MIGHTY MOVIES

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall has had a remarkable career. With iconic roles in The Godfather I and II, Lonesome Dove, The Apostle, Tender Mercies, To Kill a Mockingbird, Apocalypse Now, Days of Thunder, and many more, Duvall is best known for his roles on screen and as an accomplished filmmaker. Perhaps lesser known is that he served in the Army for two years during the 1950s and comes from a military family where his father was a Rear Admiral.

WATM had the opportunity to speak with Duvall to hear about his fascinating life, from growing up as an Admiral’s son to working with some of the greatest minds in entertainment of all time.


WATM: What was your family like and your life like growing up?

We moved a lot because of being in a military family. We lived in San Diego and then Annapolis, MD, at the Naval Academy. I remember seeing a movie when I was really young at Camp Pendleton for a dime back in the 1930s when we lived in Mission Hills in San Diego. Right before WWII started, my dad was transferred from Pacific Fleet to the Atlantic Fleet, which led to our move to Annapolis for eight straight years. My father’s first ship was in the Atlantic. My grandmother lived with us for a while as well back then. As a young boy, I watched athletic events at the Academy and became inundated with their sports as a kid. I remember watching Army and Navy games when Army players such as Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis were on the field.

My father was a good line officer and had a solid war record where he retired as a Rear Admiral. His first command was in San Pedro which was the USS Clark, which was a minesweeper. He was with destroyers from Europe to North Africa where his last command was USS Juno, which was a light cruiser. My father served on the USS Indianapolis (famous for delivering parts for Little Boy and then being sunk by the Japanese losing a large percentage of the crew to sharks) and carried President Roosevelt’s bags for him while he was on the ship. My father kept quiet about his service in retirement and didn’t go out on ships once retired..

We prayed and did our bit at home while he was abroad fighting in the war. One funny thing was how my father stopped smoking during the war, so we sent him chewing gum instead. My father worked with the British Navy and enjoyed serving with them. He told us how the British Navy would toast the Queen but not the President of the U.S. After they would have dinner and wine, the British would have wrestling matches where it was best two out of three falls. My dad respected the British and Churchill. Thank God for Churchill as he was likely the greatest man in the 20th century.

The USS Indianapolis- U.S. Navy photo 80-G-425615

As a young teen, me and my siblings went out to our uncle Harold Prescott’s 40,000-acre cattle and sheep ranch in Montana for two summers in a row. This happened at the end of WWII. These memories and experiences at the ranch I’ll never forget; they embedded in me a certain culture. We would go there by train on the Empire Builder of the Great Northern. It would take us from Chicago where we took the Baltimore Ohio the first way and my aunt would pick us up when the Empire Builder would stop in the open fields.

We rode horses, cleaned out the chicken coop, went camping in the mountains and fly fishing with my uncle. I met Jimmy Morrison, a great veterinarian and immigrant from Scotland, while at the ranch and learned a lot about handling animals from him. He was just good to be around where we pitched horseshoes every night with him. Jimmy roped a baby coyote from his horse once and he raced full speed on his quarter horse and touched a galloping antelope on the neck.

They would have big dances there in Montana where if you asked the wrong woman to dance the whole place would turn into a gigantic fist fight, thereby ending the dance. My uncle even gave us a salary at the end of the summer for the work we did around the ranch. He told us, “With your father off fighting the war the least I can do is pay you boys something for your work around here.” My uncle Harold fought in WWI in the Battle of Belleau Wood as a Marine.

Empire Builder of the Great Northern. Credit: Great Northern Railway Historical Society.

I went into a small college, Principia College where my military family pushed me into acting. I changed my major to drama after my first A in an acting course and found myself.

WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My mother ran the home while my father was away. My father could be gone for eight months and we respected him for his service. He was a good man and taught us work ethic by example. My mother ran a cotillion for dancing as we grew up where we learned social graces and how to interact with people, especially women. She made for us a good and stable home life with great experiences.

The US Naval Academy in the 1940s. Credit:HipPostcard.com

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

We were taught to believe in God, do good for other people and to be patriotic. We were taught to keep positive thoughts even in hard times.

Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace” painting. Credit Norman Rockwell.

WATM: What influenced you to join the U.S. Army and what lessons did you take away from your service?

I was drafted and went in for two years where the Army was okay. I did a lot of imitations of people I met in the Army which was shared with my family and friends. One experience really stuck with me was with a fellow soldier nicknamed 3-D, who was like six feet six inches tall and could hardly see. We were marching one night and he disappeared as he had fallen into a fox hole. It struck me as strange that Mickey Mantle was 4F, but that 3-D was considered service worthy. How is a star center fielder for the Yankees not able to serve but this guy is?

I really brought away humor and the ability to tell stories from the Army and served my time. It served me later for playing military roles and allowed me to have a respect for the part. I have a respect for the military, so I played those parts with credence and professionalism.

President George W. Bush stands with recipients of the 2005 National Medal of Arts, from left: Leonard Garment, Louis Auchincloss, Paquito D’Rivera, James DePreist, Tina Ramirez, Robert Duvall, and Ollie Johnston. Credit: White House photo by Eric Draper – whitehouse.gov

WATM: What are the best lessons that Sanford Meisner taught you?

I trained with Sanford on the GI Bill where he taught me how to be as simple as possible in connecting with people. He showed us how to be basic and get to the core of communication. He taught me a legitimate and helpful shortcut in acting. Meisner once said he was easier to please than Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Meisner was friends with Horton Foote, who gave me my first film in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Horton had seen me in a play that Meisner had directed at the Neighborhood Playhouse and liked what they saw, so from that I got Boo Radley. It was a wonderful part to start off with and Horton really helped me a lot in my career.

A photo of a young Robert. Credit unknown.

WATM: What was it like transitioning from stage actor to Film/TV actor?

I started out in the theatre and did summer stock. The main difference is you just speak up a little more on stage than you do in film and TV. You are still believing in an imaginary set of circumstances and going into an imaginary world. It is you doing it yourself where you are appearing as you are becoming something else as we have only one set of emotions and psyche. One of my favorite stage parts ever, American Buffalo, I did on Broadway, which is the Mamet play, it was the best. You do eight shows a week which can wear you down. I would nap between shows and just get up and stumble on stage from that deep nap. Rest is very important.

And Robert Duvall in the “Miniature” episode of the “Twilight Zone.” Credit IMDB.com

WATM: What are some of your best memories from your early to mid-career working on great shows and films?

There were parts I was able to grow in and was able to get better as I got older. There are always some parts you do better than other parts for whatever reasons. Eastwood was good to work with and I liked working with John Wayne as well. The Duke was just neat to be around. He did some good work and stuck up for me on the set of “True Grit.” I was having struggles working with the director of the film where Duke chimed in to balance the odds.

Ulu Grosbard was a close friend and gave me a lot of help early in my career. He directed me in Broadway and Off-Broadway plays. If I needed something from him, he would help me right away. He was a great guy.

Brando was the great one to work with and was so innovative. A memorable story is where I met a great English stage actor that went to see a Streetcar Named Desire when Brando was in it on Broadway. The English actor got embarrassed because he thought a stagehand had wandered on stage by mistake. The “stagehand” was so natural, but it turned out that it was just Brando on stage. The English actor went to see it seven times. Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and I would meet at Cromwell’s drug store two or three times a week for an hour. We mentioned Brando nearly every day in those conversations. Working with Brando was amazing; he turned the world upside down when he came around.

Jimmy Caan is super funny and an extremely quick wit. James has a lot of talent and is a wonderful actor where we stay in touch with each other. De Niro was wonderful and I did summer stock with Gene Hackman. One note on Gene, when I busted my pelvis on set a long time ago, he offered me his last 0. I didn’t take it but he is a great guy to be around. Gene Hackman was a Marine and played on the USMC Football team with Joe Bartos, a Naval Academy grad and professional football player for the Redskins. Gene also served in Korea and stood duty in the cold there. He used to tell me stories about his time in Korea. Dustin Hoffman was my roommate and was a character where he belongs in the business. I kept in touch with Wilford Brimley as well when he was a bodyguard for Howard Hughes and a Marine.

Robert in his first feature film “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Credit IMDB.com

Francis Ford Coppola, Robert, and Marlon Brando on set for “The Godfather.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert with George Lucas and Donald Pleasance working on “THX 1138.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert and Tommy Lee Jones in “Lonesome Dove.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert Duvall with Clint Eastwood while filming Joe Kidd. Credit IMDB.com

WATM: What was your experience like working on the military films “Apocalypse Now” and “The Great Santini?”

When I went in to read for “Apocalypse Now,” the initial writing for the character I played wasn’t written very well. Colonel Carnage was the original name for LtCol Kilgore and was made more of a caricature of the Army than a realistic portrayal. It was just too much for me. Coppola allowed me to adjust the LtCol for the film and to find the uniform and the hat for the character. Coppola always allowed me to find the character and was very instrumental in my career. He helped me a lot. Coppola and I were so close, we would have arguments on the phone about artistic points, but we had a mutual respect. I really like working for him.

When I did “The Great Santini,” I went down early to location to get settled in Beaufort, South Carolina. I found a place to live and went into a real estate office where they thought I was a Marine. One funny memory was when I went up to a beautiful house on the hill when looking for a place to rent. I went up to the door with the real estate people where this sweet, little southern lady opened it and I asked her if she would allow me to rent the home from her. She had the most honest and funniest response with her draw, “Well where would I go?” I thanked her for her time, and we left.

I would get up at 5:30 in the mornings and go hang out with the drill instructors at MCRD Parris Island. They seemed more beat up and tired than the recruits were. They were hoarse and exhausted from their work training them. I went to the officers and non-commissioned officers’ ball while on base where I had a great time with them. I always try to be as accurate as I can with military parts, especially in “The Great Santini.” Overall, working with the Marines was great! I love Marines!

As LtCol Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert Duvall with Francis Ford Coppola on set of “Apocalypse Now.” Credit unknown.

Robert Duvall in The Great Santini. Credit IMDB.com.

WATM: What are your favorite moments from your mid-career to now on such films?

“Tender Mercies” comes to mind where I insisted on Wilford being in the film with me where he had my back in dealing with the director. Wilford helped with the common distance between a foreign director and a native actor, which was taking place in my situation. One of the best memories from that set is when the director, Bruce Beresford, told us to, “pick up the pace,” on set. Wilford responded with, “I didn’t know anybody dropped it.” . Wilford’s retort drew laughter from the cast and crew.

I once walked into the dining room on “Lonesome Dove” and told them, “We were making the Godfather of Westerns.” I really believe that and playing Gus is probably my most favorite part to play overall.

“Days of Thunder” was a lot of fun working with Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is a good guy to work with and he bought me a ,000 jumping horse. He really is a terrific and very giving guy. It was great to be with him again on “Jack Reacher.” I played a retired Marine in that film with him.

Working on “Falling Down” with Rachel Ticotin was wonderful. She is a smart and fun actress to work with. We had a great time on set for the film.

“The Apostle” was a wonderful film to make. Miranda Richardson was so talented in the film and we had Farrah Fawcett, who was underrated, in it as well. I put my own money in that film and we got it back. Marlon Brando loved it and so did Billy Graham, so I got praise on both sides from the secular and religious. Brando wrote me a letter that is framed on my wall and it still means a lot to me what he wrote.

Hank Whitman is another talented professional to work with where we worked together on “Wild Horses” in 2015. He is a Texas Ranger and served in the Marines. He is a classy guy and a man of his word.

My favorite film to work on recently was “Get Low,” just loved the character. It was just a nice production to work on, especially with Lucas Black who I worked with on “Sling Blade.”

Robert with Tess Harper in “Tender Mercies,” which he won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1984. Credit IMDB.com.

Susan Rinnell, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Jason Presson, Gail Youngs and Wilford Brimley in “The Stone Boy.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert working on “The Natural.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert with Tom Cruise while filming “Days of Thunder.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert and Gene Hackman in Geronimo: An American Legend. Credit IMDB.com.

Rachel Ticotin and Robert Duvall in “Falling Down.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert wrote, directed, produced and starred in “The Apostle.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert with Nic Cage filming “Gone in 60 Seconds.” Credit IMDB.com.

On set in “Get Low” with Bill Murray. Credit IMDB.com.

WATM: What are you most proud of in your life and career?

I am proud of my wife Luciana and we have a nice relationship. She is a great cook, she is going for her brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is studying Kali which is Filipino knife training. She has a great family she comes from in Argentina where she is the granddaughter of Argentinian aviation pioneer Susana Ferrari Billinghurst. We love our dogs and they are like kids.

Picture of Robert with his wife Luciana at an event for “The Judge.” Credit IMDB.com.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Jimmy Carter offered to meet Kim Jong Un in North Korea for negotiations

Former President Jimmy Carter has offered to travel to North Korea to meet Kim Jong Un in a bid to break the diplomatic stalemate between Washington and Pyongyang over the denuclearization of the rogue state.

Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, told Politico that the former president had expressed his willingness to travel to North Korea in a conversation on March 7, 2019.

“I think President Carter can help (President Trump) for the sake of the country,” Khanna later told CNN.


Carter was the first US president to travel to North Korea, visiting the country in 1994 to meet Kim’s grandfather, former leader Kim Il Sung. Carter’s visit helped to defuse the first North Korean nuclear crisis, paving the way for the Agreed Framework, in which North Korea agreed to give up its nuclear program in exchange for aid.

Jimmy Carter meets Kim Il-Sung (1994)

www.youtube.com

He returned to the country in 2010, where he helped secure the release of American captive Aijalon Gomes.

In the interview with CNN, Khanna said that Carter’s experience negotiating with Kim’s grandfather would be an asset for the Trump administration, following the collapse of negotiations between Kim Jong Un and President Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam.

“I think it would be so profound because he could talk to Kim Jong Un about his grandfather and the framework he established,” Khanna said.

Khanna said that he and Carter had on March 7, 2019, been discussing plans to revive the denuclearization plans the former president brokered with Kim Il Sung, to develop a new joint framework for peace.

The Carter Centre and White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Carter seems to hold no great respect for Trump, and in an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s show in March 2018 agreed when the host said Trump’s election showed Americans were willing to elect a “jerk” as president. Trump meanwhile has derided Carter’s leadership and “everyman” image while in the White House.

President Jimmy Carter Is Still Praying For Donald Trump

www.youtube.com

However, Carter has previously made efforts to broker a relationship with the administration, and was critical of hostile press coverage of Trump in October 2017, when he first offered to help Trump negotiate with Kim.

“I think the media have been harder on Trump than any other president certainly that I’ve known about,” Carter told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

“I think they feel free to claim that Trump is mentally deranged and everything else without hesitation.”

Then remarks were welcomed by Trump, who tweeted: “Just read the nice remarks by President Jimmy Carter about me and how badly I am treated by the press (Fake News).”

“Thank you Mr. President!”

The nuclear summit between Trump and Kim came unstuck when Kim demanded an end to US sanctions.

Analysts earlier in the week said that satellite imagery showed North Korea had started rebuilding a long-range missile launch site in the wake of the collapse of the negotiations.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

7 reasons Jack Burton was the warfighter I always wanted to be

Before joining the service, I thought everyone in the military was somehow fighting and killing bad guys. I looked to movies and television to try to put myself into the mindset of who I wanted to be if I had to fight a real battle.

Clearly, I no idea what I was getting into. That’s where the similarities between the badass antihero from Big Trouble In Little China and myself end.


Years before Die Hard changed every action movie that came after it into some version of Die Hard, the dream-team duo of John Carpenter and Kurt Russell brought us this bizarre but awesome story of a man determined to help save his new friends that have been captured by a mystical, ancient Chinese cult.

Jack Burton was a John Wayne in a world full of Bruce Lees. But it wasn’t swagger that made me admire this custom-booted character. Jack Burton was way deeper than he seemed — all you had to do was look.

He had heart. He had dedication. Dammit, he had fun.

He also rocked an A-shirt long before John McClane.

“This is Jack Burton in the Porkchop Express and I’m talkin’ to whoever’s listening out there.”

Jack Burton drops pearls of wisdom.

The saltiest warriors have been around the world and they’ve seen some things most us can’t comprehend. When they try to tell you about it, it all just seems unbelievable. That’s why wise, older warriors impart wisdom by giving practical advice, not by relating one specific story. Just listen to Jack Burton:

When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol’ Jack Burton always says at a time like that: “Have ya paid your dues, Jack?” “Yessir, the check is in the mail.”

Jack Burton is okay with being the sidekick.

Being in the military isn’t about glory, it’s not about being in the spotlight, and it definitely isn’t about the money. Big Trouble in Little China is about Wang Chi rescuing his girlfriend. When a Chinese street gang abducts her, Jack Burton is right there to fight the good fight, because it’s the right thing to do.

“Hey, I’m a reasonable guy, but I’ve just experienced some very unreasonable things.”

Even when the sh*t gets deep, Jack Burton does not run.

Jack Burton is just an average, ass-kickin’ kind of guy (with amazing reflexes). He’s used to a good, fair fight and knows when to back off. But just because he’s seeing some sh*t he’s never seen before doesn’t mean he’s going to turn and run. He’s going to stay and fight until he knows he can’t win.

“You people sit tight, hold the fort, and keep the home fires burning. And if we’re not back by dawn… call the president.”

Jack Burton has the right gear for the job.

Those boots, my dude. Those boots are custom.

“May the Wings of Liberty never lose a feather.”

Jack Burton is all about intel.

It’s not all about throwing around weight and fists for Jack Burton. When the situation demands it, he’s willing to be more subtle; less swagger and more cloak-and-dagger. He gathers all the information he can before he starts kicking in doors.

“We may be trapped.”

People want to follow a leader like Jack Burton.

Some may call it cockiness, but I see self-confidence. Jack Burton stands up for what’s right: saving ladies in distress, helping people who’ve been abducted, good fighting evil, etc. People fighting with him see it and they love him for it. Remember: Jack Burton only ever met one person in all of Big Trouble In Little China and he is still fighting with them.

“Everybody relax, I’m here.”

Despite his shortcomings, Jack Burton gets the job done.

He’s not John McClane. He’s not James Bond. There’s very little about Jack Burton that can be called “smooth.” He can stay up all night drinking and gambling, but will keep fighting for days. Like the professional he is, he operates just as well on the third day of combat as he did on the first.

popular

Special operations airmen prepare for winter Olympics

Hours, days, weeks, months and even years of training have prepared two airmen for one moment — four explosive seconds at the top of a winding icy track in a city that once hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Early days of sprinting, heavy lifting, box jumps and squats have faded into late nights of sanding runners, making countless adjustments and pushing through frustrations to shave off hundredths of a second pushing a 500-pound sled 60 meters.

The goal? A chance to make a team in four years. A chance for a medal. A chance to represent their nation and the Air Force. A chance.


Two airmen within Air Force Special Operations Command were selected to compete with the USA Bobsled team. Capt. Dakota Lynch, a 34th Special Operations Squadron U-28A pilot, and Capt. Chris Walsh, a 24th Special Operations Wing special tactics officer, are push athletes who are ultimately competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in 2022.

“If you want it bad enough, you’re going to do whatever it takes to be successful … that’s the grit of this sport,” said Walsh. “It takes four years of commitment to make yourself better with every opportunity and even then you’re never really quite there … you have to keep grinding.”

As push athletes, both airmen train vigorously on sprinting and strength to accelerate a bobsled up to 24 miles per hour in close to four seconds while the pilot focuses on navigating hairpin turns in a choreographed chaos down the ice.

Capt. Dakota Lynch, a U-28 pilot with the 34th Special Operations Squadron, performs sprints at The Fieldhouse on Nov. 16, 2018, in Park City, Utah.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy)

“It’s a metal and carbon fiber bullet rifling down an ice track at speeds of 85-95 miles per hour,” Lynch said. “It’s like a fast-moving jet with a monkey at the controls while getting in a fight with Mike Tyson … it can be incredibly violent.”

Preceding the countless hours in the gym and on the track, the ride begins with a dream to succeed at the highest athletic level. For Walsh, it was an article in a magazine and for Lynch, it was a challenge from friends while deployed to Africa. For both, it would begin a journey of bruises, scrapes and exasperation that would lead them to Park City, Utah, for the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation North American Cup.

The first steps of their journey was a gauntlet of tryouts and selection beginning with an open combine. From there, standout athletes were invited to rookie camp and then push championships in Lake Placid, New York. Then, both Lynch and Walsh were invited to national team trials to continue to the next phase — competition.

“It relates pretty closely to the job because there’s days where you know it’s going to be tough,” said Walsh. “Every workout, every time I’m in the garage with the team, every step I take is either taking me closer or further away from my goal. If I’m lazy and I decide to slack one day … that workout may mean the difference between me making the Olympic team or not.”

Both airmen attribute their time in AFSOC to their success on their bobsled journey. Walsh is a member of Air Force special tactics, which is a special operations ground force comprised of highly trained airmen who solve air to ground problems across the spectrum of conflict and crisis.

Capt. Chris Walsh, a Special Tactics officer with the 24th Special Operations Wing, taps Hunter Church, bobsled pilot for Team USA, at the finish of their second four-man run at the Utah Olympic Park on Nov. 17, 2018, in Park City, Utah.

“The qualities that special tactics fosters in individuals translates very well to bobsledding,” said Walsh. “ST operators are mature, responsible and disciplined and need to be squared away as individuals. If they’re not, the team as a whole is weak … so having that grit and determination to see the mission through is a big piece of what makes me successful here.”

For Lynch, the team mentality of a four-man bobsled loosely correlates to responsibilities of piloting an aircraft. The U-28A aircraft Lynch flies provides an on-call capability for improved tactical airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in support of special operations forces.

“In AFSOC, I am responsible for the aircraft, the men and the women on that aircraft and ensuring the mission is executed properly, safely and precisely,” said Lynch. “Things aren’t going to get handed to you — conditions are going to suck, you’re going to get your crap punched in, but you’re going to have to have the strength and resiliency to drive through it and press forward.”

As active-duty airmen, both Lynch and Walsh have had to negotiate service commitments with leadership support. Both have been granted permissive temporary duty by their respective commanders to vie for a chance at being accepted into the Air Force World Class Athlete Program.

WCAP provides active duty, National Guard and reserve service members the opportunity to train and compete at national and international sports competitions with the ultimate goal of selection to the U.S. Olympic team while maintaining a professional military career.

“I wouldn’t be here without my squadron and group commanders taking a chance on me and giving me a shot,” said Walsh. “It makes me want to do really well to represent my country, the Air Force and AFSOC in a good light.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Senate under pressure to vote on blue water veterans

Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee called on the Senate on Dec. 20, 2018, to vote on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans bill before the legislative body heads home for the holidays.

During a press conference, committee chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., the ranking member and committee’s next chairman, pressed for a floor vote after an effort failed Dec. 19, 2018, in the Senate.


“There’s a joke that sometimes the enemy is not the other party, it is the Senate. They are not really the enemy, but they are being very difficult,” Takano said.

On Dec. 19, 2018, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, blocked a move to pass the bill, the Blue Water Navy, Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018, by unanimous consent. Lee wants to wait for a Department of Veterans Affairs report, due out in 2017, on whether health issues diagnosed in Blue Water veterans actually are related to Agent Orange exposure.

U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War.

“The brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country should undoubtedly get the medical care they need in connection with their service. But … it’s also our duty to ensure that this is done in a prudent and proper way with all the relevant information available to us,” Lee said, speaking on the Senate floor on Dec. 19, 2018.

Lee’s objection, as well as concerns by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, over the bill’s estimated .2 billion cost over 10 years, was enough to block the bill in the Senate, where lawmakers hoped to pass it by unanimous consent, which would not require a floor vote of all senators.

But House members, who passed the bill 382-0 in June 2018, proposed that the Senate hold a floor vote.

Roe admitted that the existing studies that link health conditions in Navy veterans to Agent Orange aren’t definitive, but he added that it’s time to “move past that.”

“We’re this close to solving a decades-old problem for 90,000 of our colleagues. If we wait long enough, it won’t matter because they’ll all be gone,” Roe said.

The bill would provide compensation for veterans who served on Navy ships off Vietnam and have diseases that have been linked to Agent Orange in ground-based Vietnam veterans. These “Blue Water” veterans have pushed for years to get health care and compensation for their service-connected illnesses and disabilities.

In 2002, the VA ruled that veterans must have served on the ground in Vietnam to receive Agent Orange-related benefits; personnel who served on certain vessels that patrolled inland waterways also are eligible.

U.S. Army armored personnel carrier spraying Agent Orange over Vietnamese rice fields during the Vietnam War.

Veterans and their advocates say the exclusion of personnel who served on ships offshore is unfair, as studies indicate that troops may have been exposed when they showered or drank water on their vessels that was distilled from contaminated sea water.

Under the House proposal, the cost of the bill would be offset by raising interest rates for VA home loans for active-duty service members. “I feel very comfortable that this bill is fully funded,” Roe said.

VA officials, however, have objected to the measure, saying it puts a burden on young active-duty troops as well as disabled veterans.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, pledged Dec. 19, 2018, that the Senate would take up the measure next year. “[These veterans] have been denied year after year. … Asking them to wait denies them justice. … These veterans very simply are passing away; they will be denied of these benefits owed them.”

The bill also would broaden coverage for veterans who served in the Korean demilitarized zone, where defoliants were tested, and also expand benefits to children with spina bifida caused a parent’s exposure in Thailand.

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

Articles

Here’s how the Atlanta Falcons honored fallen heroes

Update: This article previously stated that the Falcons would again be wearing the initials of fallen heroes at the Super Bowl. This act of honor was solely done during their Salute to Service game in November.


The Atlanta Falcons, who will face off against the New England Patriots this weekend in Super Bowl LI, honored veterans by wearing the initials of fallen heroes on their helmets during their Salute to Service game in November 2016. Together with TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), the Falcons put together a meaningful event that including the surviving families of the fallen.

The Atlanta Falcons honored 63 fallen heroes and recognized their surviving families at their Salute to Service game in Atlanta. (Photo credit: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors)

The tribute is part of the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign; in partnership with USAA, the NFL works throughout the year to honor veterans and raise funds for the USO, the Pat Tillman Foundation, and the Wounded Warrior Project (millions and millions of funds, in fact).

In fact, the Falcons played such a key role in honoring America’s vets and their families, Head Coach Dan Quinn was nominated for USAA’s Salute to Service Award.

The video below features players from the Falcons as they share the names of men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. The list is a sobering reminder of the cost of freedom, but the comments from people who personally knew the heroes named is what will make you reach for the tissues.


 

 

 

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ‘Pando Commandos’ were more intense than you’d think

For the 2017 Army-Navy Game, the Army’s jerseys celebrated the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), the predecessor to the current 10th Mountain Division. Even with the spotlight on one of the most versatile units of WWII, many people don’t understand the bad-assery of the “Pando Commandos.”


After witnessing ski-mounted Finnish soldiers successfully take on and destroy two Soviet tank divisions, founder of the National Ski Patrol, Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole saw for the need ski troops in the U.S. Army. After much convincing of the Department of Defense, the 10th Light Division (Alpine) was formed from the combinations of the 85th, 86th, and 87th Infantry Regiments assembled, 9,200ft above sea level, at Camp Hale in Pando, Colorado on July 13, 1943.

The goal here was to train a rugged, mountain soldier, acclimated to the harsh mountain tops of the Alps and the frigid north of Scandinavia. Soldiers needed to be trained in both skiing and ice climbing. The 10th Light Division (Alpine) was soon ready to fight and was re-designated as the as the 10th Mountain Division, complete with unique tab and official unit patch.

Because apparently you can’t use a cartoon panda holding a rifle on skis as your official heraldry. (Image via KnowYourMeme)

Meanwhile, the Germans had just set up defenses across the Alps, making travel from the south nearly impossible — a perfect task for the Pando Commandos.

The Germans at Riva Ridge on Mount Belvedere assumed that the near 1,500-ft vertical cliff would be impossible to scale and scarcely manned the position. The 10th Mountain, under the cover of night, blizzard, and complete silence, made the climb and assaulted the Germans as they slept. It was a complete success. The surprise attack grabbed the attention of Germans, who tried to make seven counterattacks to reclaim the peak. None were successful.

At the time, skiing was mostly a college thing. As a result, their division had more degrees and were smarter than anyone else — a fact most 10th Mountain guys would happily tell you today. (Image via Boston Globe)

Today, the legacy continues on as the 10th Mountain still trains in the icy hell known as Fort Drum. The high-altitude training is perfectly suited for the mountains of Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Liane Schmersahl)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army says Strykers can be hacked

The US Army’s upgunned Strykers were developed to counter Russian aggression in Europe, but while these upgraded armored vehicles bring greater firepower to the battlefield, they suffer from a critical weakness that could be deadly in a fight.

The improved Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle – Dragoons deployed with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Europe have the ability to take on a variety of threats, but there’s one in particular that the powerful new 30mm automatic cannons can’t eliminate.


The new Strykers’ vulnerability to cyberattacks could be a serious issue against top adversaries.

(Photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)

“Adversaries demonstrated the ability to degrade select capabilities of the ICV-D when operating in a contested cyber environment,” the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Test and Evaluation (DOTE) said in a January 2019 report, according to The War Zone.

Simply put, the vehicles can be hacked.

It’s unclear who has been doing the hacking because “adversaries” is an ambiguous term. The adversaries could be simulated enemy forces in training exercises or an actual adversarial power such as Russia. The new Stryker units are in service in Germany, where they were deployed in late 2017, according to Army Times.

The military typically uses “opposing force” or “aggressors” to refer to mock opponents in training exercises. The use of the word “adversaries” in the recent report could indicate that the Army’s Strykers were the target of an actual cyberattack.

The development of the new Strykers began in 2015.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John Onuoha)

It’s also unclear which systems were affected, but The War Zone said that it appears the most appealing targets would be the vehicle’s data-sharing, navigation, or digital-communications systems because a cyberattack on these systems could hamper and slow US actions on the battlefield, threatening US forces.

These “exploited vulnerabilities,” the recent report said, “pre-date the integration of the lethality upgrades,” such as the replacement of the M2 .50 caliber machine guns with the 30mm cannon, among other upgrades. This means that other Stryker variants may have the same fatal flaw as the upgunned versions, the development of which began in 2015 in direct response to Russian aggression.

US forces have come face to face with Russian electronic-warfare threats before.

“Right now, in Syria, we are operating in the most aggressive EW environment on the planet from our adversaries,” Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of US Special Operations Command, said April 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. Timothy Hamlin)

He said these activities were disabling US aircraft. “They are testing us everyday, knocking our communications down, disabling our EC-130s, etc.”

NATO allies and partner countries have also encountered GPS jamming and other relevant attacks that have been attributed to Russia.

The recent DOTE report recommended the Army “correct or mitigate cyber vulnerabilities,” as well as “mitigate system design vulnerabilities to threats as identified in the classified report.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why these morale patches caught the Navy’s attention

One of the best things about the military is its subculture and sense of humor. If you give any group in the military any leeway at all in regard to uniform wear, even the slightest bit, the chances are good that they’ll make jokes out of it. One such tradition is the morale patch. Usually worn during deployments and on aircrew, the morale patch is worn solely by the designation of a unit commander. They often make fun of some of the worst, most boring, or most defining aspects of a career field.

Recently, some Naval aviators got into hot water by wearing patches that may have been a little too close to political.


It’s not as if this is the military’s first Trump joke.

Many of the best morale patches often have a pop culture element to them. Some of them may have some kind of inside joke, or technical jargon. In the patch above, for example, a UARRSI is part of an aircraft’s in-flight refueling apparatus, specifically on the receiving end.

Related: 13 of the best military morale patches

Unfortunately for the Navy aircrew sporting the red patch and the “Make (blank) Great Again” joke, using an image of the President’s 2016 campaign slogan might be a little too political for the Navy’s top brass, with or without the “p*ssy” joke the Air Force used in the second patch above. No matter what the reason, the military is increasingly concerned about U.S. troops and their acts of political affiliation in uniform.

Trump signed signature red “MAGA” hats for deployed troops during a New Years visit in 2018. What concerned brass then was that the White House didn’t distribute the hats, troops already brought them.

The Pentagon’s Uniform Code of Military Justice states “active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.” This expressed line may be the cause of the Navy’s ire with the red Trump aircrew patch.

More: 13 more awesome military morale patches from around the service

It’s possible that the aircrews were making a political statement, but it’s much more likely that the reference to the President and his 2016 campaign slogan is a pop culture one. Trump’s revival of the old 1980 Reagan election theme has permeated American culture since Trump adopted it and made it his own. Even the President’s detractors use some variation of the MAGA line to insult the President and his policies.

The problem is this time, U.S. troops were seen by members of the media sporting the patches during an official Trump visit to the USS Wasp in Tokyo Bay. The image of troops wearing the patch went viral, and people who don’t seem to know about the morale patch tradition called it “more than patriotism” and “inappropriate.”

President Trump delivers a Memorial Day speech aboard the USS Wasp.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Shorter)

The Navy downplayed the patches officially, calling them “old news” but acknowledged it was conducting an inquiry to determine if the move was an overtly political act.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Targets to take your firearms training to the next level

What do you take to the shooting range? The most thought generally goes into firearm and ammunition selection, and the contents of your range bag will include most of the other essentials: eye protection, ear protection, and various tools. But in addition to the gun and the projectile, it’s worth taking a few extra minutes to think about what you’re shooting at. While it’s easy to let targets be a part of the “range bag” — a standard piece of equipment that you need but don’t put much thought into — they should be considered for each range session based on your goals.


Targets are important, especially when it comes to defensive handgun training. The target you utilize in this type of training is going to be one of your best learning tools. Not only are they fun and mentally engaging, they also present a great opportunity to incorporate real-world scenarios. Although there are many target companies out there, RE Factor Tactical makes some of the best targets. They have a variety of real-world training targets that have long been used in the professional tactical realm and are available to civilians as well.

The author used RE Factor Tactical Active Shooter Targets during a recent handgun training course.

(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die.)

RE Factor offers a great collection of what I consider to be serious training-based targets. These include standards such as the FBI target, FLETC II target, and a Homeland Defense target, as well as some unique targets that have been designed in collaboration with other companies in the firearms and training world.

I put several RE Factor targets to the test during a recent handgun class, and they worked well. From an instructor’s perspective, I appreciated the type of paper that they were printed on. It may sound simple, but many paper targets almost disintegrate like tissue paper in the rain. These help up against the elements, but the paper wasn’t so super thick to make storing and hanging them a pain.

The primary target we used was the Active Shooter Target. This target has a picture of an armed and nefarious individual used for self-defense and close-quarters training. The target has vital zone boxes to help shooters visualize key locations of effective shot placement. I’m partial to this target as it encourages the students to focus on vital shooting points. This target also provides a different mindset as you’re looking at a person to shoot versus a bullseye. Over the weekend class, I incorporated several RE Factor targets and found each one highly beneficial.

Defense Target II, with additional stickers for customization.

(Photos courtesy of RE Factor Tactical.)

Another target that stood out to me was the Defense Target II. This target is designed to give shooters an enhanced training experience by offering stickers for customization. The Defense Target II features an individual that can transform from an FBI agent to an office active shooter to a business no-shoot with the simple change of customized stickers. This allows one target to be used in multiple scenarios. Available sticker areas include the left hand, right hand, hip, and chest. Each sticker perfectly matches up with the target’s hands, chest area, or hip to create a new target scenario that appears natural to the shooter.

There are several benefits of altering aspects of the target while maintaining the same main visual element. Instructors can rapidly change the scenarios, and students are forced to look at different places on the target before deciding whether or not the target is a threat. This is a fantastic tool for scenario training. By modifying the target after a class has run a drill, the students don’t become complacent.

A-Zone Splatter Target.

(Photo courtesy of RE Factor Tactical.)

For less defensive-minded shooting, I like the A-Zone Splatter Target. This design allows users to analyze shot placement with vivid orange and black splatter for improving shooting abilities. It is designed for military, law enforcement, International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), and everyday shooters. As an instructor who looks at these targets not only by their content or image, but also by their application, I appreciate how quick and easy it is to evaluate the shots. When we don’t have to break between strings to have students go downrange and check targets, it keeps the class rolling. Logistically, it is a winner.

While targets may not seem as important as the firearm or ammunition you take to the range, proper training targets are absolutely necessary to becoming a well-trained shooter. The targets produced by veteran-led RE Factor Tactical are being utilized by those at the tip of the spear — it’s absolutely worth your time to check them out.

Navy SEAL Explains Why They Are Different From Every Other SOF Unit

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 reasons military brats are superior human beings

It can be hard to be anyone that is military-connected. Long hours, uncertain travel plans, deployment, bootcamp, cancelling everything…MREs; but military kids somehow manage to navigate the life much better than most adults. What I noticed after spending time with my own military kids and their friends is that when the rubber meets the road they will always shock you with their resilience and their maturity, and really their sheer coolness under pressure. They also have a little bit of humor about their lives, which we all know is an essential part of getting through this life. I’d like to introduce five military kids, ages 6 to 13. If you really want to know what being a military kid is like maybe we should actually ask the kids?


Here are 4 reasons military brats are superior human beings:

Military kids have a sense of humor.

At age 6, Mattis (yes, you read that right, his namesake is the unwavering General Mattis) has a rather humorous outlook on life as a military kid. Both of Mattis’ parents are Marines, his dad is currently serving. He’s dead serious about the fact that having a million dollars would make his life as a military kid much easier. Me too, kid. Upon further reflection he settled on a hug being the best way to get him through the tough times; and is swaying from the idea that it’s impossible that his military parents have made him stronger. Ami, age 11, firmly believes the best part about being a military kid is the military ID you get when you’re 10.

Military kids Dannika Mattis.

Military kids find ways to thrive in hard times.

Dannika, age 10, finds the good and bad with military life. “I just don’t want to feel left out,” she said. “My friends from my old school talk about things going on in their lives, and I don’t feel a part of the group anymore. It makes me sad.” On the flip side she says, “Every time I move I get to make new friends, so I have way more friends than regular kids.” Ami, age 11, shared, “I’m used to things getting cancelled. It usually just means we’ll just get to do something different. It might even be cooler.”

Military kids might know more about the world than you do.

Brian, age 13, is always shocked about how much his friends don’t know. “You get to learn a lot about the stuff that’s happening in the world and our history in a way that’s different.” Dannika shared what that understanding really means. “Regular kids have normal lives where they don’t have to worry about their mom or dad going to war. We appreciate our parents more when they are home.”

Military kids Brian, Ami, and Phillip.

Military kids know what they need.

And it’s really simple. Phillip, age 8, says, “I just want people to pray for my dad and me.” On Brian’s wishlist? “People just to be able to be sympathetic to military kids, especially when they have parents who are gone. Just tell us it’s going to be okay and that we aren’t alone, and that you’ll be there for us.”

So, this Month of Military Child we can read about education supports, therapy, why a parent loves their military kid…but it’s worth your time to sit down with your military kid and just ask them. You might be surprised at their responses.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia partially releases stranglehold on Ukraine’s ports

Kyiv says Russia has “partially” unblocked Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov, allowing Ukrainian ships to pass through the Kerch Strait for the first time since Nov. 25, 2018, when Russian forces seized three Ukrainian Navy vessels and detained 24 crewmen.

“Berdyansk and Mariupol are partially unlocked,” Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan said on Dec. 4, 2018, as NATO reiterated its call on Russia to allow “unhindered access” to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov.

“Vessels make their way to the entrance and exit through the Kerch Strait toward Ukrainian ports,” Omelyan said.


The minister said that ships navigating through the Kerch Strait to and from Ukrainian ports “are stopped and inspected by Russia as before, but the traffic has been partially restored.”

Ukraine’s Agriculture Ministry later said that the country had resumed grain shipments from the Sea of Azov.

“Passage of vessels with agricultural products through ports in the Sea of Azov has been unlocked,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The loading of grain to vessels through the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk is restored and carried out in regular mode,” it added.

Captured BK-02 Berdyansk with a hole in the pilothouse.

The naval confrontation between Russia and Ukraine topped the agenda of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting with their Ukrainian counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin, in Brussels.

After the talks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the 29 members of the alliance called on Russia to “immediately release the Ukrainian sailors and ships it seized.”

“Russia must allow freedom of navigation and allow unhindered access to Ukrainian ports,” he added.

“In response to Russia’s aggressive actions, NATO has substantially increased its presence in the Black Sea region over the past few years — at sea, in the air, and on the ground,” Stoltenberg also noted.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Russia continues to hold 24 Ukrainian sailors detained in the Nov. 25, 2018 incident, despite demands from NATO for their release from detention centers in Moscow.

Moscow Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Potyayeva was scheduled on Dec. 4, 2018, to visit three Ukrainian sailors who were injured in the Nov. 25, 2018 incident, when Russian forces rammed a Ukrainian Navy tugboat and fired on two other ships before seizing the vessels.

The clash has added to tension over Crimea, which Russia occupied and illegally annexed from Ukraine in March 2014.

It also has raised concerns of a possible flare-up in a simmering war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

The Russia-backed separatists hold parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, including a piece of shoreline that lies between the Russian border and the Ukrainian Sea of Azov port city of Mariupol.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, on Dec. 3, 2018, said concerns that Moscow could seek to create a “land corridor” linking Russia to Crimea were “absurd.”

At their Brussels meeting, the foreign ministers “restated NATO’s solidarity with Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.

“We recognize Ukraine’s aspirations to join the alliance, and progress has already been made on reforms. But challenges remain, so we encourage Ukraine to continue on this path of reform. This is crucial for prosperity and peace in Ukraine,” the NATO chief said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 27

No matter where you look, there’s only one thing in the news – COVID-19. And as a comedic military writer, I feel a certain sense of duty to help others by trying to put a smile on the faces of our community in these trying times.

Even as we speak, all five thousand plus service members onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt are to be tested for the Coronavirus as a precaution and won’t allow any sailors to leave while it’s docked in Guam. You read that right, folks. No one is going anywhere until the Navy gets its 5,000 seaman samples.


Stay safe out there, you dirty animals. Anyway, here’s some memes.

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(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

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(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

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(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

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(Meme via Call for Fire)

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(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

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(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

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(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

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(Meme via ASMDSS)

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(Meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro?)

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(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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(Meme via Army as F*ck)

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(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

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(Meme via Pop Smoke)