Let’s revisit the end of “Game of Thrones,” shall we? Bran becomes king of everything but the North, which Sansa takes over. Arya sails east, and Jon Targaryen, reunited with his BFF Tormund, leads the Free Folk north of the wall where a lone piece of grass pokes its way through the snow.
The obviousness of that symbolism matches the clarity of the ending for the Stark kids, but we have been wondering about Jon. There’s a moment where, as the door to Westeros literally closes behind him, he looks back with a combination of sadness and doubt in his eyes. Is he doing the right thing by leaving Westeros behind? Kit Harington offered his perspective in a pre-Emmys interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“[S]eeing him go beyond the Wall back to something true, something honest, something pure with these people he was always told he belongs with — the Free Folk — it felt to me like he was finally free. Instead of being chained and sent to the Wall, it felt like he was set free. It was a really sweet ending. As much as he had done a horrible thing [in killing Daenerys], as much as he had felt that pain, the actual ending for him was finally being released.”
Jon Snow looking back and wondering.
So there you have it. Jon Snow did leave Westeros, and he did the right thing for himself, in leaving behind the place where he had to kill his aunt/lover, and the people of Westeros. Because by giving up his legitimate claim to the crown, he cleared the way for Bran to, perplexingly, be chosen as king.
While we’d still definitely love a spin-off that’s just about Jon, Tormund, and Ghost, it’s nice to get some closure on the end of the series from the man who played Jon Snow for nearly a decade.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Tyrannosaurus Rexes may get all the hype but velociraptors are every bit as essential to the success of the Jurassic film franchise. These vicious, brilliant carnivores are always around to cause a little mischief and eat an unsuspecting human using some advanced hunting tactics. But which of the films make the best use of these infamous dinosaurs? Here is our official ranking of the Jurassic Park films, purely based on their velociraptor scenes.
4. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
There is a fairly obvious reason the first sequel places last on the list: Velociraptors are mostly missing from this movie. The raptors are unsurprisingly badass and slightly terrifying in the film despite their limited presence – fucking up the InGen team of mercenaries – but the bar for this list is simply too high for this maligned sequel to land any higher.
3. TIE: Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
If Jurassic Park III set the stage for the raptor redemption, the Jurassic World films are where they completed their transformation from villain to hero. And that transformation was mostly… fine. In the first Jurassic World, Owen Grady had been able to develop a rapport with a pack of raptors, to the point where they are able to follow his orders.
Sure, it undeniably rules to get to watch a pack of raptors run side-by-side with Chris Pratt on a motorcycle but watching the raptors bow to the will of a human trainer feels fundamentally wrong (not to mention a far cry from their brilliant tactical skills on display the rest of the franchise).
Even their brief team up with the Indominus Rex doesn’t feel nearly as thrilling as it should, as it was fairly obvious they would eventually end up back on Team Owen. We won’t spoil Fallen Kingdom by getting into details but Blue’s role is basically the same as it was in the first Jurassic World, albeit the ending suggests an exciting future for this hyper-intelligent raptor.
2. Jurassic Park III (2001)
The worst movie in the Jurassic franchise? Maybe, but if you’re just looking for some sweet raptor content, Jurassic Park III is right near the top. Raptors are the best part of this otherwise mediocre movie, as the raptors’ remarkable level of intelligence and killer instincts are on full display in this third chapter.
The biggest reveal from the movie revolves entirely around velociraptors, as Dr. Alan Grant is shocked to discover that the pack of raptors are able to communicate in a way that is far more advanced than any other species other than humans. It’s also the beginning of the raptor rebrand, as it is the first time they don’t play the villain role. And while it’s technically just a dream, Grant waking up to a raptor calling his name literally never gets old.
Was there ever any doubt? Whether they are outsmarting Robert Muldoon or hunting for Dr. Hammond’s grandkids in the kitchen, nearly every moment of raptor screentime in Jurassic Park is iconic. Hell, even their offscreen moments – who can forget when the group discovers Samuel L. Jackson’s arm – only helped establish the mythos of these vicious creatures.
And with all do respect to the other films, raptors are just more compelling when they are using their intelligence to hunt down humans, as opposed to helping them. And in this movie, they are in full baddie mode. In fact, they likely would have won the movie if it wasn’t for that pesky T-Rex conveniently showing up at the perfect moment.
Twenty-five years later, it can be easy for all of us to take the popularity of raptors for granted but so much of what we now know about these vicious carnivores stems from this classic blockbuster. Without Jurassic Park, it’s highly unlikely that these clever girls would be a sure-fire first-ballot member of the Dinosaur Hall of Fame.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
A watchdog report to the U.S. Congress has warned that Afghanistan is likely to face a health disaster in the coming months brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The April 30 report by the U.S. Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has heightened concerns that the pandemic could derail stalled peace efforts brokered by the United States.
The spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has significantly impacted Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan’s numerous and, in some cases, unique vulnerabilities — a weak health-care system, widespread malnutrition, porous borders, massive internal displacement, contiguity with Iran, and ongoing conflict — make it likely the country will confront a health disaster in the coming months,” the report concludes.
The pandemic has forced the closure of border crossings, disrupting commercial and humanitarian deliveries.
SIGAR, which monitors billions of dollars spent in Afghanistan by the United States, warns that rising food prices are likely to worsen as the crisis continues.
Afghanistan has confirmed nearly 2,200 coronavirus cases and 64 deaths, according to local news reports quoting the Afghan Health Ministry.
Taliban militants fighting U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan signed a deal with Washington in February — raising hopes that formal peace talks between the militants and Afghanistan’s central government could start soon.
The Taliban committed to severing ties with terrorists and preventing terrorists from using territory under its control to launch attacks against the United States or its allies, including the Afghan government.
In exchange for those guarantees, the United States agreed to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by July 2021.
Since signing the deal, Taliban militants have escalated attacks on Afghan security forces.
Last week, the Taliban rejected a proposal by the Afghan government for a cease-fire during the holy month of Ramadan.
The latest SIGAR report said the international coalition has declined to make data available for public release about the number of Taliban attacks launched during the first three months of 2020.
It was the first time publication of the data has been held back since 2018 when SIGAR began using the information to track levels and locations of violence, the report said.
SIGAR said the coalition justified holding back the information because it is now part of internal U.S. government deliberations on negotiations with the Taliban.
Peace talks are supposed to begin after the Afghan government releases some 5,000 Taliban prisoners from custody.
In return, the Taliban also is supposed to release about 1,000 Afghan troops and civilian government employees it is holding.
As of April 27, the Afghan government had freed nearly 500 Taliban prisoners, while the militant group had released about 60 of its captives.
Since transitioning out of the military, I’ve had the, um, “pleasure” of being around a lot more civilians. Some of the questions I’m asked on an annoyingly regular basis are, “Aren’t VA loans awesome? Don’t you get a free house? Did you get yours?”
After polling some veterans, I realized I should give a little brief on the subject. Time to slay the myth around what a VA loan is or isn’t.
First: The VA loan is, in fact, not a loan at all.
The VA Loan Program, created in 1944 as part of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, is a service the Department of Veteran Affairs created to help veterans returning from WWII buy a home.
According to the VA website, “VA Home Loans are provided by private lenders, such as banks and mortgage companies. VA guarantees a portion of the loan, enabling the lender to provide you with more favorable terms.”
Essentially, the VA will co-sign a loan with you, and that gives you a few perks.
Why is co-signing helpful?
When new adults try to rent an apartment or buy a car, most people won’t trust them unless they get a “guarantor” to co-sign the loan or the lease, usually in the form of a parent or older family member. After faithfully paying rent and payments on a loan or two, civilians in their 20s build up credit and no longer need anyone to sign off their financial choices.
Military personnel and veterans are a bit different. Our lifestyle inherently makes us look financially untrustworthy.
“How are you 24 with no rental history?” I live in a barracks.
“You seem to have moved every two years...” Yep.
“You disappeared from our system for over a year except for credit card transactions from… Afghanistan. Are you a terrorist?” It’s called deployment!
Luckily, we have an Uncle Sam willing to co-sign on such a big purchase, or what’s called a Purchase Loan. You’ll be able to get better interest rates than your credit alone could get you, and you can skip the down payment.
Just because you can get a loan for down, doesn’t mean you should. Regular people are expected to drop at least 20% value of the house as a down payment.
Here are three different scenarios. Same house, same interest rate, same 30-year loan.
The less you pay upfront, the more you have to pay in compounded interest for the next 30 years. 30 years. That’s your entire military career plus half your next career!
Being able to do less of a down payment is useful in a few scenarios. For example, if you live in California, chances are you won’t ever have 0K cash for a 20% down payment on the crazy prices out here.
A few resources to see how much you can afford while buying a house: RedFin has a quick calculator (above) as well as a more in-depth option. USAA also has one with different loans they offer.
Warning: Anything offered by Uncle Sam comes with a catch
According to the VA website, “VA-guaranteed loans are available for homes for your occupancy or a spouse and/or dependent (for active duty service members). To be eligible, you must have satisfactory credit, sufficient income to meet the expected monthly obligations, and a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE).”
A few takeaways:
VA Loans are only for houses you will live in, NOT commercial or investment properties.
You have to live in the house for at least one year.
You can’t buy a multi-family or multi-unit property. No duplexes or apartment buildings (Trust me, I tried).
Banks set the terms of the loan (interest rate, payment schedule, etc.) based on your credit and current job, not the VA.
The VA might not approve you.
Requires at least 181 days active duty completed to be eligible.
There is a limit on how much you can borrow without making a down payment based upon where in the country you live.
When good loans go bad
After nearly an hour and being transferred 7 times, I finally spoke to the most unenthusiastic Federal Employee in existence to answer my unanswerable question: “Are VA loans any different in foreclosure or the foreclosure process than a regular civilian mortgage?”
The answer: No, mostly.
The VA will not step in and save you, there are no cash handouts, and the VA will not shield you from the banks that are after their money. The VA will take care of a few fees dealing with the lenders, but that is about it. For more questions: 1-877-827-3702 or visit the payment problems page.
These days, it’s a common political debate. “Dreamers,” illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as infant children and grew up with full lives and roots in the U.S., are sometimes completely unaware they were undocumented until later in life. Back in the days of the Second World War, we didn’t call them “Dreamers,” but the phenomenon was the same: People like Silvestre Herrera didn’t know they were in the United States illegally until they received a draft notice from the Army.
Herrera was born in Chihuahua, Mexico to loving parents in 1917, but they succumbed to the worldwide Spanish Influenza epidemic that killed millions around the globe the very next year. When he was around one year old, his uncle brought him to the United States and raised him as a farmhand in Texas. Silvestre Herrera grew up believing his uncle was his father and that he was born in El Paso, Texas.
Even when he married an American, had American children, and moved to Arizona, Herrera believed he was living a typical Mexican-American life in the Southwest. It wasn’t until he got his draft notice for the Texas National Guard in 1944 did he find out the truth about his entire life.
“Son, you don’t have to go,” his uncle told him soberly. “They can’t draft you.” The reason for this is because the U.S. Army can’t draft a Mexican citizen. But Herrera wasn’t about to avoid serving in the military and was enthusiastic about giving back to the United States.
“I didn’t want anybody to die in my place,” he later said. “My adopted country had been so nice to me.”
Latinos fighting in American wars is nothing new, even by World War II standards. People of Hispanic descent have fought in every American conflict from the Revolution to the War in Afghanistan. Mexicans raised in the U.S. was also a common occurrence by 1944. People of Mexican descent in the U.S. were twice as likely to have been born and raised in the States than not. Those who served were fiercely dedicated to their adoptive homes and Silvestre Herrera was going to be one of those.
“I am a Mexican-American and we have a tradition,” He once said. “We’re supposed to be men, not sissies.”
The 27-year-old Herrera eventually ended up in the 142nd Infantry Regiment and found himself in the Alsace region of France in March, 1945. Though the war in Europe would be over in a few short months, the fighting on the Western front was as fierce as ever. The 142nd was a critical part of Operation Undertone, a 75-kilometer front designed to push the Nazi back across the Rhine and secure bridgeheads to cross the river.
Herrera’s platoon was just five miles from their objective at the occupied city of Haguenau when they took coordinated machine gun fire – one from a nearby wood and another across a minefield. As the rest of the men in the platoon took cover, Herrera charged one machine gun nest, firing his M1 Garand rifle from the hip and chucking two grenades into the nest. Eight enemy soldiers surrendered to Herrera in that action.
His platoon still found itself pinned down by another machine gun nest, this time protected by a minefield. Knowing full well the grass in front of him was a minefield, Herrera grabbed a two by four, pushing it along in front of him as he crawled across the minefield. Frustrated with his slow progress toward the nest, he tossed it away, stood up, and dashed for the gun emplacement. As he approached, he stepped on two mines, one on each foot. The resulting explosions blew off both of his feet.
He continued forward toward the enemy, running on his knees. The bleeding Mexican-American GI fell to his stomach and laid down rifle fire, keeping the attention of the Nazi machine gun as his platoon flanked the position and knocked it out. Bleeding profusely, Herrera still somehow managed to stay conscious. The Army was able to save Herrera’s knees and were eventually able to fit him with prosthetic feet.
When he was to be awarded the Medal of Honor for the heroism that cost him his feet, President Truman was unsure if the man, still bed-ridden from his wounds, would be able to be present for the award. Sure enough, when the time came, Herrera was in full uniform as he rolled his wheelchair to the President of the United States.
“He told me he would rather be awarded the Medal of Honor than be president of the United States,” Herrera told the Arizona Republic in 2005. “That made me even more proud.”
Just one year after receiving the U.S. military’s highest award for valor in combat, the Mexican government decided to award him Mexico’s Order of Military Merit, its highest award for valor in combat. Herrera is the only soldier ever to wear both. Most importantly, as Arizona’s first World War II Medal of Honor recipient, citizens of Arizona started a campaign to get Silvestre Herrera U.S. citizenship and even raised ,000 to help him purchase his first home.
After the war, Herrera went back to work, prosthetic limbs and all, for much of the rest of his life. According to his surviving relatives, his war injuries never kept him from doing anything physical or raising his family. He died in 2007, sixteen years after his beloved wife, Ramona.
Life in the military is fantastic, but being a lifer isn’t for everyone. One of the greatest pieces of legislative success for the veteran community was the creation of the GI Bill. It opened the door for countless veterans to finally spread their wings and get a leg up in the civilian marketplace, rewarding their service with a launchpad.
Because of the GI Bill, many civilians who went straight to college from high school have their first interactions with a veteran. And it’s a good thing. You’re both in school, so there’s some common ground — thus helping bridge the ever-growing civilian-military divide. However, not all civilians approach veterans with the best opening lines.
The following are questions and comments that make veterans grit their teeth almost immediately.
These dumb-ass discussions are made even better when no one but the veteran understands that they’re f*cking with everyone just to watch their reactions.
1. “You’re a vet. What’s your opinion on the war/politics/the latest hot-button issue?”
In a smaller, more intimate setting, it’s fine to ask us about our opinions on things. Hell, we’re kind of known for making 30-minute-long rant videos from the front seats of our trucks.
But putting us on the spot in the middle of a classroom discussion is not cool. If the conversation is clearly leaning to one side, you’re setting the veteran up to be the enemy for standing up for anything military related. Ask this question and you’re either going to get an extremely heated debate or a completely zoned-out vet.
Not everyone can get their dream job — but vets with the GI Bill are given a chance, and you’re damn right they’re going to try.
2. “Why are you going for X degree and not something in security?”
The great thing about the GI Bill is that it can be applied for any college degree course. If the veteran wants to get out and follow their childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian, an artist, or whatever — more power to them. They earned that right by serving their country.
Bringing up the fact that they’re going to be making far less money by doing what they love as opposed to doing what they did in the military all over again isn’t going to make that realization any easier.
The sad truth is that most veterans will keep their demons to themselves. Some random d*ckhead isn’t going to sudden change that.
3. “So, like, did you see some bad stuff over there?”
Ranger Up hit this one on the head perfectly. No veteran wants to talk about that kind of thing with some random stranger they just met. Either they didn’t and harbor some guilt over the fact that they didn’t share the same burden as many of their brothers, they’re dealing with very real, resulting stress in a highly personal manner, or they’re going to overload the curious civilian with the grim details they actually don’t want.
After months of friendship, a veteran might be willing to open up about what happened out there — probably over a beer or seven — but never when it’s said in a half-joking manner.
College life may be stressful, but have you ever had someone in your company lose a pair of NVGs in a porta-john? I thought so.
4. “Why are you veterans so…”
Offensive? Overly polite? Loud? Reserved? Drunk? This one is a catchall for the wide spectrum of awkward questions that lump veterans into a single box.
Veterans come from literally all walks of life, from every place in the United States (and abroad), and are made up of the same folks that make up the rest of the population. Pretty much the only unifying thread that can be accurately applied to every single veteran is that we’re comfortable in bad situations.
5. “It’s alright bro. You got back in one piece!”
Post-Traumatic Stress is called an invisible wound for a reason. Vets who live with the pain of what happened back in the day won’t easily show it and walk around wearing a happy mask around people they don’t know.
Just because that veteran made it back alright doesn’t mean that their buddy did, too. Even if that veteran wasn’t anywhere near the front line, saying something so ignorant trivializes the experiences of troops who didn’t have the same luxury.
Also, if you really want to get specific, a large percentage of the prolific killers who were in the service were kicked out before even serving a single enlistment. So…
6. “You’re not one of those crazy vets who’ll snap at any moment, right?”
Here’s a piece of news for you: If you compare the veteran population average to the civilian average in terms of homicides and other violent crimes, veterans are actually less likely to commit such acts.
In fact, veterans with combat experience who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress are, once again, far less likely to commit violent crime than the average civilian. So, no, I’m not going to snap — are you?
We may have taken a detour, but we’ll get there.
7. “I would have joined, but I came here instead”
The veteran you’re talking to signed up and now they’re in the exact same boat as you! Except instead of having student-loan debt, they’ve got a few more years of life experience on you.
The reason this statement bothers veterans is that there’s an underlying assumption here that veterans are uneducated or that they wouldn’t have been able to get into college without Uncle Sam’s help. Oh boy, is that wrong. Fun fact: The ASVAB, the test required by all troops to qualify them into military service, is actually much more difficult than the college SAT or ACT.
The absolute lowest ASVAB score that will allow you to enlist is 31, which means you must be in the 69th percentile of scores among the general population. When SATs were graded out of 1600, the 69th percentile was roughly a 950 — which gets you into about 2/3rds of all universities and colleges around the country.
Just keep in mind that if you mess with one of our sisters, she was trained to shoot at targets at a max effective range of 300 meters.
8. “You don’t look like a veteran”
Just like the “lumping all veterans in one box” comment, this one implies that there’s this singular build for all troops. Well, there are skinny troops, there are fat troops, and there are muscular troops. There are troops of every race, religion, and creed. It’s the uniform and hair-cut standards that make us all alike.
But as bad is this one is for most troops, it’s almost always flung at our sisters-in-arms. Even though women make up 17 percent of the U.S. Armed Forces, male civilians tend to act shocked when they learn that a female served. It’s belittling.
Maybe one day when I finally put that underwater basket-weaving degree to good use… maybe…
9. “You’re so lucky you got the GI Bill”
Wrong. And f*ck you. That’s not how it works. Luck had nothing to do with all the hard work it took to serve in the military the minimum of three years required to get 100% access to the GI Bill. Luck, in my opinion, is being born into a family where mommy and daddy can pay for everything — but that’s none of my business.
If you want to be technical, a lot of veterans still take out student loans to help make ends meet. The GI Bill pays for a lot, but it doesn’t pay for everything.
Jessica D. Blankshain is an assistant professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. All views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent the views of the United States government, Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or U.S. Naval War College.
One of the things most people agree on regarding U.S. civil-military relations is that the military should stay out of politics. But how do we keep the military out of politics when politicians are in the military?
Ultimately the Wisconsin Guard determined Kinzinger’s remarks were not a problem, announcing March 7, 2019, that a review had found he was speaking in his capacity as a Congressman, not a military officer.
Adam Kinzinger, representative for Illinois’ 16th Congressional District.
But this dustup also highlights broader issues raised by members of the National Guard (and service reserves) serving concurrently in political office.
Members of the National Guard and reserve serving in Congress has been relatively uncontroversial for nearly 200 years. In the early 1800s, the House took action against a member who joined the militia between congressional sessions, arguing that it violated the Incompatibility Clause (Article 1 Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution), which prohibits individuals from serving in the executive and legislative branches simultaneously.
The law defining “employees” has since been reworded to avoid this issue but, in recent years, the question of legislators serving in the Guard and reserve has begun to draw attention from those who study American civil-military relations. This interest may be driven in part by the effects of the “Abrams Doctrine,” which moved many critical capabilities into the Guard and reserve after Vietnam. [There are, of course, significant differences between the National Guard and service reserves, both in terms of force structure and relationship to state and federal government, but for present purposes I consider them together.]
Beginning roughly near the end of the Cold War and accelerating after 9/11, the United States has shifted from having a largely strategic reserve component — “weekend warriors” who did not expect to deploy unless there was a crisis — to having an operational reserve in which members of the Guard and reserve expect to deploy regularly in support of ongoing operations overseas, from the peacekeeping missions of the 1990s to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s and beyond.
As a result, members of the Guard and reserve may now be perceived less as civilians who take up arms in time of need and more as part-time professional soldiers who have more in common with their active-duty counterparts than with average Americans.
Given the professional military’s strong apolitical ethic, whether and when we view members of the Guard and reserve as members of the military profession has important implications for how we evaluate their political activity (similar to discussions of political participation by retired officers).
There can, of course, be benefits to having members of the Guard and reserve serving in Congress or other political offices. Their military experience may inform their lawmaking and oversight. And as we were somberly reminded by the death of Brent Taylor, a Utah National Guard major and mayor of North Ogden, in Afghanistan in 2018, they may also serve as a link between civilian communities and the military fighting on their behalf.
Utah National Guard major Brent Taylor (left) and Lt. Kefayatullah.
But there are challenges, too, as Rep. Kinzinger’s case makes clear. When an officer who is also a politician publicly criticizes orders from his commander in chief, who belongs to a different political party, it raises concerns about good order and discipline within the military and, perhaps most significantly, it makes it harder to keep clear separation in the public mind between the military and politics. As the reserve component’s role in the military has shifted, so too has the balance of these pros and cons.
Kinzinger’s personal criticism of the governor highlights that concerns about good order and discipline are linked with concerns about politicization. On Twitter, Kinzinger questioned whether Evers visited to the border himself to understand the deployment or instead made a “political” decision. In a Fox News interview, he said that he was breaking the news of the withdrawal because he believed the governor didn’t have the courage to do so. While these comments would not be particularly remarkable coming from a member of the opposing political party, they look very different coming from an officer in that state’s National Guard. Kinzinger, of course, is both. How will his fellow Wisconsin Guard members, whom he will continue to serve alongside, perceive these comments?
Kinzinger’s remarks also raise concerns about public perceptions of the politicization of the military. One of the main reasons Kinzinger’s comments held weight was that he had just returned from a deployment to the border and drew on his experience there to support his criticism of the withdrawal. In the Fox appearance in particular, the hosts and Kinzinger all position him as a neutral expert drawing on his two-week deployment to the border to make a policy judgment, in contrast to partisan politicians who oppose the president’s declaration of national emergency for political reasons.
Kinzinger is explicitly critical of Democrats, both in Congress and in state government. He might be perceived as trying to have it both ways — using his apolitical military credibility to go after political opponents — which could have implications for the public’s view of the military as an institution. This last point is perhaps of most concern, given the high level of confidence the American public has in the military compared to elected officials, as well as indications that this confidence is increasingly taking on partisan dimensions.
Kinzinger’s situation is by no means unique. There were at least 16 members concurrently serving in the Guard or reserve and the 115th Congress, and the intention of this piece is not to single him out for scrutiny. The shift from a strategic to an operational reserve component has changed the relationship between the reserve component and society, and we should be cognizant of those changes when thinking about how members of the Guard and reserve balance their military service with their political service.
Such a reassessment wouldn’t require a ban on concurrent service, but might mean developing either explicit regulations or implicit norms around which issues such members should recuse themselves on, what boundaries they draw on their partisan political speech, or to what degree they invoke their service while campaigning and governing.
The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
On May 2, 2011, a Seattle-based school teacher shaved his face for the first time in a decade. It was one of those beard-growing events you hear about athletes doing or when people grow facial hair for a good cause. But the only thing special about Gary Weddle’s beard was when he started growing it, and the day he cut it, which all began on Sept. 11, 2001.
The 9/11 attacks were the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil – and the whole country watched.
Gary Weddle was a 40-year-old middle school science teacher during the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Though the teacher, based in Ephrata, Wash., was far from the tragic devastation of the attacks, he was still devastated by the loss of life and the destruction of some of America’s most iconic structures. He told the Seattle Times that he couldn’t eat, shower, or shave in the days that followed. So to work through his grief, he vowed that he wouldn’t – shave that is – until the architect of the attacks was killed or captured.
The day he got to shave his beard came nearly a full ten years later, on May 1, 2011, when President Obama announced to the world that U.S. intelligence had found his hiding place in Pakistan and that U.S. Navy SEALs attacked it and killed the terrorist mastermind in a daring nighttime raid.
President Obama announced that U.S. Special Operators killed Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011.
After nearly ten years of nothing about Bin Laden, Weddle thought he might be buried with the beard. And he hated it. The facial hair only served as a reminder of the destruction of that day, and the justice left unserved to the man who planned the whole thing. So when he heard about the SEAL Team Six raid on Bin Laden’s hideout, he went straight for a pair of scissors.
The then-50-year-old had begun to look homeless in his long beard. Some even remarked that the graying beard resembled the one sported by Osama bin Laden himself. But after 3,454 days with the beard, having taught some 2,000 students, it took Gary Weddle 40 minutes to emerge from the bathroom clean-shaven. The students he currently taught at Ephrata Middle School were only two years old during the 9/11 attacks, and no one who worked with Weddle ever knew him without the beard.
When he walked into work the next day with his new look, few recognized him – and those who did say he looked ten years younger.
Shaolin Kung Fu is one of the oldest and most intense forms of Chinese martial arts. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and a number of other martial arts movie stars have also made Kung Fu one of the most famous forms.
As a part of a religious order, the Shaolin monks were persecuted by Chinese Communists during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. The temple was mostly destroyed and stayed that way for years. But when Jet Li made “Shaolin Shi,” it was enough to make Mao give in: the temple was rebuilt and some much-needed tourism revenue came in as Kung Fu made a comeback.
Here are a few things you may not have known about Kung Fu and the elite Shaolin Monks.
1. The founder of Shaolin Kung Fu was from India.
Legend has it that the founder of the Shaolin order, a Buddhist monk from India named Bodhidharma, spent nine years meditating in a cave near his monastery. The legend has it that to keep him from falling asleep, the monk cut off his eyelids and threw them on the ground.
Pre-Workout would not be invented for another 1,500 years.
Green Tea began to grow from the spot where he threw his eyelids and now Buddhist monks use green tea to maintain their focus during meditation.
2. Kung Fu is studied in a “Kwoon.”
The word “dojo” is reserved for places that teach Japanese martial arts, like Aikido. When entering a kwoon, bow at a 45-degree angle with your hands at your chest — the right in a fist, and the left open-palm.
This represents the yin and yang and that your heart is at peace.
3. Kung Fu practitioners wear a different uniform.
Again, much of the look of the loose-fitting
gi and colored belts comes from the Japanese practice. Traditional Chinese Kung Fu doesn’t use colored belt levels (though some Western teachers might use them as a teaching tool). Chinese Kung Fu uses a uniform that is tight at the ankles and sometimes even at the wrists.
4. The most elite Shaolin monk was a werewolf.
Ok, he wasn’t an
actual werewolf. In the late 19th century lived a monk named Tai Jin. The poor guy suffered from a condition known as hypertrichosis. Also known as “Werewolf Syndrome” because of the insane amount of body hair that grows on affected areas.
It might have helped his self-esteem to know that, according to legend, he was the best fighter in all of China.
No comfort for Chewbacca here.
Tai Jin was abandoned at the monastery as a baby because of his body hair. The monks raised him and trained him. He eventually dedicated himself to one form of martial art. Legend also has it that upon meeting the 12 masters of Shaolin, the boy threw a dagger into the ceiling, killing a would-be assassin. He explained to the masters that he could hear 13 people breathing, not just 12.
For more about the Shaolin monks and their founder, check out the above episode of Elite Forces.
The problem with being a rising star in a dictatorship where the only rules are the whims of one individual is that you tend to attract a lot of attention. This, of course, could put a target on your back. If you outlive the dictator, the purges, and the possible wars, however, it could be you occupying the big chair when the dust settles. Nowhere is this more clear than in the life of Nikita Khrushchev.
Before rising to the top of the Soviet Union’s oligarchy, Khrushchev started his Communist career as a political commissar during the Russian Civil War, was then sent to Ukraine to carry out Stalin’s purges, and somehow survived World War II’s Eastern Front, where Communist Commissars were specifically targeted by the Third Reich. After the war, he spent much of his time very close to Stalin…and survived.
He even told the USSR that Stalin was stupid and his policies sucked. Not in those words, but that was the gist.
Khrushchev implemented many of Stalin’s policies without question, and did as he was told throughout his ascendancy. He also didn’t make any move against his boss while he was alive. Instead, Khrushchev waited until after the death of Stalin to denounce the “Man of Steel,” along with his domestic policies, his personality cult, and probably his mustache. But while Stalin was alive, Khrushchev was the best salesman for global Communism Stalin could have had.
During his time as the leader of the Soviet Union, he met with everyone who would have him, including famed anti-Communist Richard Nixon. He even managed to avoid a nuclear war with the U.S. President Kennedy. He didn’t need the bravado the Red Army wanted him to show during the Cuban Missile Crisis – Khrushchev already showed his by surviving every deadly situation thrown at Russia.
If you can survive Stalingrad, you can survive anything.
Khrushchev survived Stalin because he’d proved his mettle many times over. Khrushchev was the epitome of the Soviet worker class. He was from a poor family of peasants, he went on strike against the Tsarist government as a metal worker in World War I, and he chose the right brand of Communism when the time came. When given a choice between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, he chose the group who prioritized winning over everything else. He was so loyal to Communist ideals that he refused to allow his wife a religious funeral after she died. That’s dedication.
He immediately joined every Communist government program and school he could, using connections to get into everything, like a good oligarch. When it came time for Stalin to purge, Khrushchev was in a trusted position. To maintain that trust, Khrushchev was willing to send his closest friends and coworkers to the gulag and the executioner.
In case you were wondering, he killed a lot of people. Like, a lot.
So to survive the dictator’s whimsy, you have to prove you aren’t out to topple the dictator. The best way to do that is help kill the dictator’s enemies… before someone else accuses you of being the dictator’s enemy. The second best way is not to make waves. When Khrushchev appealed to Stalin to help fight the famine in Ukraine, Stalin thought Khrushchev was getting weak and sent him an overseer from Moscow. Khrushchev promptly became “ill” and all but disappeared for two years.
Not annoying Stalin about starving people probably saved his life and career. In Stalin’s last days, Khrushchev was called to be near Stalin and in the dictator’s inner circle. Here, the future Soviet leader survived many long nights of drinking and dancing at Stalin’s command, coining the saying: “When Stalin says dance, a wise man dances.”
Krushchev learned to take a nap in the afternoon so he wouldn’t fall asleep in front of his boss.
These guys killed several hundred thousand people, maybe more. That’s not even counting the famines.
After Stalin died, his inner circle vied for power and fought amongst one another publicly. Not Khrushchev – he was demoted and accepted his situation. He soon found the others had fought themselves out of a job while “humble” Khrushchev was elevated to the title of First Secretary of the Communist Party. By not overstepping his bounds as his rivals did, Khrushchev became the least objectionable choice. It didn’t hurt that he was generally very good at whatever his job was.
He was so good even after he was ousted from power, Khrushchev managed to avoid being murdered by enemies like most powerful people in dictatorships so often are. He retired to a dacha in the countryside and died of a heart attack.
If you’re a true super-serious-ROTC-kid it is an absolute must that you have an energy drink on you at all times. You can’t get your hands on an actual Rip-It yet, but don’t let that stop you from letting people know that you’re in the military.
It doesn’t matter what kind you have: Monster, Red Bull, some random off-brand one you found at Big Lots called like “Pulse” or something—it doesn’t matter, just have one. You’re on a college campus swarming with seas of people zonked out on Adderall, and you simply don’t have that luxury.
You need an equally unhealthy way to spike your energy levels in the early morning. So chase down that convenience store donut with an energy drink during your 8 a.m. You were up at 6 a.m for PT, right? You need 24 ounces of gasoline and sugar.
And that’s exactly what you’ll tell every student within earshot who didn’t ask.
Always using military time
If you truly want to be a super-serious-ROTC kid, then when someone asks you what time it is—answer in military time. No matter what. Class at 4 p.m.? Nope. Class at 1600. Throw in a “0” before the time for bonus points. Even if it’s wrong. Now I know what you’re thinking, “But what if someone asks me for the time, and it’s not after 1200?” Easy. Shoehorn it in, let them know you’re ROTC.
Student: Hey, do you know what time the McDonald’s on campus stops selling egg McMuffins?
Super serious ROTC kid: At 11 a.m… And, in case you’re wondering, they close every night at 2200.
Student: Oh, uh. Okay. Thanks?
Well done. Another pleb slightly confused unnecessarily, super-serious-ROTC-kid.
Okay, so, oddly enough… This one doesn’t use military time.
But every single other super-serious-ROTC-kid has one on their wrist for some reason, so don’t be caught without one of these bad boys. Be sure to get one with a velcro strap so you sound like the shoe rack at a nursing home every time you try to take it off before a test.
Bonus points if you buy the model that is permanently loaded with the function of beeping every 4 (also known as 04) hours, with no way of turning it off. Your classmates will look at you, and they will know. And you will nod and give them a thumbs up.
Wrap around sunglasses
Thor has his hammer. Legolas had his bow and arrow. Super-serious-ROTC-kids have their wrap around sunglasses. An important note with these, however—due to new union regulations, if they are not bleach-white/midnight black Oakleys—they must have a neck lanyard attachment.
Indoors: they must be worn on your face over your eyes. Outside: it’s optional, but if you want bonus points prop them atop your head on your bent billed baseball hat.
Camo tactical backpack
“Woah buddy! Almost didn’t see all your schoolwork there. Your digital camo backpack blends in with all these massive red brick buildings like a chameleon.” That’s the kind of stealth and tactical advantage you will have over all your classmates dressed in loud throwback NBA jerseys and pastel-colored khaki shorts.
Do you need a tactical backpack to carry notebooks and old Lunchables you forgot to throw away? If you want to be a super-serious-ROTC-kid you do.
A super-serious-ROTC-kid must also fill the backpack to the brim. It doesn’t matter with what: bundled up sweatshirts, copies of “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” or literal bricks—just make sure it bulges outward behind you no less than 2 (also known as 02) feet.
A good mustache
Without this—nothing else matters.
Every super-serious-ROTC-kid since the dawn of time has had this. This tight bristled lip tickler is to you what flowing locks of hair were to Samson.
It is not to be confused with the super-serious-police-academy-kid mustache. Those are bulky, rounded, and accompanied by aviator sunglasses.
Note: your hair does not have to be in regs, but if you want it to match the mustache, maintain a nice tight fade.
Congratulations. You’re now a super-serious-ROTC-kid.
Terrence Popp is a 20+ year salty veteran who runs a website and YouTube channel called Redonkulas. As you would expect, he’s seen some screwed up stuff, which gives him a unique perspective on the world and life in general.
On an undisclosed night in 1959 or 1960, four CIA agents grabbed their cameras, stripped off their shoes, and climbed into the sexiest thing to ever come out of Soviet Russia during the Cold War: the Luna.
When the night was over, the Soviets were none the wiser and America was sitting on a trove of details about the Russian satellite program.
The opportunity came when the Soviet Union, hoping to tout its technological and economic might, planned a traveling road show that would show off its greatest achievements. Since it had launched the world’s first two satellites and was a pioneer in nuclear technology, people were willing to let the road show in.
The agents learned that the Luna on tour was very much a real satellite; it just wasn’t carrying an engine or certain electronic parts. But it was still a production satellite with markings that would indicate what companies had manufactured parts, and studying it could give Americans a better idea of its capabilities.
Agents started by getting the Luna scheduled for the last truck out of the fairground after a display. Then, they kept an eye on the Russians in the rail yard and the fairground as well as vehicle traffic on the roads.
The vehicle checker in the rail yard had no way of talking to colleagues at the fairground, so he was unlikely to know how many trucks were supposed to be coming and going, and CIA cars shadowing the truck saw no signs of a Soviet escort.
And so the Americans pounced, forcing the truck to stop and sending the original driver to hang out overnight in a hotel (no word on how they kept him occupied, so we’re going to assume alcohol and other party favors were involved).
Then they used another driver to move the truck to a salvage yard rented for just this purpose. Cars from the CIA station patrolled the area around the yard to ensure no one came knocking.
Four agents went into the yard with portable lights, cameras, metric wrenches, and other tools. They quickly set to removing the roof of the massive crate, 20 feet long, 11 feet wide, and 14 feet tall at the peak.
Then, they lowered ladders into the crate and began photographing the satellite. They removed their shoes to prevent leaving scuff marks on the device. They photographed the payload, a large orb with an attached antenna, as well as all the present electronics and many of the attachments.
A team opened the engine compartment by removing 130 bolts and then got into the payload basket by cutting a wire with a stamped plastic seal. As the main team photographed the items underneath, cars raced the wire and seal back to the station to get copies made.
In a short time, the agents copied down all relevant data from the engine compartment, nose section, and even the payload basket while taking detailed photos of the same. A roll of film was developed inside one of the cars to make sure that all photo equipment had worked properly.
By then, the replacement seal had arrived and the agents got the whole thing put back together inside its crate. A little after 4 a.m., the original driver was sent back to his truck and he delivered it to the rail yard where no Soviets were present. When the rail checker arrived at 7 a.m., he saw the waiting truck and had the Luna loaded on the train.
As far as the CIA could tell, the Soviets were none the wiser. America was able to identify the major company producing the Luna and at least three companies that produced components for it.