Through the Tickets for Troops Program, the Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix for short) teams up with major sports teams, leagues, promoters, organizations, and venues to provide free and discounted tickets to active duty military and veterans. Their Hero’s Wish initiative takes it even further, creating once in a lifetime experiences for wounded warriors and families of men and women killed in action.
Vet Tix recognizes that awesome events reduce stress, strengthen family bonds, and encourage community building for veterans. Helping with these kinds of experiences is their way of honoring the troops.
In addition to ticket donations, Live Nation strives to support veterans in a number of ways. Since 2017 the company has been an official partner of the veterans’ hiring organization Got Your 6, whose mission is to bridge the civilian-military divide by spreading awareness and fostering understanding about the contributions of our nation’s veterans. As a part of the partnership, Live Nation helped spearhead a fellowship program designed to help military alums build careers in the entertainment industry. Additionally, Live Nation recently launched Hero Nation, an internal program for veteran employees. This employee resource group is dedicated to fostering a supportive and progressive environment for the company’s U.S. military veteran employees and their families by focusing on education, networking, and career development opportunities.
Here’s an example of how one veteran was able to use the program to make her daughter’s birthday special:
“My sincerest thanks for the opportunity to see this concert (fallout boy) in Tucson. Being a disabled combat veteran and living on a fixed income, there is not always funds to do extra big things. My daughter celebrated her sweet 16 last week and this concert was top on her list and all she talked about for months. I was not able to gift her this on her birthday. On a whim I checked Vet Tix just 2 days ago and as a result was able to make my daughter’s birthday wish a reality!! (Along with your help of course) Thank you again!! Jennifer and Kayde, Tucson, AZ”
There are a lot of great ways America supports the troops — and this is one of them. It’s difficult to measure the hardship that military service places on veterans and their families. Frequently moving to new places and missing special occasions takes its toll on its own; factor in deployment tempos, injuries, and fatalities, and it’s easy to see why mental health is a major concern for our military.
For the patriotic civilians out there, you can also donate to Vet Tix and help veterans and their families make positive memories.
Travel — it either makes your heart do a little pitter-patter or fills you top to bottom with dread. Traveling does not have to be stressful, and using a few time-tested hacks is guaranteed to make your life easier.
Before you go
Scan a copy of your passport, driver’s license and any trip itineraries or reservations that you have and save them to your phone outside of e-mail. Depending on location, service might be spotty and you never know when you may need to access your records offline.
Vacation can be exciting, but packing is the pits. To maximize suitcase space:
Roll thin clothing (t-shirts and dresses) and fold heavier clothing pieces (jeans and sweaters) and utilize packing cubes to organize
Stuff socks into shoes
Insert a rolled-up belt into a shirt collar to maintain the collar’s shape
Prevent fragile makeup from cracking by inserting a cotton ball in the compact
Cover shoes in a hotel shower cap to avoid having dirty soles touch the rest of your suitcase
Utilize what you have
Did you forget your phone charger at home? Plug your phone into a hotel television. Don’t panic if you have left your wall plug-in at home. Most televisions now have USB connectors on the back or side panel. Take a peek and use your connection cord to seamlessly charge your phone.
Leave the camping lantern on the counter? Not a problem. Strap a headlamp to a water bottle to create an instant illuminated “lantern.”
Google’s offline tools
Heading out of the country or simply beyond service? Be sure to download Google Maps to use offline. While connected to WiFi, download the city or territory maps you might need for the duration of travel and access them later — no connection required.
Like Google Maps, Google Translate is usually needed when there’s no WiFi available. Convenient, huh? Before you go, download the Translate app, and choose ‘Offline Translation’ in Settings. Here, you will be able to download different languages.
Pack a clothespin … or two!
A vacation seems like a weird place for a clothespin, but this handy accessory is ideal for keeping headphone cords from getting tangled, propping up a toothbrush in the bathroom, clipping hotel curtains closed for rooms that will not get dark enough or hanging up laundry to dry.
There’s an app for that
It seems like there is an app these days for everything, and traveling is no different. The following cell phone apps are handy for travel purposes for everything from airport navigation to Wifi passwords.
Foursquare is a collection of city guides, but it’s notoriously great for tipping off visitors to connection spots by suppling local Wifi passwords.
Stuck in an airport without easy access to a USO? LoungeBuddy takes all the guesswork out of where travelers can relax by providing comprehensive guides to airport lounges around the world.
Headed on a long-haul journey with multiple connections? Download FlightAware to track flights online, see a live map of flight routes and be alerted to cancellations, delays and gate changes.
Timeshifter is working to banish jet lag for good. Using extensive research studies on sleep and circadian rhythms, the app helps in-flight travelers determine when to nap, seek light, eat and more based on gender, age and typical sleep patterns.
Whether you are planning a trip or daydreaming about your next destination, tuck these travel hacks away for the next big adventure to save yourself time, your sanity…or both.
Scott Kelly didn’t always know that he was going to be an astronaut. In fact, he wasn’t even a particularly good student.
“As a student, it’s just really hard, especially at first, when you don’t have the habit-patterns to study and pay attention,” Kelly told Business Insider for the podcast “Success! How I Did It.” “But once I got over that, I was able to go from a kid at 18 years old that was always like a very average, underperforming student and then fast forward almost to the day 18 years later, I flew in space for the first time. It was a pretty remarkable comeback, I think.”
Kelly remained an average student until he went to college, where he stumbled across Tom Wolfe’s book, “The Right Stuff.”
“I read this book, and I could relate to a lot of the characteristics these guys had, with regards to their personalities, their risk-taking, their leadership abilities, ability to work as a team. That made me think,” Kelly said.
“I related to a lot of those characteristics with one exception, and that is I wasn’t a good student, especially in science and math,” he continued. Kelly said he then thought, “Wow, you know, if I could fix just that thing, then I could maybe be like these guys.”
“At the time I was thinking you’ve got to be really smart to be an engineer or scientist. What I realized is really what it takes is just hard work, and it’s not any particular gift you might have.”
He continued: “It was the spark I needed to motivate me to do more with my life than I was currently doing.”
You can subscribe to the podcast and listen to the episode below:
“The Right Stuff” inspired Kelly, but it was a phone call from his brother that showed him what hard work really looks like.
According to Kelly, his twin brother Mark, who also became a NASA astronaut, was also a mediocre students — but Mark turned things around in high school, while Scott kept skating by. Mark pinpoints his turnaround to an event Scott doesn’t remember.
“I was this kid that could not pay attention. Was not a good student,” Kelly said. “Always wondering how in the ninth grade my brother went from being like me to getting straight A’s — I never knew how that happened.”
“But apparently, what [Mark] tells me, is that our dad sat us down in like the eighth grade, and said, ‘Hey, guys. You know, you’re not good students, not college material. We’re going to start thinking about a vocational education for you.'” Kelly said. “And my brother thought, ‘Whoa! I want to go to college and do something more.”I, on the other hand, had no recollection whatsoever of this conversation,” Kelly said. “Probably only because there was like a squirrel running outside the window and I was like, ‘Squirrel!’ Otherwise, I probably would have been a straight-A student, too.”
In his memoir “Endurance,” Kelly wrote that his mind began to wander and he lost focus as a student at the State University of New York Maritime College.
His grades had risen above average and he was studying for his first calculus exam. Having decided to take a break, Kelly planned to attend a big party at Rutgers. When Mark found out about his brother’s attempt to forgo more studying for a party, he scolded Kelly over the phone.
“Are you out of your goddamn mind?” Kelly remembered Mark telling him. “You’re in school. You need to absolutely ace this exam, and everything else, if you want to get caught up.”
Scott Kelly buckled down, became a NASA astronaut, and has been to space four times.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
We brought you the best COVID-19 memes on the internet… and just when we thought we couldn’t make any more memes, or laugh at them for that matter, we realized the absurdity of trying to homeschool and work and exist and teach and cook and Zoom and do it all for the foreseeable future.
May the odds be ever in your favor, homeschooling parents. We’re sending you all our virtual vibes. And drink of choice.
1. I dunno
Fake it ’til you make it, bud.
2. All the options
Sometimes there are no good options.
3. Scribble scrabble
Wear masks. But maybe not outside at recess. But maybe at recess. But not if you’re eating at your desk. But what if you’re eating at recess?
4. Hold your breath
You’ll probably only lose your voice though if the kids stay home.
5. Poor Billy Madison
Nah, just put on Hamilton.
6. Screen time
To be fair, Netflix has some great educational programs. I mean how else would you teach business practices other than letting your kids watch Narcos?
7. Schedules are important
7:00: Kids console crying parents.
No really, everything is fine!
9. 90s kids
To be fair, Zack Morris practically babysat us.
Hilarious but DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
At least this kid has on pants.
12. Wishes for fishes
Pour all your money into the fountains, people.
Make sure your kids have a red stapler…
We’ll never forget 2020. As much as we’d like to.
Be careful what you make fun of!
There’s that growth mindset…
Nothing to see here.
Where’s Jenny when you need her?
Homeschooling parents: Really putting the “win” in wine.
It’s been a long five months. No judgement here, Marge.
21. Tiger King
We wanted to love it. We really did.
But to be fair… who does?
Well at least your kids will learn something about science as they watch you age…
Whether you’re sending your kids back in person in full PPE or prepping for virtual learning, we’re wishing all of your kids (and all of our teachers!) a great school year… and fast internet, well-lit makeshift classrooms and lots of patience. Here’s to you, parents and educators!
Okay, by now, you’ve probably heard that Russian President (seemingly for life) Vladimir Putin recently unveiled some new nuclear weapons. He made some big claims about them, but let’s be honest, it’s really just a lot of hype since these systems are still in development.
Putin claims that the systems cannot be intercepted by American missile-defense systems being deployed to protect NATO. The freshly revealed nuclear systems include an underwater drone capable of attacking American ships or harbors, a nuclear-powered cruise missile, and a hypersonic weapon.
Putin claimed that the new Russian systems were developed in response to American efforts to develop a missile defense system, but it seems as though at least one of these weapons may not be ready for prime time. Reports claim that the nuclear-powered cruise missile has crashed on several test flights in the Arctic. Russia’s long-range underwater drone also remains in the research and development phase.
Lasers travel at the speed of light, roughly 186,000 miles per second. By comparison, Russia’s hypersonic weapon, purportedly capable of traveling Mach 20, would reach a speed of 15,225 miles per hour. With the United States turning to lasers, there’s little chance Russian weapons will outpace American defenses.
In short, the United States has already made huge strides in developing an effective defense against two of Russia’s allegedly “invincible” weapons.
Jeremy Lee MacKenzie is an artist & filmmaker whose career began after being incarcerated as a teenager. His artwork, “Hidden Blueprints,” is a collection of wood-scrollwork cut from blueprints that were hidden in the prison system. He discovered the blueprints while serving sentences that totaled eight years, for bank robbery & drug trafficking.
He was inspired to become a filmmaker while working as a prison movie projectionist where he studied screenwriting and was released with scholarships to Champlain College. In 2015, he was awarded a screenwriting fellowship to Stowe Story Labs and that same year, won gold in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards in LA.
In 2017, MacKenzie completed his film “Hidden Blueprints: The Story of Mikey,” and received the James Goldstone Emerging Filmmaker Award. In 2018, he was chosen for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Award and was then admitted to the USC School of Cinematic Arts to pursue his MFA on a George Lucas Scholarship.
Annenberg Media: Tell me about where you are from and your life growing up?
MacKenzie: I’m from Burlington, VT and my childhood was complicated. I had a lot of challenging things happen while growing up and I ended up in adult prison at the age of 17 for bank robbery. Looking back, it feels like it was 100 years ago, like I’ve lived in quantum time where every year contained the events of five years.
Annenberg Media: What is the most distinct memory you have of your mother and father?
MacKenzie: A positive memory I have of my mother is how she always encouraged me to be an artist and be creative. She was always very honest and encouraging if she thought I was good at something. My father encouraged storytelling and read me a lot of books growing up. He tested me on the stories to see if I was listening. He would reread me the same story and then change certain plot lines to see if I was paying attention. I would stop him and tell him, “no dad, the storyline goes like this…”
Annenberg Media: What challenges did you face at school and in the community?
MacKenzie: My parents separated after my younger sister passed away. I lived with my mother most of the time and my father during summers. When I was really young, I did well in school. At a certain point in my childhood we moved into a trailer park where we were living in poverty. A lot of the people living in that trailer park did not care much about school and were into drugs. Those became really tough years since I valued education but was now being punished for valuing academics.
At first I had to fight kids often when getting off the school bus because I was into focusing on school. My parents always tried focus my attention on education. I was very young and got sick of fighting and being an outsider, so I ended up joining the crowd. I got into drugs to succeed in that world. I often wondered if people around me who chose the drug path, went through those same bad experiences as I did.
At the age of 12 or 13, I transitioned into selling drugs and became a drug dealer. I wanted to excel in a world I was way behind in. By 14-years-old, my parents had lost full control. I had an 18-year-old stripper girlfriend living with me. I was deep into the world of drug dealing: at age 14, it was cocaine, 15, it was opiates, at 16, I was arrested for dealing heroin and at 17, I was locked up for bank robbery.
Bang, that escalated quickly! My parents were baffled at how things changed so rapidly.
Annenberg Media: Where did this lifestyle lead you?
MacKenzie: I served three sentences totaling eight years. During one of those sentences, I earned my high school diploma but was still struggling to separate from the drug world. During the course of one of my sentences, I was sent to a corporate prison in Kentucky. When I got there, I got my first college opportunity. Hazard Community College selected 20 inmates who they gave grants to start college while incarcerated.
Due to overcrowding and the mistreatment of inmates, a lot of violence was going on in the facility. It was a for-profit prison and the administration was not friendly. I had to make a choice between focusing on college or joining an uprising in the prison. A group of inmates were planning a revolt and ended up having a riot at the facility. The riot took over the facility for a night and the administration building was burned which included the education facility. The college opportunity went up in smoke. We were in lockdown for many months while they rebuilt the prison around us. This gained a lot of national media attention.
Annenberg Media: Did you have any creative outlets while incarcerated?
MacKenzie: Isolation can be a powerful tool. After the riot, while in lock down I started designing artwork. I would design blueprints for big pieces of wood-scrollwork. I had learned this wood cutting technique as a teenager from an old clock maker in prison and I taught myself how to design. I was designing on taped-together pieces of paper but we weren’t allowed to have the paper so I had to hide my blueprints until I could bring them home.
Those blueprints came to be my artwork years later. I used them as a tool for storytelling. Many of the blueprints I drew didn’t directly depict prison but told the stories of our experience on the inside through ancient themes. When I was not designing I started getting into TV and movies and I started watching this show called “Medium.” Everybody watched it. It was a way to escape from prison.
MacKenzie: My darkest moment came during my third sentence when I could no longer hide from my darkest truths and my responsibilities. I couldn’t hide the impact my actions had on my friends, family and community; I experienced a paradigm shift. I was in a segregation cell where I had more charges coming. The drug dealers who had been supplying me since I was an adolescent, who I had been protecting my whole life, were not protecting me or anyone else. The whole veil of that world came crashing down.
I realized the effect my life was having on everyone around me and the people I had protected and followed didn’t care about me anymore. I was in the segregation cell and I noticed there was a broken razor blade on the floor. “This is my out,” I thought. This was one of the few moments in my life where I contemplated suicide. But, I looked out the window and thought to myself, “No one could explain this to my dog, she’s never gonna know what happened.” I just wanted to see my dog again. She probably saved my life. Tests find a way of placing themselves in your path, especially at your darkest moments. I needed to let things play out until the end.
Annenberg Media: How was your life impacted after making the decision to stay alive?
MacKenzie: That was a very challenging period of time, but it passed. And I ended up getting a job as a prison movie projectionist. It was a makeshift movie theater with prison walls. We screened everything from the original “Star Wars” to “Casablanca” and “Chinatown.” It was a powerful experience watching “Star Wars” projected onto a prison wall.
While working as a prison movie projectionist, I started writing stories with the women’s prison. The women were relatable and had similar situations to mine. But we weren’t allowed to write to other prisons so I would send the letters to my father and he would re-address them to the women I was writing. I invited them to write a story where the women and I could insert our own characters and set them off on a journey together. I was very grateful to the women for that, as it provided a creative medium that was very valuable. It also provided companionship and helped with loneliness.
Working with the prison movie theater was a crucial time for me. All those earlier years of my father testing me on stories came back to me. I decided I wanted to become a filmmaker. I focused on screenwriting and reached out to different colleges to get the books they used in their screenwriting courses. I was no longer in a corporate prison and I made a deal with teachers to recycle prison paperwork. The education offices would print scripts on the back of the recycled paperwork I brought them. Filmmaking was like life or death- in my previous life I was going to die and this new life was the only way out. There were no other choices.
Annenberg Media: Did you plan on getting further education?
MacKenzie: I got a scholarship to go to college when I came home. The scholarship letter came from Bernie Sanders, which I still have. When I came home I realized there was all this time that I had missed. I did a lot of catching up in college.
As soon as I got to undergrad, I won gold in the Page International Screenwriting Awards for a screenplay. The award and screenplay got me connected with Julie Pacino, Al Pacino’s daughter. I began to excel and was pushed more towards directing. Julie ended up producing my film, “Hidden Blueprints.” Things began to happen much more rapidly and I ended up using “Hidden Blueprints” to apply to USC.
Back then, Ben Stiller was making his show “Escape at Dannemora” and his group reached out to have me in the show as an inmate. I have an escape on my record- at one point I tried to run away from prison- so I was not able to get security clearance to enter prison. But, I took a role as an extra on a different part of his show so I could still be apart of the production. I had this really funny moment where I was standing on set with Ben Stiller to my right and I was quietly watching him work. Then, the main actress comes out and I’m suddenly hit with this really familiar feeling: the actress was Patricia Arquette who I watched in the TV show, “Medium” years ago in that destroyed prison in Kentucky. I realize I’m standing in the middle of a show about escaping from prison starring the actress of the show we all used to watch to escape from the prison we were in. It was an interesting and affirming moment.
I sent the production staff of the show an email about it. It made me reflect on how far my arc had brought me. Within a matter of days the George Lucas Scholarship came in for USC. It gave me chills. I had projected “Star Wars” movies on a prison wall. Now I was headed to LA.
Aron Meinhardt, J. Lee MacKenzie, and Julie Pacino
Annenberg Media: Why Hollywood and why now?
MacKenzie: This is the epicenter of storytelling. I came here to fully engage in storytelling and USC helped me get here. I knew this was the path. This is the place to begin and branch off. This is a time when people from all different places and backgrounds can tell stories. I felt like I was one of those people that could have a place here.
Annenberg Media: What is it like to be a George Lucas Scholar at the School of Cinematic Arts?
MacKenzie: From where I come from, it has been extremely helpful and it has been an honor to have the opportunities I’ve had. I had the opportunity to work with some incredible people like Riley and Austin Lynch, Julie Pacino, Aron Meinhardt and many others. I got to collaborate with C. Craig Patterson who is a great friend, he is on a George Lucas Scholarship as well. I look forward to seeing who else I get to meet and work with.
Annenberg Media: What are your career and life goals?
MacKenzie: I want to direct movies. I direct films not because I love it, but because I feel compelled to. Telling stories was my only way out and it is the only pathway I see forward. I am going to continue on that path and see where it leads. It took a lot of people helping and believing in me to get this far. It didn’t start out that way. I deeply appreciate the people that helped me along the way. Wherever this path goes, I hope it is fruitful for both myself and for those that helped.
Annenberg Media: How is the coronavirus social distancing affecting you and do you have any recommendations?
MacKenzie: As I said, isolation can be a very powerful thing. I know a lot of people are stuck inside right now, for much longer than they are used to. A lot of movies are not getting made. People are scared and they are experiencing their own moments of darkness. But some of the most creative years of my life began with isolation and darkness like this. It wouldn’t surprise me if the solitude of this pandemic inspires and gives birth to a lovely period of filmmaking in its wake, the likes of which the world has perhaps never seen. I really hope to be a part of that movement and I think we will all feel fortunate when we see it happen.
Featured image shows J. Lee and Isabela Penagos—USC arts students.
Before the FBI or any other federal law enforcement agency locked criminals behind bars in the United States, the most important crime fighting squad was the US Postal Inspection Service. From the 18th century to present day, surveyors, special agents, and inspectors investigated the nation’s most newsworthy crimes. They investigated mail train robberies committed by notorious outlaw “Billy the Kid,” were amongst the first federal law enforcement officers to carry the Thompson submachine gun (commonly known as the “Tommy Gun”) to fight 1920s mobsters, and even had an integral role in capturing Ted Kaczynski, sensationalized in the media as the “Unabomber,” bringing an end to one of the most sophisticated criminal manhunts in US history.
The US Postal Inspection Service is the most storied federal law enforcement agency in the country, and since widespread crime is often connected by mail, their jurisdiction to investigate any related crime from anywhere around the world is unrestricted. This freedom began from one of America’s Founding Fathers, and since its establishment, the agency has participated in the largest criminal investigations of each century.
After the American Civil War, “snake oil salesmen” and “scalp tonic salesmen” used the mail to con unsuspecting victims. Screengrab from YouTube.
In 1737, Benjamin Franklin, the newspaper printer known for historic contributions to the nation, was also appointed by the British Crown as postmaster of Philadelphia. In addition to his day job, he had duties and responsibilities to regulate and survey post offices and post roads. As the first Postmaster General under continental Congress, Franklin abolished the British practice that determined which newspapers traveled freely in the mail and established foundational mandates of the “surveyor” position to ensure the organization could grow beyond a one-man show.
Franklin recognized the task was too much to handle alone and appointed William Goddard as the first surveyor of the new American Postal Service. His first day in office — Aug. 7, 1775 — became known as the birth of the Postal Inspection Service. The surveyors investigated thefts of mail or postal funds committed by writers, innkeepers, and others with access to the mail or post offices. The frequency of mail crimes became such a nuisance, Congress approved the death penalty as a viable punishment to enforce the serious offenses.
At the turn of the 19th century, surveyors became known as special agents, and among the first three was Noah Webster, the man responsible for compiling the dictionary. During the War of 1812, special agents observed and reported activities of the British Fleet along the Potomac River, and during the 1840s and 1850s, their roles magnified to coexist with western expansion in the United States. Special agents were needed across Texas, Oregon, and California to ensure new postal services were completed, as well as to keep order amongst mail carriers on horseback, railroads, or traveling by steamboats or stagecoaches.
During World War II, 247 US Postal Inspection Service inspectors established a mailing system that is still in use to this day. Photo courtesy of worldwarphotos.info.
Following the American Civil War, Congress imposed two new statutes still in use today. The first was the Mail Fraud Statute of 1872, which enforced a crackdown against swindles including the infamous “snake oil salesman” or the “scalp tonic salesman.” The second was the Postal Obscenity Statute of 1873, which made it illegal for anyone to “to sell, give away, or possess an obscene book, pamphlet, picture, drawing, or advertisement.” Special agents assumed the name of “Post Office Inspectors” in 1880 to differentiate from other special agents privately employed by railroad and stagecoach companies.
During the 20th century is when the US Postal Inspection Service earned its reputation for bringing down the hammer on gangs, mobsters, and armed robbers. The most scandalous criminal outfit was the organized secret society operating in New York City known as the Black Hand. They terrorized the public, the police force, and especially Italian immigrants, all frequent targets of murder, extortion, assassination, child kidnapping, and bombings. The bombing attacks were so frequent that the police referred to the Italian neighborhood as “The Bomb Zone.” Police reports indicated that there were more than 100 bombings in 1913 alone.
The Black Hand wrote menacing letters to their victims. “De Camilli, from one of our secret spies, we have learned that you have informed the police, contrary to our warnings,” Salvatore Lima, the Black Hand’s leader wrote. “Therefore, it is time to die. And on the first occasion, you will feel a bullet in your stomach, coward. You have willed it, and you will die like a dog. The terrible Black Hand.”
Post Office Inspector Frank Oldfield tracked 14 members of the Black Hand and nabbed and convicted the vicious and violent gang by targeting their paper trail through the mail. Elmer Irey, one of the great detectives of the 20th century and former post office inspector, used similar methods to nab Chicago Outfit’s Al Capone through tax fraud. Post office inspectors also captured and convicted Charles Ponzi — the mastermind and father behind the infamous pyramid “Ponzi Scheme” — and brought Gerald Chapman — America’s first “Public Enemy Number One” — to justice. After a three-year manhunt, forensic science put away the DeAutremont brothers, a trio who used dynamite to blow open mail train cars to scoop the cash inside.
Inspectors were also instrumental in the delivery and protection of over billion worth of gold transported along the “Yellow Brick Road” from New York City to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to establish the Fort Knox Bullion Depository in 1937. During World War II, 247 post office inspectors helped create Army Post Offices (APOs) and Fleet Post Offices (FPOs). Through their efforts, soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines could communicate with their loved ones back home. This system remains in effect to this day.
Later in the century, as their investigations adapted with the times, they received newer challenges through the security of commercial aircraft and the threats of mail package bombs aboard airplanes. In 1963, Postal Inspector Harry Holmes interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald to investigate the mail-order rifle he used to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. Only minutes after Oswald left Holmes’ office, he was gunned down — furthering the conspiracy theories of suspected involvement.
A laboratory technician holds the anthrax-laced letter addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy after safely opening it at the US Army’s Fort Detrick bio-medical research laboratory in November 2001. Photo courtesy of FBI.gov.
The Postal Inspection Service remains just as important today as when it was created, and with the increase in funding in other federal agencies, their prestige has emboldened their legacy as more than what was once perceived as “The Silent Service.” Days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Silent Service investigated the Anthrax biohazard letter attack — the worst biological attack in US history — and has since increased their efforts against illegal drug trafficking, suspicious mail, mail and package theft, money laundering, cybercrime, and child exploitation.
In the 1920s, Charles Ponzi scammed his investors out of an estimated million during his time as a conman and swindler — some 90 years later, just as the Postal Inspector Service had before, they nabbed Allen Stanford, a fraudster who convinced investors to buy certificates of deposit from his offshore Stanford International Bank with the promise of high returns. Stanford’s two-decade-long, billion Ponzi scheme was discovered through exhaustive investigations by a task force comprised of the IRS, the FBI, and the Silent Service. Stanford was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to serve 110 years in prison.
As long as there is mail to be delivered, there are inspectors who stand ready to ensure the safety of the American citizens.
The Carolina Panthers are fighting for their lives. With their divisional rival, the New Orleans Saints, clinching the NFC South and a playoff spot in the Thanksgiving Day win over the Atlanta Falcons, the Panthers are still in the hunt – but barely. Their Dec. 8th game against the Falcons could mean the difference between a playoff berth of their own or waiting until next season. Even with so much riding on their next few games, Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has something else on his mind: America’s wounded warriors.
And he’s all set to raise money and support for the Wounded Warrior Project through the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats campaign.
Even though the NFL’s Salute to Service month has passed, the spirit of honoring veterans of the U.S. military never stops. For the fourth year in a row, the NFL and its Salute to Service partner, USAA, are teaming up to support veterans through the annual philanthropic events. In Week 14, NFL players from around the league choose a cause to celebrate and support. Coaches and players have commissioned special cleats to be worn in support of these causes that will be worn during the game and then auctioned off for their charities. Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey’s cleats will support the Wounded Warrior Project.
The cleats were custom-made by Miami, Florida-based Marcus Rivero of Soles by Sir, who has custom made cleats in previous years for players like the Arizona Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald, who honored deceased NFL player and Army ranger Pat Tillman with his 2018 My Cause My Cleats campaign.
McCaffrey greets military members before each home game.
“It really hit me when they told me that watching football was their getaway…. you wanna put on a show for them. It makes football more than just a game.” McCaffrey told USAA. “It’ll definitely be a constant reminder for me of why I play and who I play for.”
But McCaffrey’s support doesn’t stop at the cleats. The running back and the Carolina Panthers hosted a few wounded warriors at their offices and at the stadium earlier in 2019. He took the veterans through a typical day as a Panthers football player, from the morning meeting at 8:00 a.m. and through a visit to the team locker room. They then went out to the playing field and threw a football around to talk shop.
“That’s the reason why we’re out there, fighting the fight,” one veteran said, admiring the Panthers playing field. “So stateside can be like this.”
“Our missions are different,” said another vet of McCaffrey. “But at the end of the day, he respects what we do and we’re fans of what he does. Picking the Wounded Warrior Project shows you the kind of character that he has.”
The cleats McCaffrey will wear on Week 14 will honor all five military branches. On one shoe, five members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard are featured, saluting in uniform. On the other shoe, the featured prominently is the distinctive black-and-white logo of the Wounded Warrior Project one half and an NFL game field on the other, with the stars and stripes centered in midfield and a large THANK YOU in the watching crowd.
If you like McCaffrey’s cleats, anyone is able to bid on the shoes when auctioned off. One hundred percent of the money raised goes toward the cause designed on the cleats.
The United States Air Force needs aggressor aircraft. There is no geopolitical adversary for the United States quite like Russia and its Soviet-built airplanes. American combat crews need to train against someone, and the best we can get comes in the form of MiG-29 fighters and Sukhoi-27 aircraft.
It doesn’t matter that the aircraft are from the 1970s, so is the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 fleet. American airmen need targets, and these are the most likely real-world ones.
In 2017, onlookers spotted an F-16 engaged in a life or death dogfight over Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. with a Russian-built Su-27 Flanker aircraft. It’s highly unlikely an errant Russian fighter penetrated NORAD and began an attack on a specific base. The only logical explanation was that Nellis has a supply of Russian-built fighters for U.S. airmen to train against. It turns out, that is exactly what happened in the skies over Nevada that day. Make another notch in the win column for Occam’s Razor.
The United States Air Force has acquired and maintains a number of Russian and Soviet-built aircraft for airmen to fly against. Where they get the aircraft is anyone’s guess, but The National Interest reported it likely gets the most advanced fighters from Ukraine. Other fighters are on loan from private companies who acquired the Russian planes on their own. That’s another W for capitalism.
Anything is possible with enough money.
So even if the United States Air Force couldn’t afford to own and maintain its own supply of Russian aggressor aircraft, there are apparently a number of civilian contractors who have acquired them and are willing to loan those fighters out to the USAF. Among those come MiG-29s from a company called Air USA, MiG-21s and trainer aircraft from Draken International, and the two aforementioned Sukhoi-27 fighters from Pride International via Ukraine.
Let’s see the semi-Communist oligarchs in Moscow pull off acquiring an F-22 Raptor using their shady business dealings. But even if the United States couldn’t fight real Russian fighters, American pilots could still get excellent training.
The emperor has new clothes.
If you’re not sure what’s happening in the photo above, that’s an F-16 Fighting Falcon all dressed up as a Sukhoi-57 fifth-generation stealth fighter. While the F-16 may not have stealth and definitely isn’t a fifth-gen fighter, it still gives U.S. airmen training on what to look for while engaging a Russian in the skies. The paint job is used by the Russians to make the Su-57 look like a different, smaller aircraft from a distance. Acquiring real enemy aircraft and training under the conditions closest to combat will give American pilots the edge they need.
That is, if they ever need that edge against the Russians.
Letters are a very personal and specific method of communicating, filled with all the details about feelings and moments that would get left out of official reports and summaries. That’s why they’re so loved by historians.
Military police escort a captured Viet Cong fighter during the Tet Offensive.
(U.S. Army Don Hirst)
In these letters from the U.S. Army Heritage Education Center, a man identified as “Cofty” writes to his family about his experiences fighting in the jungles and front lines of Vietnam.
The first letter comes from Feb. 2, 1968, near the start of the Tet Offensive. The author and his unit were part of forces sent to counter the North Vietnamese attacks which had slammed into major U.S. posts at Long Binh and Bien Hoa. Saigon was also already under attack.
Though the writer couldn’t know it at the time, his unit was quite successful in driving the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces back, and attacks on Bien Hoa Air Base and Long Binh Post would cease the same day he wrote this letter.
(The author mistakenly put that his unit moved out on the 31st of December. The post-it notation on the letter is to amend “December” to “January.” The letter was written on February 2, 1968.)
The attack on the prisoner of war camp resulted in about 26 North Vietnamese dead and no U.S. or South Vietnamese casualties. There were at least two platoons involved in the fighting there, an infantry platoon and a cavalry platoon. It seems that the author was likely part of the cavalry platoon as, in an earlier letter available below, he refers to his squadron and his troop. Troops and squadrons are unit types predominantly used in cavalry organizations.
(A cavalry troop is roughly the same size as an infantry company, and a cavalry squadron is roughly the same size as an infantry battalion.)
While Bien Hoa Air Base and Long Binh Post would be relatively safe within hours of this letter being completed, attacks would continue across the front for months, including in Saigon where an embassy was partially overrun and then re-secured.
Marines push through the alleys of Hue City in February 1968, attempting to retake areas seized by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces during the Tet Offensive.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. W. F. Dickman)
North Vietnamese forces launched approximately 120 attacks during the surprise offensive, greatly overstretching their forces and creating a situation where U.S. and South Vietnamese forces could quickly counterattack and retake the ground.
The offensive resulted in a large military defeat for the North Vietnamese, but early successes by the communist forces broke American morale at home, and the NVA achieved a major strategic victory despite their severe losses.
The other letter from this young soldier is dated January 19, a few weeks before the Tet Offensive began. It provides a little more “day-in-the-life” as the author details what search and destroy missions were, where his unit was located, and how hard it was to fight in the jungles near Cambodia.
Tampa Bay, Florida is an important part of our country’s great defense strategy. It’s not always a highly visible part, but it’s an effective part.
But whether you’re stationed in Tampa Bay, got out of the military in Tampa Bay, or just happen to be passing through Tampa Bay, the local baseball team wants you to stop by. So much so that the Tampa Bay Rays are giving away free tickets to active duty troops, retirees, and honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
A lot of organizations have a salute to service program, but the Tampa Bay Rays are offering something special. You can pick up two complimentary tickets to any of seven Monday home games, with three possible additional bonus dates and special ticket offers throughout the season.
In case Tampa Bay isn’t your home team to root for, the possible games are with teams from around the country, from Cleveland to Los Angeles and Baltimore to Texas. Just go to the Rays Salute to Service game listings and pick them one week before the scheduled game date.
If you’re the forgetful type, you can have the site notify you when the tickets become available. So if you’re stationed in the area and want to come root for home team or are planning a trip through the area and want to have truly unique Tampa Bay experience with a friend or loved one, the Tampa Bay Rays will love to host you.
This isn’t the first time the Rays offered free tickets to the military-veteran community. The team has been offering them for years, and also offers free tickets for first responders and teachers (but they get honored on different days, of course).
So grab a few seats, a cold one, and some peanuts and make a trip to the old ball game. Go Rays!
U.S. Army Master Sergeant John Hartley Robertson, a Green Beret, was in a helicopter shot down over Laos in 1968. His body was never found and was presumed dead. His name is on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. and the Army officially lists him as Killed In Action.
In 2013, a fellow vet named Tom Faunce claimed to have traced the men killed in the crash to those taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese Army around the same time. The men were taken prisoner and tortured, but Faunce claims the men all survived. The claims sparked renewed interest in finding and repatriating possible POWs remaining in Vietnam for so long after the war.
In a documentary film called Unclaimed, Faunce teamed up with Emmy-winning director Michael Jorgenson to find a man they thought to be Robertson, then 76-years old, 44 years after the crash. The missing Green Beret was supposedly living in a village of south-central Vietnam. The man had no memory of being Robertson, had no memory of his children, his own birthday, or even the English language.
Master Sgt. Robertson’s family believed he could have survived the event and even claimed to have supporting documentation that he had been held in an NVA prison. Jorgenson maintained the U.S. government has had proof of Robertson’s survival since 1982, but did not do anything with the information.
Still, the filmmaker was skeptical and went to Vietnam with Faunce believing they would uncover a hoax. The man who would be Robertson, now calling himself Dan Tan Ngoc, said he was held, beaten, and tortured but eventually released into t he care of a local nurse, whom he married and with whom he later had children.
The Army fingerprinted Dan Tan Ngoc at a U.S. Embassy, but said it was not enough to prove Dan Tan Ngoc was indeed John Hartley Robertson. The film shows a reunion of the man who would be Robertson meeting a fellow vet he trained and Robertson’s own sister, Jean, who said “There’s no question. I was certain it was him in the video, but when I held his head in my hands and looked in his eyes, there was no question that was my brother.”
Except, he may not be.
In 2014, DNA testing proved Dan Tan Ngoc could not be John Hartley Robertson. Robertson’s niece, Cyndi Hanna, called the result “very disappointing.” Yet, the Robertson family still believes Ngoc is their missing loved one. Gail Metcalf, daughter of Robertson’s sister, Jean bases this on a oxygen isotope analysis performed on the man’s tooth. The family set up a Go Fund Me page to help raise money for DNA testing and Master Sgt. Robertson’s repatriation. Salt Lake City’s IsoForensics Inc., performed the test for the filmmakers and came to the conclusion it is “very likely” Ngoc grew up in U.S., a result the family takes to heart.
“We only want to do right by my Uncle John,” Metcalf told Stars and Stripes. “If that means exploring the possibility that the U.S. government has made a mistake or that the man claiming to be my uncle is actually another lost American and doesn’t know who he is, we intend to seek the truth on our own terms.”
When you’re in the military, every bit of civilian life is broken out of you. When a veteran returns to civilian life, there are plenty of habits that get dropped like a bag of bricks. Slowly, we learn to sleep in a bit more and not get upset if someone in our new office has a bit of stubble. Some habits, however, aren’t turned off because of how much of an edge it gives us over civilians.
8. Calling people “sir” or “ma’am”
Respect is a two-way street. Start a conversation with someone with respect and they’ll look at you better for it.
Even if it hurts our soul, we’ll still use “sir” and “ma’am.” (Image via GIPHY)
7. Scheduling and being 15 minutes early
Every hour of every day is planned. Routes are checked well beforehand to see how long it’ll take to get somewhere and departure times are planned accordingly. Even with the planning, veterans still make it there before the given time, just in case.
Admittedly, it’s a pain when nobody else gets it and we have to find something to occupy our time while we wait.
Eh. We’ll find something else to do. (Image via GIPHY)
6. Preplanning every detail (with backups)
When veterans arrive, we have a game plan — with an alternate plan, and a contingency plan, and an emergency plan…
In that one-in-a-hundred time where we don’t have a plan, our “winging it” skills are on point.
The typical “Plan D” is to say, “f*ck it” and leave. (Image via GIPHY)
5. Eating fast
While we all need food to survive, it just takes too much damn time to consume it. Veterans cut the fat and use that extra fifteen minutes each meal to wait in front of wherever we’re going next.
This doesn’t stop when a veteran gets out of service. Take speed eating and eliminate the need to stay fit and you quickly get an idea why some vets get fat.
Every vet during their first week at Fort Couch. (Image via GIPHY)
4. Driving aggressively
We drive recklessly and safe at the same time. We’ll swerve in and out of traffic like it’s nothing and yet our driving records are spotless.
Some people might view this as us “driving like assholes.” We call it “I didn’t like that cardboard box / White Toyota Helix on the side of the road.”
That’s basically the reason why we always drive in the middle of the road. (Image via GIPHY)
3. Not complaining about weather
Ever hear a veteran complain that it’s too cold, too hot, too wet, or too snowy? Hell no.
Whatever the weather, at least we’re not enduring it in the field.
PCSing to nearly every base on the planet does that to you. (Image via GIPHY)
2. Using more accurate terminology
The English language is fascinating. While most civilians make up some onomatopoeia and call it a “thingy,” troops and veterans will usually default to whatever we called it in the service.
A bathroom is a “latrine” or “head” because you’re not going in there to bathe. If something is “ate-up” or a “charlie foxtrot,” we can point out how much of a clusterf*ck something is without letting everyone know someone’s a dumbsh*t.
Vet-specific terms are mostly insults though, which leads us to… (Image via GIPHY)
1. Pointing out peoples’ flaws in a polite and effective manner
In the military, troops need to be able to tell the person who outranks them by a mile that something’s wrong.
Troops can tell a General — in a polite way — that their boot is untied. Troops can also tell a Private that they’re a friggin’ idiot for showing up to PT formation only 9 minutes early.
We’re quick to point out the flaws. (Image via GIPHY)
*Bonus* Morning workout routine
Many vets still work out. The rest either embrace Fort Couch or lie about it — but we know the truth.