Who knew the word to be used most often in 2020 would be quarantine? With travel being restricted, social isolation being encouraged – plus states closing down schools and offices; it’s leaving many feeling anxious about the uncertainty of the days ahead. Freud suggested that humor is one of the highest forms of defense and he knows a thing or two about the human mind.
So, without further ado – let’s dive into the 10 most epic songs to make you laugh through your quarantine.
Destiny’s Child – Survivor (Official Music Video) ft. Da Brat
As the world is increasingly self-quarantining or “socially isolating” to prevent community spread; the lyrics to this one are epically funny: “Now that you’re outta my life, I’m so much better, You thought that I’d be weak without ya, but I’m stronger.” This one is sure to be a fun anthem for your whole family. Especially with words like: “Long as I’m still breathin’, not leavin’ for no reason.”
Elvis Presley – Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Official Audio)
This amazing classic is the perfect anthem as you continue to stress over the increasingly chaotic world. “I will survive. Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive,” let these lyrics calm your nervousness, you got this. Pandemic-smandemic.
Slightly dramatic, but still epic just the same. “I’m locked up; they won’t let me out. No, they won’t let me out” should give you a chuckle. No, none of us are really locked up in our homes, but it’s sure going to feel that way over the coming weeks. Take a breath, fire this one up, and know it could be worse. You could literally be in jail. Their food is terrible, and I bet they actually run out of toilet paper.
Kelly Clarkson – Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) [Official Video]
Press play on this powerhouse of a song and feel that endorphin rush! Lyrics like: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, stronger; Just me, myself and I” should empower you! Embrace the suck of social isolating with this one.
In the mood to sing moodily into your hairbrush? This is the perfect quarantine ballad for you. The lyrics will speak to your socially isolated heart:
Oceans apart day after day And I slowly go insane I hear your voice on the line But it doesn’t stop the pain If I see you next to never How can we say forever Wherever you go Whatever you do I will be right here waiting for you
If this one doesn’t make you almost spit your quarantini drink in laughter, you need a better sense of humor. With lyrics like: “I told you homeboy u can’t touch this, yeah that’s how we’re livin’,” how can you not laugh? Never mind that the chorus being epically perfect for this pandemic: “You can’t touch this”! Go ahead, laugh. You know you want to!
If silver screen legend James Dean hadn’t died in a 1955 car accident, he would be 88 years old, much too old to portray a Vietnam War-era soldier in the upcoming film Finding Jack. But he did die in that car crash, and he’s not actually being resurrected to star in the new movie – but his image and likeness are.
Set against the background of the Vietnam War, Finding Jack is about Fletcher Carson, a volunteer troop in the U.S. Army who lost his family and his will to live back home. He joins, hoping to lose his life in combat. Instead, he gains a Labrador Retriever who helps nurse him back to physical and emotional health. When it comes time for the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, the dogs are declared surplus equipment and are destined to be left behind. Carson, like many troops, wasn’t willing to part with his new battle buddy.
The story is based on the real events surrounding the withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam. The Nixon Administration really implemented this policy as a cost-saving measure. Thousands of military working dogs who helped American forces in the Vietnam War really were left behind at war’s end, their fate (like many Americans, POWs, and MIAs) would forever be unknown.
An estimated 10,000 dogs were left behind in Vietnam.
The legendary actor, who originally died at age 24, has been cast in the film adaptation of the book. The production company producing the film got the permission of his family before casting the star of Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden. Dean will star as a secondary character named Rogan in the film.
“We searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan, which has some extreme complex character arcs, and after months of research, we decided on James Dean,” Anton Ernst, one of the directors, told The Hollywood Reporter.
While Finding Jack will be a live-action film, James Dean will be reproduced through the use of computers, using actual footage and photos. His voice will be dubbed by another actor. So far, Dean is the only known cast member of the film.
The Pentagon has released footage of Special Warfare Combat-craft Crewmen jumping out of a C-17 Globemaster III heavy transportation aircraft.
The video shows 11 SWCCs from Special Boat Team 20 jump out of the C-17 after two boats are dropped using the Low Velocity Airdrop Delivery System.
SWCCs are part of the Navy Special Warfare Command, and are tasked with expertly driving high-speed boats that are armed to the teeth — usually with GAU-17 miniguns, M2HB .50 caliber heavy machine guns, M240B light machine guns, and sometimes even Mk 19 grenade launchers.
SWCCs often work alongside Navy SEALs, providing them fire support and transportation via a number of different watercraft. They also can assist in the interdiction of naval vessels. The boats dropped in the video are Combat Craft Assault boats.
The CCAs are known for having a small radar and infrared signature, and have become a favorite amongst SWCC for their speed and ability to be reconfigured for different operations.
Check out the video of the training exercise here:
The weapon is believed to be a DF-41, China’s latest ICBM still in the final stages of development. It was seen making its way through a traffic circle in Daqing, a city of over one million people in Heilongjiang province.
The missile is supposedly capable of carrying large thermonuclear weapons. That includes as many as 10 smaller warheads known as multiple independent reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, which allow it to hit multiple targets with one shot. It has an estimated maximum range of 9,300 miles, putting it in the range of most of the continental U.S. To put the weapon’s range in perspective, the distance from Daqing to Washington, D.C., is only approximately 6,400 miles.
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In 1995, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein established his own Fedayeen corps, an irregular unit designed to protect the Ba’athist regime and Hussein himself. As of the 2003 invasion, they numbered 30,000 to 40,000 and their uniforms were more than a little unique, sporting an all-black combat uniform, black ski masks, and a familiar-looking helmet.
Yes, Saddam’s Fedayeen, Arabic for “Men of Sacrifice,” wore enormous Darth Vader helmets. Their commander, Hussein’s son Uday, was a huge Star Wars fan. The above picture is an actual example from the Imperial War Museum in Britain.
Other Middle Eastern personalities had their Fedayeen forces, notably Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, but neither of those had the Sci-fi panache of the Fedayeen Saddam. Founded in 1995, the irregular Iraqi guard unit was Saddam Hussein’s personal militia.
Members were recruited into the Fedayeen Saddam as young as age 16. They received no specialty training or heavy weapons and were not members of the regular Iraqi military. So, as awesome as watching a fighting Darth Vader in “Rogue One” was, their Iraqi Doppelgängers were not so awesome.
In reality, they were mainly used to stop smuggling in Iraq, and then later became the smugglers, extortionists, torture, and whatever else the Husseins had them do. It was all good as long as they didn’t shake down government officials.
Though U.S. military planners knew about the existence of the Fedayeen Saddam before the 2003 invasion, they weren’t sure what they would be used for once the shooting started. The best estimate was as guerrilla fighters behind U.S. lines, which they generally did in urban areas. It was the Fedayeen Saddam who ambushed U.S. Marines in Nasiriyah under a flag of surrender in 2003.
Even after the regular army and Republican Guard forces crumbled away, the Fedayeen Saddam harassed U.S. troops through April 2003. Uday and Qusay famously found their end with a few members of the Fedayeen Saddam that same year.
Every year at SHOT Show, there seems to be a theme among the new product releases. 2018 seemed to be the year of the Roland Special & pistol comps, the year prior was pistol caliber carbines, before that was the modular rifles and suppressors. We are already seeing a trend forming here, Glock clones.
Brownells has been killing it with the exclusive Polymer80 options as well as their bargain-priced slides. With the success that Brownells saw with the Polymer80 frames and Brownells produced slides, it was only a matter of time for other manufacturers to jump on the Glock clone bandwagon.
Leading up to the show season Brownells even launched new Gen4 Glock slides,
The Glock clone army that might invade the 2019 SHOT Show really started on the floor of SHOT 2018 with the announcement of the PF940SC and the serialized PF940C frames. Could this have been foreshadowing of the impending invasion?
Our friends over at Grey Ghost Precision dropped their Combat Pistol frame on us back in August 2018, giving Glock builders yet another option. The Combat Pistol frame has a distinctive texture and is ready to build on right out of the box.
How about a folding Glock clone? Full Conceal launched their Polymer80 framed thing in 2018 as well.
There are even options to build a non-Glock Glock in large frame calibers like .45 ACP and 10mm with Polymer80’s recently announced PF45 frame.
As for 2019? We’ve seen a slew of new Glock clones announced like the Alpha Foxtrot aluminum frame, and the new Zev OZ9 pistol kicking the show season off strong. Following those, Faxon Firearms released their FX-19 pistol that appears to be based on a Faxon specific Poly80 frame.
If the Faxon pistol doesn’t do it for you, how about the new Glock build kit from Agency? This one came as the biggest surprise to us given Agency’s history producing some of the nicest Glocks on the planet. If you scoop one of these up, not only do you get an Agency stippled frame but also a lower parts kit and their Syndicate slide.
I think that it’s pretty safe to assume that the show floor is going to be littered with Glock clones built on their very own platform like the ZRO Delta Genesis Z9 or the half a dozen “new” pistols being offered that have a Polymer80 frame.
There are likely several other new Glock clone options that have been overlooked in the sea of plastic fantastic.
Regardless of what this year’s theme turns out to be, we will be pleased with any new products announced. After all, variety is the spice of life.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
RICHMOND, Va. — Every time he straps on the leather band of his watch in the morning, Phillip Brashear remembers his father.
“My dad’s famous saying is, ‘It’s not a sin to get knocked down. It’s a sin to stay down,'” Brashear said.
Those words are engraved on the back of a Swiss limited-edition wristwatch, surrounding the iconic image of a Mark V diver suit helmet. The watch was manufactured in honor of Carl Brashear, the first African-American master diver in U.S. Navy’s history who lost his leg during a tragic accident on a mission off the coast of Spain in 1966.
Two airplanes had collided, dropping a payload that included three nuclear warheads. One of them fell into the Atlantic Ocean. Carl Brashear was called to dive and recover the bomb, but during the mission a towline was pulled so tight that it ripped off a pole, dragging it across the deck with so much tension that it cut the bottom part of his leg, nearly ripping it off. Back in the United States, doctors decided to amputate the leg below the knee.
“My father is an American legend,” said Brashear. “He was the first amputee to return to active-duty service in one of the most challenging jobs in the Navy.”
His life story was depicted in the Hollywood movie “Men of Honor” which starred Cuba Gooding Jr. and Robert De Niro.
“My father overcame five barriers in his lifetime. He overcame racism. My father overcame poverty, being a poor sharecropper’s son. He overcame illiteracy. He lost the bottom part of his leg and was physically disabled. … He overcame his alcoholism, and in 1979 retired with honors,” Brashear said.
Today, Phillip Brashear is the command chief warrant officer for the 80th Training Command, which is responsible for military courses that train thousands of Army Reserve Soldiers around the country.
Brashear thanks service members like his father and the Tuskegee Airmen for the opportunities that men and women of every skin color and background have today.
“He opened the door for many others to come behind him,” he said.
Brashear has more than 38 years of military service, starting in the U.S. Navy Reserve, then the U.S. Army National Guard and now with the U.S. Army Reserve. He spent most of that time flying helicopters.
“I used to tease my dad all the time. … I scored higher than you on the ASVAB test,” he said, referring to the aptitude test used to assign military jobs. “I get to be a helicopter pilot. I go up, not down. My daddy said, ‘Aw, get the heck out of my face. … Remember son, there’s always divers looking for pilots. There’s never pilots looking for divers.”
That banter between father and son came close to becoming a dark premonition for Phillip in 2006 while deployed to Iraq. A flash flood washed away part of a convoy, and Brashear was involved in recovering the bodies.
“That’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life was to get out of that helicopter in a combat operation to retrieve dead Americans, bring them back to safety so their families could have closure,” he said.
Though the bodies were not Navy divers in the middle of the ocean, Brashear recovered Marines whose lives were taken by water.
The rest of his Iraq tour offered no relief. He was with the Virginia Army National Guard at the time, responsible for flying personnel and material across Iraqi deserts under constant gunfire and the threat of improvised explosive attacks. Even at night, he could see the barrage of tracer rounds piercing the sky like lasers.
“I remember the heat. Constant heat. Like a blow dryer in your face. I remember the constant thirst. The constant fear from getting in that helicopter in a combat zone,” Brashear said.
Then one day, he came home from deployment on a Red Cross message. His father was ill. However, Brasher didn’t think it was severe, and during his visit home, Phillip believed his father would recover. He thought his dad was invincible. This was the man who had endured a year of recovery wearing a 300-pound suit after losing a leg to become a master diver. As a master chief petty officer later in his career, Sailors scurried out of the way whenever this legend walked onto a ship.
“He’s gonna be fine,” the son thought, so he walked into his father’s hospital room complaining about Iraq.
“I’m like, Dad, man. I’m getting shot at. The food’s bad. It sucks over there. It’s hot,” he recalled.
“Son, what are you complaining about?” his father asked.
The calm in the old man’s voice took him by surprise. Something in his father’s presence caused the younger Brashear to pause.
“He was on his deathbed. He would have traded places with me in a heartbeat … to go fly helicopters in harm’s way, but I wouldn’t have traded places with him,” Brashear said.
“A few days after, he died in my arms. … His body just gave up. He’d been through so much. He just couldn’t suffer any more. So he – he left us,” he said.
After his deployment, Brashear decided to retire from the Army, but while going through his father’s belongings, he remembered his father’s fighting words.
“It’s not a sin to get knocked down. …”
He returned to service in the U.S. Army Reserve, which he said offered him opportunities even the National Guard couldn’t have given him, including the command-level position he holds now. He continued to fly helicopters for about a decade. Over the course of his career, he’s flown the UH-1 “Huey” – recognized as the Vietnam-era helicopter – the UH-60 Black Hawk and two different models of the CH-47 Chinook.
Then, in 2014, Brashear faced adversity of his own. During his annual flight physical, he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a heart arrhythmia that took him off flight status.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world to be denied your job because of something medical. That’s like someone taking away your livelihood. So, just like my dad, I said, ‘I’m not going to let this stop me. I’m going to get back up and get my job back,'” Brashear said.
He received a procedure known as cardioversion, a medical treatment that restores normal heart rhythm through electric shocks. As it turns out, his heart doctor, Michael Spooner, also treated Brashear’s father in the last 10 years of his life. The A-Fib kept Brashear off flight status for a year, but he continued his recovery until he passed his physical and returned to flying.
Now, Brashear is among the few dozen command chiefs in the U.S. Army Reserve. He serves as the top technical expert for his command and invests his time mentoring warrant officers and Soldiers wherever he goes.
With all four of his children grown, Brashear lives with his wife, Sandra, outside Richmond, Virginia. They have three daughters – Tia, Megan, Melanie – and a son, Tyler, who is an ROTC cadet studying biology at North Carolina AT University.
“It’s just a great legacy to have my father, who in the Navy was a great legend. Then myself a combat veteran in the Army. And now my son, who is going to be following our footsteps with leadership and service to our country,” he said.
This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDShub on Twitter.
The US Department of Defense may have wasted nearly $30 million over the past decade on uniforms for the Afghan military that featured a camouflage pattern inappropriate for the country’s desert landscapes, a top government fiscal watchdog said June 21st.
A 17-page report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says $28 million has already been spent by the Pentagon on the uniforms — and perhaps another $72 million will go toward them in the next decade.
According to the analysis, the Pentagon decided in 2007 on a uniform for the Afghan National Army that included a camouflage pattern that presented two problems: First, it included a forest pattern for a Middle Eastern country dominated by deserts — and second, the US government didn’t own the pattern, meaning it had to pay a private company for its use.
The report said that because the Department of Defense opted to use a private pattern, it cost the Pentagon an additional $26 million to $28 million. What’s more, it added, is that the department could have used one of the many patterns it already owns that’s just as effective — or ineffective — as the woodland camouflage pattern.
“Our analysis found that DOD’s decision to procure ANA uniforms using a proprietary camouflage pattern was not based on an evaluation of its appropriateness for the Afghan environment,” the report states.
“Our analysis found that changing the ANA uniform to a non-proprietary camouflage pattern based on the US Army’s Battle Dress Uniform … could save U.S. taxpayers between $68.61 million and $71.21 million over the next 10 years,” it added.
Because the US military continues to use the proprietary design, SIGAR recommended in the report that the Pentagon conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether there is a more cost-effective alternative in outfitting Afghan troops.
SIGAR, a congressionally ordered watchdog group that monitors US financial activities in Afghanistan reconstruction, said it shared its report with the Pentagon and department officials expressed “general agreement” with contents in the report.
The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to the SIGAR report as of June 21st.
Iran was rocked this week by the largest protests in the country since 2009.
Pro- and anti-government demonstrators took to the streets starting Dec. 28, 2017, and gradually moved from the outer cities into the capital, Tehran, and Iran’s second-largest city, Mashhad.
At least 20 people were dead as of Jan. 2. As of Jan.1, six people were dead in the small city of Tuyserkan, two in the city of Dorud, two in the southwestern city of Izeh, and two in Lorestan province.
The protests have attracted global attention, and footage of the action has been shared hundreds of thousands of time on social media.
The demonstrations became so widely publicized that Iran blocked access to Instagram and a popular messaging app used by activists to organize and discuss the protests.
Here’s what you need to know about the demonstrations:
Demonstrators began taking to the streets on Dec. 28, 2017.
At first, they were protesting against Iran’s dire economic downturn and the skyrocketing prices of basic necessities like eggs and poultry.
As things gained steam, however, the demonstrations took on a more political edge, with activists accusing the Iranian government of corruption and calling on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down.
The protests drew global attention as activists began posting photos and videos of the demonstrations to social media.
Footage of the action has been shared hundreds of thousands of time on social media. Some videos showed protesters chanting “Death to the dictator!” and “Death to Rouhani,” the Iranian president.
Other footage showed activists shouting slogans like “We don’t want Islamic Republic!”
As the demonstrations escalated, pro-government protesters flooded the streets on Saturday to counter the anti-corruption activists.
Iranian hard-liners who support President Hassan Rouhani, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the clerical establishment of the Islamic Republic came out in droves this weekend to retaliate against the demonstrators.
And when that happened, state media was also forced to acknowledge that it had not initially reported on the protests on the orders of security officials.
“Counterrevolution groups and foreign media are continuing their organized efforts to misuse the people’s economic and livelihood problems and their legitimate demands to provide an opportunity for unlawful gatherings and possibly chaos,” state TV said of the protests.
But Iranian officials and state media added that citizens had the right to protest and have their voices heard on social issues.
Two people were killed overnight, becoming the first deaths attributed to the rallies.
That number grew to 12 deaths by Monday and at least 20 by Tuesday.
In addition to the 20 reported deaths, hundreds of protesters have been arrested since Thursday. One Iranian, who requested anonymity, told Reuters there was a heavy police presence in Tehran.
“I saw a few young men being arrested and put into police van,” he said. “They don’t let anyone assemble.”
On Sunday, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov said on Twitter that authorities had cut off access to the app.
.@statedeptspox: We support a freedom of the press. When a nation clamps down on social media, we ask the question — what are you afraid of? We support the people of #Iran, and we support their voices being heard. pic.twitter.com/4dG4FlWTMJ
Authorities said Iranian security forces were not responsible for the deaths and instead blamed Sunni Muslim extremists and foreign actors.
Rouhani said demonstrators had the right to protest the government, and he also acknowledged that some of the protesters’ grievances were legitimate. He added, however, that the demonstrations should not devolve into violence or anti-government chants.
“The USA is watching very closely.”
US President Donald Trump weighed in on the unrest this weekend.
“The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most….” he tweeted. “Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. The world is watching!”
“Big protests in Iran,” he later added. “The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”
Trump continued tweeting about the Iran protests on Tuesday, writing, “The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their “pockets.” The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!”
.@USUN Ambassador Haley: In these first days of 2018, nowhere is the urgency of peace, security, and freedom being more tested than in #Iran. It takes great bravery for the Iranian people to use the power of their voice against their government. pic.twitter.com/feHu152sGd
When people talk about the aircraft carriers of World War II, some names jump out right away. Maybe the USS Enterprise (CV 6), both versions of the USS Yorktown (CV 5 and CV 10), or the USS Hornet (CV 8)?
But one carrier that was present at the start of World War II and survived throughout the war isn’t that well known. Meet America’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4).
The Ranger, like many pre-war American ship designs, was heavily influenced by the Washington Naval Treaty. This limited aircraft carriers to 27,000 tons per ship, and the United States Navy’s carrier force could have a total displacement of 135,000 tons. The conversion of the under-construction battle cruisers Lexington (then-CC 1) and Saratoga (then-CC 3) to CV 2 and CV 3 put them both at 33,000 tons.
As such, the Ranger was limited to 14,500 tons – and the U.S. wanted to cram as much as it could on this ship. She received eight 5-inch, 25-caliber guns, as well as a host of M2 .50-caliber machine guns. She also could carry around 75 aircraft.
Nine Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters and five Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers are visible on the flight deck of USS Ranger (CV 4) prior to Operation Torch. Note Ranger´s distinctive stacks in the left foreground. (US Navy photo)
When World War II broke out, the USS Ranger was in the Atlantic as part of the Neutrality Patrol, along with the carrier USS Wasp (CV 7). According to the “Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships,” the Ranger was sent to patrol the South Atlantic. After returning for repairs, the Ranger then was tasked with delivering P-40 Warhawks to Africa. She made two runs in the spring and summer of 1942, delivering 140 of those planes – some of which were destined to reinforce the Flying Tigers.
In November of 1942, the Ranger took part in Operation Torch, launching 54 F4F Wildcats and 18 SBD Dauntless dive bombers. Her planes sank or damaged two French warships, and also gave the landings fighter cover.
After Torch, the Ranger was overhauled, then delivered 75 more P-40s — this time for the North African Theater of Operations. She carried out training missions during most of 1943, until she was attached to the Home Fleet.
In October, 1943, the USS Ranger joined the British Home Fleet, and carried out a number of strikes on German naval forces around Norway. After that, she again served as an aircraft ferry, delivering 76 P-38 Lightning fighters to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.
After making that delivery, the Ranger finally went to the Pacific, where she was a training carrier until the end of the war. After the war, the USS Ranger was decommissioned and sold for scrap.
Elon Musk is one step closer to his goal of stationing a network of 12,000 satellites in orbit above Earth.
On Nov. 11, 2019, SpaceX successfully launched 60 of its Starlink satellites into orbit. This is what the satellites looked like before they were loaded onto the rocket.
They were carried into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which took off at 14:56 UTC from a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Once it was at an altitude of 280 km (174 miles) the rocket deployed the satellites.
The stated aim of SpaceX’s Starlink project is to create a network of nearly 12,000 satellites to bring high-speed internet to remote and rural parts of the world.
After sending the satellites adrift the Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on a landing pad out in the Atlantic ocean.
Although the original plans for Starlink listed just under 12,000 satellites, Space News reported in October 2019 that the company applied to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for permission to launch an additional 30,000.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
This week’s Borne the Battle episode features guest Jeff Struecker, who discusses his life as a soldier, pastor, and author.
In 1987, Struecker enlisted in the army when he was 18. He excelled, serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment, and he played a pivotal role in the Battle of Mogadishu. He also won the 1996 Best Ranger Competition and was also recognized in 1998 as the U.S Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Noncommisioned Officer of the Year.
Black Hawk Down – KIA Sgt. Dominick Pilla – Convoy Scene
It was an early morning in Smoaks, South Carolina, and humidity hung in the air. A truck pulled into the Valley Forge Flag driveway, a facility whose sole purpose is flag production. Valley Forge has been producing since World War I, and their flags have seen a number of fates, from being draped across the caskets of presidents to landing on Omaha Beach to navigating the jungles of Vietnam. Some say it’s one of their flags that is planted on the cold surface of the moon.
The truck began offloading countless rolls of an off-white fabric. The delivery man called them “greige goods,” and he was on his way as soon as he was unloaded.
Rolls of fabric used in flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo courtesy of Valley Forge Flags)
The Valley Forge material handler sent the greige goods to be dyed, and when the rolls returned, some were white and others had become a deep, brilliant red. They were cut into strips, and six white strips joined seven red strips, making a total of 13 stripes arranged into one neat pile.
A seamstress approached the pile and set herself to sewing. The sewing machines in this facility were automated, and three or four machines would be running at any given time under the watchful eye of Valley Forge employees. This woman watched them carefully as they stitched the strips of cloth together; she watched as the strips became stripes, the needle pressing into the fabric and joining them together with a firm bond.
The facility floor was filled with the sound of these sewing machines as each one was pieced together, beginning to resemble an American flag.
Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo by Tetteroo Media)
Rolls of blue cloth with embroidered stars were already waiting to join the stripes. The facility workers cut them to size and fit them next to the stripes, emplacing the final piece of the puzzle.
Another seamstress expertly sewed the fly-end of the flag, and yet another sewed on the white header. The real brass grommets were next, and soon the flags were sent for inspection. The inspector eyed them carefully as they were placed along the table in front of her. Her eye was impeccable; with pride she trimmed excess pieces of thread, and even the most minor defect would be quickly detected and remedied. When complete, she proudly placed a label on the flag indicating that she made sure this flag was of superior quality.
After being properly folded, the flags were placed into packages and taken out the large door in the side of the facility awaiting shipment to their final destination.
Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo by Tetteroo Media)
Of these flags, one sat among the rest, heading out to somewhere in the U.S. It looked identical to the others, but its fate was quite different. It would not fly during an American summer nor would passing soldiers salute it.
It wasn’t long before that flag was sitting on the shelf at the PX in Fort Benning, Georgia. It lay there still, amidst the bustle of basic trainees, airborne students, and the throngs of other transient service members in the area.
Eventually, a hand extended from amongst the countless uniforms and took it. After an exchange at the PX checkout counter, the flag was again on the move.
That hand belonged to a man named Patrick. He was of medium height with a strong build, a quiet demeanor, rough hands, and kind eyes.
He took it home to his wife. She had just moved to the area after their wedding; Fort Benning sat on the line dividing Georgia from Alabama, and they lived in the latter in a small apartment complex. Outside, he was an Army Ranger whose country demanded the most difficult tasks of him; here, he was a husband and a friend, a young man fixated on finding happiness in the four walls of a one-bedroom apartment. And he found it, for a while.
This was the home that American flag had been brought into.
Patrick Hawkins during a training exercise in Fort Benning, Georgia.
(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)
Patrick had a reverence for a precious few of his own valuables. A rosary hung nearby — he lamented when people wore rosaries around their necks, saying it was improper. He cherished his wedding ring as a sign of dedication to his beloved. And he felt that the flag, though it was merely a combination of cloth and stitching, represented the things he had fought so hard for during his last three deployments to Afghanistan, the freedoms he enjoyed as he grew from a boy to a Ranger.
Patrick was, for all his calluses and no-excuses leadership, a deeply sentimental man.
He unpacked the flag, but he knew it would not hang on his wall or be displayed on a flagpole. It had a purpose closer to his heart.
He folded it properly and brought it with him to work. He presented his military ID as he passed into Fort Benning, and then drove through the brown fence onto the Ranger compound. Patrick arrived early that day, and he entered the bowels of B Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment — a maze of lockers and bags neatly stowed to the side. Flags of all types were displayed above and the pictures of fallen Rangers lined the walls. Folded flag in hand, Patrick passed them by.
He heaved out a large duffel bag filled with the tools he would need to carry out a war in a far away place. It still had dust embedded into its canvas shell from the last deployment. Patrick placed the flag snugly next to his gear — his cold-weather jacket and extra boots, a laptop and hard drive filled with movies.
The bag containing the flag was loaded onto a pallet, ratcheted down, and covered in plastic sheeting to protect it from the weather. The pallet lay outside under the sun next to Patrick when he kissed his wife and embraced his parents. He was always a momma’s boy, and he hugged her for a few extra seconds; his father was career military, and their touch resonated with mutual respect as well as love.
Bagram Honor Guard members fold the American flag during a Memorial Day ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 29, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)
It seemed only moments later that Patrick and his flag stepped onto Kandahar Air Field (KAF), Afghanistan.
Upon arrival, Patrick retrieved the flag and carried it to the ready room. It was lined with small, plywood cubbyholes, a hardy wooden table in the center. Zip ties in hand, Patrick grabbed his body armor out of his cubby and placed it on the table. He carefully unfolded the flag and rolled it tightly. He zip tied it onto the outside of his armor, what he called his “kit,” and then placed it back in the wooden cubby.
The flag stayed with him as he donned his kit and grasped his rifle, as he stepped onto the MH-47 helicopter and barreled toward Taliban strongholds. It remained with him as he bolted across the Afghan countryside and dragged Taliban leadership back onto the helicopter and to American lines.
This U.S. Air Force PJ displays the American flag on his kit in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)
There came a moment when the stars on that flag had seen more stars in the Afghan sky than the American sky. It was rolled on Patrick’s back, and it was not properly folded — yet it could not have been in a more perfect state at a more perfect time. He was honored to carry it, and it was in carrying it that he defined why such things have value.
Then one night, Patrick stepped off the helicopter for the last time. A woman exited a small, dirt building, and his Ranger brother went to ensure that she was properly cleared and safely escorted off the battlefield. Instead, the night lit up as she exploded, a suicide vest detonating and sending Patrick’s friend careening back, severely wounded. Other Rangers were knocked off their feet. Smoke and debris hung in the air.
Patrick and the Ranger in his charge, Cody, leapt forward without regard to their own safety. The threat appeared to have been eliminated, and they sought to help their Ranger brethren who were bleeding out in the Afghan dirt.
With another step and a series of flashes, Patrick and Cody were gone. The blasts from several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried just beneath the surface ripped upward and tore through them both, searing through the flag strapped to Patrick’s back.
The night continued, fraught with chaos, but Patrick’s body remained still. The flag on his back, parts of it shredded and other parts covered in his blood, remained next to him.
An eternity of stillness passed in those moments of fire and shadow.
A hand appeared through the darkness. Patrick’s brothers grabbed what they could; they would not leave him in that place, even if the life had left his body. They were shaken and bleeding, but they gritted their teeth and carried him out with the flag on his back.
Patrick Hawkins’ flag, after being cleaned as well as possible, now awaits another deployment.
(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)
As Patrick was dragged away, the flag remained on the ground. Once it had been still for long enough, another hand extended from the darkness, picked it up, and stuffed it into a pouch on the belt of another Ranger, just as he left for the exfil helicopter.
The hand belonged to Patrick’s squad leader and mentor, Kellan. The wounded were many, and they had long since run out of litters — Kellan was using another flag to pick up the remains of another fallen soldier. In the pouch on his belt, Patrick’s flag returned to KAF. Tears mixed into the blood on its fabric, which had been stitched together those months ago in South Carolina.
Kellan would look at the flag often, sometimes in sorrow, sometimes with that familiar guilt of survival, and often in gratitude for having the opportunity to know a man like Patrick. To live together in the most extreme of circumstances.
That was not Kellan’s last deployment. He rolled up his sleeves, and he rolled up the flag. He put his kit on the hardwood table in a far away country, zip ties in hand, and secured Patrick’s flag to it. Then he stepped back into the war.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.