Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis is a legend among Marines, and he’s credited much of his success on the battlefield to reading.
As a result of his constant quest for learning and reading the histories of past battles, “the enemy has paid when I had the opportunity to go against them, and I believe that many of my young guys lived because I didn’t waste their lives because I didn’t have the vision in my mind of how to destroy the enemy at least cost to our guys and to the innocents on the battlefields,” Mattis famously wrote in an email to a colleague.
Colin Gray from the University of Reading is the most near-faultless strategist alive. Then there’s Sir Hew Strachan from Oxford, and Williamson Murray, the American. Those three are probably the leading present-day military theorists. You’ve got to know Sun-tzu and Carl von Clausewitz, of course. The Army was always big on Clausewitz, the Prussian; the Navy on Alfred Thayer Mahan, the American; and the Air Force on Giulio Douhet, the Italian. But the Marine Corps has always been more Eastern-oriented. I am much more comfortable with Sun-tzu and his approach to warfare.
Before Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” Hollywood directors “got it right” by serving in the military.
Here are five legendary Hollywood directors who served on the front lines with their cameras:
Ford joined the Naval Reserve in the days leading up to America’s involvement in World War II. In 1941, he was put in charge of a documentary film unit that took him to battles around the world.
He won back-to-back academy awards for his Navy documentaries The Battle of Midway and December 7th. He won an Oscar every year between 1941 and 1944 for directing two feature films and two documentaries, according to his IMDb biography.
After the war, Ford continued to serve in the Navy Reserve and was activated one last time during the Korean War to film This is Korea!, a propaganda documentary about the beginnings of the war. Ford was promoted to rear admiral upon his retirement.
Ford starting making films in 1914 when he followed his older brother Francis – who became an actor after having worked in vaudeville – to Hollywood. The beginning of his silver screen career was modest, he was his brother’s assistant, handyman, stuntman, and double.
After three years in the business, Ford got his first break as a director and went on to direct nearly 60 silent films between 1917 and 1928 before pioneering “talkies.”
Ford’s Hollywood career went from 1917 to 1966, and he served in the Navy from 1934 to 1951.
For The Memphis Belle, Wyler flew over enemy territory on actual bombing missions to capture war footage. Wyler and his crew went on four missions to get enough footage to make the movie. On one of these missions, Wyler’s sound man, Harold Tannenbaum, was shot down and killed, according to William Wyler: The Life and Films of Hollywood’s Most Celebrated Director.
Wyler won an academy award for best director on The Best Years of Our Lives, a story about three veterans returning from World War II, which he filmed after serving in the military.
In 1942, Huston joined the Army Signal Corps as a captain to make films, but most of them were considered too controversial and were either not released or censored. His time in service is described in his New York Times Obituary:
While in uniform, he directed and produced three films that critics rank among the finest made about World War II:Report from the Aleutians (1943), about bored soldiers preparing for combat; The Battle of San Pietro(1944), a searing (and censored) story of an American intelligence failure that resulted in the deaths of many soldiers, and Let There Be Light (1945).
The last, about psychologically damaged combat veterans, was suppressed for 35 years for being too anti-war. It had its first public showing in 1981 and won critical approval.
Huston earned a Legion of Merit for courageous work under battle conditions and retired as a major.
Capra enlisted in the Army in 1917 when the U.S. declared war on Germany but was discharged the following year after catching the Spanish influenza. He moved to Los Angeles to live with his brother, and while recuperating, answered an open casting call which landed him on the set of John Ford’s film, The Outcasts of Poker Flat.
Over the course of twenty years, Capra became one of Hollywood’s most influential filmmakers, winning three Oscars as Best Director. His film, It Happened One Night became the first film to win five Oscars, including Best Picture.
Capra rejoined the Army Signal Corps during World War II and made the Why We Fight patriotic film series.
Stevens also joined the Army Signal Corps and headed a combat motion picture unit from 1944 to 1946. His unit filmed the Normandy landings, the liberation of Paris, and the liberation of Nazi extermination camp Dachau, which was used as evidence in the Nuremberg trials and de-Nazification program after the war.
Many critics claim that the somber, deeply personal tone of the movies he made when he returned from World War II were the result of the horrors he saw during the war, according to his IMDb biography.
This April, sitting in front of their respective work emails, Joe and Jenn McAuliffe were pronounced man and wife. In separate states, distant Army bases and during work hours, their life as a married couple began.
This was possible due to a Montana regulation that allows for double-proxy weddings – where neither party has to be present in order to be married. Both are represented by fill-ins. This was a plan they put into place due to the ongoing saga that is COVID-19.
After their Memorial Day weekend wedding plans had been pushed to the right, and with no clear feasible date in mind, the pair decided to make their own path.
“I said, ‘What if we get married on paper, because if something happens to one of us – we’re not married – the other couldn’t get leave [and travel];” Joe, who works in TRADOC, said.
He added that, while five states allow for marriage by proxy, only one allows for a double-proxy union. So it was decided: they would file in Montana, choose their anniversary date and time, and continue the day as usual.
“We were both literally at work in our offices. We got an email that said, ‘Congratulations you’re married,’” Jenn, working in INSCOM said.
The wedding came three years after the couple first emailed – a nod to their future – as upcoming classmates in the Army Sergeant Major Academy. Each was searching for roommates among their respective peers, and they, along with others, moved under a single roof.
Months into the school the pair started dating, then after two years as an item, they became engaged.
It was happenstance, they said. Not expecting to meet “the one,” both McAuliffes were caught off guard.
“I actually think we were very fortunate in the amount of time that we were able to spend together, even with him deploying,” Jenn said. Citing quick flights and four-day weekends, the couple averaged a visit together every six weeks, except for Joe’s stint overseas.
After years of long-distance dating, they were married. Joe popped the question after returning stateside.
But with the pandemic in play, their time together became nonexistent – they didn’t see each other for six months. After rendezvousing over President’s Day weekend in 2020, they wouldn’t meet again in person until they were legally wed.
With military travel regulations and restrictions at their respective bases, visits were simply not an option.
In fact, the reason they ended up getting multiple visits together, once bases allowed, was due to Jenn’s shoulder surgeries. Joe traveled there for her treatments and she was able to travel with him to recover.
“Our recent time together, it’s kind of funny, it was from convalescent leave,” she said.
All-in-all, however, the McAuliffes are dedicated to making their union joyful, even if they got a non-traditional start. Eventually, that will mean a shared home with acreage and distant from big cities. But for now, it means traveling when their jobs allow and sharing their best moments through smiles and playful banter. Jenn, from her rented house that she shares with a roommate. And Joe, from his stationary camper slot, with Jenn’s rescue dog, Roxy.
The rest? They’ll figure it out as they go. With the last two-plus decades planned for them, there’s time to plan. Joe, who’s coming up on his 27th year in the Army, says he always knew he wanted to join the military.
“Once I hit year 11 I said, ‘Ok I’m staying in,’” he said, also citing his daughters as reasons for finding success.
Lauren, 24 and daughter, Izabella, 6, top left. Shania, 23, top right, Katelynn, 21 bottom left, and Roxy, 11.
Meanwhile, Jenn just hit 25 years of service, giving credit to her father for serving as her inspiration. However, it was never a life goal to stay in until retirement.
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in for any longer but I did,” she said. “Something that Joe and I talk about, we were meant to go to the academy and meet each other, that’s why I stayed in.”
“Not necessarily for the Army or aspirations to be a Sergeant Major, but I was meant to meet Joe at the academy.”
Bonnie Carroll understands the cost of war as intimately as anyone in America – not the dollars and cents cost but the price paid by families for generations after warriors fall in battle. A few years after losing her husband in a military aircraft mishap in Alaska, Carroll turned her grief into action and founded the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, better known as “TAPS.”
“Twenty years ago there was no organization for those grieving the loss of a loved one who died while serving in the armed forces,” Carroll said while overseeing a recent TAPS event for nearly 50 surviving children held at the U.S. Naval Academy. “We are the families helping the families heal.”
“Grief isn’t a mental illness,” she continued. “It isn’t something you can take a pill for or put a splint over. Grief is a wound of the heart, and there’s no one better to provide that healing than those who’ve walked this journey and are now trained to help the bereaved. And as they help others they continue their own process of healing.”
Carroll pointed out that TAPS has strong relationships and formalized memorandums of understanding with all of the Pentagon’s branches of services but that the mission of assisting survivors is best done by a private organization and not a government bureaucracy.
“We have protocols in place so that when a family member dies, the families are told that TAPS exists,” Carroll said. “They will not be alone.”
That wasn’t always the case. For the first three years of TAPS’ existence the organization had trouble breaking through the mazes that surrounded the entrenched (and generally ineffective) agencies charged with dealing with the families of the fallen.
That changed dramatically in 1997 after the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, attended a TAPS gathering. “Hearing the stories and seeing the healing taking place was a game changer for him,” Carroll said. “When he got up to speak he said, ‘I really didn’t get it until I was here tonight. I didn’t realize how powerful this organization is.'”
And most importantly with respect to DoD’s responsibilities, the general said, “We can’t do for you what you must do for each other.”
Shalikashvilli went on to speak about the loss of his first wife 25 years earlier, which caused his second wife to lean over to Carroll and remark, “He’s never talked about this in public before.”
“In a room where he felt so safe, where he felt like he was in a place where you could share without judgment, he opened up,” Carroll said. “He got it.”
Shalikashvili went to the Joint Chiefs the following week and directed every branch of the service to connect with TAPS.
“We walk alongside the casualty officers,” Carroll said. “When they knock on the door, when they brief families on the benefits, they let the families know that there will always be comfort and care for them.”
The utility of TAPS was made evident on 9-11 when they moved into the space in the Sheraton across from the Pentagon where the FBI had been gathering forensic evidence. “As hope faded of finding remains, TAPS very quietly moved in,” Carroll said. “We were there for six weeks with peers to provide support for the families.”
On the day the family support center closed – all the remains that could be identified had been so, and some families would be going home without resolution – the general in charge said, “We are headed into war and don’t know what lies ahead.” He pointed to the TAPS staffers dressed in red shirts along the conference room’s back wall. “For those in the room who have lost loved ones, the red shirts will be there forever.”
“It was a wonderful hand off,” Carroll said. “Many of those families are still with us today.”
With a small percentage of Americans actually associated directly with the military, TAPS’ role has also been to educate a disengaged public. Carroll told an anecdote about a young boy who refused to wear anything to elementary school but the jeans he was given by his older brother – a soldier who was killed in combat shortly thereafter. The boy’s teacher sent a note home telling the mother that he would be sent home if he didn’t wear something besides those jeans. The mother was emotionally upset and unsure how to react, so she reached out to TAPS for advice.
“We contacted the school’s principal and suggested he help us educate the teacher on how to better deal with the child’s situation,” Carroll said. “We also recommended the teacher allow the boy to do a ‘show and tell’ to the class about his brother and his dedication and sacrifice.” The school took the TAPS staff advice and the situation improved for all parties – civilians and survivors – after that.
TAPS has a core staff of 77 people running seminars, a national help line, doing case work, and facilitating “Good Grief” camps (the organization’s signature offering). Ninety-two percent of the full-time staff are survivors of fallen warriors. The staff is supplemented by more than 50,000 volunteers nationwide.
On this day at the Naval Academy, surviving children team up with midshipmen mentors and do team building exercises in Halsey Fieldhouse and then break into smaller groups for discussions about loss and healing.
“One of my good friends lost her brother in Afghanistan,” Midshipman 4th Class Kyle McCullough, a member of the Midshipmen Action Group, said. “She told me about TAPS and how they helped her through a rough time with her family. When I heard [TAPS] was coming to the Naval Academy I jumped on the opportunity to come out and volunteer.”
For more information on the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors go to taps.org or call the toll-free TAPS resource and information helpline at 800-959-TAPS (8277).
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
After he was attacked in Iraq, Jason Redman could have retired to a quiet, private life. Instead he shed his anger so he could dress other vets.
A year after he was ambushed by machine-gun fire in Fallujah, Iraq, Lt. Jason Redman was still missing his nose. The bullets that showered his body also hit his cheekbone, leaving the right side of his face caved in. And he was wearing an eye patch to conceal a crusty and mangled sight. Returning to his life in Virginia, Redman says it was as if he had become a target all over again — this time to questions and stares from strangers.
The questions themselves — were you in a car accident? a motorcycle crash? — didn’t bother Redman. The fact that no one ever asked whether he’d been hurt in combat did. “It really started to make me bitter,” Redman, 38, says. “We’d been at war in Iraq for six years at that point and I thought, ‘Wow does the average American that I fought for recognize the sacrifice that I’ve made and that others have made?'”
Redman’s irritation began to fester, and after a particularly bothersome gawking session at the airport (“It’d been culminating, and I’d just reached my breaking point”), he took to the Internet to vent. Instead of angry Tweets or passive aggressive Facebook messages, Redman decided to wear his defense. He began designing T-shirts featuring slogans like, “Stop staring. I got shot by a machine gun. It would have killed you.” An American flag adorned the back of each one. As he started wearing his designs, strangers began to nod in appreciation, even thanking him at times. Redman knew he was onto something — that there were countless other wounded warriors who felt the same way.
So in 2009 he created Wounded Wear, a nonprofit that donates clothing kits to warriors hurt in combat and their loved ones, as well as to the families of fallen soldiers. The kits contain jackets, workout gear and T-shirts that read “Scarred so that others may live free,” a toned-down version of the original slogans Redman used to print. His organization also accepts existing clothing from service members, which the nonprofit modifies to accommodate short-term rehabilitation needs or permanent bodily damage: One of the most requested alterations comes from amputees, whose prosthetic limbs make it difficult to put on regular pants. Wounded Wear provides everything to service members free of charge, raising money from donations as well as apparel sales on its website. So far, they’ve donated nearly 2,000 kits.
Though he always knew he would serve and support others who served, Redman says that Wounded Wear is hardly the career path he dreamed for himself. Born into a military family, he often heard stories about his paternal grandfather, a highly decorated World War II B-24 pilot who once crash-landed a plane after being hit, and kept his entire team alive. As a kid, Redman loved to play with an old parachute that his father, a member of the airborne forces based in Fort Campbell, Ky., had saved from his days in service. “I just grew up with this message of service in our family and very patriotic values,” he says. “From a very young age, I knew I wanted to serve.”
By age 15, Redman had his heart set on the Navy. At 19, he began on a path of five deployments that would take him around the world, including Colombia, Peru, Afghanistan and, ultimately, Iraq. It was there, in September 2007 in the middle of the Iraq War, that Redman and his unit were ambushed while chasing a high-level target. After taking multiple shots to his helmet, elbow and face, he was lucky to be alive. Redman’s rehabilitation required 37 surgeries over the course of four years. The devastating injuries effectively ended his combat career. “I had to learn a different way forward, a different way to give back,” he says. “I said, ‘I’m gonna lift up people around me and I’m gonna continue to lead even if it’s from this hospital bed.’ ”
Which is exactly where Redman’s second act began. While recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Redman grew frustrated by the waves of people who came into his room expressing sorrow and sympathy. He was sick of the pity and asked his wife to buy the brightest color paper she could find — an orange poster. On it, Redman wrote:
“Attention to all who enter here. If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere. The wounds I received I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love. I am incredibly tough and will make a full recovery. What is full? That is the absolute utmost physically my body has the ability to recover. Then I will push that about 20 percent further through sheer mental tenacity. This room you are about to enter is a room of fun, optimism, and intense rapid regrowth. If you are not prepared for that, go elsewhere.”
His words were quickly embraced by fellow recovering veterans and went viral online. Even today, nearly seven years later, it remains a mantra for wounded warriors in recovery. Memories of his long and painful rehabilitation inform every aspect of Redman’s vision for Wounded Wear. In addition to donating clothing kits, his organization hosts quarterly “Jumps for a Purpose,” skydiving sessions for wounded vets and their families. With food vendors, musicians and other entertainers, the events are designed to convey a festive atmosphere, offering vets a chance to interact with fellow servicemen. But they are also metaphorical dives — opportunities for wounded warriors to let go of the obstacles holding them back. “It’s not really about jumping — it’s an extreme thing to throw yourself out of a perfectly good airplane,” Redman says. “It’s about moving forward, conquering that fear and taking that step back into life.”
Josh Hoffman, a single amputee Marine whose left leg was lost during an explosion in South Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2011, says Redman was a savior during his recovery at the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Virginia. The hospital didn’t have the resources to provide wounded warriors with modified clothing during their surgeries, but Hoffman had heard about Wounded Wear through friends at Bethesda, and asked Redman for help. “For months, I’d only been wearing shorts because my pants didn’t have zippers,” Hoffman says. “Jay modified my service outfits, jeans and all my pants — it was an incredible resource.” Hoffman, who has gone through more than 20 surgeries during his recovery, has gone on to volunteer with Wounded Wear, helping the organization pass out clothing kits at their various wounded warrior events, which he says has become a huge inspiration to him. “They’ve given me another sense of purpose to inspire others,” he says. “Jay’s shown me that even if you can’t do what you were doing before, you can always do something to help other vets. And I should say he’s the most humble person I’ve met, which has helped me strive to become a better person, day to day, which can be very difficult when I’m still working through things myself.”
Redman’s work is getting noticed elsewhere, too. Matt Reames, who with his wife co-founded the annual Never Quit Never Forget Gala to raise money for various organizations serving the country’s armed forces, first heard about Redman’s story from a friend who was also a former SEAL. Reames invited Redman to speak at their inaugural gala in 2011, and says Redman’s inspiring story left jaws on the floor at the event. But it was behind the scenes where Reames really saw the impact of Wounded Wear’s efforts. At a pre-gala gathering, Reames noticed Redman give a kit to a fellow vet named Chance Vaughn, who’d lost the majority of the left side of his head in combat. “The look on Chance’s face was incredible — he was stunned to see someone give him something, that someone cared about what he did,” Reames says. Nearly three years later, Reames says Vaughn still wears his Wounded Wear gear every day. “Jay shows wounded warriors that people do remember, that they do care about what they do, and that’s absolutely needed because war is not this fly-by-night thing. Even when a war ends, you’re going to have soldiers missing limbs, needing help.”
Having helped veterans get their pride back, Redman says his next focus is to bring other forms of long-term change into their lives. He’s written a book, “The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader,” about his experiences, with hopes that it will inspire others, both military members and civilians, to overcome the difficulties in their lives. And he wants to partner with other organizations to help veterans achieve their goals, be it going to law school or finding permanent housing. “We want to build a vast database and network with these other great organizations so that we can see them succeed, see them achieve their American Dream,” Redman says. “The U.S. government can’t do it right now. Compromise is not even a word they’re willing to entertain…so it’s up to us as citizens and we need to work together to do it.”
And with the country’s official drawdown from Afghanistan coming soon, Redman says the importance of that work is more urgent than ever. “The awareness of the wars is already waning. Big battles, guys that are lost — they don’t really make the news anymore,” he says. “Iraq ended, but my scars didn’t go away. Wounded warriors carry those scars for life, so it’s more important than ever that we continue to raise awareness, to make sure our veterans are taken care of.”
Chances are you have read a book that changed your mind, and possibly, your life. That is why most of us read, to learn something new, to be inspired, entertained, feel a closeness, or simply to transport us to a different place. I never anticipated how a book I opened last year would awaken my spirit in every way, offering generational and timeless truths. Moreover, it made me believe in fate again.
However, there is a catch. This life-altering book and its promise can only be retold here—because there was only one that was accidentally printed.
What Are the Odds?
Although I published my book a few years ago, the story about it that came to life happened in January 2019. It began when I placed an order with my distributor to restock my stash of hardcovers that dwindled from holiday sales. I love being gifted a signed copy of any book, so I keep this purchase option on my author website too. As my husband says, reading a signed book is like eating outside—the food always tastes better.
On my way out the door after the morning shuffle of grabbing jackets, bags and breakfast, a large box sitting in the foyer caught my eye. It was that resupply of books, having arrived the day before. Ever the multitasker, I grabbed a knife from the kitchen, slit the taped seam of the box and took the first copy on top of the stack. Stuffing it into my purse, I planned to drop this in the mail to fulfill the personalized order in my inbox and knock one more thing off my to-do list! Yet sitting in my Jeep in front of the post office later that day, the universe stood still when I opened the book to autograph it.
It was not my book.
I snapped it closed—I was in utter disbelief—and stared at the paper jacket wrapped around the hardcover: The Frontline Generation: How We Served Post 9/11. Yes, that was my book cover. I removed the jacket, checked the gray cloth bound outside, which did have my last name and book title embossed on the binding. But when I opened it for a second time, this time slowly turning the first blank page at the beginning, I landed again on a cover page that was not the title of my book. I’m sure my lips mouthed the foreign words.
Fearful Odds: A Memoir of Vietnam and Its Aftermath was the manuscript bound inside my hardcover, in its entirety, which was revealed after inspecting the first few pages individually, to fanning to the end with my thumb landing on acknowledgments. Speaking of odds, I thought, what are the chances that two different books are accidentally and perfectly combined during a print run? The fact that the two bound together just happened to be books written by two veterans—from two different generations, two different wars—seemed unbelievable.
I returned to my home office, and after a few minutes of internet sleuthing, I discovered the other author—and he was alive! After digging up a phone number and being transferred through two secretaries, I was asked to hold. An older, warm inquisitive voice came through my iPhone. “Is this true? Our books are bound together?” Charles W. Newhall, the Vietnam Veteran and author whose book was combined with mine was the man on the other end of the call. I recounted the discovery, ending with, “Well, it appears to me I’m supposed to read your book.” He aptly replied, “And I yours. Let’s determine if we like each other and reconnect then.”
I smiled in response, “Sounds perfect.” I liked him instantly. And I was glad to hear he went by Chuck, since funny enough, my husband, who is also a veteran, shares his name—talk about alleviating confusion! I emailed him a short video of our book. Chuck was equally amused and replied he had already placed his online order for my book. I planned to start Fearful Odds over the weekend, but a cryptic one sentence email from Chuck a few days later kept me up all night reading his book.
“Just finished yours … much to discuss …”
The Striking Differences, the Eerie Similarities
Before the trending “OK, boomer” pejorative that mocks that crowd I’ll simply define here as those who won’t retire or stop running for public office, I had already (and unexpectedly) unearthed a deeper affinity for the Vietnam generation during my book tour. This unexplained connectedness made no sense to me then, nor did it as I began to read through the striking differences outlined in Fearful Odds. Chuck’s opening is the gut punch annihilation of 40 percent of his platoon the first few days in battle—casualties for the Global War on Terror are nowhere near those lost and immortalized on black granite in Washington DC. Make no mistake, though, every loss of life in combat is heartbreaking, even if it is one soldier from a battalion, as described in my book.
Nevertheless, Chuck’s counterinsurgency fight in the A Shau Valley and the jungles of Vietnam are a bloody contrast to the unforgiving mountains and deserts in the Middle East, in particular the narrow dirt roads described in my memoir about Eastern Afghanistan. Also, consider that while Chuck endured enemy fire alongside those who were drafted, I served with an all-volunteer force when rockets pounded our bases. In the 1960s and ’70s, families talked about our foreign policy commitments around the kitchen table because someone they knew would have their number drawn. Post 9/11, America has continued to go shopping at the mall while the smallest number in our history—less than 1 percent—wears our nation’s uniform.
These startling disparities of our times cannot be understated. I shook my head in disgust when reading about Chuck getting kicked out of a bar when he returned home—vulgarities and disrespect were hurled at him and another service member for simply wanting to buy their first stateside beer. When I walked through crowded airports upon my arrival, I experienced glares, too, but in another way. A stranger anonymously bought my lunch when I stopped to eat on my layover, passing along a simple message through the waiter: “Thank you for your service.” Let me say this: no post 9/11 veteran must go on a book tour to appreciate how differently we are treated from the Vietnam generation of service members.
On a personal level, while the combat Chuck and I experienced was separated by nearly forty years, there were far greater chasms between the baby boomer Chuck and this Xennial (a person born between Gen-X’rs and Millennials). For example, the obvious—I am a woman, and he is a man. Raised in the southwest in tract housing where baseboards are not flush, I have a Nashville spark perhaps only matched by the maverick fire Chuck emits from his palatial, East Coast, private school upbringing. And as I stand on the doorstep of middle-age, middle class, and rising, Chuck is perched atop a breathtaking legacy that most would not even dare to dream.
This is where the divergence in our stories end, overpowered by eerie similarities that still make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
Despite where each of us started, what we have in common was the unequivocal drive to start living as quickly as possible. Both of us share an unshakable reverence for tradition yet are clearly wired to defy norms and ask questions. Our yearning for adventure and thirst for knowledge can easily be romanticized as those who may be so bold to passion chase, speak up, take risks. The unflattering and imperfect side to ambition is present, too, as we both confide our edges with the reader. And, of course, our devotion to country and its higher ideals made the decision to serve in the military as natural as breathing.
Yet it was what was revealed in the pages beyond our like constitutions that kept me reading throughout the night.
For two absolute random books to be combined by mistake, both of our stories were set against the backdrop of serving in combat at the peak of military surges, for Vietnam and Afghanistan. Ironically, we were in the same unit too—he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, while I was attached to the Screaming Eagles four decades later. And he carried the weight and responsibility of lives—just as I did—as it was that we were both commanders.
It is easy to dismiss all this coincidence up to a point. But with the turn of every page, there was more that fueled the mystery of our printing error. Our equal commitment and love for those who fought by our sides is palpable. Just the same is our shared lessons learned on leadership, where our quotes dance around the same virtues. Resolute beliefs were sown—views that span generations—that service members must only be sent to win wars, not fight them endlessly. And chills ran through my body when I read the names of his soldiers that were identical to mine—every generation has a Schmitty and a Mac. However, it was the “close call” that made me set down the book and take a deep breath—we both drove over a roadside bomb that did not detonate.
Our stories together were culminating in timeless truths. Bound together, a new wisdom began to emerge.
I was about halfway through Chuck’s memoir when I flipped ahead to study the photos in the center of his book. His piercing eyes were a marked contrast to my ready smile; nevertheless, I knew that gaze. I looked at the clock and groaned. It had been a long time since I pulled an “all-nighter.” Yet this next part of the story was about homecoming—leaving the military and establishing a new mission as a civilian. Or, simply, starting anew. The tired, catchy phrase transition overused by the post 9/11 military community was exactly the current chapter of my life. I had to keep reading.
I anticipated sage insight from this warrior who had gone before me that would help guide me through the maze of my newfound wilderness. I was, again, astonished by our similar steps and struggles.
Up to this point, both of our books also described how love shaped and empowered us. Particularly, the love we had with our spouses. Interestingly, we both highlight our R&R and the recharge it provided to finish our deployments. That said, he met his wife Marsi in Hong Kong in a Rolls Royce with a bottle of Dom Perignon, while my husband Charles picked me up in his Ford F150 with handpicked flowers, and we hid away in a townhome near the border of Kentucky. Call it coincidence, again, but Chuck and I both went on to business school, forged paths tied to entrepreneurship, and started our families. Charles and I had a son. Marsi and Chuck had two boys.
During this period, hardships that transcend and transformative events shook both of us to our core.
Life’s greatest battles are not necessarily reserved for those in combat. For years, I carried the burden as a spouse of a soldier, since Charles continued back-and-forth combat tours, juggling the fear of losing him and our ongoing pain of multiple miscarriages and infertility. Then, it happened on a Wednesday when the doctor told us our only child had infant cancer. There is a special kind of hell for moments in life like this. Chuck knew this all too well, and suffered greatly from Marsi’s bipolar disorder, depression and infidelity. On what was supposed to be just another cold, gray Saturday in winter, Chuck discovered Marsi’s body in the woods behind their house—she’d committed suicide.
His account of this awful tragedy and aftermath is some of the most gripping and honest writing one could read.
We may not all share the same experiences, but we do all have the same emotions. Chuck and I both recognized how the hardening from our past helped us overcome these crucibles. Every person has been through something—there are chapters in everyone’s lives that they would not want to read out loud. Even so, the human spirit is relentless. Resilience, grit, and courage is earned when you go through the tough times. Those reservoirs, faith, and professional help led both of us to new frontiers. For Charles and me, our little boy beat cancer and provides us never-ending happiness. For Chuck, a beautiful ray of sunshine named Amy brought his family back to life and has been by his side for thirty-seven years.
Healing can be found in the gardens of life.
In the gardens we meet
Indeed, we had much to discuss. Amongst other things, our combined stories tackle assumptions and dispel the notion of what we are all capable of enduring and producing. Yet the greatest revelation occurred when we met face to face in the spring.
Charles and I had planned a weekend road trip with our son to see the nation’s capital during the peak bloom of cherry blossoms. Since Chuck and Amy reside outside the Beltway, we coordinated a Sunday lunch before our drive back to North Carolina. We had chatted on the phone a few more times by now, delightful banter and, of course, divulging exclusive footnotes. I also learned Chuck’s book had a companion volume, Brightside Gardens: A Dialogue Between the Head and the Heart, which presents the emotional and visual impact of the Newhall’s exquisite fifty-four individual gardens on their private property. When we pulled into the driveway, Chuck walked outside to meet us in the courtyard.
He stood defiantly tall and ready to give us a personal tour of the grounds, in particular, A Shau Garden. Clutching a cane to help steady the shaky encounters Parkinson’s mounts on his aging vessel, I walked straight in his direction. My instinct said the only appropriate greeting would be how one would embrace an old comrade. I gave him a hug. Customary introductions were exchanged once Charles and our seven-year-old son climbed out of the Jeep. Then we followed Chuck’s lead through the iron gates.
My little boy skipped ahead as we inhaled the crisp early spring air and took in the beauty that surrounded us. It’s been said that you find meaning when you want or need meaning. Making sense of why I was walking beside Chuck, why our books were combined, was reminiscent in how his interwoven gardens urge you to not overthink nature. Accept remarkable turns of fate and allow them to touch your heart and ignite your spirit. Because when you stand amongst winter aconites, which Chuck planted in A Shau Garden to honor the fallen, one is reminded that the gift of each new day is rooted in both the joys and trials we face.
Whatever your war, cultivate hard-earned wisdom and you will not only prevail, but thrive.
Amy welcomed us as we approached the house, yet her glow and charisma was felt from the terrace. She reaffirms that our society should widen the definition of heroes. Our son immediately warmed up to her and their dear elderly pug, which was roaming through the ornate living room. We took a seat, and I finally presented Chuck with “our” book. He mirrored my response to this implausible printing error, looking over it slowly and carefully. And then, looking up at me and smiling.
Not every story about war is a war story.
Before we departed that day, Chuck and I made sure to exchange signed copies of our books. Overwhelmed by the surreal moment, I tried to inscribe a fitting note to him. Yet, for a person who is an author, I wrestled for the right words. Of all the personalized copies I have signed, this one was on a level all its own! Chuck finished what he wrote in his copy, closed the book, and handed it to me.
On our drive home, I found the treasure that awaited me inside his signed hardcover.
What are the odds that my book was combined with Chuck’s? Well, our books printed out of a warehouse that is part of the largest distributor of books in the world, Ingram Content Group. Despite proprietary confidentiality on the total numbers Ingram prints daily, it is safe to conclude our combined book is inimitable. I learned our books were not lined in the queue because we were the same genre or alphabetically close, either. And print errors of any kind are minuscule—Ingram boasts a Quality Efficiency Rating of 99.865%!
The team at Ingram said they have never heard of a printing error like this.
Our combined story was a harmonious call to action to live with conviction and for each other, to do so fearlessly, or otherwise said, find your frontline. One of Chuck’s favorite quotes captures this sentiment, which is actually the title of his third book that will be released later this year. When I saw Chuck and Amy again while passing through Baltimore for a conference, he handed me an early draft of Dare Disturb the Universe: A Memoir of Venture Capital. I would be captivated once more by the powerful details of his professional journey (he refers to it as a quest) that changed the world.
As we were wrapping up our lunch, I joked with Chuck, “Our printing error really should be a movie.” Without missing a beat, he replied, “It absolutely should be—it could save lives.” I knew the depth of his statement, not just meant for those in the throes of some form of adversity, for those searching or listless. Every twist in our paths matter. And sometimes they are intertwined to awaken us and bridge our understanding of life.
The mistake of our combined book was a perfect symbol to that point, solving the mystery. However we are tied in, each of us is unique, destined, certain the way we are. And not singular. We are not alone. In a time where isolation and feeling disconnected are more pronounced, the fateful error of our combined book is a reminder that our stories, our world, is bound together.
The providence of Chuck’s inscription exposed this epiphany: “It is so great—someone understands me.”
American Presidents are civilians by design, some with little or no military experience at all – and are unlikely to ever serve in a combat role while in office (unless they’re in office while aliens attack Earth). In the voters’ minds, military experience always seems to be a plus when considering who would be the next Commander-In-Chief. It probably helps when they actually take the office.
But not every veteran POTUS saw action. Eisenhower was a great logistical planner but never served in a direct combat role. George Washington’s combat record as a junior officer is spotty, but his decision-making capacity, strategic vision, and ability to inspire those around him were infinitely more essential to his legacy and to the history of the United States.
And then there were those whose service would affect the outcomes of battles, of entire wars, and of the nation itself. Here are 8 presidents who actually saw combat in a big way:
1. Andrew Jackson (War of 1812, Indian Wars)
No president ever held a grudge like Andrew Jackson. This was a guy who fought 103 duels before he was ever elected President. Yet he only killed one man (in a duel, I mean).
When he was 13, he served as a messenger for a militia unit in the Revolutionary War. When captured, he refused to shine the boots of a British officer, who then used his saber to give the Young Jackson the scars that would be on his face for the rest of his life. That sort of thing stays with a young man.
As a general, his most famous military success was at New Orleans during the War of 1812. The British threatened the city under Jackson’s command. Jackson pulled together Army regulars, militia, sailors, Marines, citizens, Choctaw warriors, and a band of pirates under Jean LaFitte, to a force of 4,700 men. They held off 11,000 British troops and the Royal Navy fleet in a battle that couldn’t be won.
His victory would (eventually) put Jackson in the White House, where Old Hickory would be the first US President anyone tried to assassinate. An unemployed house painter pulled two pistols on Jackson but they both misfired, allowing Jackson to beat the would-be killer with his cane.
2. William Henry Harrison (War of 1812, Indian Wars)
Harrison was the commander of American forces at Tippecanoe, architect of Shawnee leader Tecumseh’s defeat, and gave the United States its first victory against violent religious extremists. Not bad.
Tecumseh and his brother, a “prophet” called Tenskawata, began using visions and magic to incite Natives in the Indiana territory against American settlers. In 1810, Tecumseh met then-Governor Harrison with 400 warriors to demand the rescission of a treaty. When Harrison refused, Tecumseh ordered his warriors to kill Harrison, who responded by drawing his sword. A Potawatomi chief intervened and Tecumseh’s warriors left for the time being.
When the war came, Harrison assaulted the tribes repeatedly – most notably at Tippecanoe, where the magical forces were defeated by actual forces.
Guns over Magic. Every time.
Tecumseh made a comeback in the War of 1812, backed up by the British. Harrison quickly captured Detroit (for better or worse) and then invaded Canada. He defeated the British and got some vengeance against Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames. Tecumseh was killed, the Americans burned a local settlement (built by pacifists probably to avoid getting their settlement burned down), and then went back to Detroit.
Harrison delivered the longest inaugural speech in American history without a coat on a cold, wet day, which resulted in the shortest presidency in American history.
3. Zachary Taylor (War of 1812, Indian Wars, Mexican-American War)
Taylor also cut his teeth fighting Tecumseh during the War of 1812, famously holding Fort Harrison with 20 men against 600 under the “inspiring” battle cry “Taylor Never Surrenders!” Turns out, he was pretty good at checking native tribes. He also fought them in the Black Hawk War and Seminole War.
By the time war with Mexico broke out, Taylor was a general and was widely known as “Old Rough and Ready.” He lost only 37 men against an army that vastly outnumbered his own, marched on the “impregnable” city of Monterrey, and captured it in four days. This wasn’t even his biggest victory.
President Polk deliberately gave all but 4,650 of Taylor’s troops to General Winfield Scott to capture Veracruz in an effort to check Taylor’s growing popularity back home. Having learned of Taylor’s weakened army, Mexican General and dictator General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna sent his entire army of 15,000 to annihilate him.
As Taylor’s army turned the Battle of Buena Vista into a complete rout of the numerically superior Mexicans, his order “Double-shot your guns and give ’em hell” was used as a campaign slogan to catapult Taylor to the presidency.
He was so popular, he was elected as the Whig Party candidate despite disagreeing with almost every issue for which the party stood.
4. Franklin Pierce (Mexican-American War)
Franklin Pierce was so itchy to fight for his country, he turned down President Polk’s nomination as Attorney General. For this he gets a lot of respect. The first part of his military career, however, was less like Zachary Taylor’s and more like Ernest goes to Mexico.
He volunteered to join the Army as soon as war with Mexico broke out in 1846, despite the lack of New England regiments actually existing. When Congress authorized those regiments, he was appointed the Colonel in command and sent to Veracruz.
When he arrived in Mexico, he was promoted to Brigadier General and linked up with General Winfield Scott at the Battle of Contreras. Everything was okay until his horse was startled, causing his saddle to jam his groin as hard as possible. The horse then fell into a crevice, pinning Pierce under it and forcing someone else to take command. He injured his knee the next day and fell so far behind his men, the battle was over by the time he caught up.
General Scott wasn’t going to let Pierce command his brigade at the Battle of Churubusco the next day, but he eventually did. But Pierce’s wounded leg hurt so much, he passed out on his horse in the middle of the battle.
5. Ulysses S. Grant (Mexican War, Civil War)
Grant famously became the general the Union needed to win the Civil War. He was forced to resign from the Army for drunkenness before the war. But when the South seceded, he raised a regiment of volunteers that he used to take the fight to the Confederates in the West.
Eventually, he commanded friend and General William T. Sherman to burn the South to the ground.
He always showed this level of doggedness in his military career. During the Mexican War, he led cavalry charges despite only being a quartermaster. As a messenger, he braved the sniper-lined streets of Monterrey while hanging off the side of his horse, using it as a shield.
At the Battle of Chapultepec, he carried a howitzer to the top of a church steeple, a move essential to the final assault on Chapultepec Castle and to winning the war itself.
6. Rutherford B. Hayes (Civil War)
Not much is really said about Rutherford B. Hayes these days, but the former President has probably one of the most active war records of any Chief Executive. He was a Union officer during the Civil War, volunteering after Fort Sumter fell and serving in an active combat role until the Confederate surrender at Appomattox.
In September 1862, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was advancing northward into Maryland. The Union Army under General George B. McClellan met the divided Confederates in a series of three pitched battles. At the head of the lead regiment was Lieutenant Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes.
As Hayes’ 23d Ohio charged an entrenched Confederate position, a bullet tore through his arm, shattering the bone. After tying a handkerchief tourniquet around it (and presumably rubbing some dirt on it), he continued the attack.
While most Civil War veterans would lose an arm to such an injury, Hayes probably didn’t get an infection because gangrene was afraid of him. Instead, he spent the next two years skirmishing with Confederate forces in Tennessee and Virginia.
He had his horse shot from under him Battle of Kernstown, where he was then shot in the shoulder. He was also struck in the head by a spent round at Cedar Creek in 1864, the year he was promoted to Brigadier General and Brevet Major General.
He was elected to the Presidency by sheer force of will in 1876, despite not winning a majority of electoral or popular votes.
7. Theodore Roosevelt (Spanish-American War)
Colonel Roosevelt was an adventurer, explorer, scholar, author, historian, boxer, cowboy, big game hunter, and elected official. Teddy, as he hated being called, was also fearless and nearly indestructible even before he went to war.
Unfortunately for Spain, when the USS Maine was sunk in Havana harbor, Roosevelt resigned as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to go and liberate Cuba. He and Colonel Leonard Wood raised the 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment – known to this day as the “Rough Riders.”
They distinguished themselves at the Battle of San Juan Hill. During the fight for nearby Kettle Hill, he lead the charge as the only man on horseback. Roosevelt moved from position to position as his men advanced up the hill, over open ground, against an entrenched enemy. When his horse was stopped by barbed wire, he walked the rest of the way.
The Americans reached the top of the hill fighting hand-to-hand to dislodge the Spaniards. In Spain’s defense, there’s no shame in getting dropped by a punch the face from Teddy Roosevelt.
Roosevelt would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for that action (he is still the only President with one), blocked at the time for political reasons – the most likely being that he was Theodore Roosevelt and everyone else was not.
8. Harry S. Truman (World War I)
Truman was initially denied enlisting into the Missouri National Guard because of poor eyesight – well past the standard for legal blindness. Not one to let not being able to see keep him from killing Germans, he secretly memorized an eye chart and passed the vision test. He was even elected to be the lieutenant of his unit.
By the time he arrived in France, he was the captain of an artillery company. He was unpopular at first… until his unit was overrun by the Germans in the Vosges Mountains. His men started to break and run but Truman let rip a string of profanity so awful and venomous his men were actually more afraid of him than the Germans – and they stayed to fight.
His time in the mud didn’t stop there. At the start of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in 1918, Captain Truman observed German artillery setting up to attack a unit out of his area of responsibility. An animal lover, Truman waited until the Germans moved their horses before lighting them up.
Women led armies and nations, won battles, and fought wars to their very end. From Boudica’s repeated victories over Roman legions and Joan of Arc’s relief of Orléans to Mary Walker joining Sherman’s March to the Sea, women have a military legacy as old and storied as any. Here are a few modern women who stood up when the call came.
1. Margarita Neri – Mexico
Neri was a soldadera, a female soldier of the Mexican Revolution who traveled alongside the men. Most of the soldaderas only traveled with their husbands and didn’t fight, instead tending to the needs of their husbands. Margarita Neri was not one of these women.
She commanded more than 1,000 women in 1910 as her unit swept through Tabasco and Chiapas looting, burning, and killing. These were not unusual events in such a war, except this group’s commander was a woman who carried a bloody machete and vowed to decapitate longtime dictator Porfirio Díaz.
After a while, her bloody reputation would come to precede her. The ruthless nature of that reputation prompted the governor of Guerrero to smuggle himself out of town once he heard she was approaching.
After the war ended, the soldaderas returned to their homes without recognition of their contributions or pensions for the veterans. Many died homeless and destitute.
2. Marie Marvingt – France
If ever there were a Jane Of All Trades, it was Marie Marvingt. Raised in the Lorraine area of France, she was a champion shooter, athlete, and aviation pioneer. She is the godmother of aeromedical evacuation, developing the concept of air ambulances before World War I.
When World War I broke out, she disguised herself as a man and served as a front line soldier in France. After being discovered and sent home, she was requested by Marshal Ferdinand Foch to join an Italian mountain regiment in the Southern Alps.
In 1915, she became the first female combat pilot ever when she began flying bombing missions on German bases and in German-held territory. The interwar years saw her working as a journalist and war correspondent. While in Morocco, she invented a metal ski method for landing airplanes on sand.
During WWII, she formed a nurses parachute unit, who would drop nurses into combat zones when weather wouldn’t permit air ambulances to land. When France fell, she became a member of the Maquis – the core of the French Resistance.
3. Sabiha Gökçen – Turkey
Gökçen was the first Turkish female combat pilot, and some believe she was the first female combat pilot, though that claim is disputed. What isn’t disputed is her childhood as one of eight adopted children of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, father of modern Turkey.
As such, she was able to learn to fly in Russia. Though she was not able to attend the Turkish War College, Kemal, as her patron, ensured she received an education in combat operations anyway at the Turkish Military Aviation Academy.
Gökçen later wrote “Atatürk tested her by asking her to press a gun against her head and pull the trigger” and “she did not flinch.” It was this unflinching devotion which put her in the Easter regions of the country. She provided close air support to Turkish troops suppressing what would come to be called the Dersim Rebellion. Gökçen personally bombed the home of the insurgent leader, killing him and many of his lieutenants.
She would spend much of her career training pilots as an officer in the Turkish Air Force.
4. Lyudmila Pavlichenko – Soviet Union (Ukraine)
Hell hath no fury like a Ukrainian woman scorned by Nazis. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, a senior at Kiev University volunteered to join the Red Army infantry, declined being placed as a nurse, and opted to be a sniper instead, despite the staggering 75 percent loss rate for female snipers.
In her audition to be a sniper, she had to target two Romanians aiding Germans on a hill near the front. After she picked the two off, she was accepted, but did not tally the Romanians into her final kill count because “they were test shots.”
By the end of 1942, Pavilchenko had 309 confirmed kills, including 36 counter-sniper wins. She was wounded four times, including shrapnel wounds to the face. She was so successful, the Germans tried to bribe her with chocolate and a commission to defect and join the German army. When that didn’t work, they threatened to tear her to 309 pieces.
She wasn’t afraid. Pavilchenko was elated to know the Germans were keeping track. On a tour in the US to foster public opinion for the allies opening a second European front, Pavilchenko described her feelings on her daily life as a sniper as “uncomplicated,” remarking: “dead Germans are harmless.”
The National Prayer Breakfast has been an event attended by American presidents since its inception. February 4, 2021 it will be conducted virtually for the first time in its 68 year history.
The origin of the National Prayer Breakfast actually began in the 1930s. Abraham Vereide organized prayer groups throughout the Seattle area. Later on he moved to Washington D.C. and began creating similar events within Congress. At the invitation of one of the Congressional members and Billy Graham, President Dwight Eisenhower attended the first “official” National Prayer Breakfast in 1953.
Although it was called the President’s Prayer Breakfast until 1970, it began a long and rich tradition.
American presidents have been sitting down in faith and prayer ever since. It has often been the first speech made by the newly inaugurated president, since the current president is always one of the speakers at the event. Hosted by members of Congress and The Fellowship Foundation, it has grown and changed over the years.
Guests from over 100 countries attend the gathering which used to host around 400 and now boasts as many as 4,000. Although originally attended by those practicing the Christian faith, it has involved being inclusive of all. Jewish, Muslim and Buddhists could all be sitting at the same table. Cities and countries all over the world have also been modeling and having their own National Prayer Breakfast events, with many military bases joining in too.
Although religious in its very nature, at the heart of the Prayer Breakfast lies the deep hope for the future of man and goodwill to all.
Some of the more notable prayers and moments from previous National Prayer Breakfasts of the past below demonstrate that spirit. As history has shown us, we aren’t the first generation to experience such loss and hardship.
As we approach the next National Prayer Breakfast with President Biden at the helm, the country does so with heavy but hopeful hearts. Below are some of the more notable remarks and prayers from past presidents.
Dwight Eisenhower, 1953
“As Benjamin Franklin said at one time during the course of the stormy consultation at the Constitutional Convention, because he sensed that the convention was on the point of breaking up: ‘Gentlemen, I suggest that we have a word of prayer.’ And strangely enough, after a bit of prayer the problems began to smooth out and the convention moved to the great triumph that we enjoy today–the writing of our Constitution.”
John F. Kennedy, 1963
“These breakfasts are dedicated to prayer and all of us believe in and need prayer. Of all the thousands of letters that are received in the office of the President of the United States, letters of good will and wishes, none, I am sure, have moved any of the incumbents half so much as those that write that those of us who work here in behalf of the country are remembered in their prayers….This morning we pray together; this evening apart. But each morning and each evening, let us remember the advice of my fellow Bostonian, the Reverend Phillips Brooks: ‘Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.'”
Lyndon Johnson, 1964
“No man could live in the house where I live now or work at the desk where I work now without needing and without seeking the strength and the support of earnest and frequent prayer. Since last we met, it has fallen to me to learn personally the truth Thomas Jefferson spoke so long ago, when he said: ‘The second office of the Government is honorable and easy; The first is but a splendid misery.’ In these last 70 days, prayer has helped me to bear the burdens of this first office which are too great to be borne by anyone alone.”
Gerald Ford, 1975
“Since we last met, I have discovered another aspect of the power of prayer: I have learned how important it is to have people pray for me. It is often said that the presidency is the loneliest job in the world. Yes, and in a certain sense, I suppose it is. Yet, in all honesty, I cannot say that I have suffered from loneliness these past six months. The reason, I am certain, has been that everywhere I go, among old friends or among strangers, people call out from the crowd or will say quietly to me, ‘We’re praying for you,’ or ‘You are in our prayers,’ and I read the same sentiments in my mail. Of course, there are some that are not so inspiring, but the great ground swell of good will that comes from the true spirit of America has been a wonderful source of strength to me as it was, I am sure, to other Presidents before me.”
Jimmy Carter, 1980
“But this is what I would like to leave with you. To set a time in each day to list all of the things that you consider to be most difficult, most embarrassing, the worst challenge to your own happiness, and not only ask God to alleviate it but preferably thank God for it. It might sound strange, but I guarantee you it works. And you might say, ‘Why in the world should I ask God for thanks — give thanks, for something that seems to me so bad or so damaging?’ Well, growth in a person’s life, growth for a nation, growth spiritually, all depend on our relationship with God. And the basis for that growth is an understanding of God’s purpose, and a sharing of difficult responsibilities with God through prayer.”
Ronald Reagan, 1984
“We all in this room, I know, and we know many millions more everywhere, turn to God in prayer, believe in the power and the spirit of prayer. And yet so often, we direct our prayers to those problems that are immediate to us, knowing that He has promised His help to us when we turn to Him. And yet in a world today that is so torn with strife where the divisions seem to be increasing, not people coming together, within countries, divisions within the people, themselves and all, I wonder if we have ever thought about the greatest tool that we have — that power of prayer and God’s help.”
George H.W. Bush, 1989
“We’re facing some serious opportunities and some great opportunities in our country — tough problems and great opportunities. And I believe that a wonderful resource in dealing with them is prayer — not just prayer for what we want but prayer for what is in the heart of God for us individually and as a nation. And shouldn’t we also remember, with all that we have to be grateful for, to pause each day to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. All of us should not attempt to fulfill the responsibilities we now have without prayer and a strong faith in God. Abraham Lincoln said: ‘I’ve been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I have nowhere else to go.’ Surely he was not the first President, certainly not the last, to realize that.”
Bill Clinton, 1999
“You do not make peace with your friends, but friendship can come with time and trust and humility when we do not pretend that our willfulness is an expression of God’s will. I do not know how to put this into words. A friend of mine last week sent me a little story out of Mother Teresa’s life, when she said she was asked, ‘When you pray, what do you say to God?’ And she said, ‘I don’t say anything. I listen.’ And then she was asked, ‘Well when you listen, what does God say to you?’ And she said, ‘He doesn’t say anything, either. He listens.’ In another way, St. Paul said the same thing: ‘We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit, Himself, intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.’ So I ask you to reflect on all we have seen and heard and felt today. I ask you to pray for peace, for the peacemakers, and for peace within each of our hearts — in silence.”
George W. Bush, 2001
“Every president since the first one I can remember, Dwight Eisenhower, has taken part in this great tradition. It’s a privilege for me to speak where they have spoken and to pray where they have prayed. All presidents of the United States have come to the National Prayer Breakfast, regardless of their religious views. No matter what our background, in prayer we share something universal, a desire to speak and listen to our Maker and to know His plan for our lives….I believe in the power of prayer. It’s been said, ‘I would rather stand against the cannons of the wicked than against the prayers of the righteous.’ The prayers of a friend are one of life’s most gracious gifts.”
Barack Obama, 2016
“…And should that faith waver, should I lose my way, I have drawn strength not only from a remarkable wife, not only from incredible colleagues and friends, but I have drawn strength from witnessing all across this country and all around this world, good people, of all faiths, who do the Lord’s work each and every day. Who wield that power and love, and sound mind to feed the hungry and heal the sick, to teach our children and welcome the stranger. Think about the extraordinary work of the congregations and faith communities represented here today. Whether fighting global poverty or working to end the scourge of human trafficking, you are the leaders of what Pope Francis calls ‘this march of living hope’.”
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Soldiers from the 193rd Infantry Brigade and Airmen from the 26th Special Tactics Squadron land after a parachute jump as a part of Emerald Warrior.
An MC-130J Commando II from the 9th Special Operations Squadron taxis for departure from the Red Horse Landing Zone in support of Emerald Warrior.
An MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aircraft system from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 performs ground turns aboard the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3).
Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) tip their caps to the crew of the MilitarySealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE-14) following a weapons onload.
Philippine Marines train with U.S. Marines attached to the III Marine Expeditionary Force/Marine Corps Installations Pacific during a fast-rope exercise.
A Marine scout sniper candidate with Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment looks through the scope of his rifle during a stalking exercise in the vicinity of SR-10 aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
New Orleans native Burnell Cotlon has spent the last five years on a mission. He’s turning a two-story building that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (along with most of his Lower 9th Ward neighborhood), into a shopping plaza. Already, he’s opened a barber shop and a convenience store, and as of last November, is providing the neighborhood — identified as a food desert — with its first full-service grocery store in almost a decade.
The Lower Ninth Ward, which experienced catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina, has had a much slower recovery than most New Orleans neighborhoods. Before Katrina, the area had a population of around 14,000 and boasted of the highest percentage of black homeownership in the country. According to the last census, however, only around 3,000 people live in the neighborhood. Many of its roads are still torn up, it lacks basic resources and the closest full-service grocery store is nearly 3 miles away in the neighboring city of Chalmette.
Burnell’s merchandise is still mostly limited to non-perishables and fresh produce, but he hopes to add poultry, bread and dairy this year.
Burnell Cotlon relies on a lot of second hand supplies, and with the right equipment, he could meet his goal of offering more food options for members of his community. Please consider making a donation and spreading the word in order to support his work.
Everyone has heard the phrase “cash is king” but that’s not always the case when troops are deployed overseas.
When service members deploy to remote areas, they enter a barter economy where cash loses value since there is nearly nowhere to spend it. But a shortage of consumer goods drives up the value of many commodities.
Some troops — call them blue falcons or businessmen — will stockpile these commodities for a profit.
Among vets, even non-smokers stockpile cigarettes. They’re easy to trade, hold their value for weeks, and are always in demand. Plus, sellers can reap great profits after patrols. A smoker who lost their cigarettes in a river is not going to haggle the price down if they won’t reach a store for days.
Similar to cigarettes, the addictive nature of dip means it’s always in demand. Dip is slightly harder than cigarettes to trade since users can’t easily break a can into smaller units. But, since troops can’t always smoke on patrol and smoking in government buildings is prohibited, dipping is sometimes the better method of nicotine consumption.
3. Energy drinks (especially “rare” ones)
Part of the reason tobacco is so popular is that it’s a stimulant, something that is desperately needed on deployments. Energy drinks are the other main stimulant that is widely traded. They have different value tiers though.
Drinks the military provides, like Rip-Its, are worth less since they’re easy to get. Monsters are generally available for purchase on large bases. So, they’re are easy to trade but still command high value. Foreign-made drinks, which pack a great kick, can sometimes be found in the local economy and demand the greatest price.
4. Beef jerky
High in protein and salt, jerky is great for marches and patrols. It’s easy to carry and shelf-stable. Troops can trade individual pieces if they want to buy something cheap or use whole bags for large purchases.
5. “Surplus” gear
Every time a unit does inventory, someone is missing something. But, service members with lots of extra cigarettes can always buy someone’s “surplus” gear to replace what they’re missing. Prices vary, of course. Missing earplugs are cheap, but eye protection is expensive.
The only things that can’t be purchased are those tracked by serial number. Replacing something with a serial number requires help from the E-4 mafia.
6. Hard drives (the contents)
Nearly everyone deployed has a computer drive with TV episodes and movies from back home. Old movies are traded for free, but getting new stuff requires the rare dependable internet connection or a care package with DVDs. Those who have digital gold will share new shows in exchange for other items or favors.
7. Electrical outlets
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Johann H. Addicks
These work on a subscription basis. In many tents, there are only a few outlets hooked up to the generator. So, entrepreneurs snatch up real estate with an outlet, buy a power strip, and sell electrical access. The proliferation of portable solar panels is cutting down on this practice.
8. Lighters and matches
Matches are distributed in some MREs, but not as much as they used to be. Lighters are available for purchase at most bases. Still, service members at far-flung outposts are sometimes hurting for ways to light their tobacco. Smart shoppers save up their matches and buy up Bics while near base exchanges, then sell them in outlying areas.
9. Girl Scout cookies
Girl Scout cookies come in waves. Every few weeks, boxes will show up in every office on a forward operating base. Resupply convoys will grab dozens to take out to their troops in the field. But, as the days tick by, inventories will wane. This is especially true of top types like Caramel deLites and Thin Mints.
The trick is to store the boxes after the delivery comes in, and then trade them for needed items when everyone else has run dry. A box of Tagalongs can wrangle a trader two cans of dip if they time it right.