6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MONEY

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free

It’s time for taxes! Whether you are a single service member living in the barracks, a retired four star spending your days fishing in Hawaii, or a veteran with a family working your way through college, taxes have to be done.


I used to have this elementary school teacher, Mrs. West.

I remember Mrs. West standing in front of our class and telling us with extreme seriousness that only two things in America were guaranteed: eventual death and taxes.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Holden Smith, 633rd Air Base Wing Judge Advocate paralegal, assists Senior Airman Terrence Eaton, logistics readiness squadron vehicle maintenance journeymen, in filling out a form at the Langley Air Force Base, Va., tax center Feb. 5, 2013. Joint Base Langley-Eustis tax centers are set to open Feb. 2 for the 2015 income tax season. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Aubrey White/ Released)

I remember that half of my class got super interested in science in hopes of figuring out how to one day live forever, and the rest of us just kind of groaned and decided that our parents were going to do our taxes forever if the other kids figured out that whole science thing.

And so far those damn science kids still haven’t come through for us, and we still have to pay taxes.

Adulting is hard AF, amiright?

Don’t have a heart attack yet, because there is hope — not for science, they still haven’t come through — but for taxes.

There are a lot of ways and places to get your taxes done for free or almost free, and this is really great because math and I got a divorce in my freshmen year of college and we haven’t spoken since.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
Army Spc. Coltin Jenkins, tax preparer, works with customers of the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Consolidated Tax center in Building 205 on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base March 17, 2015. (Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall PAO photo by Rachel Larue)

1. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

VITA, is sponsored by the IRS. Most larger military installations have a VITA office on base during tax season. VITA isn’t military specific, but they generally help tax payers who make less than $54,000. Check out VITA, what you need to take with you on a visit, and where their offices are.

2. Military OneSource

This outfit prepares and files taxes for free for active duty service members, National Guard and Reserve, and their spouses; retirees who were honorably discharged and are within 180 days past their discharge date, eligible survivors of active duty, National Guard and Reserve deceased service members, and family members who are in charge of the affairs of eligible service members are also eligible.

3. IRS Free File

Get this, the IRS lets you do your own taxes. For free. Sweet deal? Or worst nightmare. You decide. Either way, the IRS will allow you to download software to do your taxes for free if you make below $64,000, and they’ll give you a free form if you make above $64,000. I guess the folks sitting right on $64,000 are just SOL.

4. TurboTax

Uber popular TurboTax has a sweet deal right now. You can download their 1040EZ or 1040A for free, and the rest of their products are fairly well discounted. E1 – E5 can get the Deluxe Edition from TurboTax for free (normally $54.99), and E6 and above get a discount on all products. The best thing about TurboTax is if for any reason the IRS comes back and says “You done effed up,” TurboTax will pay you for the IRS penalties.

5. TaxSlayer.com

This service has a great military discount. Currently, its website advertises 50 percent off classic or premium editions. They have free email and phone support, and boast about being 100 percent accurate. They do not, however, guarantee no penalties from the IRS if there is a mistake.

6. H&R Block

These guys have a cool thing for filing online for anywhere from free to $38.49. The program is called H&R Block More Zero (because “Taxes are Lame” and “You Think These Taxes are About You” was apparently taken). H&R Block does offer peace of mind. For a fee. And it really is called “Peace of Mind.”

Here’s how it works: You get your taxes done. You pay an additional fee, and they promise that if you’re audited, they’ll send one of their lawyers to court with you and pay up to $6,000 in fees if they lose. If you don’t pay the extra… no peace of mind for you.

Also, they don’t offer any kind of discount for military.

Articles

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

The US Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 1 recently arrived in the South China Sea to promote freedom of travel on the high seas, as China tightens its grip on the region with its increasingly potent navy.


The strike group includes the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, an entire destroyer squadron, and an additional Arleigh Burke class destroyer.

A US Navy carrier strike group represents one of the most powerful naval units in the world, and China has taken notice.

Related: What it might look like if an American and Chinese carrier went toe-to-toe

“China respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which countries enjoy under international law, but firmly opposes any country’s attempt to undermine China’s sovereignty and security in the name of the freedom of navigation and overflight,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesman China’s Foreign Ministry, according to CNN.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
An SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 15 flies past the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during an air power demonstration. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans

Indeed, China’s military doctrine even goes as far as permitting a first strike against threats to China’s sovereignty, but the USS Carl Vinson has been operating in the South China Sea for decades.

But the move to promote freedom of navigation in the South China Sea comes as China has all but nailed down the region as firmly within its control. China owns a series of artificial islands, which satellite images show it has militarized with missile launchers and radar outposts.

The US takes no side in the dispute between China and six other nations over who owns what in the region but has repeatedly expressed interest in preserving freedom of navigation in an area with vast oil reserves and about $5 trillion in annual shipping.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
USS Ronald Reagan steams in formation with ships from Carrier Strike Group Five and the Republic of Korea Navy during exercise Invincible Spirit, October 2016. | US Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke

At an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit on Sunday, leaders from the region tried to develop a framework for a code of conduct in the heavily contested South China Sea, but found the process “has become virtually moot and academic,” former Philippines National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told ABS-CBN news

“I expect China to still resist the finalization and approval (of a code of conduct) so that China can further militarize the artificial islands with the placement of offensive medium-range and long-range missiles,” said Golez.

The US deployment to the South China Sea comes just days after Chinese warships withdrew from military drills in the region.

Humor

6 memes that immortalize the now-grounded ‘sky dick’ aircrew

Whenever a branch of the armed forces makes it into the news, a sense of dread washes over the troops. Most times, it’s not good news. Maybe a brother or sister in arms fell, or the leadership is accused of misconduct, or, perhaps worst, those we serve with did something devastating.


Not this time. This time, the Navy made international news by drawing a giant penis in the sky over Okanogan, Washington.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
Giant penis? Nah, dude, it’s an Arby’s hat

On one hand, yes, it is understandable that the U.S. Navy would need to react after civilians got the wrong impression of the men and women who protect them.

“The actions of this aircrew are wholly unacceptable and antithetical to Navy core values” said a statement issued on Nov. 17 by NAS Whidbey Island. “We have grounded the aircrew and are conducting a thorough investigation and we will hold those responsible accountable for their actions.”

On the other hand, these patriots took part in a time-honored military tradition of marking the area under the protection of troops. It is a symbol that can be found on tables, port-a-johns, and many walls. It’s as if Batman himself was there to tell the good people of Okanogan that, “It’s okay. The Navy is here. You’re safe.”

If you think about it, the aircrew was just doing their heroic duty.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuc0I4ju2lY

‘Murica! (YouTube, Lunar Temptation)

But yeah. It’s a huge penis. A giant penis made out of the contrail of a E/A-18 Growler.

The aircrew may never fly again (we hope that’s not true, given pilot shortages), but their deeds will never be forgotten. The aircrew and pilots have not been identified, but if they did, the world owes them a beer. These memes are for you, you glorious bastards.

6. Bob Ross would have approved. He was in the military after all.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
(Image via Decelerate your Life)

5. It’s a show of force. It’s America saying we’re going to f*ck them up.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
(Image via Pop smoke)

4. You’ve never been forgotten, sweet prince.

 

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
(Image via Twitter)

3. No one can ever outdo this dick joke. This aircrew won.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
(Image via Pop smoke)

2. Basically, deployments are really about doing operator sh*t and drawing penises everywhere.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
(Image via Facebook)

1. It’s because he was inverted?

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
(Image via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

Articles

Taking control of the interview

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free


Congratulations! You made it to the interview. Now what? The interview is a critical step in the hiring process. How you manage yourself, your responses, and the questions you have for the interviewer often determine what happens next.

Before you get to the interview, you’ve likely prepared a resume which identifies your skills, experience, and passion for your next career move. That resume piqued the interest of the employer who will interview you to see:

  1. Are your in-person responses consistent with what you represented on your resume and application?
  2. Can you articulate your offer of value to the company?
  3. Will you fit in to the company culture?
  4. Whatever else they can learn about you to help them make a hiring decision.

Preparing for the interview

Taking control of the interview requires that you be knowledgeable about the company, industry, and business environment the company operates in, the company culture, hiring manager, and the company’s competitors.

  1. Be clear on your offer. What do you offer to the company you’re meeting with? What is your personal brand, and how do you align with the values of the company? How has your military career prepared you for the experience you are pursuing? This work needs to happen before you even apply for the job, but you should certainly refine your thinking as the interview nears.
  2. Research the company online. Look carefully through their website (what the company says about themselves), but also look outside of their content. In Google, put the company name in the search bar and look through all the options – Web, Images, and News – to see what else you can find about them.  You might then put words such as “ABC Company competitors” or “ABC Company reviews” to see what else you can find about the company you are interviewing with.
  3. Research the hiring manager. Look at their LinkedIn profile – what common interests or experiences do you share? What someone puts on LinkedIn is public information. It’s not creepy to look through their profile to find synergies.
  4. Know your resume. Be well versed on your background: dates, responsibilities, and positions you’ve held. If you have recently separated or retired from service, be sure to make it easy for the hiring manager to understand your military experience. If the company is not familiar with military candidates, spend the time “civilianizing” your experience to show how it relates to the position you are applying for.
  5. Decide how you will show up. How do people at that company dress? Image is your first impression in an interview, and you need to understand how to present yourself to show you will fit in, but dress one notch above that. Hiring managers want to see that you are like them, but they look for you to dress in a way that shows respectfulness for the interview.

Interview

Taking control of the interview means you are clear about why this company is the right place for you. You understand how your values align with the company’s mission; you have researched the opportunities they offer; and you are focused on how your value and experience can benefit them. You feel empowered with information, confidence, and a clear game-plan to get onboard.

Of course, the interviewer has a great deal of power in this situation. They can decide they don’t like you, feel you are a good fit, or understand how you will assimilate in their company. We can only control ourselves and certain aspects of situations; we cannot control other people.

  1. Be prepared for small talk.  Some interviewers like to chat before the interview starts to calm the candidate down. Use this as a focused time to build rapport and set the tone for the interview. Think about what you will and won’t talk about before you arrive at the interview so you don’t misunderstand the casualness and say something inappropriate. Consider current events as good icebreakers provided they are not controversial (political and religious). For instance, you might talk about the upcoming holiday season but not the latest incident of gun violence in schools.
  2. Focus on what AND why.  Don’t ignore that the interviewer not only needs to understand your background and how it’s relevant to the open position, but they also need to feelsomething about you. We call this their “emotional need,” and it drives purchasing decisions. If the hiring manager feels you are too pushy, standoffish, or rigid, they might not feel you are a good fit. Focus on what this person needs to feel about you in order to see you as a fit for the company and the position. Make your case for why you are the right candidate.
  3. Relate your experience as value-add.  For each question asked, relate your military experience to show how you are trained and skilled for the position you’re applying to. You need to bridge what you have done in the past with what you can do in the future. The interviewer won’t have time to make this connection themselves. You can take control by showing patterns of success and results and direct their attention to forward-looking goals.
  4. Ask focused questions. Interviewers expect you to ask questions. Take control of the interview by having these questions developed before you even arrive at the meeting. Be prepared to change the questions up if they are answered during the interview. You should have at least five questions prepared around the company’s vision and business goals, culture and work environment, veteran hiring initiatives, on-boarding process, and employee successes. This shows you are focused on finding the right fit for yourself, not just fitting your offer into any company that will have you.
  5. Pay attention to your body language. During the in-person interview, keep your hands relaxed and in front of you. If you are seated in a chair and facing a desk, hold your notepad or portfolio on your lap. At a conference table? It’s permissible to lean on the table and take notes. Relax your shoulders, but remain professional in posture. Make good eye contact. This validates the interviewer by paying attention to their questions and comments. When you get up to leave, extend a confident and assuring handshake.Watch the interviewer. If they are relaxed and casual, then don’t sit “at attention.” You also can’t be too relaxed or it can appear disrespectful. Take your cues from the interviewer, but realize they work there, so they can act how they want. You want to work there; show you will fit in but also be mindful of the formality of the interview process.

After the interview

After the interview, if there are things you need to follow up on (e.g. a list of references), send that email as soon as possible. Be sure to thank the interviewer for the meeting and confirm your interest in the position. Don’t hesitate to include a bullet point list of highlights from the interview that reinforce you are the right candidate for the job.

Then send a handwritten thank-you note to everyone you interviewed with. Be specific about points in the discussion, and reinforce how you are a great fit for the company.

Interviews are only one step in the hiring process, but they are critical. You might have a series of interviews with multiple people at the company before an offer is made. Be prepared to show up consistently and authentically in each case to prove you are the person they believe you to be!

Articles

This is why cancer isn’t the toughest fight John McCain has faced

The announcement that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is fighting brain cancer was stunning. The news was flooded with statements, most of which offered thoughts and prayers for McCain and his family, although many also noted that John McCain was a fighter.


However, this has not been the only time John McCain’s had to fight through a situation.

His lengthy time in captivity during the Vietnam War was notable, not only due to the fact he was awarded the Silver Star for his heroism, but also for his refusal to return home early.

McCain served as a chaplain among the POWs, per his Legion of Merit citation. McCain also cheated death when his plane was shot down on Oct. 26, 1967.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Prior to his Vietnam War service, he survived three mishaps, including a collision with power lines in an A-1 Skyraider. McCain had another close brush with death before his shootdown, when his jet was among those caught up in the massive fire on the carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59).

Despite suffering shrapnel wounds, he volunteered to transfer to the Essex-class carrier USS Oriskany (CV 34).

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
YouTube: We Are The Mighty

The cancer Senator McCain is fighting, a brain tumor known as glioblastoma, is a very aggressive form of cancer that was discovered after an operation to remove a blood clot near his eye.

It’s not his first go-round with “the big C,” either. McCain fought a battle with malignant melanoma in 2000.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
McCain in Vietnam (Library of Congress photo)

As of this writing, Senator McCain is considering treatment options, but he is also still at work. When President Trump canceled a program to arm some Syrian rebels, McCain issued a statement condemning the decision, proving once again that you can’t keep a hero down.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela

Nicolas Maduro is the world’s worst dictator in the world’s worst dictatorship. To be clear, he’s not the worst in that he’s particularly repressive to his citizens or running concentration camps. He’s the worst in terms of how he came to power and how he holds on to it. He rose in power thanks to Hugo Chavez’ cult of personality while he and his party managed the rapid decline of what was one of South America’s most vibrant economies.

For a while, it looked like the Kremlin might have been propping up his regime, but now it looks like Moscow might be abandoning him.


6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free

Maduro maintains a tenuous grip on power solely because the street thugs – colectivos – and military generals who protect him have more to lose than he does if they lose control of Venezuela. For the Russians, their biggest gain in propping up Maduro is annoying the United States in its own backyard. Unfortunately for Maduro, Russian support may be all he has left, and he may be losing that.

In March 2019, Russia sent military planes, materiel, and advisors to Venezuela, confidently showing the world the Kremlin had Maduro’s back and that any intervention in Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis would be met with Russian interference as well. But the Venezuelan President’s luck might be running out.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free

Don’t give anyone any ideas.

On June 2, 2019, Russia withdrew its contractors and defense advisors in the country and the private Russian firm paid by Venezuela to train its military just cut its Russian staff by half. This latest development may be showing that the millions the Maduro regime owes the Russians may not be enough for Russia to keep Maduro’s government from collapsing on itself. The biggest reason for the pullout, according to the Wall Street Journal, is that Maduro can’t actually pay the Russians anymore.

American sanctions against Venezuela and the long-term decline of the country’s oil production infrastructure has led to a huge decline in the country’s coffers. The United States and Russia showcase Venezuela’s struggle in their own struggle for worldwide supremacy. But even so, it may not be enough for the Russians to keep Maduro’s barely-functional regime afloat.

Articles

This is how the Growler disables an enemy’s air defense system

In modern air warfare, having the biggest caliber machine guns or the best heat-seeking missiles around may not be the only reason a pilot wins a dogfight.


When a mission requires the opponent’s air defense system to be rendered useless so allied forces can get into enemy territory undetected, the EA-18G Growler gets called up.

Related: Here’s how the EA-6B Prowler rules the skies

The Growler is a key factor in every attack squadron because of its ability to shut down ground radar with electronic jamming.

It’s equipped with receivers built on to each wing tip which search for radar signals to locate the enemy’s surface-to-air missile systems.

Inside the cockpit, the Weapon Systems Officer monitors the computer system that scans, analyzes and decides whether the signals it picks up are either friend or foe.

If a threat is detected, the Growler activates one of three jamming pods stored underneath the jet’s centerline that overwhelms the ground radar by sending out electronic noise allowing coalition aircraft to sneak by undetected.

Also Read: This bomber made the B-52 look puny

But it doesn’t just jam the enemy’s radar, it also has the capability of delivering physical destruction as well.

The Growler comes equipped with an attack missile called “HARM” which stands for “high-speed anti-radiation missile.” Once this rocket is launched, it locks in on the ground radar’s electronic signal and explodes directly over its intended target.

The Growler’s impressive systems can locate, jam, and destroy enemy radar in under a minute.

Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video below to see the EA-18G Growler work for yourself.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump optimistic about ‘good talks’ with North Korea

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed optimism on Jan. 10 that a diplomatic opening with North Korea that emerged this week in talks with the South could lead to broader dialogue to quell tensions in the region.


Trump’s upbeat mood after months of escalating threats over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development programs came as the UN Security Council said it welcomes “possibilities for confidence-building and trust-building on the Korean peninsula” that emerged this week.

Also Read: Why the US is suddenly willing to talk to North Korea

“We have certainly problems with North Korea,” Trump said at a news conference, but “a lot of good talks are going on right now. A lot of good energy… Hopefully, it will lead to success for the world, not just for our country, but for the world.”

“Who knows where it leads?” he said.

The move toward dialogue began with an agreement between North and South Korea on Jan. 9 to reopen talks between their militaries and welcome a team from the North to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month at the first formal talks between the two sides in more than two years.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office on Jan. 10 said that Trump indicated in a phone conversation that there would be no military action of any kind while the two Koreas continue to hold talks.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
President Donald J. Trump (right) and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea at the United Nations General Assembly. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The White House said Moon and Trump agreed that, as long as the North refuses to discuss curbing its nuclear development, the global community should continue to exert “maximum pressure” through stiff sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the UN council this year.

But, at the same time, the White House said, “Trump expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances.”

Trump has previously scoffed at what he said was the futility of talking with the North.

MIGHTY HISTORY

8 books about the Iraq War that will give you something to think about

The morning of March 19, 2003, marked the beginning of the Iraq War that would eventually lead to devastating loss for both countries. With its roots in the first Persian Gulf War, some argue that the Iraq/U.S. conflict was inevitable, while others consider it an unnecessary war.

After dictator Saddam Hussein’s refusal to abandon Iraq in 2003, U.S. and allied forces launched a full-scale attack. What followed were years of American occupation, a large number of Iraqi and American casualties, and a growing tide of opposition to the seemingly unending war. The Iraq War spanned nearly the entirety of two presidential administrations in the United States, leading to shifting strategies and new technologies. Eventually, the Obama administration withdrew the final troops in 2011, but the long years of warfare continue to affect the Iraqi nation. These Iraq War books recount, analyze, and revisit the effects and experiences of a war that some have deemed preventable.


6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free

(The Feminist Press at CUNY)

1. Dreaming of Baghdad

By Haifa Zangana

A humane approach to Middle Eastern affairs, Dreaming of Baghdad is a hauntingly beautiful memoir that will leave you with a new perspective on the “War on Terror”. We follow Haifa Zangana’s experience as a political activist during Saddam Hussein’s reign in Iraq. She — along with a small group who resisted Saddam’s rule — was eventually captured and imprisoned at Abu Ghraib.

There is a stark illumination on the psychological disturbances experienced by individuals under dictatorship. Zangana is brutally honest when retelling her story of exile and incarceration; she experienced the agonizing loss of friends and comrades through torture and death in prison. A first-hand account that shifts between time, place, and subjectivity to comment on how the trauma of power and war affect our memory.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free

(Skyhorse)

2. Packed for the Wrong Trip

By W. Zach Griffith

The relatively unknown prison at Abu Ghraib garnered global attention once photos of the abuses inflicted on prisoners were released. Abu Ghraib quickly became the focal point of a worldwide scandal. Just a few months after the photographs were released, the 152nd Field Artillery Battalion of the Maine National Guard arrived to serve as guards. Originally trained and meant to serve in Afghanistan, the soldiers were deeply unprepared for the scrutiny they would receive and the attacks they would soon endure. The group of citizen-soldiers were forced to rely on each other in order to survive one of the darkest prisons in the world and change it for the better.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free

(Open Road + Grove/Atlantic)

3. The Finish

By Mark Bowden

Get inside the political choices that brought down Osama bin Laden. Bowden’s narrative takes the reader all the way back to President Clinton’s administration to discover the many seemingly minor actions that allowed al-Qaeda to grow. After Bin Laden’s terrorist organization wreaked havoc through the 1990s and early 2000s, taking him down became a top priority for foreign intelligence services around the world.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free

(HMH)

4. Why We Lost

By Daniel P. Bolger

Firsthand experience and understanding brings a new perspective to American actions in the Iraq War. With a career as an army general that spanned over 35 years, Daniel Bolger provides a candid look into U.S. led campaigns with an insider look into the meetings, strategies, and key players of the war.

Bolger’s main argument is that we lost the Iraq War because the American forces never knew who they were truly fighting. As Bolger puts it, “Every man shot by U.S. soldiers wore civilian clothes. If he had an AK-47, was he getting ready to shoot you or merely defending his family? If he was talking on a cell phone, was he tipping off the insurgency or setting off an IED, or was he phoning his wife?”

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free

(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

5. The Iraq War: The Military Offensive, from Victory in 21 Days to the Insurgent Aftermath

By John Keegan

His background as a military historian with extensive knowledge on warfare gives Keegan’s discussion a refreshing, objective perspective. Keegan collated a well-detailed look into Iraqi history, from its origins in the Ottoman Empire to Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. The Iraq War, despite its broad title, primarily recounts the 21-day invasion by the United States and allies that removed Hussein from power. As an explanation of the factors that led to the war, this is an unmissable resource.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free

(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

6. The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan

By J. Kael Weston

This powerful 2016 book examines the relationship between warfare and diplomacy. Like many of the other authors on this list, Weston had an inside look into the U.S. government during the Iraq War. Weston was a State Department official — serving over seven years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Weston uses this experience to show both the war and his own personal journey throughout the narrative. As a firsthand witness, he saw the sacrifice and casualties caused by a devastating war. The book follows Weston as he visits families, memorials, and the grave sites of 31 soldiers who perished in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2005 — an operation he personally ordered. This deeply affecting tale reckons with Weston’s and the country’s actions in Iraq.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free

(Bloomsbury Publishing)

7. Run to the Sound of the Guns: The True Story of an American Ranger at War in Afghanistan and Iraq

By Nicholas Moore

This eyewitness account of the Iraq War is presented through a series of vignettes as Nicholas Moore recounts the development of the Ranger Regiment. He chronicles the challenges troops had to face and adapt to while hunting for Iraq’s Most Wanted. Serving in an elite special operations unit, Moore was intimately involved in the war on terror, spending over a decade with the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment.

Moore discusses the search and rescue of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and the devastating loss of the Chinook helicopter crash, which killed 38 men and one military working dog. Moore sees the events both as a soldier and as a husband and father who nearly lost his life in a global war against terrorism.

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free

(Random House Publishing Group)

8. The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq

By Bing West

This is a straightforward recapitulation of the Iraq War that reconfigures the reader’s understanding of the long-lasting conflict. Whatever your political stance, West puts it all under the microscope and leaves you questioning what you thought you knew. From the United States’s entrance into the war to the brink of defeat in 2006, to the unimaginable turnaround in 2007, West criticizes the Bush administration and Army generals as he travels between the Pentagon and Ramadi. In the end, West asks us to reflect on our mistakes to avoid repeating history.

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

Articles

Marine who raised first flag on Iwo Jima dies at 94

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free
Marines greet John Keith Wells on his 91st birthday. (Photo: Arvada Press)


“Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.” – Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

First Lt. John Keith Wells, the Marine commander responsible for raising the first flag atop Mt. Suribachi, died on February 11, just days shy of the 71th anniversary of his time on Iwo Jima.

“He was a very warm, sensitive, spiritual man, all the way to age 94,” Connie Schultz, Wells’s daughter, told Denver 7.

He was also tough as nails.

“Give me 50 men not afraid to die, and I can take any position,” Wells said during the transit to Iwo Jima.

On February 19, 1945, he was ordered to lead the 3rd Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division in an assault up the base of Mt. Suribachi. In keeping with his claim, he succeeded.

1st. Lt Wells’ platoon is believed to be the most decorated platoon in Marine Corps history for a single engagement. His individual awards included a Navy Cross, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart.

Here is an excerpt from his Navy Cross citation:

When ordered to attack across open terrain and dislodge the enemy from a series of strongly-defended pillboxes and blockhouses at the base of Mount Suribachi, First Lieutenant Wells placed himself in the forefront of his platoon and, leading his men forward in the face of intense hostile machine-gun, mortar and rifle fire, continuously moved from one flank to the other to lead assault groups one by one in their attacks on Japanese emplacements. Although severely wounded while directing his demolition squad in an assault on a formidable enemy blockhouse whose fire had stopped the advance of his platoon, he continued to lead his men until the blockhouse was destroyed. When, an hour later, the pain from his wound became so intense that he was no longer able to walk, he established his command post in a position from which to observe the progress of his men and continued to control their attack by means of messengers.

In a 2013 interview with the Arvada Press his daughter Connie said, “He didn’t give an order. His men just followed him because they respected him so much as a leader.”

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1st Lt. John Keith Wells, USMC. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Even after several wounds, including shrapnel and a chunk of his leg being severed, Wells continued to lead his men until he physically couldn’t do move because of severe dehydration. But he wasn’t down for long. He convinced a corpsman to give him sulfa powder and morphine so he could get off the hospital ship and back to his platoon.

Once Wells reached the base, one of the flag raisers, Charles Lindberg, helped him the rest of the way.

According to the 5th Marine Division’s “Legends” page, after the first flag was raised Wells’ commanding officer ordered him to relinquish command of the platoon and return to the aid station. Wells reluctantly passed the platoon to Sgt. Ernest “Boots” Thomas who was killed in action several days later. Wells remained on the island, although unable to lead his troops, until the island was declared secure.

Wells’ daughter pointed out that the famous Iwo Jima flag raising photo, the one used to design the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, was actually the second flag raised on the island. “The first one caused so much emotion that [one of the commanders] ordered a bigger flag be flown,” she said.

After World War II ended, Wells attended Texas Tech College and obtained a degree in Petroleum Geology. He worked in the oil industry and served in the Marine Corps Reserve until 1959, retiring as a major.

In 1995, he published a memoir titled Give Me 50 Marines Not Afraid to Die.

“He honored and loved the Marine Corps with all his heart and soul,” his daughter Connie said. “His last words were, ‘My family.'”

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Jun. 24

Look, it’s almost the weekend. Let’s just all enjoy these hilarious memes together, get through the safety brief, and immediately start doing things we’ll regret:


1. Just remember to run fast when the safety brief is open:

(via Pop Smoke)

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I feel like Hawkeye should be placed further back. What’s the point of being the only guy with a ranged weapon if you’re fighting at point-blank range anyway?

2. “Rolled sleeves! Time to show my power!!”

(via The Salty Soldier)

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Of course, this only works if you actually have power. Otherwise …

SEE ALSO: The Marine Corps was just bailed out by “The Boneyard”

3. “Rolled sleeves? Time to develop some power.”

(via The Salty Soldier)

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Only another couple of months of curls and you’ll be ready to show off your guns … in the winter.

4. This is exactly how Rip-Its are made. Sacrificing privates:

(via Military Memes)

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5. Just remember to bop your head to the beat as you read these lyrics (via The Salty Soldier).

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And don’t play like you don’t know what song this is parodying.

6. I would spend these. I would spend all of these – ON FREEDOM!

(via Military Memes)

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They would also be useful for beer.

7. “Mine? Mine? Mine?”

(via The Salty Soldier)

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8. “First to sleep, last to rise.”

(via The Salty Soldier)

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9. “Yes. Yes, you would.”

(via Military Memes)

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Those hearts should be explosions of blood.

10. It’s the America way (via The Salty Soldier).

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11. Ten bucks says the generals get larger boxes than us common folks (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

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Probably a six or seven boxes arranged in two levels with a yard.

12. Dr. Crentist is a skilled practitioner (via The Salty Soldier).

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He gets all the beet stains off of Dwight’s teeth. That’s impressive.

13. BTW, how long have you been sitting in the barracks, reading these memes (via The Salty Soldier)?

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Are you sure you’re not supposed to be somewhere right now?

MIGHTY TRENDING

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops

For many service members, especially those stationed overseas, mail can be a lifeline to family, friends, and feeling connected to home. For those stationed within U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, there is a team of Airmen dedicated to providing timely, cost effective, and efficient mail services.

The USAFE-AFAFRICA Air Postal Squadron represents the major command as the single point of contact for Air Force postal matters. The squadron provides policy, procedures, and guidance for all USAFE-AFAFRICA postal operating locations and exercises command of aerial mail terminals assigned to the USAFE-AFAFRICA AIRPS.


In a nutshell, the squadron ensures all mail travelling to and from the major command is transported by the fastest and most reliable means possible, while also ensuring delivery to the proper destination. These Airmen use their skills to bridge the distance between service members stationed in Europe and their loved ones.

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In 2016, the USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS Frankfurt detachment transported approximately 45,000 pounds of inbound mail and 30,000 pounds of outbound mail for service members stationed in Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

“Our mission is essentially to get your mail to you,” said Staff Sgt. Dereth Worrell, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS noncommissioned officer in charge of command postal transportation. “What my flight does, as we like to put it, if the post offices in the [U.S.] and Army Post Offices here are A and Z, we cover everything from B to Y. We set up things like how your mail moves, what it takes to move, or should a new APO open.”

The AIRPS postal transportation flight validated a total volume of approximately 40 million pounds of inbound and outbound mail moved from Sept. 1, 2016 to Sept. 1, 2017.

The journey a package undergoes to reach its final destination is a long process requiring many moving parts. Once a package is dropped off at a local post office in the states, it is shipped to a U.S. Postal Service sorting facility in Chicago, within the O’Hare International Airport, that is two football fields long. This facility processes Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express Military Service going overseas, whether it’s civilian, military, or Department of State. Joint Military Postal Activity military personnel are assigned as liaisons to the USPS at the Chicago mail sorting facility.

At the sorting plant, mail is sorted and loaded onto commercial aircraft flying to one of three main hubs for military mail in Frankfurt, Germany, London, and Istanbul. However, for military post offices in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, mail can also be shipped to a USPS sorting facility in Jersey City, New Jersey, to a facility that processes retail ground and space available mail destined for APOs in those three countries.

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Packages of mail move on a conveyer belt after being offloaded from an aircraft in Frankfurt, Germany, Oct. 5, 2017. The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Air Postal Squadron ensures all mail traveling to and from Europe is transported by the fastest and most reliable means possible, while also ensuring delivery to the proper destination. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

“No one really thinks about the transportation aspect,” Worrell said. “They think, ‘Oh, I ordered this or my friends or family sent me this, and two weeks later it shows up in my box.’ It takes a lot of work. You’re dealing with so many entities and factors that can change everything, such as weather or civil disturbances. Waiting two and half weeks to get something isn’t that bad considering everything that box has to go through in order to get to you.”

The squadron has detachments at the hubs, for which the air postal squadron provides the tools, resources, policy, and oversight while adhering to postal policies outlined by USPS, the Air Force, Military Postal Service Agency, and the Air Force and Army major commands in Europe. They also manage mail movement to include the monitoring of Department of Defense official and personal mail in military and commercial transportation channels.While most mail handling is done by contractors, the Airmen in the detachments oversee the offloading, inspecting, sorting, and loading onto trucks the mail undergoes.

Read Now: 9 struggles infantrymen know all too well about mail drops

“My favorite part was when I was working at the air mail terminal in Turkey and actually seeing everything move, getting to load up the trucks, make sure everything was there and sending it off,” Worrell said. “It was very physical, and yes you were pretty much doing the same thing every day – I pick up box, I move box – but it was eye-opening.”

The Air Force works hand-in-hand with the Army to deliver mail throughout Europe. The Air Force is in charge of air transportation, but once all the packages and letters have been loaded into their respective trucks, the Army takes over the ground transportation.

Receiving mail can seem like such a small thing, but it can have a positive effect on Airmen.

“Mail is a very significant component of morale and greater morale has proven to be a major contributor to Airmen productivity,” said Master Sgt. Gregory Sartain, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS functional area manager. “Happy folks are better working folks. We are directly contributing to the delivery of Grandma’s cookies to the Airman who’s never been overseas.”

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U.S. Army trucks wait to be loaded with mail for service members stationed within the European theater in Frankfurt, Germany, Oct. 5, 2017. The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Air Postal Squadron works alongside the Army to provide air and ground transportation for mail delivered throughout Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

USAFE AFRICA AIRPS not only handles the transportation of personal mail, they are also responsible for the transportation of official mail throughout the theater.

“Not only do we have a big piece of the personal mail side for every Airman, civilian, and Department of Defense contractor, but we also directly contribute to the mission by ensuring the units have the parts, equipment and supplies needed to execute their missions,” Sartain said. “We’re talking about aircraft parts, communications pieces, things that are very important.”

The air postal squadron Airmen not only provide mail services to those stationed overseas, but when deployed they provide the same services to the military members downrange.

“Mail is appreciated in garrison, however, when you’re in a deployed environment, it’s different,” Sartain said. “When the Airman, Soldier, Marine, or Sailor gets that letter from home that smells like their girlfriend’s perfume, or they get cookies from mom while in a hostile and austere condition, it means more. There’s nothing more gratifying then handing a package to a service member and see their face light up. I really enjoy the deployments, being able to provide that morale support, which at times is crucial in a wartime situation.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Women making WAVES in the Navy

The women’s branch of the U.S. Naval Reserve during WWII is better known as WAVES – Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. It was established on July 21, 1942, by Congress and signed into law by President Roosevelt just nine days later. This law authorized the Navy to accept women into the Naval Reserve as commissioned officers and enlisted service members, effective for the duration of the war plus six months. This legislation allowed the release of officers and sailors of sea duty and replaced them with women in shore positions.


History of WAVES

In May 1941, Edith Nourse Rogers, a Congresswoman from Massachusetts, introduced a bill to Congress to establish a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). Opposition delayed the bill’s passage until 1942, but it was at the time that the Navy realized having women serve would also be beneficial. However, Read Admiral Chester Nimitz was against having women serve in the Navy, saying there was “no great need.” The Bureau of Naval Personnel recommended that Congress be asked to authorize a women’s organization. Eventually, the director of the Bureau of the Budget opposed the idea but agreed to legislation similar to the WAAC.

However, the notion of women serving in the Navy wasn’t widely supported by Congress or by the Navy. Public Law 686 was put forth largely due in part of the efforts by the Navy’s Women’s Advisory Council, along with support from Margaret Chung and Eleanor Roosevelt. Margaret Chung was the first known American-born Chinese female physician who faced significant sexism in her attempts to have a medical career.

Chung and Roosevelt, along with support from Rogers, asked women educators to bring the bill to fruition, first contacting Virginia Gildersleeve, Dean of Barnard College. The Women’s Advisory Council was formed shortly after that, which boasted an impressive roster of several prominent women. Chosen to lead the commission was Mildred McAfee, president of Wellesley College. McAfee became the first director of WAVEs and was commissioned as a lieutenant commander on August 3, 1942, as the first woman officer in the US Naval Reserve. Later, McAfee was promoted to the rank of captain. McAfee played a significant role in the development of policies relating to how women should be treated in the Navy, and the types of assignments female reserve officers and enlisted sailors should be given.

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To be eligible for OCS, women had to be between 20 and 49 and possess a college degree or have at least two years of college and two or more years of professional experience. Enlisted volunteers had to be between 20 and 35 years old and have a high school or business school diploma. Most WAVES officers were trained at Smith College in Massachusetts, and specialized training was conducted on several college campuses and naval facilities around the country. Most enlisted WAVES received their training at Hunter College in the Bronx, New York.

By September, 108 women were commissioned as officers in the WAVES.

Reception among male counterparts

The mission of WAVES was to replace male sailors in short stations for sea duty. This led to hostility from those who didn’t wish to be released. Most instances of hostility were tacit, though there were several occasions when the hostility was open and overt. Sometimes women were assigned to roles for which they were not physically suited, making many historians wonder if these cases of overt sexism were curated to encourage the failure of WAVES. There are several examples of women being assigned to jobs formerly occupied by two men.

WAVES served at 900 short stations in the continental US but were initially prohibited from serving on ships or outside the country. IN 1944, Congress amended the law to allow WAVES to volunteer for service in Hawaii and Alaska. WAVES officers held professional positions, serving as physicians, attorneys, engineers, and mathematicians.

Facts & Figures 

By the end of WWII, 18% of naval personnel assigned to shore stations were WAVES.

Seven WAVE officers and 62 enlisted WAVES died during WWII.

The Distinguished Service Medal was awarded to Captain McAfee for her efforts as the director of WAVES.

Two WAVES received the Legion of Merit, three received a Bronze Star, 18 received the Secretary of the Navy’s letter of commendation, and one received an Army Commendation Medal.

Demobilization

At the end of WWII, the Navy established five separation centers for the demobilization of WAVES and Navy nurses. Separation processes began on October 1, 1945, and within 30 days, almost 10,000 WAVES were separated. By September 1946, the demobilization was almost complete. At the time, it wasn’t clear whether or not demobilizing WAVES meant an end to women in the military altogether. On July 30, 1948, the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was signed into law by President Truman, allowing women to serve in both the Army and the Navy permanently. The wartime prohibition of women serving in any unit having a combat mission was carried over in the 1948 Act, keeping women from being fully integrated into the military for another 25 years.

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