Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

Christmas time is synonymous with giving and receiving presents. Everyone loves to receive a gift, even it means you have to awkwardly open it front of a person who’s eagerly watching your face, waiting for a reaction. That love of receiving doesn’t begin and end on Christmas morning, though — not by a long shot.

Gift buying is an art. Picking the perfect gift can be difficult, and when you’re shopping for someone close to you, the pressure is on. Now, if one or more of those someones is a veteran, well, you’ve got some thinking to do. Veterans are a special breed. We’ve got an odd sense of humor, an irregular view of ‘normal,’ and can be plain ol’ weird. Finding the right gift for your vet will likely be a mission.


We know the Christmas season is over, but the following gifts can be enjoyed by a vet on any calendar date.

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

Can’t go wrong with any of these choices

(Gadgets Magazine)

Liquor 

9 and a half out of 10 veterans love to drink and can likely throw down with the best of them. Consider buying your vet their favorite bottle of liquor. If it’s one of those gift boxes that comes with a few, nice glasses, that’s great! If not, that’s fine; glasses are optional.

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

Near the top of every Marine’s gift list

(Opting Out)

Functional clothing

Vets love clothing that makes sense. Help out your vet by getting them some clothing that can be useful. Think something somewhere between Under Armor and a ghillie suit.

5.11 Tactical is a good place to start.

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

Just what the doctor ordered… and the vet wanted.

(TheAdventurerr.com)

Trips

Two things veterans can always use more of: travel and relaxation. The type of travel will vary from vet to vet, but we all appreciate a good vacation. It could be as simple as some alone time, a day trip, or a spa day.

It doesn’t take a lot of money to please veterans — just a little attention to detail.

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

Please, check on your friends this time of year

An ear and a shoulder

Transitioning back into civilian life can be a strange experience for many vets. We might move on, find a job, and start a family, but the feeling of camaraderie will never really be quite the same.

If you’ve got a vet in your life, it might not seem like a gift to you, but give them a call every now and then to check in, see how things are going. It’s a small gesture, but a worthwhile one.

MIGHTY GAMING

Soldiers sign up by thousands for Army eSports team

Recruiting officials are screening more than 4,000 applications from soldiers who hope to be chosen to play video games full time for the Army.

U.S. Army Recruiting Command may select up to 30 of the service’s top gamers to be on the new Army Esports Team and compete in local, regional and national gaming tournaments.

The Army Esports Team — which will become part of the new Marketing and Engagement Brigade based at Fort Knox, Kentucky — is a component of the new recruiting strategy the service launched after it missed its annual recruiting goal in 2018 by 6,500 soldiers.


Recruiting officials hope that soldiers who compete in these gaming tournaments will help the service connect with this specific, but growing, segment of the American youth population.

Roughly 35 percent of American males ages 21 to 35 participate in this market, which is estimated to be worth id=”listicle-2625430237″.9 billion, recruiting officials say. They often play multiplayer, first-person shooter games such as Overwatch and Call of Duty on systems ranging from personal computers to PlayStations, both on their own and in tournaments sponsored by civilian gaming leagues.

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

Capt. Ryan Lewis talks to Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones and @twitch.tv shout caster James “jchensor” Chen during the Army Entertainment Esports Street Fighter V tournament 11 August 2018, at the Alternate Escapes Café at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

(U.S. Army 2nd Recruiting Brigade)

Young soldiers are part of this subculture, according to Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Army Esports Team.

“Soldiers are showing a want and desire to not only play gaming … but also be in competitive gaming, and we understand that is a really good connection to our target market,” he said. “These soldiers will actually be hand-selected, so what we are doing is grouping them together and — based upon the title and platform that they wish to compete in — having them scrimmage within those groups to find out who are the best we have.”

Jones has been gaming since he was five years old and has a “custom-built PC, a Nintendo Switch, PS4 Pro and an Xbox One X. So if there is a game, I normally play it,” he said.

Part of the screening process will include ensuring that candidates also meet Army physical fitness, height and weight standards.

“Those soldiers will be screened from there to make sure that not only can they compete, but [they] are the top-quality soldier that we are looking for in order to move here to Knox to compete,” Jones said. “We want those soldiers, when they go to these events, to be able to articulate to the public.”

Team members will serve 36 months at Fort Knox and travel to tournaments, supporting the Army’s recruiting efforts at high schools and colleges, he said.

Many applicants who aren’t selected for the team could still be involved in the effort, Jones said.

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

“There are a lot of soldiers that just want to be a part of the community and want to help out even outside of competitive play,” he said. “We do have soldiers who have applied to the program and said, ‘I know I’m not competitive; however, I wish to help grow this.’ “

These soldiers can still participate on their off time, doing exactly what they already have been doing, Jones said.

“The difference is we are giving them a platform to play together … whether it be participating in online tournaments or just playing together and showcasing that to the American public,” he said.

“Essentially, soldiers are already playing video games,” Jones said. “We are just bringing to the light what is already in existence.”

The eSports world is widely shared on “Twist TV and all of these streaming services,” said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge, a spokesman for Army Recruiting Command.

“We know that there is a large [portion] of the population out there that is watching these video game tournaments and watching people game, and this is allowing our soldiers who are already doing this and competing in these tournaments to get out there and connect with that large population,” Dodge said.

“So with this, we can touch a huge number of people and tell our Army story and help get them potentially interested in wanting to serve,” he added.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Use these 4 tips from Winston Churchill to write better emails

Emails- They are the bane of our existence, but they are how we communicate in the modern world. Each day, military leaders clean out their inboxes only to have them fill back up within hours. Unfortunately, quantity doesn’t equal quality. Too often, the purpose of the email is buried, with the sender seeming to aim for length rather than substance. Unfortunately, many of these garbled messages create misalignment in organizations, waste time, money and in some extreme cases–lives.


Why does it matter? It matters because being able to effectively communicate through writing provides leaders and staff officers with understanding and the ability to act. Additionally, when we communicate efficiently, we give the person we’re communicating with time back to focus on other things besides reading emails or multi-page SITREPs.

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

Eighty years ago, Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill faced a similar problem. Every day he received a large volume of typed reports in his black box from his War Cabinet. And as he pointed out in a 1940 memorandum titled BREVITY, “Nearly all of [the reports] are too long. This wastes time, while energy has to be spent in looking for the essential points.”

Fortunately for us, Sir Winston offered his staff four tips that can help us improve our communication skills today.

  1. The aim should be reports which set out the main points in a series of short, crisp paragraphs
  2. If a report relies on a detailed analysis of some complicated factors, or on statistics, these should be set out in an Appendix.
  3. Often the occasion is best met by submitting not a full-dress report, but an aide-memoire consisting of headings only, which can be expanded orally if needed.
  4. Let us have an end to such phrases as these: “It is also important to bear in mind the following considerations…..” or “Consideration should be given to the possibility of carrying into effect……” Most of these wooly phrases are mere padding, which can be left out altogether, or replaced by a single word. Let us not shrink from using the short expressive phrase, even if it is conversationalized.
Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

www.history.navy.mil

In other words

Less is more. When writing emails, brevity is better. A long email can overcomplicate an issue and your main message may get lost in the process.

I’ve learned that it is best to open emails with one or two sentences that describe the purpose of your correspondence. It also helps to let them know upfront if you are telling them for awareness or if you want them to make a decision. When you do it well, you don’t need to write the letters “BLUF” because it will be inherent. If you have suspense, include it upfront. And then end your paragraph there.

So as many of us spend the next several weeks working from home, let us take a page from Churchill’s notebook.

Be brief. Be brilliant. Hit send.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How B-52 Bombers shot down enemy fighter jets in Vietnam

The air war over Vietnam saw some incredible dog fights, but it still may surprise you to learn that the mighty B-52 heavy bomber successfully shot down not one but two Vietnamese Mig 21 fighter jets near the tail end of the conflict.

The venerable Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has been flying since 1952, and thanks to a series of upgrades, will continue to for decades to come. The massive jet bomber may have been designed in the 1940s (in fact, it was designed almost entirely in a single weekend), but its massive airframe and eight jet engine-design have proven so capable over the years that the B-52 is now expected to outlast newer bombers that were developed to replace it. As the B-21 Raider inches toward production, both America’s B-2 Spirit (stealth bomber) and B-1B Lancer (supersonic bomber) are expected to be put out to pasture, while the legendary B-52 keeps right on flying.

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress, B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit fly over Guam after launching from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Smoot)

The B-52 BUFF (as service members tend to call it) has been flying combat missions for so long that it actually used to come equipped with a tail gunner position to defend the slow and steady bomber against encroaching fighters. Of course, as fighter technology continued to improve, the United States moved away from manning guns on their heavy payload bombers and toward flying with their own fighter escorts. While most people tend to think of World War II when they imagine gun turrets on a bomber, the most recent enemy fighter to be shot down by a B-52’s guns was actually in the 1970s.

The tail gun turret of Boeing B-52D Stratofortress (U.S. Air Force)

It was Christmas eve in 1972, and the B-52D bomber known as Diamond Lil was flying a bombing run over Thai Nguyen when its tail gunner, Airman 1st Class Albert Moore, spotted a Soviet-built Vietnamese Mig-21 closing with them fast.

“I observed a target in my radar scope 8:30 o’clock, low at 8 miles,” Moore wrote six days later in a formal statement. “I immediately notified the crew, and the bogie started closing rapidly. It stabilized at 4,000 yards 6:30 o’clock. I called the pilot for evasive action and the EWO (electronic warfare officer) for chaff and flares.”

A view of the reclined seat that enables the crewman to crawl into the tail gunner station of a B-52 Stratofortress aircraft. (U.S. Air Force)

For Moore, it had to be a nerve-racking moment. Only one other B-52 tail gunner had scored a successful kill against a Vietnamese fighter, though more than 30 B-52s had been shot down throughout the conflict. In fact, the first time a B-52 had ever shot down a Mig had only happened a few days prior. In other words, the odds seemed pretty squarely stacked against Moore and his crew.

“When the target got to 2,000 yards, I notified the crew that I was firing. I fired at the bandit until it ballooned to 3 times in intensity then suddenly disappeared from my radar scope at approximately 1,200 yards, 6:30 low. I expended 800 rounds in 3 bursts.”

Those 800 rounds poured out of Moore’s four .50 caliber M3 Machine Guns. The kill was confirmed by another tail gunner named Tech. Sgt. Clarence Chute, who was aboard a nearby B-52 called Ruby 2.

“I went visual and saw the bandit on fire and falling away,” wrote Sergeant Chute. “Several pieces of the aircraft exploded, and the fire-ball disappeared in the undercast at my 6:30 position.”

The Mig-21 was twice as fast as the B-52 and carried an internal 23mm machine gun as well as four hardpoints for air to air missiles. (U.S. Air Force)

Moore would go down in history as not only the second B-52 gunner to score a kill against a Mig, but also as the last bomber-gunner to ever engage enemy fighters in American service, despite tail guns surviving on the B-52 until the 1990s.

Today, the “Diamond Lil” sits near the north entrance of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

Today, the B-52 remains in service as an essential part of America’s nuclear triad, and believe it or not, as a close air support aircraft in uncontested airspace. The B-52’s long loiter time and massive payload magazine make it an excellent choice for precision strikes against ground targets, where it’s seen use in both Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. Thanks to a slew of cockpit upgrades and improved weapon system storage, the Air Force intends to keep flying the mighty BUFF past the century mark, with some B-52s expected to remain in service as late as 2060.

Feature image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Escaping urban jungle, man finds ‘perfect fit’ with Army

A weapons range goes hot on a cold winter morning four years ago in Fort Lewis, Washington. The silent cold air is replaced by the snapping of gun fire as the morning dew is knocked loose off the blades of grass. Soldiers’ breath is visible as they curse in despair, for they are at another range yet again, wet and freezing.

The smell of spent ammunition and wintergreen chewing tobacco is present as raindrops fall and turn into steam on the weapons’ hot barrels.

Like a dense Pacific Northwest fog, the memories dissipate, and Spc. Flavio Mendoza is dragged back to reality and the clacking of fingers on a computer keyboard.


Like many soldiers, Mendoza has surmounted many challenges in his life, from growing up in a tough, urban environment to coping with the heartbreak of losing something he loved.

But through all this, he pushed forward.

The urban jungle

Raised on the northeast side of Los Angeles, Mendoza said he knew he was always destined for more than what surrounded him in his gritty, inner-city upbringing.

But with the odds stacked against him, he had to make a choice from an early age his path in life.

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

Spc. Flavio Mendoza, assigned to the 22nd Human Resources Company, 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, poses for a photo on Fort Carson, Colorado, Dec. 28, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. Asa Bingham)

Mendoza’s parents, Flavio Sr. and Veronica Mendoza — both born in Jalisco, Mexico — always tried to give the best life possible for their family of five. They both worked during the day leaving Mendoza and his two sisters with their grandmother.

Twelve family members — both immediate and extended — packed into a two bedroom house made for claustrophobic conditions. To escape from the cramped living situation, Mendoza would play outside.

“I had a lot of friends around my age growing up,” said Mendoza. “Even though the neighborhood wasn’t one for us to be playing in, we still made the best of it.”

Graffiti lined the walls of the street like uncontrollable ivy growing wild. The gunshots from rival gangs trying to kill each other, followed by the police sirens and helicopters circling with their bright lights all just became natural.

He didn’t have to go far from his childhood home to find trouble, he said. Right next door was far enough.

“I remember cops always being at that house for something,” Mendoza said. “It seems like everyone from the gang hung out there. There was always cars filled with nothing but bald heads, and gangsters with guns rolling up, asking where I was from or if I banged.”

The gang life was calling for Mendoza, who was given many opportunities to join. He ignored the beckoning calls unlike some of his friends.

“A couple of kids I grew up playing with and thought were my homies broke into our house one day,” he said. “They stole anything and everything.”

Mendoza’s parents saw what was happening to the neighborhood. They saw what path their kids could go down if they weren’t careful. So in an effort to get away from the trouble they saved up their money and moved to Monterey Park, Los Angeles.

“I didn’t hear any sirens anymore, no more gunshots, and no more constant fear from always having to turn around and watch my back at night,” said Mendoza.

His upbringing gave him a burning desire to do more, to be better then what he saw around him. The noise. The chaos. The crime. It was all motivation to get away.

The great escape

“After graduating high school, I immediately wanted to join the Army,” said then 18-year old Mendoza. “I walked into the recruiter one day and told them that I wanted to join and go fight.”

Mendoza’s parents and family were hesitant about the Army; they wanted him to go to college.

“I tried for a semester or two, but I realized school just wasn’t for me,” he said. His goal was to get away and to serve his country.

Knowing only what he saw from movies and TV shows, Mendoza said he had his heart set on joining up as an infantry soldier, but his recruiter, a combat engineer, persuaded him otherwise.

“He asked me if I wanted to blow things up,” Mendoza said. “After showing me a couple of videos and stories of what a sapper was and did, I was hooked.”

Next thing he knew, Mendoza was hauling his own weight in duffel bags with a drill sergeant in his face yelling at him to get off the bus at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

It was 2014, and his Army journey had just begun.

He spent days that felt like weeks pushing the earth away, counting “One, drill sergeant. Two, drill sergeant,” the never-ending pushups followed by the sprints, road marches, early mornings, yelling and apprehension that any moment a drill sergeant could burst in and make him question his decision to join.

“I would do it all over again,” said Mendoza. “It’s not that (One-Station Unit Training) was tough; it was more mental, like can you deal with the day to day suck and not quit.”

After completing OSUT, not knowing what to expect, Mendoza landed at his first duty station, Fort Lewis and was assigned to the 22nd Engineer Clearance Company, 864th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade.

“Life as an engineer had its ups and downs, but for the most part, it was fun,” said Mendoza. When soldiers aren’t training they’re cleaning. From picking up cigarette butts to sweeping and mopping, this was not what Mendoza thought he would be doing. But when it came time to train and learn engineer tactics and skills, Mendoza thrived.

“I made the best of friends doing the coolest stuff,” he said. From how to calculate demolition charges to identifying improvised explosive devices, Mendoza loved to learn the skills of an engineer.

Mendoza quickly gained the respect of his peers and leadership with his good attitude and even better work ethic.

“Working as an engineer is hard work, but being around good people makes it fun,” said Travis Ramirez, a former engineer who worked with Mendoza. “I could always count on Mendoza to have a good attitude. He was always making everyone laugh, even when the work we were doing was tough.”

His infectious personality brought many of his fellow engineers to his room after work and on weekends to just hang out and have fun. It was in these time that unbreakable bonds were formed and a lasting brotherhood was forged.

His work ethic and positive attitude were evident to his leaders, who gave him the responsibility of operating the Buffalo, a version of the mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle specifically used in route clearance operations as a mine interrogation asset.

Weighing in at more than 45,000 pounds and measuring a staggering 27 feet long, considerable skill and precision is required to maneuver the armored behemoth.

Mendoza was a perfect fit.

“I feel like I was given a higher level of responsibility driving the Buffalo,” said Mendoza. “The Buff is huge and an essential part to the route clearance mission. I had the best times in Buff 1-1.”

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

A US Army 759th Explosive Ordnance Disposal team Buffalo MRV.

(DoD photo by Ken Drylie)

The switch

On any given day, Mendoza could be found with his platoon conducting 12-mile road marches with upwards of 35-pounds on his back in full combat gear to repetitive field training exercises in the cold. The pace of training seemed endless, and within three years his body started feeling the effects.

“It was just chronic leg pain,” said Mendoza. “I went to go get it checked out and was going through physical therapy, but nothing was working.”

Mendoza was diagnosed with bone spurs in his shins.

He had gained so much from being an engineer — the memories of training exercises, the connections with fellow soldiers he now considers family. He never thought of himself doing anything else, no other job could match the bravado of being an engineer.

After going to physical therapy for close to a year, he received the news he had been dreading. His primary care provider permanently limited his physical abilities. He could no longer run. He couldn’t foot march. He wasn’t even supposed to jump anymore. He was forced to switch jobs and leave the engineer world.

“I felt like I was going to lose a part of me when I was told I had to switch,” said Mendoza, now assigned to the 22nd Human Resources Company, 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado.

The Army had served as his escape from a life he was sure would have landed him in jail or dead. He was not about to quit, he said.

Mendoza reclassified from combat engineer to human resources specialist.

A completely different world in his eyes

Instead of looking out the driver’s window of a Buffalo, he now stared into a computer screen. He went from patrolling for improvised explosive devices to scanning personnel records. From hearing loud explosions to now hearing the quiet clicks of a computer mouse.

Mendoza didn’t waver. He pushed forward, taking with him the same work ethic and positive attitude that drove him out of the streets of Los Angeles to become the soldier he is today.

“I still carry the engineer crest in my (patrol cap). It lets me know where I came from and that gives me pride,” said Mendoza. “Even though I’m away and in a new career field, I will always be an engineer.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Life hacks your mom taught you that made you more lethal

Our mothers nurtured us from crying babies into (less-often-crying) adults. They took care of us. They raised us. Little did they know the tiny little life hacks they were teaching us along the way made us (feel) immortal. Here are some of the tricks of the trade that contribute to our inflated sense of lethality.


Chicken noodle soup and ginger ale

Ah, chicken noodle soup and ginger ale. An elixir from heaven. This at-home remedy has been used by mothers since, well, chicken noodle soup and ginger ale have existed. It’s used to treat: the cold, the flu, a fever, a headache, an upset stomach, a hangover, a broken arm, a break-up (Eliza come back, I beg you). It’s also the officially required lunch of “I-faked-being-sick-to-get-out-of-school-so-now-I-really-have-to-milk-it-and-pretend-like-this-is-the-only-thing-I-can-eat-even-though-I-am-starving-and-could-run-a-freaking-train-on-those-Bagel-Bite-pizzas-in-the-freezer.” There is something about the crisp tangy pop of ginger bubbles and the salty hot broth of chicken noodle that calms down the soul and makes us impervious to any and all small bodily ailments.

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

The all-important “junk” drawer

You may be in your kitchen, but if your mom had a junk drawer, then you’re never out of reach of a potential weapon. The junk drawer is a magical, mystical, place of knick-knacks and lost treasures. A junk drawer could contain any or all of the following: scissors, dead (and half-alive) batteries, expired grocery coupons, snapped mouse traps, loose change, a calculator, nails, bolts, matches, two tickets to paradise, those little twisty things on bags of bread, and the TV remote you’ve been looking for. It is a virtual MacGyver preparedness kit. As Clemenza said in The Godfather, “Leave the emergency kit—take the junk drawer.”

(*DISCLAIMER: Not to be confused with the father-inspired “Pantry Below The Sink Full of Plastic Bags”)

Super glue on cuts 

Okay, this one is a dice roll of a pick. Maybe it was just my prison guard careerist mother—but I was always taught to put super glue on cuts. I have saved hundreds of dollars in urgent care visits by cleaning a deep cut and then gluing it back together. I do not know if it is sanitary or safe. If I was a betting man, I would put all the money I saved on urgent care visits on it not being safe or sanitary. But hey, mom knows best, and I challenge any flesh wound (3cm long or less, preferably on a finger) to try and stop me.

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

The tennis ball garage trick

There is a hot, hot debate, about whether this was a mother idea or a father idea. To that debate I say: would a father ever really use an instrument of measure to assure safety? I once watched my father grab a tarantula with his bare hands. Dads are not interested in their own well-being. Luckily, people like us, have moms who taught them to tie a tennis ball to the garage ceiling, at just the right length to tap your windshield and let you know not to go any further forward—lest you bump into a cardboard box mountain of Christmas decorations. Safe ride=lethal driver.

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

Make lunches the night before

Preparedness is something that mothers have in spades. While all your coworkers are sprinting to their cars to speed to Subway so they can wolf an footlong in 4 minutes and be back before 30 minutes—you are enjoying a wonderful little at-home lunch you made last night. And why? Because your mother taught you. You save money, and you have a full meal catered to your liking. So you can always remain focused, vigilant, and lethal. And you can spend the last 10 minutes of break watching Netflix on your phone.

Buy coats during summer 

Winter has rolled around and everywhere you look people are dropping 0 on a good winter coat. You don’t have the money. You can’t buy it. You go outside in a T-shirt and jeans. You freeze. You die. This is a highly likely scenario. However, because your mom taught you how cheap coats are during the summer, you bought yours all the way back in July for off the sales rack. So go out and brave the arctic tundra in a reasonably priced coat, warrior, you’re a discount badass thanks to mom.

Keep a roll of toilet paper in the car

“No spill formed against mom shall prosper.” There is always a roll of toilet paper crammed somewhere in my car, thanks to my mom. Its functionality spreads far and wide: spills, quick sneezes, eliminating icky bugs, preventing my neanderthal brain from spitting gum directly into the plastic door compartment, cleaning spilled ketchup on a shirt, and throwing on a car that’s parked like a jackass. Mom ain’t raise no punk.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Pearl Harbor survivor relates his World War II odyssey

In 1940, William P. Bonelli, 19, had no desire to join the military. The nation was not yet at war, but Bonelli, who followed the war news in Europe and Asia, said he knew deep inside that war was coming, and probably soon.

Rather than wait for the war to start and get a draft notice, Bonelli decided to enlist in the Army to select a job he thought he’d like: aviation.


Although he wanted to be a fighter pilot, Bonelli said that instead, the Army Air Corps made him an aviation mechanic.

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

William P. Bonelli visits airmen at the Pentagon, Dec. 18, 2019.

(Photo by Wayne Clark, Air Force)

After basic training, he was assigned to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, where he arrived by boat in September 1940.

On Dec. 6, 1941, Bonelli and a buddy went to a recreational camping area on the west side of Oahu. That evening, he recalled seeing a black vehicle parked on the beach with four Japanese men inside. The vehicle had two long whip antennas mounted to the rear bumper. Bonelli said he thought it odd at the time. Later, he added, he felt certain that they were there to guide enemy planes to targets.

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Hawaii with his girlfriend.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

Early Sunday morning, Dec. 7, Bonelli and his buddy drove back to the base. After passing Wheeler Army Airfield, which is next to Honolulu, they saw three small, single-engine aircraft flying very low.

“I had never seen these aircraft before, so I said, jokingly to my friend, ‘Those aren’t our aircraft. I wonder whose they are? You know, we might be at war,'” he remembered.

A few minutes later as they were approaching Hickam, the bombing started. Since they were on an elevation, Bonelli said, they could see the planes bombing the military bases as well as Ford Island, where Navy ships were in flames, exploding and sinking.

Bonelli and his buddy went to the supply room at Hickam to get rifles and ammunition.

“I got in line,” he said. “The line was slow-moving because the supply sergeant wanted rank, name and serial number. All the time, we were being strafed with concentrated bursts.

“Several men were hit but there were no fatalities,” he continued. The sergeant dispensed with signing and said, ‘Come and get ’em.'”

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Hawaii.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

By 8:30 a.m., Bonelli had acquired a rifle, two belts of bullets and a handgun with several clips. He distinctly remembered firing at four Japanese Zero aircraft with his rifle and pistol, but there was no indication of a hit.

Bodies were everywhere, and a bulldozer was digging a trench close to the base hospital for the burial of body parts, he said.

All of the hangars with aircraft inside were bombed, while the empty ones weren’t, he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that the Japanese pilots had radio contact from the ground,” he added.

In 1942, Bonelli’s squadron was relocated to Nadi, Fiji. There, he worked on B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers as a qualified engineer, crew chief and gunner.

In 1943, Bonelli resubmitted his papers for flight school and was accepted, traveling back to the United States for training in Hobbs, New Mexico.

He got orders to Foggia, Italy, in 1944 and became a squadron lead pilot in the 77rd Bomb Squadron, 463rd Bomb Group. They flew the B-17s.

Bonelli led his squadron in 30 sorties over Austria, Italy, Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia until April 1945, just before the war ended.

Top 4, veteran-approved, year-round gift ideas

An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Italy.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

The second sortie over Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, on Oct. 23, 1944, was the one he recalled as being the worst, with much of the cockpit blown apart and the rest of the aircraft shot up badly.

For the next few days, Bonelli said, he felt shaken. The Germans on the ground were very proficient with the 88 mm anti-aircraft weapons, and they could easily pick off the U.S. bombers flying at 30,000 feet, he said.

Normally, the squadrons would fly in a straight line for the bombing runs. Bonelli said he devised a strategy to deviate about 400 feet from the straight-line trajectory on the next sortie, Nov. 4 over Regensburg, Germany.

The tactic worked, he said, and the squadron sustained lighter damage. So he used that tactic on subsequent missions, and he said many lives of his squadron were undoubtedly saved because of it.

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An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Italy with his flight crew. Back row, left to right: Army Staff Sgt. Harry Murray, later killed in action; Army Staff Sgt. Freeman Quinn; Army Staff Sgt. James Oakley; Army Staff Sgt. Karl Main; Army Tech. Sgt. John Raney; and, Army Tech. Sgt. Howard Morreau. Front row, left to right: Army 1st Lt. Charles Cranford, navigator; 1st Lt. Steve Conway, co-pilot; Capt. Fred Anderson, bombardier; and Bonelli, the pilot.

(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)

When the war ended, Bonelli had a change of heart and decided to stay in the Army Air Corps, which became the Air Force in 1947. He said he developed a love for flying and aviation mechanic work. He stayed in and retired after having served 20 years.

He also realized his dream to become a fighter pilot, flying the F-84F Thunderstreak, a fighter-bomber, which, he said, was capable of carrying a small nuclear weapon.

After retiring, Bonelli got a career with the Federal Aviation Administration, working in a variety of aviation specialties.

Looking back over his military and civilian careers, he said he was blessed with doing jobs he loves, although there were, of course, some moments of anxiety when bullets were flying.

He offered that a stint or career in the military can be a rewarding experience for ambitious young people.

This article originally appeared on Department of Defense.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran’s Last Patrol honors veterans in hospice. Here’s how you can, too

In 2019, retired Army Colonel Claude Schmid founded the nonprofit Veteran’s Last Patrol. Its mission is to forge vital connections and support for hospice veterans in their last days on earth, honoring them as they complete one last patrol.

“My last assignment on active duty I was the Chief of the Wounded Warrior Flight Program, which was an operation where we brought back our casualties from overseas. I recognized that when someone is in great adversity, they, more than ever, need friendship and companionship,” Schmid said. He explained that when he retired, he remembered his mother spending time visiting patients in hospice. It was there that he decided to devote his time to honoring veterans in their last days.


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Schmid recognized that many nursing home and hospice care residents were deeply lonely and struggling. Knowing that veterans who served this country at great personal sacrifice were experiencing that didn’t sit well with him. “We decided we’d put teams together nationally to bring friendships to veterans in hospice care… When you go into end of life, it’s nationally to bring friendships to veterans in hospice care… When you go into end of life, it’s one final fight and their last patrol,” he explained.

This is where active duty members and retired military can lend their support, one last time. “The veterans’ community is particularly bonded because of the special work and abilities we have. When veterans move away and fall out of those connections they may be hurting more than most because they are used to that teamwork and support network,” Schmid explained. “Our focus is this mission, the goal of bringing them friendships,” Schmid said.

The core of this nonprofit is to promote volunteerism and provide financial assistance to veterans in need. Veteran’s Last Patrol partners with medical providers to connect volunteers with veterans in hospice care. With many of these volunteers being veterans themselves, it opens the door to sharing stories of the patrols of the past, one last time.

“The national media covers the stories of veterans that have passed away and no one knew they served until they are in the mortuary. The question was, ‘What about before they passed away?'” Schmid said.

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Veteran’s Last Patrol also does formal honor ceremonies for the veterans and their families. “There’s been a number of times where within days of that ceremony, the veteran passed away. The family will tell us that they never had a better day than that day in the latter part of their life,” Schmid shared.

“Veterans are about service. We’ve served each other and our nation and this is one way you can continue to serve. I think it can instill future military service for the younger generation, too. As they see this kind of care throughout the life of the veteran and that deep commitment, they might be inspired by that,” Schmid said.

As the holiday season quickly approaches, Veteran’s Last Patrol has an easy call to action for every American to immediately and truly thank these veterans for their service. Operation Holiday Salute is a program to collect cards and letters for veterans in hospice for Christmas. By taking five minutes to write a message to a veteran, you could be making the world of difference. “It’s all about bringing holiday cheer – their last holiday cheer that these veterans will receive in their lives,” Schmid explained. Last year, Veteran’s Last Patrol sent over 4,000 letters to veterans in hospice care.

This year the goal is 10,000.

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With the pandemic still impacting things like volunteering in person, writing a letter is a simple and an accessible act of intentional kindness. GivingTuesday is on December 1, 2020, and this is the perfect way to give back to a population that dedicated their lives willingly for our freedoms.

Although its headquarters is located in South Carolina, Veteran’s Last Patrol has teams in 14 states. Anyone can raise their hand and pledge to do this in their own communities by simply contacting Veteran’s Last Patrol through their website. Schmid hopes that one day they’ll cover the country, serving veterans everywhere in their last days.

Veteran’s Last Patrol is dedicated to ensuring that the lives and sacrifices of America’s veterans are never forgotten, especially in their last days. There is no better way to truly say, “Thank you for your service,” than by giving your time to honor a veteran in hospice. Listen to their stories and breathe in their devotion to this country before they are gone, forever. What are you waiting for?

Mail your card or letter for Operation Holiday Salute to:
Veteran’s Last Patrol
140B Venture Blvd
Spartanburg, SC, 29306

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MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why Saddam Hussein’s fedayeen troops wore Darth Vader helmets

In 1995, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein established his own Fedayeen corps, an irregular unit designed to protect the Ba’athist regime and Hussein himself. As of the 2003 invasion, they numbered 30,000 to 40,000 and their uniforms were more than a little unique, sporting an all-black combat uniform, black ski masks, and a familiar-looking helmet.


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Yes, Saddam’s Fedayeen, Arabic for “Men of Sacrifice,” wore enormous Darth Vader helmets. Their commander, Hussein’s son Uday, was a huge Star Wars fan. The above picture is an actual example from the Imperial War Museum in Britain.

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Other Middle Eastern personalities had their Fedayeen forces, notably Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, but neither of those had the Sci-fi panache of the Fedayeen Saddam. Founded in 1995, the irregular Iraqi guard unit was Saddam Hussein’s personal militia.

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I hope it’s 102 degrees in this photo.

Members were recruited into the Fedayeen Saddam as young as age 16. They received no specialty training or heavy weapons and were not members of the regular Iraqi military. So, as awesome as watching a fighting Darth Vader in “Rogue One” was, their Iraqi Doppelgängers were not so awesome.

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You wish, Uday.

In reality, they were mainly used to stop smuggling in Iraq, and then later became the smugglers, extortionists, torture, and whatever else the Husseins had them do. It was all good as long as they didn’t shake down government officials.

Though U.S. military planners knew about the existence of the Fedayeen Saddam before the 2003 invasion, they weren’t sure what they would be used for once the shooting started. The best estimate was as guerrilla fighters behind U.S. lines, which they generally did in urban areas. It was the Fedayeen Saddam who ambushed U.S. Marines in Nasiriyah under a flag of surrender in 2003.

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Which no doubt made surrender sooooo much easier for their buddies.

Even after the regular army and Republican Guard forces crumbled away, the Fedayeen Saddam harassed U.S. troops through April 2003. Uday and Qusay famously found their end with a few members of the Fedayeen Saddam that same year.

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That helmet serves no other purpose than to make this unintentionally hilarious.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Venezuelan leader warns US Marines will be coming soon

Venezuelan Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello is warning his party that United States Marines are going to be coming for Venezuela soon. This declaration comes after aircraft from the two countries were involved in an airborne confrontation where a Venezuelan fighter shadowed a U.S. Navy plane in international airspace.

“Their problem will be getting out of Venezuela,” the political leader also said.


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A week after a Russian-made Venezuelan SU-30 Flanker fighter “aggressively” shadowed a U.S. Navy plane at an unsafe distance on July 9, 2019, Venezuelan and leftist politicians from around Central and South America met at the Sao Paulo Forum. It was there that Venezuelan politician Diosdado Cabello issued the baseless warning to the gathered crowd that United States Marines were on their way to his country and would be entering soon.

Most Western governments, including the United States, don’t recognize Nicolas Maduro’s regime as the rightful rulers of Venezuela. Instead, they recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is in control of the country’s National Assembly. While the Trump Administration isn’t ruling out military action, it has so far preferred diplomacy and sanctions as a means to deal with Maduro.

Cabello is the leader of an alternative legislative body, one not recognized by the National Assembly, loyal to Nicolas Maduro’s government. Cabello is believed to be the second most powerful person in the South American nation.

“We are few, a small country, we are very humble, and here it is likely that the U.S. Marines enter. It is likely that they enter,” he said.

The U.S. Navy plane shadowed by the Flanker fighter was a manned intelligence and reconnaissance aircraft, conducting a routine patrol of the region in international waters, though Venezuela claims the craft violated its airspace. the Lockheed EP-3 operated by the Navy was “performing a multi-nationally recognized approved mission in international airspace over the Caribbean Sea.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Nazis had a nuclear reactor in World War II

The Germans were the first to propose nuclear science, and some of their top minds advanced the field in the 1800s and early 1900s. That’s why it’s probably a little surprising that America had the first functioning nuclear reactor. And the first bomb. But the Nazis had not just one nuclear program, but three. And one of the teams had an honest-to-god reactor ready to go.


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Enriched uranium

(Public domain)

The German nuclear program had two major prongs. There was a weapons program that was begun in 1939, but the shortage of scientists quickly short-circuited the effort. Later that year, a new team was re-assembled to study the wartime applications of fission. The possibility of a bomb was foremost, for obvious reasons.

But, despite Germany’s preeminence in the scientific side of nuclear endeavors, it lacked certain necessary materials like heavy water, water with radioactive hydrogen isotopes, to moderate the reaction. WATM has written before about the heroic lengths that Norwegian resistance members and British special operators went to frustrate Germany’s heavy water theft from Norway.

America, meanwhile, started its nuclear effort with about 1,000 tons of uranium, quickly got another 3,000 tons through a deal with the Belgian government, and began uranium production in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The American government would buy millions of tons over the course of the war from the Congo and other places. It also produced its own heavy water and used graphite as a moderator.

But Germany did get some of its own uranium. It actually has large reserves of its own, it’s just tricky to mine and refine.

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American soldiers dismantle a German nuclear reactor after World War II. The reactor never achieved a sustained reaction because the Germans never put enough of their uranium cubes in one spot.

(Public domain)

But when it came to using all these materials to make a proper bomb, Germany made a math error that ended its real efforts. See, British scientists were pretty sure they could make a device work with between 5 and 12 kg of enriched uranium (about 11 to 26 pounds). But Germany thought they needed tons of enriched uranium for a single bomb, thanks to the aforementioned error.

So Germany sidelined its bomb efforts but remained interested in nuclear reactors. Remember, its industry relied on imported or stolen fuel to run its factories, and its primary naval arm was submarines that had to slip under British blockades and patrols with limited fuel stores to do their work after they got into the Atlantic.

Nuclear reactors that gave them virtually unending power in cities or at sea would transform the way they operated in the war, and so they committed their nuclear stockpile to create a reactor.

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A museum exhibit shows the uranium chandelier Germany used for their experimental reactors.

(ArtMechanic, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Germany created three teams and planted one each at Berlin, Gottow, and Leipzig. The design that the teams finally came up with centered on uranium chandeliers. Hundreds of small uranium cubes were suspended on wires in close proximity to one another, allowing their combined radiation to sustain a nuclear reaction. When they needed to shut down the reaction, they could lower the chandelier into a pool of heavy water with graphite for additional shielding.

The most advanced team was in Berlin. The reactor there had 664 cubes in its chandelier, and its scientists were actually close in 1944 and 1945 to achieving a sustained reaction, a reaction that could have kept factories humming along until the Allies broke the city.

The only problem: They needed a bit more uranium than they had. They suspected that they needed about 50 percent more cubes, and a 2009 paper says that they were probably right. Funnily enough, the group in Gottow had about 400 cubes, but the two teams weren’t allowed to talk about their work or share resources. So neither group knew that they could pool their resources and succeed in just a few weeks or months of work.

Probably for the best, though. It’s not like the world would be better off if the Nazis had managed to create nuclear power plants for the Allies to bomb as the war ended, and the reactors almost certainly would have come too late to save the Reich, anyway.

Meanwhile, the cubes were largely recovered by American forces and are now passed around as novelties in some classrooms and physicist social circles. Germany did eventually tap into its uranium mines in order to fuel reactors in the post-war world. Germany is getting out of the nuclear business, though, even the power generation part.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

America has a secret missile covered in swords (and it actually makes war zones safer)

The most secretive parts of America’s defense apparatus have a missile covered in swords, and they’re using it to take out terrorists in Syria.

One significant change to warfare that’s come about in recent decades has been the advent of precision guided munitions and the resulting shift in the way America, and the world at large, sees collateral damage. During World War II, massive fleets of heavy bombers dotted the skies above Europe, laying waste to vast areas of territory in an effort to damage a nation’s industrial infrastructure and force submission.


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While there is still a use for this method of ordnance delivery, precision guided munitions have become the common platforms of choice for commanders in theater. (US Air Force Photo)

Thousands died in these large scale bombing campaigns, and today, many of those deaths would be considered unacceptable by the international community. Precision guided munitions with ever greater range and accuracy have replaced the carpet-bombing doctrine with the more cost effective and civilian friendly precision strike mindset. Today, collateral damage is not a thing of the past, but its metrics have shifted significantly. While carpet bombing raids may have killed hundreds or even thousands, the loss of a dozen civilian lives is now often considered too big a price to pay to engage many dangerous targets.

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All that remained of the German town of Wesel after allied bombing. (WikiMedia Commons)

This shift is undoubtedly a good thing from the macro perspective for humanity, but it raises a number of new challenges for America’s defense apparatus that’s tasked with engaging terrorists outside of America’s borders. It takes weeks, months, even years to gather all the necessary intelligence on a target before you might have an opportunity to take him out, and if the target is surrounded by civilians (as they tend to do for protection from air strikes), there’s a chance the U.S. military may miss its opportunity to strike.

That’s where the AGM-114R9X comes in. While it’s official name may be a mouthful, the missile itself utilizes a fairly simplistic approach to killing specific targets while minimizing the chances that anyone nearby will be hurt.

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The AGM-114R9X is, at its most simplistic levels, a Hellfire missile with the explosive warhead removed from the center portion of its body. In the warhead’s place are six extendable blades that bear a striking resemblance to swords. As brutal as this method of engaging a target may seem, the use of this missile actually makes going after these high value targets significantly safer for the civilians in the area.

Rather than utilizing explosive force or shrapnel from the missile’s body to kill its target and anyone else in the vicinity, the AGM-114R9X deploys its six swords upon impact with a target. Each blade is approximately 18 inches long, giving the missile a “kill radius” of only about three feet. Couple that with the Hellfire missile’s extremely accurate targeting capabilities, and you have a weapon that can take out the bad guys without worrying about a large explosion that could potentially hurt others.

The weapon’s development began under the CIA during the Obama Administration, and to date, has only been used in combat a handful of times. In each of these instances, these precision weapons appear to have been employed by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, though it’s not entirely clear as to whether or not there is any overlap between CIA and JSOC operations in terms of leveraging the AGM-114R9X in combat.

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Charles Lister on Twitter

The “ninja sword” Hellfire missile saw a sharp uptick in press late last year after it was used twice in less than a week to kill different terrorists in Syria. The first strike took place on December 3, when an AGM-114R9X was used to engage the passenger seat specifically of a minivan in the Syrian city of Atmeh. The second took place somewhere between Afrin and Azaz, once again killing its target without injuring any bystanders. As pictures of the strikes and their aftermath hit social media, the U.S. government’s sword-wielding missile was introduced to the world, despite the general lack of formal acknowledgement from the Pentagon.

All told, this missile covered in swords is believed to have only seen use a half a dozen times, which coupled with the small amount of information released about the platform suggests that the missile is a limited production run that may be the result of modifying existing Hellfire platforms. Either that, or JSOC would just prefer to keep this secret close to the chest.

In any regard, it just got a little bit tougher to be a terrorist, and that’s always good news.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Robert Downey Jr. might already be back as Iron Man

We loved him 3,000 in Avengers: Endgame, and even gave him an extended tearful goodbye in Spider-Man: Far From Home, but now it looks like Tony Stark might already be back in the Marvel game.

On Sep. 5, 2019, news broke that actor Robert Downey Jr. is already in talks to return as Tony Stark/Iron Man for a new Disney+ TV series. If true, Tony would feature in a show called Iron Heart, based on the Marvel comic book series and character of the same name. In contemporary Marvel comics, “Iron Heart” is the alias for a new version of Iron Man, who is actually a woman named Riri Williams. In the series, Riri takes over the mantle of Iron Man from Tony Stark, who basically retires.


If this all sounds a little like the relationship between Tony and Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming and the past few Avengers movies, it should. But, because legal issues will likely prevent Spider-Man from crossing over with MCU films ever again, it’s telling that Iron Man may have another successor lined-up.

The only tricky part here, of course, is the simple fact that we all saw Tony Stark die in Avengers: Endgame. It feels pretty unlikely that Marvel would undo Tony’s meaningful sacrifice so soon, particularly if he wasn’t actually the star of a new Marvel film. After all, if an Iron Heart series happens, it will be Riri’s story about learning how to become the titular hero, not Tony’s.

The best bet? Maybe Robert Downey Jr. is coming back to play the voice of Tony Stark, and maybe Iron Heart is just one more installment of the upcoming animated What If? series, which specifically reimagines big Marvel heroes in a Sliding Doors kind-of-way. If that’s the case, then all of this makes sense. But, if Downey Jr. really is back, in the flesh, as Tony Stark, then Marvel has a lot of explaining to do. Plus, we’re going to bet that his daughter, Morgan Stark, is going to want to see him.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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