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The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped

On Friday March 5, 2021, General Austin “Scott” Miller marked 915 days as the head of the U.S.-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan. He is the longest-serving commander of the war in Afghanistan. The previous commander, General John Nicholson, held the position for 914 days until the change of command on September 2, 2018.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
General Miller wears his full-size 1911 on his hip (TOLONews Afghanistan)

Miller is no stranger to the harsh realities of combat. He graduated from West Point in 1983. After completing Ranger school, his first unit was the 82nd Airborne. After that, he became a platoon leader in A Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Miller went on to become an instructor at the Special Operations Division School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.

In 1992, he passed selection and was accepted into the elite 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, better known as Delta Force. His combat record includes Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Prior to assuming command of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan and Operation Resolute Support, Miller served as the commanding general of Joint Special Operations Command.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
General Miller kitted out and ready for a fight with a JPC, M4, and Glock (Operation Resolute Support)

Just over a month after he took over in Afghanistan, Miller was taking rounds. On October 18, 2018, the bodyguard of a provincial Afghan governor opened fire during a meeting between Afghan officials and U.S. generals. The insider attack killed two high-ranking Afghans and wounded two Americans, including Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Smiley, ORS commander in southern Afghanistan. Miller drew his sidearm, but was not wounded. Rather than evacuate under the protection of his security detail, he waited until the wounded were taken care of and left on the same helicopter as them.

Clearly, Miller is no armchair general. Despite his stars, he remains a warrior commander on the battlefield. This is also seen in his choice of weaponry. Most general officers are inclined to carry the standard-issue sidearm, the M17/M18 MHS which replaced the old M9. As a high-ranking officer with a security detail, it can be seen as unnecessary for a general to carry anything more. Miller, who was vindicated in the 2018 insider attack, believes otherwise.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
When you’re this badass, you wear and carry what you want (Operation Resolute Support)

The general is often seen carrying a kitted out handgun, rifle, or both. One such weapon is his .45 ACP 1911 handgun. A popular choice for elite units like Delta Force, Marine Force Recon, LAPD SWAT, and the FBI’s HRT, Miller was first issued a 1911 in 1992. According to Army spokesman Col. David Butler, the .45 on the general’s hip was issued as his assigned weapon in 2009. Where Miller’s 1911 all-steel, big-bore, old-school firepower, his other handgun of choice is modern perfection.

Glock pistols are quickly becoming the go-to pistol for elite military units like the Navy SEALs and MARSOC. The polymer-framed pistols have long-been the choice of law enforcement agencies, most notably the FBI. Although the Glock lost to Sig Sauer for the Army’s new standard-issue sidearm, it hasn’t stopped operators from carrying tricked out Glocks. Miller’s Glock has been seen outfitted with an extended magazine baseplate, a reflex red dot sight, and a compensator on its threaded barrel.

When it comes to personal security, General Miller doesn’t mess around. Although he turns 60 in May 2021, he shows no signs of slowing down. The general maintains his special forces roots and remains ready for a gunfight at any time.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
(U.S. Army)
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Actor Joe Mantegna Is Pushing Hard For Veterans’ Issues On ‘Criminal Minds’


If not for a high draft number, Joe Mantegna might have chosen a career in the military instead of a forty-year career in entertainment. On Criminal Minds, Mantegna portrays David Rossi, an ex-FBI agent who was also once a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War. This aspect of his character is especially important to Mantegna, who comes from a military family and is very passionate about military and veterans’ issues.

Also Read: Bob Ross Was An Air Force Drill Instructor Before Becoming Television’s Most Beloved Painter 

In the video above, Mantegna talks about his experiences with the military and why veterans mean so much to him. He and freelance writer Danny Ramm also talk about how and why they decided to highlight the plight of homeless veterans in multiple episodes of one of the biggest shows on television.

The CBS procedural is the second highest rated drama on the network. In its tenth season, its ratings are actually rising. The Hollywood Reporter says it is “aging most gracefully” as one of the top ten shows of the Fall of 2014. Mantegna and Ramm decided to use Rossi’s background as a Vietnam veteran to highlight the struggles of homeless veterans.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs estimates there more than 8,000 homeless veterans living on the streets of Los Angeles. This is the largest population in the United States. They struggle with substance abuse problems, post-traumatic stress, and many chronic health issues.

Two past episodes of Criminal Minds feature subplots about the man who was Rossi and Mantegna’s commanding officer in Vietnam, Harrison Scott, played by the late Meshach Taylor. On the show, Scott is a homeless veteran who transitions with help from the New Directions shelter in Los Angeles. Through Rossi, we get to know Scott, his issues, and the every day problems he and those like him face, living on the streets. Mantegna and Ramm also wanted to bring attention to the New Directions shelter.

New Directions was founded in 1992 to provide services to help these homeless veterans. These services include substance abuse treatment, counseling, education, job training and placement, and parenting classes. Veterans leave New Directions with a savings account, housing, a job, and most importantly, a sense of confidence in the future and a support system to see them through.

A third episode of Criminal Minds will air Wednesday, January 21st with another story about Harrison Scott. In this episode, Rossi discovers his friend has died. He flies to Los Angeles to make funeral arrangements and lay his friend to rest with the honor he deserves. It is also a tribute to actor Meshach Taylor, who died of cancer last year. The episode also feature two real-life three-star generals as well as real veterans instead of extras, with an emphasis on Vietnam-era vets.

Mantegna is also the national spokesman for the campaign to build the National Museum of the United States Army (museums for the Air Force, Marines, and Navy already exist).

Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS and can be watched at CBS.com.

NOW: The Crazy Time When Soldiers Stopped Fighting Each Other In WWI To Celebrate Christmas Together 

OR: How Jane Fonda Became The Most-Hated Woman Among Vietnam Veterans 

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This Warthog pilot will receive the Silver Star 14 years after saving troops in battle

During the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division had come under fire from Iraqi forces, including T-72 tanks. That’s when the boots on the ground called for air support.


According to a report by the Air Force Times, two A-10s, one of them flown by Gregory Thornton, responded to the call. During the next 33 minutes, they made a number of close passes.

Thornton came within 1,000 yards of the enemy, using his A-10’s GAU-8 cannon in some cases. Ultimately, he and the other pilot would be credited with killing three T-72s, six other armored vehicles, and a number of other targets.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
A-10 fires its GAU-8 during an exercise at Fort Polk. | US Air Force photo

Fourteen years after that battle, Thornton, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony in July that will be presided over by Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command. The ceremony will take place at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

“This courageous and aggressive attack, while under withering fire and in poor weather, along with Capt. Thornton’s superior flying skills and true attack pilot grit, allowed Task Force 2-69 Armor to cross the Tigris River with minimal combat losses and successfully accomplish their objective of linking up with coalition forces completing the 360-degree encirclement of Baghdad,” the citation that outlined the award reads.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents. | US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer

Thornton had been assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron at Pope Field, near Fort Bragg, prior to his retirement. At the time of the incident, Thornton was a captain in the Air Force.

The Air Force is reportedly considering replacements for the A-10. Aircraft involved in what is being called the OA-X program are going to start testing this summer. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to get new wings to prevent the premature retirement of some A-10s.

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This Dying Vietnam Veteran Is Giving Away Everything He Owns To Charity

Bob Karlstrand, a 65-year-old Vietnam veteran with cancer and a terminal lung disease, is giving away all of his possessions to charity, NBC affiliate KARE 11 reported last week.


Also Read: One Of America’s Most Elite Universities Is Helping Veterans In A Unique way

“I’ve had a good life, so I can’t complain at all,” he told KARE 11.

As an only child who never married or had any children, Karlstrand has no heirs to leave his belongings to. Everything in his home has been donated to members of the community, including his $1 million retirement fund to the school he graduated from.

“The school receives many gifts. This one is just deeply touching,” said Connie White Delaney, dean of the University of Minnesota Nursing School. The donation provided six scholarships this year and more to come.

His home of 38 years will be donated to Habitat for Humanity, which will find a new owner after he passes. Karlstrand’s only requirement for the charity is that the new owner be a military veteran like himself. “I wanted to give back to the veterans if I could,” Karlstrand said.

Watch the full interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XTj8zU7MJM

NOW: Aaron Rodgers Surprises Four Kids Whose Dads Died While Serving In The Military

AND: Watch This Iraqi War Veteran’s Tragic Story Told Through The Lense Of A Cartoon

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9 awesome historical photos of Armed Forces Day celebrations

Armed Forces Day is a holiday where few can put their finger on its history, but most people agree the armed forces are pretty great and just roll with it. The day was originally called for by then-Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson. Johnson was trying to finish consolidating the military branches into the newly-formed Department of Defense under the 1947 National Security Act and its 1949 amendment, but the public had seen the branches as separate entities until this point.


So, Johnson asked the branches to stop endorsing days for each force and instead embrace a day to celebrate all branches together. The Army, Navy, and Air Force all switched from their own day to Armed Forces Day. The Marine Corps joined Armed Forces Day but still celebrates its own day on November 11, the birthday of the first United States Marine Corps. Today, the Coast Guard is also celebrated during the festivities but maintains its own day, August 4.

1. 1950: The First Armed Forces Day

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Photo: defense.gov

Armed Forces Day was established in 1949 and the first celebration was set for May 20, 1950. This photo from the first celebration shows a specially rigged jeep being used for recruitment during a parade.

2. 1951: Presidential review

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Photo: defense.gov

Parades, along with air shows and displays of military equipment, would continue to be a part of celebrations. In 1951, this photo was taken of soldiers saluting President Harry Truman during a march down Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C.

3. 1956: Engineers build a castle with portcullis

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Photo: defense.gov

This exhibit was constructed at Bolling Field — now Bolling Air Force Base — in Washington, D.C. The red castle constructed by the Marines is a symbol of the combat engineers.

4. 1960: Old cavalry and new

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Photo: defense.gov

At Fort Devens, Massachusetts, the Army displays its most current cavalry with its oldest. Tanks have come a long way since then, but fighting on horseback has come around again.

5. 1961: Touring the “Flying Banana.”

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Photo: defense.gov

Civilians tour the H-21 cargo helicopter in this photo from 1961 Fort Devens, Massachesetts Armed Forces Day celebrations. Nicknamed “the flying banana” the H-21 began to be phased out the same year this photo was taken. The CH-47 replaced it and is still the Army’s main lift helicopter.

6. 1968: “Frog men” display their skills for Armed Forces Day TV episode

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Photo: defense.gov

In 1968, “The Mike Douglas Show” did a series of episodes celebrating the military branches. In this photo, an underwater demolition shows how they conduct high-speed pickups to retrieve swimmers from the water. UDTs were the predecessors to the modern Navy SEALs.

7. 1973: American Armed Forces Day in England

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Photo: defense.gov

America’s Armed Forces Day is celebrated by the armed forces regardless of their geography. In this photo, a child plays in the cockpit of an F-4 fighter during an open house at Bentwaters Air Base, England.

8. 1976: Air assault over the Washington Monument

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Photo: defense.gov

A medical evacuation team prepares to rappel during a demonstration over the Washington Monument in D.C.

9. 2000: Blue Angels demonstration

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Photo: defense.gov

Air shows have been a part of Armed Forces Day since the first celebrations in 1950. They’re still a great crowd pleaser and the Navy’s elite Blue Angels always put on a great show. This photo is from an open house at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.

NOW: The 8 most famous US military recruiting posters of World War II

AND: The most important guy in military aviation history you’ve never heard of

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That time Chick-Fil-A sent deployed troops a care package

When troops are deployed, they soon find themselves missing the comforts – or tastes — of home. MREs can get old, and even when fresh food is available, it just doesn’t compare to what troops are used to.


A Texas National Guard unit deployed to the MidEast realized that very quickly.

According to a report by Todd Starnes, those troops were facing a serious letdown every Sunday night, which for them was “Chicken Tender Night.” The chicken at the undisclosed military base was just not up to the troops’ specs.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Who’s hungry? (Photo: yoppy/Flickr)

“Every Sunday is chicken tender night – which is one of the highlights of every week,” a National Guard first lieutenant identified as Jessie, wrote to Starnes. “With this being said, the chicken is okay at best,” he added.

The troops hit on the idea of using BBQ sauce to help address what Jessie would describe in a Facebook post as “overcooked and bland chicken tenders.” However, when forward deployed, refrigeration became an issue, as most bottles of BBQ sauce instruct people to “refrigerate after opening.”

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
A Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Port Charlotte, Fla. has a long line of customers. (Wikimedia Commons)

Jessie then took a stab at a solution — acquiring individual packets of BBQa sauce. He reached out to the Chick-Fil-A restaurant at Founder’s Square in Flower Mound, Texas, with the request for some sauce.

Two weeks later, on Chicken Tender night, the deployed Texas National Guard unit got a delivery: two cases of sauces, one of the requested BBQ sauce, the other of Chick-Fil-A’s signature “Chick-Fil-A” sauce.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Chick-Fil-A’s signature food item: The chicken sandwich. A Chick-Fil-A restaurant came to the culinary rescue of deployed National Guard troops. (Wikimedia Commons)

“Who would have ever thought you would see Chick-fil-A sauces in Iraq. It was our pleasure and honor to send you the BBQ and CFA sauces, and what a miracle that they actually arrived on Chicken Tender night!” Jason Driscoll of Chick-Fil-A posted on the local restaurant’s Facebook page after Jessie shared the story of the sauces arriving.

Bravo Zulu to Chick-Fil-A for rescuing our troops’ taste buds!

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Two heroic soldiers are finally getting the Medal of Honor they were cheated out of 97 years ago

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped


Two U.S. Army soldiers will finally be awarded the nation’s highest military award, nearly a century after they displayed incredible bravery during World War I.

Sgt. Henry Johnson, a black soldier assigned to the “Harlem Hellfighters” of the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, and Sgt. William Shemin, a Jewish soldier with the 47th Infantry Regiment, will receive the Medal of Honor (posthumously) on Tuesday. Ninety-seven years after they were denied the award due to discrimination, the pair of soldiers will finally be recognized in a ceremony at The White House.

While serving as a sentry in the Argonne Forest with another soldier on May 15, 1918, then-Pvt. Johnson came under heavy enemy fire after a raiding party of 12 German soldiers came upon his position. Despite receiving significant injuries, Johnson held off the Germans using grenades, a rifle, a knife, and even his bare hands.

“The Germans came from all sides,” Johnson told an interviewer after the war, according to The Daily Beast. “Roberts kept handing me the grenades and I kept throwing them, and the Dutchmen kept squealing but jes’ the same, they kept comin’ on. When the grenades were all gone I started in with my rifle.”

Johnson exposed himself to enemy fire and held back the German forces until they retreated, according to the U.S. Army.

On Aug. 7, 1918 in an area southeast of Bazoches, France, Sgt. Sgt. Shemin left the safety of his platoon’s trench and repeatedly crossed an open area to rescue wounded soldiers, despite the threat of heavy machine gun and rifle fire. Then after his officers and senior non-commissioned officers were wounded or killed, Shemin took command of the platoon and “displayed great initiative under fire” until he was wounded himself on Aug. 9, according to the U.S. Army.

Staten-Island Live has more:

Why did it take almost a century for Shemin to be recognized with the highest U.S. military award for valor in combat? Perhaps because of widespread discrimination in the military during that period of history; Shemin was Jewish.

“Anti-Semitism was a way of life in the Army in World War I,” said Mrs. Roth, who has been waging the campaign on behalf of her father’s honor since 2002. “They’re making a wrong right, 97 years later. The discrimination hurts, but all has been made right.”

Their recognition comes as a result of a 2002 move by Congress to review combat actions of Jewish and Hispanic veterans and ensure “those deserving the Medal Of Honor were not denied because of prejudice,” the White House explained to CNN. The act was later amended to review all possible cases of discrimination.

In March, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to 24 soldiers who had been denied the award due to prejudice, NBC reported.

NOW: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

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19 photos of Navy SEALs doing what they do best

As America’s elite, U.S. Navy SEALs are constantly called for operations around the globe.


With a motto of “the only easy day was yesterday,” the average day in the life of a SEAL is usually anything but. Whether they are deploying to global hotspots, honing new skills in some of the military’s toughest schools, or going through training evolutions stateside, SEALs learn to be ready for anything.

Here are 19 photos showing what they do best around the world.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
SEAL qualification training students from Class 268 take aim during a 36-round shooting test ranging from 100, 200 and 300 yards at Camp Pendleton. SQT is a six-month training course that all SEAL candidates must complete before being assigned to a SEAL team.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
An East Coast-based U.S. Navy SEAL practices shooting drills at the Naval Special Warfare Eagle Haven Indoor Shooting Range at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker/Released)

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Navy SEALs demonstrate a special patrol insertion/extraction from an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter during a capabilities demonstration as part of the 2009 Veterans Day Ceremony and Muster XXIV at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Fla. The annual muster is held at the museum, which is located on the original training grounds of the Scouts and Raiders.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Navy SEALs simulate the evacuation of an injured teammate during immediate action drills at the John C. Stennis Space Center. The drills are a part of the SEALs pre-deployment training.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Navy SEALs conduct immediate action drills at the John C. Stennis Space Center. The drills are a part of the SEALs pre-deployment training. (Photo by: Petty Officer 2nd Class Eddie Harrison)

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
A Navy special warfare specialist assigned to Seal Team 7, a unit comprised of both active and reserve component members based in Coronado, Calif., climbs into the turret gunner position during a mobility training exercise through a simulated city. SEAL Team 7 is conducting a pre-deployment work-up cycle.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
U.S. Navy SEALs search for al-Qaida and Taliban while conducting a Sensitive Site Exploitation mission in the Jaji Mountains, Jan. 12, 2002. Navy Special Operations Forces are conducting missions in Afghanistan in support Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Tim Turner)

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
U.S. Navy SEALs exit a C-130 Hercules aircraft during a training exercise near Fort Pickett, Va.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
SEALs and divers from SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 swim back to the guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727) during an exercise for certification on SEAL delivery vehicle operations in the southern Pacific Ocean. The exercises educate operators and divers on the techniques and procedures related to the delivery vehicle and its operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher Kirsop)

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
A squad of U.S. Navy SEALs participate in Special Operations Urban Combat training. The training exercise familiarizes special operators with urban environments and tactical maneuvering during night and day operations.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
East Coast-based Navy SEALs fast rope during a training evolution on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story Jan. 10. Fast roping is an asset SEALs utilize for quick insertion and when a helicopter is unable to land. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker)

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
U.S. Navy SEALs from Naval Special Warfare Group Two rehearse ship-to-ship boarding procedures using Zodiac RIB boats deployed from the coastal patrol boat USS Chinook (PC 9), on April 28, 1996, during Combined Joint Task Force Exercise ’96. More than 53,000 military service members from the United States and the United Kingdom are participating in Combined Joint Task Force Exercise 96 on military installations in the Southeastern United States and in waters along the Eastern seaboard. DoD photo by Mike Corrado

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
An East-Coast based U.S. Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land) climbs a caving ladder during visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) training on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, July 16. (U.S. Navy Photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker/Released)

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
U.S. Navy SEAL Qualification Training students ride an inflatable boat in San Diego Bay after plotting a course on a map during their 12 days of maritime operations training on June 16, 2009. DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle D. Gahlau, U.S. Navy. (Released)

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Kodiak, Alaska. (December 14, 2003) — Advanced Cold Weather training not only allows operators to experience the physical stress of the environment, but how their equipment will operate or even sound, in adverse conditions. The training covers a broad area of tactics, techniques, and procedures necessary to operate efficiently where inclement weather is the norm. This includes, but not limited to, Cold Weather Survival, Land Navigation, and Stress-medical Conditioning.Special Operations is characterized by the use of small units with unique ability to conduct military actions that are beyond the capability of conventional military forces.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Remote Training Facility (February 22, 2004) — Members of a SEAL Team practice desert training exercises in preparation for real world scenarios.Official U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon, Naval Special Warfare Command Public Affairs Office. (RELEASED)

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped

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This man honors the military by playing ‘Taps’ for his neighbors every day

Every time Don Brittain plays “Taps” at sunset his neighbors stand at attention.


One resident told CBSN, “When you hear the first note, everything in our house comes to a complete halt.”

Tacoma residents have made it part of their daily ritual. For Brittain, it’s his way of showing appreciation for our military.

“I want to support our guys who are over there fighting,” Brittain told CBSN. “I had polio as a kid, so I couldn’t serve. I would have served in a heartbeat.”

Watch Brittain move his neighbors with his beautiful rendition of “Taps”:

NOW: This American comedy legend defused land mines in World WAR II

OR: 94-year-old who served behind Nazi lines reveals the most terrifying thing he experienced

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Ranger Up: Inside the $10 million company that gives veterans a voice

As the founder and president of Ranger Up, Nick Palmisciano now commands an empire of apparel sales, MMA sponsorships, digital content, and social media mastery. Started in 2006, the company is on track this year to hit $10 million in revenue, and that’s due in large part to the former Army officer’s ability to overcome significant challenges.


Palmisciano founded the company while pursuing his M.B.A. at Duke University, after he started printing funny military-themed t-shirts for ROTC students there. But the part-time passion that followed him into the corporate world became a full-time job after he refused a promotion that would’ve slapped on the “golden handcuffs,” according to an interview he gave to Steven Pressfield Online.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped

“I knew that if I took that promotion, the golden handcuffs were being slapped on and Ranger Up was going to die,” he told the site. “And I was going to spend my life working for other people doing something I really didn’t care about that much.”

He left the corporate world soon after his promotion was announced, but it wasn’t an easy decision.

“I was scared, to be honest,” Palmisciano told WATM. “I was scared about giving up the security of the whole thing, but I also felt very free for the first time in ages, because I just — I controlled my destiny — and being able to control your destiny is a very American trait and it’s something I didn’t fully appreciate. Like I thought of myself as an entrepreneur when I was doing it part-time, but you know, when poor performance means you don’t get a paycheck it hits home so much more.”

But less than two months after he went all-in with Ranger Up, Palmisciano was facing disaster when his bank account dwindled to just $1,300. “I was going through a divorce, so I rapidly ran out of personal [funds]. I sold everything that I had, and mutual funds and all that stuff and I was down to $1,300. And the key there, just like the key has been in every other time that I’ve had a crisis with the company is to focus on one thing at a time every single day and try to improve.”

His business improved, Palmisciano said, after he broke down tasks into manageable blocks that would get him to where he wanted to go. He looked at costs and realized the company was bleeding money. Then he found out that most of his sales were coming from just 20 percent of his inventory. “It was embarrassing because I knew this stuff from business school, but it’s completely different when you’re in it, day to day,” he said.

His account went up to $1,350 next month, then to $1,500. The company began growing and it never stopped, due in large part to social media. Though, Palmisciano admits, it never gets easier. “There’s a new [challenge] every year,” he said.

According to Internet Retailer, the company saw $750,000 in sales in 2013 driven from social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, where it has a large audience of die-hard fans.

“Our whole concept is we want to entertain our friends. That’s the way that we look at our business,” Palmisciano said. “How can we entertain, educate, or just generally amuse our friends, and if we do that right everything falls into place. And if we don’t do that right, we’re just another t-shirt company.”

Now, the company sponsors MMA fighters and also owns rugby apparel brand American Sin Bin and Unapologetically American, a brand meant to reach beyond the military veteran demographic. And Palmisciano personally helps fellow entrepreneurs and continually supports veterans’ causes.

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped

Entertaining friends is what has given rise to Ranger Up’s latest venture: making a feature film. On Tuesday, the company announced its intention to make a movie titled “Range 15,” a post-apocalyptic comedy film made by and for veterans. In partnership with fellow veteran-owned business Article 15 Clothing, Ranger Up launched a crowdfunding campaign to ensure it would be the “military movie you’ve always wanted someone to make.”

At this writing, they are about 75 percent of the way there.

“It’s gonna be really funny and it’s going to be for us, and because we’re doing it for us we don’t have to compromise the message at all. You know we don’t care if someone’s offended by it, we don’t care if this isn’t Hollywood appropriate,” Palmisciano said. “We don’t care about any of that stuff. Because we’re doing a movie that our fans want us to do.”

Want to hear more from Nick? Check out his “how to get a job” series for veterans below, or follow him on Twitter at @Ranger_Up.

NOW: Check out what ‘Range 15’ is all about

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This group works to salvage good from the ultimate tragedy of war

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
The children of fallen troops and USNA midshipmen volunteers form a circle during a team building event at the U.S. Naval Academy on January 31. (Photo: TAPS.org)


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.”

Also Read: These Aging Vets Shared Inspiring And Sometimes Heartbreaking Wisdom In Reddit AmA’s 

“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).

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5 Hollywood directors who served and filmed real wars

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:


John Ford

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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.

William Wyler

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Photo: IMDb

Wyler directed three documentaries while serving as a major in the United States Army Air Forces: The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, Thunderbolt, and The Fighting Lady.

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.

John Huston

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Photo: IMDb

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.

Frank Capra

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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.

George Stevens

The longest-serving U.S. commander in Afghanistan stays strapped
Photo: IMDb

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.

NOW: How The Screenwriter Behind ‘American Sniper’ Got It Right

AND: The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up

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Ronald Reagan got a Marine recruiting letter while he was President — his response was classic

Even though he was 73 years old and serving as President of the United States at the time, Ronald Reagan received a letter from the Marine Corps asking him if he would like to enlist in 1984.


It may have been a clerical error or just a practical joke from the service to its commander-in-chief, or in the words of Reagan in his response, the result of “a lance corporal’s overactive imagination.” In any case, on Tuesday the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Company shared on its Facebook page the letter he sent back to then-Commandant Gen. Paul X. Kelley on May 31, 1984, and well, it’s classic.

“I regret that I must decline the attached invitation to enlist in the United States Marine Corps,” Reagan writes on official White House letterhead. “As proud as I am of the inference concerning my physical fitness, it might be better to continue as Commander-in-Chief. Besides, at the present time it would be rather difficult to spend ten weeks at Parris Island.”

With his trademark wit, Reagan noted the Democrats would probably appreciate it if he left The White House, but had to pass since his wife Nancy loved their current residence and Reagan himself was “totally satisfied with his job.”

“Would you consider a deferment until 1989?” Reagan wrote. (It’s worth noting that Reagan served stateside in the U.S. Army Air Force’s first motion picture unit during World War II).

Check out the full letter below:

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