Fans now have one more reason to be excited for the upcoming release of Avengers: Endgame. According to the film’s director, the fourth flick will feature Stan Lee’s final cameo in a Marvel movie.
“It’s his last one committed to film,” Joe Russo told Mashable at a press day in Los Angeles, squelching the rumor that had been going around that Lee’s final appearance would be in July 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Russo went on to add, “I have to say, I think it’s astonishing that this would be his last cameo. It’s just kind of mind-boggling that he made it to the end of this run. I can’t believe it.”
Since Iron Man in 2008, the comic book legend, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 95, has found his way into every installment of the Marvel franchise, even after his death. His most recent cameo was in Captain Marvel, which came out in March 2019. In the brief clip, Lee plays himself as a passenger on a train, rehearsing lines from a script.
And while the upcoming film will be the last time viewers get to see Lee on-screen, some wonder whether the Avengers movie will contain more than one cameo due to its three-hour length. After all, at just over two hours long, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2had not one but two appearances from Lee.
Regardless, fans of the superhero series don’t have to wait much longer to find out. Avengers: Endgames is set to be released in theaters nationwide on April 26 2019.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The September engagement took place while the war was less than two months old. The three British cruisers were old and considered unreliable. They were so fragile, in fact, that many naval leaders had argued they shouldn’t be assigned to the North Sea at all, but they were overruled. The three vessels and their escorts became known as the “Livebait Squadron.”
Despite the ships’ flaws, though, the crews did know how to mitigate their risk of submarine attack, mostly through zigzagging and posting lookouts to watch for periscopes or surfaced vessels, but they didn’t take those precautions.
The seas were rough, too rough for their destroyer escort, and so the British officers assumed they were too rough for submarines. This wasn’t entirely off base. Submarines rode close to the surface or even above it most of the time, and the water tossed around the boats quite easily. America’s future Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, who spent a lot of time on submarines early in his career, would complain about how badly the boats were battered by the waves.
A painting depicts the HMS Aboukir sinking after being hit by the U-9 in 1914. The other two ships would sink within an hour.
(National Museum of the U.S. Navy)
And when they spotted the three British cruisers, none of them zigzagging to make their shot harder, they decided to go ahead and rob the Royal Navy of one of those big, important ships. The captain, Kapitänleutnan Otto Weddigen, ordered two torpedoes fired at the lead vessel, the HMS Aboukir.
One of them struck home, setting off a massive explosion that unquestionably doomed the ship. But no one had spotted the tell-tale stream of bubbles from the torpedo as it had raced to the ship in the rough seas, and so the ship’s captain just assumed he had hit a mine. He signaled to the other ships for assistance.
On the German U-boat, it must have looked like a gift from heaven. If the cruisers had realized they were under attack and set up to sink the U-boat, then the U-9 would have had to choose between bailing on the fight, diving for a few minutes or hours, and risk sinking in the engagement. But since the cruisers just lowered their lifeboats and didn’t prepare for combat, the U-9 could take another consequence-free swing at Livebait.
Weddigen fired next at the HMS Hogue, dooming that ship as well. By this point, the remaining ship, HMS Cressy understood it was under attack and deployed torpedo defense batteries and began to sail in a zigzag pattern, but it stayed in the area to try and rescue more sailors. This was a mistake.
At 7:20 and then 7:30, Weddigen fired torpedoes that sank it, and then watched it drop beneath the waves. Low on ammo and already successful beyond his wildest dreams, Weddigen turned for home.
On the surface, Dutch and English ships raced to save all the sailors they could, including 15-year-old Kit Wykeham-Musgrave of the HMS Aboukir. He had barely survived the suction of the first ship sinking, had been rescued by the crew of the Hogue and made it onboard right before that ship was sank, and then climbed onto the Cressy only to have it shot out from under him as well.
Almost 1,400 enlisted men and 62 officers would not be so lucky, drowning in the rough and cold water of the North Sea instead.
The HMS Aboukir sinks after being hit by the German submarine U-9.
The German sailors were greeted as heroes in their home port. The entire crew received Iron Crosses Second Class, and the captain was awarded that medal as well as the Iron Cross First Class. But in Britain, the people were furious and demanded that senior Navy leadership be held accountable.
For Weddigen, the success would be sweet. He received his medals from the Kaiser personally and wrote a memoir titled The First Submarine Blow is Struck. (His success on September 22, while revolutionary, was not actually the first “submarine blow” as both the German and British navies had already each lost a cruiser to the other side’s submarines.)
But he would not long enjoy his fame. While the U-9 would rack up 18 kills before retiring in 1916, Weddigen was soon re-assigned to U-boat 29. While attacking British ships in March 1915, the boat was spotted by the famous British battleship HMS Dreadnought which proceeded to ram and sink the German submarine, killing Weddigen.
(A final admin note: Weddigen claims in his memoirs to have fired only four torpedoes that day: one at the Aboukir, one at the Hogue, and two at the Cressy, all of which hit. This might have been true, but his memoirs reek of propaganda and were written in the late months of 1914 when his fame was peaking. Naval historians think it is more likely that he fired six and had four hits.)
On April 13, 1943, Nazi Germany announced the discovery of a series of mass graves containing the bodies of thousands of Polish officers who had been arrested and then executed by the Soviet Army. Seventy-five years later, the Katyn massacre is still a sensitive issue between Poland and Russia.
On Aug. 2, 1939, one month before the outbreak of World War II, Albert Einstein, the famous German-born physicist, signed a two-page letter to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt that would help bring the US into the nuclear arms race and change the course of history.
Einstein was already in the US, having fled Germany when the Nazis came to power, and learned that German scientists had discovered nuclear fission, the process of splitting an atom’s nucleus to release energy.
The letter warned Roosevelt that “extremely powerful bombs of a new type” could be created in light of this discovery — and that these bombs would be capable of destroying entire ports and their surrounding areas.
The letter — which Einstein would later call his “one great mistake” — urged Roosevelt to speed up uranium research in the US.
You can read it here, or read a full transcript at the bottom of this article:
Einstein’s letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Roosevelt said, “Alex, what you are after is to see that the Nazis don’t blow us up.”
Sachs responded with a single word: “Precisely.”
Roosevelt then called in his secretary and told him that “this requires action.”
Einstein, who was Jewish, had been encouraged to write to Roosevelt by Leo Szilard, the Hungarian-born physicist who was convinced that Germany could use this newly discovered technology to create weapons.
Szilard and two other Hungarian physicists, Edward Teller and Eugene Wigner, who were both refugees, told Einstein of their grave concerns. Szilard wrote the letter, but Einstein signed it, as they believed he had the most authority with the president.
Cynthia Kelly, the president of the Atomic Heritage Foundation, told National Geographic in 2017 that while Einstein’s famous discovery that energy and mass were different forms of the same thing had set the stage for this kind of creation, “he certainly was not thinking about this theory as a weapon.”
And Einstein never gave any details about how that energy could be harnessed, once saying: “I do not consider myself the father of the release of atomic energy. My part in it was quite indirect.”
Albert Einstein in his office at the University of Berlin.
Einstein’s letter had an effect; Roosevelt created the Advisory Committee on Uranium in October 1939, the same month he received Einstein’s letter. By that point, World War II had broken out, though the US was not yet involved.
The committee later morphed into the Manhattan Project, the secret US committee that developed the atomic bombs that were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, killing an estimated 200,000 people.
Days after the bombings, Japan informally surrendered to the Allied forces, effectively ending World War II.
Nazi Germany never succeeded in making nuclear weapons — and it seemed it never really tried.
Einstein was not involved in the bomb’s creation. He was not allowed to work on the Manhattan Project — he was deemed too big a security risk, as he was both German and had been known as a left-leaning political activist.
But when he heard that the bomb had been used in Japan, he said, “Woe is me.”
Einstein later said, “Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in developing an atomic bomb, I would have done nothing for the bomb.”
He also warned that “we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”
Photo of atomic bomb mushroom cloud in Japan, 1945.
(Photo by Charles Levy)
In letter published in 2005, he wrote to a Japanese friend: “I have always condemned the use of the atomic bomb against Japan but I could not do anything at all to prevent that fateful decision.”
And he wrote in a Japanese magazine in 1952 that he “was well aware of the dreadful danger for all mankind, if these experiments would succeed.”
“I did not see any other way out,” he wrote.
So crucial was Einstein’s letter that the investing legend Warren Buffett told students at Columbia University in 2017 that “if you think about it, we are sitting here, in part, because of two Jewish immigrants who in 1939 in August signed the most important letter perhaps in the history of the United States.”
Here’s a full transcript of what Einstein sent Roosevelt:
Some recent work by E. Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been communicated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation which has arisen seem to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration. I believe therefore that it is my duty to bring to your attention the following facts and recommendations:
In the course of the last four months it has been made probable — through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in America — that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.
This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable — though much less certain — that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might very well prove to be too heavy for transportation by air.
The United States has only very poor ores of uranium in moderate quantities. There is some good ore in Canada and the former Czechoslovakia, while the most important source of uranium is Belgian Congo.
In view of this situation you may think it desirable to have some permanent contact maintained between the Administration and the group of physicists working on chain reactions in America. One possible way of achieving this might be for you to entrust with this task a person who has your confidence and who could perhaps serve in an in official capacity. His task might comprise the following:
a) to approach Government Departments, keep them informed of the further development, and put forward recommendations for Government action, giving particular attention to the problem of securing a supply of uranium ore for the United States;
b) to speed up the experimental work, which is at present being carried on within the limits of the budgets of University laboratories, by providing funds, if such funds be required, through his contacts with private persons who are willing to make contributions for this cause, and perhaps also by obtaining the co-operation of industrial laboratories which have the necessary equipment.
I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over. That she should have taken such early action might perhaps be understood on the ground that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, von Weizsäcker, is attached to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut in Berlin where some of the American work on uranium is now being repeated.
Yours very truly,
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
First, you’ll need to cut a U-shape out of the two-liter bottle — this will be the mask’s face. Once you’ve cut out the shape, seal the edges with duct tape. The tape will also act as a buffer against cutting your face on the jagged plastic edges.
Next, hold the taped plastic in front of your face to make sure it’s a good size.
Carefully pop a few holes in the bottom of the aluminum can before cutting it in half. After that, place a single layer of cotton rounds inside the cut can. Then, pour in a layer of activated charcoal to cover the bottom. To make sure the activated charcoal remains secure, place another cotton round on top.
You’ve just built yourself a makeshift air filter.
Before duct taping the filter onto the bottle’s open spout, secure one last cotton round to the top of the can — acting as a lid. Pop a hole in that cotton and then stick the open spout of the two-liter bottle into the slot.
Next, tape the aluminum can to the modified bottle. You can use the rubber bands to help keep the mask on your face as you battle hordes of zombies.
Check out Black Scout Survival‘s video below to get a breakdown of how to put together this clever lifesaver.
Army Sgt. Joe Kieyoomia was captured by Japanese forces in 1942 as the Philippines fell to the Japanese war machine. Unfortunately for him, that was the start of 43 months of captivity that began with the infamous Bataan Death March and only ended with the surrender of Japan.
When he was captured by the Japanese, Kieyoomia – like tens of thousands of other Filipino and American POWs – was forced to walk some 60-70 miles in the sweltering heat, under constant enemy mistreatment. When he finally arrived at a prison camp, he watched as his captors forced them to dig their own graves and then shot them.
Kieyoomia was eventually sent to the Japanese mainland, because of his looks and his name. The enemy assumed he was Japanese American, but unfortunately for Kieyoomia in this instance, he was a Navajo. When he arrived on the mainland, he was beaten and tortured daily.
“They didn’t believe me,” he told The Deseret News when he was 72 years old. “The only thing they understood about Americans was black and white. I guess they didn’t know about Indians.”
But Kieyoomia wasn’t a code talker. He was deployed to the Philippines with New Mexico’s 200th Coast Artillery. When the Japanese needed to know what the Najavo code was, they came to Kieyoomia – but he didn’t know the code. He didn’t even know about the existence of the code.
The Japanese then had him listen to radio broadcasts – he was surprised to hear his native language. The broadcasts made no sense. His jailers didn’t believe that he couldn’t understand the messages and he was forced to stand naked in six inches of snow on a parade ground in below freezing temperatures.
Kieyoomia’s feet froze to the ground. When he was forced back inside, his skin stuck to the ground and he left a bloody trail on the parade ground. He was tortured for months on end.
“I salute the code talkers,” he said in the interview with Deseret News. “And even if I knew about their code, I wouldn’t tell the Japanese.”
The Japanese came to Kieyoomia with written words, transliterated into English. The Japanese tortured him to learn the Navajo code, but it was very different from mere words from the language. Kieyoomia couldn’t tell them if he wanted to it was gibberish, and it was designed to sound that way, even if someone spoke the language.
The Navajo soldier tried to end his own life with a hunger strike, but that only earned him more beatings from his Japanese captors.
His troubles were only ended by the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan. On Aug. 9, 1945 “Fat Man” detonated over the city, killing 40-75,000 people instantly.
Kieyoomia miraculously survived the nuclear blast because of the way he was sitting next to the concrete wall in his cell. He was abandoned for three days before a Japanese officer freed him.
After the war, Sgt. Joe Kieyoomia returned to the Navajo nation, recovered from his wounds, and lived to age 77. He died in 1997.
After this Marine officer was humiliated in front of his superiors by a seasoned gunny, Powers decided to get out of the Corps and become a criminal — then just went totally grey.
He teamed up with a computer hacker and highjacked a train to use as a mobile headquarters to take control of a destructive U.S. satellite. Unfortunately for him, Powers ran into a former chef and Navy SEAL named Casy Ryback who was on vacation with his niece. How about those odds.
They duked it out in a narrow kitchen, and Ryback eventually broke his neck, killing him instantly.
Tough break. Get it? Tough break.
This dive bar musician-turned-Marine was so motivated that he was recruited into an android program that has nothing to do with smartphones. The government turned him into a freakin’ android soldier and released him on a “Solo” mission to Latin America to destroy some local rebels.
Nowadays, Stitch pops up here and there but mainly stays behind the scenes.
Remember the guy in the squad who most reassembled a twig? That’s him. He didn’t do much after faking his own death to get out of the Marines.
Legend has it that he developed a nasty skin infection and began to murder teenagers near a theater during a horror movie marathon — but that can’t be right.
After serving three decades in the Corps, chronic laryngitis forced gunny to retire — but not for long. He stumbled upon a job in the secret service and spoiled a plot to kill the president.
What a guy!
Gunny continued life in law enforcement for a few more years before actually retiring to a small house with his beloved Gran Torino.
Too bad he had a problem with a local Asian gang. Gunny was shot several times after pulling out his “hand pistol” from inside of his jacket.
He recovered “like it ain’t shit” because a couple of bullets isn’t going to stop Gunny Highway. No f*cking way! Now you can see him hanging around the baseball field spotting players who have trouble with curveballs.
Pete Hegseth is set to host Fox Nation’s 2nd annual Patriot Awards on Friday, celebrated virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But that’s not all he does.
Although well known as the co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend, he is also a proud Army National Guard combat veteran with a passion for service and holds a deep love for his country. “I love the Patriot Awards because it’s the one award show in America that celebrates what we should be celebrating,” he explained. Hegseth shared that the show honors people like service members and law enforcement but also unsung heroes — ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
One thing that Hegseth feels really sets this award apart from others is the highlighting of values and honoring of everyday Americans serving their communities. “These people didn’t do these things because they thought they would get an award or because they thought they would get recognition which I think makes it all the more special,” he said. “We think it’s exactly the kind of thing that people want to be hearing right now.” Not only does the Patriot Awards want to showcase these stories but they hope to inspire viewers to recognize that they too can make a difference.
Hegseth appears to be a complete natural in front of a camera but his path to becoming one of the most recognizable faces on television started with wanting to serve his country. The seed was planted within him as a young boy watching small town parades showcasing veterans but it kept growing as he got older. After graduating from Princeton in 2003, he was commissioned into the Army National Guard as an infantry officer. A year later, he was called to active duty and deployed to Guantanamo Bay where he was an infantry platoon leader. Despite finishing his deployment and being able to return home to the states, he volunteered to deploy to Iraq.
When Hegseth returned from that deployment in 2007, he spent a lot of his time as an advocate on veterans issues. He was a frequent commentator on national talk shows and even testified before Congress. Hegseth was one semester away from completing his master’s degree in 2011 when he deployed to Afghanistan.
During his time in service, Hegseth was awarded the Bronze Star twice. After 12 years, he left the Army National Guard as a major, although he still remains part of the Individual Ready Reserve. “What motivates me is love of country and wanting to fight for it. It’s why I signed up to join the military in the first place… when I got out, like a lot of vets, I was like, what do I do now?” Hegseth said. Looking for purpose, he spent some time running advocacy groups and continued to speak on veterans issues.
Slowly, Hegseth began gaining traction and recognition for segments he was involved in on television. “Eventually some producers at Fox & Friends said, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about asking questions instead of answering them?” Hegseth said with a smile. Although not sure how it would pan out, he gave it a shot. “It’s not the same but once you’ve been shot at or been there on missions, you can handle a couple of tough questions on live television.” The rest is history.
Being a combat veteran in television is a rarity, but something that Hegseth takes pride in. “I never wanted to be on TV; that was never my goal. But here I am and I want to use it to serve the country that I love so much,” he explained. He does this through his continued advocacy and co-hosting the Fox & Friends Weekend show, but even more so on the streamed special series Modern Warriors, airing on Fox Nation. Modern Warriors highlights the experiences and lives of post 9/11 veterans, giving them the opportunity to truly share their truth. Although it really allowed him to dig deep into their stories, Hegseth wanted to do more. So, he wrote a book.
Modern Warriors will be out on shelves on November 24, 2020 and it’s a body of work that Hegseth is excited to get out into the world. “The book is really a series of interviews. It’s 15 chapters, 15 modern warriors. It’s mostly in their own words,” he explained. “You meet the human side of these guys…They were really honest in the challenges they’ve seen and how our country takes regular dudes from regular places and gives them extraordinary training. Then they send them off to the most dangerous places in the world and bring them home and effectively say ‘good luck’…you know you are signing up for that, but it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Hegseth was very vocal about recognizing the impact that being a soldier had on his life. It’s his hope that his story will inspire others to step forward and use their voice, even when it’s uncomfortable. Hegseth’s words of advice are simple — in those moments of overcoming adversity and stepping out in courage, other patriots are just waiting to support you.
To watch the Patriot Awards live on Friday, November 20 at 8pm Eastern, subscribe to Fox Nation. You can also catch the encore presentation on Fox News Sunday, November 22.
After troops from various militaries around the world finish their time in service, they turn their gear in, finalize their paperwork, and hang up their uniform for good. Swiss soldiers, however, can skip that last visit to the arms room and walk out with their service weapon in tow.
Surprised? To the Swiss, this is just a part of the culture.
This is a part of Switzerland’s Aggressive Neutrality Policy. Despite being a nation whose name has become synonymous with neutrality, Switzerland has kept the peace by letting the world know that it will not hesitate to defend itself by any means necessary.
It’s an open secret that the country hosts a huge amount of heavily fortified bunkers, ready-to-blow roadways, and the world’s 38th largest military despite the fact that the country is just shy of half the size of South Carolina. No, really — all of this information is readily available on Google.
(Photo by Oma Toes)
Another way for the Swiss to keep outside threats on edge is by pairing conscription with a gun culture that’s on par with Texas’. Every able-bodied male citizen is required to join the military in some fashion and the women are strongly encouraged. Culturally, conscription isn’t seen as a negative thing and recruits aren’t dragged in kicking and screaming.
In fact, it’s just an ordinary part of life and the Swiss are proud to join. In 2013, a referendum was drawn up to abolish conscription, but it failed miserably — 73% of citizens strongly favored conscription.
All of this is important to understanding the mindset of the Swiss people, their military, and their veterans. Nearly everyone in Switzerland has served in the military in some capacity and they keep the peace by tiptoeing while carrying a large friggin’ stick. If there should ever come a time where Switzerland is invaded, a well-armed and well-trained population is ready to rise up.
Now, this isn’t to say that rifles are handed over freely, even though that would make for the greatest VA system in the world. Most times, Swiss veterans pay out of pocket to keep the firearm they trained on. The ammunition isn’t for sale, though. Swiss vets need to get that on their own.
The old saying, “women love a man in uniform” comes with a long list of exceptions. For example, the expression does not apply to service members wearing a pair of S9 GI glasses — more commonly known as “birth control glasses,” or BCGs. Even the updated 5A GI glasses are only just a slight improvement in style over their infamous predecessor.
The distaste held by many troops wearing them isn’t without merit. You’re asking big, badass troops to don a pair of prescription glasses that immediately makes them look like the biggest dorks on the face of the planet. But if you can get over the fact that you’re often going to be mistaken for the commo guy, you’ll see there’s a very valid reason why the military has issued them out for all these years.
And it’s related to one of their other nicknames: up-armored glasses.
This soldier’s look has been appropriated by hipster douchebags who raise hell if their organic kale smoothie wasn’t free-range.
(Tennessee State Library and Archives)
The very first version of GI glasses were issued out back in WWII. The P3 lenses they used were originally meant to be inserts for gas masks — but your average, visually impaired troop needed to see clearly, so the military started issuing out their own version of prescription glasses.
After the war, they switched the frames from a nickel alloy to cellulose acetate. Recipients could choose between gray and black frames. The glasses weren’t too out of the ordinary style-wise and they served a dual purpose of acting as thicker-than-average eye protection while improving a troop’s sight.
For the time, the glasses were aligned with fashion trends and, frankly, style wasn’t much of a concern — they were free, they worked, and they were definitely within military regulations. It was just a bonus that they didn’t look too bad, either.
They can do anything but help you talk to the ladies.
(Photo by Sam Giltner)
Then, the late 70s rolled around and the military went all in on the S9 GI glasses. The frames were bulky and only available in “librarian brown” cellulose acetate. Around this time, soft corrective contact lenses became more prevalent, but military regulation forbid contacts, so if you had a visual impairment, you were forced to look like a dork.
The restriction on contacts isn’t without merit. As anyone who’s ever worn contacts can tell you, they’re a pain in the ass to maintain everyday and almost impossible to keep up with in a military environment. A single speck of dirt can potentially irritate your eye and take you out of the fight. The S9s on the other hand, were intended to withstand the austere environments troops deploy to and the lenses and frame are durable.
All of the jokes we throw at each other for looking dorky as hell will soon be a thing of the past. Now we’ll need some other trait to poke fun at…
(Photo by Melissa K. Buckley, Ft. Leonard Wood)
The military has adapted to societal trends over the years to keep troops seeing properly and protecting their eyes. Wearing BCGs is a regulation that’s really only enforced during recruit training or Officer Candidate School. After the bespectacled troop gets to their first unit, they can swap them out for a pair of civilian, prescription glasses — so long as they don’t have any brand logos on the sides.
The modern version of the GI Glasses — the Model 5A — were released in 2012 to replace the awkward S9s. They offer the same protection, are still free, and they come in a variety of style options from which the troop can choose.
In January 2018, an Afghan National Army position near Kunduz was assaulted and knocked out during a precision night raid. The attackers were using laser targeting systems and wearing night vision. The attack came from a special Taliban fighter unit called “The Red Unit,” a team of insurgents carrying American weapons and technology, attacking the police in Kunduz in daring night raids. By 2018, The Red Unit had wiped out several police posts around Kunduz.
This isn’t your grandaddy’s Mujahideen. Probably.
Raids in Kunduz saw The Red Unit killing the defenders of police outposts, occupying the fortifications while they looted it for food and weapons, destroying whatever vehicles and weapons they couldn’t take, and then leaving the scene – without taking any casualties themselves.
The special insurgent forces carry M4 rifles and Russian-made night vision, along with laser targeting systems on their rifles. The only difference is they’re also sporting traditional garb and wearing head scarfs around their faces. Rumor has it they go into combat riding in a Ford truck or armored humvee. They make these quick strikes on outposts in order to avoid air strikes.
No one knows where they’re getting this advanced gear.
How do drones never catch these video shoots mid-production?
“Night-vision equipment is used in ambushes by the insurgents, and it is very effective,” said Maj. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, the spokesman for the Defense Ministry told the New York Times. “You can see your enemy, but they cannot see you coming.”
You and your unit will travel to lovely Okinawa, Japan where you will proceed to avoid all of its gorgeous beaches, coral reefs, and beautiful culture by traveling 25 kilometers to the Northern Training areas. Then, you’ll move through a crowd of protestors blocking the gate to arrive at a replica of the inner island from the show, Lost.
2. You will not be training in vehicles.
Once you arrive, you will dismount because the roads are very few and most of the locations you will be bivouacking are in the middle of nowhere and can only be reached by foot. To get to camp may require some terrain rope suspension techniques.
All of the instructors at JWTC are TRST masters and, before you graduate from the course, you will learn to repel off the side of cliffs, hasty repel into and across a dangerous slope, and safely cross a gorge with the aid of a makeshift cable bridge.
The last major evolution after all your classes, supervised evolutions, field craft, and various other skillset development instructions is basically a roided-up mud run through the jungle with your very own JWTC guide. It’s named the ‘E’-course, it involves a lot of endurance, but it can be a lot of fun.
I never went to Afghanistan. Iraq was my war, and when I think back about my deployments, there are very few things that I miss. I definitely don’t relish the sand storms or the dirt or the myriad of dangers lurking behind every piece of trash (and there is a sh#%load of trash).
Instead, I sometimes think back to those quiet moments of deployment, especially ones when I needed the rush of nicotine before stepping off on patrol or the pull of a long drag to settle down from one. Those frequent cigarette breaks with my fellow Marines were some of the most memorable moments of my life. I cherish them.
It’s been a decade since I was in the sandbox and I don’t smoke anymore, but as I unlock the door to We Are The Mighty, I have the crazy urge to light up. I’m nervous. Unlike other conflicts in our history, there isn’t a sacred place, a monument, for veterans of my generation to visit and reflect on our war and maybe even smoke a cigarette like old times. While that place may come someday, today we only have each other, and that’s why I’m nervous. I’m about to meet Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq war.
The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest award for valor, and it often comes at a significant price. Since WWII, 60% of all medals awarded for valor are posthumous and, for those who are able to receive the medal while living, the process is often long and arduous. Many are forced to relive and describe one of the worst days of their life — over and over again. As I prepare for the interview, I want to be sensitive to all Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his platoon in the 2-2 Ramrod faced during their war. But their story is special. They fought, and Staff Sgt. Bellavia earned his honor during hand-to-hand combat while clearing houses [Official Citation] in one of the most iconic battles: Fallujah.
Fallujah is a place that almost every Iraq war veteran has heard of. Like Iwo Jima or Hue, this battle defines an entire war. As I contemplate this idea, Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his full Army escort enter my office. As I reach out to shake Staff Sgt. Bellavia’s hand, I can’t help but think I am shaking the hand of a man who is the living monument to my war.
As I meet Staff Sgt. Bellavia, thankfully, he calms my nerves. First, he’s a very humble, open guy. He introduces himself as “Dave.” A modest father of three who’s been called back to service to tour the country in the wake of his medal ceremony. Second, he’s funny — like, really funny. He cracks a joke about how hard it is to put on a uniform after fifteen years, and I can relate; there’s no way I could wear my uniform now either. This is exactly the kind of guy who I would share a cigarette with. We laugh together as the cameras turn on.
Staff Sgt. David Bellavia MOH Lincoln Memorial Visit.
Welcome to We Are The Mighty. So, we all have a crazy story of how we got in uniform… What’s yours?
DB: Sure. I joined the Army in 1999. My Army story’s a little bit crazy because my son was born with some birth defects. He’s good now, but the Army didn’t know what to do. So they put me on what’s called a “compassionate reassignment.” So right out of basic training, infantry cord, I go to a recruiting station for two and a half years, which is the worst gig because you’re not a recruiter, you’re not an infantryman. You’re just there telling the Army story, which you don’t know anything of because you don’t have an Army story. And when September 11th happened, the Army was like, “Hey, your son’s not officially healthy. You either get out or go on what’s called an ‘All Others Tour.'”
What’s an “All Other’s Tour”?
DB: So, I had a choice of basically getting out of the Army or just going for three years without my family… and I chose the Army. And so I went to Germany for three years. I didn’t see the family except for block leave, and that was really tough. But it was the best decision I made because of the relationships and the guys, it was really special.
Special? How so?
DB: Yeah. It’s always great to introduce young 18-year-old Americans to Bavarian beer.
Haha. Nice. Did you deploy from there?
DB: Yeah. I deployed to Kosovo in 2002, and then back-to-back from Kosovo to Iraq for 12 months, 2004 to 2005.
Kosovo? What was that like?
DB: It’s unbelievable. The one thing that I learned is that, for whatever reason, those kids in Kosovo could burn a DVD of a movie that is still in production. I don’t even know … they’re like, “Hey, have you seen X-Men 2?” I’m like, “It comes out in a month,” and like, “Here it is.” I’m like, “How is that possible? How do you have access to B-roll footage of a Marvel film before it’s made?” But these guys, [they] can’t figure out plumbing. [They] can’t get a mass transit system, but [they] can burn any movie within hours of Ron Howard saying, cut.” It’s done. It’s crazy.
Do you have a family history of military service?
DB: I grew up on Lake Ontario. Small little town. My dad was a dentist. I was the youngest of four kids. Every one of my brothers has like either multiple master’s degrees or like PhDs. I had two brothers who went to seminary. My grandad was in the Normandy campaign. [Not] D-Day. This was the 35 days after D-Day, but it was the hedgerows, ton of fighting. He would tell me his World War II stories at like … I’d be six years old just listening to this stuff. He’s still with us. He’s 99.
Was he your inspiration for joining the Army?
DB: The other thing was, I remember in high school, before the book came out, before there was a ‘Black Hawk Down’ movie, I watched the [bodies] being just dragged through the streets [of Mogadishu], that really affected me. I wanted to avenge that.
So before you got into the Army, what did courage mean to you?
DB: I had no idea what I was getting into. They told me 11 XRAY meant like extra special infantry. So courage to me was being able to endure rain and having wet socks because there was no thought of combat. Kosovo was the big war and no offense, but it wasn’t really much of a war. It was kind of a … when I got to Kosovo it was like, “Hey, take your helmets off. Soft cap.”
Let’s jump ahead. So you end up in 2-2 from 1st Infantry Division, The Ramrods. And now we’re at war with Iraq. What does that feel like?
DB: Well, I mean, first of all, we’re watching the invasion of Iraq in like a chow hall with a potato bar in Kosovo. And so the 1st Infantry Division had such an incredible legacy of just always being first to fight. We had our own movie. I remember watching The Big Red One movie, if I’m going to join the Army, I want to be in The Big Red One. No one questioned why Lee Marvin was like a 62-year-old squad leader in D-Day. You know what I mean? He’s got all white hair.
Yeah, he must have been passed over a few times…
DB: Do you know what I’m saying? Like, why is he here? I love that movie. I loved just all the stories of what The Big Red One stood for. And the take away was that, we were a peacekeeping, forward-deployed division in Germany and a war was happening in Afghanistan. A war was happening in Iraq, and we were going to miss out on it. And so my chain of command took it upon themselves in nine months of Kosovo to just train us for what was coming down the road. And we hated that because we were doing 15-hour patrols and presence and yet we were doing bunker drills and clearing houses and my God, all that training ended up saving our life because we were so ready when the fight initially came.
A year later, you were in Iraq outside Fallujah. And it was also your birthday?
DB: Yeah, November 10th  was my 29th birthday. And I just remember thinking … as a kid, I’d walk through a cemetery, and I would see people born and died on the same day on their tombstone. And I just thought, “Man, that’s gotta just be the worst.” I was just, “Get me to midnight. At least I can have something different on there.” There were a lot of times where you just give up.
And you were a squad leader at this point?
How did you manage the stress maybe even fear that you were about to lead your soldiers in one of the most violent battles of the Iraq war?
DB: When I was on block leave from Iraq, I ran into a crusty Vietnam guy, and he told me … I was telling him everything I was going through. I was so mad. I saw like a UPS guy, and I couldn’t understand why people were normal. They had no connection to what the hell was happening. And I was looking at this UPS guy deliver packages and be so happy, and I’m like, “What the … how is this?” … and this Vietnam guy told me, he’s like, “You still believe that you’re coming home. And once you give that up, once you just acknowledge that you have no control over this, everything is far more manageable. You can compartmentalize everything.” It was the best advice that we had is that it’s not about you… don’t worry about your own survivability, worry about your subordinates, worry about them, put all your … anything that causes stress, put that below your young guys and then if you come home, that’s a bonus.
Is that what you were thinking when you got to a house full of insurgents in Fallujah? The house where you earned the Medal of Honor?
DB: So yeah, this is basically what happened in Fallujah. So [in] Anbar Province, 82nd Airborne leaves, Marine Corps comes in. This is their fight. It’s very awkward to be receiving anything for Fallujah when so many Marines… you got Brian Chontosh, Brad Kasal, and Rafael Peralta, legends in the Marine Corps, did so many incredible things. We were there just to supplement them.
You did much more than support.
DB: Fallujah was left basically unmolested for six months, and the Marine Corps had a very difficult time breaching through. So what ended up happening is everyone was on one side from the north pushing in, and the only real clear breach lane [was ours]. We got into the city expecting everyone to be on our shoulder. And when we pushed through, it took like two days for the rest of the task force to get into the city. In that 48-hour period, we had very little support, and we were pretty much the only game in town. And it developed this really odd way of, you got to your objective, you cleared it, and then you massaged back, started the invasion again, cleared it. Uh-oh, come back, do it again. And so you’re refighting in neighborhoods that you’ve been almost four times at that point. And so we got a report that there were six to eight, possibly 10 bad guys in a little neighborhood block. And we were clearing all these different buildings out and nothing. I mean, we’d get blood, or you’d see a weapons caches, but you just missed the guys, and we finally end up in the last house, and that’s when it all went down.
And then your soldiers get trapped inside?
DB: Yeah. So I’m on one side of the house, the other guys are on the other side, and basically, these guys are shooting belt-fed machine guns through a door. We have to break contact. My two guys outside with 240 Bravos that were John J. Rambo firing those things from the shoulder. Those rounds are coming in, the PKM rounds are coming out. No one can move. If anything that night that really took the most intestinal fortitude, it was standing in that door with that SAW because, again, I don’t know how many people there are. I just know that there’s fire coming out. And I got to be honest with you, you come up with a plan, and then you’re going to execute the plan, and then you just want to stall because your legs won’t walk, your body won’t move.
So you grab a M-249 SAW and charge inside? What were you thinking? What was going through your head at this point?
DB: I remember thinking to myself, “I want to hook my finger around this trigger, not the way we’re trained to do, which is to three-second burst. But if I get hit, I want to just hold it down and just get enough fire.” And as soon as I get in that door frame, I’m looking at these guys [and] they’re not intimidated at all. The SAW was a runaway. On the range, you would break the links, point it to a safe direction. But here it’s just, “Well, I’ll just keep it on them.” I’m not hitting anything, I’m not hitting them, and I just clunk out on ammo. Those 200 rounds went like nanoseconds. It felt like far too quick. So I’m like, “could I have shot 200 rounds at like five feet and missed every single person?” I just found my body just running out of the house. And as I’m doing it, you hear, and you feel rounds everywhere, and you’re just like, “Man, that was worthless.” And so I was upset. I was angry.
And you traded the SAW for an M-4 and went back inside the house?
DB: Well, it was me, [and] Scott Lawson, who died in 2013, but he went in with me, and I had three SAW gunners. I was worried that these [insurgents] were going to run out of the house and we’re going to lose them and then they’re going to kill someone or we’re going to get killed by them down the road. So I set up the SAW gunners around the courtyard, and I was just going to run in there like an idiot and try to push them out. And again, I had no real idea how many were in there. I like my chances against wounded guys that we’ve been shooting at repeatedly. So I figured me and Lawson could at least ding them up and then the next wave of Americans could finish them off.
And you did finish them off. Five to be exact. I have one specific question. There’s a moment that I read about that. Did you smoke a cigarette during the fight?
DB: I did. I did. So, okay, understand that when you’re in [the house] … your night vision works like a cat’s eye, right? I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I’ve never been in this building before. And after this guy jumps out of a wardrobe and I hit him five times, I was just like, “Man, I need a smoke.” I don’t have my helmet, my IBA is open, I don’t … my rifle is somewhere in the smoke. And I just am like, “You know, I need a smoke right now.”
With the enemy still in the house?
DB: I’m an infantryman. I know how to smoke at night. I’m well-rehearsed at cupping the hands and holding. And so my biggest fear was that my guys were going to come in the building and because I was just around the enemy, I was going to get popped. So I just tried to hug a wall where I knew I couldn’t be hit by anything and just have a quick smoke and that’s when this guy jumps off the roof right in front of me and breaks his leg or does something horrible to himself. But it was just, yeah, it was stress level … that’s the weird thing about that close quarter proximity. You’re super confident. “I’m Thor, I could do all of this, America.” And then you slip and fall and almost get your head blown off, and you’re like, “What am I thinking? I’m an idiot. This was a horrible idea.” And then you see fear in the [enemy’s] eyes, and you’re like, “Oh, they’re scared, I got this, everything’s great.”
That’s the most badass smoke break that I’ve ever heard of.
DB: In the moment, grab a smoke.
Let’s move into afterward. You got out of the Army. What have you been doing since you left?
DB: So I came home right during the whole political soccer ball of Iraq. So I started a group with a bunch of other Marines called Vets for Freedom, and we just went out there and said, “Hey, don’t send us to fight unless you want us to finish it. Right? I mean, we didn’t vote for this thing. We’re the ones adjudicating this fight. You want to defund it. I mean, we lost our buddies out there. This is more important than some political soccer ball.” And so in order to become apolitical, we became uber-political, and I just hated it. That’s not what we wanted to do. So I started focusing more on just veterans in normal life.
Do you think Veterans can find some kind of “normal” in civilian life?
DB: We’re not walking around with high and tights, we’re not wearing camouflage to work, but the type of men and women who served this country are special, and we’re volunteering to do it. And when we come home, we would like to make America as great as we did serving it in uniform and we want to be teachers and we want to be coaches, and we want to lead at home the way we did in battle.
What was it like taking off the uniform and leading in a different way?
DB: The first thing I learned right off the bat is that no civilian wants to know when you’re going to the bathroom. Right? Because I’m accustomed to being like, “Hey, I’m going to go to the bathroom. I’m going to go take a leak.” No civilian ever wants to hear that. So I learned some tough lessons right off the bat.
And now, as a business owner, what do you tell other veterans when you see them?
DB: When I wore the veteran thing on my sleeve, I found that I was a bigger spectacle. And so I just decided to just compartmentalize that. Let it go, move on with your life, tell them, “Oh yeah, I served too,” and most people, especially the Vietnam generation, they didn’t get any of this reflexive love. They didn’t get free tickets to Bush Gardens. They didn’t get applause when they walked through the airport. So I’ve been really appreciative of that Vietnam generation protecting us from what they went through, and also their ability to kind of do a victory lap for our generation when we come home. And these guys in the workplace, what they’ve been able to accomplish. I love that. When I find out someone’s a vet, it’s like a Christian in the Catacomb, a little wink. You do the secret handshake, and that resume goes right to the top. I want that … I don’t care what you did.
You’re also a family man now, what do you tell your kids about courage and service?
DB: I tell them that the United States Army is the greatest … we’ve been fighting bullies since 1775 right? I’ve always told my kids, “I will never … if you come home with a fat lip because you were defending someone who couldn’t defend themselves, I don’t care what the school does, I don’t care what the law does. You will defend people who can’t defend themselves. That is why we’re on this earth.” We’re there to take care of our weaker brother. We’re there to take care of our weaker sister.
You also co-wrote a best selling memoir about your experience in Fallujah called House to House. Can you tell me briefly about the book?
DB: Well, yeah I’ve been going through that for a while. When I came out, there were very few memoirs written but, I don’t know if I would’ve made that choice again because I didn’t want to write [about me]. I wanted to write about my soldiers. My soldiers were the greatest men I’ve ever met in my life. They still are. And what we did together, we weren’t SEALs, we weren’t Green Berets [or] Recon. We were just knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers. That’s what we were, just average soldiers doing above average things because we found ourselves in those situations.
One last question. Do you still smoke?
DB: I am a recovering smoker. I do some tobacco products here and there and nicotine lozenges, a little dip. But I’m trying to beat that. But now the smoking is definitely gone. I’ve graduated.
Dave, this has truly been an honor. Anything else I missed?
DB: No, you got it.
Click HERE to read more about Staff Sgt. David Bellavia’s actions which, earned him the distinguished role as the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient of the Iraq war.