Taking off the uniform and retiring is fraught with fear and uncertainty. Luckily, you’ll live. It might not seem like it sometimes after spending so much of your life in the military, but with a little persistence and patience, everything will be fine.
First, 10 things you can look forward to:
1. Higher pay
This is what everyone gets excited for and it’s a good deal after you get through the searching, preparing, and interviewing processes. It takes time and can cause night sweats wondering where you’ll end up after retirement, but if you play your cards right and land a decent job then your net pay can increase by about 50 percent. It’s not Easy Street, but it’s Easier Than Before Street.
This is a double-edged sword. Some people like the nomadic lifestyle the military gives us and actually struggle with sitting still in one place. We enjoyed seeing new places and wondering where we’ll be sent next. So when that train stops, it’s hard for some people to deal with. Others can’t wait to put down roots in a community and never move again. It’s nice to finally have an address that doesn’t change and no chance of another deployment order.
3. PT on your time
If you hated early morning PT then good news … you can hit the gym at whatever time you like. Leave work early and go for an afternoon run? Why, yes, I will thanks.
This can be fun or a pain depending on how you look at it. Networking is always a good idea, especially if you’re a professional. If a post-military job doesn’t work out and you want to try something else, you have to know people who can help. So now you have a valid excuse to get out there and mingle.
5. Health insurance
While your co-workers at your new job are complaining about co-pay, premiums, and Obamacare, you’ll be comfortable in knowing Tricare and/or the VA system is cheap and effective … okay, now that I read that back it sounds kinda ridiculous. However, if you happen to be in an area that has a good military hospital and your family doesn’t have any major medical issues, the money you save on healthcare can be significant. I’m probably one of the few people who has nothing bad to say about the Army healthcare system, but I live outside Ft Belvoir (huge hospital) and have not had anything significant to deal with.
Never had time for one before? You do now. And if your hobby is hanging out with family, even better. Build a drone, write a novel, or hike the Grand Canyon finally.
7. Joining the “old farts” organizations
The American Legion, VFW, IAVA, and everyone else will try to get you to join their club. These groups do good things for the collective good of the military but they’re honestly not for everyone. As soon as I retired I joined my local outpost but just never really connected with them on a personal level. But I continue to pay my dues and support them because those organizations are great advocates for the veteran community.
8. Running into old friends again
The American military is the biggest fraternity in the world. I live in DC and during any given month an old friend has to come here for one reason or another and we invariably get together, have a few drinks and enjoy Reason Number 9 to look forward to retirement …
9. Reliving old tales
Over and over and over again. And history seems to change with each telling of the tale.
10. Facial hair
Come on … you know you want to grow that sweet goatee.
Now, five things not to look forward to:
1. Loss of camaraderie
You take the uniform off the soldier, but not the soldier out of the uniform…or something like that. The people you served with are what makes the life special. They had your back and you had theirs and it’s hard to find that camaraderie in the civilian world.
2. Lack of respect from young bucks
Get it through your head that your former rank doesn’t mean anything when you get out. Even if you were a general officer, you’re Mister Jones now, so when some brazen E4 cuts in front of you in line at the PX because he’s in uniform, get over it.
3. Not being able to do what you did on active duty
This is more of an age thing, but the days of running 5 miles in body armor or going on a drinking binge the night before a Company run are over. Long walks through the neighborhood are the routine now. And naps.
4. Going to the bottom of the list of priorities
Whether you’re picking up a prescription or trying to get on a MAC flight, retirees are the last priority for everything. In an instant, you go from priority one to priority none.
5. Dental insurance
For some strange voodoo reason, Delta Dental is 4 times more expensive than any of the dental insurance plans of the civilian companies I’ve worked for since retiring. Weird.
Iranians got accustomed to the miniscule increases in their every day quality of life since U.S. and UN sanctions lifted. In 2016, the first year after the Iran Nuclear Deal was signed, the Islamic Republic’s economy experienced more than 12 percent growth after the five percent contraction it had the year prior. Along with that growth came a huge drop in inflation rates, increases in luxury goods, and a dip in the poverty rate.
But that’s all gone now, wiped away by the reimposition of UN/U.S. economic sanctions – and Iranians are not happy.
You can’t buy an iPhone when you can’t feed your family.
Many Iranians, however, saw little improvement in their lives, as many economic sanctions weren’t actually lifted before President Donald Trump reimposed them after withdrawing from the nuclear agreement. Iranians say they can feel themselves breaking under the economic pressure, but they aren’t blaming Trump or the United States; they blame the regime. Little about Iran’s economy has changed in the last 40 years. Its inflation rate is now 37 percent and its unemployment rate hovers around 12 percent.
Oil revenues are a full third of Iran’s economy and President Trump has blocked it from being sold on world markets while promising to sanction any country who buys it. Still, the Iranians blame the government and its leadership.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Citizens of the Islamic Republic believe many in their government are corrupt, citing reports of former officials who embezzled millions of dollars and then fled the country before it could be recovered.
“The economic war is not from outside of our borders but within the country,” Jafar Mousavi, who runs a dry-goods store in Tehran, told the Associated Press. “If there was integrity among our government, producers and people, we could have overcome the pressures.”
There are some projects that the Kremlin would love us to forget.
The Russian military has long been a bogeyman for the West, with Cold War memories lingering even after the fall of the Soviet Union.
However, over the years Russia’s fierce competition has produced a number of duds alongside its successes, as the country has scrambled to stay one step ahead of its geopolitical rivals.
The following is a collection of some of the most ambitious military projects that resulted in spectacular failures.
The Tsar tank has achieved almost mythical status since the unusual vehicle was first tested in 1914. Due to weight miscalculations, its tricycle design often resulted in its back wheel getting stuck and its lack of armor left its operators exposed to artillery fire.
Photo: Wiki Commons
But it wasn’t Russia’s only tank failure. The Soviet Union’s T-80 was the first production tank to be equipped with a gas turbine engine when it was introduced in 1976.
Photo: Wiki Commons
However, when it was used during the First Chechen War it was discovered that when the tanks got hit on their side armor, its unused ammunition exploded. The performance was so poor that the Ministry of Defense cancelled all orders for the tanks.
Photo: Wiki Commons
The Raduga Kh-22 air-to-surface missile was designed as a long-range anti-ship missile to counter the threat of US aircraft carriers and warship battle groups.
Photo: Wiki Commons
What it wasn’t designed to do was hit friendly territory, but that’s exactly what happened in 2002 when one of the rockets misfired during Russian military exercises and struck the Atyrau region of western Kazakhstan to the great embarrassment of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov (pictured below).
Photo: Wiki Commons
The Mikoyan Project 1.44 (MiG 1.44) was the Soviet Union’s answer to the US’s development of its fifth-generation Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) in the 1980s.
Photo: Wiki Commons
Thirty years later and the status of the MiG 1.44 remains something of a mystery after it performed its first and only flight in February, 2000. The only known prototype was put in long-term storage in the hangar of Gromov Flight Research Institute in 2013.
Russia’s flagship, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, is the only aircraft carrier of its type to enter service after its sister ship was scrapped due to the fall of the Soviet Union.
Photo: Wiki Commons
Unfortunately, it has been beset with problems over the years. Due to problems with its powerplant, tugs used to have to accompany the ship whenever it is deployed to tow it back to port. In 2009, a short circuit aboard the vessel caused a fire that killed one crew member, before an attempt to refuel the vessel at sea a month later caused a large oil spill off the coast of Ireland.
Photo: Wiki Commons
On February 17, 2004, President Vladimir Putin boarded the Arkhangelsk, an Akula-class submarine, to watch the test launch of a newly developed ballistic missile.
Unfortunately, the R-29RMU Sineva missiles failed to launch from the nuclear submarines Novomoskovsk and Karelia because of unspecified technical problems leaving a lot of red faces all around. Putin subsequently ordered his defense minister to conduct an urgent review of the program.
Photo: Wiki Commons
In 2013, shocked sunbathers on Russia’s Baltic coast were confronted with a giant military hovercraft bearing down on them. A spokesperson from Russia’s navy said the beach was supposed to have been cleared for the exercise.
The satellites of Russia’s “Tundra” program, designed to be early-warning system capable of tracking tactical as well as ballistic missiles, were first scheduled for launch in 2013.
Photo: Wiki Commons
Yet due to technical problems the launch has suffered a series of delays forcing the country to rely on its outdated existing satellites. In February two satellites, which were operational for only a few hours each day, finally went offline leaving Russia unable to detect missiles from space.
The T-14 Armata tank was billed as the “world’s first post-war, third-generation tank.” So you can imagine the disappointment when the new, high-tech piece of military hardware broke down during May’s rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Moscow and had to be towed with ropes by another vehicle.
Military veterans are getting unlimited access to college assistance under legislation President Donald Trump has signed into law.
The Forever GI Act removed a 15-year limit on using the benefits, effective immediately. The measure increases financial assistance for National Guard and Reserve members, building on a 2008 law that guaranteed veterans a full-ride scholarship to any in-state, public university, or a similar cash amount to attend private colleges.
Purple Heart recipients forced to leave the service due to injury are eligible for benefits, as are dependents of service members who are killed in the line of duty.
Veterans would get additional payments for completing science, technology, and engineering courses, part of a broad effort to better prepare them for life after active-duty service amid a fast-changing job market. The law also restores benefits if a college closes mid-semester, a protection that was added after thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges.
“This is expanding our ability to support our veterans in getting education,” Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told reporters at a briefing after Trump signed the measure at his New Jersey golf club following two nights at his home at New York’s Trump Tower.
Trump is staying at the New Jersey club on a working vacation. Journalists were not permitted to see the president sign the bill, as the White House has done for other veterans’ legislation he has turned into law. That includes a measure Trump signed at the club August 12 to provide nearly $4 billion in emergency funding for a temporary veterans health care program.
The August 16 signing came the day after Trump was rebuked for continuing to insist that “both sides” were culpable for an outbreak of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators. One woman was killed.
Also, two Virginia state troopers died in the crash of their helicopter. They were monitoring the rally.
A wide range of veterans groups supported the education measure. The Veterans of Foreign Wars says hundreds of thousands stand to benefit.
Student Veterans of America says that only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.
The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.
Military working dogs go through lives of intense national service, trained from near birth to mind human commands and either fight bad guys or hunt for dangerous substances and contraband. But they’re still living creatures, and they are allowed to retire and live out their days after their service is done.
And, since this is the military, there’s a ceremony involved. But when you do retirement ceremonies with healthy, eager dogs, it’s actually a pretty adorable experience.
In this video from Fort Benning, the 904th Military Working Dog Police Detachment held a ceremony to retire two of their working dogs. Max is a Belgian Malinois with 10 years of service and Grisha is a Malinois who had spent four years at Fort Benning. Both dogs received Army Commendation Medals and were slated to live out their days in the civilian world.
Military working dogs serve in a variety of roles. The most visible is likely the dogs trained to detect improvised explosive devices and similar threats like mines and suicide vehicles. These animals are employed across the world, especially at forward bases and combat outposts.
But the military also has dogs that detect drugs to aid law enforcement agencies on military installations, as well as cadaver dogs which are unfortunately required to help find bodies after disasters.
But the animals also serve on the front lines or in raids. Special operators like Navy SEALs now take dogs on some missions to help keep curious onlookers back or even to take direct action against enemy fighters, using their teeth to harm foes or just to pin people down so the SEALs can sort hostages and civilians from fighters in relative safety.
One of the newer ways for animals to serve is in emotional support roles, a job which hearkens back to some of the earliest animals in military units. Animal mascots have been common to military units for centuries, and troops have long looked to the mascots for companionship.
In 1966, Gallagher, who immigrated from Ballyhaunis, Ireland in 1962, joined the Marine Corps where he served in H-Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division during Operation Hastings in the Republic of Vietnam.
“Lance Corporal Gallagher is an American hero. His exemplary service in defense of our nation and his strength and sacrifice leaves an example for all servicemen and women to emulate,” said Spencer. “His legacy will live on in the future USS Gallagher and his heroic actions will continue to inspire future Sailors and Marines.”
Gallagher was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on July 18, 1966, when he selflessly threw his body on an incoming grenade, shielding his fellow Marines. He quickly pitched the grenade to a nearby river where it safely exploded out of harm’s way, without injury to himself or others. Gallagher was killed in action one year later in DaLoc near De Nang on March 30, 1967. He is one of only 30 known Irish citizens to have died in the Vietnam conflict.
Arleigh-Burke class destroyers conduct a variety of operations from peacetime presence and crisis response to sea control and power projection. The future USS Gallagher (DDG 127) will be capable of fighting air, surface, and subsurface battles simultaneously, and will contain a combination of offensive and defensive weapon systems designed to support maritime warfare, including integrated air and missile defense and vertical launch capabilities.
The ship will be constructed at Bath Iron Works, a division of General Dynamics in Maine. The ship will be 509 feet long, have a beam length of 59 feet, and be capable of operating at speeds in excess of 30 knots.
With more Chinese submarines roaming the Pacific and the Trump administration pushing US-made hardware, Japan is putting into play a new piece of gear that may give its subs an edge at sea and keep its defense firms afloat.
On Oct. 4, 2018, in the city of Kobe, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launched the Soryu-class diesel-electric attack sub Oryu, the 11th sub in the class and the first to be equipped with lithium-ion batteries.
The Oryu has a number of upgrades over previous Soryu-class boats, which are the biggest diesel-electric subs in the world, but the biggest change is the batteries.
The JSMDF submarine Oryu at its launch on Oct. 4, 2018.
Diesel-electric subs use power from their diesel engines to charge their batteries, which they switch to during operations or in combat situations in order to run quietly and avoid detection.
The lithium-ion batteries in the Oryu — which store about double the power of the lead-acid batteries they replace — extend the range and time the sub can spend underwater considerably.
Mitsubishi turned to Kyoto-based firm GS Yuasa to produce the new batteries.
The latter company said in February 2017 that Japan would be the first country in the world to equip diesel-electric attack subs with lithium-ion batteries, putting them on the final two boats in the Soryu class: the Oryu, designated SS 511, and its successor, designated SS 512.
Japanese officials at the launch of the JSMDF submarine Oryu, Oct. 4, 2018.
Previous Soryu-class subs used two Kawasaki diesel generators and two Kawasaki air-independent propulsion engines. (AIP allows nonnuclear subs to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen, replacing or augmenting diesel-electric systems.)
Both platforms have a top speed of 12 knots, or about 14 mph, on the surface and of 20 knots, or 23 mph, while submerged, according to Jane’s.
Soryu-class subs are outfitted with six tubes in their bow that can fire Japan’s Type 89 heavyweight torpedo. They can also fire UGM-84C Harpoon medium-range anti-ship missiles against targets on the surface.
Construction started on the 275-foot-long Oryu — which displaces 2,950 metric tons on the surface and 4,100 metric tons underwater — in March 2015. It’s expected to enter service with Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force in March 2020.
The Oryu’s launch comes as Japan’s military and defense industry face pressure from two vastly different sources.
The Trump administration has been pushing Japan to buy more US military hardware, which Trump sees as a way to cut the trade imbalance between the two countries.
Japan, which has tried hard to court Trump, has beefed up its purchases of US-made gear. Tokyo spent about .5 billion through the US’s Foreign Military Sales program in the most recent fiscal year, after never spending more than about 0 million a year through fiscal year 2011, according to Nikkei Asian Review.
Those acquisitions have helped Japan get sophisticated US hardware but have been of little benefit for Japan’s defense industry, which has struggled to export its own wares. Additional purchases from the US are likely to leave Japanese firms with fewer orders.
Facing pressure from US military imports and with Chinese and South Korean firms gaining an edge in commercial shipbuilding, subs are the only outlet left for Japanese heavy industry, which has specialized technology and strong shipbuilding infrastructure, according to Nikkei.
A Chinese Shang-class (Type 093) nuclear-powered attack sub in the contiguous zone of the Senkaku Islands, January 2018.
(Japanese Ministry of Defense photo)
The Oryu also launches amid rising tensions in the East and South China Seas, where a number of countries have challenged Beijing’s expansive claims and aggressive behavior.
China has put “growing emphasis on the maritime domain,” the Pentagon said in 2018. Beijing can now deploy 56 subs — 47 of which are believed to be diesel or diesel-electric attack boats. That force is only expected to grow.
Of particular concern for Tokyo is Chinese submarine activity in the East China Sea, around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which Japan controls but China claims.
In January 2018, a Chinese Shang-class nuclear-powered attack sub was detected in the contiguous zone around the islands — the first confirmed identification of a Chinese sub in that area. The presence of a concealed sub was seen by Japan as a much more serious threat than the presence of surface ships, and Tokyo lodged a protest with China.
Japan is using its own subs to challenge Beijing.
In September 2018, JMSDF Oyashio-class attack sub Kuroshiro joined other Japanese warships for exercises in the South China Sea — the first time a Japanese sub had done drills there, the Defense Ministry said.
The drills, done away from islands that China has built military outposts on, involved the Japanese sub trying to evade detection.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
He’s a war strategist and a business owner, a bestselling author and an expert on mercenaries and robots. And for much of the past week, he was a major defense-conference headliner invited to share ideas with the region’s top brass as well as grunts on the ground.
New America Foundation senior fellow Peter “PW” Singer is probably best known as the co-author of “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War,” a 2015 thriller that mixes fact and future to describe how the United States, Russia, and China might battle on the ground, at sea, in the air, and throughout cyberspace.
But he’s also an international thought leader sought out for his views on espionage, technology, and politics.
In his keynote speech at the AFCEA C4ISR Symposium in San Diego, Singer shared his thoughts on “Visualizing the Future of War Through Fiction.”
But it was his time away from the conference that telegraphed his importance to the military — five briefings at local Marine and Navy facilities, including a pow wow with Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and hours observing war games off of Camp Pendleton’s Red Beach.
Based in Washington, D.C., Singer, 42, was hosted throughout the week by consulting giant Deloitte.
“It’s been exciting to see the impact the book has had,” Singer said during an interview. “It’s doubly amazing to me because I’ve written nonfiction books that have had a pretty good range of readership in the military, but nothing that compares to this. And I think it shows the evidence of what storytelling can do by dropping people into a world, into future scenarios, where they see themselves.”
It’s not the first piece of fiction to find relevance in the military.
The Martians in H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” unleashed the Heat-Ray on humanity, what today would resemble the lasers or directed energy weapons joining America’s military tool kit. Wells also predicted atom bombs and nuclear proliferation, the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, and a form of communication akin to email.
In 1992, Air Force officer Charles Dunlap Jr.’s provocative essay “The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012,” told in the form of a letter from Prisoner 222305759, triggered debate throughout the services about the importance of preserving traditional military-civilian relations and protecting the Constitution.
The commandant’s reading list for enlisted and officer Marines includes a dozen works of fiction, including Jim Webb’s Vietnam War classic “Fields of Fire” and Phil Klay’s”Redeployment,” poignant writing about Iraq. A pair of Singer’s books share space on the commandant’s shelf: “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution” and “Ghost Fleet,” which was co-authored by August Cole.
“Ghost Fleet” doesn’t mirror other novels on the list.
Its mix of cutting-edge technology and fast-paced plot was inspired by Tom Clancy’s “Red Storm Rising.” Clancy’s novel so excited strategists and policymakers in 1986 that many feared he had divulged too many secrets about America’s revolutionary weapon systems and how they might be employed in battle.
Clancy’s fiction franchise inspired video games. Singer also has worked as a consultant on the popular “Call of Duty” series.
“Tom Clancy was a big influence on us, but the obvious difference is that in the Clancy books the technology always works perfectly,” Singer said.
“In the real world, it doesn’t. And in a lot of the science fiction I love as well, like (William) Gibson’s ‘Blade Runner,’ it doesn’t either. And that’s both because technology never works perfectly in the real world and also because there’s this thing called ‘people.’ People are working against the technology.”
“I think what we’ve done in large part expresses what people in the Navy are actually saying. And that comes from the fact that the interviews for the book were with Navy ship captains, you know? Enlisted sailors. A Marine fighter pilot. Special operations. Whatever. So when someone in the book says, ‘The Littoral Combat Ship? More like ‘Little Crappy Ship,’ that’s not us making it up. That’s someone in the Navy, in the real world, who said that.”
Phil Carter, an Army combat veteran of Iraq who now directs the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C., said Singer is an essential thinker because of his unique ability to comprehend the spirit of a new age of war, where battles take place on the Internet and in dusty villages. He described the novel as catnip to commanders.
“Science fiction really has a hold on military officers in particular,” Carter said. “And Peter Singer taps into that. His nonfiction and his fiction are like a smarter, hipper version of Tom Clancy, and that really appeals to guys like me who grew up reading Tom Clancy and are now in the military living it.”
Critics grouse that “Ghost Fleet” suffers from some of the same literary problems that plagued Clancy — thin characters, wooden dialogue, and a story that turns on an unlikely event, with the authors too often sacrificing cogent analysis for a quick turn of the page.
“Peter does a great job bringing attention to very complicated issues such as the future of war, but ‘Ghost Fleet’ should be used as a point of departure on the subjects and not the last word. It helps to stimulate a more robust debate inside the services and among policymakers,” said Erin Simpson, a top national security consultant who co-hosts “Bombshell,” a hit podcast that also has excited the Beltway’s defense community.
And then there’s China. A recent review in the People’s Liberation Army’s Daily newspaper complained that Singer and Cole were trying to paint Beijing as an enemy.
“But our agenda isn’t to say that there will be such a war,” Singer said. “If there’s a political lesson from it, for geopolitics, it’s the idea that the kind of conflict (of) states fighting states was thinkable for much of the 20th century. The two world wars that happened versus the third World War, the fear of it throughout the Cold War.
“But then for the last generation, it’s been unthinkable. And now it’s thinkable once more.”
As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet on the seafloor, the memories of soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.
The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicted a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War — a war he had fought in three separate times.
“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”
His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.
The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans and a unique diving experience for all.
Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.
Circle of Heroes is the nation’s only memorial of its kind and will eventually have 24 life-size statues depicting troops from all services.
(Circle of Heroes)
For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.
“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said Aug.12, 2019, a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”
One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.
On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.
“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”
In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area, where he grew up.
Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, looks at his name on a plaque next to one of the statues at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.
(Video still by Bill Mills)
“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.
Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.
“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”
Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, also a diving instructor, agreed, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.
Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have had amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.
He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.
“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”
Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, had a statue dedicated to him at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.
Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.
“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing, I never even thought that was possible.”
While memorials are typically above ground, this one can allow visitors to connect to it on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.
“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.
“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”
The U.S. special representative for Iran has urged the European Union to impose new sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic-missile program, calling it a “grave and escalating threat.”
Brian Hook made the call on Dec. 3, 2018, two days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned what he described as Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile “capable of carrying multiple warheads” and striking parts of Europe and the entire Middle East.
The Iranian military has said it will keep conducting missile tests despite Western condemnation.
The latest statements from Pompeo and Hook come amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington, which in 2018 imposed tough sanctions on Iran’s economy.
The move was part of a broader U.S. campaign to pressure Iran over what the President Donald Trump’s administration describes as its “malign conduct” such as missile development and support for militant groups in the Middle East.
Remains of Iranian Qiam ballistic missiles seen at the Iranian Materiel Display at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington.
(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
Tehran has repeatedly rejected negotiations over its missile program and insists the missiles are only to be used for defensive purposes.
Speaking aboard Pompeo’s plane as he traveled to Brussels for a NATO meeting, Hook told reporters that Washington “would like to see the European Union move sanctions that target Iran’s missile program.”
The U.S. envoy said that Trump’s campaign of “maximum pressure” on Tehran since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in May “can be effective if more nations can join us in those [sanctions].”
“It is a grave and escalating threat, and nations around the world, not just Europe, need to do everything they can to be targeting Iran’s missile program,” Hook said.
He also said that “progress” was being made on getting NATO allies to consider a proposal to target individuals and entities that play key roles in Iran’s missile program.
European countries have criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and are working to preserve the accord that lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities, even though they have also criticized Iranian positions on other issues.
In a Dec. 1, 2018 statement, Pompeo charged that Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the Iran nuclear deal.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
(Photo by Mark Taylor)
Pompeo warned that Iran’s “missile testing and missile proliferation is growing,” and called on the country to “cease immediately all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
The French Foreign Ministry issued a similar call, condemning the Iranian missile test as “provocative and destabilizing.”
Iran’s military did not confirm or deny it had tested a new missile, but said it will “continue to both develop and test missiles.”
“Missile tests…are carried out for defense and the country’s deterrence, and we will continue this,” the semiofficial Tasnim news agency quoted Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, a spokesman for Iran’s armed forces, as saying on Dec. 2, 2018.
Shekarchi said such activity “is outside the framework of [nuclear] negotiations and part of our national security, for which we will not ask any country’s permission.”
To address the potential Russian threat, the Army will start rotating Armored Brigade Combat Teams to Europe, starting next year.
According to a report by the Army Times, the first unit to handle a rotation will come from the 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colorado. The European rotation will join Armored Brigade Combat Team rotations in South Korea and Kuwait.
The Army also announced that a brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division based at Fort Stewart in Georgia, will be converted from an Infantry Brigade Combat Team to an Armored Brigade Combat Team.
An Armored Brigade Combat Team with the 1st Armored Division will also be moved from training duties to the active rotation. The deployments to Europe, South Korea, and Kuwait are for nine months.
At present, there are only nine Armored Brigade Combat Teams in the Active Army, with five more in the National Guard. The conversion of the 3rd Infantry Division’s brigade will make it ten active Armored Brigade Combat Teams.
The only U.S. Army unit permanently deployed to Europe is the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, a Stryker unit. Earlier this year, the Army received the first M1296 Dragoon, a Stryker modified with the Mk 46 Bushmaster II 30mm chain gun.
An Armored Brigade Combat Team has three battalions, each with two companies of M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and two companied of mechanized infantry that each have 14 M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles.
The brigade also has a reconnaissance squadron with three troops of 12 M3A3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles each.
The Army had to withdraw its Armored Brigade Combat Teams from Europe five years ago due to budget cuts caused by sequestration. A 2015 Army Times report outlined that the cuts reduced the number of brigade combat teams from 45 in 2012 to 30.
American military heroes typically spend a lot of time fighting in other countries. The leaders of those countries can give medals or official thanks, but sometimes they induct American warriors into their chivalric orders and turn them into knights. For American citizens the honor comes without the title of “sir” or any of the official perks, but it’s still way better than a challenge coin.
1. Gen. James Doolittle
Medal of Honor recipient and leader of the Doolittle Raid, Gen. James Doolittle also has a number of honorary knighthoods including Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath from Great Britain, the Order of the Condor of Bolivia, and the Grand Order of the Crown from Belgium.
2. Adm. Chester W. Nimitz
The naval hero who commanded the fleets at the battles of Midway, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and others was named to two foreign knighthoods. First, he was appointed as Knight Grand Cross of the Military Division of the Order of Bath by Great Britain, then Knight Grand-Cross in the Order of Orange Nassau by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.
Gen. Omar N. Bradley was a five-star general, World War II and Korean War commander, the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the first Chairman of the NATO Committee. For his years of military service, Bradley was made an honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire.
5. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower has way too many knighthoods to list here, but some highlights include: Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath from Great Britain, Grand Cordon with Palm of the Order of Leopold from Belgium, and the Grand Croix of the Legion of Honor from France.
6. Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur retired from the Army in 1937, but returned in 1941 after a request from President Roosevelt. Gen. MacArthur went on to become commander of occupied Japan and of United Nations Forces in Korea. For his World War II service, MacArthur was appointed as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath of Great Britain.
7. Gen. George S. Patton
A veteran of the Border War with Mexico, World War I, and World War II, Gen. George S. Patton was named to numerous orders including the Order of the British Empire, the Order of Leopold, and the Order of Adolphe of Nassau, among others.
Most people would be grateful to experience any one of the occupations listed above–French Foreign Legionnaire, wartime spy, US Marine, or Hollywood heartthrob, but because Pierre (Peter) Julien Ortiz was not “most people,” he chose to immerse himself in all four.
The man who would become the most-decorated member of the Office of Strategic Services and one of the most decorated US Marines in World War II was born in New York City in 1913, to a French father who had a strong Spanish background, and an American mother.
The young Peter–once described as “tall, handsome, urbane, and sophisticated”–had many influential connections in French society and was a student in Grenoble when he decided to trade the tranquil life of a college student for something more exciting–a five-year enlistment in the French Foreign Legion. He enlisted in 1932 in the name of his Polish girlfriend.
Peter rose from private to sergeant and was offered a permanent commission as a second lieutenant–if he would re-enlist for five years and agree to eventually become a naturalized French citizen.
He refused and instead returned to the United States. Peter had, however, made quite the impression–he had fought with the Legion in several engagements in Africa with the indigenous Rif tribesmen, had been wounded in 1933, and came home with a chest full of medals, including two awards of the Croix de Guerre.
Upon his return, he joined his mother in California, serving as a technical advisor for war films until the outbreak of World War II in Europe, which–since the United States was still neutral in 1939–prompted Peter to return to the Legion in October of that year, as a sergeant.
By May 1940, he had received a battlefield commission but became a POW in June 1940 during the Battle of France when he was wounded while blowing up a fuel dump.
When he learned that some gasoline had not been blown up before the Germans arrived, he commandeered a motorcycle and returned to the area, drove through the German camp, destroyed the gasoline dump, and was returning to his own lines when he was shot in the hip, making him easy to capture.
Only the skill of a German POW camp surgeon kept him from being paralyzed.
Shifted between POW camps in Germany, Poland, and Austria for 15 months, he attempted escape on several occasions, finally successful in October 1941, fleeing to the United States by way of Lisbon, Portugal.
Debriefed by both Army and Navy intelligence officers, he was promised a commission–as he had been by both the Free French and the British in Portugal. He longed to wear a US military uniform.
By June 1942, after a visit with his mother and hearing nothing about the commission, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps and was sent to Parris Island, South Carolina for boot camp.
Predictably, his numerous French military decorations caused him to stand out in formation, so much so that the Chief of Staff at the Recruit Depot wrote the USMC Commandant about Peter, enclosing copies of his French military awards, along with his application for a commission.
On August 1, 1942, Private Ortiz became 2nd Lt. Ortiz and became an assistant training officer at Parris Island.
Then dispatched to join the 23d Marines at Camp Lejeune, NC, he was–in a decision that only makes sense to military veterans–sent to jump school, despite already being a highly-decorated combat veteran and long-time paratrooper.
Photo licensed under Wikimedia Commons
Peter’s native French language capability, combined with his French Foreign Legion experience attracted the attention of influential senior Marines, one of whom wrote, “The rather unique experiences and qualifications of Lieutenant Ortiz indicate that he would be of exceptional value to American units operating in North Africa.”
And so it was–on December 3, 1942, now-Captain Ortiz was ordered to Tangier, Morocco for duty as the assistant naval attaché. In reality, his mission was to organize Arab tribesmen to observe German forces on the Tunisian border.
In a personal encounter with a German patrol, which he dispersed with the liberal use of grenades, Peter was wounded again, and spent time recuperating in an Algiers hospital, wearing his newly-awarded Purple Heart medal.
Peter Ortiz returned to the United States to recuperate in April 1943 and the next month was assigned to the Naval Command of OSS; one of only 80 USMC officers who served in the OSS during the war.
By July, he was in London pending assignment to France. His mission was to evaluate the strength and capabilities of the local resistance movement in the Vercors area of the Haute Savoie, a region in southeastern France, and then organize and arm the Maquis in preparation for the long-awaited D-Day assault.
The mechanism used to achieve this goal was an inter-allied team of British, French, and American agents, known as UNION–Colonel Pierre Fourcaud represented the Free French forces, former schoolmaster Col. H.H.A. Thackwaite for the British Special Operations Executive, and Peter Ortiz for the OSS/Special Operations as the US representative.
Team members parachuted into France in civilian clothes, per Special Operations Executive standard practice, later changing into their uniforms: the first Allied officers to appear in uniform in France since 1940.
Peter and his teammates found a challenging situation on the ground–a shortage of money and transportation, poor security, few military supplies, and a general lack of willingness on the part of politically-divided resistance groups to work together.
In May, the group was withdrawn to England pending reassignment.
Promoted to Major and awarded the first of two Navy Crosses he would earn, Peter returned to France on August 1, 1944, as the head of a mission known as Union II, an OSS Operational Group.
Rather than engage in espionage and intelligence collection, the heavily-armed OGs were to engage in “direct action,” meaning sabotage and preventing retreating German units from destroying key installations.
Accompanying Peter–code-named “Chambellan”–were five Marines, a Free French officer carrying false papers identifying him as a Marine, and an Army Air Forces captain.
In a chance encounter in Albertville with several hundred troops of the German 157th Alpine Reserve Division, Peter and his small team were soon overwhelmed.
Aware of several recent incidents of German slaughter of French townspeople and faced with the threat of German reprisals, Peter decided only surrender would spare the local populace from the wrath of the German forces.
Following his surrender on August 16, Peter was dispatched to the naval POW camp Marlag / Milag Nord, located in the small German village of Westertimke, near Bremen, in northern Germany.
He made repeated attempts to escape, until Apr 10, 1945, when the camp was hastily evacuated and he was able to slip away as a column of Spitfires attacked the retreating Germans.
After hiding for 10 days, Peter and two fellow POWs decided they would be better off back in their POW barracks and so returned there on April 27–two days before the camp was liberated by the British 7th Guards Armored Division.
The freed Peter was then transported to Brussels and back to London, where he was awarded his second Navy Cross.
Records of the OSS indicate that Peter was actually nominated for the Medal of Honor instead of a second Navy Cross, one of the few ever so honored: no OSS member has ever been awarded the Medal of Honor.
With the war over, Peter returned to “Tinseltown,” to work as a technical advisor to the movie industry again – and also as an actor.
Peter was good friends with fellow OSS veteran and renowned Hollywood director John Ford, and played minor roles in several of Ford’s John Wayne films, including Rio Grande, in which he played “Captain St. Jacques.”
As one biographer noted, however, “He wasn’t the greatest of actors, and he never really liked seeing the movies he was in.”
He continued in the Marine Corps Reserve, achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel.
In April 1954, with Indochina heating up, he wrote a letter to the USMC Commandant, offering his services as a Marine observer there; the USMC response was ‘current military policies will not permit the assignment requested.”
In March 1955, the 41-year-old highly-decorated Marine who had already lived several lives’ worth of excitement, retired and was promoted to colonel on the retired list as a decorated combat veteran.
He was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour by the French government, another in a long list of awards, including his two Navy Crosses, the Croix de Guerre with five citations, the Legion of Merit with a combat “Valor” device, and selection as a Member of the Order of British Empire (Military Division).
Peter moved to Prescott, Arizona, where he succumbed to cancer at the Veterans Medical Center on May 16, 1988, at the age of 75. He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery , his graveside service attended by military representatives from the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the French Foreign Legion. He was survived by his wife and his son, also a US Naval Academy graduate and USMC Major.
The wide swath that Peter cut during his life ensured that he would be remembered, at least by some, afterwards.
In 1994, commemoration ceremonies were conducted in each of two French towns where Peter fought–invited to the ceremonies were his wife, their son, and two of the enlisted Marines under his command in France.
One of the two towns, Centron, unveiled a plaque naming the town center “Place Peter Ortiz.”
As side tribute, during the CBS coverage of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Albertville, Charles Kuralt narrated a 20-minute segment on the fascinating life of Peter Ortiz. He has been featured in several USMC publications and in at least one monograph– Ortiz: To Live a Man’s Life by Laura Homan Lacey and John W. Brunner, and a 1958 magazine article by Walter Wager entitled ” They Called Him the Widow Maker–the Fantastic Saga of Pete Ortiz : WWII’s Most Incredible Spy.”
As late USMC historian Benis Frank has written, “Peter Julien Ortiz was a man among men. It is doubtful that his kind has been seen since his time.”