These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines irony as the following: incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result. It’s like being run over by an ambulance that’s on its way to save you — instead of saving you (the expectation), it’s turned you into roadkill (the ironic twist).

Now, these are not to be confused with just bad moments — if you want examples of those, take pretty much any example listed in Alanis Morissette’s song, Ironic (then again, writing a song entitled Ironic and failing to cite a single example of real irony is kinda ironic…).

Another hilarious example of situational irony stems from the fact nearly every well-known “peace” symbol has a military origin. Sure, they may have been co-opted throughout the years to take on entirely different meanings, but if you go by the original definition of each symbol, you’re effectively intimating the opposite of your intent.


Pretty much every symbol for peace, shy of the Roerich Pact’s Three Jewels, has roots in military culture — in fact, many of them have been used as signals of martial might. You may be familiar with a few of these:

The “V” sign

The simple hand gesture, synonymous with counter-culture hippies, Richard Nixon, and teenage girls, actually has concrete beginnings that can be traced to one man at one moment: Winston Churchill threw up his index and middle fingers to signal a ‘V,’ for “victory,” after the Allies triumphed over the Axis Powers.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

I like to think that he knew full well that he was giving everyone the forks, but wanted to see how long it took anyone to say something.

But before that, Belgian Minister of Justice, Victor de Lavaleye, began spreading the use of the finger ‘V’ across Europe. In 1941, he was using it as a quiet protest to say that “victory is coming” or “freedom is coming” in the Netherlands (“freedom” in Dutch is “vrijheid,” which also starts with a “v”). Churchill, upon co-opting the symbol, eventually turned his palm outward to avoid sending the British gesture for “up yours.”

In either case, the symbol that is now known for peace started as a way to signal impending or fresh military victory, depending on your cited origin.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

You can go ahead and pick whatever color you like — it all sends the same message.

White poppies

After WWI, wearing a red poppy on one’s lapel was a sign of respect for fallen troops. It was a direct homage to Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s famous poem, In Flanders Fields. In 1933, the Peace Pledge Union shifted the tradition, imploring people to wear white poppies instead of the red ones to honor the casualties of war without extolling it.

If you really want to be specific, however, the poem never really identifies which color poppy grew at Flanders Field, just that there were poppies. So, if you’re wearing poppies of any color, you’re referencing one of history’s most famous wartime poems. The only reason he chose the red version of the poppy is because it’s eye-catching.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

The “peace symbol” 

The most famous symbol to come out of the 1960s is actually a clever use of military speak to directly get the military’s attention for a specific issue: nuclear disarmament. Just after the UK had developed their H-Bomb and tested it near Christmas Island, the Direct Action Committee called for a pause on the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. The Committee agreed that outright pacifism wasn’t the solution — but they also agreed that nuclear weapons weren’t the answer to the Cold War, either.

The DAC needed a symbol to rally behind, so designer and DAC board member Gerald Holtom created one, incorporating the flag semaphores for ‘N’ and ‘D’ in the design, for “nuclear disarmament.”

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

Funnily enough, Joker is using the symbol in its proper context. His pin says that wars shouldn’t be fought by nuclear means, but through conventional warfare.

(Warner Bros.)

They never trademarked the design, so it was free to use among members of the counter-culture and anti-Vietnam War protesters ran with it.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

The olive branch

The most misunderstood signal of peace is the olive branch. The first example of olive branches being used as a symbol dates back to the stories of ancient Greece when Athena was trying to win the patronage of Athens over Poseidon. Legend has it, she threw her spear into the ground and it blossomed into the first olive tree. The new tree was, essentially, a giant “f*ck you” to Poseidon because her olives were more useful than his salt water.

Athenians later gave olive branches out as a symbol of Athena to mighty warriors and Olympians. The olives and their branches represented prosperity after long-fought wars.

During the time of the Romans, Mars, the God of War, was often depicted holding an olive branch. To the Romans, “extending the olive branch” meant to be from a god or ruler and given to their subject. It was something more along the lines of “we fought, now enjoy this peace and prosperity.”

The Romans knew best that si vis pacem, para bellum, or “if you want peace, prepare for war.”

MIGHTY STORIES

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Mighty Stories is a weekly WATM feature highlighting the stories of veterans, active duty and military families. This week’s feature is Krista Simpson Anderson – Army wife, Gold Star wife, founder of the nonprofit The Unquiet Professional.

I grew up in Hampton, Massachusetts – a little town right outside of Springfield. My father served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967-1971, but it was before I was born. My mom’s side of the family also served, but it wasn’t something we talked about. I was blissfully ignorant about military life.

I met Mike in June 2006. He was a friend of my cousin’s. My cousin was deploying to Iraq and my aunt was having a deployment party for him. She flew in a few of his friends that had been in the Old Guard with him, and she called me and asked me to help her with the guys flying in.

I walked into the Toasted Owl Tavern in Northhampton, and there he was.


It was love at first sight. I remember my cousin saying to me, ‘I’m going to disown you both if you get married.’ But we were fixed on each other. The whole world could have come crashing down around us and we wouldn’t have noticed.

In August 2006, Mike’s whole unit transferred to Germany. I went out to visit him for Thanksgiving. In September of 2007, he deployed to Iraq. He came out to Rhode Island to my family’s home before he left and we spent a week together. I was working in the restaurant business at the time of his deployment, so I took a couple of different jobs, one in St. Thomas, one in New York. But we stayed in contact.

In April 2008, during his mid-tour leave, he invited me to his brother David and sister-in-law Kelsey’s wedding in Texas. During their rehearsal dinner in his parents’ backyard, he went to give his best man’s speech and we all thought it would be something funny. He was so goofy, it was hard to imagine him doing something serious. Now mind you, he served in the military in the Old Guard so he clearly had to be serious for work. But the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘Be each other’s compass.’

I was blown away.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

Mike and Krista. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

That night, he walked me to my room – we were all staying with his parents – and he told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. And he asked me, ‘Will you be my wife?’ I knew that it had been a long night of celebrating so I told him that if he felt the same way in the morning we could talk about it. I went to sleep dreaming of the rest of our lives together.

The next morning over a cup of coffee at the counter, Mike looked at me and said, ‘I don’t feel any differently than I did last night. I want you to be my wife. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’ I said yes, of course. We kept this a secret because it was not our day – it was David and Kelsey’s wedding day, and we knew his oldest brother, Isaac, was going to be proposing to his now wife, Vanessa, the next day. We told his sister, Abby, and then swore her to secrecy.

A few days after the wedding we announced our good news and decided to marry as soon as Mike returned from his deployment.

Mike went back to Iraq a week later, and returned in October 2008 to Germany. We met back up in Tennessee for Isaac and Vanessa’s wedding in November. December 20, 2008, we married in Rhode Island, and the first week of January he returned to Germany. We decided to live apart until his orders came through to start the Special Forces Qualification course so he wouldn’t need to extend in Germany.

I went to Germany to see him in February for his birthday, and I came home and found out I was pregnant with our first son a month later. I was working at a restaurant as a manager and living with my parents in Rhode Island awaiting orders. By September 2009 we were finally living together in Fort Bragg, NC and our son Michael was born October 22nd.

I remember taking “SF101” (Special Forces 101) for the spouses and the emphasis was put on how long our husbands would be away from home. Everything was about not getting our hopes up for birthdays, holidays, special occasions and being a family during those times. They really wanted to prepare us for the let downs of our military career. No one ever told me the incredible things our husbands would be doing while away from home and that every mission would be for the good of our nation. No one ever told me about the amazing and wonderful things we would be doing for our families while they were away. No one ever told me how, as spouses, we would show up for each other, in good times and in bad. No one ever told me that we would all be changing the world together – them abroad and us on the homefront.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

Mike, Krista and their two boys. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

Mike graduated in March 2011 and then reported July 10 for a Special Forces billet at 4th BN, Charlie Company, 1st Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I got out there August 1 with Michael who was just about two, and pregnant with Gabriel. We closed on our first house on my birthday, September 23.

As soon as our household goods arrived, Mike was off on a TDY (Temporary Duty) so I set up the house with my two year old and called my Mom and Aunt in for reinforcements to paint beige the mustard yellow walls and ceiling our new home offered.

When home, Mike was a present and incredibly fun daddy. He played this game called Daddy T-Rex. He would hold Gabe and chase Mic around the house, pretending to be a dinosaur. They would also lie on the floor and play Legos, have mini race-car races all the while tapping into Mike’s very present childlike spirit. He’d say to me, ‘I can’t wait until they’re older so we can do more fun things.’ He couldn’t wait to play basketball, soccer and teach them to ride bikes.

On 6 April 2013, Mike deployed with his company to eastern Afghanistan. Less than three weeks later I received the call every military spouse prays they’ll never get.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

Mike, right, with a battle buddy. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

The day before the call, Mike and I were texting back and forth and I was telling him how grateful I was to be his wife. I asked him to marry me all over again. I said, ‘I love you more today than I ever have. You have brought so much joy to my life that it overwhelms me. Will you marry me… Again?’ We were going to meet in Mexico with our families around Christmas and I told him I wanted to do it then. He wrote back, ‘Yes!’

On April 27, I had just put Gabriel down for a nap (he was 16 months) and I heard my phone ringing. I ran down the stairs to an ‘Unknown’ caller and answered what I can only assume must have been the last ring. It was (now Lieutenant Colonel) Major Jamie Alden, and he said ‘Hi, Krista? This is Major Alden.’ It didn’t even dawn on me why the company commander would be calling me from Afghanistan.

He asked me where I was, and I told him I was at home. He asked where the boys were, and I told him Mic was in the other room and I’d just put Gabe down for a nap.

He said, ‘I need you to sit down.’

You know that feeling when it seems that your brain starts going numb and it begins to rush through your whole body? Luckily I made it to the other room and sat down near the boys’ toys – on a bean bag chair.

‘Michael is alive, but he is in critical condition. There was an accident; he hit an IED while riding an ATV. He has a lower right leg amputation and there has been severe trauma to his right arm. We know there is shrapnel damage, we just are not sure where and the extent. Again, he is alive, but he is critical.’

I had to stop him. I couldn’t process anything and I knew I wouldn’t be able to remember anything else he was saying. I ran across the street and banged on my neighbor Kate’s door, and her daughter opened it. She was supposed to be coming over anyway to watch the boys since we had a neighborhood clean-up scheduled and I was president of the homeowners association. She ran to stay with the boys while Kate got on the phone with Major Alden. It took some convincing for him to speak to her but he finally agreed, understanding my emotional state.

I watched her as she spoke to him but I couldn’t hear her. I could hear sounds, just not the words, as if my ears were blocked. Kate handed the phone back to me and I thanked him, and he reminded me that we were family, that his wife Susan would be calling me soon, and that everything was going to be okay.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

Mike, before the attack. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

I got off the phone and had to start making phone calls. I walked with my phone in my hand across the grass toward our friends, Alan and Angie’s, house. They were laying out a tarp for mulch on their driveway when they looked over. It must have been written all over my face because they rushed to me and caught me before I fell to my knees. Alan was the commander of an EOD unit on JBLM and assured me everything was going to be ok. Angie was by my side and provided support in any way I needed.

I wanted to close my eyes and wake up from the nightmare but I couldn’t. I was a Green Beret’s wife and the mother of two future Green Berets. I said to myself, ‘Pull yourself together, handle your business- he’s not dead and is going to need you to be strong!’

I stood outside, barefoot, on the cold pavement. The bottoms of my feet still get cold remembering those moments. I tried calling Mike’s parents but there was no answer. I tried calling my parents and no answer again. I called his brother Isaac, who was also a Green Beret who was in North Carolina doing his instructor rotation. I said, ‘It’s Mike. He’s alive but he hit an IED and he’s in surgery. It’s critical.’

I can still hear his scream.

Isaac had witness IED attacks before and he knew the gravity of this news. Isaac and Vanessa would make the calls to the rest of the Simpson family as I continued my calls from the floor of our parish where I sat and prayed. Once my parents were notified, my mother arrived from Rhode Island to our home in Olympia, Washington, 12 hours later.

1st Special Forces Group (1st SFG) at JBLM welcomed me in every morning to call Afghanistan for updates. LTC David Haight would call Bagram ICU and translate their medical report for me whether at that morning meeting or 1am. We would share our information, formulate a plan and I would leave the table every morning stronger than I arrived. Monday, 29 April, I called the hospital myself. The doctor that answered told me he was sorry, but that Mike didn’t have a gag or corneal reflex and that he would not live.

I thanked him and his team for caring for him so well. I went downstairs to tell my mother before the boys awoke and then retreated to my room where I called my cousin Alicia and friend Andrea. I begged Alicia to wake me up and take this away.

The medical team cared for Mike so well they were able to transfer him from Afghanistan to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany. We got the green light to go to Germany as soon as Mike was in the air from AFG. They couldn’t cut orders or book our flights until they knew Mike was surviving the altitude. They performed emergency surgery on the plane and worked tirelessly to keep him alive even though they knew the outcome. When they arrived in Germany, one of Mike’s closest friends from the Special Forces Qualification Course was there awaiting his arrival. Casey served with another Special Forces Group and was training in the area when we received the news.

As I traveled to Germany, my Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO) SFC Gerry DeMarzo and Chaplain Johnny Elder escorted me. What a blessing they were for so many reasons I couldn’t possibly list in short. The ‘behind the scenes’ had so many issues getting us all there but with the help from the Green Beret Foundation, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, USO, Fisher House Foundation and Care Coalition on top of 1st SFG, I arrived and met Mike’s parents, siblings and spouses to be with Mike.

Upon arrival, my only request was that I got to see him first. I wanted to clean him up before his mom saw him. Silly, but it was all I could think of. I got to the hospital and Casey was at the door with SFC Doug Way. (They both never once left us. Casey stayed at Mike’s bedside and Doug would either be standing outside his hospital room or kneeling outside the room praying.)

I never lost hope.

‘Maybe he will heal and maybe the doctors were wrong,’ I kept telling myself.

Casey and Doug greeted me, offered their condolences and I entered the room.

There he was.

My big bad Green Beret laying broken and vulnerable. I had never felt so helpless in all of my life.

All I could manage was a whisper… ‘Dear Lord, please help us.’

On 1 May 2013, as we all stood around Mike’s bed, Dr. Betts informed us that Mike was in fact brain dead. I asked, ‘Can his brain heal?’ rationally knowing the answer, but I had to ask. ‘No ma’am, the brain can not heal from these injuries,’ he said. I nodded my head in understanding, saw the very real pain in his parents’ and siblings’ faces, said, ‘Thank you,’ and then ran out.

I ran left out of the room, through the ICU doors into the hall toward the stairs, down the stairs and out of the hospital hoping I could run away from this earth-shattering moment in my life and somehow, when I returned, everything would be ok – Mike would wake, he would rehab and our lives would go on … Together.

I stopped and Gerry and Doug were not too many steps behind me. Gerry never let me out of his sight for a moment; he was my greatest advocate and protector. He always told me he took care of our family the way he would have wanted his family taken care of if something were to have happened to him. When I returned to the hospital, I went back in and I didn’t leave Mike’s side except for an hour to take care of the paperwork I needed to sign.

The rest of that day we would call all the family and friends we could connect with so they could say their goodbyes. I would call and inform them of Mike’s diagnosis, tell them how sorry I was but that it was time for them to say goodbye if they wished. I would put the phone down on Mike’s pillow next to his ear, believing he would receive their love and pain through their words.

I wanted everyone to have the opportunity to say whatever they wanted and needed to for some closure. Our family and friends stateside would say goodbye as well as Charlie Company, 4th BN, 1st SFG. Mike’s team was sure he would survive, so my news was heartbreaking to them … Mike was their brother.

One of Mike’s friends and teammates brought me to my knees with his heartfelt message that his wife would transcribe for me later. His words were, ‘For Mike: Hey buddy. Have no fear, you’re the realest Green Beret now. You did it all. Thanks for all the bravo advice and an invitation to be a part of your family. I will never forget our time together and will do anything for your family. R.I.P. brother. I love you. One more thing – thank you for the greatest sacrifice one can make. My prayer to you … Now I lay you down to sleep, I pray the Lord your soul to keep. If you should die before you wake, bless Mikey Lord, his soul to take.’

Once the last call was made I think my body and mind knew it and I needed to rest. I asked the hospital staff if they could move Mike over so I could lie next to him in his hospital bed. I laid there and just listened to his heart beat. I prayed until I drifted off to sleep. Around 4 am, the nurse came in and wanted to change his dressings and clean him up. I asked if I could help, so she brought in soapy water and a washcloth. She changed his dressings while I cleaned him up. Around 9 pm, they came in to get him for organ donor surgery. I stayed with him while they got him ready to be moved. I walked to the door holding his hand as they started to wheel him out, and didn’t want to let go.

This was it.

I would never see his chest rise and fall or hear his beating heart again. ‘I’M NOT READY!’ I screamed in my head.

But … with as much grace as I could, I leaned down and kissed him one last time and whispered, ‘I love you all the world. I promise you I will take care of our boys, and we will always remember you.’

They wheeled his bed out and I stood in the empty, cold hospital room alone. ‘What now?’ I asked. ‘How do I live without you?’

We came back from Germany to Dover for the dignified transfer on 7 May 2013. He was supposed to be the only casket on the flight, but seven other soldiers were killed just days before, so we were with their families. These families didn’t have what we did. They didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. They watched their loved one get on the plane for deployment and then their casket come off in Dover.

It started to rain as we stood out on the tarmac, so hard it was sideways. My mother in law had an umbrella and was also trying to wrap me in her jacket to protect me. I told her I was okay without it, because I wanted to feel everything; the rain, the heartache, the fear. I had to face that moment.

As the caskets were taken off the plane I could hear the rain and the wailing from mothers and fathers who lost their sons, siblings who lost their brothers, spouses who lost their husbands and children who lost their fathers. I felt as though I was hovering over myself, looking down in disbelief that this was now my journey.

I flew home to Washington after being gone for 10 days. I could never spend a few hours away from my boys without missing them terribly. This time I was afraid to see them. What would I say? How would I tell them their Daddy wasn’t coming home?

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

Mike’s dignified transfer. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

I sat Michael (age 3) down and asked, ‘Do you believe in God?’

‘Yes Mommy,’ he said.

‘Even though you can’t see Him?’ I asked.

‘Yes of course Mommy!’ he replied.

‘You know Daddy is a soldier?’

‘Yes,’ he answered.

I looked into his eyes and softly said, ‘Well, Daddy is going to be God’s soldier now.’

‘But I will miss him,’ he said.

‘Me too.’

It would have been easy to sit down and focus on all the tragedy. My husband, my best friend, the father of my two beautiful boys was gone. I was a 35 year old widow who didn’t have enough time with the love of my life. Mike and I always told each other, ‘This love happens once in a lifetime,’ and it was gone.

My future and dreams broke into a million pieces and I had no idea how I would become whole again. And yet, somehow, I had to choose to see the incredible blessings that were happening all around us. The support from our family, friends and community; the military representatives that were assigned to us that created a beautiful journey; it was all a gift as much as my husband’s sacrifice was a gift to us all. Everybody who walked into our lives … it was nothing short of perfect.

On 30 May 2013, our Memorial Day, Mike was interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery by his original Old Guard unit where he served when he first joined the military in 2003.

There are many things I remember about that day. It was so hot I could feel the heat from the pavement radiate through the bottom of my sandals – a stark contrast from the cold I felt on my bare feet the day I got the call that Mike had been hit.

I remember walking for what seemed like forever with our two children, hoping to make it through the ceremony.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

Michael with his Daddy T-rex at Mike’s memorial. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

And I remember thinking that this place, Arlington National Cemetery, had always been one of my favorite places to be. It’s so peaceful. It’s filled with a clear and strong sense of honor and courage, but in that moment I didn’t feel brave at all.

There were over 100 people in attendance to show their love and support, not just for Mike, but for us as well. My dear friend Andrea Rinaldi was one of them. She stayed by my side through it all, from the very beginning of our journey, and selflessly gave of her time and heart. The service, experience and support of so many was humbling, and I will always be grateful.

Finally, I remember the boys and I receiving the folded flags. How do you process receiving a folded flag in the place of your Daddy when you’re only three years old? Michael was given the flag, but really only wanted his Daddy T-Rex. As I held our 16 month old, I watched as Gerry, our Casualty Assistance Officer, took a knee, and took Michael’s flag for him. I love this picture – this moment in time – as it truly captures how Gerry so beautifully served our family.

Mike’s company would continue their deployment for six more months after Mike’s death. One of his teammates stated during his memorial, ‘This Team… This company… This regiment, will never forget your sacrifice. Each day when we don our kit and prepare for battle, we will do it in your honor. We will take the fight to the enemy and fight how you would have wanted us to. Never faltering… Never failing… and never forgetting. This fight is over for you brother, but know that it is not over for us. We will continue in your honor and remember you as a husband, a father, and a Green Beret.’

I attended the homecoming for the first flight that came in from Afghanistan. I was grateful to be there yet nervous about my emotions. As we waited in the company I was approached by a woman in the hallway. ‘Mrs. Simpson,’ she said. ‘I am not sure if this is an appropriate time but I wanted to introduce myself and tell you that I was one of Mike’s nurses in Afghanistan.’ I am sure I hugged her immediately and was so grateful to lay my hands on someone who was there, with Mike, during the scariest moments of his life. It was a blessing I can’t explain. She was one of many who saved Mike so our family could say goodbye. She was, and still is, my angel. I am blessed by her and her whole family to this day.

When the buses arrived carrying Mike’s company we all rushed outside to greet them. The minds and hearts of so many wives and children were eased and made whole again. I truly was so happy for them, yet I subconsciously waited for Mike to get off that bus. The last man embarked and I was sure Mike would be next. The door closed and the bus drove away.

In the distance, I heard the shriek of a little girl, calling, ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ and as I turned to look, I saw her run and jump into a man’s arms who wore the same uniform as all the other soldiers … the same one Mike would have been wearing, with the same wide arms he would have caught our sons in. But it wasn’t him and it never would be. My heart shattered all over again and I needed to turn and walk inside to face this emotion alone. I couldn’t allow anyone to think I was not grateful their husbands came home, because I was, wholeheartedly, but that didn’t take away my pain.

I went home that night with a folded flag that was flown over Mike’s camp in Afghanistan. My dear friend laid next to me as I cried myself to sleep and she didn’t leave my side until she knew I was okay.

Over the next several months I was constantly at the battalion, offering help, wanting to talk to them to make sure they were doing okay. I know it was difficult for them to see me since I was a reminder of the reality of Mike’s death. I know many struggled with his loss and I recognized very quickly that survivor’s guilt was a very real emotion. They needed to know that this was God’s plan, not ours, and He doesn’t make mistakes. My mission was to show them that we would honor Mike, grieve his loss but we would absolutely be okay. We were strong and proud, not weak and angry. Everyone grieves differently and there is not a right or wrong way to do it. I chose grace for me, my children and his team.

One of Mike’s teammates, Gus, had done the original inventory on Mike’s things. He was able to put all of his belongings into perspective. What he was wearing the day of his accident, what certain gear meant and what it was used for. He brought back command challenge coins from the memorial in Afghanistan where they all gathered on 11 May. Gus was able to retrieve and hand carry the patches Mike wore on his helmet, along with the memorial patch he had made for their team’s uniforms. Gus would come over and play with the boys, give me a moment of rest and help anyway he could.

So many of Mike’s teammates and their families would do the same. I was so grateful for the respite since the light at the end of the deployment tunnel was extinguished for me. Mike wouldn’t return to ease the natural burdens of parenting coupled with keeping up the household alone.

I always had family dinners. From the time Mike passed, I’d send out a text at 1:00 pm on a Sunday with, ‘Family dinner at 4’ and a few hours later the house would fill with joy and laughter. What better therapy than to be surrounded by those that loved us and Mike?

Gus and I would talk a lot about Mike, his feelings of survivor’s guilt (which they all had) and spent a lot of time together over the next couple years. I started to realize I cared for Gus more than I thought was possible and wanted to see where that would lead us.

I flew down to Texas for Easter – I needed to talk to Mike’s parents. His father said to me, ‘I have four requirements: He loves you, he loves the boys, he loves Jesus and that he always shows them it’s manly to love Jesus.’ His mother said, ‘I’ve prayed since the week after Mike died that you would find somebody.’ They were my greatest supporters. And they already loved Gus. He was already a part of our family. This was a no brainer for me.

I struggled with Gus being my secret-not so secret boyfriend. I had this organization that I’d founded as a widow of an active duty service member. I was afraid. I had lost my identity as a military spouse and then I found one as a military widow. It allowed me to talk about Mike and honor him. We were afraid of what our friends might think of our relationship and the judgement that would come. In July 2016, we broke up when I realized I needed time. Ten days later, he left for Nepal with his team and during those three months I recognized all of the things I was doing wrong. I thought I was honoring Mike every day but by not honoring Gus at all, was I really? By having someone in my life who wanted to love us, take care of us and honor Mike, yet I wasn’t willing to let him in – could I be dishonoring my late husband? I used to resent the ‘widow’ title but then I found myself not wanting to let it go.

I prayed so much and I came to the conclusion that I just needed to love Gus, and show him that he was a priority. He got back from Nepal and he was still very angry with me. We met a few times to talk, took it slow and then one day I boldly told him that we were going to get married. I knew the response could have broke my heart but he was worth it.

We were worth it.

He laughed and told me softly that I had to be crazy. One month later, Gus got down on one knee on the docks in Seattle, in front of our favorite Oyster Bar (Elliotts) and asked me to marry him. Two months later, we were married in Rhode Island among our family and friends. The priest who married us had married my parents, baptized Gabriel, did last rights for Mike and his funeral in Arlington, and had confirmed and married Casey and Sandy (Mike’s friend who was with him in Germany). It was perfect.

Thanks to Michael’s kind-hearted 1st grade teacher, Ms. Petruska, my boys decided to call Gus ‘Dad’ the moment we stepped off the altar, and have not called him anything but that since. They wanted and needed a father in their lives so badly and I don’t think I realized that until then. Michael and Gabriel both repeat Ms. Petruska’s words often – ‘We have a Daddy in Heaven and a Daddy on earth.’

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

A month after Gus and I married he deployed to Afghanistan. I woke up every morning and prayed that Gus was alive. He was so good about messaging me whenever he could to ease my mind, even though I never shared with him my fears. His heart and mind just works that way and he is always considering the times and moments I may go through in this journey and how they may be affecting me. He is constantly striving to make life easier. I pray I do the same for him.

I won’t tell you that I didn’t struggle through those six months but I can tell you I found peace in God’s plan and chose to continue to trust that His plan was greater than mine. Tragedy and loss does not have to define you or dictate the rest of your life. My story didn’t end with the loss of Mike; it began with a new chapter of hope and my choice of joy. It continued with honoring Mike and Gus giving me the greatest gift… he never makes me choose as he continues to give me the freedom to love them both.

Five years to the day that Mike touched American soil in Dover, Delaware for his dignified transfer, I landed in Washington, DC with Gus, for the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year events with Military Spouse Magazine that would change my life. Five years to the day that Mike was flown back to Joint Base Lewis McChord to land at Grey Army Airfield, I was awarded the overall Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year. I know it’s right where I need to be, that God’s timing is perfect, and that Mike would be so proud of me. And I also know I couldn’t have done any of this without Gus or my children.

Tragedy did not dictate my life in a negative way. My goal is that other people can see that, and feel that. I remember looking at other Gold Star Spouses like Lisa Hallett and thinking, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ And I want other people to look at me and find hope, too.

Mike was very proud to sacrifice his life. And I am so proud to honor him.

Arlington National Cemetery is where my friend Andrea suggested a fundraiser for those who supported us and ultimately where The Unquiet Professional was born. So many organizations supported us, from the volunteers with the USO who carried my kids through the airport, the Green Beret Foundation being there for everything, or wear blue: run to remember, where I found a healthy and meaningful way to heal. I wanted to be able to pay that love back.

We now provide healthy and empowering opportunities for Gold Star Families, Veterans and their families. When Andrea suggested fundraising, she saved me that day. She saved me from the possibilities of not being able to live out my grief in a positive way. I heal as I strive to help others do the same with my ‘twice in a lifetime love’ by my side every step of the way.

Memorial Day is my favorite holiday of the year. We feel Mike’s presence and his loss every single day no matter what life brings us. But on Memorial Day, everyone thinks of all of our fallen heroes. People say when you’re having your bbq and your beer you’re not remembering the sacrifices, but I say celebrate. Celebrate their lives. Remember them.

Honor Staff Sergeant Michael Simpson and other heroes this Memorial Day by participating in The Unquiet Professional’s Virtual Memorial Day Mile. Join their Facebook group here.

Articles

That time this Navy squadron bombed North Vietnam with a toilet

In October 1965, Commander Clarence W. Stoddard, Jr. of the USS Midway carried a special bomb to North Vietnam to celebrate the six millionth pound of ordnance dropped on the Communist country: a ceramic toilet.


These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

The event was recounted on MidwaySailor.com:

The bombing was a Dixie Station strike from South Vietnam. Among the weapons on Stoddard’s ordnance list was one code named “Sani-Flush.”

Sani-flush was a damaged toilet, which was going to be thrown overboard. One of the Midway‘s plane captains rescued it and the ordnance crew made a rack, tail fins, and nose fuse for it. The checkers maintained a position to block the view of the air boss and the captain while the aircraft was taxiing forward.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

The toilet ordnance was dropped in a dive with Stoddard’s wingman, Lt. Cmdr. Robin Bacon, flying tight wing position to film the drop. When it came off, it turned hole to the wind and almost struck his airplane, and whistled all the way down.

According to Clint Johnson, now a retired U.S. Navy Captain, just as Stoddard’s A-1 Skyraider was being shot off, they received a message from the bridge: “What the hell was on 572’s right wing?”

“There were a lot of jokes with air intelligence about germ warfare,” Johnson said. “I wish that we had saved the movie film. Commander Stoddard was later killed while flying 572 in October 1966. He was hit by three SAMs over Vinh.”

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
Cmdr. William Stoddard

This isn’t the first example of unconventional warfare from U.S. Navy aviators. In August 1952, AD-4 Skyraiders from the aircraft carrier USS Princeton dropped a 1,000-pound bomb with a kitchen sink attached to it.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

“We dropped everything on them (the North Koreans) but a kitchen sink.” Their squadron’s executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. M.K. Dennis, told the press, before showing them a bomb with a kitchen sink attached.

The admiral was not okay with this, but caved to pressure from American press. The U.S. dropped the kitchen sink on Pyongyang that same month.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the jets that the last man to walk on the moon flew

With the passing of Gene Cernan, a retired Navy captain and NASA astronaut on Jan. 16, 2017, the last man to walk on the moon has left us. While many remember him for that, it should be noted that Cernan was also a naval aviator.


According to his NASA biography, Cernan had over 5,000 flight hours in jets. While NASA notes that Cernan served with VA-26 and VA-112, his Popular Mechanics obituary has him flying with VA-126 and VA-112, and his memoirs place him with VA-126 and VA-113. According to airportjournals.com, during his basic flight training, Cernan flew the T-34, T-28, and F9F Panther.

 

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
John Glenn standing beside the damage to the tail of his F9F Panther from antiaircraft fire after a mission during the Korean War. Gene Cernan flew the F9F Panther during flight training. (Ohio State University)

 

According to seaforces.org, VA-126 was a Fleet Replacement Squadron, and equipped with the FJ-4B Fury, and the F9F-8 and F9F-8T versions of the Cougar. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the F9F-8 Cougar was quickly rendered obsolete as a front-line jet due to new designs, but it did provide service as a fighter-bomber.

The F9F-8T was a two-seat trainer version of the F9F-8, Baugher notes that it stayed in service far longer than its single-seat counterpart. They were later re-designated F-9J and TF-9J in 1962.

 

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
A F9F-8 Cougar with two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. Gene Cernan flew the F9F-8 during his time with VA-126. (U.S. Navy photo)

 

The FJ-4B Fury was a modification of the FJ-4 Fury, which was a navalized version of the famed F-86 Saber, the air-superiority fighter that controlled the skies over the Korean Peninsula during the Korean War. According to Baugher, the FJ-4B was a fighter-bomber, armed with four 20mm cannons and able to carry up to 6,000 pounds of bombs and missiles, including the AGM-12 Bullpup. The FJ-4B could also carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder.

 

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
FJ-4B Fury with VA-126. During his time with that squadron, Cernan flew the FJ-4B. (U.S. Navy photo)

 

When he was assigned to the fleet, Cernan flew the legendary A-4 Skyhawk with either VA-112 or VA-113, depending on the source. According to seaforces.org, both squadrons were equipped with the A-4B Skyhawk (then designated the A4D-2) when Cernan deployed on board USS Shangri-La in 1958 and in 1960.

Joe Baugher notes that the A-4B was capable of carrying a Mk 28 nuclear warhead. It also could carry the AGM-12 Bullpup, had two 20mm cannons, and the ability to haul up to 5,000 pounds of bombs.

 

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
An A-4B Skyhawk. Gene Cernan made two deployments with VA-113 and flew the A-4B. (U.S. Navy photo)

 

As a NASA astronaut, Cernan also flew T-38 Talon supersonic trainers. According to a NASA release, the T-38s are used to keep astronauts current, and pilots are required to have 15 hours per month of flight time.

 

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
Two NASA T-38s fly past the Space Shuttle launch pad. Gene Cernan got 15 flight hours a month in the T-38 to maintain proficiency as an astronaut. (NASA photo)

Gene Cernan walked on the moon, but let’s not forget the fact that he also flew a lot of cool planes much closer to Earth.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

KC-46 debuts at Paris air show amid news of more delays

The Air Force’s new KC-46 Pegasus tanker landed on the flight line at France’s Paris-Le Bourget Airport June 15, 2019, ahead of its public debut at the air show.

But the overseas unveiling comes on the heels of a new government watchdog report outlining new concerns for the KC-46 program, and amid continued challenges with manufacturer Boeing Co. regarding assembly line inspection.

Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said it will take some time for the new inspection process to become standard at Boeing’s production facility. The inspections are supposed to correct actions that set back the program earlier this year.


The Air Force in April 2019 cleared Boeing to resume aircraft deliveries following two stand-downs over foreign object debris (FOD) — trash, tools, nuts and bolts, and other miscellaneous items — found scattered inside the aircraft.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

A KC-46 Pegasus.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

Roper on June 17, 2019, said more FOD issues were discovered within the last week.

“It’s slowing down deliveries,” Roper said here during the airshow.

Currently, the production is averaging one aircraft delivery to the Air Force per month, well below the rate of delivery the service had expected, Roper said.

“We’re currently not accepting at three airplanes per month, which was the original plan. But we’re not going to be pushing on a faster delivery schedule in a way that would put the rigor of the inspection at risk,” he said.

All aircraft under assembly are supposed to be swept routinely for debris. Loose objects are dangerous because they can cause damage over time.

The first halt in accepting KC-46 deliveries occurred in February, and the decision to halt acceptance a second time was made March 23, 2019, officials said at the time.

“We’re just going to have to stay focused, have to continue verifying through these inspections, and what we hope we’ll see is that [detection will happen earlier] for total foreign object debris to come down,” Roper said.

On top of the FOD issue, a new Government Accountability Office report says that the KC-46 — which has had its share of issues even before the FOD discoveries — has a long road ahead for fixing other setbacks that still plague the aircraft.

The GAO found that while both Boeing and the Air Force are aware of or have begun implementing solutions to fix the aircraft, the repeated repairs and recurring delays in the program will likely cause other hiccups in the company’s delivery requirement, according to a report released June 12, 2019.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

The KC-46 Pegasus deploys the centerline boom for the first time Oct. 9, 2015.

(Boeing photo by John D. Parker)

As previously reported, one of the main issues surrounds poorly-timed testing. But GAO said a new issue lies with delivery of the wing refueling pods, which would allow for simultaneous refueling of two Navy or allied aircraft, or for aircraft that do not use a boom system.

Since the company did not start the process for testing the wing refueling pods on time, GAO found, it is not expected to meet the delivery date for the pods, nearly 34 months after the delivery was originally planned.

“Boeing continued to have difficulty providing design documentation needed to start Federal Aviation Administration testing for the wing aerial refueling pods over the past year, which caused the additional delays beyond what [GAO] reported last year,” the report said. “Specifically, program officials anticipate that the Air Force will accept the first 18 aircraft by August 2019, and nine sets of wing aerial refueling pods by June 2020 — which together with two spare engines constitute the contractual delivery requirement contained in the development contract.”

GAO officials noted the Air Force still grapples with other previously-known problems with the aircraft. For example, the service said in January 2019 said it would accept the tanker, which is based on the 767 airliner design, despite the fact it has a number of deficiencies, mainly with its Remote Vision System.

The RVS, which is made by Rockwell Collins and permits the in-flight operator to view the refueling system below the tanker, has been subject to frequent software glitches. The first tankers were delivered in spite of that problem.

The systemic issue, which will require a software and hardware update, may take three to four years to fix, officials have said.

GAO estimates it will take the same amount of time to fix and FAA-certify the tanker’s telescoping boom, which has previously been described as “too stiff”for lighter aircraft to receive fuel.

“The KC-46 boom currently requires more force to compress it sufficiently to maintain refueling position,” the report said. “Pilots of lighter receiver aircraft, such as the A-10 and F-16, reported the need to use more power to move the boom forward while in contact with the boom to maintain refueling position.”

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

An A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Pilots also pointed out the same power is needed to disconnect from the boom, which could damage the aircraft or the boom upon release.

The solution requires a hardware change and “will then take additional time to retrofit about 106 aircraft in lots 1 to 8,” GAO said. “The total estimated cost for designing and retrofitting aircraft is more than 0 million.”

It’s unclear if the latest findings will impede prospects for future international sales, especially at the Paris air show.

Jim McAleese, expert defense industry analyst and founder of McAleese Associates, said that the KC-46 is still the U.S.’s latest aviation program, and international partners will be curious about it.

“Now that [the Air Force] is accepting deliveries, KC-46 is high visibility for international sales,” McAleese recently told Military.com.

Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan on June 17, 2019, said its presence is key to showing U.S. capabilities abroad regardless of “minor” issues.

“KC-46 really is a great airplane,” Donovan said. “What we’re talking about here are sort of minor things when you take a look at the whole capability of the airplane.”

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

A KC-46 Pegasus.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

Roper added, “The foreign object debris is not a reflection of the end-state performance. We’re not happy with how FOD is being handled … but once we get the FOD out of the airplane the hard way, our operators are getting good performance out in the field.”

The Air Force has received six KC-46 tankers at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, and five at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, according to a service release.

Designated aircraft and aircrew at McConnell earlier this month began Initial Operational Testing and Evaluation (IOTE), which will provide a glimpse “of how well the aircraft performs under the strain of operations,” the release said.

“As the KC-46 program proceeds with IOTE, participation in the Paris Air Show and other international aviation events serves as [an] opportunity to increase understanding of ally and partner capabilities and proficiencies, while promoting standardization and interoperability of equipment,” the Air Force said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the new US stealth drone designed for suicide missions

The US Air Force on March 5, 2019, tested the XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, which it calls a “long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle” designed to fight against Russia and China in suicide missions too dangerous for manned fighter jets.

The Air Force tested the Valkyrie as part of its Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology program, which in layman’s terms means a program to create cheap aircraft that can soak up enemy missiles, clearing the way for other jets to follow.


The US has stealth fighter jets like the F-22 and F-35 for the explicit purpose of penetrating heavily defended airspaces, but top adversaries like Russia and China have responded with a wide array of counter-stealth technologies and strategies.

According to Justin Bronk, a combat aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, some threats even these elite jets likely can’t survive.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

Chinese HongQi 9 [HQ-9] launcher during China’s 60th anniversary parade, 2009.

(Photo by Jian Kang)

Suicide mission

“Missions which are effectively one way, where there’s a campaign-critical target that is realistically too high threat to expect” jets to survive call for drones, said Bronk.

While the F-22 and F-35 represent true all-aspect stealth aircraft optimized to evade detection, tracking, and interception via missiles, they have a fatal weakness.

To drop bombs or fire missiles, both aircraft must open up their bomb bays, ruining their stealth shaping. Additionally, radar or communications emissions may compromise their operations.

“Even if you get there and deliver munitions, you’re probably not getting out of it,” Bronk said of flying manned aircraft in ultra-high threat scenarios.

The cheapest F-35s the US will ever buy will likely cost million. F-22s, bought in small numbers, cost around 0 million each. Perhaps even more valuable than the jet, is the US pilot manning each system.

Instead, why not send a cheap drone? Or at the stated cost of -3 million a pop, why not a swarm of drones?

The Valkyrie can’t carry many weapons. It’s not meant to carry any air-to-air missiles, it can’t go very fast, and it will never be a dogfighter, said Bronk.

“But if you can pump these out for million at 100 or so a year, you could hugely increase the Air Force’s combat edge,” he continued.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle, completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019, at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. The Air Force Research Laboratory partnered with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems to develop the XQ-58A.

(Air Force Research Laboratory)

The battle plan

With a range of between 1,500 and 2,000 nautical miles, the Valkyrie far outranges US stealth fighters or fighters of any kind.

This lends itself to a swarming attack, wherein dozens or even hundreds of Valkyries come flying in at high subsonic speeds to either drop air-to-ground bombs, jam radars with electronic warfare, spy on enemy missile sites, or even just soak up the first wave of enemy missiles, which incidentally would also likely provide targeting data to other US assets.

Next, the US’s manned aircraft could take on a greatly softened up target, which has just weathered a swarm of jamming, bombing, semi-stealthy drones forcing them to fire millions of dollars worth of missiles at cheap jets essentially meant to be shot down.

“XQ-58A is the first example of a class of UAV that is defined by low procurement and operating costs while providing game changing combat capability,” Doug Szczublewski, the Air Force’s XQ-58A Program Manager said in a release.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Coast Guard commander returned to an ambush to save Navy operators

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Paul A. Yost, Jr., later a Commandant of the Coast Guard, was leading a group of 13 swift boats during the insertion of Navy Underwater Demolition Team-13 and some Vietnamese marines when his column came under attack from a Viet Cong ambush that managed to heavily damage multiple boats, kill American and Vietnamese troops, and isolate the last boat.


 

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

When Yost found out that his last boat was trapped in the kill zone and his other ships weren’t in shape to recover it, he took his command boat and one other back into the kill zone to rescue the sailors who were still under attack.

The 13-boat movement was part of Operation Silver Mace II, which was put into action to break up Viet Cong operations in that section of Vietnam. The boats were to drop off the ground forces and then provide support from the river. The first five boats reached the insertion points for their marines and completed their mission without incident.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

The other eight boats continued upriver. When they went to drop off their marines, a U.S. Marine major assigned as an advisor went to Yost and asked that the Vietnamese marines be dropped another mile upriver because the going was hard and no Viet Cong activity had been spotted. Yost agreed.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
Riverine craft make their way up a narrow river in Vietnam. PCF-23 was one of the craft involved in Operation Silver Mace II. (Photo: Naval War College Museum)

Just to be safe, Yost ordered the two Seawolf attack helicopters assigned to him be launched. They were based on a ship 15 minutes away, meaning they would arrive as the boats got to the more dangerous parts of the river.

But Yost’s superior, Navy Capt. Roy Hoffman, ordered the helicopters to sit tight, possibly to ensure that they wouldn’t run out of fuel before they were needed. Yost wasn’t told of the change.

A short time later, everything went sideways. The eight boats were proceeding upriver when PCF-5, the lead boat, was suddenly hit with a claymore mine from the riverbank. More claymores, rockets, and machine gun fire rained down on the boats.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

Yost was in the second boat and ordered it to push through the kill zone, and the rest of the column followed.

The rear boat, PCF-43, was the slowest and needed maintenance, according to then-Lt. j.g. Virgil A. Erwin III — a boat commander during the operations. In addition to its maintenance issues, it was weighed down with 800 pounds of explosives, 10 UDTs, and all of their gear.

That boat was unable to keep up with the rest of the column as they pushed through the kill zone, and it was left as the sole target for a few fatal seconds during the ambush. The corpsman on board was hit with a rocket and killed just before another rocket struck the cabin, killing the boat commander and severely wounding the two others in the cabin.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

The boat ran out of control and beached itself, hard, on a mudbank. It hit so hard that it slid most of the way out of the water, leaving the engine’s water intake above the waterline and making it impossible for the boat to propel itself back off.

As the engine overheated, the UDT members jumped from the boat and established a defensive perimeter behind it, using the wreck as cover from the Viet Cong fire coming from a mere 20 feet away.

The closest boat, PCF-38, attempted to assist PCF-43, but their steering gear was damaged and they were forced to head back upriver. Once they reached the lead perimeter, they alerted Yost to the state of PCF-43.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
(Photo: Naval War College Museum)

Yost took his craft, PCF-31, and the former lead boat, PCF-5, back downriver. Once they reached the ambush site, 5 and 31 began pouring .50-cal. rounds into the jungle and forced the Viet Cong fighters to take cover. As 5 kept the fire up, Yost and 31 pulled up to the stricken 43 and began evacuating the wounded and dead.

The two crafts escaped with 15 survivors and the bodies of the two men killed in action.

Just a few hours later, PCF-43 exploded. The most likely cause was that the engines, which typically were cooled by water flowing through the engine for propulsion, had overheated and set fire to the leaking fuel. The fuel ignited the explosives and the whole thing burned hot until the boat itself exploded.

Yost was later awarded the Silver Star for his part in the fight. In 1986, he became the 18th Commandant of the Coast Guard.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the safest place to be in a US bomber flying through German flak in WW2

While most movies and TV series on the war over Germany in World War II focuses on the aerial duals between American P-51 Mustangs, British Spitfires and Luftwaffe fighters like the Bf-109, the Bf-110, and the FW-190, the bulk of the air casualties came from anti-aircraft guns, or “flak.”


 

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
Bf 109E off North Africa. (Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s how to put those losses into some form of perspective — during one bomber raid in October, 1943, three-fourths of the bombers suffered some sort of damage from anti-aircraft fire. The German guns ranged from 20mm auto-cannon to big 128mm pieces. Perhaps the most common was the German 88mm gun, which was not only a potent anti-aircraft gun, but also a lethal tank-killer.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
A German 88mm flak gun. (Wikimedia Commons)

The crewmen who had it worst from the flak were the waist gunners, who accounted for 21.6 percent of casualties. Bombardiers and navigators, who were stationed in the very front of the plane and who had only a glass nose between them and a very long drop, also had a bad time of it, accounting for 15 percent and 13.2 percent of casualties respectively.

The safest crew member was the ball turret gunner (5.5 percent), the pilot (7.7 percent), and co-pilot (6.6 percent), who together accounted for 19.8 percent of casualties).

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
A U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress flying through flak over a target. A hit by flak lead to the capture of Brigadier General Arthur Vanaman, placing ULTRA at risk. (USAF photo)

They were most likely to be hit in the legs (44 percent of the time), followed by the arms (31 percent). The development of flak vests meant that only 9 percent of casualties were hit in the chest and abdomen, while 16 percent of hits were in the head.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
A B-24 that was hit by German flak on April 10, 1945. One crewman survived. (USAF photo)

You can see a video on how and why German flak was such a threat below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time infantry captured a Nazi train filled with lingerie

In August 1944, the successes of D-Day were in the rear-view mirror and American troops were engaged in the long slog to Berlin. One group of American soldiers got a surprise when, while chasing German soldiers east, they captured a military train only to find that sections of it were filled with lingerie, perfume, and other treats.


These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

(Chris Tingom, CC BY 2.0)

After Allied troops took the beachheads at D-Day, there were optimistic predictions that they could take Berlin by Christmas. But it wasn’t to be. It took weeks just to fight through the hedgerows of Normandy, and Germany stiffened its resistance everywhere possible.

Free French forces, resistance members, and British and American units maneuvered east, trying to keep as much pressure on German troops as they could.

As the line shifted east, German troops would burn supplies they were abandoning, but tried to keep vehicles, especially tanks, in good working order, so they could use them to kill American and other Allied soldiers. So the attackers quickly learned to seize as much as they could whenever possible.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

German armored troops roll through Denmark in April 1940.

(Danish Ministry of Defence)

As June ground into July and then August, the push east accelerated. Paris was liberated and, on August 26, Free French General Charles de Gaulle led a parade into the city.

About that time, the 3rd Armored Division was pushing to Soissons, a city 55 miles northeast of Paris. German soldiers pulling back were using railroads to quickly move equipment but, according to a story in Stephen E. Ambrose’s book Citizen Soldiers, one unit had overestimated how long it had to load onto the train and get going.

When U.S. troops arrived, they saw a train preparing to roll out with tanks and armored vehicles loaded onto it. Every armored vehicle that escaped would need to be killed in eastern France, Belgium, or Germany. The train had to be stopped.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

U.S. troops fire their machine gun during battle in Aachen, Germany.

(U.S. Army)

U.S. tanks and half-tracks opened fire as machine gunners and mortarmen rushed into position. Most of their rounds were bouncing off the German armor, but the sheer volume of fire was keeping German drivers and crew out of their vehicles, allowing American troops to keep the upper hand.

Most of the Germans who stayed to fight were killed or captured, and those who escaped into the woods were rounded up by the French resistance. The Germans had dallied too long, and now the train belonged to the U.S. troops.

When they began assessing their find, they were surprised to find little ammunition, medical supplies, or food, all materiel that they needed. Instead, the Germans had loaded the train with candy, women’s lingerie, and lipstick.

It appeared that the German soldiers had raided French shops and, when it came time to run, had prioritized gifts for girlfriends and family over packing or destroying their own supplies, getting a faster exit to save the vehicles, or even just absconding with their lives and arms.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

A woman writes a message on a U.S. tank in Belgium

(U.S. Army)

Their mistake was U.S. gain. The 3rd Armored took the vehicles, other U.S. troops seized millions of pounds of beef, grain, flour, coal, and more. Many items were given to the French public to alleviate shortages caused by Nazi occupation, but other items were pressed into the war effort to keep American troops moving.

Ambrose doesn’t reveal what happened to the love train’s more romantic contents, but it’s likely that some of it made it back to the states in reverse care packages, but most of it probably stayed right there in France, consumed by the people lucky enough to get their hands on it.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Saddam Hussein buried Iraq’s air force in the desert

After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 looking for nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, American troops found a lot of bizarre things – toilets and guns made of gold, a Koran written in blood and Saddam’s romance novel. While they didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction, they did manage to find some weapons. Specifically, they found aircraft buried in the sand next to a perfectly good airfield.


These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony
Iraqi Freedom

One day in 2003, American forces near al-Taqqadum Air Base in Iraq began pulling scores of Mig-25 Foxbat fighters and SU-25 Frog Foot fighter-bombers out of the sand. The aircraft were missing wings but, for the most part, remained fairly well-kept despite being in the sand for who-knows-how-long. If Saddam wasn’t giving inoperable planes a good burial, one wonders why he would intentionally put his planes in the ground.

The answer starts with the fact that the Iraqi Air Force sucked at defending Iraqi airspace.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

But they were suuuuuuper good at bolting to other countries to escape the enemy.

In the Iran-Iraq War that lasted until the late 1980s, the Iraqi Air Force could reasonably hold its own against the superior U.S.- bought aircraft flown by the Islamic Republic of Iran at the time. But Iranian fighter pilots were very, very good and Iraqi pilots usually had to flee the skies before the onslaught of Iranian F-14 Tomcats. Against other Middle Eastern powers, however, Saddam Hussein’s air power could actually make a difference in the fighting – but that’s just against Middle Eastern countries. The United States was another matter.

Iraqi pilots were ready to go defend their homeland from the U.S.-led invasion, but the Iraqi dictator would have none of it. He knew what American technology could do to his aircraft, especially now that the U.S. was flying the F-22. They would get torn to shreds. He also remembered what his pilots did in the first Gulf War when sent to defend the homeland. They flew their fighters to the relative safety of Iran rather than face annihilation, and Iran never gave them back.

Saddam wanted his air force. So he decided to keep them all safe.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

(US Air Force)

At al-Taqqadum and al-Asad air bases, the dictator ordered that his most advanced fighters be stripped and buried in the sand near the airfields. In retrospect, this was probably a good decision for the aircraft. Whatever was left unburied was quickly and forcibly dismantled by the U.S. Air Force on the ground during the invasion. In trying to fight off the Coalition of the Willing, Iraq’s air forces all but disappeared.

Saddam hoped that by saving the aircraft in the sand, he could prevent their destruction and when he was ready (because he assumed he would still be in power after all was said and done), he could unbury them and use their advanced status to terrify his enemies and neighbors.

That, of course, didn’t happen.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China protests huge U.S. arms deal with Taiwan

The United States has approved a $330 million arms deal with China’s neighbor Taiwan, in a move set to further increase tensions between Beijing and Washington amidst the escalating trade war, The South China Morning Post reported.

The news comes as China said on Sept. 24, 2018, that it was impossible to hold trade talks with the US while Washington’s tariffs are like “a knife” to China’s neck, following a fresh $200 billion of tariffs on China, and US President Donald Trump’s threat of $267 billion more.

The proposed arms deal which was announced on Sept. 24, 2018, by the Pentagon and will be put before the US Congress would include parts for F16 and F5 fighter jets, C130 cargo planes, Taiwan’s Indigenous Defence Fighter, and other aircraft systems.


The sale will contribute to the “foreign policy and national security of the United States,” the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said, adding that Taiwan “continues to be an important force for political stability, military balance and economic progress in the region.”

Taiwan has welcomed the move, and said that the deal helps the independent nation off the coast of China strengthen its defenses and deal with the challenges from Beijing. A spokesperson for the presidential office of Taiwan said, it would boost confidence in the face of “severe” security challenges, adding “We greatly appreciate that the US government takes note of the national security of Taiwan.”

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

China sees Taiwan as its sovereign territory, and as a breakaway province that must be united with the mainland by force if necessary. China has previously warned the US not to sell weapons to the country or establish close military ties there, the South China Morning Post reported.

The sale which is not yet finalized is the second under Trump following a id=”listicle-2607841195″.4 billion sale in June 2017 that also prompted anger from Beijing.

Critics of the deal in Washington said it bows to the wishes of Chinese opposition including US defence secretary, Mike Pompeo who criticised the Obama administration for delaying weapons sales to the area.

Officials in Taipei and Washington say it is now likely that the Trump administration will resume regular weapons sales to Taiwan, the Financial Times reported.

The escalating tensions come in the context of China rejecting an invitation for official talks in Washington, with its vice commerce minister, Wang Shouwen saying, “Now that the US has adopted this type of large-scale trade restrictions, they’re holding a knife to someone’s throat. Under these circumstances, how can negotiations proceed?”

US military officials said On Sept. 23, 2018, that the Chinese government denied permission for a US Navy ship to do a port visit in Hong Kong in October 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported. The denial comes amid escalating tensions between the countries over both economic and military issues.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force pilots ready to replace UH-1N Huey helicopter

Pilots from the 413th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, recently received the certification they need to fly the MH-139 helicopter, scheduled to replace the Air Force’s UH-1N Huey.

Maj. Zach Roycroft and Tony Arrington, an Air Force civilian pilot, completed the five-week course on the AW-139, Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s commercial version of the helicopter, according to a news release.

Roycroft and Arrington both received their “type certification,” a Federal Aviation Administration qualification that requires specialized training for a specific aircraft, the service said. They earned the certification in Whippany, New Jersey, on July 29, 2019.


The FAA type rating is a standard qualification to become mission-ready on an airframe, but pilots will receive further Air Force-specific training for the MH-139.

“Test pilots and initial cadre are qualified to fly both the AW-139 and MH-139 after having received this training,” Roycroft told Military.com in a statement.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

A SASEMAR AW-139 during a helihoisting exercise.

“This puts our team one step closer to flight testing the new aircraft when production is completed,” said Roycroft, the MH-139 lead test pilot, in the release. “Ultimately, it puts the Air Force one step closer to delivery of a much-needed increase in capability.”

The 413th has kept busy: Last month, pilots from the unit conducted the first test flight of the HH-60W combat rescue helicopter, meant to replace the service’s current HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet.

Additionally, maintenance airmen from the 413th and Air Force Global Strike Command have completed a technician course for the AW-139/MH-139 to familiarize themselves on new systems unique to the aircraft, the release states.

“Every engineer, pilot and [special missions aviator] is dedicated to ensur[ing] the UH-1N community receives the most capable replacement aircraft to defend our nation’s assets,” Roycroft said.

In September 2018, the service picked Boeing Co. to build the replacement for its UH-1N Huey helicopter at a cost of approximately .38 billion.

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

A UH-1N Huey helicopter.

The award contract stipulates approximately 5 million for the first four MH-139 helicopters, manufactured in partnership with Leonardo-Finmeccanica, and includes equipment integration.

The service said receiving the helicopter will mark “the first time in recent history” that the Air Force will have a rotary-wing aircraft “not previously used in another branch of the military,” according to the release.

The first MH-139 aircraft delivery to the 413th is expected in late November 2019.

The UH-1Ns — some of which entered the Air Force’s inventory in 1970 — will continue to support five commands and numerous missions, including operational support airlift, test support and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile security support, until the replacements are ready.

The Air Force plans to purchase 84 MH-139 helicopters, along with maintenance and support equipment, over the next decade.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Troops give Army experience to young boy before he’s blinded

Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division have recently made a big difference in the life of a young boy who is losing his eyesight.

Carson Raulerson, an 11 year old from DeLand, Florida, was born with Knobloch Syndrome, a rare progressive degenerative disease that causes most people with it to lose their eyesight before they turn 20. Carson is severely nearsighted in his right eye and nearly blind in his left. He has undergone surgical procedures to preserve his vision since he was two years old; however, these procedures prevent him from doing the “normal rough and tough kid stuff” said his mother, Tara Cervantes.


“We are trying to make as many visual memories while we can, because no matter what happens, he will get to keep those forever,” she said.

The young Carson is named after Army Brig. Gen. Kit Carson, a legendary scout and frontiersman, from which Fort Carson also derives its name — thus making it a necessary stop along the family’s journey to preserve visual memories for Carson as his eyesight deteriorates.

Carson was accompanied on his journey to the post by his older brother, Garrett Raulerson, their mother, and family friend Ted Snyder, a former 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment Soldier who helped to arrange the visit.

Soldier for a day

Together, the group met with 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team rear detachment commander, Army Lt. Col. Larry Workman, and senior enlisted advisor, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Perlandus Hughes. The two welcomed the group to the installation and started their day by outfitting the two boys with some Army “swag” to help them experience the day as soldiers.

Workman shared with Carson how important it is to take care of all American families, and how the 4th Infantry Division was honored to host his family along their journey.

“Providing for our families is the biggest reason most soldiers come into the Army,” said Workman. “We defend for all American families and our way of life, and that’s what keeps soldiers serving past their initial enlistment.”

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

Army Lt. Col. Steven Templeton, commander of the rear detachment of the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, presents Carson Raulerson with a certificate of appreciation at Fort Carson, Colo.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Bryant)

The next stop on the group’s journey was the 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, where Carson was able to explore an M1 Abrams main battle tank and an M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Carson and his brother learned about the vehicles’ capabilities and weapon systems. The unit’s soldiers explained how their individual roles as crewmembers contributed to the overall operation of a tank or Bradley. At the end of this stop, Carson was presented with a set of spurs and a certificate.

“You receive spurs once you are an experienced cavalry member and pass certain tests. So today, after seeing you spend some time with the Bradley and the tank, I’d say you’ve earned them,” said Army Capt. Bret Wilbanks, commander of Delta Troop, 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment.

Next on their itinerary was a stop at a 4th Combat Aviation Brigade hangar, where Carson, via a flight simulator, communicated with a pilot conducting clearance procedures and landing drills. After conducting a touch-and-go drill, the pilot asked Carson how he did.

“I don’t know. I think you better try that again,” Carson joked.

The team from 4th Combat Aviation Brigade provided Carson and his brother with patches and coins to serve as memorabilia, as well as to communicate the belonging and accomplishment associated with being a member of a military unit.

Overcoming barriers

“[The simulator experience] was probably the one he was most comfortable with because computers and video games have digital screens and are where his visual impairments are least restrictive,” Cervantes said.

Before departing for the day, the soldiers of the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade presented Carson with a pair of pilot wings to pin on his uniform top and thanked him for his hard work.

“It really lifted him up outside of his circumstances and helped him reconnect with himself outside of what’s going on with his eyes, and to understand that he too can do big things if he applies himself,” Cervantes said.

“Having the opportunity to meet dedicated people who are committed to the work they get to do every day was such a positive experience for him,” she continued. “It’s for the first time in months I’ve heard him make statements about what he will do in the future. Each one of you who were with us was instrumental in giving back to him, whether you were aware of it or not. As a mother, thank you doesn’t even come close.”

The division also provided Carson with an audio recording of his visit to further aid his memories in the future.

“I’m proud of the treatment my Army family extended to an old friend who knew nothing about the Army. [Carson’s mom] now understands why I served for 24 years and understands that the saying, ‘We fight for the men around us, more than a cause,’ is not a cliche,” Snyder said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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