying the weapon’s debut and potentially setting up the craft for a loss to another manufacturer. So Bell played fast and loose with the rules and the Army played along.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Reece Lodder)
An AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter and UH-1Y Huey helicopter fly off the coast of the island of Oahu, toward Marine Corps Base Hawaii during maintenance and readiness flights, June 13, 2013.
But the Army eventually admitted the UH-1G Huey Cobra was an all-new craft, and it was re-designated the AH-1. According to an Air Space history, “Cobras would launch with twice as much ammunition as Huey gunships, would get to the target in half the time, and could linger there three times longer.” Troops loved it.
The Marines in Vietnam loved the helicopter as much as soldiers did, but when the Corps went shopping, they wanted a bird with two engines so that an engine failure between ship and shore wouldn’t doom the crew.
And so the AH-1J Sea Cobra was born, first flying in 1969 and making its combat debut in 1975, barely making it into the Vietnam War. Over the following years, the Marines upgraded the guns, missiles, and rockets and proceeded to the AH-1W Super Cobra designation in 1986.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Dionne)
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Patrick Henry braces Airmen Andrew Jerauld as he signals to an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter as it lands on the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay.
But the era of the Super Cobra is coming to an end. With the debut of the AH-1Z, the Marine Corps moved to the “Viper” designation, and the Vipers have already proven themselves in combat. So the last Super Cobras in the American inventory, the AH-1Ws, are slated to be pulled from active units in 2020 and sold or gifted to overseas allies.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Casbarro)
A Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter supports a beach assault during Rim of the Pacific 2016, a maritime exercise in Hawaii, July 30, 2016.
Typically, it carries the 20mm cannon as well as pods for 2.75-inch Hydra rockets and Hellfire missiles, but it can still carry and employ those other missiles and rockets easily when necessary, giving commanders a flexible, fast platform that can kill everything from enemy radar sites to helicopters to ground troops and vehicles.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriela Garcia)
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Philip A. Gilbert supervises the preflight ground maintenance of an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter on Camp Bastion in Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 24, 2013.
Updates to the AH-1W granted it the ability to see in night vision and infrared, helping pilots to more quickly acquire and destroy targets at night or in bad weather. During Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, 48 AH-1Ws destroyed 97 tanks, 104 armored personnel carriers and other vehicles, 16 bunkers, and two anti-aircraft artillery sites with zero losses.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Mackenzie Gibson)
A UH-1Y Venom and an AH-1W Super Cobra shoot 2.75 inch rockets through the night sky and meet their targets during close air support training operations at a range near Fort Drum, N.Y., March 16, 2017.
Typically, the AH-1Ws, and now the AH-1Z Vipers, are deployed alongside UH-1s in Marine light attack helicopter squadrons. These units specialize in close air support, reconnaissance, and even air interdiction. The Super Cobras’ Sidewinder missiles are crucial for that last mission, allowing the Marine pilots to take out enemy jets and helicopters.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samuel A. Nasso)
A U.S. Marine Corps Bell UH-1Y Huey helicopter and a Bell AH-1W Super Cobra take off on one of the first flights for the new Huey from Bastion Airfield, Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2009.
While the Super Cobras are faster and have more weapons, the Hueys can carry multiple gunners which can spray fire in all directions. And the UH-1Y Hueys can also carry and deploy up to 10 Marines each, allowing the helicopters to drop an entire squad on the ground and then protect it as it goes to work.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Kevin Jones)
An AH-1W Super Cobra Helicopter takes part in a live fire exercise at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, May 15, 2013.
The aircraft can fly up to 18,700 feet above sea level, allowing it to clear many mountain ranges while serving on the frontlines. But commanders have to be careful sending the helicopter into the thin air that high as its crews aren’t typically equipped with the robust oxygen equipment of bombers or jet fighters. So the Super Cobras try to stay at 10,000 feet or below.
Check out more photos of the Super Cobra:
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Russell Midori)
(U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Dean B. Verschoor)
Snack time is the best time. At least, that’s how it is around here. From sweet treats to crunchy mid-afternoon nosh sessions, America’s obsession with snacks is as old as America itself. Well, not quite. But many of our favorite snacks did get their start in the military as food for deployed service members.
You might already be familiar with plenty of these snacks if you’ve ever found yourself at ten till nine in the morning in line at the shoppette grabbing breakfast because once again, you’re running a little late. Or maybe your idea of comfort food involves a fresh piece of supermarket, pre-sliced bread to make into a grilled cheese. No matter your go-to snack, we’re sure you’ll find some of your favorite in this list of snacks invented by the military.
Picking up breakfast
You already know that coffee is the number two beverage among service members (ranked after water and beer, respectively), but did you know that the U.S. military helped herald in the age of instant coffee? During WWI, Big Military saw the need to keep service members caffeinated on the go, so they invested heavily in purchasing lots of powdered instant coffee – to the tune of 37,000 pounds of it by the war’s end. Before instant and pre-ground coffee came to market, folks would have to grind beans by hand and then set them to boil in water. After the inclusion of coffee in the earliest MREs, not only did the military embrace the need for caffeine, but so did the rest of America. By the end of WWII, drip coffee was as ubiquitous to American meals as ever.
Pre-made kinds of pasta got their start as lunch items for the American military. During WWII, Big Military tapped a restaurant in Cleveland to produce their canned food as part of military rations, which helped launch what we now know as Chef Boyardee.
As you’re enjoying your pre-made pasta, why not add some Cheetos and Pringles to round out your snack and make it really decadent? Cheetos, America’s favorite bright orange corn-puffed snack, got their start during WWI when culinary industrialists figured out how to make shelf-stable, dehydrated cheese dust. Kraft Foods then sold the product to the Army, who used it on just about everything – pasta, sandwiches, eggs and yes, even potatoes.
The crunchy texture of Cheetos is addictive, for sure, but so too are Pringles. Pringles were born from a project between the Quartermaster Corps and the USDA to develop dehydrated potato flakes. The entire goal of Pringles was to find a way to dehydrate the flakes and then, later on, form them into chips.
Speaking of lunch, what’s a sandwich without sliced bread? Thanks again to a partnership between the Quartermaster Corps and Kansas State, now we no longer have to worry about bakery bread going stale before we can enjoy it. Supermarket bread stays fresh because of bacterial enzymes that tolerate the heat of baking and can live for weeks, helping to keep bread fresh and soft.
Dinners and Sweet Treats
Bomber crews on long overseas flights during WWII needed something to eat, so an Army contractor invented the earliest iteration of what we now know as TV dinners. These nascent iterations were pretty basic and didn’t have much flavor, but they kept the bomber crews from going hungry.
After that TV dinner, why not enjoy a handful of MMs? These candy-coated chocolates were first introduced in WWII, so service members could carry chocolate with them during warmer weather.
These snacks might not be on your go-to meal list for every meal, but it’s still an amazing bit of culinary history to know that many of the snacks we love today got their start as rations for the military.
According to the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, the average U.S. resident’s IQ falls between 80 to 119. Those men and women who make up the “gifted” demographic average the IQ between 130 to 145. The Intelligence Quotient is measured by taking someone’s mental age (the age at which they operate) and divide it by their chronological age (the age that they actually are).
Then, multiply that number by 100. So, let’s do some math as an example. If your mental age is 14, but your chronological age is 10, divide 10/14. This equals 1.4. Now, multiply 1.4 by 100. You should get 140. If not, then you need to go back to fourth grade.
So, what the hell does that have to do with this article? Well, since not many of us call ourselves “gifted,” we can boost our brain functions by increasing this type of exercise we do in our daily lifestyles.
We can boost our brain’s function by including aerobic exercises in our workout.
New York University Neuroscientist Dr. Wendy Suzuki recommends implementing aerobic exercise at least three or four times a week to boost brain function.
With this newfound information, gaining this important increase depends on your starting point. If you’re a couch potato, you need to up your activity to at least three or four times a week to achieve positive effects. If you’re quite active already, you might have to increase your activity more to maximize the brain function boost.
Dr. Suzuki also recommends exercise in the early morning hours because all the brain’s neurotransmitters are firing. This comes at a perfect time as most American start work or school later in the morning — so their performance will be increased in time for their day.
In contrast, many Americans work out in the evening to relieve stress after a long day’s work. By switching a few of their work-outs to morning aerobic sessions, they can start to make an immediate change in their brainpower.
On Feb. 28, 2015, Staff Sgt. Sebastiana Lopez stepped out of her apartment on an early Saturday morning in Charleston, South Carolina. The humidity was low, making a good day for a motorcycle ride. As she went back into her apartment to swap her car keys for motorcycle keys, she didn’t know it was the first step toward a life-changing moment.
Lopez’s four older siblings served in the US military in different branches. She looked up to them, eventually joining the US Air Force. She served for seven years as a crew chief on C-17s. Lopez’s parents immigrated to the US illegally, and she felt that she owed her country for the new opportunities afforded to her. Joining the military was her way of saying thank you.
As Lopez was coming around a corner of the road on her motorcycle, an armadillo was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her motorcycle and the armadillo collided causing her to crash into the curb, ejecting her from the bike and directly into a tree. She remembers bear hugging a tree and her leg kicking her in the face, breaking the motorcycle helmet visor. She fell to the ground and a plume of dust erupted. She never lost consciousness.
Lopez was dazed but immediately started thinking about how to survive. She tried to do blood sweeps, but her arms wouldn’t move. She saw that her leg was positioned at an unnatural angle and thought, “Well, that sucks. I probably need to put a tourniquet or something on that.” No matter how she looked at it, she wasn’t able to self-administer aid due to the extent of her injuries.
Her lung was punctured by a broken rib, she had several broken bones, an amputated (above the knee) right leg, lacerated liver, ruptured spleen, and many other internal and external injuries. Lopez was losing blood fast, and every breath felt like a million stab wounds, but she maintained a goal.
Sebastiana with her family after her accident. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
“So I kind of looked up at the sky, and I’m like, there’s nothing I can do about this except for — keep breathing,” Lopez said.
She focused on each breath, counting in her head while she held her breath to minimize the pain. Then panic crept into her mind: It was a Saturday morning, people were up partying the night before, and it’s unlikely anyone will be awake to find her. Lopez stayed calm but couldn’t help thinking that this might be the end.
“I was pretty happy with the life I had already lived — even though it was very short, 24 years old at the time,” Lopez said. She accomplished what she had always wanted to do, giving back to her country by joining the Air Force. As she settled into being okay with the fact that she was dying, a car drove past.
She said that the first thought that popped into her head was, “That’s a stupid-looking car.” Then she realized that the person driving that car might be her ticket out of there. Luckily, her motorcycle had come to a stop up the road. The bystander saw it and immediately threw his vehicle into reverse. He found Lopez lying next to the tree, and the fear on his face was evident. He panicked, and the first thing he asked her was, “Do you want me to call an ambulance?”
Side by side (right photo showing initial recovery, left showing extensive recovery) comparison showing just how much Sebastiana has recovered since her crash. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
The ambulance arrived, and even though Lopez couldn’t see him, she recognized the voice of one of the responders. He was an Air Force reserve pilot she had flown with during an operation in Malaysia when they were designated as a backup C-17 for the president while he toured that area of the world. Hearing a familiar voice, especially someone she knew from the military, immediately put her mind at ease. I might make it through this, she thought.
Despite the massive amount of blood loss, Lopez can recall up until the point when the hospital staff wheeled her into the OR. Her heart stopped not long after her arrival at the hospital, but they managed to get her back. She woke up a month later surrounded by her family, and she felt like she might have been in purgatory. A priest was close by and had been waiting to give Lopez her last rites in coordination with her Catholic beliefs.
“They knew telling me the news that, hey, you don’t have a leg anymore, was going to just tear me apart,” Lopez said. “To be quite honest, it didn’t. At least initially because I was just happy to wake up. It didn’t really hit me until a few months later that life was going to get pretty shitty and pretty hard, especially when I lost my hand function in both hands.”
Shortly after waking up from the coma, Lopez sustained a stroke and lost her speech. Her family added a degree of frustration when they unknowingly talked slowly and loudly to her, thinking she had lost the ability to process information as well. This was one more blow, but it didn’t shake Lopez — it was just another speed bump.
“I was like, Motherfuckers, I understand what y’all are saying — I just can’t verbalize my answer or write it even,” she said, adding that she felt trapped, much like when she was lying on the ground after her crash.
Lopez loves sports, and the driving force to compete again kept her internal fire blazing. As she completed her speech therapy and regained the ability to speak, she started to feel better about herself. Her first steps with her prosthetic leg brought even more confidence.
Even while Lopez completed speech therapy and physical rehabilitation, another battle loomed under the surface. One of the first movements she had to do was rolling from side to side, and whenever she did, the incision from her abdominal surgery would start bleeding. The hospital staff was growing concerned and asked her if she wanted to stop.
“I was like, ‘Hell no, I need to start moving!'” she said.
She recovered to an extent while staying at the Medical University of South Carolina hospital. She described it as similar to a scene out of Kill Bill when Uma Thurman’s character wills herself out of paralysis by saying, “Wiggle your big toe.”
Sebastiana competing in the Invictus Games. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
Lopez aggressively pursued her exercises while running a consistent temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. From rolling side to side to putting on her socks by herself, she was making progress. But then she started losing energy again and didn’t feel well. Her recovery was coming along, but she lost function in her right arm. She was scheduled to be transferred to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for a higher level of physical rehabilitation.
Her new doctors ran tests and found out that Lopez was septic, which is a widespread, serious infection within the body that can have lethal consequences. She was transferred directly into the ICU.
Once recovered, Walter Reed brought on even harder rehabilitation training — and the results were even better. Lopez worked hard and rep after rep moved closer to her goal of competing again.
She spent hours every day sending signals to her hands and any other part of her body that wouldn’t readily move with her internal instructions. She eventually regained some command over the movement of her fingers.
Sebastiana Lopez Arellano powers a hand cycle during the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. May 9, 2016. DoD News photo by EJ Hersom, courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
After her incident, the Air Force enrolled Lopez in what’s called the Casualty Care Program and the Recovery Care Program. She was assigned a Recovery Care Coordinator (RCC). Lopez transferred to outpatient physical rehab, and one day while she was working on different exercises, her RCC walked up to her. She asked Lopez what she thought about doing an adaptive sports camp.
“No, I’m not ready. I’m still rehabbing my hand — I want to be able to wipe my butt first before I go compete or learn a sport,” Lopez responded. Her RCC told her a white lie: “You’re still in the US Air Force, you kind of have to.”
Lopez later found out that wasn’t the case, but she felt that the RCC knew she needed a little push. The RCC signed up Lopez, unbeknownst to her, for a beginner’s adaptive sports camp through the Air Force Wounded Warrior program.
What her RCC said was a beginners camp was actually the tryouts for the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior Games team. Lopez found out once she arrived at the “camp,” but with her no-quit spirit, she persevered and made it onto the team.
Within a year of her accident, Lopez competed in the Wounded Warrior Games and earned five gold medals for two-hand cycling races, shot put, discus, and sitting volleyball.
“The funny thing about the 2016 Warrior Games, I broke my arm the first day we got there,” she said, laughing. “So I competed the entire week with a broken arm.”
From that first Warrior Games to her most recent competition performance in the 2019 Team USA Parapan American Games, Lopez has achieved her goal of competing again — and then some. In addition to the medals from the 2016 Warrior Games, she went on to medal over 19 times in different events over the course of the next few years, and she even established a world record in discus.
Lopez has defied the physical disabilities that the armadillo caused that fateful Saturday morning in February 2015.
“I might still pursue [Team USA] in the future, between school and everything else — I’m kind of looking into starting a family soon, and I want to focus on that,” Lopez said. “I’m not saying that’s the end of the world for me. I probably will try to pursue it, but maybe 2024 for me.”
There’s a culture in the military of service and honor, integrity and sacrifice; all those good things. There’s also plenty of tradition in sitting down with a glass of something and talking about the glory days, remembering the friends lost and cherishing times spent together, on and off the battlefield.
Here are 5 veteran-owned companies bettering lives around the world with their innovative spirits:
If you like the “sweet taste of freedom,” then pour yourself a glass of this fan favorite. With a smooth mouth-feel and complex flavor, this is definitely a bourbon you can get behind.
According to their website, “Merica Bourbon was born from military veterans who wanted to share the great taste of bourbon and freedom. It’s all about the flavor. This bourbon is meant to be shared with friends, on the rocks or neat, reminiscing on the good moments in life. So pull up a chair and have a glass or three with us and let us celebrate freedom together.”
Merica Bourbon was founded by Marine veteran Derek Sisson who brought us Famous Brands, and Army veteran Daniel Alarik, the mastermind behind Grunt Style.
Founded by Marine veteran Travis McVey to honor two of his friends he lost while serving, Heroes Vodka is the “Official Spirit of a Grateful Nation.”
Since launching on Veteran’s Day 2011, Heroes Vodka has given over 0,000 back to veteran-focused local and national nonprofits. If that isn’t enough to get you to indulge, it should help that this vodka is actually delicious. Four times distilled, it’s as easy to drink as this brand is easy to love. Their list of accolades and awards are impressive, including multiple gold medals in tasting competitions like the “Vodka of the Year” at the Melbourne International Spirits and New York City’s 50 Best Domestic Vodkas Competition.
If you’ve never had Sotol, get ready to be hooked. Desert Door is made by hand in Driftwood, Texas from wild-harvested West Texas sotol plants by three military veterans who met at an Executive MBA program. Marine veteran Brent Looby, Navy veteran Judson Kauffman and Army veteran Ryan Campbell are the best example of how different branches can unite around alcohol and entrepreneurship.
According to their website, Desert Door Sotol tastes unquestionably of the land. The sweet citrusy and herbal flavor is reminiscent of a desert gin crossed with a smooth sipping tequila.
Tasting notes include herbaceous, creamy and vegetal. It leads with grass and earth on the nose with a touch of natural vanilla. Toffee, mint, cinnamon and clove combine with citrus in a distinct way on the palate. It finishes with minerality and a welcome vegetal quality that will make you wonder why you haven’t met before and have you dreaming of your next encounter.
Desert Door Sotol stands alone as a great sipping drink, but it will level up your cocktails like never before. Our favorite? Use it in a “Desert Paloma” with grapefruit juice, lime juice and agave nectar and get ready for it to change your life.
Travis Barnes, like so many other incredible Americans, felt the call to enlist in the Marines following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. He left school at Purdue to serve his country. Following three tours in Iraq where he received multiple combat medals and incurred a Traumatic Brain Injury following an IED attack, Barnes received an Honorable Discharge and after graduating law school, pursued a new passion: distilling. The spirits are “fit to serve and made to share.”
While Hotel Tango crafts bourbon, whiskey, voka, rum, cherry liqueur, orangecello and limoncello, their gin is our very favorite. With a new wave style that’s citrus forward, it’s pleasing to gin vets and newcomers alike. Serve with tonic or sip on its own.
Willie, originally hailing from Appalachian moonshine country in western North Carolina, is a veteran of the Army and U.S. Forest Service, serving as an Army Ranger, Special Forces Medic, Hotshot Wildland Firefighter and Smokejumper. Clearly, he’s a badass, as is his product line.
Notably, according to their website, Willie’s Distillery mills, mashes, ferments and distills corn, barley and oats on site, as well as producing spirits from ingredients like molasses, cream and Canadian whisky. Their spirits are distilled in a custom Bavarian Holstein still, crafted by a family-owned company that has been building world-class spirits stills since 1958. If that isn’t already incredible, they employ veterans in positions ranging from production and sales to management.
While Willie’s has all sorts of spirits from vodka and bourbon to their legendary moonshine, our favorite has to be the coffee cream liqueur.
Nothing says White Russian like Willie’s.
The lawyers make us say this: If you’re going to drink, do it responsibly and make sure you have a sober driver. We’re going to add: there’s nothing more responsible than supporting these 5 veteran-owned companies.
The 80th Flying Training Wing is moving at the speed of innovation and is bound to only get faster as visionaries incorporate the latest in mixed realities to boost undergraduate pilot training.
Lt. Col. Jason Turner, 80th FTW Strategic Initiatives director, said the implementation of virtual and augmented realities is creating a portfolio of tools that allows instructor and student pilots alike to enhance the learning experience within the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program, the world’s only internationally manned and operated combat pilot training program.
Through the use of 360-degree cameras, skilled pilots and actual images from flights over north Texas and southern Oklahoma, the program is able to build instructional content to train students on items such as local aerial procedures and ground operations.
In short, it’s creating a realistic flying environment in a controlled setting that enables students to learn and make mistakes in a safe setting.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadets Preston Tower, left, Alexander Knapp and Ian Palmer fly three T-38C Talons in formation in a mixed reality environment during a flying training session with the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Feb. 1, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by John Ingle)
“The solution essentially gives them the ability to visualize some of the things that they’ll experience airborne so that once they do get airborne, they’re able to take those reference pictures that they saw in mixed reality and apply them to their training in the air, hopefully making their air time training more valuable,” he said.
Maj. Steve Briones, the 80th FTW’s director of Wing Innovation, has played an integral role in leading the innovative charge to marry traditional simulator training and real flight time with fast-advancing technologies such as virtual and augmented realities. He said it has taken about six months to go from concept to two functional “Innovation Labs” available to ENJJPT instructors and students.
Virtual reality creates an experience where a person is immersed in a virtual world, whereas an augmented reality incorporates digital elements to a live view of an environment.
“It’s the future of learning in the Air Force,” Briones said. “It’s just being able to take different methods of delivering content or just making the learning content accessible in different ways.”
Briones said the innovative training tools will not replace traditional simulators as they provide a physical, hands-on platform to practice instrument familiarity and emergency procedures. However, the newest set up does allow for visuals that can’t be replicated in a simulator such as formation flying because they are able to link individual training stations.
The technology brings pilot training methodologies together in a new and adaptive way, he said, that is a cloud-based and student-focused in such a way that airmen in the ENJJPT program can access courseware wherever they are and whenever they want to.
“If you asked folks six months ago when we were just thinking about this if this was possible, they would’ve been like, ‘No way. There’s no way,'” he said. “So, I think it allows us to think critically about how we’re training and how we can make ourselves better.”
A group of Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were in the 10-station lab Feb. 1, 2019, trying out the technology as part of a visit to the 80th FTW. Turner said the trio taking a virtual flight had spent about 30 minutes on the mixed reality trainers, but they were already showing a skill ENJJPT students learn over the course of the 55-week program: formation flying.
“They’re still learning. They’re still developing,” Turner said of the potential for student pilots as seen by the MIT students. “But this also gives them a place to practice where mistakes don’t cost them their safety.”
There is, admittedly, some hesitancy with the new technology as there is very little performance data in the program at this time to fall back on. Turner said part of that is because the technology has not been specifically introduced into the ENJJPT syllabus.
What they’ve done, he said, is encourage students to try out the equipment to change their mindset in regards to effectiveness of the training and the sense of reality it brings. What they’ve seen is when one student sees the capabilities, they bring others to the experience, who in turn bring more.
Turner said ENJJPT Class 20-04 will start a small-group trial at the end of February 2019, which will include deliberately implementing these technologies into their training. They will also soon have the ability to toggle between T-6A Texan II and T-38C Talon training modules.
“While that virtual reality or mixed reality won’t replace actual flight time, it’s intended to augment it to make that time more valuable,” he said. “That’s when students will officially be coming here as part of their training experience.”
Turner and Briones both lauded the public-private partnership with industry leaders to create a training environment that compliments existing platforms. The technology, they said, is exceeding expectations and they are seeing how it will continue to enhance the ENJJPT training curriculum.
The Russian Army will soon receive the new Chukavin SVCh sniper rifle, according to Popular Mechanics.
The Chukavin fires 7.62x54mmR, .308 Winchester and .338 Lapua Magnum rounds, Popular Mechanics reported. The rifle also has a maximum range of more 4,200 feet, depending on the round, according to armyrecognition.com, a magazine that covers military technology.
Designed by Kalashnikov Concern, the maker of the AK-47, the Chukavin will replace the Dragunov SVD, which has been in Russian military service since the 1960s.
Russian President Vladimir Putin himself fired the Chukavin five times in September 2018, hitting a target nearly 2,000 feet away with three of those shots, according to Russian state-owned media.
Unveiled at Russia’s Army 2017 forum, the Chukavin is shorter and lighter than the Dragunov without compromising durability, according to Kalashnikov.
Alexey Krivoruchko, the CEO of Kalashnikov, told Russian state-owned media outlet TASS in 2017 that the Russian Defense Ministry as a whole and the Russian National Guard were interested in the rifle, according to thefirearmblog.com.
The United States Marine Corps turned 244 on Nov. 10, 2019. To celebrate, the Devil Dogs probably did whatever it is Marines do after their respective Marine Corps Balls. The U.S. Navy, often called the Marines’ Taxi Service, laid aside sibling rivalry for the day, and fired a shot from the oldest warship in the Navy and the only active ship to have sunk an enemy in combat, the USS Constitution, in their honor.
They even let a Marine pull the trigger.
The Constitution was first laid as a 44-gun frigate in 1794, outfitted with 24-pound long guns and 32-pound carronades. In combat, she would carry around 54 guns. The carronades would be on the spar deck, a long 18-pound “chase” gun would be mounted forward, and 30 24-pounders would be loaded on the gun deck. The guns on her gun deck, like the one fired by the Sergeant of Marines in the above video, are not her original guns. In 1883, Constitution became a housing ship for sailors in the port of Boston, and her guns were removed. They were soon replaced, however, with replica guns.
Her centennial refit saw 55 replica guns made for the ship by the end of 1931. Cast in the Charleston Navy Yard in 1929, these are the guns aboard her today. Two War of 1812-era carronade replicas were placed aboard in 1981. All her guns were restored and refurbished during Constitution’s 21st-Century restoration.
The only problem with the ship’s new guns is that they were never intended to be fired. It wasn’t until 1976 that the Constitution’s commanding officer decided it would be a novel idea for the oldest active warship in the U.S. Navy to be able to give a salute from its era. Two of the 24-pound long guns were sent to the Naval Ordnance Station in Louisville, Ky. to be retrofitted to fire a saluting charge in time for the United States Bicentennial Celebration.
The Marines aren’t the only ones who receive a salute from the USS Constitution. Past recipients include anyone from Chief Petty Officer selectees to Queen Elizabeth II. The day after the Queen received the salute, she boarded Constitution for a tour with Prince Philip. It was the only time a reigning British monarch ever stepped foot aboard the ship.
It seems we’ve been forgiven for the whole HMS Guerriere incident.