I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it's really like. - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

When most of us join the Navy, we don’t expect to be put into positions where our lives are in danger. For sure, we know it’s a possibility; as is joining any branch of the Armed Forces, but not as probable as our USMC and Army brothers-in-arms.

But now that a sailor has fallen to the virus, it’s apparent just how potent and diverse enemy combatants can be.


I served four years on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, from 2006 to 2010. The crew aboard CVN-71 refer to their ship as The Big Stick, personifying the ship as the US’s show of force to allow us to “Walk Softly” throughout the world. My job was to safely and efficiently maintain the electrical and steam plant systems within the two powerful Nuclear Reactor plants that power and propel the ship.

We steamed everywhere from South Africa to England to the middle of nowhere deep in the Atlantic ocean. We also spent six months sending F-18 Super Hornets to Afghanistan to provide Close Air Support for ISAF forces on the ground.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

PHILIPPINE SEA (March 18, 2020) An F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) March 18, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh)

Sailing a warship is inherently dangerous. There are cables with thousands of volts of heart-stopping power running through them, manifolds of high-pressure steam harnessing enough force to easily cut a person in half and thousands of people carrying-out dynamic operations both above and below-deck. Not to mention the mighty (and oftentimes unpredictable) sea, rocking and listing the ship with sometimes violent and turbulent waves.

In my four years on The Big Stick I lost three fellow shipmates to these various dangers. Now that the world is fighting a new, global enemy, unconventional deaths like losing a sailor to COVID-19 are becoming a new normal for families all across the world. And now, we see that active duty military members are just as susceptible as anyone else.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

Part of the allure of joining the Navy is being able to see the world. The main mission of the Navy is to bring US sovereign territory, in the form of floating cities like the Roosevelt, to any corner of the planet in just a matter of hours. This allows sailors to enjoy the perks of visiting ports in places like Cape Town, Tokyo and Da Nang. Unfortunately, now, that perk also led to the death of one of my fellow Rough Riders.

The virus likely infiltrated the ship during a port visit to Vietnam’s fifth largest city. Da Nang offered its sandy beaches and opulent hotels to provide some RR for the crew of the TR but before long, the crew was ordered back to the ship, underway early and restricted to “River City” communications (meaning no phone calls or internet access).

Back in 2008, steaming off the coast of Iran, River City was set pretty much all the time (and we hated it) but we knew it was necessary. Recently, this order meant something very serious was unfolding and the sailors aboard knew it.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

When that first River City was set just weeks ago, it was hard to imagine just how serious this situation would be. No one could have predicted then that over 500 Rough Riders would test positive for the coronavirus, a Navy Captain with 30 years of military experience would be fired, a Trump-appointed official would resign and one sailor would ultimately die in the line of duty from this silent, unpredictable enemy.

Living for months at a time on a carrier out to sea, confined to extremely small and cramped spaces, living and working alongside fellow Sailors in close proximity; these truths have always been the downsides of Navy service. Now, in the age of COVID-19, they have proven deadly.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how vulnerable US satellites are to solar storms

The sunny side of planet Earth had all of its GPS communications temporarily knocked out Sept. 6 after the sun emitted two massive solar flares, showering the planet with radiation storms.


Both events were X-Class solar flares, the most severe classification, and one of them was the most powerful since 2005, Engadget reported. When solar flares like these are directed at Earth, the resulting radiation storm can easily impede radio and GPS communications. These resulted in heavy communications interference for a full hour Sept. 6.

The second storm was an X9.3, the strongest since 2005 and severe enough to cause the sun to spew out plasma from its surface in a coronal mass ejection. Radio emissions collected by the US Space Weather Prediction Center indicate that the storm caused a “wide area of blackouts” on the sunlit side of Earth, according to Space.com.

 

 

The Sept. 6 explosion spewed out plasma clouds several times the size of Earth at roughly 3 million mph, according to astrophysicist Karl Battams.

The most powerful sun storm ever recorded blasted the Earth with enough radiation in 2003 to disable NASA’s solar measurement equipment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the military is starting to crack down on the ‘Tide Pod Challenge’

Recently, a new “challenge” trend has emerged on the internet. This time around, people are eating single-load Tide Pods and, with this reason-defying phenomenon, comes a wave of memes defending the pods and even videos of teenagers actually eating them.


It’s called the “Tide Pod Challenge.” What started out as a joke about how the colors and smells of a Tide Pod are candy-like (kind of like a larger version of a Fruit Gusher) quickly got swept away, following Poe’s law, by idiots. A large majority of people who defend eating them are just trolling. They — and others — understand that eating laundry detergent is f*cking toxic.

And yet, there’re at least a few dumbasses that don’t get the joke and are actually eating the damn things.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

The Duffel Blog released a satirical article about Marine Corps leaders telling Marines to stop eating Tide Pods. Their article was a great piece of satire, joking that the officials feared an uptick in sick Marines as others “pass on troublesome rumors that they can eat Tide Pods to give them more energy on hikes or give them a boost in upper body strength.”

But in at least one Army AIT, they actually are cracking down on Tide Pods. Posted on The Salty Soldier Facebook page, someone sent in proof that their sergeants were taking away their laundry pods.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
(Image via Salty Soldier)

If you do a little digging, you’ll find that there are other users on social media talking about how, usually in Basic or AIT, other privates are eating them. We’re dumbfounded, but don’t be surprised if this Friday’s safety brief includes a reminder to not eat toxic chemicals, no matter what you read on the internet.

Besides, if you eat one and post it to YouTube, your video will be taken down and you’ll basically just poison yourself for nothing. To everyone who thinks this is an actual problem, you can relax knowing that it’s just a terrible joke that will die down sooner or later.

Articles

5 Times When Jon Stewart Made A Difference For America’s Veterans

Jon Stewart is leaving “The Daily Show” after 16 years.


A cursory look at the show archives yields an impressive listing of military-related segments over the years, from an absolutely hilarious segment from Rob Riggle at the protests of Marine recruiters in Berkeley, California to Stewart’s fascinating interview with a soldier on what it takes to get through Ranger school.

But you may not know that Stewart has been an advocate for troops throughout his tenure, and has used his show on occasion to advocate for veterans and veteran-related causes. Here are five times in recent years he tried to make a difference:

When he brought on Eric Greitens, CEO and Founder of The Mission Continues, to discuss how returning veterans could transition into service and leadership roles in the civilian world.

When he sent out Samantha Bee to investigate an Iraq war veteran’s benefit claim — stuck in the 900,000 case backlog at the VA — in a segment called Zero Dark 900,000.

When he spoke with war correspondent Sebastian Junger about his film “Korengal,” and how soldiers could positively impact society after they return from war.

When Jason Jones was sent out to speak with Vietnam veterans who were dishonorably discharged due to PTSD who can’t get treatment because they were dishonorably discharged due to PTSD.

The time he blasted President Obama over the VA backlog scandal in an ongoing series called “The Red Tape Diaries.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This plane was a silent hunter over Vietnam and Louisiana

When you think of stealth aircraft, you probably think of something that’s invisible to radar. Yes, that is a huge component of being difficult to detect in the skies today, but there’s another element that comes into play when it comes to spotting a plane: noise.


Yeah, we know that sounds obvious, but hear us out. Think about any air show you’ve ever attended. You’ve heard just how much noise those planes put out — you’ll often hear them well before you see them. There was one plane, however, that you’d have a hard time hearing — one that saw action over Vietnam. That plane was the YO-3A “Quiet Star” observation plane.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

A total of 11 Quiet Stars were built — and all saw action over Vietnam.

(US Army)

Lockheed’s unique plane was designed in every possible way to be a silent hunter. This plane didn’t pack any weapons. Instead, it carried something even deadlier to enemy troops on the ground: a radio that enabled the two-man crew to call in artillery fire or air strikes.

So, how did they keep this aerial creeper so quiet? The plane was made mostly of fiberglass and used a show-turning propeller. The propeller was turned by using a belt-and-pulley system, eliminating the noise of more conventional systems. The observer sat in front with the pilot in the rear, an arrangement similar to that used on helicopter gunships, like the AH-64 Apache.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

NASA used the YO-3A Quiet Star to measure the sound from other aircraft,

(NASA)

The Army took the Quiet Star to Vietnam in 1970. It operated low, often below 1,000 feet — well within the range of small arms, like the AK-47, that the North Vietnamese had in quantity. Surprisingly, this plane wasn’t even shot at by the enemy — none of these planes took damage during the conflict. A grand total of 11 planes were built and sent to Vietnam, where they served through 1971.

The planes were then returned to the United States and some were acquired by the Louisiana Department of Fish and Game. While with that agency, these planes helped bring a number of poachers to justice. The FBI also used the YO-3A for surveillance on some high-profile cases, like locating Patty Hearst. NASA also used the Quiet Star to help measure the sound from other planes.

The NASA Quiet Star retired and was sent to a museum in 2015. Learn more about this silent hunter in the video below!

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s new artillery destroys targets without GPS

The US Army is developing precision-guided 155mm rounds that are longer range than existing shells and able to conduct combat missions in a GPS-denied war environment.

The Precision Guidance Kit Modernization (PGK-M) is now being developed to replace the standard PGK rounds, which consist of an unguided 155 round with a GPS-fuse built into it; the concept with the original PGK, which first emerged roughly 10 years ago, was to bring a greater amount of precision to historically unguided artillery fire.


Now, Army developers with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ammunition at Picatinny Arsenal are taking the technology to a new level by improving upon the range, accuracy, and functionality of the weapon. Perhaps of greatest importance, the emerging PGK-M shell is engineered such that it can still fire with range and accuracy in a war environment where GPS guidance and navigation technology is compromised or destroyed.

The emerging ammunition will be able to fire from standard 155mm capable weapons such as an Army M777 lightweight towed howitzer and M109 howitzer.

“PGK-M will provide enhanced performance against a broad spectrum of threats. In addition, PGK-M will be interoperable with the Army’s new long-range artillery projectiles, which are currently in parallel development,” Audra Calloway, spokeswoman for the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal, told Warrior Maven.

BAE Systems is among several vendors currently developing PGK-M with the Army’s Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium. BAE developers say the kits enable munitions to make in-flight course corrections even in GPS-jammed environments.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
A U.S. Army M109 howitzer.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica A. DuVernay)

“Our experience with munitions handling, gun launch shock, interior ballistics, and guidance and fire control uniquely positions us to integrate precision technology into the Army’s artillery platforms,” David Richards, Program Manager, Strategic Growth Initiatives for our Precision Guidance and Sensing Solutions group, BAE Systems, told Warrior Maven in a statement.

This technological step forward is quite significant for the Army, as it refines its attack technologies in a newly-emerging threat environment. The advent of vastly improved land-fired precision weaponry began about 10 years ago during the height of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. GPS-guided 155m Excalibur rounds and the Army’s GPS and inertial measurement unit weapon, the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, burst onto the war scene as a way to give commanders more attack options.

Traditional suppressive fire, or “area weapons” as they have been historically thought of, were not particularly useful in combat against insurgents. Instead, since enemies were, by design, blended among civilians, Army attack options had little alternative but to place the highest possible premium upon precision guidance.

GMLRS, for example, was used to destroy Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, and Excalibur had its combat debut in the 2007, 2008 timeframe. With a CEP of roughly 1-meter Excalibur proved to be an invaluable attack mechanism against insurgents. Small groups of enemy fighters, when spotted by human intel or overhead ISR, could effectively be attack without hurting innocents or causing what military officials like to call “collateral damage.” PGK was initially envision as a less expensive, and also less precise, alternative to Excalibur.

The rise of near peer threats, and newer technologies commensurate with larger budgets and fortified military modernization ambitions, have created an entirely new war environment confronting the Army of today and tomorrow. Principle among these circumstances is, for example, China’s rapid development of Anti-Satellite, or ASAT weapons.This ongoing development, which has both the watchful eye and concern of US military strategists and war planners, underscores a larger and much discussed phenomenon – that of the United States military being entirely too reliant upon GPS for combat ops. GPS, used in a ubiquitous way across the Army and other military services, spans small force-tracking devices to JDAMs dropped from the air, and much more, of course including the aforementioned land weapons.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
Marines assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit attach a Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) to an AV-8B Harrier II.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Veronica Mammina)

Advanced jamming techniques, electronic warfare and sophisticated cyberattacks have radically altered the combat equation – making GPS signals vulnerable to enemy disruption. Accordingly, there is a broad consensus among military developers, and industry innovators that far too many necessary combat technologies are reliant upon GPS systems. Weapons targeting, ship navigation, and even small handheld solider force-tracking systems all rely upon GPS signals to operate.

Accordingly, the Army and other services are now accelerating a number of technical measures and emerging technologies designed to create what’s called Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT), or GPS-like guidance, navigation and targeting, without actually needing satellites. This includes ad hoc software programmable radio networks, various kinds of wave-relay connectivity technologies and navigational technology able to help soldiers operate without GPS-enabled force tracking systems.

At the same time, the Army is working with the Air Force on an integrated strategy to protect satellite comms, harden networks, and also better facilitate joint-interoperability in a GPS-denied environment.

The Air Force Space strategy, for instance, is currently pursuing a multi-fold satellite strategy to include “dispersion,” “disaggregation” and “redundancy.” At the same time, the service has also identified the need to successfully network the force in an environment without GPS. Naturally, this is massively interwoven with air-ground coordination. Fighters, bombers and even drones want to use a wide range of secure sensors to both go after targets and operate with ground forces.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is working with industry to test and refine an emerging radiofrequency force-tracking technology able to identify ground forces’ location without needing to rely upon GPS.

Given all this, it is by no means insignificant that the Army seeks guided rounds able to function without GPS. Should they engage in near-peer, force-on-force mechanized ground combat against a major, technologically advanced adversary, they may indeed need to launch precision attacks across wide swaths of terrain – without GPS.

Finally, by all expectations, modern warfare is expected to increasingly become more and more dispersed across wider swaths of terrain, while also more readily crossing domains, given rapid emergence of longer range weapons and sensors.

This circumstance inevitably creates the need for both precision and long-range strike. As one senior Army weapons developer with PEO Missiles and Space told Warrior Maven in an interview — Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch — …”it is about out-ranging the enemy.”
MIGHTY HISTORY

A Chinese ‘Rambo’ fought the government so they couldn’t take his house

In America, we call it “eminent domain.” In China, they call it a Wednesday. Or whatever day the government comes and decides to take your house so they can build a freeway across what used to be your living room.

Yang Youde was a 56-year-old rice farmer who one day got the word that the government wanted to develop the land on which his farm stood. He wasn’t having it. He’d heard the stories about other regular people being forced off their land. Yang wasn’t about to become a victim.


China farmer takes a stand

www.youtube.com

Before the Chinese government and the hired agents of the land developers could force him out, he set out to create a system of defenses that would keep them in fear of coming onto his property. Using old stovepipes and fireworks, he built a real-life cannon that could fire rockets up to 100 yards.

“My goal isn’t to hurt anyone, I just want to solve my problem,” Yang told al-Jazeera. “If I get hounded out, I’m left with nothing. What’s my future except to steal, rob, or beg?

In February 2010, they came for him determined to violently force him away. He fired rockets at 30 crews until he ran out of ammo. After a physical altercation, the local police stepped in and forced the developers to come back some other time.

Yang made more ammo. And a giant watchtower. He also converted a push cart into a mobile rocket launcher.

From that high vantagepoint, he was able to hold off 100 demolition crew workers. This time, when the police came, they came for Yang.

Yang was offered the U.S. equivalent of ,000 for his Wuhan-adjacent farm. But he had a nice parcel of land with a fishpond on it. He knew he couldn’t fight the government forever, but he wanted at least a fair price. After all, his contract for the land didn’t run out for another 19 years.

And he said the Chinese government’s compensation policies entitled him to five times the offered amount. The old farmer had been growing watermelons and cotton on the land for some 40 years.

When all was said and done, Chinese state media reported that Yang was offered upward of 0,000 for his land, which he eventually agreed to. According to al-Jazeera, Yang was also held in jail for 51 days and tortured for his famous stand.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honest slogans for each branch of the military

Honestly, the military isn’t really what I thought it would be. Most of us, at some point, have moment of clarity in which we realize that what we expected of daily military life doesn’t match up with reality.

And that’s okay.

I think it’s safe to say that most of us also had (or continue to have) a pretty decent military experience, all things considered. But what if the branches decided to be honest for a moment and give potential recruits a real vision of what their daily lives might be like?

Feel free to suggest some of your own.


I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

How the Air Force checks the weather.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Basic Nathan H. Barbour)

1. Air Force

Current Slogan: “Aim High, Fly-Fight-Win”

The aiming high (actually, the aiming in general) begins and ends at the recruiter’s office for most airmen. Most new airmen will neither fly nor fight. If you consider eating chicken tendies winning, then this slogan 25 percent spot-on.

Honest Slogan: “Come in, have a seat.”

This covers everything from office jobs to the few pilots that haven’t yet left the Air Force for a cushy civilian airline. It also manages to forget the maintainers and other airmen who work on the flightline as well as Air Force special operations — just like most of the rest of the military.

More importantly, it’s the phrase you’ll hear from your supervisor every time you make the slightest mistake.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Whoa! Two women in this photo. Slow down, Navy.

(U.S. Navy)

2. Navy

Current Slogan: “Forged by the Sea”

The more accurate version of this slogan is, “Because of the Sea.” The Navy didn’t crawl out of the ocean. It was made to tame the ocean. But “Because of the Sea” doesn’t sound nearly as cool.

Honest Slogan: “5,000 dudes surrounded by water.”

This will be your life, shipmate. The Navy wants 25 percent of its ships’ crews to be composed of women, but, in reality, that number is still a distant dream. Meanwhile, the port visits to exotic lands that you dreamed about will be few and far between. Going outside, all you’ll see is water. Terrible, undrinkable, watery death. If you ever actually go outside, that is.

Sorry, Nukes.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

All I’m saying is that if all you can be is a cook, then you might as well get the pay, benefits, and serious uniform upgrade by being all you can be in the Army.

(U.S. Army)

3. Army

Current Slogan: “Army Strong”

Even the Army came around to realizing this one wasn’t doing it any favors in the recruiting department.

Honest Slogan: “A sh*tty job for anyone and everyone.”

That’s not to say the Army sucks, it doesn’t have good gigs, or isn’t worth the time and effort, but let’s face it: It’s huge, it’ll take almost anyone, and there are so many jobs that you just can’t find anywhere else, in or out of the military. Got a bachelor’s in microbiology but you suddenly want to fly a helicopter? Army. Tired of the workaday grind and selling insurance to people who hate you? Army. Do currently flip burgers for terrible pay and then have to top it off by cleaning a toilet? You can literally do that in the Army.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Yeah, this is not for everyone.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

4. Marines

Current Slogan: “The Few, The Proud

This is actually a pretty great and accurate recruiting slogan. The Marines put it on hold in 2016, only to reactivate it the next year – probably because this is actually a great and accurate recruiting slogan. The handfuls of people who do the crummiest jobs in the military using next to nothing are proud of it.

Honest Slogan: “Marines for-f*ucking-ever.”

The only thing more honest is telling recruits how long the decision to join the Marines will affect them. I’ve only ever known one former Marine who refers to himself as an “ex-Marine”. Meanwhile, old-timers at Springfield, Ohio, VFW post 1031 used to tell 6-year-old me that the only ex-Marine is Lee Harvey Oswald.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

The USCG Cutter “Get Out and Push”

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

5. Coast Guard

Current Slogan: “Born Ready”

The Coast Guard motto is “Semper Paratus,” but “Born Ready” was the nearest I could find to a recruiting slogan — and it’s a pretty good one, too. Still, it’s a few years old and could probably use an update.

Honest Slogan: “Find a way.”

Besides opening up possibilities to have Jeff Goldblum as a spokesman, this is a much more accurate depiction of life in a Coast Guard plagued by budget cuts and Congressional apathy. Meanwhile, the resourceful Coasties somehow pull off drug busts, ice breaking, and daring sea rescues. The Army, Navy, and Air Force are getting lasers on vehicles while 50-year-old Coast Guard cutters are breaking down 35 times in 19 days.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans Affairs chaplain addresses holiday stress in sermon

Excerpts from a sermon by Chaplain Jonathan Landon, Eugene VA Health Care Center.

I’ve known for a long time that some men and women really don’t enjoy the holiday season. In recent years I’ve had encounters that really brought home to me how many people there are in this situation, and how deep is their pain.

I’ve been convicted that we – the VA – and we – the community of faith – really should find some way to address this deep, aching need that some of our brothers and sisters feel.

Planning this service brought home to me many reasons why people might suffer during the holidays.


  • The first one that comes to mind is grief — loss of a loved one or a friend — but it’s not the only reason.
  • Alienation from family or even geographic distance from them can do it.
  • Painful memories of events that happened in the holiday season might be a reason.
  • Some people are experiencing loss of a job or other economic difficulty.
  • Even good things might make the holidays difficult; think about retirement, empty nest, or moving to a new home.

Any big change that affects a strong part of your self-identity might cause loneliness and feelings of isolation.

Even the loss of what might have been can be so painful.

I’m supposed to say something helpful, here, but I don’t want to offer quick fixes or simple tips; What brings healing is going to be distinctive for each person. Still, there are some principles that can help many.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Chaplain Jonathan Landon.

We may suppress our painful feelings, because we don’t want to burden others, but giving ourselves freedom to acknowledge the pain may be helpful by itself. Concealing those feelings can leave us feeling lonelier, and leaves those who care about us helpless to comfort us. So if you need to cry, then cry. And if you need to be hugged, say that, and let your family members and friends reach out to you and meet your need.

I can’t be so presumptuous as to guarantee it, but if you acknowledge your pain, and people offer space to let it out, and make that giving of mutual support into a time for bonding, maybe you can let the pressure off a little bit. Maybe you can relieve the tension of those who care about you, who are trying to avoid stirring up painful feelings. Then you may just find that there’s some room for laughter, smiles, and enjoyment.

You see, what most of us really need is not the quick fix or the simple solution; it’s caring relationships. One of the key themes of the time leading up to Christmas is the prophecy that foretold the coming of Jesus, giving him the name or title of “Emmanuel”, which means, “God with us.” This Word teaches me that I am never alone in any loss or pain, no matter what my emotions may tell me.

But the message is not only about God being with us; we have the opportunity to show the presence of God to others, by living God’s love in truth and caring for them. Some people came here today because they’re struggling with the holidays. Some people came here because they care about who is struggling with the holidays. Some care because of their faith. Some of them just care because they see a human in pain and they don’t want anyone to suffer alone.

Don’t forget: in the midst of your own pain, you have opportunities to come alongside of others — to be with them, as God is with us.

In this fairly recent tradition, the Blue Christmas service usually happens on or close to the 21st of December, the night of the winter solstice, the longest and darkest night of the year.

It’s an appropriate symbol for a time when many people feel alone, lost and in pain. But that’s not the only meaning of the night of the 21st. Because what happens at sunrise on the morning of the 22nd?

The days begin to get longer. At first, it’s by tiny increments and you hardly notice it, and then it grows faster and faster and you can’t miss it. It’s inevitable. The light returns. That, too is part of the symbolism of this night and this service. The light returns. No matter how long the night will be — or has been — the light returns.

Chaplain Jonathan Landon is the chaplain at the Eugene VA Health Care Center.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

12 awesome photos of the USAF honoring Las Vegas shooting victims

Nov. 10 saw the annual Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo at Nellis Air Force Base.


Located outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, Nellis has close ties to its neighboring city. Following the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas in October, last weekend’s air show commemorated and honored the city and the shooting’s victims.

Read Also: This Marine veteran ‘borrowed’ a truck and drove dozens to hospital during Las Vegas shooting

The show also featured US Air Force history, as the Air Force celebrates its 70th anniversary. About 400,000 people were expected to visit the two-day expo.

“This is freaking awesome. It really shakes you in your boots,” one observer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It is rare that you get to see this stuff.”

Here’s what it was like inside the Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo:

Nellis servicemen customized several aircraft, including this F-16 Fighting Falcon, to display the base’s Vegas Strong message.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 57th Wing, displays a Vegas Strong paint scheme as the aircraft flies over the Aviation Nation 2017 Air and Space Expo crowd at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 10. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver)

This F-15C Eagle was painted to commemorate the shooting, which took place at a country music festival on Oct. 1.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
Senior Airmen Brittany Galloway and Dillon Cutlip, 57th Wing creative design team members, observe their final product on the tail of an F-15C Eagle at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Nov. 1, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver)

Here’s more detail on the tail.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
Senior Airmen Brittany Galloway and Dillon Cutlip, 57th Wing creative design team members, observe their final product on the tail of an F-15C Eagle at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Nov. 1, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver/Released)

The aircraft had to be completely repainted in some cases.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
Michael Moore, 57th Maintenance Squadron aircraft painter, applies paint to an F-15C Eagle at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Oct. 25, 2017. The aircraft is being repainted to recognize the Air Force’s 70th Anniversary as well as the unity between the Las Vegas community and Nellis AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)

Here’s the final product on another F-15C Eagle.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
An F-15C Eagle bears the term Vegas Strong at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Nov. 1, 2017. The aircraft was repainted to promote the unity between the Las Vegas community and Nellis AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)

Here’s what they normally look like, without the paint job.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
F-15C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Ammons.)

Aside from the memorials to the Las Vegas shooting, the Air and Space Expo had some of the best features of a traditional air show. Spectators were treated to a show from the Air Force Thunderbirds.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver)

The opening ceremony featured members of the Air Force’s Wing of Blue Parachute Team jumping out of aircrafts.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
A member of the U.S. Air Force’s Wing of Blue Parachute Demonstration Team jumps out of an aircraft over Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Nov. 10 during the opening ceremony of Aviation Nation 2017 Nellis Air and Space Expo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum)

Here’s what it looks like when they land.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver)

Aviation Nation also celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the US Air Force, showcasing older aircraft such as the B-25 Mitchell.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Dwayne Jones)

The Texas Flying Legends flew in formation, showing off some WWII-era aircrafts.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
A Texas Flying Legends pass over the Nellis Air Force Base flight line during Aviation Nation 2017 Nellis Air and Space Expo, Nov. 10, 2017. The Texas Flying Legends is dedicated to honoring the men and women who have served—or are currently serving through an active display of World War II aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver)

Also on site was a U-2S Dragon Lady.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
A U-2S Dragon Lady, reconnaissance aircraft from Beale Air Force Base, Calif arrives at Nellis Nov. 10, 2017.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver)

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 reasons why ‘Platoon’ should have been about Sgt. Barnes

There are so many war movies out there, but few come from the direct perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was Vietnam.


Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into the highly political time in American history where the Vietnam war was strongly opposed in his film Platoon.

Although the film was excellent, did you ever wonder how different it would have been if Sgt. Barnes — the film’s villain — was the star?

Related: 7 reasons ‘Top Gun’ should have been about Iceman

Well, we did and here are six reasons why we think the movie should have been about him.

6. We would have gotten the back story on how he got his epic scar. Just look at that thing and tell us you don’t want to know more about it. Is it from a hand grenade or did he knife fight someone or what?

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
We’re betting it’s from a gunshot wound. (Source: Orion)

5. Remember when he shot that woman? We’re not condoning executions, but seeing Sgt. Barnes interrogation methods a few more times could have been cool.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
This interrogation scene was power. (Source: Orion)

4. Besides the scene where Barnes threatens Chris with that cool looking blade, that knife doesn’t make another appearance. If that film were about him, we probably would have seen Barnes use in on the enemy troops once or twice in hand-to-hand combat.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
You could slice and dice the enemy with this sharp and badass looking blade — no problem. (Source: Orion)

3. Pvt. Taylor (Charlie Sheen) would have just been a whiny boot replacement — which he was in the beginning — that no one cares about since the film would have been in Barnes’ perspective.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
You just murdered the star of our fictional version of the film — you better cry. (Source: Orion)

2. Sgt. Barnes is a pretty lethal killer, but we could’ve gotten a glimpse of what made him that way. Although we discussed his epic scar earlier, it would be cool to get a flashback or two focusing on some of this bloody missions he was on before Taylor showed up.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
You know those eyes have seen some sh*t. (Source: Orion)

1. Barnes would have eventually snapped and put his non-alpha male platoon leader Lt. Wolfe in his place — and audiences would have loved to see that sh*t go down.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.
It’s about to go down — if the movie was about Barnes. (Source: Orion)

Can you think of any more? Comment below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 ways Russia remembers its World War II fallen in other countries

World War II saw a tremendous amount of killing – and Russians took the full brunt of the Nazi death machine. Even the holocaust, a horribly cold, mathematical, and planned destruction of an entire race, was relatively small potatoes compared to the sheer volume of Russian lives lost fighting to end Nazism in Europe..


The Soviet Union lost some 26 million people fighting for their lives. There was hardly a Soviet family left untouched by what it calls “The Great Patriotic War.” So it makes sense that Russia would want to honor its fallen, wherever they fell. And no one does monuments like Communists.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Budapest, Hungary

The Soviet War Memorial in the Hungarian capital sits just across the street from the U.S. Embassy and is ironically flanked by a statue of Ronald Reagan. The statue itself bears the names of the Red Army fighters who assisted in the end of Nazi occupation of Budapest from across the Danube.

The statue is maintained by the local government in Hungary as part of a deal to preserve World War II memorials in both countries. Locals like to joke that when the Soviets left Hungary, they gave the Hungarians a giant middle finger.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Heroes Monument to the Red Army – Vienna, Austria

An incredible 17,000 Red Army soldiers died in the Vienna Offensive of World War II. The fight for Hitler’s hometown was brutal and costly. To commemorate their sacrifice, the Soviet Union built a 3,000-square-foot monument near Schwarzenberg Castle. Vienna still pays to maintain the upkeep on the memorial, centered by a Red Army soldier wearing a golden helmet and carrying a Soviet flag.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Brest Hero Fortress – Brest, Belarus

What was once a Tsarist Russian fortress was used by the Nazis in World War II as a defensive position, the Brest-Litovsk Fortress is now called the Brest Hero-Fortress and pays homage to the Hero City of Brest and its contributions to the Great Patriotic War. During the early days of Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the USSR, the Soviets were almost able to repel tens of thousands of Nazi troops from the walls of the fort. Standing tall among the ruins is a stone giant, called “Courage” which dominates the ruins.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Slavin Memorial Complex – Bratislava, Slovakia

In the capital city of Slovakia, once dominated by the Soviet Union, a memorial still stands honoring the men and women who died to liberate Bratislava from the horrors of Nazi occupation. The Slavin is actually a memorial complex instead of a lone memorial. Some 7,000 Soviet soldiers are buried here, and their names adorn the walls of the complex.

From the top of Slavin Hill, visitors can view the site that honors the men who died there while taking in amazing views of the entire city.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Soviet War Memorial – Treptower Park, Berlin

This massive figure was unveiled in 1949, just after the end of the Berlin Airlift. Built in Berlin’s Treptower Park, the statue memorializes 80,000 Red Army soldiers who died in the battle for Berlin in 1945. On top of a manicured landscape stands a lone Soviet soldier, standing on what’s left of a broken swastika. The grounds carry the remains of thousands of Soviet soldiers who died fighting in the city.

To this day, the memorials, like the other two honoring the Soviet sacrifice to triumph over Nazi Germany in Berlin, are meticulously maintained by the German government.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A Gold Star Wife finds new hope in her battle for her husband’s legacy

Barbara Allen relives her husband’s murder, every day. “I don’t want to be out here doing this. This is not fun for me, it’s exhausting. It’s been fourteen years of it,” she shared.

On June 7, 2005 Lt. Louis Allen and Cpt. Phillip Esposito were on an Army base in Iraq winding down after a long day. Allen’s husband had just deployed to Iraq and kissed her and their four sons goodbye 10 days earlier. He was playing the board game, Risk, with the Captain. A few minutes after they started, a claymore mine was set off outside their window. Grenades exploded shortly after the mine went off. They were both rushed to the hospital immediately but died of internal injuries the following day.

While military investigators initially thought the enemy was an insurgent who had set off a rocket or mortar, the discovery of the hand placed mine led them to other suspects. Their subsequent investigation found that the enemy – was from within.


I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Photo courtesy of Barbara Allen

A staff sergeant within their company was soon charged with two counts of premeditated murder during the week both men were buried by their families. The widows of the men allegedly killed by the staff sergeant were flown to Kuwait a few months later for his Article 32 hearing. Nine witnesses testified and a general court martial for murder was recommended based on the evidence presented. In early 2006, after learning of the evidence against him, the staff sergeant accused offered up a guilty plea to avoid the death penalty.

It was rejected by the military.

Two years later on December 4, 2008, the accused staff sergeant was acquitted of both murders, despite a mountain of evidence that he had “fragged” the two officers. Allen wasn’t told until months later that he had entered a guilty plea and the accused staff sergeant was discharged from the Army. Honorably.

Many witnesses testified that the accused staff sergeant had pledged to “burn” and “frag” the captain. They also shared that he was seen smiling and laughing after their deaths. A supply sergeant even testified that she gave the accused ammunition, including a claymore mine. Despite all of that – it wasn’t enough to convince the jury.

Allen requested that the Senate Committee on Armed Services look into the case. They didn’t.

“If our trial had happened when social media was a thing, I think it would have gone completely differently. It fell through a gap and we can’t get it back. If we had the court of public opinion on our side, the country on our side, he’d get the Purple Heart,” said Allen.

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Photo courtesy of Barbara Allen

Allen was devastated that, in her words, the accused got away with murder and her husband was forgotten afterward. Her husband’s death was declared non-hostile, meaning the military states that he wasn’t killed by the enemy. This meant he wasn’t a candidate for the Purple Heart. She described the whole experience as hell on earth.

“Anyone who willfully kills two soldiers in a combat zone has aided and abetted the enemy. Therefore, is the enemy,” Allen said. “Even the weapon used had the words ‘front to an enemy.’ Flabbergasted, Allen asked, “What else do you have to do to be considered an enemy?” Allen didn’t understand how Ft. Hood victims could get awarded Purple Hearts, but her husband, who was murdered in a combat zone, isn’t eligible.

Allen believes that the Army must decide that they either made a mistake and charged the wrong person and her husband was killed by an insurgent enemy or they let a guilty man go. She reported that “people tended to get fired” when they helped her. Allen said they’ve gone as far as having a Medal of Honor recipient deliver the casefile to President Trump to plead for her husband to receive the Purple Heart, without success.

When asked how her boys feel about all of this, she began to cry. “This is their father, their dad, who’s been missing for their entire lives,” she said. “In the eyes of history he doesn’t exist. His future was taken already; you can’t take his legacy. The message is that any member of the military is expendable. If you die in a way that is embarrassing, we [the military] will erase you. That isn’t the military that I believe in or that he believed in.”

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

Allen achieved a master’s in criminal justice years after her husband was killed. She reported studying 12 other capital cases like her husband’s. She believes that if the FBI’s protocol for workplace violence had been followed by the military with the accused, her husband wouldn’t have been killed. “They deserved to be protected; nobody was trained. They believed that the uniform was a barrier to reporting,” she said.

This ruling is more than just an award to Allen and her family, she shared. “If the military said that if you willfully injure or kill another service member in a combat zone, let’s just start there, you are an enemy. Teach them about the warning signs. I can testify to what happens when you don’t. It would change things,” said Allen.

Today, Allen says she has a glimmer of hope once again. Her murdered husband’s case file for a Purple Heart is currently sitting on a desk in the Pentagon, awaiting review and the stroke of a pen.

Which way it goes remains to be seen.

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