These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

Subscribing to at at-home delivery box is a great way to bring fun activities straight to your home. No matter your age or interest, there is a theme boxed that can suit your needs. (Shout out to the delivery folks still bringing packages!) And while, months ago, this might have just been a fun thing to get in the mail, today, it’s an excitable event. Activities, treats or fun things to do, delivered straight to your door.

Take advantage of this growing trend and bring fun to your doorstep with these subscription boxes.


These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

1. Try the World

Foods from around the globe, delivered to your door. Sounds like a great concept, right?! This monthly box comes in two versions: snacks, where you’ll receive strictly pre-packaged snackables for /mo; or countries, including a combo of drinks, gourmet foods and cooking ingredients, for /mo.


Order yours
These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

2. Fab Fit Fun

Ladies, if you have any association online, chances are you’ve been flooded with ads for this self care and wellness box. Arriving quarterly, each box comes with a degree of personalized choices in categories like work out clothes, beauty, relaxation items, travel and more. Boxes are /pop.


Sign up.
These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

3. Dollar Shave Club

Like its name suggests, Dollar Shave Club offers razors and shaving gear, delivered to your doorstep, as well as other hygiene products like bar soap, shaving cream and body wash. The brand is primarily marketed toward men, though the razors are universal. Costs start at /mo plus shipping, and vary based on personalized boxes.

Billie is essentially the female-geared counterpart. Billie starter razor kits start at (free shipping); customers can add additional products to their order, like dry shampoo or makeup wipes.

Meanwhile, Gillette loyalists can order directly through the brand for /mo. Shipping and every fourth order are free.

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4. Atlas Coffee Club

Coffee drinkers unite. Take a tour of the best flavors from around the world, all from the comfort of your favorite mug. Atlas Coffee Club brings the beans to you, along with a history of where they’re from. It’s where geography meets great taste.

Explore.

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

5. Once Upon a Book Club

Bring the books — and the discussion — to your home with Once Upon a Book Club. Adult and YA books are mailed monthly and can be delved into via an online community. Talk about your favorite sections with other readers as you go. But that’s not the best part — OUABC sends wrapped gifts that coincide with the story. Unwrap as you read for an added boost of fun!

Check it out

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These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

6. Battl Box

What military family isn’t complete with a growing collection of tactical gear? Choose from four levels of monthly survival supplies, ranging from .99 to 9.00 plus shipping. Past boxes have included camping gear, hiking supplies, and EDC (every day carry) items.

Stock up here.

What subscription box will you try first?

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the biggest ways you can still be a boot after service

Veterans are a diverse group filled with all sorts of different types of people. Much like any other group, there tends be a lot of disagreements among its members over all sorts of things, like if growing a beard means you’re no longer a Marine or whether Okinawa is a real deployment (it’s not). But, at the end of the day, some people get out of the military acting a lot like they did when they first showed up.

When you first get out of boot camp, you’re called a “boot.” You’re the new employee — the FNG, if you will. As a freshly minted service member, there are some traits you likely exhibit, like being covered head to toe in overly-moto gear or telling every single person you meet that you’re a part of the military.

Most of us outgrow these tendencies as we settle into the routine of life in service. But we’ve observed a strange phenomenon: After service, some veterans regress to their boot-like behaviors. Specifically, the following:


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You can make fun of them, but remember that it’s just that — fun.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Rylan Albright)

Insulting other branches

It’s one thing to joke around with other veterans by calling the Air Force the “Chair Force” or the Coast Guard “useless,” but it’s another thing entirely to be a genuine a**hole because you actually think your branch is best.

As a boot, you might really feel this way — after all, you just endured weeks of pain to get where you are and pride fools even the best of us. But if you still feel this way after you get out… You’re still a boot.

Gatekeeping

Dismissing someone else’s status as a veteran or a patriot because they don’t share your views is just dumb. Boots think people aren’t real patriots if they don’t join the military, but there are plenty of other ways to be patriotic outside of joining the armed forces.

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Neither of these two are superheroes — but both might think so.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Talking up your service

Being in the military doesn’t make you some kind of superhero. You’re not the supreme savior of mankind because you’re a veteran. You’re a human being who made a noble choice, but that doesn’t make you Batman.

…maybe Bootman.

Telling everybody you meet about your service

Boots, for some reason, will tell every man, woman, child, and hamster that they’re in the military.

Some veterans are guilty of this, too, but it usually comes in the form of replying to any statement with, “well, as a veteran…” It’s not any less annoying.

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You know this is where most of your time went.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. M. Bravo)

Exaggerating your role

Some veterans love seeing themselves as modern-day Spartans or Vikings. In reality, a lot of us ended up cleaning toilets and standing in lines. Boots have the same tendency to over-glorify what they do in the military, making their role in the grand scheme of things seem much more important than it actually is.

All in all: Don’t be that guy.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

‘Terrible, tragic mistake:’ Top general warns enemies not to test US military readiness

The Pentagon’s top leaders said Thursday they can see a “light at the end of the tunnel” of the COVID-19 pandemic and stressed that the U.S. military remains a force in readiness, with fewer than 2,000 cases out of more than two million troops available to support contingency operations.

During an internet broadcast Thursday morning, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned adversaries that it would be a “terrible, tragic mistake if they thought that … [they] can take advantage of any opportunities … at a time of crisis.”


“The U.S. military is very, very capable to conduct whatever operations are necessary to defend the American people,” Milley said. “We will adapt ourselves to operating in a COVID-19 environment. We are already doing that.”

As of Thursday, 1,898 service members had confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 389 soldiers, 367 airmen, 164 Marines, 597 sailors and 381 National Guard members.

Given that the Defense Department has 2.3 million troops, including the National Guard and reserve components, the services are “ready today and will be ready tomorrow,” Milley said.

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“I’m absolutely confident that we are very ready to handle any mission that comes our way,” added Defense Secretary Mark Esper during the broadcast. “Why is that? It’s because our commanders and NCOs have taken measures to protect our members.”

Less than .09 percent of U.S. forces have confirmed COVID-19 infections, and nearly all are “mild or moderate” cases, according to Esper. Sixty-four service members have been hospitalized for the coronavirus.

By contrast, .13 percent of the U.S. population have confirmed cases of the illness.

“We also have far, far, far smaller numbers of hospitalizations. …. I attribute that to the measures we took very early on, going all the way back to 3 February when we issued our first guidance to the field in regard to health protection,” Esper said.

According to Esper and Milley, the DoD has more than 50,000 service members responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes 29,400 National Guard members, as well as 17,000 members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and thousands of military medical personnel.

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said Thursday that many of the military medical personnel are now serving in civilian hospitals, filling in for staff members who have become ill or need rest — especially in hard-hit areas like New York City.

The strategy is a switch from the initial intent for military health professionals to treat patients transported to field hospitals such as the Javits Center in New York, he said.

“We have thousands of reservists — medical professionals — deployed all over the country from their normal lives at home to the middle of New York City, in hours or days, leaving their families, leaving their homes, running toward the trouble,” Hyten said.

To date, 113 service members of the 1,898 infected have recovered from the coronavirus. One service member, Army National Guard Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, died March 28.

A sailor from the carrier Theodore Roosevelt became gravely ill Thursday and was transported to an intensive care unit after being discovered unresponsive in his room by shipmates, Hyten said.

“We are hoping that the sailor recovers. We are praying for him and his families and his shipmates,” he added.

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

Articles

You had to bet your life to graduate from the Vietnam-era Recondo school

When Maj. Gen. William Westmoreland took command of the 101st Airborne in 1958, he noticed a severe lack of proficiency in small-unit tactics and patrolling.


So he immediately created a school to fix the problem.

When he took command of all American forces in the Vietnam War, he once again created a school to teach long-range patrolling and small unit tactics with a Ranger-qualified cadre of instructors from the 5th Special Forces Group. To graduate from this school, you had to bet your life on it.

Dubbed “Recondo” school, Westmoreland claimed it was an amalgamation of Reconnaissance, Commando, and Doughboy. Recondo training emphasized both reconnaissance and standard infantry skills at the small unit level.

In 1960, Army Magazine described the Recondo tactics as “dedicated to the domination of certain areas of the battlefield by small aggressive roving patrols of opportunity which have not been assigned a definite reconnaissance or combat mission.” From these graduates, the 101st developed the Recondo Patrol.

This patrol type was meant to allow a Recondo to create as much havoc as possible in their area of operations. The patrol could be used against a disorganized enemy, as a screen for retrograde operations, to develop a situation or conduct a feint ahead of an advancing force, or to eliminate guerrilla activity.

It was the last ability that Recondos would put to great use in Vietnam.

The Recondo school was set up at Nha Trang and was inspired but the highly successful Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol training conducted by detachment B-52 from 5th Special Forces. This program, known as Project Delta, was originally intended to train Special Forces and their Vietnamese counterparts in guerrilla-like ambushes.

The course became so popular that within two years over half of the students were from regular Army units. Westmoreland expanded the school to teach Recondo tactics to as many LRRPs as possible.

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Two 1st Cav LRRP teams in July 1968. All team leaders were Recondo grads.

In order to qualify for the MACV Recondo school, participants had to be in-country at least one month and have at least six months remaining on their tour upon completion. Students also had to have a combat arms MOS and an actual or pending assignment to an LRRP unit. Finally, they had to be in excellent physical shape and be proficient in general military knowledge.

The school was open to soldiers and marines of the Free World Military Assistance Forces, including the South Vietnamese, Koreans, Australians, and Filipinos. Many U.S. Marines also attended the training.

The curriculum of the school included improving students’ skills in the areas of map reading, intelligence gathering, weapons training, and communications. Weapons training included a variety of American weapons as well as weapons used by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army. Particular attention was also given to mines and booby-traps. Communications covered the use of several different radios, field expedient antennas, and proper message writing techniques.

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Recondo School trainees in the harsh rigors of long-range patrolling.

The school also gave advanced training in medical treatment, including the use of Ringer’s lactate solution and intravenous and intramuscular injections. Schooling also focused on air operations – especially the use of the UH-1 Huey helicopter for insertions and extractions. Forward Air Controller techniques were taught with students calling in live ordnance on a target.

Most importantly, the school taught patrolling.

Students learned different patrolling techniques, preparation, and organization. Proper patrol security was taught along with intelligence-gathering techniques. The students trained heavily in immediate action drills to react to or initiate enemy contact.

After over 300 hours of training, averaging over 12 hours per day, it was time for the students to take the final exam: an actual combat patrol.

In the early days of the program, the area the prospective graduates patrolled was relatively secure and quiet. As the war progressed, however, contact with the enemy became a given. This led to students saying “you bet your life” to graduate from Recondo School.

At least two students died in Recondo training with many others wounded. An unknown number of Viet Cong were also killed in the skirmishes during the “you bet your life” patrol. This led to the school itself receiving a nickname of its own: “the deadliest school on earth”.

In just over four years of operation, over 5,600 students attended Recondo school. Just 3,515 men graduated, not quite two-thirds of all who tried. Each student who graduated was awarded a Recondo patch, worn on the right breast pocket, and an individual Recondo number that was recorded in their 201 personnel file. The Honor Graduate from each class was also given a specially engraved Recondo knife.

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A Recondo graduate is presented with medals ca 1968.

Despite the school and its graduates’ success, Westmoreland’s successor, Gen. Creighton Abrams, officially closed the school on December 19, 1970. The Recondo name and training lived on, as some divisions continued to host their own Recondo schools until they were eventually closed too.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Largest study of its kind finds genetics to be a small factor in obesity

Research by scientists at King’s College London found that the role the gut plays in processing and distributing fat could pave the way for the development of personalized treatments for obesity and other chronic diseases within the next decade. The research is published in Nature Genetics.

In the largest study of its kind, scientists analyzed the faecal metabolome (the community of chemicals produced by gut microbes in the faeces) of 500 pairs of twins to build up a picture of how the gut governs these processes and distributes fat. The King’s team also assessed how much of that activity is genetic and how much is determined by environmental factors.


The analysis of stool samples identified biomarkers for the build-up of internal fat around the waist. It’s well known that this visceral fat is strongly associated with the development of conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

By understanding how microbial chemicals lead to the development of fat around the waist in some, but not all the twins, the King’s team hopes to also advance the understanding of the very similar mechanisms that drive the development of obesity.

An analysis of faecal metabolites (chemical molecules in stool produced by microbes) found that less than a fifth (17.9 per cent) of gut processes could be attributed to hereditary factors, but 67.7 per cent of gut activity was found to be influenced by environmental factors, mainly a person’s regular diet.

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This means that important changes can be made to the way an individual’s gut processes and distributes fat by altering both their diet and microbial interactions in their gut.

On the back of the study researchers have built a gut metabolome bank that can help other scientists engineer bespoke and ideal gut environments that efficiently process and distribute fat. The study has also generated the first comprehensive database of which microbes are associated with which chemical metabolites in the gut. This can help other scientists to understand how bacteria in the gut affect human health.

Lead investigator Dr. Cristina Menni from King’s College London said: ‘This study has really accelerated our understanding of the interplay between what we eat, the way it is processed in the gut and the development of fat in the body, but also immunity and inflammation. By analysing the faecal metabolome, we have been able to get a snapshot of both the health of the body and the complex processes taking place in the gut.’

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Head of the King’s College London’s Twin Research Group Professor Tim Spector said: ‘This exciting work in our twins shows the importance to our health and weight of the thousands of chemicals that gut microbes produce in response to food. Knowing that they are largely controlled by what we eat rather than our genes is great news, and opens up many ways to use food as medicine. In the future these chemicals could even be used in smart toilets or as smart toilet paper.’

Dr. Jonas Zierer, first author of the study added: ‘This new knowledge means we can alter the gut environment and confront the challenge of obesity from a new angle that is related to modifiable factors such as diet and the microbes in the gut. This is exciting, because unlike our genes and our innate risk to develop fat around the belly, the gut microbes can be modified with probiotics, with drugs or with high fibre diets.’

This article originally appeared on Medical Xpress. Follow @medical_xpress on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the big takeaways from the latest Space Force press conference

What started as wishful thinking by a bunch of vets hoping to one day become space shuttle door gunners is starting to take shape as the next steps in establishing a Space Force are underway.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence held a conference at the Pentagon on Aug 9 to discuss the latest plans and updates on the creation of the United States Space Force. To clear some of the fog surrounding it, it’s not about sending armed troops into space nor is it an over-the-top plan to fight aliens.

There is a real and current strategic advantage in using space to aid with Earthly conflicts through satellites operations and missile defense — both of which would fall under the purview of the new Space Force.


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Vice President Mike Pence has championed our current space commands within the Air Force and the Navy.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman)

Secretary Mattis opened up the briefing and announced that the Pentagon will release its latest space report to Congress, reinforcing the specifics on how they will move forward. He then welcomed Vice President Pence to take the podium.

Vice President Pence reiterated both the desire to push mankind back into space exploration and to utilize space for the rapid advancement of technology. He likened the establishment of the Space Force to that of the Air Force when it was first created.

“In 1939, at the start of the second World War, the U.S. Army Air Corps was still a fledgling organization… By 1945, the American military had nearly 30 times the number of planes and 85 times the number of pilots and support crews compared to just six years earlier and our allies emerged victorious from WWII because of the strength of our armed forces and because our armed forces adapted to meet the emerging threats of the day,” said Vice President Mike Pence.
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Once you realize just how many U.S. satellites are in space, how little protection they have, and just how dependent our society is on their safety… you’ll stop thinking of the Space Force as a joke branch.

(Air Force illustration)

Our current military does, in fact, have a space command and has had one for decades. Expanding the space command into a full branch would give the tens of thousands of troops and civilian contractors currently working on the space mission far greater spending to continue and expand upon the responsibilities of the domain.

Founding the Space Force will firmly establish America’s leadership in space. In President Trump’s own words,

“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space. And so we will.”

One of the first technologies announced was the fielding of a new generation of jam-resistant GPS and communication satellites. This also comes along with a new missile defense satellite that is “smaller, tougher, and more maneuverable than ever before.”

The need for dominance over space is growing by the day. China launched a missile that tracked and destroyed a test satellite in 2007. Russia has been designing an airborne laser that is said to disrupt satellites and claim to be creating missiles that could be launched mid-flight to destroy satellites. Both have claimed to have ability to move their satellites closer to our own — which could pose an unprecedented new danger.

Many more details about the new branch’s establishment will come soon as we move forward towards its eventual creation with a possible date set for 2020.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 8 biggest differences between military and civilian prison

From the moment you don the uniform of the U.S. military, the biggest threat looming over your nascent career is being forced to “turn big rocks into little rocks” at Leavenworth.


There are actually a number of military prisons, which house inmates for crimes of varying degrees of severity, including capital murder. As a matter of fact, the U.S. military hasn’t executed one of its own since 1961, when the Army hanged Pvt. John Bennett for sexual assault and murder. Most criminal troops, like most criminal civilians, do not commit crimes on that level and are expected to spend a shorter time in the slammer.

Civilian prisons have a less-than-stellar reputation that precedes them. Film and television portray American civilian prisons as a violent jungle of gangs, drugs, rape, and boredom where death stalks inmates at every turn. To make matters worse, the food is so terrible, ramen noodles replaced cigarettes as the unofficial currency. But military life has always been different from civilian life and the two systems of justice are just as different.

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Civilian prison guards at the federal level.

1. Guards

Military prison guards are usually from a local military police/security forces unit. These are uniformed personnel who took on the same obligation as the inmates under their control. Their military specialty is their job and they want their lives and the lives of the prisoners to go as smoothly as possible – and in military prisons, life usually happens that way.

Federal prison guards come in two types, according to a former inmate who saw both systems while doing time for drug trafficking. The first is the kind that come in and do their jobs, preferring to hang out in offices and guard shacks, drinking coffee and taking home a check. The other kind is aggressive, trying to provoke the prisoners so he can assert authority (and sometimes a beating of sorts) on prisoners. This is not to imply that correctional officers are entirely terrible – every job has its best and worst. Prisoners will “put on a show” while the worst guards are around.

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Inside the Naval Brig at Miramar.

2. Facilities

Just like in basic training, every one in a military prison is responsible for cleaning their areas of the facility, as well as its maintenance and upkeep. If a prisoner’s area gets even slightly unkept or unsanitary, that prisoner will hear about it immediately and the strict code of military discipline will come down in a hurry. More than that, however, military prisons are incredibly clean and well-kept anyway, so keeping it looking that way is almost effortless. There might be something to the broken windows theory because it’s very different in a federal penitentiary.

Federal prisons are run down, broken, unsanitary messes. Prisoners here are also responsible for cleaning the facilities but many leave much to be desired in this respect. Civilian prisoners tend not to care as much about cleanliness, doing the bare minimum amount of work or giving up after seeing how far gone certain areas are.

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The Federal Bureau of Prisons operates a corporation that uses prison labor to make military uniforms.

3. Rehab

The military offers a plethora of different ways a prisoner can rehabilitate him or herself before leaving the military prison system. Since most of the prisoners who leave the military with a sentence will be left with a dishonorable discharge, the ability to work in fields that are critically undermanned or a skilled trade will be important in their new lives. As such, the military prison system offers training in carpentry, certified auto repair, culinary arts and hospitality services, and more.

Preventing recidivism isn’t as apparent in the civilian prison system. The Federal Bureau of Prisons offers offenders with sufficient time on their sentences the opportunity to get out nine months early in the Residential Drug Abuse Program. Federal prisons offer education for those without a high school education or for prisoners who don’t speak English and some job training exists, but depends mostly on the labor needs of the prison system. College coursework is available, but prisoners must fund these themselves.

In general, military prisoners are focused on the long-term of life after prison while civilian prisoners are only focused on what’s going to happen later that same day.

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4. Salutes

Civilian prisoners would never think to do this but for a military audience, this is important. Prisoners in military correctional facilities, while technically still in the military, are not allowed to salute military officers and the offense is punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The reason is respect, but not the way you’re likely thinking.

A military officer returns salutes thrown at them as a matter of respect to the person saluting them. If a prisoner saluted a military officer, the officer would be obliged to return the salute – and who wants to salute a convict? Military convicts are still expected to refer to their guards by rank and name, however.

While inmates are still a part of the military and answer to the military hierarchy, one corrections officer from California noted that inmates in a general population at a federal prison will create their own chain of command (outside of the prison personnel), leading right up to the top inmates.

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A fight breaks out at a SuperMax prison.

5. Fights

Fights are uncommon in the military prison system and when they do happen, they are broken up quickly. Inmates in military prisons were – at some point – military personnel trained and held to a high standard. Breaking a few laws will not usually change this very much. Besides, everyone is trying to get out of the military system on good behavior, and many will re-enter the military after their sentence. Most importantly, they don’t want to lose access to their nice rehab programs and lose the work they’ve put in because of a stupid fight – and prison gangs don’t exist. Military personnel don’t lose the sense of camaraderie they garner during service, and that same “in it together” mindset binds military prisoners.

In the civilian system, the world is not how it’s portrayed on television. There are more fistfights that happen than in military facilities, but there are also higher population densities in federal prisons. For the most part, problem inmates are separated. When fights in civilian prisons get really bad, the entire facility can be placed on lockdown. For gangs, some facilities have more gangs and gang members than others, with a “you stay with yours and I stay with mine” mentality

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An exercise area for solitary prisoners.

6. Solitary

Whether in Federal prison or a military prison, refusing to obey the guards will land you in segregation, aka solitary confinement, aka “The Hole.” The only activity left to a prisoner in solitary confinement is sleeping or perhaps carrying on a conversation with him or herself. In a military prison, noncompliance can land you in solitary for up to six months at a time, where your home is an eight by seven-foot room with a single bunk, a single light, along with a toilet and sink. The only interaction with the outside world is a small slot in the door for food.

No matter if a prisoner is in solitary or general population, the life of a prisoner is boring and monotonous. Work details and recreation help pass the time, a chief concern of the extended-stay prisoner.

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An above-average prison dinner.

7. Daily Life

Both military and civilian prisoners lead regimented lives, but naturally the military prisoner’s is much more so. In the military, prisoners will have the option of working in one of the prison’s workshops or details, like a wood shop, kitchen detail, dorm cleaning, chapel cleaning, grounds maintenance and masonry. Every day, prisoners have a very rigid structured schedule, which including shaving in the morning, work details, multiple head counts, recreation, and showers. The weekends have no work details and more recreation.

On the plus side, the food is much better in a military prison – like that of a chow hall – but inmates are searched to ensure they don’t take food back with them to their dorm/barracks room. Some civilian prisons have very little oversight over the prisoners food and reports of undercooked meat are common. In general, prison food is bland, one more reason ramen is the currency of choice.

Military prisoners also receive much better medical care as a result of being in a military correctional facility.

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Disgraced Subway personality Jared Fogle was immediately beaten in a low-security federal prison.

8. Crimes Matter

Whether in civilian prisons or military prisons, the reason for your detention is important – to the other prisoners. Besides the security level of your sentence being based on the crime you committed, convicts convicted of child molestation and underage pornography are shunned and harassed by other prisoners.

Snitches usually get ostracized as well and are usually said to be forced to group with convicts who committed crimes against children.

Articles

12 best military jobs according to Glassdoor

We scraped through job reviews on Glassdoor.com, a site that lets employees rate their employers and their careers anonymously, to find out what the most loved jobs in the military are. Here are 12 of the highest rated careers in uniform:


12. Air Force Aircraft Mechanic (4.1)

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Staff Sgt. Doug Miller and Master Sgt. Scott Dolese, aircraft structural maintenance technicians, work a jack support box repair from the inside and outside of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. (Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

The job is basically summed up in the title. Someone has to be in charge of keeping all of the Air Force’s planes flying, and these are the folks who do it. The Air Force has a number of specific jobs that fall under this umbrella, from Remotely Piloted Aircraft Maintenance to Airlift/Special Mission Aircraft Maintenance or Aircraft Hydraulic Systems. (Average rating is a 4.1.)

11. Coast Guard Storekeeper (4.1)

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Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Stratton, a storekeeper with the Eighth Coast Guard District, sifts through hundreds of procurement requests for different departments for the district, Oct. 31, 2011. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Casey J. Ranel)

Access to all of the ship or command’s goods while hanging out on ships (mostly) near the coasts. Sounds great. Storekeepers can go further out, serving primarily on icebreakers and cutters when they’re not on the shore. They specialize in inventory and supply. (Average rating is a 4.1.)

10. Marine Corps Aircraft Mechanic (4.1)

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U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Zachary Jackson, an airframe mechanic with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 232, conducts maintenance on an F/A-18C Hornet. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Mason Roy)

Aircraft maintainers in the Marines Corps take care of the fleet of helicopters, fixed wing planes, and tilt-rotor aircraft that carry them and other Marines around the globe. They get a lot of first-hand knowledge of aircraft and are, for the most part, safely tucked away from the worst of the fighting. (Average review is a 4.1.)

9. Air Force Intelligence Analyst (4.2)

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The 35th Operations Support Squadron intelligence analysts and Japan Air Self-Defense Force counterparts plot coordinates on a map in preparation for Red Flag-Alaska 17-2, at Misawa Air Base, Japan, May 26, 2017. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)

Collect all the signals, images, testimony, and other intel that’s coming from the field, and then think about it really hard. Of course, there’s tons of paperwork and your musings on the information determine whether other people live or die, so no pressure or anything. (Average rating is a 4.2.)

8. Coast Guard Information Systems Technician (4.2)

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Chief Petty Officer Mark Bigsby, an information systems technician from Coast Guard Base Seattle, operates a deployable contingency communications system near Ellensburg, Washington. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Marshall Wilson)

It’s an IT job, but with the Coast Guard. Keep computers properly hooked up and set up new networks when needed; you could even get called to keep all the computers on an ocean-going cutter working together. And odd note about the Glassdoor for this job though: the IT guys are less likely to recommend the Coast Guard to a friend (62 percent vs. 88 percent) than Coasties as a whole reported. (Average rating is a 4.2.)

7. Coast Guard Operations Specialist (4.2)

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U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Pat DeQuattro, deputy commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area, talks with Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Perkins, an operations specialist, in Pohang, Republic of Korea, April 12, 2017. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Rob Simpson)

Another top Coast Guard position, operations specialists are in charge of helping plan operations for ships and then chart courses and allocate resources to make it possible. They can be tasked with everything from taking down smugglers to rescues at sea. (Average review is a 4.2.)

6. Navy Hospital Corpsman (4.2)

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Petty Officer 3rd Class Steven Martinez, left, a corpsman, and Staff Sgt. Joseph Quintanilla, a platoon sergeant, brace as a CH-53E Super Stallion takes off after inserting the company into a landing zone. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Owen Kimbrel)

A combination of hospital nurses and field medics, Navy corpsmen give medical aid to sailors, Marines, and others both on ship and shore as well as in combat around the world. Obviously, this can result in a lot of stress but can also be very fulfilling. (Average rating is a 4.2.)

5. Army Human Resources Specialist (4.2)

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(Photo: US Army Sgt. Jason Means)

It’s one of the more ridiculed jobs, an “uber-POG” position that rarely sees combat. But human resource specialists seem happy with their desk jobs, tracking personnel and making sure pay goes through properly. (Average rating is a 4.2, vs. an average of 3.4 for the infantry).

4. Army Logistics Manager (4.2)

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Mine-resistant, ambush-protected, all-terrain vehicles line up for a convoy. (Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Alex Manne)

The Glassdoor ratings for “Army Logistics Manager” cover a variety of jobs, mostly in the transportation branch. They drive trucks, plan routes, and send convoys through enemy territory. So, a little adventure on some days, but humdrum the rest of the time. A sweet life, unless we run into another era like the rise of the IED. Then it sucks. Horribly. (Average rating is a 4.2.)

3. Military officer (4.4)

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Capt. Robert Duchaine, B Company Commander, 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, visits with children Oct. 31 at a Kindergarten school in the Khadamiyah area of western Baghdad. (Photo: U.S. Army 1st Lt. Bob Miller).

“Officer” is a wide catch-all that includes everything from the folks who manage door kickers to those who manage desk jockeys to those who manage truck drivers. (Glassdoor has a separate “Officer” category for each branch, but they all average ratings between 4.3 and 4.5.)

2. Army Operations Manager (4.5)

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Master Sgt. Jeffrey Golden, the operations noncommissioned officer for the Regional Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer, plans operations on May 7, 2017. (Photo: U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Christopher Hernandez)

This is another ratings category where the reviewers came from different jobs, but these are the folks who worked their way into an operations shop and are now in charge of planning missions and ensuring the teams have everything they need for success, from engineers building new roads to infantrymen slaying bodies. (Average rating is a 4.5.)

1. Coast Guard Machinery Technician (4.8)

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Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeff Bernard, a machinery technician aboard Coast Guard Cutter Healy, cleans the block of one of Healy’s main diesel engines, Sept.18, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson)

Machinery technicians work on all of the Coast Guards engines, generators, and other pumps, and they service vessels from tiny rafts to cutters and icebreakers. All that working with their hands seems to keep the technicians super happy. (Average rating is a 4.8.)

MIGHTY MOVIES

Iron Man’s ‘Endgame’ death could have looked a lot more grisly

If you were taken aback by Tony Stark’s face during his final moments in “Avengers: Endgame,” it could have looked a lot more grisly.

“We gave the filmmakers a full range [of looks] to choose from and one of those was where the energy from the stones had acted right up into his face and popped one of his eyeballs out and it was hanging out on his cheek,” Weta digital VFX supervisor Matt Aitken told Insider of one of the most gruesome designs they did for Iron Man’s death.

“They didn’t go for that one,” Aitken chuckled.


The “Endgame” visual effects team, consisting of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), Marvel, and Weta Digital, put together a full range of looks for Marvel Studios and directors Anthony and Joe Russo to look over.

The team needed to strike the perfect balance between a look that was believable enough that Tony could die, but that wasn’t too scary for kids and families to watch together.

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This was one of many designs made for Tony’s death scene.

(Marvel Studios)

“With any development item, you want to be able to give the filmmakers a full gamut, from sort of a light touch all the way to horror, and this will never be in it,” said Marvel VFX producer Jen Underdahl. “But by doing that exercise and by letting them see sort of every stage, they can kind of pinpoint and circle the drain on where they think the look is going to settle.”

“We did go several rounds on that guy from grisly to not so grisly to more light of a touch, back to OK this is the spot where we think the audience is not going to get too freaked out, but also really understand that Tony has reached the point of no return,” Underdahl added.

The film helped lay out viewer’s expectations for Tony’s impending death by physically showing the damage the stones did to two other larger, powerful characters. The idea was that, hopefully, by the time Tony snapped and used the gauntlet viewers would be able to see the consequences of him wielding the stones.

“We had seeded in the film this notion of Thanos having damage. There are consequences to him snapping and pursuing this ideology. You see the damage in his face and what that did to him, and he’s built for this,” said Underdahl. “Then [you] see the consequences to Smart Hulk, who was made of gamma radiation and the damage that it did there.”

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If this is what the stones did to Hulk, then you had to know it wasn’t going to go well for Tony.

(Marvel Studios, composite by Kirsten Acuna)

“You knew somewhere in the math that Tony himself, even though he’s got this suit and it’s going to fight for him, ultimately what’s going to result would be something he couldn’t recover from,” she added.

Atkins, Underdahl, and Marvel visual effects supervisor Swen Gillberg said they pushed the design past where they wanted to go so that they ultimately fell somewhere right in the middle of two extremes.

Another one of those extreme looks involved a nod to one of Batman’s most famous villains.

“We did do a Two-Face version where you got inside and you saw the sinews and you saw them in the teeth and that,” said Underdahl of another one of the more grisly Tony Stark designs.

In “The Dark Knight,” the Batman villain, Harvey Dent, is severely burned after half of his face is lit on fire.

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For reference, here’s how Dent/Two-Face looks. I think it’s safe to say no one would have wanted to see this version of Tony.

(Warner Bros.)

“It takes you away from this really powerful moment,” said Underdahl of why that wouldn’t have been the right move for that moment. “You don’t want to be focusing on that or grossed out.”

“When he’s collapsing against the tree stump, you’ve got to know that he’s in a really bad predicament, that he has made this terrible sacrifice,” Atkins added. “But then you also didn’t want it to distract from his performance. And it’s a really subtle performance that he has in those intimate moments with Spidey and then with Pepper. So yeah we definitely worked quite hard on achieving that one, but we got there.”

“Avengers: Endgame” is one of 10 films on the shortlist for the visual effects category at the 92nd Academy Awards. The five final Oscar nominees will be announced Monday morning.

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

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MIGHTY HISTORY

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

With the Cynthia Erivo led biographical film Harriet recently released in November, the inspiring legacy of Harriet Tubman is fresh in our minds. The fearless Underground Railroad “conductor” was responsible for (either personally or indirectly) the hard-won freedom of thousands of enslaved African Americans.


This clever, unflinching woman is to be honored by the redesign of the $20 bill—now said to be coming in 2028. She has had statues commissioned in her likeness across several American cities, had the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park commemorated in her honor, and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

But what don’t we know about the woman behind the immeasurable legacy? Here are ten enlightening Harriet Tubman facts you’ll want to know.

Harriet Tubman was not the Underground Railroad conductor’s birth name.

When she was born in the early 19th century, Harriet was given the name Araminta Ross—her mother usually used an affectionate nickname, Minty. When Minty changed her name before her brave escape from slavery, it was her mother’s given name, Harriet, that she assumed. The ‘Tubman’ portion of her name came from the man she married in 1844, John Tubman, a free African American man who lived near Harriet’s owner’s plantation.

Even as Harriet carved an iconic path making her name a staple of history, she would earn several other nicknames along the way—abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison called Tubman ‘Moses’, while John Brown would refer to her as ‘General Tubman’.

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A youthful head injury had an outsized impact on her life.

When she was a teenager, Tubman was struck on the head by a two-pound weight. The attack was meant for a nearby enslaved person attempting to make an escape—but the overseer missed their shot, instead hitting Tubman. The crack in Tubman’s skull caused her to have long-term sleeping complications. Throughout her life, Tubman would abruptly lose consciousness. It would be a struggle to rouse her from the spells.

Additionally, the injury caused Tubman to have vivid visions and dreams. She soon believed that her visions were coming directly from God. It was this deep religious faith that inspired her to put her own life on the line to aid slaves in their flight to freedom.

Her injury may have also compelled her own escape. Terrified that she would be seen as inadequate, Tubman attempted to work harder and harder to keep herself from being sold away from her family and loved ones. Eventually, she decided the risk of being caught on her way to freedom was a better one than remaining in place and being sold.

Later in life, her injury further complicated her life, making it difficult for her to fall asleep at night. She opted to have brain surgery and admitted herself to Boston’s Massachusetts General hospital. Though anesthesia was offered to her, Tubman refused. She was determined to bite a bullet as the soldiers did during amputations.

She utilized disguises and codes to allay suspicion along the Underground Railroad.

Once Tubman was known to slavers as a key participant in the Underground Railroad, additional precautions had to be taken. Tubman cleverly dressed herself as men, old women, and even free middle class African Americans to travel across the slave states undeterred. By walking around with chickens, Tubman would assume the identity of a field hand. In a stroke of true genius, she would pretend to read the newspaper, as it was widely known that Harriet Tubman was illiterate.

To send messages to her followers, Tubman implemented the use of spirituals and songs as a system of codes. Further utilizing her cunning mind, Tubman prioritized travel on Saturdays, as she knew that newspapers published their runaway notices on Monday mornings.

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She was even tougher than you can imagine.

Harriet Tubman knew that traveling back and forth along the Underground Railroad meant that she and her followers were at risk of being attacked by the police, hunting dogs, mobs, bounty hunters, and notoriously cruel slave catchers. At one point, Tubman’s efforts freeing slaves led to a call for a ,000 bounty on her head. It’s unclear if this bounty was one single bounty, or the combination of a number of bounties offered around the slave-holding states and territories.

The fight for freedom was dangerous business, and Tubman was going to treat it as such—she threatened to kill anyone who was having second thoughts along the way, as anyone turning back during their escape was a liability to all of the others. Tubman also toted a handgun along with her on her travels for protection.

On her final trip on the Railroad, Tubman assisted the Ennals family. The Ennals had an infant child with them—a life-threatening risk with the unpredictable nature of a baby’s moods. However, Tubman was sharp and determined, and she carried on ahead after drugging the baby with paregoric, a tincture of opium.

She never lost a single follower on her journeys of escape.

The number of people Tubman personally guided along the Underground Railroad is widely disputed. Early accounts put that number around 300, while later biographies lowered the number to 70. At any rate, Tubman was proud to proclaim, “I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say—I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”

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She was a vital part of the Union war efforts.

During the Civil War, Tubman did her part by acting as both a cook and a nurse for the Union Army. Thanks to her knowledge of plants and their properties, she was a great resource in aiding soldiers with dysentery. She was also used as a Union scout and spy—a role that was well-suited to her, judging by her Railroad tactics. In fact, she was the first woman to lead an assault during the war, arranging the Combahee River Raid. With the assistance of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, Tubman brought roughly 750 slaves to freedom with this raid.

Unfortunately, Tubman long went uncompensated for her war efforts, and continued to be under-compensated once she secured a pension. She received only 0 for her three-year commitment—payment only for her nursing contributions. She argued with the government that they owed her an additional 6 for her espionage services, but it took 34 years for her to receive a veteran’s pension.

Her second husband was 22 years younger than Tubman when they wed in 1869.

Her second husband was Nelson Davis, a veteran of the Civil War. At the time of their marriage, Tubman was 59 years old, while Davis was just 37. In 1874, the pair adopted a baby girl named Gertie. For two decades before Davis’s early death, they had a happy life together growing vegetables and raising pigs in their back garden.

After her work on the Underground Railroad, Tubman championed for women’s right to vote.

Later in her life, Tubman stood among other prominent women in the suffrage movement. She attended the meetings of suffragist organizations, and it wasn’t long before she was working alongside the notable Susan B. Anthony and Emily Howland to bring women the right to vote. Tubman traveled throughout the east coast to New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. to deliver speeches in favor of women’s suffrage, even at her own financial detriment.

Despite life-long financial struggles, she epitomized the generous spirit.

Tubman spent the last years of her life on the land that abolitionist Senator William H. Seward sold her in Auburn, New York. Though Tubman was well-known across the United States, her reputation did little to help her finances. However, her own poverty was not going to keep her from helping others, and so she gave what she had.

She used her plot of land as a place for family and friends to take refuge with her, embracing an open-door policy. In 1903, she donated a section of her property to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Five years later, the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged and Indigent Colored People opened up on that very location.

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She passed away on March 10th, 1913.

Harriet Tubman was an estimated 93 years old when she succumbed to pneumonia. The brave woman was surrounded by loved ones upon her death. She was buried with full military honors in the Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York. Though this incredible woman has been gone for more than a century, her legacy lives on in the pages of history books, across the schools and museums which proudly bear her name, reflected by towering movie screens, and most importantly, through the lives of all of those her selfless risks helped to improve for generations to come.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why America built 3,000 of these simple nuclear weapons

When it comes to nuclear weapons, we hear a lot about ICBMs and SSBNs, but what is likely America’s most common nuke isn’t a missile – it’s dropped from a plane. We’re talking, of course, about the B61 gravity bomb, which has been around for a while and is going to be around for a long time.


This is perhaps America’s most versatile nuke. Not only has America built over 3,000 of these bombs, but it was the basis for the W80, W84, and W85 warheads, the key ingredient in nuclear missiles, like the BGM-109A Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Nuclear, the BGM-109G Gryphon Ground-Launched Cruise Missile, and the MGM-31C Pershing II intermediate-range ballistic missile. Quite impressive, isn’t it?

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Training version of a B61 nuclear bomb. (USAF photo)

The B61 came about as the result of a need for weapon that could be delivered by high-performance jets. When it was being developed, the F-4 Phantom and other jets capable of hitting Mach 2 were starting to enter service. The earlier nukes, like the Mk 7 and B28, had been designed for use on slower planes, like the F-86 Sabre, F-100 Super Sabre, and the F-105 Thunderchief.

Related: 2 obvious ways to revitalize America’s nuclear arsenal

What emerged was a bomb that came in at roughly 700 pounds — compare that to the 1,700 pounds of the B28 or the 1,600 pounds of the Mark 7. In addition, the bomb had what was known a “dial-a-yield” capability, allowing for the selection of explosive yield, ranging from three-tenths of a kiloton to 340 kilotons.

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The B61 is currently being upgraded to the B61 Mod 12 standard, which adds GPS guidance to this versatile weapon. The new system could be in service as soon as 2020, possibly allowing the United States to replace the B83 strategic thermonuclear bomb.

Check out the video below to learn how the B61 was developed and built:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REVGlLMwq2s
(Jeff Quitney | YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

How a heroic Navy SEAL helped lead the largest search & rescue mission during the Vietnam War

Navy SEAL Lt. Thomas “Tommy” Norris and South Vietnamese naval commando Nguyễn Văn Kiệt pushed off from the shore in an abandoned sampan while dressed as Vietnamese fishermen. The pair were on an impossible mission to find Iceal “Gene” Hambleton, a US Air Force navigator who was shot down over Quang Tri Province and had been on the run from more than 30,000 North Vietnamese soldiers.

All previous rescue attempts had been failures — eight aircraft were shot down, 14 Americans killed, two of the rescue team captured, and two more missing in action. The largest search and rescue effort of the entire Vietnam War had dwindled down to the efforts of a handful of Navy commandos.


Two nights prior to their risky undercover paddle, Norris led a five-man patrol to rescue Lt. Mark Clark, a forward air controller who was shot down while searching for Hambleton.

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Lt. Thomas Norris stands in the background at center as Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton (on stretcher) is taken to a waiting M113 armored personnel carrier to be evacuated. Photo courtesy of the US Department of Defense.

Clark had received a cryptic message that instructed him to float down the Cam Lo River: “When the moon goes over the mountains, make like Esther Williams and get in the Snake and float to Boston.” He needed to go to the river and head east.

As Norris moved toward the riverbank, he heard Clark’s heavy breathing before he spotted the downed pilot floating in the river. However, a North Vietnamese Army patrol was crossing the same area, forcing Norris to maintain cover and helplessly watch Clark float by. For the next two hours Norris searched the water for any signs of the missing aviator. At dawn — and 2,000 meters behind enemy lines — Norris and his team rendezvoused with the American pilot and brought him safely back to a forward operating base. That protection lasted only hours as they were hit with mortars and rockets that decimated their South Vietnamese partners, cutting down the force by nearly half.

Hambelton had called airstrikes on NVA supply lines from his emergency radio while simultaneously evading capture. Hambelton’s health was fading fast after more than a week’s time on the run with little food and contaminated water in his stomach. After a forward air controller informed Norris that Hambelton was not hitting his calls on a time schedule and when he did he barely could talk, Norris asked for volunteers. The only other commando that would join him on the one-way rescue mission was Kiệt. They were determined to not let Hambleton fall into the enemy’s hands.

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Lt. Thomas R. Norris in Vietnam with Nguyen Van Kiet, the Vietnamese Sea Commando who accompanied him on the rescues of Clark and Hambleton. Kiet was awarded the Navy Cross for his role in this operation, the highest award the Navy can give to a foreign national. Photo courtesy of achievement.org.

Hambleton, a navigator by trade, was an avid golfer and could envision the layouts of golf courses in his mind. Knowing the NVA were monitoring their radios, the rescue planners ingeniously relayed cryptic messages as they had with Clark, but used navigation points of Hambleton’s favorite golf courses this time.

“You’re going to play 18 holes and you’re going to get in the Suwannee and make like Esther Williams and Charlie the Tuna,” Hambelton said in an interview. “The round starts on No. 1 at Tucson National.”

The No. 1 at Tucson National is 408 yards southeast, information only he would know, and he traveled that distance through enemy minefields to the river. Seeing the precise locations of the the water hazards or the fairways of his favorite golf courses in his mind acted as a mental compass through the jungles of Vietnam — and led him to a banana tree grove that provided some sustenance to his malnourished body.

Hambleton hugged the bank of the river for three long days and nights. Clinging to life, Hambleton saw two men paddling quietly up the river, both carrying AK-47s and dressed as fishermen. As the most-wanted man in the region, his first thought was to be afraid. And then his delirious focus noticed Norris’ eyes — an American. After 11 days on the run, Hambleton was helped into the bottom of the sampan and was covered in bamboo with instructions to lay motionless. Norris and Kiệt feared waiting until nightfall would worsen his condition, so they returned back the way they came.

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Officials dedicated a 10-foot statue depicting Lt. Thornton carrying Lt. Norris on his shoulders during the facility’s 28th annual Muster reunion at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida. The sculptor is Paul Moore of Norman, Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of achievement.org.

They passed numerous NVA positions, tilting their heads away from the enemy’s menacing glares. When a suspected enemy machine gun position opened up on their boat, Kiệt pulled the sampan to the shore to conceal it behind some vegetation. Norris called in close air support, hoping to pin down the enemy and allow to get the rest of the way back to the FOB. The plan worked.

Norris had successfully rescued both Clark and Hambleton and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions between April 10 and April 13, 1972. Kiệt was one of two South Vietnamese soldiers to be awarded the Navy Cross during the war. The rescue even garnered Hollywood’s attention, and Gene Hackman took the role starring as Hambleton in the movie Bat*21.

Norris continued his military service in Vietnam and participated in a historic reconnaissance operation where he was shot in the head and eventually lost an eye while providing suppressive fire while his SEAL element retreated to the water for exfiltration. When Norris became too wounded to escape the ambush, another Navy SEAL named Mike Thornton, who later became a founding member of SEAL Team 6, charged through the onslaught of enemy fire back to Norris’s position and rescued him. This was only the third time in US military history that a Medal of Honor recipient rescued another Medal of Honor recipient.

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Every step of this story is true.

It was an early morning in Smoaks, South Carolina, and humidity hung in the air. A truck pulled into the Valley Forge Flag driveway, a facility whose sole purpose is flag production. Valley Forge has been producing since World War I, and their flags have seen a number of fates, from being draped across the caskets of presidents to landing on Omaha Beach to navigating the jungles of Vietnam. Some say it’s one of their flags that is planted on the cold surface of the moon.

The truck began offloading countless rolls of an off-white fabric. The delivery man called them “greige goods,” and he was on his way as soon as he was unloaded.


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Rolls of fabric used in flag production at Valley Forge Flags.

(Photo courtesy of Valley Forge Flags)

The Valley Forge material handler sent the greige goods to be dyed, and when the rolls returned, some were white and others had become a deep, brilliant red. They were cut into strips, and six white strips joined seven red strips, making a total of 13 stripes arranged into one neat pile.

A seamstress approached the pile and set herself to sewing. The sewing machines in this facility were automated, and three or four machines would be running at any given time under the watchful eye of Valley Forge employees. This woman watched them carefully as they stitched the strips of cloth together; she watched as the strips became stripes, the needle pressing into the fabric and joining them together with a firm bond.

The facility floor was filled with the sound of these sewing machines as each one was pieced together, beginning to resemble an American flag.

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Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.

(Photo by Tetteroo Media)

Rolls of blue cloth with embroidered stars were already waiting to join the stripes. The facility workers cut them to size and fit them next to the stripes, emplacing the final piece of the puzzle.

Another seamstress expertly sewed the fly-end of the flag, and yet another sewed on the white header. The real brass grommets were next, and soon the flags were sent for inspection. The inspector eyed them carefully as they were placed along the table in front of her. Her eye was impeccable; with pride she trimmed excess pieces of thread, and even the most minor defect would be quickly detected and remedied. When complete, she proudly placed a label on the flag indicating that she made sure this flag was of superior quality.

After being properly folded, the flags were placed into packages and taken out the large door in the side of the facility awaiting shipment to their final destination.

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Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.

(Photo by Tetteroo Media)

Of these flags, one sat among the rest, heading out to somewhere in the U.S. It looked identical to the others, but its fate was quite different. It would not fly during an American summer nor would passing soldiers salute it.

It wasn’t long before that flag was sitting on the shelf at the PX in Fort Benning, Georgia. It lay there still, amidst the bustle of basic trainees, airborne students, and the throngs of other transient service members in the area.

Eventually, a hand extended from amongst the countless uniforms and took it. After an exchange at the PX checkout counter, the flag was again on the move.

That hand belonged to a man named Patrick. He was of medium height with a strong build, a quiet demeanor, rough hands, and kind eyes.

He took it home to his wife. She had just moved to the area after their wedding; Fort Benning sat on the line dividing Georgia from Alabama, and they lived in the latter in a small apartment complex. Outside, he was an Army Ranger whose country demanded the most difficult tasks of him; here, he was a husband and a friend, a young man fixated on finding happiness in the four walls of a one-bedroom apartment. And he found it, for a while.

This was the home that American flag had been brought into.

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Patrick Hawkins during a training exercise in Fort Benning, Georgia.

(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)

Patrick had a reverence for a precious few of his own valuables. A rosary hung nearby — he lamented when people wore rosaries around their necks, saying it was improper. He cherished his wedding ring as a sign of dedication to his beloved. And he felt that the flag, though it was merely a combination of cloth and stitching, represented the things he had fought so hard for during his last three deployments to Afghanistan, the freedoms he enjoyed as he grew from a boy to a Ranger.

Patrick was, for all his calluses and no-excuses leadership, a deeply sentimental man.

He unpacked the flag, but he knew it would not hang on his wall or be displayed on a flagpole. It had a purpose closer to his heart.

He folded it properly and brought it with him to work. He presented his military ID as he passed into Fort Benning, and then drove through the brown fence onto the Ranger compound. Patrick arrived early that day, and he entered the bowels of B Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment — a maze of lockers and bags neatly stowed to the side. Flags of all types were displayed above and the pictures of fallen Rangers lined the walls. Folded flag in hand, Patrick passed them by.

He heaved out a large duffel bag filled with the tools he would need to carry out a war in a far away place. It still had dust embedded into its canvas shell from the last deployment. Patrick placed the flag snugly next to his gear — his cold-weather jacket and extra boots, a laptop and hard drive filled with movies.

The bag containing the flag was loaded onto a pallet, ratcheted down, and covered in plastic sheeting to protect it from the weather. The pallet lay outside under the sun next to Patrick when he kissed his wife and embraced his parents. He was always a momma’s boy, and he hugged her for a few extra seconds; his father was career military, and their touch resonated with mutual respect as well as love.

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Bagram Honor Guard members fold the American flag during a Memorial Day ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 29, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)

It seemed only moments later that Patrick and his flag stepped onto Kandahar Air Field (KAF), Afghanistan.

Upon arrival, Patrick retrieved the flag and carried it to the ready room. It was lined with small, plywood cubbyholes, a hardy wooden table in the center. Zip ties in hand, Patrick grabbed his body armor out of his cubby and placed it on the table. He carefully unfolded the flag and rolled it tightly. He zip tied it onto the outside of his armor, what he called his “kit,” and then placed it back in the wooden cubby.

The flag stayed with him as he donned his kit and grasped his rifle, as he stepped onto the MH-47 helicopter and barreled toward Taliban strongholds. It remained with him as he bolted across the Afghan countryside and dragged Taliban leadership back onto the helicopter and to American lines.

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This U.S. Air Force PJ displays the American flag on his kit in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

There came a moment when the stars on that flag had seen more stars in the Afghan sky than the American sky. It was rolled on Patrick’s back, and it was not properly folded — yet it could not have been in a more perfect state at a more perfect time. He was honored to carry it, and it was in carrying it that he defined why such things have value.

Then one night, Patrick stepped off the helicopter for the last time. A woman exited a small, dirt building, and his Ranger brother went to ensure that she was properly cleared and safely escorted off the battlefield. Instead, the night lit up as she exploded, a suicide vest detonating and sending Patrick’s friend careening back, severely wounded. Other Rangers were knocked off their feet. Smoke and debris hung in the air.

Patrick and the Ranger in his charge, Cody, leapt forward without regard to their own safety. The threat appeared to have been eliminated, and they sought to help their Ranger brethren who were bleeding out in the Afghan dirt.

With another step and a series of flashes, Patrick and Cody were gone. The blasts from several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried just beneath the surface ripped upward and tore through them both, searing through the flag strapped to Patrick’s back.

The night continued, fraught with chaos, but Patrick’s body remained still. The flag on his back, parts of it shredded and other parts covered in his blood, remained next to him.

An eternity of stillness passed in those moments of fire and shadow.

A hand appeared through the darkness. Patrick’s brothers grabbed what they could; they would not leave him in that place, even if the life had left his body. They were shaken and bleeding, but they gritted their teeth and carried him out with the flag on his back.

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Patrick Hawkins’ flag, after being cleaned as well as possible, now awaits another deployment.

(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)

As Patrick was dragged away, the flag remained on the ground. Once it had been still for long enough, another hand extended from the darkness, picked it up, and stuffed it into a pouch on the belt of another Ranger, just as he left for the exfil helicopter.

The hand belonged to Patrick’s squad leader and mentor, Kellan. The wounded were many, and they had long since run out of litters — Kellan was using another flag to pick up the remains of another fallen soldier. In the pouch on his belt, Patrick’s flag returned to KAF. Tears mixed into the blood on its fabric, which had been stitched together those months ago in South Carolina.

Kellan would look at the flag often, sometimes in sorrow, sometimes with that familiar guilt of survival, and often in gratitude for having the opportunity to know a man like Patrick. To live together in the most extreme of circumstances.

That was not Kellan’s last deployment. He rolled up his sleeves, and he rolled up the flag. He put his kit on the hardwood table in a far away country, zip ties in hand, and secured Patrick’s flag to it. Then he stepped back into the war.

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

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