Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

Bill Withers died earlier in the week from complications from heart disease at age 81. Withers was known for his amazing vocals, soulful songs and was one of the best soul singers of all time. He was also a veteran of the United States Navy.

His death has resulted in an outpouring of mourning and grief from singers, artists and fans cross the world.

Regarded as one of the best songwriters of his generation, his influence has been seen in multiple genres of music and generations of artists. Withers gave us such classics as ‘Lean On Me,’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ ‘Grandma’s Hands,’ ‘Just the Two of Us’ and ‘Lovely Day.’

But there is one song that really resonates with veterans. In 1973, Withers released a song he had written while America was still involved in Vietnam.

Bill Withers – I Can’t Write Left Handed

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Withers was born July 4, 1938, in Slab Fork, West Virginia. He was afflicted with a stutter from the time he was a child. He enlisted in the Navy at 18 where he served as an aircraft mechanic. He had good reason for wanting that field.

Withers told Rolling Stone, “My first goal was, I didn’t want to be a cook or a steward. So I went to aircraft-mechanic school. I still had to prove to people that thought I was genetically inferior that I wasn’t too stupid to drain the oil out of an airplane.”

While he was in the Navy, he was able to do speech therapy so he could stop stuttering. In fact, he stayed in the Navy as long as he could so he could work on his speech. He overcame his stutter using various techniques while also developing an interest in singing and songwriting. After nine years of service, he was discharged in 1965 and moved to Los Angeles to try and break into the music business. Withers worked for the aviation industry during the day while playing local night clubs at night trying to get noticed. His hard work paid off, when in 1970, he was signed to a record contract. His first album came out a year later and his career took off shortly thereafter.

After a couple of years of hits, Withers would write and perform a song that would be hailed as one of the most poignant songs about veterans and the war in Vietnam.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

“I Can’t Write Left-Handed” was written from the perspective of a wounded warrior. It wasn’t a political statement, it wasn’t self-righteous, it wasn’t inflammatory. It was simply what he thought Vietnam Veterans went through and what they were going to go through. It was one of the first songs to touch on the mental anguish and post traumatic stress many Vietnam Veterans experienced in the years after the war.

Withers opened the song with a spoken intro….

“We recorded this song on October the 6th. Since then the war’s been declared over. If you’re like me you’ll remember it like anybody remembers any war: one big drag. Lot of people write songs about wars and government … Very social things. But I think about young guys who were like I was when I was young. I had no more idea about any government, or political things or anything. And I think about those kind of young guys now who all of a sudden somebody comes up, and they’re very law-abiding, so if somebody says go they don’t ask any questions they just go. And I can remember not too long ago seeing a young guy with his right arm gone. Just got back. And I asked him how he was doing. He said he was doing all right now but he had thought he was gonna die. He said getting shot at didn’t bother him, it was getting shot that shook him up. And I tried to put myself in his position. Maybe he cried, maybe he said…”

The lyrics then tell us the story of the man with a missing right arm.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

I can’t write left handed

Would you please write a letter to my mother
Tell her to tell the family lawyer
Try to get a deferment for my younger brother

Tell the Reverend Harris to pray for me, lord, lord, lord
I ain’t gonna live, I don’t believe I’m going to live to get much older
Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never
Bless his heart I ain’t never done nothin’ to, he done shot me in my shoulder

Boot camp we had classes
You know we talked about fightin’, fightin’ everyday
And lookin’ through rosy, rosy colored glasses
I must admit it seemed exciting anyway
But something that day overlooked to tell me
Bullet look better I must say
Rather when they comin’ at you.
But go without the other way

And please call up the Reverend Harris
And tell him to ask the lord to do some good things for me
Tell him, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live to get much older
Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never seen, bless his heart I
Ain’t never done nothing to, he done shot me in my shoulder

After a long career with many hits, Withers withdrew from the music industry. He felt that he was too old and that touring and performing were a young man’s game. Withers will go down as one of the true icons of soul and one of the best vocalists of his generation. Let us also remember him for his service to our country as well as using his talent to give a voice to those who served in Vietnam. Rest in peace, Sir.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers
MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Marines want you to quit tobacco

The first step in quitting tobacco is thinking about it. If you think about quitting tobacco someday, whether it’s tomorrow or in five years, then you can develop the intention of changing your behavior.

The Great American Smoke Out is an event started by the American Cancer Society to help motivate people to quit tobacco. The event, which challenges you to quit tobacco for a day, is held on the third Thursday each November. This year, the Great American Smoke Out took place on 21 November.

Can you quit tobacco for a day? By quitting even temporarily, you are taking an important step toward living a healthier life. You will start to feel the health benefits of being tobacco-free within the first twenty minutes of quitting.


This article originally appeared on Marines.mil. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Coast Guard took the first Nazi prisoners of World War II

Built in the early 1930s, the 165-foot “B”-Class cutters were often referred to as the Thetis-Class. The Thetis-class cutters proved good sea boats becoming the backbone of the Coast Guard’s coastal patrol and convoy force during World War II.


Among these cutters was the Argo, which escorted Nazi Germany’s last surrendered U-boats into captivity and the Thetis, one of 11 Coast Guard cutters credited with sinking a U-boat. However, the most honored of these cutters was Icarus, which sank U-352 and captured its crew at the beginning of World War II.

Icarus and its sister cutters were designed for Prohibition enforcement, specifically tracking down rum running ships outside U.S. territorial waters. These cutters required excellent sea-keeping qualities, long-term accommodations for crew, and greater fuel capacity. Icarus was built by Bath Iron Works in Maine and commissioned on April 1, 1932.

The cutter reported for duty at Stapleton, New York, on Staten Island, and served as part of the New York Division’s Special Patrol Force, which conducted law enforcement patrols in support of Prohibition regulations. After passage of the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition, Icarus continued sailing out of Stapleton on law enforcement and search and rescue patrols.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers
Official photograph of Lt. Cmdr. Maurice Jester and his family. (Coast Guard Collection)

After war erupted in Europe in 1939, the Coast Guard assigned Icarus to Neutrality Patrols protecting merchant vessels from attacks by European combatants. With the 1941 U.S. entry into World War II, Icarus joined its sister cutters in escorting coastal convoys and anti-submarine patrols in American waters.

On the morning of Friday, May 8, 1942, Icarus departed Staten Island for Key West, Florida. On Saturday at about 4:20 p.m., while off the coast of North Carolina, Icarus’s sonar operator picked up a “mushy” contact 2,000 yards off its port bow. The cutter’s crew went to general quarters and assumed battle stations.

Ten minutes after the first sonar contact, an explosion believed to be a torpedo rocked the cutter about 200 yards off the port side. Reversing course, Icarus sped toward the contact, which was heading toward the spot where the explosion had occurred. The underwater contact sharpened and, for the first time, propeller sounds were heard by the sonarman. The contact was lost at 180 yards but, after a calculated interval, Icarus dropped five depth charges in a diamond shape with one charge in the center.

The sonar operator next determined that the contact was slowly moving west, so the cutter altered course to intercept it. Two more charges were dropped in a “V” pattern at a point leading the contact’s underwater track and, as roiling water from the explosions subsided, large bubbles were observed on the surface. Icarus reversed course again and dropped a single charge on the spot where the air bubbles had surfaced. Six minutes later, the cutter dropped a second charge in the same location.

Now Read: This is how the Coast Guard got its stripes

At 10 minutes past 5:00 p.m., shortly after the last charge had been dropped, a U-boat broke the surface 1,000 yards from Icarus. The heavily armed sub emerged bow first and down by the stern. The cutter’s crew was ready, opening fire with all machine guns that could bear on the sub. Meanwhile, the U-boat’s crew began abandoning ship. Icarus’s commanding officer, Lt. Maurice Jester, altered course to ram and the cutter’s 3-inch main battery was brought to bear on the submarine. The first 3-inch round fell short ricocheting off the water and through the conning tower. The second round overshot the sub, but the next 12 rounds hit the U-boat or came close, with seven of them hitting home. Minutes later, the damaged U-boat began to subside into the sea.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers
Coast Guard Cutter Icarus disembarking U-352 crew members at the Charleston Navy Yard in Charleston, S.C. (Coast Guard Collection)

As the submarine sank, Icarus ceased firing, but the cutter circled the spot where the U-boat had disappeared. Icarus re-established sonar contact with the submerged sub and the cutter’s sonarman heard propeller noises again. Taking no chances, Jester ordered one last depth charge dropped over the U-boat, which brought a large air bubble to the surface. No further noises were heard from sub; the vessel had finally been vanquished. Meanwhile, 35 Germans were struggling on the surface to avoid the cutter’s path and its deadly depth charges. Expecting to be machine-gunned in the water, many yelled, “Don’t shoot us!”

At 5:50 p.m., the Icarus crew began rescue operations and retrieved Germans from the water. Except for the wounded survivors, the prisoners were placed under guard in the cutter’s forward crew compartment. The U-boat’s commanding officer, Kapitänleutnant Helmut Rathke, was among the survivors. At this point, it was learned that the submarine was U-352, carrying a complement of 48 men. Seven of the crew went down with the U-boat while others died in the water after abandoning ship. By 6:05, 33 survivors had been rescued and the cutter proceeded to Charleston Navy Yard as ordered.

Also Read: How Hitler terrorized the seas with U-boats during World War II

The German prisoners exhibited good discipline and were surprised by the fine treatment they received on board Icarus. Several of the U-boat’s crew spoke English and talked freely on personal matters, but disclosed no military information. Three of Icarus’s crew also spoke German and conversed with the prisoners. The prisoners wished to know how much money the Coast Guard crew would receive for sinking a submarine and if crewmembers received promotions for doing so. The Germans related that they received medals and bonuses for sinking ships, the amount depending on the size and tonnage of their victims. Four of the prisoners also mentioned they had relatives living in the U.S.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers
Hellmut Rathke (bearded, standing left) and a junior officer after disembarking in Charleston, S.C. (Courtesy of the U.S. Navy)

On Sunday morning, Icarus arrived at the Navy Yard. There, the cutter delivered 32 prisoners and one prisoner who died of his wounds en route to Charleston. To keep the enemy in doubt about the U-boat’s fate, naval authorities did not disclose the sinking of U-352 until almost a year later, on May 1, 1943. For the remainder of the war, Icarus continued its convoy escort work, search and rescue duties and anti-submarine patrols. In the fall of 1946, the ship was placed in reserve status and stored at Staten Island. The Coast Guard decommissioned Icarus in 1948 and sold it to the Southeastern Terminal and Steamship Company.

Icarus was the second American warship to sink a U-boat and the first to capture German combatants. For his command of Icarus in the attack and sinking of U-352, Jester received one of only six Navy Cross Medals awarded to Coast Guardsmen during the war. Icarus was one of numerous combat cutters that served the heroic Coast Guardsmen of the long blue line during World War II.

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9 epic ways you can troll your radio guy

Messing around with your fellow Joes is always good fun. It’s a lighthearted way of letting them know that they’re one of the guys.


If you didn’t care about someone, you wouldn’t mess with them, right?

Every unit, from combat arms to support, has a communications (commo/comms) person. They range from being tasked to operate the radio systems to being a full specialization, from grunt AF to fobbit. These guys are there for us, but that doesn’t mean they’re not above some playful ribbing every now and then.

Doing any of the things on this list should always come from a place of mutual friendship. Don’t be a dick about it. Basically, don’t anything that would get you UCMJ’ed, impede the mission, or lose your military bearing.

1. Yell that you can’t hear anything on channel “Z”

Zeroize is a neat tool. It is designed to wipe out all of the information on the radio in case the worst happens. It’s also coincidentally very easy to access. Watch as their eyes grow big and run to your vehicle to set your radio back up.

 

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

2. Say “is this chip thingy supposed to come out of the SKL?”

For some reason, you get your hands on the most protected piece of equipment of a radio guy.

A quick explanation of what that key does is that it allows you to load Comsec. Ripping it out would essentially zeroize it. Don’t actually rip it out. But saying that you did will make commo guy sh*t himself.

3. During radio checks, say “Lickin’ Chicken” instead of “X this is Y, Read you Loud and Clear, over.”

Radio checks are boring. And it’s usually the last thing before rolling out on the 0900 convoy that we all arrived at 0430 to prep for.

When one person starts saying “Lickin’ Chicken,” it spreads like wildfire. Before you know it, everyone will say it during radio checks. On the commo guy’s end, it’s like hearing the same joke 100 times over and over again.

“uh… roger, over…” via GIPHY

4. Say that the antenna is still lopsided

Most commo dudes are perfectionists (emphasis on most). If the SKL was their baby, the OE-254 (cheap ass FM antennae) is the bane of their existence.

Theoretically, just attaching it will make it work. But that won’t stop radio operators from trying to get it juuuust right.

5. “Hotkey” your mic

Everything is set up. Everything is green. Things are finally working. Then someone leaves their hand mic under something that pushes the button down.

“No problem!” thinks the radio operator. Just double tap on their own mic to mute that person until they release the mic.

But if you intentionally hold down the push-to-talk button after they mute you to keep messing with them…?

6. During a convoy, ask why we don’t have any music playing

Different type of radio system. And there’s totally no way to solder an aux cable onto a cut up W-4 cable to connect your iPhone up to the net, blasting music out to everyone in the convoy.

Nope, never done it…

7. Ask us to fix your computer

Not all Signal Corps soldiers are the same. Radio operator/maintainers are the less POG-y specialization. They only pretend to be POGs to get out of Motor Pool Mondays or bullsh*t details.

Ask the other S-6 guys for that. If they do know how, it’s not their main task. It’s the computer guy’s.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

“Sure, F*ck it. Whatever. Case of beer and I’ll look at your personal computer” (Photo credit Claire Schwerin, PEO C3T)

8. “Run out” of batteries

Batteries weight around 3 lbs each. A rucksack full of them surprisingly runs out faster than you’d think. So it’s fairly often that comms troops have to run back and forth to get more batteries.

Tell your radio maintainer that you’re running low and then just stockpile them for later, making them run around the convoy with a full ruck.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

9. Tell them that a drop test does nothing

This one is how you really dig into the saltier, more experienced radio guys.

A comms guy’s bread and butter is a fully-functioning radio. In most cases, the problem is simply putting the correct time in the radio. Others is making the radio work with their “commo magic.” That magic is almost always just kicking the damn thing or picking it up a few inches off the ground and dropping it. Ask any radio operator and they’ll tell you it works.

There’s no explanation — it just works. Saying that “It’s a bunch of circuits, why would that work?” will just have them bullsh*tting you on why they went all caveman for no reason and miraculously having things work.

Is there anything that we missed? If you have any ideas on how to mess with other job specialties?

Articles

Air Force experimenting on a 6th generation fighter to come after the F-35

The Air Force has begun experimenting and conceptual planning for a 6th generation fighter aircraft to emerge in coming years as a technological step beyond the F-35, service leaders said.


“We have started experimentation, developmental planning and technology investment,” said Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Acquisition.

The new aircraft, engineered to succeed the 5th-generation F-35 Joint StrikeFighter and explode onto the scene by the mid 2030s, is now in the earliest stages of conceptual development with the Air Force and Navy. The two services are now working together on early conceptual discussions about the types of technologies and capabilities the aircraft will contain. While the Air Force has not yet identified a platform for the new aircraft. The Air Force characterizes the effort in terms of a future capability called Next-Gen Air Dominance.

While Bunch did not elaborate on the specifics of ongoing early efforts, he did make reference to the Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan which delineates some key elements of the service’s strategy for a future platform.

Fighter jets in 20-years may likely contain the next-generation of stealth technology, electronic warfare, sophisticated computer processing and algorithms, increased autonomy, hypersonic weapons and so-called “smart-skins” where sensors are built into the side of the aircraft itself.

Some of these characteristics may have been on display more than a year ago when Northrop Grumman’s Super Bowl ad revealed a flashy first look at its rendering of a new 6th-generation fighter jet.

Related: The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment

Northrop is one of a number of major defense industry manufacturers who will bid for a contract to build the new plane – when the time is right. While there are not many details available on this work, it is safe to assume Northrop is advancing concepts, technology and early design work toward this end. Boeing is also in the early phases of development of a 6th-gen design, according to a report in Defense News.

The Navy’s new aircraft will, at least in part, replace the existing inventory of F/A-18 Super Hornets which will start to retire by 2035, Navy officials said.

The Navy vision for a future carrier air wing in 2040 and beyond is comprised of the carrier-launched variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, and legacy aircraft such as the EA-18G Growler electronic jamming aircraft.

Also, around this time is when Navy planners envision its 6th generation aircraft to be ready, an aircraft which will likely be engineered for both manned and unmanned missions.

Technologies are rapidly advancing in coatings, electromagnetic spectrum issues, artificial intelligence, maneuvering, superiority in sensing the battlespace, communications and data links, Navy leaders have said.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers
Northrop Grumman

Navy officials also add that the Navy is likely to develop new carrier-launched unmanned air vehicles in coming years as well. For instance, Northrop’s historic X-47B demonstrator aircraft was the first unmanned system to successfully launch and land on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

Analysts have speculated that as 6th generation developers seek to engineer a sixth-generation aircraft, they will likely explore a range of next-generation technologies such as maximum sensor connectivity, super cruise ability and an aircraft with electronically configured “smart skins.”

Super cruise technology would enable the new fighter jet to cruise at supersonic speeds without needing afterburner, analysts have explained. As a result, super cruise brings a substantial tactical advantage because it allows for high-speed maneuvering without needing afterburner, therefore enable much longer on-location mission time. Such a scenario provides a time advantage as the aircraft would likely outlast a rival aircraft likely to run out of fuel earlier. The Air Force F-22 has a version of super-cruise technology.

Also read: This is the fastest American bomber that ever took to the skies

Maximum connectivity would mean massively increased communications and sensor technology such as having an ability to achieve real-time connectivity with satellites, other aircraft and anything that could provide relevant battlefield information.The new aircraft might also seek to develop the ability to fire hypersonic weapons, however such a development would hinge upon successful progress with yet-to-be-proven technologies such as scramjets traveling at hypersonic speeds. Some tests of early renderings of this technology have been tested successfully and yet other attempts have failed.

The Air Force Chief Scientist, Dr. Geoffrey Zacharias, has told Scout Warrior that the US anticipates having hypersonic weapons by the 2020s, hypersonic drones by the 2030s and recoverable hypersonic drone aircraft by the 2040s. There is little doubt that hypersonic technology, whether it be weaponry or propulsion, or both, will figure prominently into future aircraft designs.

Smart aircraft skins would involve dispersing certain technologies or sensors across the fuselage and further integrating them into the aircraft itself, using next-generation computer algorithms to organize and display information for the pilot. We see some of this already in the F-35; the aircraft sensor fusion uses advanced computer technology to collect, organize and display combat relevant information from a variety of otherwise disparate sensors onto a single screen for pilots. In addition, Northrop’s Distributed Aperture System is engineered to provide F-35 pilots with a 360-degree view of the battlespace. Cameras on the DAS are engineered into parts of the F-35 fuselage itself to reduce drag and lower the aircraft’s radar signature.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers
Northrop Grumman

Smart skins with distributed electronics means that instead of having systems mounted on the aircraft, you would have apertures integrated on the skin of the aircraft, analysts have said.

This could reduce drag, increase speed and maneuverability while increasing the technological ability of the sensors.

It is also possible that the new 6th-generation fighter could use advanced, futuristic stealth technology able to enable newer, more capable air defenses. The air defenses of potential adversaries are increasingly using faster computing processing power and are better networked together, more digital, able to detect a wider range of frequencies and able to detect stealthy aircraft at farther distances.

The new 6th-generation fighter will also likely fire lasers and have the ability to launch offensive electronic attacks.

Lists

The best military photos for the week of April 13th

Across the military, great things happen every day. If you blink, you might miss something. Luckily for us, there are talented photographers in service who capture some of those amazing moments.

Here’s what happened this week:


Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Liliana Moreno)

Air Force:

Senior Airman Adan Solis, 921st Contingency Response Squadron aircraft maintainer, marshals a C-130 Hercules aircraft during the Joint Readiness Training Center exercise, April 9, 2018, at the Alexandria International Airport, La. Contingency Response Airmen conducted joint training with Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, providing direct air-land support for safe and efficient airfield operations.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ted Daigle)

Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 307th Civil Engineer Squadron hone their skills on Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, April 11, 2018. The firefighters practice dousing a simulated aircraft fire in a realistic, but controlled environment.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

(U.S. Army photo by Staff. Sgt. David N. Beckstrom)

Army:

Soldiers from across 25th Infantry Division continued to strive for the title of Best Warrior by participating in an eight-mile ruck march, preparing a weapon for close combat, and draftingan essay about what it means to be a leader and how to prevent sexual harassment and assault with in the military. The Tropic Lightning Best Warrior Competition is a week-long event that will test Soldiers competing on the overall physical fitness, warrior tasks and battle drill, and professional knowledge.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

(U.S. Army Photo by Lt. Col. John Hall)

Bearing the weight of heavy combat loads, paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade move to the flight line to board US Air Force C130 Hercules turboprop aircraft for an joint forcible entry into northern Italy.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

(U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cory Asato)

Navy:

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Michael DeCesare, assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 4, Det. Guam, fires an M2 machine gun aboard a Mark VI patrol boat during a crew-served weapons qualification in the Philippine Sea, April 12, 2018. CRS-4, Det. Guam, assigned to Costal Riverine Group 1, Det. Guam, is capable of conducting maritime security operations across the full spectrum of naval, joint and combined operations. Further, it provides additional capabilities of port security, embarked security, and theater security cooperation around the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Granito)

Capt. Gregory Newkirk, deputy commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, prepares to take off in an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Carl Vinson Strike Group is currently operating in the Pacific as part of a regularly scheduled deployment.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. David Bickel)

Marine Corps:

MV-22B Ospreys attached to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One conduct an aerial refuel during a Long Range Raid simulation in conjunction with Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-18 in Tuscon, Ariz., April 11. WTI is a seven-week training event hosted by MAWTS-1 cadre, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force and provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Zachary Orr)

U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Thomas Johnson, an assaultman with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, bear crawls on Fort Hase beach during a scout sniper indoctrination course, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, April 11, 2018. The overall goal of the course is to familiarize students with the main aspects of sniper skills so that when they go to the Scout Sniper Basic School, they will continue to improve and successfully complete it.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

(U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 2nd Class Christin Solomon)

Coast Guard:

Sunset falls on an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bear during a three-month deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The Bear is scheduled to return to homeport April 12, 2018, in Portsmouth, Virginia. During the patrol, the Bear’s crew performed counter-narcotic operations, search and rescue, and maritime law enforcement.

Articles

This is China’s next-generation destroyer

China’s increasingly powerful navy launched its most advanced domestically produced destroyer on June 28, at a time of rising competition with other naval powers such as the United States, Japan, and India.


The first 10,000-ton Type 055 entered the water at Shanghai’s Jiangnan Shipyard on June 28, the navy said in a news release.

It said the ship is equipped with the latest air, missile, ship, and submarine defense systems. China is believed to be planning to launch four of the ships.

“The launch of this ship signifies that our nation’s development of destroyers has reached a new stage,” the release said.

A photo on the Chinese Navy’s website showed multicolored streamers being shot out of tubes while sailors and shipyard workers stood dockside next to a massive Chinese flag. It said chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s General Armaments Department Zhang Youxia presided over the ceremony, in which a bottle of champagne was broken over the ship’s bow.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers
People’s Liberation Army Navy guided missile destroyer Shenzhen. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Type 055 is significantly larger than China’s other modern destroyer, the Type 052, representing the rising sophistication of China’s defense industries. Once heavily dependent on foreign technology, China in April launched its first aircraft carrier built entirely on its own, based on an earlier Ukrainian model.

In terms of displacement, it is roughly equivalent to the Arleigh Burke class of destroyer.

China’s navy is undergoing an ambitious expansion and is projected to have a total of 265-273 warships, submarines, and logistics vessels by 2020, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Naval Analysis. That compares with 275 deployable battle force ships presently in the US Navy, China’s primary rival in the Asia Pacific, although the once-yawning gap between the two is narrowing rapidly.

China says it needs a powerful navy to defend its 14,500 kilometers (9,010 miles) of coastline, as well as its crucial maritime shipping routes.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers
Chinese navy multirole ship Hengshui. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

However, it also appears increasingly willing to challenge actions by the US — long the region’s pre-eminent military power — especially in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety.

Beijing has also long nurtured resentment against Japan over its past invasion of China, and their dispute over a group of tiny, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea has at times threatened to break out into open confrontation.

India, meanwhile, also shares a disputed border with China and has grown increasingly concerned over the Chinese navy’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean, facilitated in part by Beijing’s close alliance with New Delhi’s arch rival Pakistan.

Articles

Marine receives Silver Star for thwarting assassination attempt

The Marine Corps will present the third-highest combat award to an Iraq War veteran on Thursday, following a review that upgraded his commendation.


Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Glenn M. Walters, is slated to present the Silver Star Medal to Capt. Andrew Kim, an officer serving with Marine Corps Logistics Operations Group, at the Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms on Thursday.

The ceremony stems from a Pentagon initiative to review all valor awards after Sept. 11, 2001. Kim initially received a Bronze Star Medal for valorous actions performed on Aug. 6, 2003, while serving as a counterintelligence specialist with Task Force Scorpion of the 1st Marine Marine Division in Iraq, according to a press release issued Monday by the Marine Corps.

An Iraqi man approached Kim, his team chief, a linguist and a source. He suddenly drew a pistol and shot Kim’s team chief in the neck.

A sergeant at the time, Kim immediately returned fire, killing the assassin. He was then hit repeatedly by small arms fire from the rear. Disregarding his own wounds, Kim ushered his fallen team chief into a vehicle and exited the ambush’s kill zone, pursued by five Iraqis in a white pickup truck.

His vehicle sprayed by volleys of enemy fire, Kim drove to a light armored reconnaissance security element and ordered a deadly counterattack on the enemy — “bold” actions theMarine Corps concluded showed “undaunted courage and complete dedication to duty,” plus “gallantry and effectiveness under fire” that “saved the lives of all those conducting the mission,” according to this award citation.

Articles

The Blue Angels announced their new commanding officer

The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, announced the commanding officer for the 2018 and 2019 seasons at a press conference at the National Museum of Aviation onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, April 4.


A selection panel comprised of 10 admirals and former commanding officers selected Cmdr. Eric Doyle to succeed Cmdr. Ryan Bernacchi.

Applicants are required to have a minimum of 3,000 flight hours and be in current command or have had past command of a tactical jet squadron.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers
U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Dominick A. Cremeans

Doyle, a native of League City, Texas, joins the Blue Angels after serving as the commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113. His previous assignments include six squadron tours, where he flew the F/A-18 Hornet and F-22A Raptor as an operational test pilot. He has deployed in support of Operations Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and Inherent Resolve.

Doyle attended Texas AM University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1996. He earned his commission through the Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida. Doyle has more than 3,000 flight hours and 600 carrier-arrested landings. His decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Strike/Flight Air Medal (with combat V), Navy Commendation Medals (one with combat V), and Navy Achievement Medal, as well as various campaign and unit awards.

“This was a childhood dream come true,” said Doyle. “My motivation to become a pilot came from watching the Blue Angels.”

Doyle will serve as commanding officer and flight leader for the 2018 and 2019 Blue Angels air show seasons. He will report for initial training in Pensacola, Florida in September and officially take command of the squadron at the end of the air show season in November. The change of command ceremony is slated for Nov. 12, at the National Naval Aviation Museum.

As the Blue Angels’ commanding officer, Doyle will lead a squadron of 130 personnel and serve as the demonstration flight leader, flying the #1 jet. The Blue Angels perform for 11 million people annually across the United States, and are scheduled to perform 61 shows in 33 locations for the 2018 season.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 New Year’s resolutions to tackle in 2019

We all start the new year with the best intentions. Ideally, we carry those warm and fuzzies from the holiday festivities well into the early months of the year to come. We’ve just seen our loved ones, cracked open a gift or two, and have heard enough Christmas carols to keep our spirits high.

If you’ve been using the same New Year’s resolution for years and have yet to find success, then it’s probably time for some change. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered: Below is a list for the four “Fs” that should play a leading role in your new year.


A strong mind is an absolute must!

(#HoodDocumentary)

Fitness

A popular resolution is to make this year (any year, really) the year you really turn it all around. This is the year you ditch the dad bod in exchange for one that would make Marvel come calling. This year is the year, right?

Now, we’re not saying the odds are against you, but it’s probably a good idea to set a more personalized goal than, “I want to lose 50 pounds.” Instead of only focusing on the weight, look to other signs of improved fitness. Consider mental and emotional fitness, too.

If you’re not taking care of your heart and mind, chances are you won’t follow through on the body.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers
(US Army photo by C. Todd Lopez)

Finance

There’s on old saying that says a veterans leaves service with at least 2 of these 4 things: an ex-spouse, bad joints, bad credit, and a DD214.

Yeah, it’s a joke, but there’s always a nugget of truth in jokes. We all leave with a DD214 and many of us leave with a divorce under our belts. Sadly, far too many of us also leave with horrible credit as a result of poor transitioning skills or preparation.

Committing to getting your finances together is one of the best things you can and should do for yourself and your future in the coming year. Credit is just as, if not more, important than cashflow in many circumstances, so righting that ship really should be a priority.

You can’t go wrong getting your pockets together.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

Don’t forget what really matters.

(Jackie Hampton Photography)

Family

This year, commit to being present for your family. Now, this isn’t to criticize how present you are or aren’t already (I probably don’t know you, so…) but we could all be closer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being closer to your loved ones.

Not a thing.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

Take a long and hard look in the mirror this new year.

(Triumph Modular)

Future

It’s time to plan out some things. Take a real, deep, and introspective inventory of yourself. Determine what you want and where you want to go… then determine how you’ll get there.

If you come into the new year without a longterm plan, but end it with something concrete, you’re in good shape.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Two Red Army veterans on freedom and why it’s always worth fighting for

They call it the “Island of Death.”

At this spot on the western side of the Dnieper River in central Ukraine, some 30,000 Soviet soldiers died under Nazi artillery during World War II. Yet, on this hot June day, there’s nothing to suggest that this particular place was once on the deadliest front of the deadliest war in human history.


“What horrors happened here,” says my 55-year-old Ukrainian father-in-law, Valeriy Deriy, who is a Red Army veteran of the Cold War. “Can you imagine?”

I cannot.

We’ve hired a zodiac boat for the day, embarking from a yacht club in the riverside town of Horishni Plavni. To get to the so-called Island of Death, our captain weaves through narrow, overgrown channels that branch off the main course of the Dnieper River.

Tucked away in a dense forest on the island, there’s an old Soviet war memorial. You’d hardly notice it from the water, unless you knew what to look for. Valeriy explains that one can still find evidence of war in the surrounding woods. Old artillery pieces, bullets, rifles, and boots. That sort of stuff.

“Some people want to forget the past. But it’s impossible,” he tells me. “It’s always there.”

Between August and December 1943, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union fought the battle for the Dnieper River. It was one of World War II’s largest battles, comprising some 4 million soldiers stretched along a nearly 900-mile-long front.

After Nazi Germany’s defeat at the Battle of Kursk, the Soviets pressed their advantage and pushed the Nazis back across Ukraine. The third longest river in Europe, the Dnieper — which runs roughly north to south down the middle of Ukraine to the Black Sea — was a natural physical obstacle for the advancing Red Army.

The Nazis took to the heights on the western bank to set up their artillery, which they used to devastating effect. The Red Army crossed the river under heavy fire, improvising makeshift means to get across. Soviet losses were staggering — accounts vary, but roughly 400,000 Red Army soldiers died in the Dnieper River battle of 1943.

The Other Side

Earlier, Valeriy and I stand at a spot on the opposite, eastern bank of the Dnieper River.

“My great-grandfather said the water ran red with blood in the war,” Valeriy says as we stand on the riverbank, looking to the other side.

Valeriy explains that his great-grandfather fought in that Dnieper River battle, and he crossed the river at this very spot. Right where we’re standing. I’m left a bit speechless.

His great-grandfather couldn’t swim, Valeriy continues, but Soviet commanders would have him shot if he’d refused the crossing. So he held on to a log for flotation and kicked his way across. Somehow, he survived.

“It was October, and the water was already very cold,” Valeriy says, shaking his head. “What a nightmare.”

Today, at this spot where so many died in World War II, there’s a simple old Soviet memorial crumbling, halfway reclaimed by the forest. A dilapidated Soviet tank and artillery piece sit in the foliage, too. But that’s it. You have to rely on your imagination to appreciate what happened here.

There’s not a cloud in the sky and the hot breeze feels good on my face. On a day like this, it’s hard to appreciate what happened here about 77 years ago. I can hardly imagine the fear felt by Soviet soldiers as they stood at that same spot on the river shore, looking to the far side like lost souls about to cross the River Styx.

And then I remember what it was like to stare across no man’s land in eastern Ukraine. I remember the fear I felt under the Russian artillery and sniper shots. And I imagine, at least a little, what those Soviet soldiers must have felt.

The trench lines in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region — where Ukrainian troops have fought a war since 2014 to keep a Russian invasion force at bay — are only about five hours away by car. We could be there by dinner, if we wanted to.

True, we’re much too far from the trenches to hear the daily rumble of battle, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The war is always there.

Standing on the riverbank, Valeriy says to me: “History has been hard on Ukraine. But things will get better. We’re fighting for our democracy, just like your country did. And we’ll win it, too. Just like you did. I still have hope that my daughter and my grandchildren will see an amazing, free Ukraine.”

Still looking across the river, facing the same divide his great-grandfather once faced, Valeriy adds: “We’ll get there.”

The Past

Valeriy never served in Afghanistan. He was posted instead to East Germany and worked in signals intelligence, a specialty that paved the way for his future civilian career as a German language interpreter.

“It was an unwritten rule in the Soviet army that only one brother would have to be in Afghanistan at a time,” Valeriy explains. “And my brother went in my place.”

Valeriy’s older brother, Sergiy, was drafted into the Red Army and served in the war in Afghanistan from 1982 to 1984.

In fact, both brothers had volunteered for the war. But their mother had secretly gone to military officials and asked that only one son be allowed to go. Sergiy ultimately volunteered without Valeriy’s knowledge. It wasn’t until their mother died in December 2012 that Valeriy learned the truth.

Sergiy was a sergeant in a signals unit deployed near the Salang Tunnel in the Hindu Kush Mountains. The combat he experienced was terrible, Sergiy tells me, but he doesn’t go into much detail about the war very often. And when he does, his eyes adopt a distinctly distant look, as if he’s looking past me, in an attempt to articulate memories that no words could ever really recreate.

Today, both Deriy brothers live in the town of Horishni Plavi — it’s where my wife, Lilya, grew up.

On a warm June afternoon, our family gathers at a park by the Dnieper River to grill shashlik — Ukraine’s version of a barbecue. Both Sergiy and Valeriy are wearing NASA baseball caps, gifts from me and my wife.

It’s the first time we’ve all been together since the coronavirus lockdown was lifted on June 5, and we’re in good spirits. We make toast after toast until our legs are a little wobbly. We’ve brought along an iPhone speaker and grill the meat while we cycle through a playlist of staple rock hits — songs by bands like the Scorpions, Led Zeppelin, Metallica. That’s my in-laws’ favorite kind of music. Mine too.

We end up cooking more meat than we could ever hope to eat in a day. And we maintain a steady pace with the cognac toasts. And, as it’s prone to do, the conversation between Valeriy, Sergiy, and myself returns to the ongoing war in Ukraine’s east.

“The Russians were never our friends. Stalin invaded us, and now Putin has, too,” Sergiy says. “The only county that ever really cared about us was the United States.”

“We’ll never forget what your country has done for us,” he adds, speaking specifically about America’s delivery of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

Then Valeriy abruptly stands.

“Please,” he says, beckoning me to shake his hand, “I want to shake the hand of a citizen of the country that put a man on the moon.”

I stand and shake my father-in-law’s hand and feel proud of my country. And I’m particularly proud that he’s proud of my county, too.

A generation ago, we would have been enemies. Our countries were poised at opposite ends of the earth, ready to unleash nuclear Armageddon to destroy one another.

Today, we are a family.

No One Forgets

Located on the east bank of the Dnieper River, roughly 190 miles southeast of Kyiv, Horishni Plavni was founded by Soviet youth volunteers in 1960 as a place to live for workers in the nearby iron-ore mines.

Originally, the city’s name was “Komsomolsk,” a reference to the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, or “Komsomol.” The town was renamed Horishni Plavni in 2016 as part of Ukraine’s decommunization laws—a set of measures that went into effect in 2015 to curb Russia’s cultural influence.

Across the country, all Soviet-era names of settlements and roads have been changed to new Ukrainian ones. All reminders and relics of the Soviet Union have been removed or made illegal — including playing the Soviet national anthem and displays of the hammer and sickle flag.

Horishni Plavni’s main thoroughfare was once called Lenin Street. Now it’s named Heroes of the Dnieper River Street. The statue of Vladimir Lenin that once stood in the city center is gone. Only an empty pedestal remains — a common sight in Ukraine these days.

Yet you can’t totally erase the past. World War II is too deeply ingrained in Ukraine’s national psyche, and its physical environment, to ever be forgotten.

Soviet-era war memorials still stand around Horishni Plavni. At a riverside park, children play on the marble ramps of a towering, Soviet-era war memorial. In a nearby field, a row of Soviet tanks are on permanent display. Teenagers sit in the shade of the turrets and drink beer and listen to music.

Despite all their years living under Soviet propaganda, my father-in-law and uncle-in-law have a surprisingly pro-American perspective on the war.

“The Soviet Union could have never won without American help under lend-lease,” Valeriy tells me, referring to the American policy from 1941 to 1945 to provide materiel assistance to the Soviet Union’s war effort.

“And thank God the Allies landed in France,” Valeriy adds. “Otherwise Stalin would have taken over all of Europe.”

No War Ever Ends

After our shashlik picnic is over, Sergiy visits his brother’s apartment, where my wife and I are staying. He brings with him a photo album from his time in the Soviet army, including his deployment to Afghanistan in the 1980s.

I’m thrilled to have a look and listen to his stories from the war.

Sergiy recalls how his commander in Afghanistan justified the Soviet war by the need to defend the Soviet Union from U.S. nuclear missile strikes.

“We were told that America was evil, and that we were fighting in Afghanistan to defend the world from America,” Sergiy tells me. “It was all a lie, of course.”

Incredibly, Sergiy bears no ill will toward the country — my country — that was responsible for the death of many of his comrades.

“The Soviet Union did the same to America in Vietnam,” Sergiy says of America’s covert effort from 1979 to 1989 to arm and finance Afghanistan’s mujahideen fighters to fight against the Soviets. “It was the Cold War, and we were enemies. And that’s what enemies do to each other.”

Now, Sergiy has welcomed me — an American veteran of another war in Afghanistan — into his family with open arms. More than that, I’d even say that Sergiy and I share a special bond because we share a common battlefield. We remember the same places, and in some cases, the same enemies. Sometimes, as I’ve learned, former enemies actually have more in common with each other than they do with their fellow citizens who know nothing about war.

As he goes through the old photos, Sergiy’s face flashes with various contradictory emotions. Pride and pain. Nostalgia and regret. For Sergiy, war was both the worst and the best experience of his life. Therein lies that great paradox that faces all soldiers who’ve home to live in peace.

If war was so terrible, why do we sometimes miss it?

Sergiy, for his part, remembers his friends from the army fondly. But there’s a dark cloud, too, that hangs over every good memory.

“The Soviet Union lied to me. They lied to all of us,” Sergiy says as he flips through the photo album’s pages.

He pinches his lips and slowly shakes his head.

“They wasted so many lives,” he adds.

Soldiers rarely fight for the reasons dictated to them by the governments that send them to battle. Rather, once the bullets start flying, a simple sense of duty to defend one’s friends, and to not disappoint their expectations, is what inspires one to act courageously.

Yet, once soldiers are separated from their wars for a while — either by time or by distance — the moral clarity of duty may erode, leading them to question the justice of their individual actions in combat. The simple kill-or-be-killed morality of combat no longer shields them from thoughtfully considering the consequences of the things they did in war.

In many ways, life in peace is much more complicated than life in war. That was certainly true for my uncle-in-law. Although Sergiy came through the war in Afghanistan physically unscathed, he was left irrevocably jaded about Soviet communism.

Hope

In 1985, just a year after his discharge from the Soviet Army, Sergiy began law studies at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine’s premier university.

“I felt so at peace. Finally, no war, no suffering. Only a bright future,” Sergiy recalls of his arrival in Ukraine’s capital city to begin his studies.

But it didn’t last. In April 1986, an explosion ripped through reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

The Chernobyl plant is located only about 60 miles north of Kyiv. And so, spooked by the threat of radiation, Sergiy was unsure whether he should stay in Kyiv to finish his law degree. The reborn optimism and happiness he’d felt just a year earlier, fresh from his wartime service, quickly gave way to feelings remembered from the war — dark feelings that he’d wanted to forget forever.

“When I was in Afghanistan, I always felt like death was chasing me,” Sergiy remembers. “And when I came back to Ukraine, I thought I could be free from that fixation on death. But Chernobyl happened, and here death finally caught me. A long and painful death. I remember I said to myself, ‘How ironic, death didn’t catch me in the war, but it did in civilian life.'”

Sergiy ultimately stayed in Kyiv to finish his law degree. After graduating from law school in 1991, he returned to his hometown of Horishni Plavni (then called Komsomolsk). The Soviet Union broke apart that year, further upending his world.

When Ukraine’s economy subsequently collapsed in the 1990s, Sergiy ultimately abandoned his law career and took up work as a hired hand. It was his only option to make a living. He never went back to practicing law.

My uncle-in-law, who is a devoutly religious man, has struggled with his demons from Afghanistan. And his family life has had its ups and downs. But he’s never given up hope for his country, even as Ukraine has gone through revolutions and an unfinished war to finally free itself from Russian overlordship.

“I try to stay positive, despite everything that’s happened to our country,” Sergiy says. “It would be so wrong not to believe in our future. I always have hope. It’s just a matter of time. Our future generations will be truly happy and free.”

Moral Courage

As young men, Soviet propaganda told Valeriy and Sergiy that America was their mortal enemy. Yet, as older men, they’ve both shown the remarkable moral courage to abandon their former worldviews and embrace the promise of democracy.

Above all else, Valeriy and Sergiy now believe in the justice of freedom and democracy rather than conformity and communism. And the two Red Army veterans wholeheartedly believe that the United States is a force for good and a beacon of hope for freedom-loving people around the world.

It’s true that history hasn’t been kind to Ukraine, and my in-laws have not led easy lives.

Yet in spite of everything, their faith in America remains unbroken. And, with America’s promise lighting the way, they still extoll the justice of their own country’s democratic path, no matter its attendant hardships.

In the end, they choose to reject their Soviet past but not forget it. When the work of building a democracy gets tough, as it so often does, they look to the past to remember what they’re working so hard to achieve.

“Democracy hasn’t been easy, but I’d rather live as a free man than go back to the way things were before,” my father-in-law says.

Freedom, after all, usually means more to people who’ve experienced the alternative.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Country music legend and military supporter, Charlie Daniels, passes away at 83

On the morning of July 6, 2020, Country Music Hall of Famer and Grand Ole Opry member Charlie Daniels died at the age of 83 after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. Aside from his own band, Daniels played with other music legends like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bob Dylan.


Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

Daniels was a highly-skilled fiddle player.

Daniels was born on October 28, 1936, in Wilmington, North Carolina. His musical upbringing consisted of Pentecostal gospel and local bluegrass, rhythm blues and country music. By the time he graduated high school in 1955, Daniels had become adept at playing the guitar, fiddle, banjo and mandolin. After high school, Daniels moved to Nashville to pursue his music career.

Most famous for his fiddle-sawing, number-one country hit, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Daniels also co-wrote It Hurts Me with friend and producer Bob Johnston, which was later recorded by Elvis Presley. It took Daniels a little more time to get his own big break.

Daniels’ first hit, Uneasy Rider, was off of his third album, Honey in the Rock, and peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Top 100. During this time, he continued to play fiddle for other acts like Marshall Tucker Band and Barefoot Jerry.

In 1979, Daniels won the Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance for The Devil Went Down to Georgia, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Top 100 in September of that year. The song became Daniels’ most iconic and continues to be played regularly on classic rock and country music radio stations across the country.

Though Daniels never served in the military, he was a strong supporter of the men and women of the armed forces, having played multiple USO Tours for troops overseas. Charlie Daniels Band even released an album called Live from Iraq in 2007. The album was recorded during the band’s 2006 USO tour of Iraq. Daniels was also a supporter of numerous charities, including The Journey Home Project, which aims to help returning veterans adjust to civilian life. “Only two things protect America,” Daniels often said. “The grace of almighty God and the United States Military.”

Daniels’ hit, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, has also become a popular song for fiddle players to cover and demonstrate their skills. One such player named Paddy was covering the song at his bar, Paddy’s Irish Public House, in Fayetteville, North Carolina in early 2007. The establishment was frequented by a Fort Bragg soldier who was there that evening.

It was a slow night and the soldier took no notice of the older man sitting next to him at the bar. As Paddy sawed away and recounted the tale of the battle between the young fiddle player and the Devil, the old man began to chuckle. “This is my song,” he said.

“Yeah, I love this song too.” The soldier responded.

“No, this is MY song!” The old man said with a grin.

“Holy crap! You’re Charlie Daniels!” The soldier was amazed at the country music legend’s presence in the bar. “Hey Paddy!” The soldier called out. “How ’bout letting Charlie here play?”

Similarly amazed at Daniels’ presence in his bar, Paddy gladly gave up his fiddle for the legend to play. That night, Daniels gave a hard-played and passionate performance for a small, but incredibly appreciative audience. In fact, Daniels played so hard at Paddy’s that he broke two of the man’s bows sawing away at the fiddle. It was intimate performances like this that Daniels enjoyed the most. His patriotism and passion for music will be greatly missed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of Vietnam’s ‘Boat People’ is now an Air Force officer

The “boat people,” as they came to be known, are an oft-forgotten footnote at the end of the Vietnam War. In the years following the U.S. withdrawal and the subsequent fall of South Vietnam to the Communist north, refugees packed ships leaving the southern half, bound for anywhere but there.


Between 1975 and 1995 some 800,000 people faced pirates, traffickers, and storms to escape the grip of Communism and make it to a new life in places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, or elsewhere. Images of boat people adrift on any kind of ship routinely made the nightly news. Rescued refugees would be resettled anywhere they would be accepted, many of them ending up in the Western United States. One of those people was Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Asan Bui.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

Vietnamese “Boat People” being rescued while adrift at sea.

Asan Bui was born on one of those vessels, adrift in the ocean, bound for nowhere, some 44 years ago. He was a citizen of no country. His father took his then-pregnant mother out of Vietnam because he had served in South Vietnam’s army as an artilleryman. Against all odds, he, his wife, and five children all escaped the iron curtain as it came crashing down.

Bui, like many who fought for anti-Communist South Vietnam, faced persecution and execution at the hands of the oncoming Communists in 1975. The fall of the southern capital at Saigon was imminent, and many were looking for a way to flee. Asan Bui’s father took his family by boat.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

Air Force Reserve, Lt. Col. Asan Bui was born at sea 44 years ago while adrift in the ocean aboard a wooden boat.

(U.S. Air Force Reserve photo by Senior Airman Brandon Kalloo Sanes)

Bui’s family was just the tip of the iceberg. The fall of Saigon caused 1.6 million Vietnamese people to flee South Vietnam. The elder Bui was not happy to leave and wanted to fight the Communists every inch of the way. His sense soon got the better of him, though. If he were captured, he would likely have been tortured and killed.

“Anyone that fought alongside the United States would be killed or imprisoned in re-education camps,” Bui told the Air Force Reserve. “I have personally spoken with individuals that have gone through this brutal ordeal and survived. Some were not released for over a decade and still carry the traumatic scars.”

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

Lt. Col. Bui’s father, Chien Van Bui, calls in artillery fire during the Vietnam War.

(Photo provided by Lt. Col. Asan Bui)

If they did survive the capture and torture, Southern fighters could look forward to hard time in Communist labor camps, re-education centers, or worse. Instead of all that, Chien Van Bui fled with his family. When the family was rescued, they were taken to Camp Asan in Guam, naming their newborn child after the camp they called home.

Asan Bui joined the United States Air Force in his mid-twenties, now serving his 19th year for the country that took him in and allowed him to start a family of his own. Lt. Col. Asan Bui is the commander of the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick AFB, Fla. He is dedicated to continued service.

“I want to honor those (military and sponsors) that have sacrificed so much for my family and the Vietnamese refugees,” said Bui. “Especially the Vietnam veterans.”