When France asked Germany to open negotiations for an armistice and peace treaty during the Battle of France, Germany was quick to agree — but Hitler had one petty and symbolic gesture that he demanded be part of any negotiations.
The rail car that had belonged to French Marshal Ferdinand Foch on display in the 1920s. It would later be dragged back into the forest on Hitler’s demand as a final insult to the conquered French army.
Foch was a French hero in World War I. Despite setbacks in some offensives, like the Battle of the Somme for which he lost prestige, he was credited as one of the primary contributors to the plans that won the first and second battles of the Marne. By the end of the war, he was the Supreme Allied Commander and the Marshal of France.
It was in this role that he went with his train car to the Compiegne Forest in 1918 to oversee the start of the armistice negotiations. After the reading of the preamble, Fochs stepped outside in what was seen as a direct insult to the German officers within.
French Marshal Ferdinand Foch, second from right, and other officers from the French and German forces stand outside Foch’s rail car following the end of armistice negotiations ending hostilities in World War I. The armistice went into effect six hours later.
Some of the Treaty of Versailles most restrictive clauses were drawn from the armistice negotiated in the train car. Foch asked for the farm and got everything. Well, except for the exact number of submarines and locomotives he had demanded. Germany simply had less equipment than Foch desired, but they did sign over what they had.
And it didn’t end there. While some of the worst items from the armistice were left out of the Treaty of Versailles, Foch took a public stance on wanting the most restrictive terms possible on Germany, calling for territory to be remitted to France and decades of occupation. Other negotiators and Allied government leaders refused, largely due to worries that strengthening France too much at the expense of Germany could lead to conquest by France.
French and German soldiers, mostly German, look at the Ferdinand Foch Railway Car in June 1940 as the officers prepare to sign the armistice that will withdraw most French forces from World War II.
For his part, Foch thought the final terms of the treaty were too lenient and declared that the final deal was, “not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.”
Hitler and other German leaders, apparently still seething from their drubbing and Foch’s treatment at the end of World War I, invaded France less than 21 years after the Treaty of Versailles was signed.
During the invasion, France, gambling heavily that the Ardennes Forest was impassable for panzers and that the Maginot Line was nearly unassailable, sent its best units north. But while the Maginot Line would largely hold for a few weeks, panzers actually found fairly easy passage through the Ardennes, allowing the blitzkrieg to grab large sections of French territory.
The top tier units sent north, meanwhile, were unable to quickly turn and face the new threat and were largely enveloped, forcing the surrender of most of France’s strongest and most modern units. The blitzkrieg marched towards Paris, which was then declared an “Open City,” a city that has given up resisting so that it won’t be destroyed in the war.
The invasion had begun May 10, 1940. Largely because of the Ardennes gamble and the overwhelming force of the blitzkrieg, the negotiations for the armistice began less than six weeks later.
The Compiegne Forest, which Germany demanded be the site of negotiations, meanwhile had grown into a sort of park celebrating France’s World War I victory. A statue of Foch overlooked the rail car, monuments to French dead, and a large statue celebrating the defeat of Germany.
Hitler looks at the statue of Ferdinand Foch in the Compiegne Forest before going into Foch’s former railway car to negotiate France’s surrender to Germany.
(U.S. War Department)
Germany destroyed it all, except for the statue of Foch. Where it had once overlooked a forest filled with monuments to France’s victory, it now looked over only a wasteland. For the rest of the war and the first few months of peace, Foch’s statue sat largely alone in an empty forest, all other symbols of triumph stripped away.
But with the end of the war, money was gradually allocated to rebuild the monuments. The train car was burnt and destroyed by Germany in Berlin in 1945, but another car from the same train was found and rebuilt to appear exactly like the Ferdinand Foch Railway Car. It sits like its predecessor in the Compiegne Forest.
Total Force crews delivered the first two KC-46A Pegasus aircraft to McConnell Air Force Base.
The 22nd Air Refueling Wing and 931st ARW marshalled in the newest addition to the Air Force’s strategic arsenal.
“This day will go down in history as a win for Team McConnell and the Air Force as a whole,” said Col. Josh Olson, 22nd ARW commander. “With this aircraft, McConnell will touch the entire planet.”
Since being selected as the first main operating base in 2014, McConnell airmen have been preparing to ensure their readiness to receive the Air Force’s newest aircraft.
Contractors constructed three new KC-46 maintenance hangars, technical training dormitories, an air traffic control tower, fuselage trainer and many other facilities specifically for the Pegasus’ arrival. These projects brought 7 million to the local economy by employing Kansas workers and using local resources.
Aircrew members simulated KC-46 flights, boom operators practiced cargo loading and the 22nd Maintenance Group created a training timeline for the enterprise.
A KC-46A Pegasus flies over the Keeper of the Plains Jan. 25, 2019, in Wichita, Kansas.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph Thompson)
Working with aircraft manufacturer Boeing, McConnell maintenance airmen have been developing new technical orders for three years. They streamlined processes and got hands-on exposure to the jet in Seattle.
“Some of us have been involved in this program for years and it has given us time to become experts as far as the technical data goes,” said Staff Sgt. Brannon Burch, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron KC-46 flying crew chief. “Knowing it is one thing, but having hands-on experience on our flightline is what we all crave. We’re just happy the wait’s over and we finally get to get our hands dirty on the Pegasus — it’s almost surreal.”
The KC-46 team at McConnell AFB is comprised of Airmen with a variety of backgrounds from other aircraft who bring different aspects of expertise to the multifaceted new tanker.
“Every airman who was transferred to the KC-46 team was hand-selected specifically to bring this airplane to the fight,” said Lt. Col. Wesley Spurlock, 344th Air Refueling Squadron commander. “They are versatile maintainers, pilots and boom operators who are prepared for any learning curve that comes with a new aircraft.”
The active duty 344th ARS and Air Force Reserve 924th ARS, will be the first units in the military to operationally fly the KC-46.
A KC-46A Pegasus
(Photo by Airman Michaela Slanchik)
“This airplane has a wide variety of capabilities that we haven’t seen here before,” said Spurlock. “We’re going to get our hands on it, then expand on those abilities and see how we can employ them operationally.”
Once airmen in the Total Force squadrons have perfected their craft on the new aircraft, they will pave the way for the entire KC-46 enterprise and other bases receiving the aircraft in the future by developing tactics, techniques and procedures to share with those units.
“I have never been a part of a unit that is more excited about the mission before them and the legacy they’re going to leave,” said Spurlock.
Today, the waiting ends and integration begins for the next generation of air mobility that will be a linchpin of national defense, global humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations for decades to come.
“For those of us who have spent years watching this process happen, it’s enormously humbling to finally see it come to a close,” said Col. Phil Heseltine, 931st ARW commander. “We are grateful to everyone who is joining us as we fulfill the potential of this amazing new aircraft.
“We are honoring the rich culture that we have been gifted by those who came before us,” said Heseltine. “That culture continues today. For example, the forward fuselage section of the KC-46 is built by Spirit AeroSystems right here in Wichita. This aircraft literally came home today.”
With the KC-46 on the ground at McConnell AFB, the Air Force will begin the next phases of familiarization and initial operations testing and evaluation.
Challenge coins mean different things to different troops. Senior enlisted and officers tend to place them on a desk to gloat to peers and the more junior troops slam them on the bar to see who’s buying the next round. How you earn the coin also ranges widely, from “pleasure to meet you, have a coin” to “you made a great cup of coffee, have a coin” to even “you did something worthy of an award, but nah — have a coin.”
Throughout history, warriors have carried coins, going as far back as the ancient Greeks and, eventually, the Romans. Coins carried by warriors were seen as the payment for the ferryman, Charon, to be exchanged for passage into the afterlife. They served as a memento mori, which roughly translates from Latin to mean, “remember that you will die.” This is also the root of the English word ‘memento.’ Even back in the Civil War, troops from both armies carried coins with them as a cheap reminder of being back home.
The legend of the challenge coins, as we know them, started with WWI pilots. A young and rich lieutenant felt the need to flaunt his wealth to his new peers, so he spent his own money to buy solid bronze medallions of his unit insignia for his peers. Another pilot accepted it as a nice gift and wore it in a small leather pouch around his neck. Shortly after, he would be shot down behind enemy lines. He was captured by Germans, who stripped him over everything, but overlooked his medallion.
He escaped in civilian attire, crossed no man’s land undetected, and stumbled into a French outpost. Unfortunately, the French didn’t understand English nor his American accent and thought he was a German saboteur. The Germans took every bit of personal identification from the American pilot, so the only proof he had to show the French to not shoot him was the bronze unit medallion his rich peer gave him.
One French captor recognized the insignia and delayed his execution until they could confirm if he was American or not. Instead of a bullet to the head, the French gave him a bottle of wine and sent him on his way. When the pilot returned and told everyone of what happened, carrying those medallions became immediately important among all pilots. This also started the joke punishment of having to buy the next round if you’re not carrying your coin.
Another lower enlisted tradition began in post-WWII Germany as assigned U.S. troops would carry West German money with them. The exchange rate was so bad that the One Pfennig coin was hardly worth a fraction of a penny and had nearly zero value to American troops. So, only the poorest of the poor would bother saving them — until troops gathered to drink. If someone would shout, “Pfennig check!” everyone would empty their pockets to see who was poor (if you had the near-worthless coin) and who wasn’t (if you were above keeping them). If you were “rich” enough to not need to carry a worthless coin, you were rich enough to buy your brother-in-arms a drink. This soon shifted to include challenge coins, which also had no monetary value.
On November 30, 1950, the United States was deeply entrenched in the Korean War after suffering a surprise attack on its troops. On this day, President Truman issued the thinly veiled threat of using the Atomic Bomb against North Korea.
The devastating effects and impact following the dropping of the ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’ nuclear weapons during World War II was still reverberating throughout much of Asia in 1950. Although the White House would issue a statement following the comment by the president about always considering the use of the Atomic Bomb against North Korea, it did little to backtrack. Instead, it reiterated that the United States would use any means necessary.
While most historians agree that the bombs swiftly ended the war in the Pacific, the cost on humanity was heavy. Over 200,000 people died as a result of both bombs, the majority of whom were civilians. These numbers don’t even include those maimed and forever damaged by the effects of the bomb. One of the pilot’s responsible for dropping one of the bombs recorded a raw message in his logbook after it was dropped: “My God, what have we done?” The initial reaction to the bombing from Americans was mostly in favor but has since fallen. In the 1950s there was a sharp rise in objection against the use of nuclear weapons. Despite acknowledging the horror brought on by using these weapons against the innocent, the president didn’t discount its possible use once again during the Korean War.
How did the United States fall into war so soon after the horrors of World War II? A line in the sand started it all. Following World War II, Korea was split into two. The northern region was occupied by the Soviet Union and the south, America. When the United Nations pushed for an election and unified country, the Soviets installed a communist regime instead. In June of 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. It wasn’t long after that when President Truman ordered a military response by air and sea, swiftly followed by boots on the ground. 15 countries would follow them and join the fight.
What threw everyone off was when China entered into the fray – on the side of North Korea. They violently attacked American and United Nations forces beginning November 26, 1950. It would be their forces that would push American and allied troops out in an embarrassing retreat. This appeared to come as a shock as the United States and China had what was considered a good relationship at the time. While initially believing all troops would be home by Christmas, the surprise attack by the Chinese swiftly ended that hope.
It was that attack which led to President Truman’s threat of reusing the atomic bomb, though he stated he thought it was a terrible weapon. In the end, it wasn’t used against North Korea and the war itself ended in a sort of stalemate. Although the country wasn’t unified as hoped, South Korea was able to establish a democratic society while the North continued their dictatorship and communist establishment. To ensure the safety of the border and South Koreans, American troops remain along its demilitarized zone still to this day.
Ending nuclear weapons has long been a goal of those who oppose war but these days their voices are joined with a larger majority. Around 49 percent of Americans think the United States should eliminate its nuclear weapons while 32 percent believe new treaties should be ignored and it should hold onto its weapons.
North Korea has been working on nuclear weapons since the Korean War ended, which took the lives of 2.5 million people. 37,000 of them were Americans. The lessons of the previous wars are still fresh in the minds of many older generations of Americans who lived through them. But as they pass on, their stories die with them. It is vital that new generations of Americans not only learn the history of its wars but also the ever present treat of new ones lurking on the horizon.
Although the Atomic Bomb has not been used since World War II, its threat of absolute devastation has never been more real.
The average US citizen may hear the names of US Navy aircraft carriers, battleships, and destroyers, and not realize the significance behind those namesakes. For the US Navy sailors who work and live aboard these ships, the names serve as their identity in homage to the war heroes, pioneers, and traditions of the past.
The names of Navy destroyers are of deceased members of the Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard. On Nov. 13, 1944, the Navy named a warship after a woman for the first time in the Navy’s existence. The USS Higbee commissioned and was converted into a radar picket destroyer. The “Leaping Lenah,” as she was referred to by her crew, “screened carriers as their planes launched heavy air attacks against the Japanese mainland” and helped support occupying forces in the clearing of minefields during World War II. She also earned seven battle stars in the Korean War and was the first warship to be bombed in the Vietnam War.
When the Leaping Lenah was decommissioned in 1979, she held the record for the highest score for naval gunfire support of any warship in the US Navy. It was a remarkable achievement and the ultimate tribute to Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee — the first living female recipient of the Navy Cross.
Higbee was born in Canada in 1874 and trained as a nurse at the New York Postgraduate Hospital in 1899. She developed her knowledge of medicine at Fordham Hospital and held her own private practice as a surgical nurse until she entered the newly established US Navy Nursing Corps (NNC) in 1908. Higbee was an original member of the “Sacred Twenty” — the first group of female nurses to serve in the NNC.
“Nurses were assigned to duty at the Naval Hospital, Washington, D.C.,” said Beatrice Bowman, one of the Sacred Twenty nurses who later became the third superintendent of the NNC in 1922. “There were no quarters for them but they were given an allowance for quarters and subsistence. They rented a house and ran their own mess. These pioneers were no more welcome to most of the personnel of the Navy than women are when invading what a man calls his domain.”
The Sacred Twenty spearheaded the efforts to prove women had a role in the medical field as much as their male counterparts. They held no rank and were not immediately viewed as assets; however, their reputation would soon change. In 1911, after the first NNC superintendent resigned — as the nurses were often exposed to institutionalized discrimination — Chief Nurse Higbee assumed command as superintendent. She was responsible for overseeing 86 nurses across the US, Guam, and the Philippines. She lobbied for equal pay and for healthcare for military dependents.
Higbee served on several executive healthcare committees, including the National Committee of the Red Cross Nursing Service, and between 1915 and 1917 helped increase nursing recruiting numbers for World War I.
“For two years prior to our actual entering into this conflict, warnings had been sounded and such tentative preparations as were possible had been made by those who were wise to the significance of war signs,” Higbee said.
During her tenure of 14 years of service, Higbee helped expand the NNC from 160 nurses to 1,386 nurses. She was later instrumental in assigning nurses aboard Navy transport ships, and during World War I these nurses served transport duty. Another one of her initiatives was to build a force of hospital corpsmen that assisted in “nursing training methods” as well as to “develop in the hearts and minds of these ‘pupil nurses’ the principles of conscience care of the sick.”
After being exposed to the horrors from World War I, the complexities of battlefield wounds, and shell shock, Superintendent Higbee managed the development of Vassar Training Camp, the finishing school where nurses gained operational experience before arriving at their first assignments.
The following year, in 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic rocked the world — and as Higbee and her nursing corps did best, they adapted to the evolving demands of medicine. Their focus shifted from the war wounds to an invisible disease. A total of 431 US Navy personnel had lost their lives during World War I, and 819 more were wounded. The humanitarian crisis between 1918 and 1919, in contrast, saw 5,027 sailors die as a result of the pandemic.
“‘The most needed woman’ is the war nurse,’” wrote The Sun newspaper on June 9, 1918. “In reality the war nurse is a soldier, fighting pain, disease and death with weapons of science and skill. […] She goes prepared to share the risks and fortune of war, ready to make any sacrifice.”
Higbee and her team worked early mornings and late nights to diagnose patients and aid in their recovery. In 1920, Higbee became the first living recipient of the Navy Cross for “distinguished service in the line of her profession and unusual and conspicuous devotion to duty as superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps.”
Three other nurses, Marie Louise Hidell, Lillian M. Murphy, and Edna E. Place, were awarded the Navy Cross medal posthumously.
Higbee passed away in 1941, and a year later the Navy granted nurses “relative rank.” In 1944, the Navy finally approved nurses for “full military rank” with equal pay.
Although the USS Higbee was decommissioned in 1979, in 2016 then-Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, announced plans to commission the USS Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee, scheduled for 2024 — an honor the trailblazing nurse certainly deserves.
Retiring from the armed forces can be a very stressful transition because there is no magic crystal ball that allows you to see into your future as a civilian. Veterans often have strong networks built over the course of their military service, but as useful as these networks are, they are also apt to keep you from branching out into something new, or taking time off to pursue uncharted possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know, so it is easy to fall into a trap where income becomes the driving force behind career decisions rather than a deep introspective look into what you really want out of life. This leads to a pursuit of employment rather than fulfillment, and ends in a contract that forces you to trade more of your precious time for money. After giving so much to your country, and asking your family to sacrifice just as much or more, taking time to reconnect with them and yourself before a second career is worth your consideration. You might be pleasantly surprised where it will lead.
Consider the following in your calculus:
Military service didn’t leave much room for hobbies and passions. Do you have any languishing in the recesses of your life?
Military regulations and culture compelled you to identify yourself by an all-consuming job title, which in turn suppressed your identity as an individual. You were the Admiral, the Colonel, Skipper, Warrant, Chief, Senior, Top, OPSO, COS, the LPO, the First Sergeant. Do you really know who you are anymore without a job title to define you?
Time keeps ticking, but money comes and goes. Is time more valuable than money when you realize that you can bank one but not the other?
This last thought is the one that gave me the most pause. If you are shackled to a life dictated by consumerism and workism, your “one day” list becomes less and less achievable. This is paradoxical, because chances are you might be making a decent salary on top of your retirement income, but you don’t have time for you, your spouse, your kids, your dog, your forgotten hobbies, or your wild and crazy ambitions. Why? Because your new job might provide a comfortable existence and a title to impress your friends, but it doesn’t guarantee you will have time for anything on your bucket list. How many successful people have all the toys in the world but no time to use them? More than you think. In this article, I will argue that as a veteran, you have been given all the resources you need to thrive in a life of your choosing. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you become completely “checked out” and retreat from society never to work again. Instead, I am advocating for a period of time that prevents you from rushing headlong into a second career. This will give you some “maneuver space” to sort through the stress, the noise, and the pressure that is screaming at you to immediately get a job and keep slogging forward. That space might be a few months, or it might be a few years, but either way, it is time well-spent.
Try this little exercise. Mentally fast forward to the end of your life. You are looking back on your experiences wondering why you worked your whole life, yet missed out on so much living. Maybe you wanted to take a year and surf the south Pacific, or fish the great rivers in Alaska, or hike the Appalachian Trail, or follow the Tour de France, or start a business, or write a novel, or raise alpacas, or sell it all and buy a sailboat…but you didn’t, and now you are too old and tired to do anything but look back with sadness and regret. You realize there was always something standing in the way; there were always reasons why you couldn’t. So, instead of doing, you resigned yourself to watching others as you scrolled through your social media feeds and groused about your boss, staff meetings, the person who chews their food too loudly in their cubicle, the jerk who cut you off on your commute, and the endless mundane aspects of life in “The Matrix.”
As you contemplate those lost dreams, you might be asking yourself with a twinge of frustration, “Why didn’t I go for it? What was I afraid of? What was the worst thing that could have happened to me if I had unshackled myself from the ‘golden handcuffs,’ put down the electronic tether, and lived the life I always imagined?” You might be surprised to learn the worst thing that could have happened was nothing from which you could not have quickly recovered.
Now, rewind to the present. Ask yourself this question, “Have I ever allowed myself to fail?” If you made it all the way through a 20-year (or more) career, chances are the answer is a resounding no! So why do you think you will start failing now? I’ll let you in on a little secret…you won’t. You already know how to succeed. The sad truth, however, is that many of us never take a chance, because we focus on the reasons we shouldn’t…the fears…rather than the reasons we should…the inspiration.
Every military member goes through transition class on their way out of the service. You learn that it is possible to reinvent yourself, but it isn’t easy. You are instructed to make a list of your assets, your liabilities, and any gaps you have in your skill set, then cross-reference it against what you need to break into a sector outside of what you have been doing for the past twenty-plus years. You are told to be willing to move to an area where that sector has a presence, be patient, be willing to evangelize yourself, build a network in your new community, use your hard-earned benefits to get the education or certifications you need to fill in any gaps, and be willing to start at the bottom. If you do these things while exhibiting all the qualities that made you successful on active duty, you will succeed.
What if I told you that same blueprint for reinventing yourself professionally is just as useful for reinventing yourself personally, and going after those “one day” dreams before you blindly (or deliberately) trade one overlord for another. With a little bit of planning and foresight, you can do it, and if I haven’t made my position clear, I think you should. When else will you get a planned break in your professional life to do something crazy?
I started my transition playing by the rules. I spent hours…no, weeks…working on a resume. I went to career fairs. I interviewed for jobs. I received job offers. None of it felt right in my gut. I started terminal leave in June 2018 in a panic-stricken state, grasping for a lifeline. At my wife’s urging I had been exploring the idea of trade school using my GI Bill benefits, but I was afraid to commit. “It’s not what I am expected to do,” was my typical reason, which was ridiculous. I was afraid of the unknown and everything that came with it. That was the truth. I had reached the first portal of fear, and with my wife’s encouragement, I stepped through it.
Once again, I found myself grasping for the familiar and hiding from my fears. I applied for a government job overseas, knowing it wasn’t what I really wanted. A friend was recruiting me to come back to the staff I had left a year and a half earlier, but after I submitted my resume, there were knots in my stomach. “What am I doing,” I asked myself. “Is this what I really want?” I wasn’t ready for staff meetings and point papers again. I wasn’t ready for days when I went to work at dawn and came home after dinner just to get up and do it all over again while my life ticked away a second at a time.
My wife had a dream that we could sell it all and go sailing. I was adamantly opposed. “If there is one thing I learned at the marine trade and technology school,” I joked, “it is don’t buy a boat!” The truth of the matter is I was terrified of selling everything and buying a boat. There were too many voices in my head telling me it would be our ruination…MY ruination. I hid behind my biggest fear – money. We couldn’t afford it. End of story.
But, it wasn’t.
It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. As I tell my children, there is a solution to every problem, we only need to outthink it. So we looked at the problem again and realized we could afford it. But, I still wasn’t ready to commit. I needed a push.
Fate intervened on my behalf. Much to my surprise, my resume never made it through the initial screening for the civil servant position, so I never got the job interview on the staff overseas. Despite my ego being bruised, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I was a free man again. A few weeks later, after some long, introspective conversations with my wife, I agreed to the sailing adventure. Failure had somehow opened a pathway to an outcome I did not think possible. That was in March 2019. Four months later, we would be boat owners after an exhausting push to sell, donate, or repurpose just about everything we owned. Three months after that, we would be getting underway from Hampton, VA for a 1,600 nautical mile ocean passage to Antigua.
How did we go from “normal life” to “boat life” so quickly? We followed the same blueprint I received in the transition seminar. We laid out a plan, prioritized our resources, and focused everything we had on the achievement of our goal. I had already filled in the knowledge gaps by becoming a certified marine mechanic. Anyone who knows boats will tell you that 90% of boat ownership is boat maintenance, so I felt confident I could handle that responsibility with my new skills. I grew up sailing, so that wasn’t an issue, but living aboard a boat full-time was another story. We hired a couple who had twice circumnavigated with their kids as “cruising coaches.” We built a network by talking about our plans with people who could help and guide us. We made sure we were able to fund our dream by paying cash for a boat and living within the means of my retirement income. Using our new and growing network, we found a boat, brokered the deal, and moved aboard on July 31, 2019.
It was not an easy transition from land life to sea life. In fact, it was harder than anything we had ever done. Being a military family, we were used to relocating and starting over every couple years, so we put all that experience to good use. But, this time it was different. It was all on us to get it done. There were at least three distinct points when we wanted to quit. We didn’t, largely due to the encouragement and instruction we received from people who had walked the same path. The rewards for persevering are too many to list. Suffice it to say, I answer to no master. I have learned more about myself and my family in six months than I have in six years. I have swum with a whale in 19,000 feet of water halfway between Bermuda and the Leeward Islands. We have sailed our way through 50-knot squalls and come out the other side stronger and more resilient. I have made lifelong friendships with people I would never have met had I stayed in my “safe” bubble. I have gained valuable perspective by using this time away from the rat race to sort myself; to be a better husband, father, and friend.
A good counterargument to this conversation would go something like this – “My professional stock is highest immediately after I retire. It will be irresponsible for me not to take advantage of that transition point and start building my professional resume in the real world. Statistics support the fact that I most likely will change jobs several times as I find my niche, so it doesn’t matter what I do. The important thing is to get into the ring and make a name for myself.” So you get a job and a fancy-sounding title that you eagerly post on LinkedIn. You beef up your profile with a power photo that has you leaning into the camera with a smile that says, “I’m a go-getter!” You add a description underneath that says something like, “I’m a results-oriented leader with a proven track record of astonishing accomplishments, fiscal maturity, operational prowess, cunning initiative, etc, etc, etc.” It becomes your identity, and it is the right thing to do, isn’t it? I certainly thought it was. But for me, at least, it wasn’t. I am not getting any younger. Neither are you. The counterargument doesn’t hold up, in my opinion. You can always get a job and make money, but you can’t make more time. Another aspect of this counterargument is that your network will abandon you if you take time for yourself and your family. I also believe that this is invalid, and would go so far as to suggest that your network will respect you more for leading in this manner.
We as Americans have it all backwards. We work and work and work until we hit the “golden years,” then we retire with the idea that we are going to take off from our empty nest and explore the world. I have heard so many tragic stories about people who FINALLY get some time to do the things they have always wanted to do only to be sidelined by unexpected health crises that leave them debilitated or worse. Derek Thompson, a senior staff writer for The Atlantic wrote a compelling article in February 2019 titled, “Workism is Making Americans Miserable,” where he argues that work has become, unfortunately, the, “centerpiece of one’s identity and purpose.” It’s an excellent, thought-provoking read.
Work, pay taxes, then die.
As a retiring military member, you have the resources to do what you want – healthcare, education opportunities, steady income, and many more benefits to jumpstart your second life. You only need to face down your fears and embrace the possibilities that lay before you. I am not done working, but I guarantee whatever employment I pursue in the future will be far different than what I thought I had to shoehorn myself into when I first transitioned from service. We have had a lot of people tell us how amazing our life is…how lucky we are…how courageous we are to be out sailing with our kids full time. We don’t see ourselves as different or special. We are just us, living a life of our choosing. We realized in hindsight that fear had been holding us back, not resources. Once we made our decision, we were flabbergasted by how everything suddenly seemed to align behind us. It was all there to begin with, but we were blinded by our fears of the unknown, and therefore too afraid to take a chance.
Fear is paralyzing, and in the weeks surrounding my transition there were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed and face reality. In the middle of those dark moments, a very wise friend of mine asked me to stretch my hands out in front of myself palms up, then she had me clench my fists. She looked at me and said, “There won’t be room for anything new in your life if you are holding onto everything so tightly, afraid to let go. You have to open your hands and be willing to release – toxic relationships, needless possessions, clutter, the wrong career, convenience, the safe and easy path, money. But more importantly, you have to open your hands so what you really want has a place to land.”
I stood there for a moment clenching and unclenching my upturned hands. I am not a particularly spiritual person, but I was shocked at how profoundly her simple exercise struck a chord. “Money comes and money goes, and it should,” she concluded, “but even though we have had our backs to the wall a number of times, we always believed we would be fine because we kept our hands, figuratively of course, upturned and open.” She and her husband are better now than ever after launching their own business nearly twenty years ago. They had been let go from their previous jobs at the same time, when their kids were still young, and their stress levels already high. In that moment of darkness, they chose to open their own business and live life according to their own terms. It wasn’t easy, but looking back, they wouldn’t want it any other way.
In the final analysis, it’s not about how much you have, but what you do with it. Achieving your ambitions means making decisions, prioritizing and leveraging resources, and aligning efforts. Do you want to be linked in right away, or checked out to gain some perspective and clarity? The choice is yours, and it doesn’t matter how big your proverbial or actual boat is. It only matters that you believe in yourself and face down your fears. Trust me, someone always has a bigger boat. You can find dozens of YouTube channels where people are sailing the world on every manner of boat imaginable. I used to watch some of them and say, “Look at their boat. It’s so ugly, or small, or dilapidated.” My wife would answer, “Yeah, sure is…but they are doing it!” How true. Would you rather be sitting in a staff meeting wishing you were doing it, or actually doing it?
I’ll close with this final thought. Many, if not all of us, who are retiring from a career in the service lost shipmates, close friends, and comrades in training and combat. A few years ago, standing on a beach in Italy looking out into the Adriatic Sea, where a friend in Air Wing 17 had perished during a nighttime training flight off the USS George Washington (CVN-73) in 2002, I made a promise that if I somehow made it through my military career, I would not squander the opportunity to fulfill dreams and live an amazing life. I felt like I owed that to those who couldn’t. Life is short, and precious. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let a false sense of obligation keep you from doing the things on your “one day” list. If you do, that list will go unfulfilled.
We keep a sign on our boat that reads, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” It is a constant reminder for us to keep pushing forward. You can, too.
Glenn Robbins is a retired Naval Officer cruising full-time on a 46-foot catamaran named FEARLESS with his wife Andi and their two children, Gavin and Alexis.
The destroyer USS Ward (DD 139/APD 16) is famous for being the first American ship to sink a Japanese vessel, a mini-sub, just hours before the main attack on Pearl Harbor. But less famous is the first American ship to sink a Nazi U-boat. That impact of that ship’s kill, incidentally, would reverberate over six decades later.
USS Roper shortly after she was commissioned in 1919. (US Navy photo)
That vessel was USS Roper (DD 147), a Wickes-class destroyer. Wickes-class destroyers were built during World War I and carried four four-inch guns, a single three-inch gun, and a dozen 21-inch torpedo tubes. These vessels were feeling their age as World War II bubbled up on the horizon but were pressed into service to hold the line until newer vessels came into the fleet.
According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, the Roper had taken part in a variety of deployments in the peacetime Navy between World Wars. The vessel had been off Cape Cod when Pearl Harbor was attacked. After a quick refit, she was escorting convoys. Then came the fateful encounter.
On March 31, 1942, USS Roper rescued 70 survivors, including this mother and child. (US Navy photo)
U-Boat.net reports that on April 14, 1942, the Roper detected U-85 on the surface, about 20 miles from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, two weeks after rescuing 70 survivors from a sunken merchant ship. First, the destroyer opened fire, scoring a number of hits. As the fatally stricken U-boat slipped beneath the surface, the destroyer unleashed a salvo of depth charges to ensure a kill. None of U-85’s crew survived.
After that kill, the Roper still served, doing a number of convoy runs. Then, she was converted to a destroyer transport and re-designated APD 20. In 1945, she was damaged by a kamikaze. Repairs were still underway when Japan surrendered. She was sold for scrap in 1946.
But when the reporter asked Ermey “When you were in the Marines, which branch did you make fun of?” And with a grin on his face, The Gunny jokes “That would be Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club“.
But that had to have been from back in his active duty days. No one would ever make fun of the branch that’s closest to the TSA Agents staffing metal detectors in our nation’s air ports these days, right?
It’s all in good fun, guys. Only family can mock family. “You know, everyone bleeds the same color,” Ermey said.
United States Army Aviation Branch is perhaps best known for revolutionizing the use of helicopters in combat. Whether it’s the highly versatile UH-60 Blackhawk, the extremely lethal AH-64 Apache, or the logistically mighty CH-47 Chinook, Army Aviation seems to be all about the choppers.
But that’s not all they fly. Despite being known for its rotorcraft, the Army has operated fixed-wing aircraft for the last seven decades, including the CV-2/C-7 Caribou and the C-23 Sherpa.
The Army’s operation of fixed-wing aircraft has been a touchy subject ever since the Army-Air Force divorce that followed World War II. Ultimately, this split led to the Key West Agreement of 1948. This agreement laid out the responsibilities of each branch of the United States Armed Forces. In brief, it left airborne combat in the capable hands of the US Air Force, while the US Army would only take to the seas or skies to support the troops on the ground.
But this agreement didn’t leave the Army solely with transports.
Three of the variants of the Mohawk.
(Graphic by Greg Goebel)
The Army also needed aircraft to provide reconnaissance for troops in the fight. The fact was, in the late 1950s, helicopters were fairly fragile and weren’t yet capable of carrying a significant payload. So, the Army turned to fixed-wing planes that could operate from rudimentary conditions.
One such plane was the OV-1 Mohawk, which came in three variants. The OV-1A was intended to operate with regular cameras. The OV-1B used a side-looking aerial radar to locate enemy vehicles. The OV-1C was equipped with infrared sensors to detect enemy forces (both vehicles and personnel) in all weather conditions. Later, the OV-1D was developed, capable of handling any of these systems.
An OV-1D prepares to take off during Operation Desert Storm. Note the side-looking radar underneath the fuselage.
The OV-1 entered service in 1959. It had a top speed of 297 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,678 miles, and a crew of two. It also had a provision for rocket pods and gun pods under the wings. That last provision caused a stir — the Air Force claimed it violated the Key West Agreement. Ultimately, the Army agreed not to arm planes like the Mohawk in return for not having limits on the performance of helicopters.
The Mohawk served for an impressive 35 years, finally retiring in 1996. Some surplus Mohawks are flown at air shows or with private companies, while other have gone to museums.
Watch the Army introduce this historically significant recon plane in the video below.
In 1995, Mel Gibson starred in and directed the war epic Braveheart, which follows the story of one of Scotland’s greatest national heroes, Sir William Wallace. Wallace almost single-handedly inspired his fellow Scotsmen to stand against their English oppressors, which earned him a permanent spot in the history books.
Among critics, the film cleaned house. It went on to win best picture, best director, best cinematography, and a few others at the 1996 Academy Awards. Although the film has received its fair share of acclaim, historians don’t always share the same enthusiasm. The movie steers away from what really occurred several times.
Battle of Stirling… Fields?
After a few quick, murderous scenes, Wallace joins a small group of his countrymen, ready to ward off a massive force of English troops that are spread across a vast field. In real life, this clash of warriors didn’t happen on some open plains — it occurred on a narrow bridge.
The battle took place in September of 1297, nearly 17 years after the film. Wallace and Andrew de Moray (who isn’t mentioned in the movie) showed up to the bridge and positioned themselves on the side north of the river, where the bridge was constructed.
The Brits were caught off guard, as Wallace and his men waited until about a third of the English’s total force crossed before attacking. The Scotsmen used clever tactics, packing men on the bridge shoulder-to-shoulder, mitigating their numerical disadvantage.
Wallace being knighted
After the Battle of Stirling Bridge, both Wallace and Andrew de Moray were both granted Knighthood and labeled as Joint Guardians of Scotland.
Andrew de Moray died about a month later from wounds sustained during the battle. Despite his heroics, Andrew de Moray gets zero credit in the film.
Wallace’s affair with Princess Isabelle of France
In the film, Wallace sleeps with Princess Isabella of France (as played by Sophie Marceau), the wife of Edward II of England. According to several sources, the couple was married in January of 1308, which is two years and five months after Wallace was put to death in August 1305, according to the film.
The movie showed Edward II and the princess getting married during Wallace’s lifetime. Now, if Scottish warrior had truly knocked up the French princess before his death in 1305, that would have made her around 10 years old, as she was born in 1295.
Something doesn’t add up.
Edward I dies before Wallace?
Who could forget the film’s dramatic ending? Wallace is stretched, pulled by horses, and screams, “freedom!” as his entrails are removed — powerful stuff. In the film, Edward I (as played by Patrick McGoohan) takes his last breath before the editor takes us back to Wallace’s final moment.
According to history, Edward I died around the year 1307. As moving as it was to watch the two deaths happen, it couldn’t have happened.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan’s Imperial Navy infamously attacked the U.S. at Pearl Harbor. For the men and women working on Navy ships that morning, their normal peacetime duties were suddenly and violently interrupted with the outbreak of war.
The officers on watch helped lead the immediate defense and rescue efforts, and they also maintained the deck logs that detailed what happened in the hours immediately preceding the attack and throughout the day.
While few of the logs from that day maintained by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration have been scanned into digital copies, the White House released a few on its Facebook page to mark the 75th anniversary of the attacks.
The USS Maryland survived the attacks and went on to fight at the Battles of Midway, Tarawa, Saipan, Leyte Gulf, and others. The ship was decommissioned in 1947 with seven battle stars. At Pearl Harbor, the ship engaged Japanese planes and a suspected submarine
The deck log of the USS Maryland detailed the ship’s quick defense during the attack, getting her guns firing within minutes of the first Japanese planes flying overhead. (Photo: U.S. National Archives)
The USS Solace was a hospital ship which quickly began taking on wounded. It went on to serve throughout the Pacific and survived the war.
The USS Vestal, a repair ship, took multiple bomb hits and was forced to beach itself. Fires onboard the ship created such thick fumes that crewmembers were evacuated to the Solace. The ship survived the battle and served in the Pacific during the war, repairing such famous ships as the USS Enterprise and USS South Dakota after major battles.
The Vestal’s log details the progression of the fight as vessel after vessel took heavy damage on Battleship Row.
The USS Dale was a Farragut-class destroyer that was heavily engaged throughout World War II, earning 12 battle stars before the surrender of Japan.
At Pearl Harbor, it’s officers took detailed notes on the reports coming into the ship and show the chaos of the day. The ships were warned of probable mines, parachute troops, submarine attacks, and other dangers — many of which were false — as the military tried to get a handle on the situation.
The USS Conyngham was a destroyer that screened ships from air attack for most of the war. It fought at Midway, the Santa Cruz islands, Guadalcanal, and others. The ship received 14 battle stars in World War II.
At Pearl Harbor, the Conyngham had just taken on a resupply of ice cream when the attack began. Alongside other destroyers, it set up a screen to shoot down Japanese planes attempting further attacks.
It’s no secret that America is pretty good at getting themselves involved in wars throughout the world. Historically, we haven’t been the best at coming up with an exit strategy for some of those conflicts, though.
The Vietnam War is considered one of the most politically charged military campaigns in our nation’s history as young men were drafted into service to fight against the spread of communism.
After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the U.S. embarked on an offensive to break up a network comprised of men that take the worship of the religion of Islam into extremism.
Although these campaigns took place in separate decades against very different adversaries, the similarities from the perspective of the ground forces are impeccable. History repeats itself. Here are four ways in which these two conflicts are the same.
4. For the most part, we didn’t trust our allies
In both wars, American forces were teamed up with local troops to help combat their common enemy. Many Vietnam and Afghanistan War vets have noted that their “friendly” counterparts often appeared distant and were known to have even protected the enemy at times.
3. We fought against an unmarked enemy
Many of the fighters the U.S. went up against in both campaigns were able to disappear as fast as they appeared. This ghostly advantage wasn’t the result of some magical vanishing act, but rather an ability to blend back into the local population — right out in the open.
Since most of the “disappearing act” fighters are from small guerilla militias or surrounding clans, they never wore any distinguishable uniforms, adding to their advantage.
2. The enemy could live below ground
The Viet Cong commonly used their well-engineered tunnels while the Taliban make use of caves in the mountains of Afghanistan.
These livable structures can house enemy combatants for extend periods of time and conceal deadly weapons.
Every day, when we hit the gym, we see the same thing: Men and women of various ages doing everything they can to bulk up or lean out. Getting in the gym and doing a solid workout helps relieve all the stress you’ve accumulated over the last few days or hours.
However, there are countless gym patrons who show up and don’t know what they’re doing. They lift heavy weights to impress the cute girl wearing yoga pants or count by threes while doing a set of push-ups.
There’s a long list of mistakes we see happening at the gym, but addressing even half of them would take too damn long. So, here are the top seven.
Locking your joints out
Contrary to popular belief, your joints don’t contain muscles — but they are attached to a few nearby. When unprofessional gym scholars hit the bench and raise their weighted bar, many think that completing a rep means locking our your joints.
The fact is, stopping the rep right before you straighten out that joint is the sweet spot. Fully extending your elbow or knee joints takes physical stress off the muscle group you’re trying to work.
So, please stop.
Swinging the weights
Many people in the gym want to look as strong as possible. There’s an unspoken air of competition that blankets the gym, born of peoples’ egos, which can flourish out of control.
Using bad form to up the weight impresses nobody. In fact, to people who often exercise, you’ll just look stupid.
Taking too long between reps because you’re looking at your phone
Taking a short break allows us to briefly recover between sets. However, don’t keep checking the messages on your phone because you’ll end up losing track of time.
Challenging your muscles means causing them to tear in a controlled manner. It’s harder to get them to tear if you rest for too long between sets.
Not using manageable weight
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Lifting heavy weights to look cool will, ultimately, make you look dumb. It’s easy to laugh at someone in the gym when they’re trying to lift beyond their physical stature, but it’s dangerous for everyone
Not focused on the ‘negative’
Outstanding, you lifted the bar! Now, lower that sucker down even slower than you raised it. Many uneducated people believe that lifting a weight is their only battle — not true. It’s actually only half the fight.
When we say “negative,” we’re talking about the process of lowering the weight back to its original position, not the opposite of the word “positive.”
The negative portion of the rep helps to tear the muscle a lot more in a controlled setting. More controlled tear, the more muscle we will build during the recovery cycle.
Using a gym machine the wrong way
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. No? Okay, well check out the gif below for a better understanding. We’re not sure what this exercise is called.
Stopping the set before hitting failure
If your set requires you to push out 12 reps and you do it without much of challenge, you’re wasting your time. You can only build muscle if you challenge the sh*t out of yourself and push your muscle beyond its limit.
This limit literally means you’ve reached muscle exhaustion. If you’re not using a manageable weight, you might as well just text on your phone because you’re not accomplishing anything.