The biggest new star quarterback of NFL doesn’t get a lot of free time. Practicing is as important as game time, so when the time comes to relax, it’s understandable that a young football star might actually rest. But it turns out Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs’ young QB, is a star both on and off the field.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes works with volunteers to put the finishing touches on the interior of a small, transitional home designed for veterans.
(Matt McMullen via Twitter)
The second-year QB spent his day off helping build transitional housing for veterans in the Kansas City area with The Veterans Community Project, a non-profit that’s building a specialized community network of tiny homes and services dedicated to supporting every man and woman who served — also known as Tiny Houses for Homeless Vets.
The founder of the Veterans Community Project, Chris Stout, is a former U.S. Army corporal who was wounded in Afghanistan. His own transition into civilian life was marked by trouble with PTSD and employment issues. Though not homeless himself, he told CNN he was shocked at the inefficiencies he witnessed in the programs designed to help vets escape homelessness.
When Stout discovered homeless vets shunned shelters because they were unsafe and lacked privacy, he paid for hotel rooms out of his own pocket to keep these heroes off the street — but that too was inefficient. Eventually, he and his friends left their jobs to start the VCP, helping veterans first and asking questions later.
A cluster of VCP’s tiny housing in the Kansas City, Mo. area.
(Matt McMullen via Twitter)
Clusters of tiny houses made perfect sense. That’s what VCP builds for veterans. They offer privacy, dignity, and a chance at recovery for those who need a hand up.
“We are the place that says ‘yes’ first and figures everything else out later,” Stout said. “We serve anybody who’s ever raised their hand to defend our Constitution.”
Chris Stout is currently one of CNN’s Heroes, an annual event where the cable news network honors ordinary people who make big changes in the world at large. Stout is up for CNN’s 2018 Hero of the Year Award. You can vote for him here.
The community of tiny homes is known as “Veterans Village”
The Veterans Community Project has built 13 homes in the Kansas City area and plans to double that number by Nov. 8, 2018. Some veterans housed there have been there since January 2018 while some have already made their way into more permanent housing. The goal for the VCP is to have 49 homes and a 4800-square foot community center built by the end of 2019.
For Mahomes, it was an important part of being welcomed into the Kansas City community. The Chiefs star quarterback wasn’t able to risk a lot in terms of heavy lifting, but someone has to paint the houses.
Four days, seven challenges, several dozen competitors, but only two may become champions.
Marines from far and wide accept this annual challenge, and there is no exception this year at the 2019 High Intensity Tactical Training Championship aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 9 through Sept. 12, 2019.
The championship has been hosted by Marine Corps HITT and Semper Fit for the past five years, and has evolved with every passing year. The HITT program’s primary mission is to enhance operational fitness and optimize combat readiness for Marines. The program emphasizes superior speed, power, strength and endurance while reducing the likelihood of injury.
“1-2 instructors have been pulled from major Marine Corps installations,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Atkins, a force fitness instructor for Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. and Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C. HITT centers. “We all came together to brainstorm what the Marines would be doing for the athletic events.”
Sgt. Miguel Aguirre, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., competes in the fourth challenge of the High Intensity Tactical Training Championship at Butler Stadium aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sep. 10, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by James Frank)
The events for the championship are drafted by HITT instructors and confirmed by a board of various Marine Corps fitness specialists.
“It’s a grind, straight grit,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Frank, a competitor from MCB Camp Pendleton. “You can’t just be good at one thing.”
“You have to be well rounded physically and mentally.”
The seven events for the 2019 HITT Championship included a marksmanship simulator, combat fitness test, weighted run, combat swimmer challenge, obstacle course, pugil stick fight, BeaverFit assault rig, live-fire fitness challenge, and HITT combine.
“We run through it ourselves so we can understand what they are going through too,” said Atkins.
A U.S. Marine competes in the fourth challenge of the High Intensity Tactical Training Championship at Butler Stadium aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sep. 10, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by James Frank)
The intensity and nature of the challenges, create a risk of injury. To mitigate an ambulance is always on site and numerous medical personnel were present. The Marines are also being monitored closely by high-tech equipment that records their heart rates, core temperature and other vital information, which gives an in-depth idea of their overall health provided by Western Virginia University.
“The tactical drill was my probably my favorite because it included live-fire, and it was awesome to see how your body reacts to being under physical and mental duress,” said 1st Lt. Frances Moore, a competitor from MCAS Iwakuni, Japan.
The competitors are awarded points based on each timed event. The goal at the end of the competition is to have the most points. The championship culminates at the end of day four, when the scores have been determined and the male and female champions are awarded.
“They come in and train every single day and get coaching advice from all the staff,” said Frank. “Then I get to come here and actually see them put all that effort into the competition.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
During his 12-year NFL career, Jared Allen was a heavyweight defensive player, making his presence known on multiple teams, especially the Minnesota Vikings. It was as a Viking that Allen went on a trip that touched his heart and soul, touring with USO to visit servicemen and women deployed overseas. He even told the assembled troops as much.
“It has been one of the best experiences of my life – something that I’ll never forget,” Allen said of his time visiting troops. “We, as players, probably get more out of it than you do as soldiers and Marines.” Even though his grandfather and younger brother were Marines, the experience changed Allen, inspiring him to create his own charity to support America’s wounded.
Even after he was traded to Chicago and later Carolina, Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors carried on no matter where Allen was playing. Even though he’s listed as one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings of all time, the uniform he wore on the field wasn’t what defined him. If you ask the man himself, he’ll tell you what he does off the field is what matters most.
“Football is what I do, it’s not who I am. The things that we do today — to impact these lives, to change people’s lives — can last forever,”he told SB Nation. “We have a great responsibility to the community that supports us, and to our veterans who allow us to do what we do.”
Former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen presents free Super Bowl LII tickets to eleven-year-old Tallon Kiminski, son of Minnesota Air National Guard member, Maj. Jodi Grayson.
(U.S. Air National Guard photos by Capt. Nathan T. Wallin)
When it comes to helping wounded veterans, Jared Allen is a godsend. On its website, the JAH4WW says, “Jared was moved by the commitment, dedication, and sacrifices that our soldiers make every day to protect our freedom. He wanted to say thank you to every soldier in the only way that Jared knows how. By embracing the conflict and making a positive life-changing difference in the lives of those who need it most, Jared and his JAH4WW will help make life for wounded vets just a little bit easier.”
Talk is big, but in practice, Jared Allen is much, much bigger than just words. Since its founding in 2009, his organization has helped raise funds to build or revamp homes for injured veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, raised tens of thousands of dollars from corporations like Wal-Mart and Proctor Gamble to provide everyday household goods for veteran families in need, and on Veterans Day, you can always find the now-retired Allen doing something to help veterans in need.
NFL player Larry Fitzgerald signs an autograph for troops from the Washington Army National Guard at Camp Ramadi, Iraq, along with Will Witherspoon from the St. Louis Rams, Jared Allen from the Minnesota Vikings, and Danny Clark from the New York Giants in 2009.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Emily Suhr)
“I knew I had to do something to serve our country,” Allen once said of the Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors. “I feel the best way to do that is serve those who serve us.”
The buzz of the crowd had Sgt. 1st Class Michael Vaccaro on edge. Then a loud bang made him look around nervously.
He knew the noise came from a Zamboni machine, yet its exhaust made him think of the aftermath of a roadside bomb.
All his stress melted away immediately, however, as soon as he stepped out onto the ice.
“When I’m on the ice, no matter what happened before, everything dissipates,” he said. “It’s like a fresh start.”
Former Army Spc. Matt Holben, Capital Beltway Warriors assistant team captain and defensive player, hits the puck up ice during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional Hockey Challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
Vaccaro is one of the co-founders of the Capital Beltway Warriors, a hockey team of veterans with disabilities founded two years ago.
Veterans on the team open up to each other and talk about how they cope with injuries, stress and other issues, said retired Maj. David Dixon, another co-founder of the team.
“It’s like a giant support group,” he said, “or therapy on ice, as we like to call it.”
Many of the players have some level of post-traumatic stress disorder from service in Iraq, Afghanistan or other hot spots, Dixon said. He personally survived four deployments to Iraq, where he was shot in the back and shaken up by three different improvised explosive devices.
Retired Maj. David Dixon, president and executive director of the Capital Beltway Warriors, makes game notes while coaching players between periods during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
Dixon and a number of the other veterans also coach youth hockey teams and a few of them help with a local blind hockey team, the Washington Wheelers.
“Giving back to the community often gives them a sense of purpose,” Dixon said of the veterans, adding that it helps minimize depression and PTSD.
Dixon puts in more than 20 volunteer hours a week managing the Capital Beltway Warriors as president and executive director of the team. He helps solicit sponsors, run meetings, apply for grants, recruit players and schedule games.
“In a sick kind of way, I enjoy all the hard work,” he said. “You go from commanding troops to working in a cubicle,” he said about retiring from the Army and beginning a civilian job.
He explained that managing the hockey team gives him a renewed sense of purpose.
“You find that niche in life that gives you purpose and whether it has a monetary award or not, that’s what you’re supposed to do,” he said.
He helps make the games special for the warriors with lights, music, an announcer and filling the stands with veterans. Local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion in northern Virginia help bring veterans from retirement homes to the games, Dixon said.
Vaccaro also spends several hours per week helping the Capital Beltway Warriors and other veteran hockey teams. He spends a week every year helping run the USA Hockey camp in Buffalo, New York, where they select the national sled hockey team.
He serves as a referee for blind hockey and sled hockey. He helps stand up other Warrior division hockey teams. In November, he spent a few days in Philadelphia helping the Flyers start a warrior team.
“This is my therapy,” he said of the volunteer work. “This is what keeps me going.”
Former Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joey Martell, Capital Beltway Warriors team captain, takes a shot during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
Spreading the word
Just over two years ago, Vaccaro met up with Dixon who was interested in starting a Warrior hockey team in Virginia.
They met in the Pentagon food court in December 2016. “We sat down and started sketching stuff out on napkins,” Dixon said.
They laid out plans for a team that would play in rinks across Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland.
They found players by word of mouth. They showed up at “stick and shoot” sessions and asked if anyone was a military veteran with a disability rating.
Now they have 76 veterans with disabilities on the team and they play other warrior clubs. A game in Ashburn Dec. 22, 2018, pitted the USA Warriors from Maryland against the Capital Beltway Warriors. The teams also play in annual tournaments.
There are now 16 warrior teams across the United States. The minimum requirement to play on one of the teams is a 10 percent VA disability. Some of the players are 100 percent disabled and play with prosthetics.
Some of the veterans, like Vaccaro, have been playing hockey since they were 3 years old. Dixon, however, did not pick up the sport until he was 40.
Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Michael Vaccaro serves as referee for the charity exhibition game between the Capital Beltway Warriors and a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
In 2006 and 2007, Vaccaro was an advisor to an Iraqi Army unit in Ramadi. He and two Marines were on patrol when they were pinned down by machine-gun fire. Then an insurgent fired a rocket-propelled grenade.
“It hit the wall in front of me and knocked me back. Next thing I remember, I heard this really loud ringing in my ears and there was a Marine dragging me back into the courtyard. They were calling for air support.
“We finished the patrol,” Vaccaro said, explaining aerial medical evacuation was not available. A doctor patched him up, and a couple of days later, he was back out on patrol.
After his tour in Iraq, he came back to Virginia, where he had been a reservist with the 80th Training Division. But he had PTSD issues. He decided to go to Liberia in western Africa as a contractor to help put about 2,000 Liberian soldiers through basic training.
“I thought that would help, but I just ended up coming back with the same issues,” he said. “That’s another thing: You can’t hide from this.
“Everybody handles PTSD in a different way. I tried the group therapy stuff and it just didn’t work.”
He received treatment and medication from Veterans Affairs, but the issues persisted. When he smelled fresh bread, for instance, it reminded him of the flatbread Iraqi soldiers baked every morning.
“That’s a good smell,” he said. But then his mind would continue to remember until he imagined the smell of an IED.
“You’ve got to face your fears. You’ve got to face your issues,” he said. “I was trying to hide from it and hockey has helped me open up and talk about it.”
About 10 years ago, he became involved in the first-of-its-kind USA Warrior hockey team stood up by a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.
“When I’m on the ice, things slow down; things are different,” Vaccaro said.
Both he and his family noticed the difference in him after playing hockey.
“It really helped me,” he said. “The first thing I said to myself when I started realizing that is, ‘I’ve got to get other veterans involved in this.'”
So he became the national representative for USA Hockey in its Warrior division to help stand up teams. He does that in his spare time when he is not working as a civilian employee for the Army Corps of Engineers or on duty as an Army Reserve NCO.
David Dixon, coach of the Capital Beltway Warriors, provides tactical advice to players between periods during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Gary Sheftick, Army News Service)
Dixon was coaching little league baseball when he was approached by his son’s hockey coach, Bobby Hill.
“He said he really liked the way I worked with the kids and he could use my help on the ice coaching,” Dixon recalled.
Dixon told him he did not skate, but Hill said he could take care of that. He got Dixon out on the ice and taught him the basics of hockey.
Dixon went to adult learn-to-play sessions Wednesday evenings at Ashburn Ice House. He participated in adult pick-up games after helping coach his son’s youth team.
He eventually took over as head coach of the Ashburn “Honey Badgers” peewee hockey team.
In the meantime, however, he heard of the USA Warriors hockey team and the effects it was having on disabled veterans in Maryland. He thought it would be great to bring the same benefits to veterans in northern Virginia.
Matt Holben (No. 19) of the Capital Beltway Warriors, and Joey Martell (No. 21) take the puck down ice with three members of a Congressional hockey challenge team not far behind, during an exhibition game Dec. 16, 2018 at MedStar Capitals Iceplex.
(Gary Sheftick, Army News Service)
The warrior hockey program aims to provide purpose, education and camaraderie that veterans miss after they separate from the service, Dixon said.
The team creates an environment that in some ways simulates being back around a military unit, said Matt Holben, alternate team captain for the Capital Beltway Warriors.
“It feels good, because you’re back with the guys, you’re back with the unit,” he said.
“We’ve got members with both physical and mental disability,” he added. “It’s hard for them to share their story, but when you talk to them, it’s just that little bit of relief they get when they’re in the locker room and on the team.”
“We’re helping each other,” Vaccaro said. “And half of the guys don’t even realize we’re helping each other, but that’s what we’re doing.”
The help is not limited to the rink either, Dixon said.
There is another part to the program that informs veterans of benefits available to them and helps with issues.
Anything from service dogs to getting help building a house, to loans, and more is available, Dixon said.
“We don’t do it all ourselves. We reach out to other veteran service organizations to get the help and education these guys need,” he said. “We have a whole network of VSOs that we can tap into.”
Vaccaro summed it up: “It’s veterans helping veterans.”
Spc. Benjamin Ritchie came to Fort Jackson with the same hope as many others — to start his Army career on the right path by excelling at Basic Combat Training.
On Oct. 21, 2019, he became the first Basic Combat Training trainee to record a perfect score of 600 points on the Army’s new physical fitness test.
Ritchie maxed all six events on Army Combat Fitness Test, making him the third soldier in the Army to earn a perfect score. The San Antonio native, is assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, the “River Raiders.”
The battalion is one of two on Fort Jackson participating in the Army’s ‘field test’ where trainees take the ACFT during the ninth week of training.
Spc. Benjamin Ritchie, a trainee with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment conducts the sprint drag event as Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Cabrera watches.
(US Army photo)
Ritchie, an 09S — Officer Candidate, said what ultimately brought him success was his personal dedication to physical fitness and the consistent guidance and support of his unit leadership.
“We didn’t do anything special,” Ritchie said about his preparations. “I trusted my drill sergeants and did my best.”
Ritchie was unable to max his initial diagnostic Army Physical Fitness Test, the soon to be legacy fitness test. For the following nine weeks, he performed regularly scheduled physical readiness training according to the BCT program of instruction and ate the regular meals provided by the dining facility and by the end of basic training, he was able to max both the APFT and ACFT.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Delgado, a senior drill sergeant in Ritchie’s company, said the training was the same as every other cycle.
Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Cabrera with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, observes Spc. Benjamin Ritchie conduct an Army Combat Fitness Test event.
(US Army photo)
“There were no special fitness coaches, diets, or focused ACFT workouts,” Delgado said. “Hard work and motivation — that’s our ‘special sauce.’ Once you get the trainees to buy-in to what you’re doing, they will achieve whatever you put in front of them.”
The company and battalion focused on creating an environment for the trainees to excel. They placed pull-up bars in easily accessible locations; encouraged trainees to conduct physical training in their free time; planned time to familiarize trainees with the ACFT in the evenings; and encouraged friendly, peer-to-peer competition.
The results speak for themselves as Ritchie maxed the test while two other trainees in the battalion scored above 590.
Lt. Col. Randall Wenner, 3-60th commander, said he is excited about the new direction of the ACFT and the work the battalion has put into its implementation.
Brig. Gen. Milford H. ‘Beags’ Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson commander and Post Command Sgt. Maj. Jerimiah C. Gan, pose with Spc. Benjamin Ritchie from 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment after his graduation.
(US Army photo)
“There are naysayers out there about the new test, specifically due to injury,” he said. “We have tested over 2,800 trainees with zero injuries. Ritchie’s performance along with the performance of other trainees also sends a message — excellence in the ACFT is attainable for everyone. The Army needs adaptable soldiers. A fit soldier is an adaptable soldier.”
“We proved that when we asked trainees, who have been focusing on the APFT for graduation, to take the ACFT in week nine,” he added. “Focusing on fitness gives soldiers the tools to excel, regardless of the test.”
Ritchie, Co. A., 3rd Battalion 60th Infantry Regiment, and Fort Jackson have shown proper training and motivation produce outstanding results.
Sports, in large part, were halted when the U.S. military became involved in World War II. The Indy 500 was canceled to save gasoline, and the U.S. Open golf tournament was scrapped favoring resources in rubber, which typically made golf equipment. Several professional athletes, managers, owners, and even rules officials across many leagues enlisted, commissioned, or were drafted.
These sports icons sacrificed the prime of their careers for a cause bigger than themselves. On the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, we celebrate the lives of some of sports’ greatest stars who served during this time.
(Courtesy of World Golf Hall of Fame)
“I don’t suppose that any of the pro and amateur golfers who were combat soldiers, Marines, or sailors will soon be able to think of a three-putt green as of the really bad troubles in life,” Mangrum said when he returned from World War II. Mangrum was both a veteran of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Before he left for war to fight with General Patton’s Third Army, he made a pact with his friend, Sergeant Robert Green. Each ripped a id=”listicle-2641582160″ bill in half, vowing to each return it when the war ended. Green was killed in action, thus the pair never rekindled their promise.
Mangrum and his brother spent their childhood in the backyard where his thirst for competition began. “A small creek ran behind our house,” he told the NY Times. “My brother, Ray, and I built a crude green on the opposite bank and had [sic] pitching contests with a rustyblade old mashie somebody had discarded.” Soon he was a caddie learning how to approach the game through judgment. He took first place in the first US Open (1946) golf tournament since its hiatus during World War II. He became known as “Mr. Icicle” for his calmness on the links, which he credits how nothing on the golf course could rattle him like the battlefield.
Ralph Houk is not a name that is first mentioned when thinking of a New York Yankee, but he should be. His commanding officer, Caesar Flore, spoke of his battlefield fearlessness when he sent Houk out in a jeep to do reconnaissance on enemy scouting positions. He didn’t return until two nights later, and Flore listed him as ‘missing in action.’ “When he had returned, he had a three day growth of beard and hand grenades hanging all over him,” Flore said. “He was back of the enemy lines the entire time. I know he must’ve enjoyed himself. He had a hole in one side of his helmet, and a hole in the other where the bullet left. When I told him about his helmet he said, ‘I could have [sic] swore I heard a ricochet.'”
Houk rose from Private to Major in four years and earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, and a Purple Heart for when he was wounded in the calf during the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he secured the back-up catcher’s position behind Yogi Berra and became a manager where players referred to him as “The Major” for his wartime discipline.
(Courtesy of the New York Times.)
Gino Marchetti was known primarily for two things: being a Hall of Fame defensive end for the Baltimore Colts and an entrepreneur who co-owned a restaurant called Gino’s with teammate Alan Ameche. Their influence was so great that members of the community, including New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, often muttered their slogan “Gino’s, oh yeah!” while they visited players at their favorite hamburger joint.
What most don’t know is that Gino Marchetti served as a machine gunner with Company I, 273rd Regiment of the 69th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge. “You don’t realize that you are going to see some of your friends go down,” Marchetti told ESPN. “You don’t realize any of it. For example, the first time I ever saw snow, I slept in it. It’s hell.” Marchetti credits joining the Army as the greatest thing he had ever done because it gave him the discipline and toughness to compete in the NFL.
Nestor Chylak’s career behind home plate almost never came to be. While serving as a Technical Sergeant in the US Army’s 424 Infantry Regiment, Chylak was severely wounded on January 3, 1945, in the Ardennes Forest. While his battalion braced artillery fire in the blistering cold and blanketed snow, an artillery shell exploded a tree, which sent splinters traveling the speed of bullets into his face. He was blind for ten days, but ultimately regained his eyesight. He was awarded both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.
Chylak would go on to become one of the most legendary MLB Umpires in the history of the game. He was never one to cower to a feisty manager’s tirade, nor did he get flustered from loud boos from fans. He umpired baseball’s bizarre promotion games like the infamous “10-Cent Beer Night” promotion in Cleveland and Bob Veeck’s “Disco Demolition Night” in Detroit. Both promotions ended in similar flair — a forfeiture and a flying chair. Chylak, however, umpired for 25 years in five World Series and was respected for his fairness.
At the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, a bronze plaque in the Umpire Exhibit says in his jest, “This must be the only job in America that everybody knows how to do better than the guy who’s doing it.”
The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds are scheduled to conduct a flyover during the national anthem performance at Super Bowl LIII, Feb. 3, 2019, over Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta.
“Supporting this event is a tremendous honor for the team and the U.S. Air Force,” said Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbirds commander and leader. “We look forward to showcasing the pride, precision and professionalism of our nation’s 660,000 Total Force airmen to football fans around the world.”
The Thunderbirds’ flyover, its first public event in 2019, will feature six F-16 Fighting Falcons, soaring over the Mercedes-Benz Stadium at the moment the final notes of The Star Spangled Banner are sung. They will take off for the Super Bowl LIII flyover from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Marietta, Georgia.
The Thunderbirds last flew over the Super Bowl in 2017 at the NRG Stadium, Houston.
The Thunderbirds’ team is composed of eight pilots, four support officers, 120 enlisted airmen and three civilians serving in 28 Air Force job specialties. In 2019, the Thunderbirds are scheduled to perform at 65 air shows in 33 different locations all over the world.
Since the unit’s inception in 1953, more than 300 million people in all 50 states and 60 countries have witnessed the distinctive red, white and blue jets in thousands of official aerial demonstrations.
Football fans have more options than ever before when it comes to viewing the NFL draft this year.
As always, ESPN and NFL Network will both be broadcasting all three days of the draft. Additionally, ABC will be joining with coverage of all three days this year, offering a distinct broadcast than ESPN.
ESPN Deportes will also be covering the entire draft for Spanish speaking audiences.
Those hoping to stream the draft online can do so at NFL.com/Watch, or through whichever broadcast they prefer.
Where is the draft being held this year?
The NFL draft was once held every year in New York City at Radio City Music Hall, but in recent years has begun moving around on a yearly basis, with Philadelphia, Dallas, and Chicago all playing host over the past five years.
This year, Nashville, Tennessee is hosting the big event, with all 32 teams meeting in the Music City to make their picks.
Training for a demanding race like the Army 10-miler requires focus, determination, and solid nine to 10 hours of sleep every night, according to sleep experts at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the Army Office of the Surgeon General. Sleep is one of the three pillars of the Performance Triad, which also includes nutrition and activity.
“Sleep allows our bodies to focus on recovery and restores both our mind and muscles,” said Army Lt. Col. T Scott Burch, Army System for Health Performance Triad sleep lead, OSTG. “Following a particularly strenuous training day, our body may need more time to recover and the good news is that our body will often give us signs that we need additional sleep, so plan go to bed a little earlier following high intensity workouts or post-race.”
Sleep is good recovery for the brain, said Dr. Tom Balkin, a sleep expert and senior scientist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
“Aim for as much sleep as you can possibly squeeze in,” said Balkin. “Seven to eight hours of sleep is average, but more is even better.”
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)
Both Balkin and Burch recommend using sleep banking as a strategy to reach peak performance before a strenuous event. Sleeping an extra one to two hours leading up to the race will “bank” extra energy, stamina, and focus.
“Consider this part of your training,” said Balkin. “It’s not something you would do every day in your normal life, but the week before you run a marathon, get all the sleep you can. Think of it like money. The more you get, it doesn’t matter when the money shows up in your bank account. The next day, the money is still in your account.”
It’s the goal of the Performance Triad to enable leaders to set conditions for soldiers to optimize their sleep, activity, and nutrition to improve the overall readiness of the Army, said Col. Hope Williamson-Younce, director of the Army System for Health and deputy chief of staff for public health, Army Office of the Surgeon General.
Failing to optimize sleep can lead to significant reductions in physical and cognitive performance.
“The Army has improved significantly in recognizing that sleep is a key component of a healthy lifestyle and healthy culture,” said Burch. “If your duties are precluding you from optimal sleep talk with your chain of command, encourage them talk to local subject matter experts at Army Wellness Centers and see how they cannot just improve your ability to obtain optimal sleep but how they improve the physical performance of the entire unit, while also reducing injuries and having a higher percentage of soldiers medically ready and prepared for battle.”
(Photo by Lt. Col. John Hall)
At Fort Riley, sleep banking was put into practice by an armored brigade combat unit, said Williamson-Younce. Prior to a weeklong FTX for gunnery tables, soldiers attended a sleep education session and participated in a “reverse PT schedule,” during which the soldiers arrived at 9 a.m. and conducted physical training at 4 p.m. This led to dramatic improvements in their Gunnery Table results. They went from an average score of 756 (qualified) without banking to an average score of 919 (distinguished) with sleep banking.
For people who have difficulty falling asleep, Burch recommends refining basic routines. Have a routine bedtime schedule, wind down the night in a calm manner by warm shower, reading and meditation. Turn off all “screens” at least an hour before bedtime and ensure the bedroom is a cool, relaxing sanctuary for a good night’s rest.
“There’s a great saying, make time for wellness, or you will be forced to make time for illness,” said Burch. “Sleep is a critical component of our wellness. Often individuals try to manage with reduced sleep; however it comes at the detriment of your physical and cognitive performance.”
The Performance Triad Website, https://p3.amedd.army.mil, has great resources for individuals, said Burch. He also encourages any soldier or family member to contact their local Army Wellness Center, which has excellent personnel and resources for sleep, stress management, nutrition and physical conditioning to help everyone perform their best and reduce risk for musculoskeletal injuries.
The military promotes values that are not just essential on the battlefield or during training, but applicable to other areas of life. Teamwork, sacrifice, and competitiveness are essential tenets of the military that are also essential in any sport. Given this association, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many successful athletes served in the military prior to excelling in their respective sports. Here are six sports legends who exemplified greatness both in their service and athletic careers.
Marty Schottenheimer was an NFL coach for 21 years, and despite never winning a Super Bowl, he is one of only eight coaches to reach 200 regular-season victories. Like all great coaches, Schottenheimer’s excellence isn’t limited to his numbers. He created “Martyball,” a gritty, simple style which he explained in an interview for ESPN: “Run the ball, don’t throw interceptions, don’t fumble the ball, and then, at the end of the day, if you are able to do those things, you are going to win a bunch of games.”
Popovich’s experience in the military helped him not only survive but thrive in one of the most competitive professional environments in the world: having won five NBA titles as a head coach of the Spurs, he is the only coach in NBA history, along with Phil Jackson and John Kundla, to win five or more NBA championships with the same team. He also is, by far, the longest-tenured NBA head coach having signed with the San Antonio Spurs in December of 1996. The next coach on the list? Erik Spoelstra, who has been Miami Heat’s head coach since April 2008.
But these numbers alone don’t reflect the brilliance of Popovich’s career. In a league known for frequent changes of coaches, Popovich has not only managed to win consistently at the highest level, but has also created one of the most powerful and iconic basketball cultures worldwide, with teams always known for their passing, defense, and individual sacrifice for the benefit of the whole.
“I know who I am and it started in the military where they broke me down to zero and put me in a box… And didn’t care if I was this, that or the other in high school. I was nothing. And they built me back up so that I knew what I could do and what I couldn’t do. I knew my strengths. I knew my place. I knew it wasn’t all about me. I knew it was about teamwork. And that’s how I live. That’s the deal,” Popovich said in a 2012 address to a crowd of All-Army, All-Air Force, All-Navy, and All-Marine Corps players.
Widely regarded as one of the best power forwards in basketball history, San Antonio Spurs and NBA legend David Robinson is also known as “The Admiral” because of his service in the Navy from 1983 to 1987, after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy.
Robinson’s impact in the NBA is remarkable. He won two NBA championships with the San Antonio Spurs, a team that epitomized collective play under head coach Gregg Popovich. Robinson is one of only five players in NBA history to record a quadruple-double, which consists of recording 10 or more in four of the following categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals, or blocks. Robinson recorded 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 blocks on February 17, 1994. The Admiral features a unique basketball resume which includes Rookie of the Year, MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, two NBA championships, and three Olympic medals (two golds and a bronze). In 2017, the NBA included Robinson in an official list of the best 50 players in the league’s history.
During his service as a midshipman, Robinson worked as a civil engineer and helped the Navy’s recruiting efforts.
The 38th President of the United States and a World War II Navy veteran Gerald Ford was also a collegiate football phenomenon, a multidisciplinary athlete who would eventually coach football, swimming, and boxing during his time in the military, and a barrier-breaker. As this feature by the Department of Defense points out, in 1975, Ford “signed Public Law 94-106 admitting women to the all-male military colleges — West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy.”
While Ford is evidently more well-known because of his time as a president than because of his sports career, his athletic achievements are worth highlighting. He won collegiate football titles with the University of Michigan Wolverines in 1932 and 1933 and received offers from the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers from the NFL. Yet, he rejected them and instead decided to coach boxing at Yale University. Ford would say that his experiences as a football player helped him get ready for the “rough-and-tumble world of politics.”
Shortly after the start of WWII, Ford “enlisted in the U.S. Navy as an ensign and was assigned as a physical training officer of recruits in North Carolina. After repeated requests to be sent to a combat unit, Ford was sent to the Pacific aboard the U.S.S. Monterey, a light aircraft carrier. He would earn 10 battle stars by war’s end, for participation in engagements at Okinawa, Wake, Taiwan, the Philippines and the Gilbert Islands, among others.”
Robinson never wavered in his determined stance against segregation. He experienced backlash around the country as an MLB player because of his race, but he was also a victim of racial abuse during his time as an enlisted soldier, as this feature by the U.S. Department of Defense recounts:
“On July 6, 1944, Robinson boarded an Army bus. The driver ordered Robinson to move to the back of the bus, but Robinson refused. The driver called the military police, who took Robinson into custody. He was subsequently court-martialed, but he was acquitted. After his acquittal, he was transferred to Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, where he served as a coach for Army athletics until receiving an honorable discharge in November 1944.”
Robinson would go on to become one of the best baseball players ever and the only one to have a number (42) retired league-wide.
Dempsey jumped to stardom in 1919, when he defeated 6’7″, 245-pound World Heavyweight Champion Jess Willard. Dempsey was 6’1″ and 187 pounds. The videos from that iconic fight illustrate the remarkable size difference between them.
“I had trained for Willard at the Overland Club on Maumee Bay, an inlet of Lake Erie. Nearly every day Kearns and Trainer Jimmy Deforest reported that I was shaping up much better than Willard. But when I saw big Jess across the ring, without an ounce of fat on his huge frame, I wondered if Kearns and Deforest had been bringing me pleasant but false reports to bolster my courage. I won’t say I was scared as I gazed at Willard, but I’ll admit I began to wonder if I packed enough dynamite to blast the man-mountain down,” Dempsey recounts in his book Championship Fighting.
Dempsey would go on to remain the world heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926. Throughout his life, he displayed courage and the ability to sacrifice. During World War I, he worked in a Philadelphia shipyard and joined New York State National Guard when World War II started. He would then transition to a commission “as a lieutenant in the Coast Guard Reserve, where he was assigned as Director of Physical Education,” and made frequent appearances at “fights, camps, hospital, and War Bond drives… In 1945 he was on the attack transport USS Arthur Middleton for the invasion of Okinawa. In July of 1945, he was assigned to the Commander, 11th Naval District for assignment to Military Morale Duty. He was released from active duty in September 1945. He was given an honorable discharge from the Coast Guard Reserve in 1952.”
Chris Godwin, WR, Bucs- Put some respect on Godwin’s name. The elite Tampa Bay receiver is your #1 week 12 fantasy scorer, and your #2 overall wide receiver on the season. This isn’t simply a product of usage, either. Godwin is competing with the heavily touted Mike Evans for targets—and still manages to be an insanely high caliber fantasy asset. He threatens defenses with the threat of a deep route on every play, and he has a quarterback crazy enough to chuck it to him half the time.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens- Is there anything left to say about Lamar Jackson? He will be the NFL MVP, barring injury. He threw for 5 TDs in his Monday night debut against a Rams defense that includes both the best defensive tackle and cornerback in the league. Nobody is more fun to watch (in a game and on your roster) than Lamar Jackson. Just cross your fingers that you don’t play against him.
Christian McCaffery, RB, Panthers- McCaffery is the only non-QB in MVP talks, and for good reason. He is far and beyond the #1 fantasy player of the year, and he is the focal point of both the rushing and passing attack in Carolina. He’s endured tumultuous quarterback play, and awareness of his greatness only suffers from the national indifference towards the Carolina Panthers.
Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles- Zach Ertz is the tight end to have going into the fantasy playoffs. His last three performances are nothing short of dominant: 25.3, 18.4, and 27.1 points. Oh, and the next three teams he gets to play? The Miami Dolphins, the New York Giants, and the Washington Redskins. Make a move now while you can.
Jared Goff when asked if he ever plans to throw another pass to Cooper Kupp.pic.twitter.com/sFhSl06NGF
Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos- The Courtland Sutton problem is one of consistency. It is not inconsistency with Sutton as a receiver; he’s been a terrific route runner and pass catcher, but rather the problem lies in the Denver organization. John Elway’s absolute inability to identify and select a worthwhile quarterback has crippled their chances at a successful season and, more importantly to us, made them irrelevant from a fantasy standpoint.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons- Matt Ryan had an easy breezy matchup against the weak Bucs secondary on paper, but he could not materialize it into anything worthwhile and finished the day with 271 yards, an interception, and no touchdowns. He has to bounce back against a stingy Saints team next week, and at this point, is relying solely on the transcendent talent of Julio Jones.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams- Cooper Kupp is suffering from some of the same problems as Sutton. His quarterback is a shadow of his former self, his team has a shaky offensive line, and the run game is completely absent. The silver lining with Kupp is that he has a tremendous coaching staff, filled with offensive minds who are still trying, at least, to get the ball into his hands (10 targets).
The Eagles defense trying to get Carson Wentz in position to go win the gamepic.twitter.com/nPB8f9STmZ
Eagles D/ST- If you only follow one piece of advice from us this year, follow this: pick up the Eagles defense. They are on a legitimate upswing defensively and have the most cupcake schedule to end the year of any team. They play the Dolphins, Giants, and Redskins for their next three games, and they are completely carrying the Eagles. They could potentially win people some leagues.
Sam Darnold, QB, Jets- Sam Darnold had his best outing of the year against a Raiders defense that was beginning to turn heads. He’s clearly recovered from his whole mono situation, especially considering he was spotted after the game gettin’ lit and making out again (way to get back on that horse, Sam). He’s got a plethora of weapons, and could be a valuable streamer.
AJ Brown, WR, Titans- AJ Brown has come out of nowhere to make for a really interesting boom-or-bust play moving forward. He has had multiple 24+ point performances on the season, but has also posted a handful of sub 5 games. If you need a hail mary to win a game, look to Brown for a chance to put up the performance you need.
DJ Moore, WR, Panthers- DJ Moore has benefitted from the Carolina quarterback shift, as he has been one of the most targeted receivers in the NFL the last three weeks. He’s finally translating it into reliable fantasy stats, and he looks to be a valuable starter in the final stretch with a couple of easy games against the Bengals and the Dolphins.
Stiff arm of the season by James Washington. Whoa!
James Washington took a post route 79 yards to paydirt with a stiff arm that would make Marshawn Lynch blush Skittle-red. It’s the kind of stiff arm that you dream of pulling off in Madden, let alone real life. The kind of stiff arm that begs eloquent, poetic responses like “GET OFF ME LIL BOY” or “I’M A GROWN ASS MAN.”
It takes a lot of work to get well-defined abs. We’re talking relentless hours of exercises devoted to burning belly fat and defining abdominals in order to achieve that fitness vanity project that is a spectacular set of six-pack abs. So when your efforts aren’t yielding noticeable results, it can be downright embarrassing.
There are several reasons you could be having trouble seeing those ripples across your midsection, from what you ate for dinner to which moves you’re doing at the gym. We’re not saying that addressing all items on this list will miraculously result in the six-pack you’ve been dreaming about, but it will be a step in the right direction.
A lot of guys confuse a strong core with a six-pack. They are not the same thing. You can have the leanest, toughest mother-of-a-mid-section in the world, but if you’re not working your vanity muscles, you won’t get that ripple effect. Crunches and sit-ups work the rectus abdominus — the muscles near the top of your midsection. But the obliques, the largest, outermost muscles that begin along your side and wrap towards the front, play an arguably bigger role in defining your six-pack. You can work this muscle group by doing side planks. And don’t forget to work your transverse abdominus, the deepest abdominal muscle that helps hold you erect: You can strengthen it by doing glute bridges.
2. You’re eating too many vegetables.
You have the right idea: Choose broccoli and kale in place of chips and cookies to lower your weight and reduce body fat. But cruciferous vegetables come with a small problem. They give you gas, which makes you bloated and disguises the six-pack. Your body will ultimately adjust to its new fiber-rich plan, but until then, mix up the broccoli with zucchini and asparagus, vegetables with a lower propensity to inflate the gut.
It’s tempting to make every day a core day when you’re in pursuit of such a lofty goal, but any fitness pro will tell you that gains in performance happen not when you’re working out, but when you’re at rest. That’s when all those microscopic muscle tears from the previous sweat session repair themselves, knitting fibers back together in a stronger pattern to strengthen the muscle. If you never allow for recovery, you never allow for the process of growth.
Not necessarily because of the extra calories (although that matters as well), but because an excess of carbonated liquid sloshing around your gut can make you look bloated. Flush the system with good old water, wait 24 hours, and take another look.
Fat in particular. True, calories are calories and consuming too many will pack on pounds, causing your body to lose lean muscle definition. But getting six-pack abs is not just a weight-loss game, it’s a body fat percentage game, meaning if you want to see true six-pack definition you need to get that body fat number down around 6 percent. If that sounds crazy, it kind of is.
You read that right: One reason those six-packs pop on the cover of bodybuilding magazines is that they’re lacquered up with oil, which catches the light and accentuates the body’s contours. If you want the look, squeeze a few drops of baby oil into your palm, rub your hands together, then work them over your abs like you’re applying suntan lotion. Hey, this is a vanity project — accept it.
Would you ever hit the gym with a goal of doing 100 biceps curls? Unlikely. But when it comes to abs, people tend to favor reps over resistance, which is a mistake when you’re trying to build muscle. The body will adapt to volume, so you need to periodically kickstart the growth process by adding extra weight or resistance for stimulation.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Rocky Bleier was unique among Americans in the late 1960s. He was drafted – twice. In the same year. First, the Notre Dame running back was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then, the college graduate was drafted by the U.S. Army to head to Vietnam. And he did. Unlike many athletes at the time, the 1-A draftee was not put in reserves, so he put his NFL career on hold to answer the country’s call to arms.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, Bleier was sent to combat duty in southeast Asia after leaving basic training in 1969. He joined well over half a million American troops there, more than 11,000 of which would die in combat. Rocky Bleier was not one of those men but he came very, very close.
“There were a handful of players who had been drafted in their career, and I got drafted in the latter part of the year,”He told Fox Sports. “Next thing I knew, I was in basic training and my world had kind of been turned upside down. Then, eventually, I found myself in Vietnam, like all replacement soldiers at the time – shipped over because they needed bodies.”
Bleier arrived in Vietnam in May, 1969, a mortarman with the U.S. Army’s 196th Light Infantry Brigade. His company was in an area called LZ Siberia near Hiep Duc. One day, in August, 1969, his unit got word that their sister company was ambushed by an entire regiment of North Vietnamese Army regulars. Bleier’s Charlie Company was sent in to help Bravo Company.
But the moment they arrived in the area, they had to extract. It was a bloody mess. Charlie company had to carry out the dead and wounded bodies of Bravo Company, and as they did, they were ambushed themselves. Bleier and his fellow soldiers had to go. Two days later, they would have to come back for those bodies.
They were ambushed again.
“Obviously, we knew there was some enemy in the area, and we had just taken a break early in the morning and were moving out on an open rice paddy,” Bleier said. “So we’re moving out into that open rice paddy and all of a sudden we kind of ran into, accidentally, enemy soldiers. Our point man got excited and opened up fire, and then they started to run. We started to chase them, the machine gun leveled the area, and now we’re in a firefight in open rice paddies and that’s when I got hit the first time.”
Bleier was wounded in the thigh in that action; the bullet tore through his body. It felt like a punch to the leg and the Pittsburgh running back wasn’t sure if he could run. Or walk. Or even crawl. Somehow, he tied gauze around the wound and made it back to his commanding officer.
But that was far from safety. As the day wore on, the NVA were able to advance on the Americans. The communist troops were able to get a grenade into the position Bleier and his CO occupied.
“It hit my commanding officer, who I was lying next to,” Bleier said. “It bounced off his back and rolled between my legs, and by the time I jumped to get up, it blew up. I was standing on top of it and it blew up on my right foot, knee and thigh and my commanding officer caught a lot of that shrapnel as well.”
it was during that exchange that the North Vietnamese troops suddenly retreated from the battlefield. No one is quite sure why, but the Americans suspected the NVA field commander had been killed or wounded. It was dark by then, the two sides had been fighting almost the entire day. With the break in fighting, Bleier’s unit decided to leave. It took them hours to get to their landing zone.
Bleier suffered from a bullet wound in the thigh, shrapnel wounds in both legs, and a torn-up right foot. Doctors removed 100 pieces of shrapnel from him throughout several procedures, each a threat to his football career. Doctors told him he would never play again. The future Steeler set out to prove them wrong.
And the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to help.
Bleier was placed on Injured Reserve for the 1970 NFL season and on waivers for the 1971 season, where he went unclaimed. By 1972, he was good enough to make the team again. He had few touches on the ball before the 1974 season, where he helped take the Steelers to the first of his four Super Bowls.
After doctors told him he would never again have the flexibility and strength to perform at an NFL level, Bleier ran for 3,826 yards on 922 carries, scoring 23 rushing touchdowns. On top of that, he also caught 133 passes for 1,226 yards and two touchdowns.
“I was one of a few Vietnam veterans that our fellow soldiers could identify with and say, ‘Hey, he’s one of ours, and God bless him,'” Bleier later said. “I was telling the story and giving a different image than one of baby-killers or derelicts or post traumatic stress or unemployment or homelessness. It was that kind of image that needed to be changed and I got to be a part of that, of changing that image.”