In the 1988 presidential campaign, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee for President, had a problem: he needed to look credible as a commander-in-chief during a time when Democrats were being criticized for their defense policies.
Throughout the 1980s, the Reagan Administration had been pushing through a major peace-time military build-up.
According to CQ Researcher, a large portion of the Democrats in Congress had opposed that build-up in the 1984 elections. That caused the perception that the Democrats were being weak on defense, which led to Reagan’s 49-state landslide.
Dukakis had been among those who were critical of the buildup, the mainstays of which — the B-1B Lancer, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, and a host of other weapon systems – are in service today (with a few exceptions).
Worse, according to a 2013 article in Politico, during the month of August, Dukakis had gone from leading Vice President George H.W. Bush by 17 points to trailing him, and one big reason was that 54 percent of Americans felt that then-Vice President Bush would do a better job on national security, while only 18 percent thought Dukakis would.
To counter that, Dukakis went on a swing that discussed defense, but one event was marked by defense workers jeering him. Then, he went on a visit to a General Dynamics plant in Michigan where he planned to ride in an M1 Abrams tank, a key part of the buildup that Democrats had criticized.
Aerial drone image of an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank crew. (Dept. of Defense image)
However, to do the ride, Dukakis was told he had to wear protective headgear. He did so, and ended up sealing his fate.
Within a week, the photo of Dukakis in the helmet had become a joke (think Kushner in his vest), but the worst was to come when operatives with Bush’s campaign developed an attack ad. Using 11 seconds of footage, they highlighted Dukakis’s opposition to the Reagan buildup and foreign policy.
Dukakis, who had already been trailing, and already saw 25 percent of Americans less likely to vote for him, was now in freefall. He eventually lost the 1988 election by seven million votes.
Andrew Jackson’s future as a badass started at the tender age of 13 during the Revolutionary War. He joined the Continental Army as a courier and was taken prisoner along with his brother Robert in April 1781.
When a British officer ordered him to spit shine his boots during captivity, Jackson refused. Not amused by the boy’s defiance, the redcoat drew his sword and slashed Jackson’s left hand and head, which left him with a permanent scar. The brothers were released from captivity after two weeks as part of a prisoner exchange, but Robert died within days due to an illness contracted during detention. Another one of Jackson’s brothers and his mother died before the war ended, leaving him with a lifelong hatred toward the Brits.
Jackson earned the nickname “Old Hickory” because he used to carry a hickory cane, which doubled as a weapon. He dished out his most famous cane beating to Richard Lawrence, who attempted to assassinate him while Jackson was serving as President. Lawrence approached Jackson with two pistols —plan A and plan B—both of which misfired. After noticing he was out of danger, Jackson proceeded to beat Lawrence to a bloody pulp.
Jackson was known for being a serial duelist; historians estimate “Old Hickory” participate in anywhere between 13 and 100 duels. (That is too many duels by any standard.) Jackson fought his most famous duel in 1806 against Charles Dickinson, who was an excellent shot. Despite knowing about Dickinson’s pistol prowess, Jackson insisted that he fire first. This American Heroes Channel video illustrates the events leading to the duel and why he gets our vote for ‘most badass American president.’
Ilha da Queimada Grande is an island off the coast of Brazil that is more commonly known as “Snake Island.” The British navy forbids visitors due to the extremely venomous snakes that live there. With 1-5 snakes per square meter, the island has the highest concentration of venomous snakes in the world.
In this photo: about 1500-2000 snakes and a single lighthouse. Photo: flickr/Prefeitura Municipal Itanhaé
The golden lancehead is a pitviper species that lives only on the island. Its venom is up to five times more potent than normal pitvipers living in mainland Brazil.
The snakes are described as moving landmines, but they actually spend most of their time in trees, hunting the migratory birds that are their primary food source. Researchers believe that the island was once connected to the mainland, but rising seas cut it off. The snakes then evolved their organ-liquefying venom so that their strikes would kill the birds before the birds flew away.
A lighthouse on the island used to be manned, but was automated in the 1920s. Local legend says the change was made after a family that tended the lighthouse in 1909 awoke to a snake crawling in through the window. The family attempted to flee but was attacked by snakes in tree branches and didn’t make it.
For the few people who are allowed onto the island, the navy orders that a doctor be present in case an anti-venom needs to be administered. A researcher interviewed by Vice said it’s still highly probable that the victim will die.
Despite the navy’s attempts to keep people away, smugglers visit the island and steal the snakes which then make their way to buyers around the world. Other bio-pirates (actual term) bribe researchers and navy sailors to get snakes for them. The going rate for the snakes in 2014 was thought to be between $10,000 and $30,000 each.
Researchers are allowed to remove the snakes legally in order to investigate potential applications for the venom. Certain compounds in it have shown promise as drugs for heart disease, blood clots, and cancer.
World War II Veteran Alyce Dixon, affectionately known as “Queen Bee” by those who know her and care for her at the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center, is now 108-years young.
Cpl. Dixon has quite a story and quite a personality. Rocking a tiara on top of her head for the occasion, she was queen for the day at the D.C. VAMC. Fellow Veterans, volunteers, staff and family members celebrated her life at a special ceremony held Sept.11.
“God has been so good,” Dixon said. “He left me here with all these lovely people and all these nice things they’re saying. I hope they mean it.”
Dixon is now the oldest living female World War II veteran according to VA records. She joined the military in 1943 and was stationed in both England and France with the postal services. She was one of the first African-American women in the Army as part of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion – the only unit of African-American women in the WAC to serve overseas during WWII.
“This has been a marvelous day. I feel real special,” Dixon said regarding the celebration that included flowers and gifts from family and friends.
PARIS, France – The U.S. led the way down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées for the Military Parade on Bastille Day as the country of honor in commemoration of the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I (WWI) here July 14, 2017.
This marked the first time ever the U.S. was selected as the country of honor – a tradition that highlights a symbolic gesture of friendship from the French government.
“It’s about the partnership – a strong partnership that was forged in war many years ago and endures today,” said Commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti. “France is one of our oldest and closest allies, and so the significance of being the county of honor in their parade today underscores the strength of that partnership – and that we must work to continue to strengthen that partnership.”
Almost 200 U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen assigned to units in Europe and the 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, stand in ranks during a rehearsal for the Military Parade on Bastille Day to be held July 14, 2017. This year, the U.S. led the parade as the country of honor in commemoration of the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I – as well as the long-standing partnership between France and the U.S. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael McNabb/Released)
Altogether, almost 200 U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen from units in Europe and the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas, marched down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde in support of the military parade that serves as a tribute to the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789.
“I’m honored and privileged to be here commemorating such a historic event and celebrating the alliance between France and the United States,” said Air Force Senior Airman Jorge Diehl, assigned to the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “I think it shows a great deal of appreciation and trust for them to allow us to lead the parade. It’s taken a long time to build that trust.”
French President Emmanuel Macron officiated the parade attended by U.S. President Donald Trump and numerous French and U.S. senior military and civilian leaders – including Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David Goldfein, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.
In all, this year’s parade included more than 3,700 participants and flyovers by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds; two F-22 Raptors; nine French Alpha Jets streaming blue, white and red contrails; and two French C-135s.
For the commander of U.S. troops, Army Maj. Jared Nichols, assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, the honor of participating was made even more special by the fact his great-grandfather served on the Western Front in France during WWI.
“My great-grandfather on my mother’s side was a private first class in the American expeditionary force; his name was Rupert Foust,” said Nichols. “He served as a medic in the 8th evacuation hospital, primarily dealing with clearing casualties off the battlefield and providing first aid. To be here to commemorate our entrance in a war to support [France] and the rest of the Allies and then also celebrate the French nation and their independence as well, is a great experience.”
It was an experience that wasn’t lost on Navy Aviation Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class John Holley, assigned to Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 37, Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. He believes the friendships forged here will be life-long.
“We’ve built a lot of camaraderie so far,” said Holley. “We’ve done a lot of exchanging of patches and telling of stories. We were able to learn why we were here, the history and the importance of it.”
Historically, the 1st Infantry Division was the U.S. Army’s first division – and was formed in June 1917 to serve in WWI. In 2017, as in 1917, the U.S. stands ready with its European Allies and partners to face emerging threats and an increasingly dynamic regional security environment.
“During the centennial of U.S. entry into WWI, we commemorate America’s sons and daughters who defended peace – many of them descendants of European immigrants who came to America seeking freedom, opportunity and a better life,” said Scaparrotti. “I just want to salute the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guard that keep Europe whole, free and at peace.”
When dictators get toppled or governments change, things get chaotic, to say the least. Sometimes a despotic leader gets to escape to Saudi Arabia to live the rest of his life, presumably not eating people.
Democracies tend to have a more peaceful transfer of power, ones that don’t involve revolutionaries storming buildings and stringing people up. But in any conflict, there is always the chance that something will get lost to history.
I’m willing to bet these seven military leaders didn’t expect to end up as a decoration somewhere.
1. Oliver Cromwell’s Head
Cromwell has been called a lot of things: tyrant, dictator, hero. It all depends on your point of view. When he died in 1658, the state gave the former Lord Protector of England a fine funeral under his son, the new Lord Protector, Richard.
Unfortunately, Richard sucked at his job and the monarchy was restored. The new king, Charles II put everyone who killed his father, King Charles I, on trial immediately, with no exceptions. This included Oliver Cromwell’s corpse.
Cromwell’s dead body unsurprisingly stayed silent on his guilt or innocence, was pronounced guilty, and hanged. He was then beheaded and the head put on a spike outside Parliament.
For like, 20 years.
In 1685, a storm blew the spike down, and sent the head flying into Parliament Square. It was picked up by guard who secretly took it home to sell it for cash. Instead, he got cold feet and hid it in the chimney until the day he died.
To make a long story short, the head was sold from collector to collector for a full 301 years before it was reburied in Cambridge.
2. Napoleon Bonaparte’s Penis
In 2007, Evan Lattimer’s father died. From him, she inherited Napoleon Bonaparte’s penis even though the French government swears the little corporal is not that of the Emperor.
In 1821, he died in exile on the island of St. Helena and while the British weren’t watching, the Corsican conducting Napoleon’s autopsy cut off a few pieces for some reason.
It traveled around the world for decades, eventually ending up under the bed of American urologist John Kingsley Lattimer, who put it there and seldom showed anyone because “Dad believed that urology should be proper and decent and not a joke.”
3. Benito Mussolini’s Leg and Brain
Mussolini met a pretty ignominious end during WWII. He was captured by Italian anti-Fascist partisans, beaten and then strung up by his feet. The U.S. Army ordered the bodies taken down and eventually placed Il Duce in la tomba.
His unmarked grave was found by three young fascists who dug him up and took the body from place to place, eventually ending up in a monastery near Milan. By the time his body was found, it was missing a leg. The legless body was interred in his family crypt in Predappio.
The fun doesn’t stop there. While the body was in American custody, an autopsy was performed on the dictator’s brain. The Americans took half of the brain in an attempt to study what makes a dictator, returning it in 1966.
Every now and again, however, vials pop up on eBay, claiming to be the Italian’s remains. His leg was never found.
4. King Badu Bonsu’s Head
Dutch colonists in what is today called Ghana got pretty pissed when the Chief of the local Ahanta tribe killed two Dutch messengers, cut their heads off, and put them on his throne.
The Dutch, slightly miffed at having their citizens used as decoration, responded the way most colonizers would – with a punitive expedition. They captured Badu Bonsu and lopped off his head. This time, instead of putting it on a chair, they put it in a jar. Of formaldehyde.
Fast forward two hundred years later, the Netherlands have gracefully decided to give the old man’s head back to his home country. You might think the people who happened to be carrying around the pickled head of an African chief might keep track of it but no. It was found locked in a closet where it had presumably been for 170 years.
5. Che Guevara’s Hair
The Cuban revolutionary met his end in Bolivia in 1967, executed by Bolivian forces. His hands were cut off as proof and his body was thrown into an unmarked grave. But, like the people who surrounded Napoleon after his death, someone with access to Guevara’s body decided to take home a souvenir.
The person who happened to be present and bury Guevara was also a CIA spook. He kept a scrapbook that included photos, documents, fingerprints, and a lock of Guevara’s hair. In 2007, it was all sold at auction for $100,000.
6. Geronimo’s Skull
In 2009, native tribes sued the Yale University secret society known as the Order of Skull and Bones. They alleged the group had the skull of Apache leader Geronimo on display in the clubhouse. And the Apaches wanted it back.
Geronimo died as a POW at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1909. A Skull and Bones legend says Prescott Bush, father of George H.W. Bush and grandfather to George W. Bush, dug up the Apache’s body and stole the skull and other bones. He then brought it to the clubhouse in New Haven, Connecticut.
7. Thomas Paine’s Entire Body
Unlike everyone else on this list whose head or skull was stolen after death, Thomas Paine’s good friend John Jarvis was already thinking about getting his hands on the famous patriot’s noggin. Paine, of course, asked Jarvis to leave his bones the hell alone. When Paine died in 1809, they did just that. For a while. Somebody dug his body up ten years later.
Since Paine died a drunk in New York, very few people were present for his funeral. Wanting to give Paine a proper burial, newspaper editor William Cobbett and some friends exhumed Paine with the intent of moving his body to England.
The only problem happened when the body got to England – Cobbett couldn’t afford the burial. The old editor stashed the remains in his attic, where Tom Paine remained until Cobbett died. After that, no one knows what happened to the Revolutionary author.
Ashley Salazar did a lot of stupid stuff growing up, probably no different from the stupid stuff we all did. But unlike many who made mistakes as teen, Salazar was “saved” by joining the Air Force.
“A lot of people don’t even believe I served in the military,” she says. “All they see is a pretty girl, but I was a tomboy growing up. Everyone does the kind of stupid stuff I did. When I joined, Uncle Sam became my dad in a way, making sure I stayed out of trouble. It pushed me to be more than I ever thought I could be.”
She joined the Air Force because of the September 11th attacks. She actually had a potential modeling and acting career before enlisting, since her mother was also a model. But enlisting was something Salazar felt she had to do.
“I had a modeling agent, but I was really affected by 9/11. I was seventeen years old then,” she recalls. “I had to wait a year to join. But I did as soon as I could. I talked to Marine recruiters and I talked to Coast Guard recruiters, but the Air Force seemed to call me the most. I wanted to serve my country. We have to fight for ourselves as Americans, but we also have to fight for those who don’t have the freedoms we have.”
The Air Force got a super troop in Airman Salazar. She was an element leader in basic training and despite a few stumbles, she graduated from Radiology technical training with a Commander’s Award that hadn’t been awarded in five years. Adversity is where Salazar thrives.
“I first got pregnant with my daughter in radiology school. I was having very hard time as a C student. But something happened to me, where she made me go from C student to A student – from the bottom to the top of my class.” She was promoted early in a “Below the Zone” promotion and made Staff Sergeant this first time she tested for the rank.
She spent much of her career at Keesler and Scott and she did everything she could to be part of the Air Force mission. She trained into mammography, volunteered to deploy to field hospitals, and even volunteered for Security Forces augmentee duty, a job few Airmen look forward to.
“All the cops were deployed,” she says. “I was young, 18 years old, and I could go do my part. Not just for the civilians back home but for all the military members who had spouses and children. I could deploy so they don’t have to. I did have to experience things I would have rather not have seen. Everyone does.”
Salazar was stationed at Keesler AFB in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Mississippi, and Alabama. As hospital personnel, she was not able to evacuate the base and spent the aftermath, using X-rays to identify bodies —and body parts. In the meantime, she lost everything in the storm. When it came time to be relocated, she opted for Scott AFB in Illinois, to be closer to her family.
She liked her hospital job, but her favorite aspect of her Air Force career was a much higher calling: Honor Guard.
“I did over 600 Honor Guard ceremonies between the two bases and I was flight leader while at Scott,” Salazar recalls. “Being able to give back and thank the families is the most gratifying thing I’ve ever experienced. I know someday when I pass, someone is going hand a flag to my family and it means a lot, it was and honor and it was humbling to be able to do that for people.”
Her modeling came up again after photos of her at an Air Force Christmas party wearing a red dress appeared on the Medical Group’s website. Everyone wanted to know who that woman in red was. The base photographer who took the photos begged Salazar for months to let him use her as a model. She was never really thinking of being a model.
“To be honest, I’m 5’7″ and a little bit big around the top,” she says. “And they like women who are thin and not shapely in the fashion world. Besides, I felt old at 23 or 24 and I thought 18-year-olds were the ones who modeled, not 24 year old airmen with kids. I finally caved and we did some photos. Shortly after, I was signed with an agency and then I got my first billboard across from the St. Louis Cardinals stadium.”
After that, she started doing regular modeling work using her military leave, while still maintaining her Air Force career. She even expanded into doing her own photography for others. Eventually, she did a volunteer charity calendar that got her into hot water.
“Being a Super Troop kinda hurt me in the end because the standards of professionalism in the Air Force are so high, if you mess up once, it’s unforgiving,” Salazar says. “It was a dress jacket with a little cleavage, nothing from the waist down, and I was just saluting. Which cost me my quarterly award. They also took an oak leaf cluster. I didn’t want to bring any discredit on myself or on anyone.”
Salazar left the Air Force in 2008, when the U.S. job market was tanking on an epic scale. People were losing their jobs, no one was hiring. As a recently divorced, recently separated airman, Ashley Salazar had to take care of her daughter and her mother. She turned to her creative work.
“I started this blog when I started photography,” she says. “I would interview people and take their photos and put them on this Tumblr page. Fast-forward five years and now we have this thing called MollMag which is now wildly popular. It’s been my baby and now I’m taking it to the next level. We have a new international edition released in South Africa which we started in 2013.”
Salazar is also a supporter of breast cancer research, as the disease runs in her family.
Ashley is also currently in a contest to be the model for Pink Lipstick Lingerie. For her, it could mean a huge difference in her life and for her family.
“The one thing I haven’t been able to do as a model is be a model for a lingerie company,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to get into a catalog. A lot of these companies also use models for those funny Halloween costumes they have at stores every year. If I win this vote, they’ll fly me to New York to do these shoots for them. Once you get into the catalog industry, its much more likely for your career to take off.”
Through all her hard times, her experience in the Air Force has always stayed with her. It toughened her, it changed her, it prepared her for anything she might have to do in the civilian world. That experience gives her an edge, a down-to-earth, can-do mentality that keeps her from giving up where so many others might have in her position.
“I’ve been told no so many times for so many things,” she says. “Being a mom means I have a couple of stretch marks. Real women do. In the beauty world, that’s not ideal. It’s a competitive industry and it’s hard. My husband now taught me to embrace my body to accept myself my body for what it was and be happy with myself as we started to fall in love, I began to feel more comfortable and that’s when the bikini photos started to come out.”
“They only show one perspective of beauty out there, but real women are mothers too. I wanted to see a mother in Playboy, because it affects people around the world. Women all over the world see these women and then hold themselves to that standard. And they might think ‘well, if I don’t look like that, then I’m not beautiful,’ but that’s not true.”
After the Air Force and her husband, Ashley credits her glamour model success to her fans.
“I’m lucky to have fans,” she says. “I’m grateful for every one of them. I don’t care if they follow all my work or just like my Facebook page because they think I’m hot. I’m thankful for each fan and I hope they stick around.”
McEwen teamed with Zinke — a former SEAL Team Six Commander and the only US Navy SEAL in Congress — to write a book about the now-politician’s life.
Zinke is also Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Interior.
Zinke’s military career began in 1985 when he graduated from Officer Candidate School and attended SEAL training (BUDS class 136). He was first assigned to SEAL Team One in Coronado, California, then was later selected for SEAL Team Six where he was a Team Leader and a commander.
As McEwen tells it, after a decade of service, Zinke was assigned as Deputy and Acting Commander of Combined Joint Special Operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom where he led a force of over 3,500 Special Operations personnel. In 2006 he was awarded two Bronze Stars.
An author experienced in telling the stories of high-level special operators, McEwen goes on to explain how Zinke retired from active duty 2008 after serving 23 years as a Navy SEAL. Zinke later ran for Congress and was sworn into the House of Representatives on January 6, 2015, and became the first Navy SEAL in the House.
It’s been nearly a year since US intelligence agencies accused top Russian officials of authorizing hacks on voting systems in the US’s 2016 presidential election, and mounting evidence suggests that the US has not fought back against the hacks as strongly as possible.
But attributing and responding to cyber crimes can be difficult, as it can take “months, if not years” before even discovering the attack according Ken Geers, a cyber-security expert for Comodo with experience in the NSA.
Even after finding and attributing an attack, experts may disagree over how best to deter Russia from conducting more attacks.
But should President Donald Trump “make the call” that Russia is to blame and must be retaliated against, Geers told Business Insider an out-of-the-box idea for how to retaliate.
“It’s been suggested that we could give Russia strong encryption or pro-democracy tools that the FSB [the Federal Security Service, Russia’s equivalent of the FBI] can’t read or can’t break,” said Geers.
In Russia, Putin’s autocratic government strictly controls access to the internet and monitors the communications of its citizens, allowing it suppress negative stories and flood media with pro-regime propaganda.
If the US provided Russians with tools to communicate secretly and effectively, new, unmonitored information could flow freely and Russians wouldn’t have to fear speaking honestly about their government.
The move would be attractive because it is “asymmetric,” meaning that Russia could not retaliate in turn, according to Geers. In the US, the government does not control communications, and Americans are already free to say whatever they want about the government.
“What if we flooded the Russian market with unbreakable encryption tools for free downloads?,” Geers continued. “That would really make them angry and annoy them. It would put the question back to them, ‘what are you going to do about it?'”
To accomplish this, the NSA could spend time “fingerprinting” or studying RUNET, the Russian version of the internet, according to Geers. The NSA would study the challenges Russia has with censorship, how it polices and monitor communications, and then develop a “fool-proof” tool with user manuals in Russian and drop it into the Russian market with free downloads as a “big surprise,” he added.
“You’re just trying to figure out how to kick them in the balls,” Geers said of the possible tactic. “But they’d probably figure out how to defeat it in time.”
Geers acknowledged that such a move could elicit a dangerous response from Russia, but, without killing or even hurting anyone, it’s unclear how Russia could escalate the conflict.
As it stands, it appears that Russian hacking attempts have continued even after former president Barack Obama expelled Russian diplomats from the US in retaliation last year. Cyber-security experts attribute a series of recent intrusions into US nuclear power plants to Russia.
Taking bold action, as Geers suggests, would leave Russia scrambling to attribute the attack to the US without clear evidence, while putting out fires from a newly empowered public inquiry into its dealings.
The ball would be in Russia’s court, so to speak, and they might think twice about hacking the US election next time.
Retired US Navy Admiral William McRaven had an esteemed 37-year military career — which included leading the assassination of Osama bin Laden — but it was a night from Navy SEAL training’s Hell Week that taught him the power of a leader.
Now the chancellor of the University of Texas system, McRaven has released “Make Your Bed,” a short book expanding upon these principles he spoke about a few years ago.
In it, he recounts his night in the Tijuana mud flats, where he and his fellow SEAL candidates had virtually every inch of their bodies covered in mud, the experience made worse by a brutally cold night.
Hell Week comes during week three of the six month-long BUD/S training, and is meant to weed out early the candidates who are not ready to become SEALs. According to SOFREP, only about 25% of candidates make it through the week’s intense trials of physical and mental endurance.
One of the trials involves various exercises in expanses of cold, neck-high, clay-like mud.
As McRaven remembers, on this particular day, he and his fellow candidates had spent hours racing each other in boats, paddling through the mud. Now they were standing in it during a suddenly chilling night. To make it worse, it was only the halfway mark of Hell Week. Doubt was setting in among all the young men.
“Shaking uncontrollably, with hands and feet swollen from nonstop use and skin so tender that even the slightest movement brought discomfort, our hope for completing the training was fading fast,” McRaven writes.
From the edge of the flats, an instructor with a bullhorn tried to lure the candidates to comfort. The instructors, he said, had a fire going and had plenty of hot soup and coffee to share. Furthermore, if just five of the candidates quit, the rest of the guys would be given a break. Taking this offer meant ending your SEAL training.
A student next to McRaven started walking through the mud toward the instructor. McRaven remembers the instructor smiling. “He knew that once one man quit, others would follow,” McRaven writes.
Then one of the candidates started singing. It was raspy and out of tune. Even though it sounded terrible, other students soon joined him, including the one who was on the verge of quitting.
The instructor began yelling at them, demanding that they stop. “With each threat from the instructor, the voices got louder, the class got stronger, and the will to continue on in the face of adversity became unbreakable,” McRaven writes. He remembers that behind the facade of anger, he could see the instructor smiling at the turn of events.
McRaven realized that all it took was one person to unite the entire group, when many of them were on the verge of abandoning their goal.
Interestingly, former Navy SEAL platoon commander Leif Babin writes in his book “Extreme Ownership,” that he learned a similar lesson when he was one of the Hell Week instructors. When the instructors switched the leaders of the best and worst performing boat race teams, they were amazed to see that the formerly worst team rose to the top under new leadership, while the formerly best team suddenly dropped in the rankings under its new poor leader. It was proof to Babin that, “There are no bad teams — only bad leaders.” One exceptional person can change the entire fate of a group.
The night in the mudflats stuck with McRaven during his maturation as an exceptional leader, one who would rise to the highest rank in the Navy, lead all of America’s special operations, and oversee the assassination of Osama bin Laden.
“If that one person could sing while neck deep in mud, then so could we,” McRaven writes. “If that one person could endure the freezing cold, then so could we. If that one person could hold on, then so could we.”
In late October, two inaugural events brought members of the military entrepreneurial community together in Dallas and the Bay Area. On Oct. 23-24, the Military Influencer Conference hosted hundreds of veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs and community leaders that are dedicated to supporting the military. Just a day later, on Oct. 25, Bunker Labs hosted their inaugural Bay Area Muster as part of their Muster Across America Tour.
I had the opportunity to attend the stand-out session of each event, the Shark Tank Survivors Panel. The panels consisted of veterans and military spouses who not only lived to tell the tale of surviving ABC’s Shark Tank, but also walked away with a partnership agreement with business legend, Mark Cuban.
Members of the Shark Tank Survivor Panel at the Military Influencer Conference Oct. 23 included veterans Eli Crane, Founder of Bottle Breacher, Matthew “Griff” Griffin, Founder of Combat Flip Flops, and military spouses Cameron Cruse and Lisa Bradley, Co-Founders of R. Riveter. Glenn Banton, CEO of Operation Supply Drop, moderated the panel. Two days later, at the Bay Area Muster hosted by Bunker Labs on Oct. 25, I saw Eli and Griff at it again along with and an additional veteran entrepreneur, Kim Jung, CEO of Rumi Spice. Tristan Flannery, co-founder of Zero Hour Media, moderated the Bay Area panel.
Post Shark Tank Success
All four of these start-ups enjoyed wild success after they struck deals on their episodes of ABC’s Shark Tank. However, their AARs of Shark Tank ran deeper than just telling the audience about the deals they landed or how intimidating Mark Cuban can be when he peppers you with questions.
Instead, the Shark Tank Survivors shared their intimate stories with the audience. They shared how they bootstrapped their companies from the ground up in their garages and basements. They explained the realities of entrepreneur life and described their after-show successes. While panel members shared their successes with the audience, they also shared failures and what they learned along the way. Matt “Griff” Griffin, CEO of Combat Flip Flops, revealed supply chain issues he had even after the show.
“Being a part of the panel enables several veteran-owned businesses to share those lessons in the hopes of propelling other veteran entrepreneurs to success,” he said. He expanded, “Shark Tank pushes the limits of any business–marketing, sales, and operations. Through that experience, we learned many lessons, enabling us to be more effective leaders.”
The Warrior Class has what it Takes to Succeed
The back-to-back Shark Tank panels demonstrated how the climate of the military entrepreneurial community is changing. Veterans and military spouses experience adversity, each in their own way. However, when they come out on the other end, they’ve grown, they’ve learned, and they’re poised to do big things. These panels were a perfect example of veteran entrepreneurs showing future entrepreneurs of the military community that they are capable of going after their dreams.
Eli Crane, CEO of Bottle Breacher shared his thoughts on the Military Influencer Conference. “I think it was a great conference. They definitely brought in some serious firepower in various verticals.” He added, “all boats rise with the tide and I personally think this country could use way more veterans in influential positions.”
The Shark Tank panelists embody exactly what Crane mentions above. They are showing the American public that veterans and military spouses have what it takes to be successful as entrepreneurs. Hand-outs and sympathy are not what they need; they want a chance to put their skills to the test. They’re not just satisfied with their own personal successes either. They are supporting their peers and showing that the military community is strongest when it works together.
Eli Crane stressed the importance of veteran entrepreneurs mentoring within the military community. He said, “when we exit the service and become successful, it’s imperative that we turn around and guide our brothers and sisters who are behind us looking to do the same.”
Innovating Giving Back
All four of these companies share another unique trait in that they are impactful beyond just the success of their physical products. Their products are unique and innovative, but they are literally changing lives at home and around the world.
Two of the Shark Tank survivors are changing the way people look at American manufacturing. When things get stressful, Eli from Bottle Breacher explained, “we don’t just call up China and increase our order.” Bottle Breacher products are 100% made in the United States and have a 25% veteran hiring rate. Likewise, every R. Riveter bag creates mobile and flexible income for military families through their network of military spouse “riveters.”
Similarly, two other panelist saw the opportunity to manufacture commercial products for peace, where there had once been war. For every pair of Combat Flip Flops sold, a girl in Afghanistan goes to school for a day. Rumi Spice employs private farmers to grow their saffron. They are currently the largest private employer of Afghan women in the world.
Respect, commitment, and working towards a higher purpose are standard behaviors among the military community. These Shark Tank survivors demonstrated to the audience exactly what can happen with persistence, passion, and a lot of grit.
Veterans make up a huge portion of our population. Oftentimes, we don’t even realize someone served until we strike up a conversation about their past. From folks who did their 20+ years and retired, to those who served a few years before finding a new career path, these dedicated Americans hide among us every day. Take a look at these prominent veteran business owners, many of whom you never realized were previous members of the military. Their new career path allowed them to change the face of today’s business world, all while bringing their background with them.
1. Phil Knight, Co-Founder of Nike
As in Nike, THE Nike shoe and athletic wear company. Co-founder Phil Knight helped bring this business to life in the 1960s. Today, he’s listed as one of the richest people in the world. But before all of that, before one of the most recognizable mottos of all time — Just Do It — Knight was a member of the Army. He served a year of active duty while enlisted, then seven more years in the Reserves.
2. Frederick Smith, FedEx
This massive company was built on the very logistics that train our military members today. Founder Frederick Smith took his training to heart by incorporating Marine tactics to his side gig, shipping packages from his dorm room. As we all know, it eventually became his full time gig (and then some), growing to be one of the biggest shipping companies in the world. It all began with Smith’s stint as a Marine, in which he was commissioned for three years, including two tours to Vietnam.
3. Jack Taylor, Enterprise Rent-A-Car
You know them as the car company that will pick you up, but Enterprise actually got its start by veteran Jack Taylor. Taylor founded the company in 1957 when, as a sales manager at a Cadillac dealership, he saw a need for folks who needed rides to and from the shop while their vehicles were maintenanced.
Before his work in the vehicle industry, Taylor served as a Navy pilot in WWII. A building at the U.S. Naval Institute is named after him, the Jack C. Taylor Conference Center in Annapolis.
4. Jay Van Andel, AmWay
AmWay, the biggest name in modern multi-level marketing, was founded by Jay Van Andel, WWII vet. Van Andel was also chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from 1979 to 1980.
However, it was in the Air Force that Van Andel got his professional start. He served as a second lieutenant, training crews who worked with B-17 and B-29 bombers.
In 1959 he co-founded American Way Association.
5. Paul Alling Sperry, Sperry Shoes
The stylish boat shoes that so many love AKA Sperrys or “top-siders” actually take their root with a veteran founder. Paul Alling Sperry joined the Naval Reserves in 1917 where he worked as an office aid. His short tenure in the military ended that same year. His grandfather, William Wallace Sperry also served as a sergeant major within the 13th Connecticut Infantry Regiment in the Civil War.
Coming from a family of boaters, Sperry got the idea for his boating shoes after seeing his dog sprint across ice. He created shoes that had paw-like grooves in a thick rubber sole. Originally intended for boaters, the shoes are now a fashion icon across the U.S.
6. Gordon Logan, Sport Clips
In 1993, men began changing the way they could get their haircut with the start of Sports Clips. The now-household name, however, got its start with founder and veteran Gordon Logan.
Logan served as an aircraft commander in the Air Force from 1969 until 1976. After departing the military for business school, he opened various salons in Texas, eventually franchising nationwide.
7. Dave Liniger, Re/Max
Chances are you’ve seen hundreds of Re/Max signs in for-sale houses across the U.S. The brand, Real Estate Maximums, got its start back in 1973 when veteran, Dave Liniger, found success in flipping houses.
Before hitting the real estate market by storm, Liniger was enlisted in the Air Force, where he was stationed in Arizona, Texas, Thailand, and Vietnam. He served between 1965 and 1971.
8 & 9. Walmart, Sam and Bud Walton
The mega-store of all retail stores, Walmart, was actually founded by a set of veteran brothers. Sam served from 1942 until 1945 as an Army intelligence officer. Meanwhile, his brother Bud joined the Navy as a bomber pilot, flying missions across the Pacific Ocean.
Sam took over his first store, a five-and-dime store and franchise location of Butler Brothers, in 1945, supposedly with $5,000 of his earnings from the Army, and another $20,000 lent from his father-in-law. Sam and Bud opened the first Walmart location in 1962.