Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

The new Army Combat Fitness Test is scheduled to replace the current Army Physical Fitness Test by October of 2020, but units across the Army are preparing for it now. Out of all formations the Army has across the world, only one can claim an enlisted soldier who has maxed the test: 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), the “Frozen Chosin.”


All Army units have that “one” soldier. The PT-master. Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-32IN takes physical fitness very seriously. He regularly maxes out the APFT (a score of 300), and recently maxed out the ACFT (a score of 600), making him the second soldier in the Army to achieve such a goal.

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), poses for a photo at the 1-32IN 24-hour gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

“It all started in high school where I wrestled and weight-lifted. Then I got into power lifting for a few years and cross-fit where I competed a lot.” Gonzalez said. “Then I drifted off into solely Olympic lifting and went to Nationals where I placed in the top 20. After that I joined the Army.”

Like many soldiers who joined the Army later in life, Gonzalez has seen his share of life outside of a military career, and saw joining as a way to straighten out and get on track.

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), performs a kettle bell lap at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour Gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

“It’s been the story of my life. I never felt like I had a career. I’m very athletic and competitive, but a little old to be trying out for the Olympic team at 29. I went to college a few times, but the structure the Army offered has helped me stick to things and get them done.”

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), prepares to perform T-pushups at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

Like his Army career, Gonzalez has a habit of finding a path to success and running it to ground with tenacity. When he found out just how much the ACFT incorporated into what he already knew about cross-fit, he made it his mission be on top and help others get there with him.

“I’m looking at getting to Ranger school soon, and going Special Forces would be awesome. I want to be the best I can be. Me and a lot of other soldiers are in the gym countless nights, working on strength and speed. It feels good,” Gonzalez said.

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), performs a ball toss at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour Gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

When the ACFT hits Army Ranks in 2020, it will be the first time all soldiers, male and female, will be held to the same standard of fitness and accomplishment. It levels the playing field dramatically by introducing events specifically designed to test fitness levels and push soldiers to the edge of burnout.

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), performs a leg tuck at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour Gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

It will be difficult. It will be stressful. But it’s meant to be. Thankfully, with soldiers like Spc. Gonzalez in our formations, motivating and supporting the troops, we can all aspire to be the tip of the spear.

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

Articles

McCain’s latest Pentagon pitch puts Russia in the crosshairs

GOP Sen. John McCain said Tuesday he wants the U.S. to consider stationing troops permanently in Estonia, which borders Russia.


While on a tour of Baltic nations wary of the prospect of Russian aggression, McCain said stationing troops permanently in Estonia, in addition to fulfilling existing obligations to NATO, would increase military ties with the country, The Associated Press reports.

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT
A U.S. Soldier assigned to 2nd Cavalry Regiment speaks with an Estonian soldier in Sillamae, Estonia, June 11, 2016. During exercise Dragoon Ride, Soldiers conduct static displays to validate our partnering allies’ abilities to assemble forces rapidly, deploy them on short notice and improve the ability to shoot, move and communicate as a multinational alliance. Soldiers are also given the opportunity to play sports with the local citizens to build team cohesion. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nikayla Shodeen/Released)

Part of the reason for McCain’s visit to the region is to reassure Baltic countries like Lithuania and Latvia that even though GOP President-elect Donald Trump has somewhat soured on NATO, the U.S. will nevertheless maintain its security commitments. During his presidential campaign, Trump said he’d think about withdrawing from NATO because the “obsolete” institution costs the U.S. a lot of money

“I think the presence of the American troops here in Estonia is a signal that we believe in what Ronald Reagan believed, and that is peace through strength,” McCain said in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital.

“And the best way to prevent Russian misbehavior is by having a credible, strong military and a strong NATO alliance,” McCain added.

Additionally, McCain has taken special interest in the area because he’s a trenchant critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has blasted Russia’s military incursions in Ukraine. McCain noted he doesn’t expect U.S. sanctions on Russia to lift anytime soon.

He’s also pushed for a congressional panel to examine Russia’s reported attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

However, McCain downplayed the idea that the U.S. can say with any certainty that Russian interference changed the course of the election.

“There is no doubt that the Russians were hacking, but there is doubt whether it had any effect on the outcome of the election,” McCain said. “There is no evidence right now that indeed the Russian cyber attacks and the leaking of the information had any tangible effect on the outcome of the American election.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s first-ever homegrown carrier to be in sea trials soon

China’s first domestically made aircraft carrier began sea trials on May 13, 2018.

The Type 001A carrier left its port in the northeastern city of Dalian is undergoing tests of its power system, according to state-run media outlet Xinhua. Further tests are expected to check radar and communication systems as well a leakage.


The ship, which is conventionally powered, has reportedly had weapons and other systems fitted since it was launched in 2017. It is expected to enter service later in 2018, a year ahead of schedule.

China’s first carrier, Liaoning, was a second-hand ship purchased in 1998 from Ukraine. The new ship is an upgrade to the Soviet-era carrier and will be able to carry 35 aircraft.

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT
Aircraft Carrier Liaoning CV-16

The China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation previously confirmed that a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is being developed and expected by 2025.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A brief, deadly history of chemical weapons

On April 22, 1915, a stiff wind outside of Ypres helped loose the first systematic poison-gas attack in history.

On a sunny afternoon in April 1915, outside the Belgian city of Ypres, the wind began blowing in the direction the German troops wanted – toward the French lines. German soldiers set up over 5,000 barrels of chlorine gas along their position, and let loose a rolling cloud of thick, yellow death. More than 6,000 French troops died in what was the first systematic use of poison gas on the battlefield. Its effectiveness caught even the Germans off guard. Willi Siebert, a German soldier, noted in his diary, “When we got to the French lines, the trenches were empty, but in a half mile the bodies of French soldiers were everywhere. It was unbelievable.” Just over 99 years later, on June 17, 2014, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed chlorine gas was used by the Syrian government in an attack on its own people.


Origins and evolution

In 1918, a German chemist named Fritz Haber won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for a method of extracting ammonia from the nitrogen in the atmosphere. The process made ammonia abundant and easily available. Haber’s discovery revolutionized agriculture, with some calling it the most significant technological discovery of the 20th century – supporting half of the world’s food base.

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT
German chemistu00a0Fritz Haber.

Haber was also a staunch German patriot who quickly joined the war effort at the outbreak of World War I. He was insistent on using weaponized gases, despite objections from some army commanders about their brutality, and treaties prohibiting their use. He personally oversaw the first use of chlorine gas at the front lines at Ypres. The next morning, he set out for the eastern front to deploy gas against the Russian army.

Chemical weapons quickly became a mainstay of warfare, public condemnation notwithstanding. They were employed by the militaries of Italy, Russia, Spain, and Japan, among others.

Timeline: chemical weapons use

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

During the Cold War, the United States and the U.S.S.R. made major advances in chemical-weapons technology. Their breakthroughs were accompanied by innovations in nuclear-weapons technology. It was during this period that the third generation of chemical weapons was invented: nerve agents.

Within a century of their devastating debut at Ypres, chemical weapons have increased in lethality a thousandfold.

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

Use in Syria’s Civil War

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

Sources

  • Organization For The Prohibition Of Chemical Weapons (background, locations, types of weapons, stockpiles, number of weapons destroyed)
  • United Nations Human Rights Council (Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic)
  • National Institutes Of Health (effects, history, and lethality)
  • Smithsonian Institute (history)
  • Violations Documentation Center in Syria (fatalities)
  • Human Rights Watch (types of weapons, attack locations)
  • U.S. Defense Department (types of weapons)

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

popular

This Marine single-handedly cleared a rooftop in Fallujah

During the second battle of Fallujah, then-Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesperger singlehandedly cleared part of a house filled with insurgents in a heroic action that was recommended for the nation’s highest military award.


Upon entering an insurgent-infested house in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004, Adlesperger pushed forward despite the death of his point man and the wounding of two others. Adlesperger, wounded in the face by grenade fragments, then single-handedly cleared a stairway and a rooftop, throwing grenades and shooting at insurgents while under blistering fire.

You can read the full account of what Adlesperger did that day here.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

41 things you can do to be a better husband right now

The first step to becoming a better husband is to, well, try to be a better husband. It’s as simple as that. Marriages thrive when partners play active roles in the relationship, paying mind to everything from the daily maintenance of the marriage to personal care in hopes of understanding yourself better for the other. In other words: It’s all about making an effort. Do the work, and you’ll be rewarded. Want to start? Well, there are a number of small, nice things that all of us can focus on to be happier, more present, and more attentive husbands and partners.


Talk about your feelings honestly. When she asks you how your day is, tell her about something that made you upset or annoyed. Don’t just say your day was “okay,” and leave it at that.

Take over for the evening. Don’t announce it or plan it ahead. Once the kids are bathed, brushed, dressed, read to, and in bed, tell your spouse they’re ready for a good night kiss.

Ask your wife about her day. Have at least one follow-up question. Then, tell her about yours. And answer her questions with more words “fine” and “eh.” Make this a habit.

Make a constructed effort to interrupt her less when she’s talking. If she seems like she’s in between two thoughts, give her five seconds. If she doesn’t say anything, then speak.

Clean that thing you know she hates cleaning. You don’t even need to tell her you did it. She’ll notice.

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

(Photo by Christian Gonzalez)

Do the dishes when it’s “not your turn.”

Stay in good shape. Part of the gig is trying to remain attractive.

Go to the doctor. Part of the gig is not dying.

Be nice to her friends because they’re her friends and for no other reason.

Be honest even when it’s hard. Confrontation is not always bad. It’s critical to moving forward.

Explain why you’re excited about the things that excite you. Don’t keep her on the outside of the things you like.

If someone is rude to her in a social situation, ask for permission to be rude back. If granted, go to fucking town.

Oral Sex. We’re all adults here.

If she seems like she wants to be left alone, don’t take it as a referendum on anything. Just leave her alone.

Listen to and empathize with her problems. Say: “That sucks. I’m sorry.” Don’t try to fix the problems unless she asks for your advice.

Does she like SMPDA — that is, social media public displays of affection? Then post about her earnestly on social media every so often. Even if it’s a photo of her with the heart-eyed emoji, it may not be your thing, but because it’s not it will mean more.

Don’t hold back small seemingly insignificant compliments. If she really impressed you by parallel parking, her lunch order, or how she de-escalated a toddler tantrum, tell her.

Be the keeper of your love story. Get nostalgic about your relationship, from time to time. Reminisce about how you met. Bring it up with friends.

Journal about the things you’re upset about before vocalizing them to your spouse. It might help you see some of the things bothering you are not worth complaining about.

Your wife is not your therapist. If you are struggling, and she’s the only person you lean on, think about going to therapy. Therapy rules.

Leave nice notes. They don’t have to be long or saccharine, they just have to be original.

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

(Photo by John Jones)

Make a decision when she doesn’t want to. Let her make a decision when she does. Know the difference.

Be kind. The world is mean, your marriage shouldn’t be.

When you introduce her to your friends or coworkers, mention one of her accomplishments.

Make an effort to look presentable. Shave or clean up your beard regularly. Dress nice. Don’t be a schlub. No one wants to be married to a schlub 24/7.

If you make yourself something — tea, a sandwich, a stiff cocktail — offer to make her one, too.

Take her side in family squabbles whenever possible. If you sense a family squabble might happen, discuss it beforehand to get on the same page. Then, talk about how you’ll mount your defense together.

Keep your promises.

Talk to her about what she likes in bed. Don’t assume that you know. Do that thing.

Give her the benefit of the doubt. She’s allowed to be in bad moods for no reason.

Take some tasteful nudes.

When you become impatient with her, take a few deep breaths. Walk away if you need to. Remember you love her even when you don’t like her.

Get rid of your unreasonable expectations about who you think she should be.

Call just to say hi.

When she asks you to go on a run with her, go, even if you hate it. Especially if you hate it. She’ll know you did it just because you love her.

When your wife talks about a sexist thing that happened to her that day, don’t give the man in the story the benefit of the doubt. Talk shit about him with your wife.

Be enthusiastic about her favorite TV shows, even if it’s bad reality TV. Get into it. Make fun of the contestants. Ask her who her favorite person on the show is. Root for someone.

When your wife asks you how she looks in something, and if she doesn’t look great, tell her about another dress you like. Provide an alternative. Tell her you love her in it.

When you get in a fight, use “I” statements. Don’t put your anger on her. Make sure she knows it’s about how you’re feeling.

If you don’t know where something is in your house, actually look for it before you ask. You are not a clueless intern. You are her partner.

Tell her — and demonstrate — that you love her.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine reels in success from off-duty charter business

The first time John Cruise III and Steve Turner discovered they shared a connection beyond fishing, they were surprisingly not on the Atlantic Ocean.

Turner booked Cruise’s company, Pelagic Hunter Sportfishing, for a charter, and as they fished for mahi, the talk flowed freely. During the course of their conversation, they learned something else.


Cruise and Turner are Marines.

“He was very assertive and very structured and very good at what he did, and that aligned perfectly with me,” Turner said.

Cruise, a major at Camp Lejeune, is in his 22nd year of military service. For 12 of those years, he has run a small charter-boat business that caught the largest fish at the renowned Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament earlier this year in North Carolina.

Cruise captained a 35T Contender boat that hauled in a 495.2-pound marlin.

“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to build this business and to continue to work and to transition toward retirement,” Cruise said. “But there are challenges that come with that. The Marine Corps job is my main effort. It’s my most important job.”

Cruise, 47, got a late start as a Marine.

The Toms River, New Jersey-native moved to Florida and tried his hand at roofing, fixing cars and being a handyman. He studied to become a mason but realized that wasn’t his calling.

Cruise enlisted when he was 25 years old.

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

“I was trying to get him into the Marine Corps when he was 18, 19, but he wanted to do his own thing, so I just let him go,” John Cruise Jr., a Vietnam War veteran, said of his son. “… His drill instructor says to me, ‘Mr. Cruise, your son is like an Energizer bunny. He does not stop. I can’t keep up with him.”’

The younger Cruise said he was a gunnery sergeant before becoming a chief warrant officer. He switched to the limited duty officer program.

Pelagic Hunter Sportfishing consists of four full-time employees, not counting Cruise or his wife, Jessica, a real-estate agent who answers calls and relays messages to her husband. Cruise tries to respond during lunchtime or on his way to and from his job at the Marines.

Two other men run charters for Cruise, including Capt. Riley Adkins.

“He’s very good at reading people, and if he wants it done, you better have it done before he walks on the boat,” Adkins said. “I’ve baited for him many a day, and if it is not down to the ‘T’ of what he wants, you’re going to hear about it.”

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

Marine Maj. Cruise (left) pictured with his father, a Vietnam veteran. Photo courtesy of the Cruise family.

Adkins and second mate Kyle Kirkpatrick assisted Cruise during Big Rock. The size of their crew and boat (35 feet) was much smaller than most of the more than 200 other boats in the field.

“John approaches fishing, and especially tournament fishing, like nobody I have ever seen,” said Kirkpatrick, who served a decade in the Marines. “He approaches it and treats it just like a mission, so he does all of his planning, all of his preparation ahead of time. You can absolutely tell when you work on John Cruise’s boat that you’re working for a Marine officer. Very meticulous. Perfectionist.”

Cruise’s father has fished his entire life, but Cruise took it a step further.

Whether it was surf fishing, freshwater fishing or fly fishing, the boy seldom returned empty-handed. It was not unusual for Cruise to call his father, breathless with excitement, alerting him to a freshly discovered hot spot.

“In his bedroom on his wall, he has nothing but tuna, because I did a lot of tuna fishing, too,” the elder Cruise said. “I had tuna on the wall, mahi, all kinds of different kinds of fish, and he would keep them in his bedroom on his wall, all pictures of all kinds of fish. He was a real fisherman.”

Said his son: “We catch a lot of fish, and we have a good time doing it.”

Stories of just how good are just below the surface.

Cruise mentions, almost matter of factly, how he has caught several bluefin tuna in the 600- to 700-pound range. One even weighed nearly 850 pounds, the largest fish Cruise said he ever caught. The day before Big Rock, John Cruise Jr. mentioned his son caught two or three swordfish, all weighing at least 150 pounds.

And despite some doubters, Turner insists Cruise’s quick thinking once helped him land an 84-pound wahoo.

“He’s a student of the ocean,” said Turner, who is retiring from the Marines this summer after 24 years. “That man studies the ocean harder than any human I’ve ever met — waater temperatures, water breaks, depth, species, migration, patterns, historical data.”

Starting a business while on active duty is challenging, Cruise said.

“You have to put a lot of money and energy and effort upfront, and it took us about three solid years before we really got on our feet and started … about three years of really breaking even,” Cruise said.

“If you’re going to open a business, make sure you love it and you have passion for it and reach out to the people who are very successful and have done it before. Try to pick their brain to see what works the best.”

And, most of all, evolve.

Cruise said that is crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic. He estimated more than 20 charters were canceled in April; a full-day charter can cost id=”listicle-2647408673″,200 or more, according to his company’s website.

“We’ll definitely have some impacts this year,” Cruise said. “It slowed the business down in regard to summer and some of the expectations that we were expecting for this upcoming season.”

Business has rebounded since then, though, Cruise said.

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

Cruise is the captain of the Pelagic Hunter II. He and mates Riley Adkins and Kyle Kirkpatrick won the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in June by catching a 495.2-pound marlin that they battled for 5½ hours.

The father of three intends to retire from the military “in the next year or so,” thus freeing time to devote to his business and more tournaments.

Until then, there are more fish to catch.

“I have the ability to make adjustments, work hard, prepare and apply those techniques,” Cruise said. “I can give the same exact spread to — pick a captain — and he may never know how to apply it the way we do. You’re constantly making adjustments and changes. It’s a really cool thing to do, and I love it.”

Follow https://www.facebook.com/PelagicHunterSportsfishing for updates on Maj. Cruise’s business, located near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Should MoH recipients, POWs get same Arlington honors as officers?

In his final year in Congress, 87-year-old Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, a legendary Air Force fighter pilot in Korea and Vietnam and a former prisoner of war, is backing a bill to give enlisted Medal of Honor recipients and POWs the same honors as officers in burials at Arlington National Cemetery.

“My fellow POWs who served honorably demonstrated the utmost patriotism, but not all of them were eligible for full military honors at their burial, simply due to their rank. I believe this is wrong,” Johnson said in a statement.

Current rules restrict full honors at in-ground burials at Arlington, including a military escort and a horse-drawn caisson, to officers, warrant officers, senior non-commissioned officers, and service members killed in action.


Eligibility rules for in-ground burial at Arlington, which is running out of space, are the strictest of all the national cemeteries. They may in future be limited to those killed in action and recipients of the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart, according to a current proposal under consideration.

Prisoners of war who were discharged honorably and died after Nov. 30, 1993, are also eligible, according to the Code of Federal Regulations. There were no immediate figures available on how many enlisted MoH recipients or POWs may have been denied full honors at Arlington due to current rules.

Most honorably discharged veterans can request Arlington as their final resting place, but the eligibility rules are lengthy. (The list of rules can be found here.)

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

Arlington National Cemetary.

Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Michigan, is the main sponsor of the Full Military Honors Act, which was introduced in the House in early September 2018. He said he came to the issue at the behest of the family of a deceased constituent, Army Pfc. Robert Fletcher, a Korean War POW who was buried without full honors at Arlington in June 2018.

“America’s POWs and Medal of Honor recipients have sacrificed immeasurably in service to the United States, regardless of their rank,” Bishop said in a statement. “So I was shocked to find out that earlier this year a former POW from Michigan was denied a full honors burial at Arlington National Cemetery based solely on his enlisted rank. This has been an issue for too long, and my legislation will ensure those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty are provided the full military honors they have earned for their end-of-life ceremonies.”

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, the highest-ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, co-sponsored the bill. “I’m proud to join in introducing the Full Military Honors Act,” said Walz, who retired from the Army National Guard as a command sergeant major after 24 years. “To help ensure we honor the sacrifices these heroes and their families have made for our country, we must pass it without delay.”

The bill has been endorsed by the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Military Officers Association of America, the National League of POW/MIA Families, the Special Operations Association, the Special Forces Association, and the American Fallen Warriors Memorial Foundation.

At a hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel in March 2018, officials warned that space for in-ground burials at Arlington would eventually run out because surrounding communities restrict its expansion.

“We are filling up every single day” at the 154-year-old historic site across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., where an average of 150 burials take place each week, said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries.

Estimates on when Arlington will run out of space vary, but some put the date for closing the cemetery to new burials in the 2030s or 2040s.

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

Members of the Navy Ceremonial Guard transfer Medal of Honor Recipient Navy Capt. Thomas Hudner to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetary, April 4, 2018.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

As of August 2017, there were 5,071 living former POWs in the U.S., according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are currently 72 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, 45 of whom were in the enlisted ranks when they received the award, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

The full honors issue has resonated over the years with Johnson, a retired Air Force colonel and recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts.

During the Korean War, he flew 62 combat missions in a F-86 Sabre and was credited with shooting down one MiG-15. In Vietnam, he flew the F-4 Phantom II. On his 25th combat mission in Vietnam on April 16, 1966, Johnson’s aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam. He was a POW for nearly seven years, including 42 months in solitary confinement.

A battered tin cup he used to tap on the walls to communicate in code with other prisoners is now in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. In the prison camps, Johnson was part of a group dubbed the “Alcatraz 11” for their resistance to the guards.

“Any veteran who served honorably as a prisoner of war or whose actions earned them the Medal of Honor has already demonstrated extraordinary dedication to defending freedom,” Johnson said in his statement. “In return, they deserve to have the country they fought for bestow full military honors if they are eligible to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.”

Since the death of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, in August 2018, Johnson is the only former POW serving in Congress. Early 2018, he announced that he would retire at the end of the term after serving in the House since 1991.

In his statement upon McCain’s death, Johnson, who was often at odds with the late senator on issues, paid tribute to the former Navy pilot who was with him in the prison camps.

“We have lost a genuine American hero today. John and I were fellow POWs at the ‘Hanoi Hilton,’ and I can testify to the fact that he did everything he could to defend freedom and honor our great nation — not just in that hell on Earth, but beyond those bleak years,” Johnson said. “John’s strength of spirit, commitment to democracy, and love of God and country all shape the inspiring legacy of service he leaves behind. God bless you, partner, and I salute you.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Lawmakers say racism kept WW1 troops from receiving Medal of Honor

Lawmakers and advocates are calling for a detailed review of the battlefield valor of African-American troops in World War I, saying many were denied the Medal of Honor due to racism.

Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland and Roy Blount, R-Missouri, announced April 18, 2019, that a bipartisan effort had begun in both houses of Congress to pass bills authorizing the review.

It’s a matter of simple justice, said Dr. Timothy Westcott, a historian who would lead the review if Congress approves.


“We should not be determining their valor based on the color of their skin or the circumstances of their birth,” said Westcott, director of the George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War at Park University in Missouri.

On the House side, the legislation is sponsored by Rep. J. French Hill, R-Arkansas.

“To require the review of the service of certain members of the Armed Forces during World War I to determine if such members should be awarded the Medal of Honor,” the bills read.

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

Soldiers of the 369th (15th N.Y.) who won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action, 1919.

The bills would waive the statute of limitations to ensure that any veterans of World War I recommended by the review to receive the Medal of Honor would be legally eligible for it.

If this effort is successful, a Valor Medals Review Task Force for World War I would become part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, set to be debated this summer.

The effort has been endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission.

“While the United States military has studied Medal of Honor awards to minority service members in WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and subsequent American conflicts, no such systematic review has ever been conducted for minority veterans of the First World War,” commission officials said in a release. “Under current law, the exact same act of heroism completed by the exact same veteran would be eligible for review if it occurred in 1941, 1951, 1971, 1991, or 2001, but not 1918.”

“We at the U.S. World War One Commission, established by Congress in 2013, are aiming to rectify that and ensure our World War One heroes are forgotten no more,” the release added.

In a statement, Van Hollen said “Hundreds of thousands of minority veterans served their country during World War I, and their sacrifice was essential to our victory. But for far too long, their heroism has not received the recognition it deserves.”

Blount said the review was essential to making sure “those who were denied the Medal of Honor because of their race or religion finally receive the recognition they have earned.”

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U.S. Army African American soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment learn from French mentors in trench warfare in an undated photo during WWI.

Of 400,000 minority veterans who served during World War I, about 40,000, the vast majority African-Americans, saw combat in France, according to the Department of Defense.

No African-American was awarded the Medal of Honor during World War I or its immediate aftermath, but two were posthumously honored many years later after limited investigations.

In 1991, Army Cpl. Freddie Stowers, who was killed in combat while serving in a unit under French command, was awarded the Medal of Honor by then-President George H.W. Bush.

President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor in 2015 to Army Sgt. Henry Johnson, who fought in France with the New York Army National Guard‘s famed 369th Regiment, known as the “Harlem Hellfighters.”

In his statement, Van Hollen singled out the case of Army Sgt. William Butler, an African-American veteran from Salisbury, Maryland. Butler received the Croix de Guerre with Palm from France, as well as the Distinguished Service Cross from the U.S. military and a recommendation for the Medal of Honor.

“But he never received that medal before his death,” Van Hollen said.

At an Association of the U.S. Army event last October to promote the review of World War I awards, Jeffrey Sammons, a history professor at New York University, said his research discovered that Butler, who also served with the 369th Regiment, had been nominated for the Medal of Honor but the award was denied.

Sammons also found that Butler had been nominated for the nation’s highest award for valor on the same day as 1st Lt. George S. Robb, the namesake of the Robb Centre at Park University. Robb, who received the Medal of Honor, was a white officer who commanded an all-black platoon on the Western Front.

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Officers of the United States Army’s segregated 366th Infantry Regiment on board the Aquitania, enroute home from World War I service.

“George Robb had written a glowing treatment of William Butler’s exploits, in which he saved his commanding officer, 1st Lt. Gorman Jones, and a number of men from being captured by the Germans, who had actually infiltrated their trench,” Sammons said at the AUSA event.

Westcott and Zachary Austin, adjunct director of the Valor Medals Review Task Force, said the intent was to begin the research with African-Americans who served in World War I and then extend it to other minorities.

“There’s never been systematic approach to this,” Westcott said of the review.

He and Austin said the research would be conducted with the aid of donations and at no cost to the government.

The main focus for possible upgrades to the Medal of Honor would be on those who were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, and those who were recommended for the Medal of Honor but never received it, Westcott and Austin said.

Once the review is complete, the findings would be presented to the Department of Defense for a determination on whether the Medal of Honor should be awarded, Westcott said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army and Marine Corps tanks join Finland Arrow 19 exercise

For the second year in a row, US Marines joined the US Army and partner forces in Finland in May 2019 for the Arrow military exercise.

During the two-week Arrow 19 exercise, the Marines again pulled tanks and other equipment from the cave complex in Norway that has been used to store gear since the Cold War.

The exercise allows Marines “to evaluate our ability to offload personnel and equipment, generate combat power across the Atlantic, and then redeploy assets through a known logistically complicated area of operation,” 1st Lt. Robert Locker, a Marine communications officer, said in a release.


Marines from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and US Army Europe cavalry soldiers took part in the exercise alongside British army armored intelligence unit the Royal Lancers, an Estonian armored intelligence unit, and their Finnish hosts.

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US Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tanks and Light Armored Vehicles from the caves of Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway at the Port of Pori, Finland, May 2, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Devin J. Andrews)

The Marines’ gear came from six caves in central Norway, the exact location of which is not known. Three caves have everything from rolling stock to towed artillery; the other three hold ammunition, officials told Military.com in 2017.

That equipment is drawn from the caves “on a regular basis to support bilateral and multilateral exercises throughout Europe,” Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, told Business Insider. The caves and gear there provide “a unique capability that is flexible and scalable to the operational requirements of the Marine Corps and US European Command.”

The Arrow exercise — conducted on arid grassland in southwest Finland at a time of year when the sun is out 21 hours a day — is meant to put platoon- to battalion-size mechanized infantry, artillery, and tank units to the test, including in live-fire exercises.

Below, you can see how this year’s version went down.

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US Marines receive fuel from Finnish soldiers with 2nd Logistics Regiment, Logistics Command, during Arrow 2019 at Niinisalo Garrison, Finland, May 4, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

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US Marines inventory gear during Arrow 2019 at Niinisalo Garrison, Finland, May 5, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

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Finnish army Sgt. Nora Lagerholm, left, and US Marine Cpl. Jose Rodriguez offload a Humvee during Arrow 2019 at Niinisalo Garrison, Finland, May 3, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

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US Marines and British soldiers at a welcome brief during exercise Arrow 2019 at Niinisalo Garrison, Finland, May 3, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

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US soldiers from Outlaw Troop, 4th Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment during the troop live-fire exercise during Arrow 19, May 15, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. LaShic Patterson)

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Finnish soldiers firing a mortar during Arrow 19.

(Finnish army/Facebook)

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Finnish soldiers start their vehicles during Arrow 19, May 15, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. LaShic Patterson)

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US soldiers drive their Stryker Dragoon vehicles back after the Finnish battalion battle group live-fire exercise, May 17, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. LaShic Patterson)

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US Marines receive ammunition before a live-fire range during Arrow 2019 at Niinisalo Garrison, Finland, May 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

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US soldiers await their next command during the troop live-fire exercise during Arrow 19, May 15, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. LaShic Patterson)

DISE provides video-game-like playback, with fast-forwarding and rewinding. “With MILES, you get the adjudication of kills and just the basic level of force-on-force support,” Lee said. “However, with DISE, the [after-action review] capability was the biggest gain.”

With DISE, US personnel could also simulate injuries, allowing for scenarios in which soldiers could perform combat lifesaver measures to reset the vests and to add more time to soldiers’ virtual lives.

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A US Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicle and a M1A1 Abrams tank at the firing line during a live-fire range as part of Arrow 2019, May 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

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Finnish tanks during Arrow 19, May 14, 2019.

(Finnish army/Facebook)

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US Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicles prepare to depart a training area during Arrow 2019, May 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

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Finnish tanks on the move during Arrow 19.

(Finnish army/Facebook)

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US Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Jake Gesling, a platoon commander, with a Finnish army platoon commander during a force-on-force battle as part of Arrow 2019, May 10, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

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US Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicles on a tank range during Arrow 2019, May 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

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US soldiers inside a Stryker Dragoon vehicle during the troop live-fire exercise during Arrow 19, May 15, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. LaShic Patterson)

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US Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David J. Furness, commander of the 2nd Marine Division, addresses Marines on the second day of the Arrow 19 live-fire exercise in Niinisalo, Finland, May 13, 2019.

(Finnish army/Facebook)

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US Marines fire a Light Armored Vehicle during a live-fire range as part of Arrow 2019, May 13, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

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US service members observe a Finnish army Leopard 2L Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge during exercise Arrow 2019 at Pohjankangas Training Area near Niinisalo, Finland, May 7, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

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US Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tanks move into position during a live-fire range as part of Arrow 2019, May 14, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

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US Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tanks with 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, fire during a live-fire range as part of exercise Arrow 2019 at the Pohjankangas Training Area near Niinisalo, Finland, May 13, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

popular

That time a badger lived in the White House

President Theodore Roosevelt is known for being a Rough Rider, a trust-buster, and coining the infamous phrase, “Walk softly, but carry a big stick.” He also turned the White House into a veritable menagerie during his stay there. He, of course, had plenty of cats and dogs, but he was known for keeping guinea pigs for his children, and several of his sons had rabbits as well as a bright blue macaw named Eli Yale.

Arguably his most exotic pet, and probably the most unpredictable animal to inhabit the White House, was a real-life badger.


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Theodore Roosevelt, like the badger, don’t give a f*ck. (Giphy)

 

While on a railroad tour through the West, President Roosevelt stayed for several days in Sharon Springs, Kansas. After he’d fulfilled his presidential duties of talking with residents and giving speeches, he was getting ready to head further west when a girl named Pearl Gorsuch, who was twelve-years-old at the time, came up to him to ask if he’d like a badger.

Not exactly your average fan gift.

Whether the president didn’t actually think she was serious, or if he was immediately ready to take a badger on a train ride, no one’s really sure. But when Pearl returned, she had with her a two-week-old badger, as well as the rest of her family.

Roosevelt graciously showed the family (and accompanying badger) around his private rail car, and gave Pearl a locket and a carnation as a thank you. When he took the badger, he was delighted when it started nibbling on his fingers. He named the badger Josiah after Pearl’s father and took it with him in his private car.

On the rest of his trip, Josiah proved to be good-natured, even when met with young children who were enchanted by the animal. Roosevelt wrote to his own children to inform them that he’d be bringing the badger home, and that he’d nicknamed Josiah “Josh” for short.

As the Roosevelt family did have plenty of dogs, a badger-specific cage had to be built, including two feet of underground space for him to burrow.

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The Roosevelt family with Skip, just one of their many pups. (upload.wikimedia.org)

 

Roosevelt himself loved setting the badger loose, as Josiah was known for biting ankles, and the family soon learned to stand clear when he was out of his cage.

Archie Roosevelt, who was the second youngest of six children, was nine when Josiah arrived at the White House and laid the best claim to the animal. He would walk around the grounds holding Josiah around the waist. When Teddy expressed concern that Josiah might take advantage of the positioning to bite Archie’s face, Archie insisted that little Josh only bit legs, not faces.

Though Josiah the badger did come home with a penchant for nipping but an overall friendly demeanor, he eventually lost his pleasant attitude. He may have grown overwhelmed by the bustle of the Roosevelt’s White House, or just succumbed to his primal nature, but whichever reason, the result was the same.

The Roosevelt family had him placed in the Bronx Zoo in New York, which was probably for the best both for the animal and the family. However, they continued to visit him, just to make sure he didn’t develop any abandonment issues.

Though each president has had different pet preferences—the Coolidge family actually had a pet raccoon named Rebecca—it’s safe to say that Teddy Roosevelt came the closest to running a zoo out of the White House. But really, who’d refuse a little girl in a small town in Kansas handing you a baby badger?

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First Lady Grace Coolidge shows off her pet racoon, Rebecca, at the White House Easter Egg Roll April 18, 1927. (Courtesy of the George W. Bush White House Archives.)
MIGHTY HISTORY

The fascinating platforms of 10 First Ladies

While presidents certainly leave their mark on the Oval Office, less talked about is the important role played by their first ladies. Many served as the closest advisor to the sitting commander in chief, and we can only imagine the kind of conversations held within the walls of the White House.

Although an entire exhibit is dedicated to these fab females at the Smithsonian, we seem to know more about who wore what outfit at the inaugural ball and what China patterns were selected for state dinners than what platforms and advocacy issues these women championed.


Here are 10 interesting platforms of first ladies, according to Whitehouse.gov:

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1. Ellen Axson Wilson

Ellen Wilson was the first wife of President Woodrow Wilson and held the title of first lady from 1913 until she died in 1914. A champion of equality well before her time, Ellen worked to improve housing for black Americans in Washington, DC, a cause she was passionate about as a descendant of slave owners.

2. Edith Bolling Galt

After Ellen Wilson passed away, President Wilson married Edith Bolling Galt, who was first lady from 1915 to 1921. She is best known for stepping in to assist her husband after he suffered a severe stroke; Edith was often referred to as the “secret president.”

3. Lou Henry Hoover

First lady from 1929 to 1933, Lou Henry Hoover was a well-respected linguist and scholar. She was the first wife of a president to make national radio broadcasts. Lou was a fine horsewoman; she hunted, and preserved specimens with the skill of a taxidermist; she developed an enthusiasm for rocks, minerals, and mining. Her passion for the outdoors served her well; she was president of the Girl Scouts before her time as first lady.

4. Eleanor Roosevelt

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was the longest-serving first lady throughout her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms in office (1933-1945). She was a politician, diplomat and activist who later served as a United Nations spokeswoman.

Eleanor broke precedent by holding press conferences and traveled all over the country, giving lectures and radio broadcasts. She expressed her opinions candidly in a daily syndicated newspaper column, “My Day.”

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(Wikimedia Commons)

5. Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson

Thrust into the role of first lady as the wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) after the assassination of President Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson broke ground for her role by interacting with Congress directly and advocating strongly for beautifying the nation’s cities and highways. She was a shrewd investor and manager.

6. Betty Ford

In her first year in the White House, 1974, Betty Ford had to undergo radical surgery for breast cancer. She was noted for raising breast cancer awareness and being a passionate supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. She was frank about her successful battle against dependency on drugs and alcohol. She helped establish the Betty Ford Center for treatment of alcohol abuse.

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7. Eleanor Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn, wife of the 39th President, Jimmy Carter, was first lady from 1977 to 1981. As first lady, she focused national attention on the performing arts, and programs to aid mental health, the community, and the elderly. Rosalynn served as honorary chairman of the President’s Commission on Mental Health in 1979, testifying before Congress about the importance of mental health care and treatment.

8. Nancy Reagan

From Broadway actress to first lady, Nancy Reagan is remembered for her advocacy for decreasing drug and alcohol abuse, especially among young people. She spent many hours visiting veterans, the elderly, and the emotionally and physically disabled. With a lifelong interest in the arts, she used the White House as a showcase for talented young performers in the PBS television series “In Performance at the White House.”

9. Laura Lane Bush

Laura Bush was first lady from 2001 to 2009, advocating for historic education reform and the well-being of women and families worldwide. A former teacher and librarian, she focused on advancing education and promoting global literacy. After the Sept. 11 attacks, she was an outspoken supporter of the women of Afghanistan.

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First Lady Michelle ObamaFirst Lady Michelle Obama

10. Michelle Obama

A lawyer, writer and the wife of the 44th President, Barack Obama, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama was the first African-American first lady of the U.S. She is an advocate for healthy families, service members and their families, higher education, and international adolescent girls’ education. In 2011, she helped launch Joining Forces with Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, a nationwide initiative calling all Americans to rally around service members, veterans, and their families and support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities.

The biographies of the First Ladies were pulled from WhiteHouse.gov.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

The Hoyt Sherman Place has been an icon in Des Moines, Iowa, for more than 140 years. Filled with eclectic paintings and sculptures, the structure once hosted some of America’s most powerful and influential people, including former presidents Ulysses S. Grant and William McKinley, as well as General William Tecumseh Sherman, whose brother is the namesake. Today, it’s a music and theater venue.

Last November, on an overcast and snowy evening, I visited the Hoyt Sherman to interview Aaron Lewis, who was taking the stage that night. The world-renowned musician rose to stardom in the early 2000s with the rock band Staind. However, Lewis’ current pursuit in the country music genre signifies a path most fans didn’t expect. The journey has brought his career full circle, reconnecting him to childhood memories and his roots. This unique musical dichotomy embodies who he is, was, and always will be — the ultimate outsider who is still trying to make it.


At 6:30 on the dot — just as expected — Pete Ricci, Lewis’ tour manager, found me in the lobby and took me to Lewis’ tour bus. I walked inside from the bitter cold and was immediately pursued by a small dog who jumped on my lap as I sat down. With a cigarette in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, Lewis looked at me and said, “That’s Levi. He must like you.” I laughed and shook his hand while introducing myself. He took a sip of his coffee, sat down across from me, and said, “I’m ready.”

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The stage at the Hoyt Sherman before Aaron Lewis started playing.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

At that moment, I was taken back to my youth — the endless nights as a teenager memorizing his harrowing and cryptic vocals. His two-decade career with Staind spawned seven studio albums — including the five-times-platinum “Break the Cycle” — with over 10 million units sold and worldwide tours but that was only the beginning for Lewis. In recent years, Lewis’ path has taken him in a different direction. A serendipitous voyage back to his first music listening experience: country music.

Lewis began to reveal how he transformed from a rockstar into a country musician whose second country album, 2016’s “Sinner,” debuted at No. 1 on the Top Country albums chart and fourth on the famous Billboard 200. Growing up, Lewis spend a lot of time with this grandfather, a man who had a deep love for the foundations of old-fashioned country music — artists like Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Hank Williams Jr.

Aaron Lewis – “Country Boy” (Official Video)

www.youtube.com

“Growing up I didn’t dig it at all,” Lewis said. “It was a forced listening for sure. I ran as far away from that style and type of music as I possibly could and ended up in a rock band. But it’s kind of a funny story with what rekindled it.

“I was on Kid Rock’s bus one night back in 1998. […] It was one of those nights where we stayed up all night drinking and using substances,” he continued. “The whole time he is playing this old country music, and in my head it’s replaying the soundtrack of my childhood. It was the first time I had let any of that style of music, that twang, come back into my life or listening choices.”

That late night alongside Kid Rock was life changing with respect to Lewis’ future. It was the start of something new, a transformation that would lay dormant as he ascended to the top of the rock industry with Staind. It erupted full flame years later.

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Aaron Lewis performing “So Far Away” by Staind in the official music video.

(Screen capture via Atlantic Records/Youtube)

“When I got to the end of my record contract with Staind I was good with that,” Lewis said. “I needed to put that away for a bit and reinvent what I was doing, something that wasn’t going to get compared. So the music of my childhood is where that manifested itself.”

There are endless stories of musicians who tried to transform themselves and failed, but Lewis’ isn’t one of them. His past creations have topped the charts, and his country music has received critical acclaim and best-selling status. Despite that, Lewis still feels out of place. He considers himself an outsider, a man who doesn’t fit in the country-music box.

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(Photo courtesy of Aaron Lewis/Instagram)

Part of the reason is that today’s country music hardly resembles the pillars upon which it was built. It is often conflated with pop culture crossovers in order to appeal to a wider audience and generate more revenue, something that frustrates Lewis. On the business side, Lewis said the conglomeration of radio stations led to the Top 40 industry taking over country radio.

“When [Taylor Swift] came out as a cute little country girl and got airtime on Top 40 radio, all of a sudden [country music] had an audience of hundreds of millions of people across the world,” Lewis said. “It set up a model to strive for. […] Do I get it from the competitive road of radio and advertising? To an extent, but I am also able to see the short-sightedness of it. When you handle the country genre like Top 40, you are alienating a majority of your listeners.”

It’s a conflict that Lewis has never shied away from, even putting it into a hit single from the album “Sinner.”

“Life’s not all sunshine and roses. I mentioned that in ‘That Ain’t Country,'” Lewis said. “Most stuff on country radio these days are tales of good times and happy endings. But guess what? Life isn’t like that. Life is a struggle from the time you realize it is a struggle. But if life wasn’t a struggle, those happy moments wouldn’t stand out so much.”

Lewis’ comments on struggle hit on something he has spoken about over the years. When comparing what he wrote while in Staind to what he is putting out now, there are similar themes. His lyrics are brooding, introspective, and explore the scope of the human experience. It’s curious how a man who has accomplished so much routinely speaks from such a dark place.

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Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“I just can’t help but be a bit dark with my writing. That’s just the vein of creativity I have that is evoked by music,” Lewis said. “I’m never really inspired to write about happiness. I have a couple of times completely by accident and been really weirded out by recording it, as weird as that sounds.”

He continued: “I tend to tap into the darker side of myself for writing purposes. The things that I can’t say in life and normal conversation are what I tend to express in songs. We can all be socially challenged sometimes when trying to say what is on our mind the right way — to truly express it to the person sitting in front of you in the manner you are trying to. To say it in a manner they won’t take the wrong way for any multitude of reasons. I’m not affected by those limits in the writing process.”

After accepting a cup of coffee and a cigarette from Lewis, the conversation veered into the acceptability of the aforementioned lyrical topics — how it may be okay in one genre but considered taboo in another. I relayed how my parents were conflicted about the music I listened to as a teenager: Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, Korn, and a handful of others. These bands were contemporaries of Lewis and Staind. My stepmother was convinced that this music made me rebellious and was the work of the devil.

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Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“That was a way for parents to define how this music could have such an effect on their children,” Lewis said. “As a parent, to wrap your head around the fact that your child is finding solace in something like that — that can be a tough thing to define. To someone who is super religious, well, it must be the devil for it to have that much of a hold and an impact — but that’s just the magic of music.”

But as magical as music can be, it still takes a toll on someone who makes it their career. Life on the road can present a troublesome and extreme burden. The sacrifices made by artists like Lewis aren’t often recognized by listeners beyond what they hear in a song. Fans aren’t necessarily attached to the plight of their favorite artists, just what they produce.

Lewis mentioned that the Thanksgiving holiday prior to our meeting was one of the only breaks he’d had from touring since February. There is certainly a cost to being in the limelight. But what exact price has he paid — and has it been worth it?

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Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“As crazy as it might sound coming from my mouth, I still feel I am only as good as the next song that comes out,” Lewis said. “I still have a really, really hard time stopping and smelling the roses. I still feel at times that maybe one day I will make it — it’s really fucked up.

“Most creatives are the walking wounded. We would do just about anything to be seen and heard. We are so broken on the inside that we will wager anything to feel that connection and acceptance. This ride that I’ve been on, this ‘dream come true’ that everybody calls it, that I’m living my dreams — yeah, okay, maybe. But it’s also cost me everything that has ever meant anything to me.”

After letting that sentiment sink in, I took one more drag of my cigarette and one last sip of coffee before asking what advice Lewis would give an aspiring musician.

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Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“Be careful what you wish for. There is a cost to everything,” he said. “There is a lot of truth to that old story about Robert Johnson meeting the devil at the crossroads and selling his soul. That is kind of what you are doing when you sign a record deal. The longer you survive having a record deal, the more your soul fades and pretty soon there is nothing left — because your feet never touched the ground and you never slowed down enough to see it all go away. So be careful what you wish for.”

With those cautionary words, I turned off my recorder. Lewis was set to take the stage in an hour, so after a final handshake, I prepared to head back into the venue.

“Enjoy the show, Chris,” Lewis said as I made my way off the tour bus.

Over the next few hours, Lewis and his bandmates performed a memorable set for the sold-out crowd at the Hoyt Sherman. The set list included most of his recent country efforts, but he also threw in several Staind hits. Lewis played a few new songs from his upcoming album, “State I’m In,” including “The Party is Over,” “God and Guns,” and “Keeps on Working,” the latter of which he joked would make him some more friends in Nashville. “State I’m In” is slated for release on April 12, 2019.

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Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

Lewis’ musical transformation is a testament to the idea that life isn’t about the destination — it’s about the journey. And while his solo country music career appears to have solid footing, he’s made headlines recently for walking off stage when the audience was being unruly. He also mentioned during a live performance earlier this month that Staind might be making a comeback. “I might be lying, but I might not. There might even be live shows this year. I can’t say for sure. You never know.”

Lewis shows no signs of slowing down, but he also appears to be living in constant conflict. As I left the Hoyt Sherman, I replayed the night’s events in my mind and wondered when, if ever, Aaron Lewis would feel that he had made it.

Aaron Lewis – That Ain’t Country (Official Video)

www.youtube.com

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

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