Visual effects team explains Rey's new lightsaber - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

One of the biggest reveals in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” other than Rey’s identity, came at its very end when the character revealed she had her own new lightsaber with a distinctive yellow-orange hue.

What color exactly is the lightsaber and how did the visual effects team land on it?

“A fair number of colors have been used in lightsabers. So there was a design challenge there in terms of what color it should be,” “TROS” visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett told Insider Monday of the direction given for the lightsaber seen at the movie’s very end.


“There was an optimistic kind of quality to that, but we also wanted [Rey] to have a very unique color,” he added of coming up with the color we see on screen. “We ran some tests and decided in the end what color it would be.”

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Rey prepares to slice through Kylo Ren’s ship with Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber.

(Lucasfilm)

Is there a specific name to Rey’s lightsaber color? We’re going with ‘yellow optimism.’

“That specific color yellow, if you go too pale — this is getting really in the weeds here — if you go too pale and you make it too light, it’s going to look white a lot of times,” Industrial Light Magic (ILM) visual effects supervisor Patrick Tubach said of one factor that helped them land on that precise color. “Colors on film, sometimes they bleed away depending on the exposure and the quality of the light in the scene.”

“Making it that more golden yellow gives you that optimistic feeling, and it also allows you to make it supersaturated and still feel like it’s in the ‘Star Wars’ universe,” he added.

Yellow sabers aren’t anything new to “Star Wars” lore, but they are uncommon. In the past, yellow lightsabers have mostly been limited to Jedi temple guards, who wielded double-bladed sabers.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Here’s Kanan Jarrus going up against a Jedi Temple guard on the animated series “Star Wars Rebels.”

(Lucasfilm)

When asked if they had a specific name for the color, optimism was a word that came up frequently to describe the tone they were going for with the look of Rey’s lightsaber.

“We definitely went for things like golden and sun and optimism,” said Tubach.

“I think the optimism carried that choice,” added Guyett.

“I’m going to paint my house ‘yellow optimism,'” joked creature and makeup effects creative supervisor Neal Scanlan.

Did the hilt of Rey’s lightsaber look familiar? It should have.

(Lucasfilm)

Rey’s lightsaber does include a yellow kyber crystal

“Yeah, it’s supposed to be a yellow crystal,” said Tubach.

It was not a clear crystal that changed color after chosen by Rey. Neither was it a purified version of a red kyber crystal as Ahsoka Tano did in the past to create her white lightsabers.

Insider thought Rey’s saber color may have contained a healed version of Kylo Ren/Ben Solo’s cracked red kyber crystal, but it seems that’s not the case.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Did the hilt of Rey’s lightsaber look familiar? It should have.

(Lucasfilm)

The small detail within Rey’s new lightsaber you may have missed: The hilt of her lightsaber comes from her original staff.

“That was the concept,” said Guyett of the inspiration behind the hilt of Rey’s lightsaber. “The art production design and the art department, we all contribute to the designs of various things… [director] J.J. [Abrams] just thought it was logical that she had the staff, and, therefore, the saber should somehow be linked to that.”

In hindsight, when you go back to “The Force Awakens,” Rey’s staff always looked like it could eventually be transformed into the perfect lightsaber hilt.

“The Rise of Skywalker” is currently in theaters. You can read our review here.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the US military’s only search-and-rescue dog

In 2010, airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard deployed to Port-au-Prince, the capital and most populous city of Haiti, in response to a magnitude 7 earthquake that impacted millions.

“With the destroyed airfields, it was difficult for many government organizations to land aircraft and provide assistance,” said Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, a pararescueman with the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron.

The airmen were able to get on the ground and assist in clearing the airfield thanks to their special capabilities, but they soon faced more complications.

“Local sources were telling people that there was a schoolhouse that had collapsed with about 40 children inside,” Parsons said.


“A team of special tactics airmen went over and started looking through the rubble, just carrying these rocks off, looking for these missing kids. A few days into the search, (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) was finally able to land. They brought a dog to the pile and were able to clear it in about 20 minutes. There was nobody in that pile.”

“It had been a couple days of wasted labor that could’ve been used to help save other lives,” Parsons continued.

“It was at that time that we kind of realized the importance and the capability that dogs can bring to search and rescue. Every environment presents different difficulties, but it’s all restricted by our human limitations. Our current practice is: Hoping that we see or hear somebody.”

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Callie, a search and rescue K-9 for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

In response to scenarios like the Haitian earthquake, Parsons spearheaded a new approach, developing the squadron’s Search and Rescue K-9 program. The effort, launched in 2018, is designed to increase the capabilities of disaster response teams in locating and recovering personnel through the use of specially trained canines.

After several months of preparation, the unit acquired its newest member, Callie, a 26-month-old Dutch shepherd, making her the first search-and-rescue dog in the Department of Defense.

She has now earned multiple qualifications to accommodate the specific skillset of the 123rd STS, including helicopter exfiltration and infiltration, mountain rescue (rappelling plus ice, snow and alpine maneuvers), static line and freefall parachute insertion.

“Callie is trained in live-find,” Parsons said. “She goes into wilderness, collapsed-structure or disaster situations. She’s trained to detect living people, find them, and alert me when she’s located them. We react accordingly, mark the spot and begin the extraction of those people.

“The unique function that we can provide by developing Callie is that we can get her to places that nobody else can get to,” Parsons added. “That’s the biggest benefit that we really saw value in. In the situation like the earthquake in Haiti, we can get her in there, and those days in difference could be the difference in somebody’s life.”

Before Callie’s introduction to the unit, the method of search and rescue in urban settings involved probing and digging with drills and cameras. According to Parsons, this slow and sometimes unreliable method only added tools, weight and difficulty to the process.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, land at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019

(US Air National Guard photo Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Tech. Sgt. Rudy Parsons, 123rd Special Tactics pararescueman, and his search-and-rescue dog, Callie, ride a UH-60 Black Hawk as part of Callie’s familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort, Kentucky, Nov.29, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, complete a parachute insertion into Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, during an exercise, July 16, 2019

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Tech. Sgt. Rudy Parsons, 123rd Special Tactics pararescueman, and his search-and-rescue dog, Callie, ride a UH-60 Black Hawk as part of Callie’s familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort, Kentucky, Nov. 29, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 15, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Callie, a search-and-rescue K-9 for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, alerts Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, her handler, after locating a simulated casualty during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Tech Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, rappel down a cliffside at Louisville, Kentucky, as part of Callie’s familiarization training, Dec. 7, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Callie, a search-and-rescue K-9 for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, rides a UH-60 Black Hawk aircraft as part of her familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort, Kentucky, Nov. 29, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The 123rd SAR K-9 program was funded by the Air National Guard innovation program, meant to enable Airmen to make positive, meaningful change and drive a culture shift toward innovation.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This deadly resistance fighter was the Wonder Woman of WWII

One of the leaders of the attack was an Australian woman that Resistance Capt. Henri Tardivat called “the most feminine woman I know.” Her name was Nancy Wake. But as she and her men approached the factory that night, there was a problem. A sentry spotted them. Wake sprang at him just as he was about to shout a warning, clamped a forearm beneath his jaw, and snapped his head back.


The man’s body slipped quietly to the ground.

“She is the most feminine woman I know,” Tardivat added, “but when the fighting starts, “then she is like five men.”

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber
Wake had a bounty of 5 million Francs on her head.

From April 1944 until the liberation of Paris the following August, Wake served as a top British agent in German-occupied France. She personally led attacks on German installations, including the local Gestapo headquarters in Montluçon, sabotaged bridges and trains, and once during a German attack took command of a section whose leader had been killed and directed suppressive fire as the group withdrew.

Her courage was never questioned, and “her brain worked with the speed and smoothness of skates on ice,” as Australian Russell Braddon wrote about her.

Born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, when the war broke out in 1939, Wake found herself in Marseille married to French industrialist Henri Fiocca, a wealthy, fashionable, and one account says “frivolous” Society woman. But the frivolity ended when she met and befriended captured British officers kept prisoner in the city and eventually began helping them escape to Spain. She also began working as a courier for the Resistance.

The Gestapo, aware of her presence but not her identity, dubbed her the “White Mouse” for her ability to slip away and avoid detection.

In 1943, her luck ran out.

[She was arrested in a street sweep in Toulouse, interrogated, and beaten but not identified, and the Resistance was able to free her after four days. She escaped France, leaving Henri behind, first by leaping from the windows of a train, then hiding among bags of coal in the back of a truck, and finally in a forty-seven-hour trek through the mountains.

She made it to England where she volunteered for the Special Operations Executive. In April 1944, after training, she parachuted back into occupied France to serve with the Resistance fighters in the Auverge region of southcentral France, where a force of almost 8,000 men headed by Tardivat was hiding in the forests and raiding German facilities. On her person were a million francs for the Resistance groups and plans for their part in the upcoming D-Day invasion.

For the jump, she wore silk stockings beneath her coveralls.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber
Wake before the Second World War.

Wake lived and worked with the Resistance group for the next seventeen months, overseeing all British parachute drops, channeling Allied funds to the Resistance, and battling the 22,000 German fighting men in the area. She also served a command function with the Resistance and took part in raids, at one point just escaping death when the car she was riding in was strafed by a German fighter. At another, she travelled 500 km, through mountainous terrain and German-held territory, to report a destroyed radio and code books.

“When I got off that damned bike… I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t sit down, I couldn’t walk. When I’m asked what I’m most proud of doing during the war, I say: ‘The bike ride’,” she later said.

When France was finally liberated, Wake learned her husband Henri had been captured, tortured, and killed by the Gestapo and that his (and her) wealth was gone. In the years after the war, she held several British intelligence positions, got remarried, and lived to age 98. She died in 2011 requesting that her ashes be spread over the mountains where she had fought.

“That will be good enough for me,” she said.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber
Nancy Wake survived the war and lived until 2011.

Among the decorations Wake received for were the George Medal, 1939–45 Star, France and Germany Star, Defense Medal, British War Medal 1939–45, French Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, French Croix de Guerre with Star and two Palms, the US Medal for Freedom with Palm, and the French Medaille de la Resistance.

She was very likely the most decorated woman of the war.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The ​story behind the hair the British will return to Ethiopia

Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II spent his last hours holed up in a fort near the Red Sea town of Maqdala. He was under siege by British troops who had just routed his numerically superior force and tore through his lines. With the British storming his fortress, the Emperor shot himself in the head, ironically using a gun gifted to him from Queen Victoria.


British forces had a field day with the fort. They would eventually destroy it before heading back to England, but first, they had to plunder everything of value from the captured prize. Their victory train required 15 elephants and 200 mules to carry all the gold, gems, and artifacts back to where they came from. But the British took more than that, they presented the Emperor’s seven-year-old son to Queen Victoria and kept locks of Emperor Tewodros II’s hair as a prize.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Not my first prize choice, but whatever.

Tewodros’ legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of Ethiopians to this day. More than 150 years later, the defiant Emperor’s spirit of independence inspires some of Ethiopia’s finest writers and artists. He is now a symbol for the potential of the country, a forward-thinking leader that would not bow to outside pressure or simply allow his people to be colonized. His star was on the rise as he worked to keep his country away from the brink of destruction, only to be brought down in a less-than-glorious way.

The Christian emperor was busy reuniting Ethiopia from various breakaway factions as the power and force of Islam and of Islamic nations put pressure on him to push back. Tewodros expected help from the Christian nations of the world but found none was forthcoming. He tried imprisoning British officials to force an expedition to come to Ethiopia’s aid. He got an expedition, but the 12,000 troop-strong force was coming for him, not his enemies.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

The fort at Maqdala overlooks a deep valley. The British did not have an easy time of it here.

The Emperor imprisoned those officials at Maqdala, where he himself was holed up, along with 13,000 of his own men. The British force coming to the fort was comprised of only 9,000 men, but they were carrying superior firepower with them. When the redcoats completely tore up the Abyssinian army, Tewodros decided to take his own life, rather than submit to the humiliations that the British would surely subject him to.

That small act of defiance earned him immortality in Ethiopia, who remembers Tewodros today as one of the country’s most prominent cultural and historical figures.

And for decades, the Ethiopians have demanded the return of Tewodors’ hair. Only now, after decades and a French push to restore captured colonial artifacts to their home countries, has England ever considered giving in.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why Teddy Roosevelt turned Yosemite into federal land

President Theodore Roosevelt formed the Boone and Crockett Club and many other conservation organizations because of his love of all things natural. In the 1870s, fishing and hunting organizations urged local governments to restrict encroaching corporations from violating America’s natural resources. There was hope for the wilderness with an ally like Roosevelt in Washington.


John Muir was a naturalist who had been advocating for increased protections for Yosemite, as it was under threat of commercialization, overgrazing, and logging. Muir was one of the chief lobbyists to make Yosemite a National Park. On October 1st, 1890, it earned official status. He then founded the Sierra Club in 1892 to protect the sanctuary; however, it was still an uphill battle to preserve America’s natural beauty.

Meanwhile, other lobbyists were gaining momentum to further their own agendas (many of which were bad for the land) because even though Yosemite was a National Park, protections and regulations were administrated at the state level. Yosemite needed a champion and, in 1903, halfway through his presidency, the park found one in Teddy Roosevelt.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Roosevelt arrives at the Wawona Hotel

Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt looked forward to his stop in California because for three politic-free-days, he had a private tour of Yosemite with John Muir. Muir was an active voice in the realm of conservation, and his passionate ideals caught the attention of the President himself. Roosevelt loved the outdoors, and he personally wrote a letter to invite Muir to schedule the three-day camping trip through the park.

The favor of the President would surely land the support in Washington the park desperately needed. Muir replied, “…of course, I shall go with you gladly” via mail.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Mariposa Grove, then and now.

On May 15, 1903, Theodore Roosevelt arrived at Raymond, California to begin his adventure into the Sierra Nevada. He and his entourage had rooms at the Wawona Hotel, but he only ate lunch there. He was far more interested in mounting his horse and seeing as much of the park as he could. He visited the Mariposa Grove of giant trees, taking pictures, and set camp for the first leg of his stay.

Roosevelt and Muir discussed their shared beliefs on conservationism over fried chicken.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Glacier Point

The following day, the President and Muir were up at dawn, determined to explore more of the trails and Glacier Point. When they reach the summit at 7,000 feet above sea level, they were hit with a snowstorm. They made camp at Washburn Point, marooned together amid the pine trees and snow-covered peaks.

He slept outside without a tent because that’s the kind of hard charger the President was.

The final day was spent with more exploration of the park’s majestic natural wonders. They rose horses until dusk before deciding to set up camp one last time at Bridalveil Fall. When Teddy laid eyes on Yosemite, it was love at first sight. By the third day, he was convinced that the park needed his influence in D.C. to preserve and protect it.

We were in a snowstorm last night and it was just what I wanted,” he said later in the day. “Just think of where I was last night. Up there,” pointing toward Glacier Point, “amid the pines and silver firs, in the Sierran solitude in a snowstorm. I passed one of the most pleasant nights of my life. It was so reviving to be so close to nature in this magnificent forest…”

All of Teddy’s clubs had connections in Washington D.C., and his first-hand experience brought passion and determination to the subject. He signed the American Antiquities Act of 1906 that transferred the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove back under federal protection and control. A decade later, when the National Park Service formed in 1916, Yosemite had its own agency to protect it, thanks to Roosevelt’s efforts.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the LAPD detective who specialized in hunting cop killers

As a rookie with the Los Angeles Police Department, Charles Bennett was sitting in his squad car with his white partner when the senior officer turned to Bennett and said, “You’re not black, I’m not white — we’re blue. And trust me; if something ever happens to you at 3 o’clock in the morning, they’re going to call guys, and they’re not going to care what color or nationality you are. They’re going to roll out here and solve the problem and win. We’re going to find out whoever hurt you, and we’re going to arrest them and do what we have to do.”


Those words resonated with Bennett 10 years later when he found himself answering the call to bring justice after a fellow officer’s death.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaberCharles Bennett retired in 2010 after serving 33 years on the LAPD. Photo courtesy of Charles Bennett.

Bennett started with the LAPD in 1977 and spent his last 10 years as a supervisor within the LAPD’s elite Special Investigation Section (SIS). The SIS completed surveillance on suspected criminals for all of the LAPD’s units and sometimes neighboring departments. Bennett said that his unit had a 99% conviction rate because of the airtight cases they built by observing the suspects planning the robbery, and sometimes watching the crime happen and making an arrest immediately after.

During his 33-year career, he rose through the ranks to detective three, which is a specialized detective who is considered a subject matter expert within the LAPD. He specialized in robbery and tracking down cop killers. One case in particular has always stood out in his mind.

Mylus Mondy was a US Customs and Border Protection agent who was murdered March 9, 2008. Mondy had just left his shift at the Los Angeles International Airport and had stopped by a Bank of America ATM in Ladera Heights, an unincorporated area in Los Angeles.

A robber was holding someone at gunpoint at the ATM location when Mondy went to withdraw from the ATM. When he saw Mondy, the robber struck him on the head with the pistol and demanded money. When Mondy tried to get away, he was shot and killed him.

Bennett’s team was called in to bring the murderer to justice. The team spent approximately a day and half chasing down leads, gathering evidence, and identifying different addresses to surveil.

Bennett supervised while one of his rookies in SIS sat “on the point,” gathering information on traffic to and from one of the locations, scanning for their suspect, and collecting every little detail that might lead to an arrest. Suddenly, the rookie broke radio silence to report, “Boss, it’s No. 1, and he’s on the move.”

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaberFootage from the security camera footage at the ATM where US Customs and Border Protection agent Mylus Mondy was shot and killed. Photo courtesy of Charles Bennett.

Bennett asked if he was absolutely sure.

“I’m 1,000% sure,” the new officer fired back. Bennett ordered his man to let the suspect turn the corner and avoid alerting him of their presence in front of his house. Bennett knew others might be inside the suspect’s house and, if alerted, would destroy any evidence the SIS unit would need to finalize charges against him.

As 23-year-old McKenzie Carl Bryant turned the corner, the SIS team waited patiently. Once there was a good cushion of distance between Bryant and his house, they brought down the hammer and arrested him.

“That guy is doing life without possibility of parole now, and you know, it was a really good feeling,” Bennett said of Bryant’s arrest. “You understand that you just got justice for a fellow officer who you didn’t know. You didn’t need to know him because you knew he was out there doing his job the best he could, and he didn’t deserve what happened to him.”

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaberFootage from the security camera footage at the ATM where US Customs and Border Protection agent Mylus Mondy was shot and killed. Photo courtesy of Charles Bennett.

The all-hands-on-deck approach to cases like Mondy’s murder is what Bennett enjoyed most about working within SIS, as well as their ability to remain silent professionals. He said there were officers who worked on tracing leads and then fed verified information to the officers conducting ground surveillance. Though some LAPD units knew what SIS was doing, the unit largely remained anonymous. The LAPD command handled press conferences regarding the work of the SIS unit but never named them.

“We always go to the fallen officer’s funeral, which is always sad,” Bennett said.

In another case, Bennett helped arrest three of the five men responsible for the death of an officer.

“There were a lot of people quietly slapping us on the back, including the chief,” he said.

In those times of sadness, the quiet slaps on the back brought back that “good feeling.” While they couldn’t change what happened, at least they had achieved some kind of justice for the fallen officer and their family.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This country music legend made an epic beer run on a riding lawn mower

Before George Jones made it big in country music with his 1959 hit, “White Lightning,” the Hank Williams-obsessed twentysomething was a United States Marine. Six years later, he was recording a song written by the Big Bopper and writing songs that would be sung by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Loretta Lynn.

Jones’ military career was just three years long. Stationed in San Jose, California, he managed to miss the entire Korean War, being discharged in 1953.


Through it all, the legendary singer-songwriter struggled with alcoholism like his daddy before him. Even after he was invited to sing at the Grand Ole Opry in 1956, he was already once divorced, singing at the worst honky tonks in Texas. Throughout the 1960s, Jones was known for showing up drunk to things, be it a show, a recording or a friend’s house in the middle of the night.

In 1967, Jones actually had to be forced into a detox facility to help curb his drinking habit. But nothing could actually stop him if he wanted a drink – and his ability to get a drink if he wanted one was as legendary as his songwriting.

One alcohol-related incident is remembered above all others, and is the subject of many stories, murals, and no fewer than three recreations in modern country music videos.

Twitter

twitter.com

His then-wife, Shirley Corley, claims she hid the keys to both cars one night while the couple was living outside of Beaumont, Texas. As far as he might go to get a drink, walking eight miles to get to the closest liquor store was a little too far. Jones, according to his autobiography, “I Live to Tell It All,” looked out the window and saw his salvation.

“There, gleaming in the glow, was that ten-horsepower rotary engine under a seat. A key glistening in the ignition. I imagine the top speed for that old mower was five miles per hour. It might have taken an hour and a half or more for me to get to the liquor store, but get there I did.”

Jones drove the eight miles to Beaumont, Texas, to get his drinks, aboard a riding lawn mower. It was a move he would reference over and over in years to come, including in his own music videos.

He wrestled with his drinking habit – and sometimes drug habits – for most of his career. He managed to clean up for most of the 1980s but finally kicked the booze after a 1999 car accident found he was drunk behind the wheel. According to Jones, it “put the fear of God” in him.

Jones died at age 81 in 2013. His funeral produced more musical tributes than a three-day summer country concert, all for the former Marine who embodied an entire generation of country music.


MIGHTY TRENDING

9 photos show why Coast Guard snipers are some of the best

Once the Coast Guard has a suspect vessel in its sights on the high seas, there’s usually nowhere for it to go, but getting it to stop isn’t always easy.

The crew of the Coast Guard cutter James returned to Florida in November 2018 with nearly 38,000 pounds of cocaine seized by it and other Coast Guard ships in the Pacific. Stacked on some of the bales of cocaine were clear signs of the Coast Guard’s precision.

“So what you see here are some engine cowlings,” said Capt. Jeffrey Randall, commander of the James, referring to the half-dozen plastic covers perched on bales of seized drugs like trophies.

“We pair up the capabilities of the ship, the sensors of the ship, with our helicopter detachment that’s back there,” he said, referring to the helicopter parked behind the crew on the James‘ aft deck.

“That helicopter has what we call an aerial-use-of-force capability. So we can shoot from the aircraft with precision marksman fire, and we direct it at the engines of the vessel to stop the vessels when they fail to heave to.”


Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

A helicopter crew from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Jacksonville trains over the St. Johns River on Sept. 22, 2009.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Hulme)

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Paulo Cheng, a maritime enforcement specialist and student of the Precision Marksmanship School, shoots at known distance targets with an M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System during the Precision Marksmanship Course at the Spartan Ranch Tactical Training Center in Maysville, July 26, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nicholas Lubchenko)

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Petty Officer 1st Class Jesse Pitrelli and Petty Officer 1st Class Peter Purcell at Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia, February 16, 2016. Pitrelli and Purcell are the first active-duty Coast Guardsmen in history to graduate from Army Sniper school.

(US Coast Guard photo)

“We conduct training on the flat range weekly, do various range and yard lines, concentrating mostly on snaps and movers,” a Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team member told Military.com, referring to targets that appear suddenly and change position. “Because that’s where your bread and butter is. I mean, shooting moving targets is it.”

“The relationship between the shooter and the spotter is extremely important. The spotter’s job is probably the hardest He’s evaluating the factors with the wind,” the MRST member said. “The spotters responsibility is to actually see what the wind is doing and give the shooter the correct information so that he can make that accurate shot.”

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Pitrelli and Purcell participate in training during Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

(US Army photo)

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Phillips, a precision marksman at Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, displays the weaponry used by a HITRON during missions, Feb. 23, 2010.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bobby Nash)

Coast Guard marksmen have also shown their prowess in head-to-head competition. In 2017 and 2018, Coast Guard teams finished 3rd and 9th, respectively, in the International Sniper Competition hosted by the US Army. In both those years, the Coast Guardsmen beat out the Marines, who finished 7th in 2017 and 10th in 2018.

The 2017 and 2018 results have brought derision for Marine snipers and praise for Coast Guard marksmen.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

A gunner in an MH-68 Stingray helicopter from the Helicopter Interdiction Squadron from Jacksonville, Florida, patrols a drug transit zone alongside the Coast Guard cutter Gallatin from Charleston, S.C.

(Photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska)

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A Coast Guard aerial marksman from Air Station San Francisco sights in on a target during counter-terrorism training, in San Pablo Bay, California, June 11, 2009.

(US Coast Guard photo)

On shared waterways of ports and rivers, the Coast Guard has to determine who is just a boater and who has malicious intent. “We have a continuum, what we call a use-of-force continuum,” Capt. Jason Tama, commander of Coast Guard sector New York, told Business Insider in October 2018. “The last thing we want to do is, certainly, use deadly force, but we’re prepared to do that if we have to.”

Coast Guard marksmen are often armed with Robar RC-50 anti-material rifles, which are designed to take out machinery and are also used by US Special Operations Command.

Coast Guard helicopters and surface vessels, like the 45-foot small boats used in the use-of-force demonstration in New York Harbor in October 2018, can be armed with mounted M240 machine guns.

“Our first move, we’ll move out to intercept them, try to determine their intent and get the vessel to stop, using lights and sirens just like you would on any street in America,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during a use-of-force demonstration in October 2018. “If radio call-outs and communications doesn’t work, the next step will be to deploy the warning shots. … If they still don’t comply, then we escalate the steps to disable their engines.”

The Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Teams, or MSSTs, and Maritime Safety and Response Teams, or MSRTs, were set up after the September 11 to respond to terrorism and other threats to US ports and waterways.

There are now 11 MSST teams whose assignments include security for UN General Assemblies, national political conventions, hurricane-response efforts, and major sporting events.

MSRTs are a ready-alert force for the Coast Guard and Defense Department combatant commanders for both short-notice operations and planned security needs. MSRTs provide subject-matter expertise for security, training, and disaster-response events and recent operations include presidential inaugurations and NATO summits.

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The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane approaches a suspected smuggling vessel while a helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron monitors from the air on Feb. 25, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo)

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

A helicopter crew from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Jacksonville demonstrates warning shots fired at a non-compliant boat off the coast of Jacksonville, Sept. 24, 2009.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Hulme)

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

A look at one of the most inspiring speeches in history

Throughout World War II, Winston Churchill gave a number of speeches that galvanized the British public in the face of extreme hardship and convinced them to keep fighting that good fight against Adolf and his cronies.

Perhaps the most famous speech Churchill ever gave was the one he spent the longest time agonising over — “This was their finest hour,” where he stated in part,


What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over … the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.
But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

The speech was delivered just a month after Churchill became Prime Minister and at a time when the UK was reeling from the news that France had fallen (effectively leaving the British Empire to fight the Nazi war machine alone, until Hitler turned on the Soviet Union in 1941 and the Yanks joined in about six months after that). The speech had to somehow rally the entire country during what Churchill would eventually come to call “The Darkest Hour.” This is a goal the speech is generally accepted as having accomplished and then some, with Churchill’s words deeply resonating with the British public. In particular, Churchill’s sentiments about the British Isles standing strong in the face of what appeared to be impossible odds.

THEIR FINEST HOUR speech by Winston Churchill [BEST SOUND]

www.youtube.com

The speech, which lasted around 36 minutes, was first given in private to Parliament on June 18, 1940, and later to the British public via radio and it’s noted that Churchill was making revisions to it until quite literally the last possible moment. For example, when the Churchill Archives Centre dug up the very same copy of the speech Churchill used when he addressed Parliament, they found that it was covered in random annotations, some of which appear to have been made leading right up to just before he gave the speech.

Impressively, some of these literal last minutes additions ended up being amongst the most memorable lines from it. For example, the line “All shall be restored” which was noted as inspiring many a Britain to do their bit for the greater good of Europe, was a line Churchill scribbled in the margins of the speech when he sat on a bench in the House of Commons waiting to be called to speak.

It’s also noted that Churchill simply winged it at some points, making up some of the lines in the speech on the fly. This was something that was facilitated by Churchill’s insistence on printing the speech in blank verse format, which some experts believe allowed Churchill to read and visualise the speech as a piece of poetry, allowing him to better improvise and more comfortably find a natural rhythm when speaking.

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Winston Churchill

Of course, no matter how good something is, even in the days before internet comments there’s always someone to criticize and, despite “This was their finest hour” being considered one of the finest oratory performances ever given, Churchill’s own secretary, Sir Jock Colville, was wildly unimpressed. Among other things, he noted in his diary that the speech was too long and that Churchill sounded tired when he read it. Given that the speech is often ranked alongside things like the Gettysburg Address, Sir Colville’s opinion evidently wasn’t one shared by many others, however.

Finally, because we kind of have to mention this, when Churchill delivered the speech to the British public via radio, he reportedly did so while smoking a comically large cigar which he kept burning in his mouth for virtually the entire time he was speaking…

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghans brace for coronavirus as thousands return from Iran

HERAT, Afghanistan — Officials in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat are bracing for a rise in coronavirus infections, as thousands of Afghans return from neighboring Iran every day.


The provincial Public Health Department told RFE/RL on March 12 that nearly 10,000 Afghans had entered Herat from Iran the previous day alone.

That’s a twofold increase from March 9, when local officials said about 4,800 Afghans had crossed the border from Iran in one day.

Afghanistan has so far reported only seven cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

But provincial Governor Abdul Qayum Rahimi said the situation was certain to worsen soon, creating new challenges for the war-torn country. “Increasingly high numbers of people are crossing the border from Iran and we are seriously concerned that [some of them] will bring more coronavirus to Afghanistan,” Rahimi told RFE/RL on March 10.

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Map of the risk of the virus’s spread in Tehran.

Wikimedia Commons

Tehran reported more than 1,000 new cases on March 12, raising the official number of infections in Iran to more than 10,000. But many Iranians say they distrust the figures released by the authorities and believe the Iranian government is grossly underreporting the extent of the outbreak there.

Iran is home to more than 3 million Afghans — including migrant workers and refugees as well as university and religious students.

Five of Afghanistan’s confirmed COVID-19 patients are from Herat. The other two are from the northern province of Samangan. All of the confirmed cases are Afghans who had recently returned from Iran, local officials say.

Bracing For Worse

Afghanistan has deployed small teams of medics who have been screening Afghans who cross the border from Iran into Herat Province. The medics are checking temperatures of returnees and asking if they’ve had any potential COVID-19 symptoms.

They also are asking returnees whether they’ve been exposed to an infected person, said Abdul Hakim Tamanna, the head of Heart Province’s Public Health Department. Those with high fever or other symptoms are transferred to a special ward at a hospital in the provincial capital.

“We’ve allocated a special ward with 80 beds for COVID-19 patients, both for the suspected and confirmed cases in isolated sections. But this is not enough,” said Muhammad Ibrahim Basem, who oversees the special ward. “The situation is extremely fluid and requires that at least 1,000 beds are ready,” Basem told RFE/RL on March 12.

Similar concerns are being voiced in Samangan Province, where two people tested positive earlier this week. “We’ve been prepared in advance. A hospital ward with 20 beds was prepared for potential COVID-19 patients,” Abdul Khalil Musaddiq, head of Samangan Public Health Department, said on March 10.

But Musaddiq warned that Samangan Province did not have the resources to handle an outbreak beyond the hospital’s capacity.

Health officials in Herat are calling for Afghanistan’s central government to provide equipment for laboratories in provincial regions so that more people can be tested.

Afghanistan, a country of 35 million people, currently has only one laboratory that is able to test for coronavirus. Authorities outside of the Afghan capital must send samples from suspected cases to the laboratory in Kabul for testing.

The Afghan government has allocated million to combat the outbreak. Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said another million “is in a state of reserve if the unwanted incidents escalate and get out of control.

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Low Public Awareness

Provincial authorities in Herat declared an emergency when the first COVID-19 case was confirmed there on February 24. Schools, restaurants, wedding halls, and public baths have been closed and large gatherings are banned.

Officials from Herat’s provincial government told RFE/RL on March 12 that the public spaces were unlikely to reopen in the foreseeable future.

Buses and minibuses that carry a large number of passengers have also been banned as part of Herat’s effort to contain the virus.

Mosques remain open. But RFE/RL’s correspondent in Herat reports that the number of the worshipers has dwindled in recent days.

The war-ravaged country’s poor health-care services, as well as low public awareness about health and hygiene, are adding to difficulties in the battle against coronavirus.

One patient last week briefly escaped from the quarantine ward of Herat hospital, sparking concerns that he could contaminate many more people. Hospital officials said the patient was apprehended and isolated. They said those who came in contact with him have been told to take tests and exercise precautions.

Authorities also have launched an extensive coronavirus-awareness campaign through media in recent weeks.

The Education Ministry, meanwhile, has set up a special working group along with public-health authorities to assess the situation in other high-risk regions and decide whether to suspend schools.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

General Charles “CQ” Brown confirmed as America’s first black service chief

General Charles “CQ” Brown has officially been confirmed as the next Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, the branch’s highest military position, following a unanimous confirmation from the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. The historic vote secured Brown’s position as the 22nd Chief of Staff in Air Force history, and the first black service chief in the history of our nation.

Brown rose through the ranks as an F-16 pilot with more than 2,900 hours in the cockpit and at least 130 flight hours in combat environments. Brown’s talents in the cockpit eventually led him to serving as an F-16 pilot instructor before moving on to a variety of command positions, including his recent role as the commander of Pacific Air Forces.


Throughout his impressive career, General Brown has repeatedly stood out among his peers. First commissioned in 1984, Brown went on to earn a master’s degree in aeronautical science and was singled out at Air Command and Staff College as his class’ distinguished graduate in 1994. He has commanded Air Force Weapons School, two fighter wings, the U.S. Air Force’s Central Command, and also served as the deputy commander for U.S. Central Command.

The historic 98-0 Senate vote to confirm Brown saw Vice President Mike Pence presiding over the process–an unusual move as the Vice President historically serves as s tie-breaker in hotly contested votes. Instead, Pence said he attended to confirmation because of its historic significance.

Twitter

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Vice President Pence wasn’t the only leader to extend their congratulations to General Brown. Chief of Space Operations and fellow service chief, Gen. Jay Raymond also congratulated Brown on his confirmation.

“Gen. Brown is an innovative leader who clearly understands the complex and evolving strategic environment we face today as a Department,” Raymond said. “He clearly understands the importance of leading across all domains to compete, deter and win — especially in war-fighting domains like space. I am thrilled with Gen. Brown’s confirmation. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett took to Twitter to point to Brown’s credentials and accolades as a military leader.

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Brown’s confirmation comes at a challenging time for America, as protests regarding racial injustice continue to take place in cities all around the nation, following the murder of George Floyd while in police custody.

Earlier this week, Brown released a heartfelt video in which he described the challenges of being a black man in America, and an officer in the United States Air Force–a dichotomy Brown described as having to lead two distinct lives.

“I’m thinking about having to represent by working twice as hard to prove [that my supervisors’] perceptions and expectations of African Americans were invalid,” he said in the video. “I’m thinking about the airmen who don’t have a life similar to mine, and don’t have to navigate through two worlds. I’m thinking about how these airmen see racism, where they don’t see it as a problem because it doesn’t happen to them, or whether they’re empathetic.”
Twitter

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The officer responsible for Floyd’s death has been charged with second degree murder and the other three officers involved in the incident have also been taken into custody–but the incident itself has served as a pivot point for many Americans who have used Floyd’s death as an impetus for positive change in their community and nation. Protests throughout the country calling for racial equality have garnered support from service leaders in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps–but it was the Air Force that first spoke out about race in recent weeks.

On June 1, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright published an Op-Ed on his social media accounts outlining his concerns as a black man and the senior enlisted leader of America’s Air Force.

“Like you, I don’t have all of the answers, but I am committed to seeing a better future for this nation. A future where Black men must no longer suffer needlessly at the hands of White police officers, and where Black Airmen have the same chance to succeed as their White counterparts. Trust me, I understand this is a difficult topic to talk about…
Difficult…not impossible…
Difficult…but necessary.”

Following CMSAF Wright’s post, the current Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General David Goldfein, also released a statement and the two leaders released a number of videos and participated in town hall discussions about race within their branch.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


Articles

Meet the F-16 pilots who turned their wartime experiences into hilarious songs

Some vets with a tendency toward showmanship like to take their talents to YouTube or Hollywood when they hit the post-service world.


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These guys sang a couple songs that pissed their CO off (bravo!). (Photo: Amazon.com)

But the former F-16 fighter pilots behind Operation Encore took the old-school approach and are working to shatter some of the caricatures of veterans through music. The result is a blend of music genres from a variety of military-affiliated artists that range from folksy bluegrass to present-day pop rock — all of it relating to experiences of war that poke fun at life in the service and lament the tragedy of war.

Chris Kurek is the co-founder and partner with Viper Driver Productions. He’s better known as “Snooze,” one of the two founding members of the band Dos Gringos, a pair of F-16 pilots who released four satirical albums full of songs with titles like “I Wish I Had a Gun Just Like the A-10” to the NSFW drinking song “Jeremiah Weed” to the Willie Nelson-esque “TDY Again.”

The band kicked off when Kurek and his fellow jet jock Robert “Trip” Raymond were deployed to Kuwait for Operation Southern Watch and later Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We were out there for six months, there was nothing else to do,” Kurek said. He and Raymond wrote some songs and performed for the rest of their squadron.

Their songs drew what Kurek described as “wonky eyes” from some, but their squadron commander was very supportive, encouraging them to record the songs on CD, even offering to put up the money.

“We were kind of writing on stuff that pointed out things that drive you crazy in the military,” he said.

After the band’s return stateside, they went to Texas to record their first CD, “Live at the Sand Trap.”

Turns out Dos Gringos’ wing commander was less than pleased with their extracurricular enterprise and barred them from performing at the Cannon Air Force Base Officer’s Club.

But the band went viral in a 2003 sorta way via the enlisted maintenance personnel who particularly dug the song, “I’m a Pilot,” Kurek said. The semi-satirical ditty about a self-centered fighter jock — which evokes a sound similar to some songs from the 80s band Warrant — was passed around the flightline.

Eventually, Dos Gringos would put out three more albums —”2,” “Live at Tommy Rockers,” and “El Cuatro” — before the band had to go on hiatus due to pressure from higher ups as Raymond rose through the ranks.

They were not done with music, though. Both felt some frustration with how some caricatured vets and with what they perceived as an effort by Nashville to cash in on the veteran experience.

Kurek recounted that the war wasn’t always patriotism or sadness, pointing out there was a lot of “goofing off and laughter” because of “boredom.”

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Stephen Covell, a former Army medic who contributes to Operation Encore. (From OperationEncoreMusic.com)

“Vets can write about anything,” Kurek said. Eventually, in a conversation with Erik Brine, a C-17 pilot who was a later addition to Dos Gringos, Kurek recounted someone asking, “I wonder if there are any other people who did what we did on deployment – bring a guitar and write songs.”

They began a search, and it was a pair of submissions from Stephen Covell, an Army medic who served with the 82nd Airborne Division, that prompted them to create Operation Encore.

“Those two alone were the best I ever heard,” Kurek said. “They conveyed a combat vet’s experience.”

Covell’s submissions pushed Kurek and Raymond to launch a Kickstarter campaign to pay for airfare, studio time, mixing and mastering.

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Rachel Harvey Hill, a military spouse who has contributed to Operation Encore. (From OperationEncoreMusic.com)

While two albums, “Volume 1” and “Monuments,” have so far been released, Kurek notes the process has been a challenge, largely due to the way the music industry has changed. Kurek recounted that when the first Dos Gringos album came out, CDs were still king. The rise of iTunes and digital downloads were one shift which evened out – the volume increased, even as they got less per song.

With Operation Encore, though, the big challenge has been the fact that the music industry has shifted once again to streaming services, and it takes hundreds of thousands of streams to get real money. Furthermore, Kurek pointed out that Dos Gringos was a niche market, and their audience knew what they would get.

Operation Encore is different.

“Operation Encore is a compilation, not one band, sound, or genre,” he explained, pointing out some of the songs were pop rock, others country or bluegrass. Furthermore, the singers who appear are scattered all over the world. Just getting the performers together for a concert would entail airfare, hotel rooms, and equipment rental. Not to mention all the stuff that is in the riders for the artists.

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Kurek, though, is still hot on his Iraq War-era band.

“I wish we could do one more Dos Gringos album,” he said.

Operation Encore’s CDs can be purchased at CDBaby.com, or bought as digital downloads from iTunes, Amazon.com, and Google Play. Dos Gringos CDs are also available at CDBaby.com, and can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon.com, and Google Play.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what happens when the president gets sick

The president of the United States never technically takes a day off. Even when they’re ostensibly “on vacation” they are still very much the leader of the country and have many duties to fulfill on a daily basis. For example, even while on vacation, they need to continue to have things like intelligence and national security briefings and other such meetings so that if an emergency does suddenly come up, they can react quickly in an informed way. Because of this, the president, in addition to never technically being able to have a full day off while on vacation, doesn’t get sick days either.

Of course, the president is not only human but also generally speaking a quite old human, and thus they get ill, occasionally seriously. So what happens then? This is where the 25th Amendment potentially comes into effect.


In a nutshell, among other things, it provides that if the president ever gets so ill that they cannot physically perform necessary presidential duties anymore, their vice president can become the “Acting President” on their behalf until they’re able to resume their duties. So, in a way, this is a mechanism for the president to take a sick day if they want it and whenever they want it.

It’s also noteworthy that even if the president does not wish to relinquish the office during a time when they are “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”, the 25th Amendment provides a mechanism for the vice president to simply take the office from the president until such time as the president is once again able to resume duties.

(Amusingly, it’s not fully clear here what the scope of this section of the 25th Amendment is. For example, while the president is sleeping, and thus in an unconscious state, they are most definitely “unable to discharge the powers and duties of [the] office” until someone wakes them up. So technically the vice president and certain others could get together on any given night and temporarily make the vice president acting president until such time as the president wakes up and no doubt sends off the appropriate document to declare that they are, in fact, fit for duty, with Congress no doubt concurring at that point… Or, if I were president and my VP did that, I’d probably just take that rare opportunity to roll back over and sleep in for once, then maybe around noon have a leisurely breakfast before finally sending off the appropriate letter that I’m back in business.)

In the end, this latter rule allowing the vice president to forcibly take over is probably for the best as United States presidents are generally loath to give up the office, even temporarily. Despite many, many presidents having serious health issues and occasionally being incapacitated during their time in office (generally largely kept from the public eye at the time), only two have actually used this power in the over half a century since the 25th Amendment was ratified.

Breaking the trend, the first president to make use of the 25th Amendment was Ronald Reagan on July 13, 1985 when he temporarily officially bestowed the powers of the office onto Vice President George Bush while Reagan underwent surgery for colon cancer. Bush reportedly spent a whole 8 hours being president before Reagan decided he’d recovered enough from his surgery to start being president again.

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Ronald Reagan

A thing to note is that prior to handing off the powers of the presidency to Bush at 11:28AM, Reagan spent his morning as he normally did, going about presidential duties, and subsequently spent most of the evening after he became president again at 7:22PM catching up on everything he’d missed during the day. So not really much of a sick day.

The only other president to bestow the powers of the presidency on their vice president was George W. Bush in 2002 and later in 2007, each time so that he could have a colonoscopy. On each occasion, Vice President Dick Cheney was acting president for a little over 2 hours at which point Bush resumed his duties. Or to put it another way, during his 8 years in office, Bush technically had four hours of official time off, most of which he spent with a camera up his butt… (It’s good to be the president?)

This lack of leave taken for ill health is a surprising fact given, as previously alluded to, the large percentage of presidents who have suffered through various serious illnesses during their time in office.

Most infamously, Woodrow Wilson had a massive stroke in 1919 resulting in the temporary loss of use of the left side of his body, as well as him becoming blind in the left eye and with diminished vision in his right. What his cognitive state was at this time isn’t fully known, as this was all kept from the public by his wife, Edith, and his physician, Dr. Cary Grayson.

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Woodrow Wilson

So how was he able to run the country in this state? Well, he wasn’t really. His wife took over handling what information was passed to him and what issues she simply delegated out for other people to handle. She also barred any direct access to the president for several weeks after the stroke, with the lone exception being that Dr. Grayson was allowed to attend him (and we’re speculating nurses, though this is never mentioned anywhere we could find).

As Edith herself would later write,

So began my stewardship, I studied every paper, sent from the different Secretaries or Senators, and tried to digest and present in tabloid form the things that, despite my vigilance, had to go to the President. I, myself, never made a single decision regarding the disposition of public affairs. The only decision that was mine was what was important and what was not, and the very important decision of when to present matters to my husband.

That said, it is thought by many historians that her claim that she never made direct presidential decisions herself is at best stretching the truth and at worst a blatant lie. That’s not to mention completely controlling the information that went to the president and what tasks (and to whom) were delegated out is questionable for a person not elected to office to do, even for a day, let alone an extended period.

While Wilson did recover somewhat over the next year and a half or so of his presidency, in the interim there was much question over whether he was actually still mentally and physically fit enough to continue on as president. Despite this and certain very pressing and far reaching matters being decided, like whether the United States should join the League of Nations, he refused to give up his position- a key point discussed when the 25th Amendment was being drafted a few decades later.

While other presidents had before and after Wilson suffered from various ailments, most notable to the development of the 25th Amendment was Dwight D. Eisenhower. While in office, he suffered a severe heart attack and then a subsequent stroke. He also had to have surgery to remove about ten inches of his small intestine as a result of complications owing to Crohn’s disease.

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Dwight D. Eisenhower

During these times, he did attempt to take sick days by having Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr write up a document passing off some of the powers and duties of the president to Vice President Richard Nixon. Other presidents had more or less done similar things before when necessary, but always in secret, so as not to publicly reveal their medical issues. Eisenhower was essentially bucking the trend of keeping it secret and trying to set a precedent to make the whole thing official.

And, indeed, from a practical standpoint, Nixon and Eisenhower’s cabinet did take over his duties when he was incapacitated. It also could be interpreted that Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the U.S. Constitution did allow for such when the president was unable “to discharge the powers and duties of the… office”.

But the wording here is sufficiently vague to call into question whether in these cases the vice president is actually endowed with the powers given to the president. Because of this, despite Eisenhower giving the green light, there was uncertainty whether Nixon was actually the acting president or not at these times, which could have created major problems had certain emergencies come up.

The matter finally came to a head with a president most considered the picture of robust, youthful, health — John F. Kennedy.

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John F. Kennedy

It turns out, Kennedy essentially needed his own pharmacy and team of doctors to keep him functioning semi-normally throughout his presidency — a fact only quite recently made publicly known.

The medical issues Kennedy suffered from were many and serious (some of which may in turn have been caused by the extensive medication he regularly took). First up was a potentially life threatening problem in Addison’s disease, where the adrenal glands don’t produce enough of certain essential hormones.

Next he suffered from osteoporosis resulting in three fractured vertebrae in his back. He also suffered from irritable bowel syndrome that saw him dealing with severe abdominal pain and occasional dangerous bouts of diarrhea. Then there was his hypothyroidism. And, just for fun, likely because of some of the medications he was on, he seemed particularly prone to infections.

To treat all this, he was variously put on thyroid hormone, Ritalin, methadone, Demerol, barbiturates (such as phenobarbital), various antidiarrheal drugs, testosterone, procaine, codeine, corticosteroids, Lomotil, Metamucil, paregoric, amphetamines, meprobamate, Librium, and given penicillin and various other antibiotics whenever infections would spring up…

Notably, many of these medications could potentially effect mood and his decision making ability. But without some of them, Kennedy would have been crippled by pain. Even with them, as Kennedy’s political advisor, Dave Powers, once noted, Kennedy always traveled “with crutches”. Further, when he was out of the public eye, he walked

gritting his teeth…but then when he came into the room where the crowd was gathered, he was erect and smiling, looking as fit and healthy as the light-heavyweight champion of the world. Then after he finished his speech and answered questions from the floor and shook hands with everyone, we would help him into the car and he would lean back on the seat and close his eyes in pain.

Kennedy’s many maladies were not, however, what helped spur the creation of the 25th Amendment, though may have been had they been widely known. Rather, it was when Kennedy was shot that everything finally came to a head, with the question being asked, “What would have happened had Kennedy lived, but been in a brain-dead state?”

As previously noted, while one could interpret Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution in such a way as to provide for the vice president to take over almost immediately in such cases, the wording wasn’t concrete enough on this or for many other such scenarios in which the vice president might need to become Acting President. It wasn’t even clear in these cases if the vice president did take over if the original president should get the job back if they were once again fit for office later during the allotted term.

This ambiguity is a major issue if, say, a nuclear strike was launched against the United States in the interim from when the president was no longer fit for office and when the government finally got around to deciding the vice president should indeed take over.

Thus, about a year and a half after Kennedy’s assassination, in July of 1965, congress sent the 25th Amendment out to the states to ratify, which it finally was on February 10, 1967, clarifying what should be done in many of these scenarios.

So to sum up, the president is not given any allotment of sick days, but the 25th Amendment does provide them a mechanism to take such if they feel like they’re unable to perform the duties of the office. But, for reasons like that it’s not politically couth for the president to show any weakness, only two presidents in history have ever done this since it became an option- both of whom were having something done to their colon at the time…

For the rest, when they were medically incapacitated, they seem to generally try to hide this from the public whenever possible and to delegate tasks and rearrange their work schedule as best they could to take a little time off. And, where they couldn’t do such, they simply muscled through the rest of their duties.

Bonus Facts:

  • It’s noteworthy that before the ratification of the 25th Amendment, the office of the vice president was vacant for various reasons about 1/5th of the history of the United States up to that point. Nobody much concerned themselves with this until more recent history when the vice president more or less became the “deputy president”. Since then, and thanks to the 25th Amendment clarifying such, the office of Vice President is obviously meticulously kept filled.
  • As noted, even when a president is “on vacation” they’re still expected to work and most modern presidents have typically travelled with an entourage of hundreds, including military advisers and even the press to ensure they’re remain briefed and aware of any relevant information they may need. To quote Nancy Reagan about the matter, “presidents don’t get vacations — they just get a change of scenery”.


This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter

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