If you can squat more than 300 pounds — and then do it again nine more times — the Marine Corps may have an elite job for you.
The Corps is accepting applications to join its legendary cadre of body bearers, a small unit of roughly a dozen men headquartered at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., whose primary responsibility is to carry the caskets of Marines to their final resting place.
According to a Marine Corps administrative message, the service is looking for Marines who “possess a high degree of maturity, leadership, judgment and professionalism, as well as physical stamina and strength.” To be eligible, Marines must be male, between 70 and 76 inches tall, in the rank of corporal or below, and able to serve 30 months following check-in to ceremonial drill school.
The physical strength requirements are truly daunting. Marines must be able to conduct 10 repetitions of the following exercises:
Bench press 225 lbs.
Military press (a variant on the overhead press) 135 lbs.
Straight bar curl 115 lbs.
Squad 315 lbs.
Body bearers from the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. (8th and I), help conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort for Col. Werner Frederick Rebstock in Section 12 of Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery)
Those selected to join the Body Bearers Section can expect to train for up to a year before they’re considered ready to participate in military funerals. Once they join the section, body bearers participate in the funerals of Marines, Marine veterans and family members at Arlington National Cemetery and military cemeteries in the National Capital Region; they may also be asked to travel across the country to conduct funeral honors for former presidents and other senior dignitaries.
There’s no room for error; the word “flawless” is used no fewer than four times on the Body Bearers Section web page. And while other services use eight body bearers to carry coffins, the Marine Corps uses only six.
Marine Corps Body Bearers carry the body of Maj. Gen. Warren R. Johnson Sr. inside the Memorial Chapel at Fort Meyer.
(Photo by Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough)
“This billet is not for everyone. Marine Corps Body Bearers serve as a tangible, physical manifestation of the institution that our fallen brothers and sisters have poured their hearts and souls into fortifying,” the page reads. “As such, the mental, emotional, and physical toll this responsibility exacts from the Body Bearers as well as Ceremonial Drill School students is immense. That being said, the honor and pride the Body Bearer Section takes in caring for Marines the way they do is one of the most gratifying experiences of their lives.”
In addition to all the strength requirements, Marines must meet conventional height and weight standards and maintain first-class scores on their physical fitness and combat fitness tests. While the job was once reserved for infantry Marines, it’s now open to all military occupational specialties in the Corps.
Troops who meet eligibility requirements and are interested in the opportunity should contact Company B, Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Army is pursuing a new variant of the Stryker wheeled armored fighting vehicle, the Stryker Initial Maneuver Short-Range Air-Defense system, or Stryker IM-SHORAD. As the name implies, this vehicle will specialize in knocking nearby airborne targets out of the sky — but it’s not exclusively a threat to drones, helicopters, and tactical jets. Tanks and armored vehicles will need to watch their step, too.
According to reports, this vehicle is going to pack a lot of firepower options. At the heart of the Stryker IM-SHORAD is the Reconfigurable Integrated-weapons Platform from Moog — a versatile turret that can be configured to support a wide range of weapons options.
The loadout that the Army has selected will feature a 30mm M230 chain gun (similar to that on the AH-64 Apache), a M240 7.62mm machine gun, four FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, and a pair of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. What this means, in short, is that just about any main battle tank or armored vehicle can be killed by Stryker IM-SHORAD.
This configuration of the Reconfigurable Integrated Weapons platform packs a M230 chain gun, a M240 machine gun, and the BGM-71 TOW.
The Army is reportedly planning on buying four battalions’ worth of these vehicles — a grand total of 144 — by 2022. That distills down to 36 vehicles per battalion — yeah, that number seems a little low to us, too. The fact of the matter is, in a potential fight with a peer competitor (like Russia or China), the Army will need some sort of air defense alongside maneuver units on the ground. This would not be the first vehicle the Army has tested with both anti-air and anti-tank capability. The Air Defense Anti-Tank System, or ADATS, was developed but never purchased by the Army.
The ADATS system was tested by the Army in the 1980s.
This may not be the only setup the Army goes with for the short-range air-defense mission. The Army is looking to adopt new, innovative weapons systems (these could range from electronic warfare to lasers weaponry) by as early as 2023.
Only time will tell if these futuristic weapon options make the Stryker IM-SHORADs look like a primitive solution.
Please, please, please. Don’t ask this question. We are trying very hard to live in la la land. Right now that date is spoiling everything and haunting our every thought. Do you go to buy milk at the grocery store and cry when you happen to see THAT date on it? No? We do. We know you mean well, but instead of reminding us of impending doom….distract us. Oh, and don’t ask when he’s coming home either.
Uh….we don’t have a choice. We are the lucky ones that fell head over heels in love with a man that happened to be in the military. It’s not something we chose, but someONE. If you really love someone, you’ll make whatever sacrifice necessary. And by the way…it’s not ALL bad! I truly love this life. Have you ever had a homecoming? You’ll never experience what I feel is the most amazing event EVER. I do it because I love him; I do it because I love military life.
Just stop. Have you met a military spouse? We don’t ask for help. You don’t survive this life by being weak – we do it all ourselves. We fall into bed at the end of a very long day wondering how we’re going to do it again tomorrow and the next day for the next…how many days do we have left? In order to help us out, please be pushy. Try mowing the lawn without asking. I will never forget when I was cleaning the house one day only to look out the window and see my neighbor mowing the front lawn. He GOT it. And of course I cried. Someone noticed and didn’t make me ask for it. Yeah, maybe you don’t want to just show up with dinner because you don’t know our plans for that night…so instead pop a gift card to Panera in the mail. Or bring a dinner you prepared and froze to be used when we’re having that day. Tell her you feel the need to hang with the kids for a few hours at the park – we’ll know you are lying. But we’ll pretend you’re not. The point is, just do it. TELL us what you are doing. If you give us the opportunity to say no, we will.
5. How do you do it all?
Through God’s unending grace. Grace has become something I’ve been clinging to over the last several months. I always thought of grace as in forgiveness. To me they were simple synonyms. But man, God’s grace is so much more than that. It’s not just forgiveness for my screw-ups, it’s allowing me to screw up in the first place. See, I’m no longer afraid to fail. I WILL fail. It is something I have only now learned – I am not superwoman though non-military members will tell you so. I think that gets in your head after a while. We constantly worry that to everyone else we at least look like we have it altogether and I’m sure most of us take pride in that. But we forget that it’s okay to be a broken mess sometimes. We simply can’t be perfect. Once we begin to accept that, so much stress just seems to dissipate. Our life is stressful enough, don’t carry the baggage of being superwoman on top of it.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
When Ann Mills-Griffiths sent out her regular National League of POW/MIA Families newsletter in September 2018, she included an announcement that Navy Cmdr. James B. Mills, missing in Vietnam since 1966, had been recovered, his remains positively identified by the Pentagon.
She did not mention that he was her own brother.
“DPAA [Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency] announced on 8/24/18 that CDR James B. Mills, USNR, CA, was accounted for on 8/20/18,” Mills-Griffiths’ simple announcement read.
The newsletter said that the accounting for Mills and another MIA from Vietnam, Air Force Col. Richard A. Kibbey, “brings the number still missing from the Vietnam War down to 1,594.”
So why did Mills-Griffiths withhold that the latest identification was that of Jimmy, her older brother by just 11 months?
“It would’ve been wildly inappropriate,” she told Military.com in an interview.
In her role as head of a POW/MIA advocacy group, “I’ve never mentioned my brother’s case in any official capacity,” she said.
Fighting for all families
Given her position, in which she works closely with the government on recoveries and policy, Mills-Griffiths said she didn’t like to draw special attention to her brother’s case.
“The other part is we never expected to get my brother accounted for — ever,” she said.
At age 77, Mills-Griffiths said she had no plans to retire from her position at the League, where she currently serves as chairman, just because her brother has been found.
Ann Mills-Griffiths, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the National League of POW/MIA Families.
She acknowledges that she has been combative, and at times controversial, in pressing various administrations and defense secretaries over the years for a full accounting on the missing.
She has also become a lightning rod for other advocacy groups and what she calls the “nut fringe.”
She has been outspoken in accusing some groups of raising false hopes among the families that their loved ones would come back alive, if only the so-described appeasers and bureaucrats in government would get out of the way.
Mills-Griffiths once had a staff of seven. She now has just one staffer, but she dismissed any suggestion of stepping down as head of the League.
“Why would I do that just because of my brother? I have to keep [DPAA] on the right track,” she said. “I’m still trying to make sure DPAA is informed and going in the right direction.”
Her longevity with the issue has proven invaluable to the government in getting more cooperation from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, according to DPAA officials.
Despite Mills-Griffiths’ reticence to give her brother special attention in her official role, he still got a hero’s welcome back home. At California’s Bakersfield High School, where Mills lettered in three sports for the “Drillers” and was active in student government before graduating in 1958, a welcome home event in his honor featured current students.
They paraded on California Avenue in front of the school, sang the national anthem, waved flags and chanted “Once a Driller, Always a Driller,” Bakersfield.com reported.
“This is a very teachable moment, and the kids are embracing it big time,” said history instructor Ken Hooper.
“If he was part of my family, I would want to welcome him home,” senior Kareli Medina said. “He’s a Driller. We are his family.”
“That was amazing,” Mills-Griffiths said of the rally at the school where her late father, E.C. Mills, was once vice principal. “It was really something that they took that up and had that nice patriotic demonstration. Nicely done, guys.”
A “miracle” discovery
For 52 years, the rib bone of an American had been at the bottom of the South China Sea in shallow waters off the North Vietnamese coastal village of Quynh Phuong.
The rib had been there since Sept. 21, 1966, when a Navy F-4B Phantom from Fighter Squadron 21, flying off the carrier Coral Sea on an armed reconnaissance mission to North Vietnam, disappeared from radar without a “Mayday” or contact with other aircraft. The reasons for the disappearance are still unknown.
A U.S. Navy McDonnell F-4B-21-MC Phantom II (BuNo 152218) of Fighter Squadron VF-21 “Free Lancers” flying in Vietnam.
From 1993-2003, Defense Department teams conducted a total of 15 investigations in a fruitless effort to determine what had happened to the aircraft and where it went down.
Everything changed in 2006, when a fisherman from the village snagged something in his net. He pulled up what turned out to be part of a cockpit canopy.
Joint field activities by DPAA’s forensics and scuba teams resumed, including five underwater investigations, the agency said in a release. More parts of the aircraft were pulled up.
In 2011, the Air Force Life Science Equipment Laboratory, now part of DPAA, concluded that the aircraft was the one flown by pilot Capt. James Bauder, then 35, of La Canada, California, and his radar intercept officer, Mills — who would have been 78 on Aug. 31.
In 2017, the recovery teams found bone material. And in June 2018, DPAA determined through DNA analysis that the remains were those of Capt. Bauder.
The teams had found not a trace of Mills’ remains. Mills-Griffiths said the family had long ago accepted that Mills’ remains would never be found, but were grateful that the F-4B had been located and Bauder’s family had been notified.
“None of us ever had any of what folks would call ‘false hopes,'” she said. “What are the chances? It’s not like we knew he was on the ground, it’s not like anybody last saw him alive … Our chances of ever knowing anything specific were not high and we knew that all along.”
Mills-Griffiths said she learned earlier this year that divers were about to go down on the site again.
“If you don’t get it, that’s still the last time I want you to go there,” Mills-Griffiths said she told DPAA.
In June 2018, another DPAA excavation turned up new remains.
“It turned out to be a rib bone, and they were able to get a cut and take a DNA match quickly,” Mills-Griffiths said. “It was a virtual miracle.”
New headstone at Arlington
Cmdr. James Mills, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, joined the Navy through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. His eyesight wasn’t good enough to become a pilot under the standards of the time, and so he became a backseat Radar Intercept Officer on Phantoms, Mills-Griffiths said.
He was a lieutenant junior grade when his plane went missing on his second tour off Vietnam.
Navy Cmdr. James B. Mills.
He flew off the carrier Midway on his first tour. He did not have a spouse or children.
Mills-Griffiths said her brother had volunteered to return “so that other radar officers who had wives and kids wouldn’t have to go back.”
“He was not an optimist” about the war, as were so many others who served at the time, she said. “He believed in what he was doing, even though he didn’t believe in the way the war was being run.”
Mills-Griffiths said she can’t remember how many times she’s been to Vietnam and the region.
“I stopped counting at 32,” she said.
In that time, the Vietnamese officials she first knew as junior officers and diplomats have come into leadership positions, she said.
Her brother already has a place at Arlington National Cemetery. The headstone over an empty grave for James B. Mills simply reads “In Memory.”
DPAA officials said that Mills’ name also is listed on the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for,” DPAA said.
Mills-Griffiths said a ceremony for the burial of her brother’s remains will be held at Arlington on June 24 2019. The headstone will be replaced with a traditional one listing his name, rank, date of birth and date of death on Sept. 21, 1966.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day will be observed on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Battalion Executive Officer, Maj. Kevin Gonzalez, along with the Career Retention Specialist Staff Sgt. Chandrash Malapaka, and several others crammed into the tiny room for the ceremony.
“We’re going to do the short version of this,” said the Executive Officer.
Raising his right hand, Hawkins took the oath of enlistment by 1st Lt. Warren A. Frank, his platoon commander. With no time for the usual formalities of backslaps and handshakes, Hawkins was immediately carried out via litter and evacuated.
This damage control sailor who loves his job so much that he re-upped in full gear while being deployed to the Red Sea aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95):
These soldiers taking their oath at CenturyLink Field before a Seahawks football game against the Baltimore Ravens:
This Belgian Malinois, Sgt. 1st Class Freida, who reenlisted with her human partner:
And this PAO serving with the U.S. Navy’s “Leap Frogs” who jumped out of a perfectly good airplane to take her reenlistment oath thousands of feet above Earth:
The two most welcomed smells in the military are coffee and gunpowder, and if you’re in the field, you may get both. There are few things that are as satisfying as your favorite cup of Joe when you’re on duty in garrison, training, or forward deployed. Nobody wants to be that guy who falls asleep on post — legal consequences aside, it’s just downright embarrassing.
Staying alert begins with preparation and tactical knowledge of the endless options vying for our patronage. The brands of coffee we enjoy say a lot about ourselves and what’s important to us. When we stand post, looking out into the abyss, reflecting on our lives and why we fight, a warm cup in our hands is a welcomed friend.
Black Rifle Coffee Company
Black Rifle Coffee Company is a veteran-owned and operated brand that brings a level of professionalism and attention to detail that can only be expected from veterans. While massive corporations will sacrifice quality for profit, this company’s quality assurance team will not. Not only do they make a mean brew, but they are also a positive reflection of veterans, successfully assimilating and thriving in the private sector.
Café Bustelo is like a Marine infantry sergeant: aggressive, strong, and possibly foreign. It has a balanced taste, but it will definitely give you the intense energy boost that one needs at zero-wtf. It’s small, lightweight, and you can toss it in with the gear. The officers and Staff NCOs aren’t going to deny free coffee, either.
Folgers, classic roast
Folgers is the brand people love to rag on, but let’s be honest here: it’s pretty good. Their marketing is even better. There is a 100% chance that when you saw the name, you sang the jingle in your head. “The best part of wakin’ up is Folgers in your cup.“
Folgers seals its product in airtight plastic containers, ensuring that when you need it, it’s still fresh. Plastic containers bring their own benefit to the field because they’re water resistant, which is particularly important when it’s raining sideways.
The crucial part of the equation, no matter which brand you select, is the water-to-grounds ratio. For every six fluid oz of water, add one tablespoon of coffee — two tablespoons for a strong cup, and three or more if you want to see sound.
There’s a stigma against drinking Starbucks in the military because, in 2004, an email circulated around the internet stating that the company did not support the war or the troops. This rumor has been proven false, but the truth somehow doesn’t usually have the same reach of the rumor mill.
Bringing Starbucks to the office or field is a Bootenant move, albeit a delicious one. If you’re a staff NCO, you know your role as an advisor to the brass, guide him to more rugged-fix-bayonets coffee when your little booter is ready. Until then, enjoy the Caramel Frappuccinos and other embarrassingly named treats they’re willing to share.
Good ol’ standardized, rust-bucket, gut-rot coffee from Uncle Sam
We live in a society where we can have whatever we want, whenever we want it. We’ve come a long way, but sometimes that rust-bucket coffee from the mess hall is exactly what the doctor ordered. There were times in Afghanistan when a hot cup of mud after a patrol would hit the spot. Warriors do more with less, they’re a hardened breed, and that’s why they never take life — or coffee — for granted.
In a piece written for The Cipher Brief, Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute details Iran’s weapon of choice for imposing its will on domestic and foreign threats alike — cyber attacks.
Eisenstadt, as well as experts contacted by Business Insider, say that Iran has a weak conventional military that couldn’t possibly hope to push around stronger countries. For that reason, cyber attacks represent the perfect weapon.
Cyber attacks are cheap, ambiguous, hard to pin on any one actor, and almost completely without precedent when it comes to gauging a military response.
Cyber attacks allow Iran “to strike at adversaries globally, instantaneously, and on a sustained basis, and to potentially achieve strategic effects in ways it cannot in the physical domain,” writes Eisenstadt.
Unlike the US, which wields nuclear weapons and the world’s finest military, Iran relies on its ability to potentially wreak havoc in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s busiest oil shipping routes, its funding of terrorist organizations, and its arsenal of ballistic missiles to deter attacks, according to Eisenstadt.
“Hack those guys over there.” | Creative Commons photo by Mohammad Sadegh Heydari
However, Tehran cannot hold the Strait of Hormuz in an outright confrontation, its terrorist allies have become increasingly vulnerable and targetable by world powers, and if Iran ever used a ballistic missile, it would soon find itself on the receiving end of a blistering counter attack.
Therefore cyber attacks give Iran a fourth kind of deterrence, one which the US has repeatedly failed to punish. Indeed, cyber attacks are new territory, and the US still hasn’t found an appropriate and consistent way to deal with cyber attacks, whether those attacks come in the form of Russian meddling in the US election, North Korea’s hack of Sony, or China’s stealing valuable defense data.
Eisenstadt addresses this lack of US response as a “credibility gap,” which the US must somehow fill.
The U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia is where U.S. military members of all branches go to become military parachutists. The school is three weeks of intense physical drills, training on towers, and of course, “jumping out of a perfectly good airplane” five times to earn the coveted silver parachute badge (also known as “jump wings”).
Here are 10 things Airborne students will encounter when going through Jump School:
1. Black Hats
An Airborne instructor’s nametag may read “Jones” but students will address him or her as “Sergeant Airborne.” New Airborne trainees are received by the school’s instructors known as “Black Hats,” because of their headgear, a simple black baseball cap with their rank and wings display on the cap.
The instructors are mostly Army personnel, but the Marine Corps Air Force, and Navy also provide instructors since the school is open to all eligible DOD service members. Black Hats are skilled parachutists who are responsible for training Airborne students, and they do with ‘tough love.‘ They will make their students repeat physical drills and exercises over and over until they get it right.
No matter how exhausting, they won’t stop until a student gets it right. They are doing it for the trainees own well-being.
2. The Airborne Shuffle
Not to be confused with the popular dance the ‘Cupid shuffle’ or the Chicago Bears Super Bowl shuffle, the Airborne shuffle is not a dance nor is it fun. This shuffle refers to the pace or speed of a formation run during Airborne school. It is typically about a 9-minute mile.
The shuffle is meant to build stamina, not speed. At Airborne School, trainees run everywhere especially in combat boots or with their equipment. The Airborne shuffle is also commonly known for the short choppy steps students take on the aircraft before the jump out, just like the cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door.”
3. Wearing Helmets all day
At Jump School, aspiring paratroopers will wear their helmet everywhere they go. Students will run and train with it on every day. The chin strip and helmet pads will reek so bad after the first week of training that a squirt of Febreze is simply not enough to contain the smell of sweat and bacteria.
4. Falling all day
Airborne students will spend a lot of time hitting the ground during Jump School. Learning how to properly fall during a parachute landing is a core fundamental taught at the Basic Airborne Course. This is especially true when doing parachute landing fall (PLF) drills. Trainees will jump off platforms of different heights into large pits over and over until they get it right. Airborne students can expect to do hundreds of PLFs before they leave the school.
Along with PLFs, trainees will jump from tall towers like the 34-foot tower to learn proper aircraft exiting techniques and the iconic 250-foot tower, although not all Airborne class get to do the tower.
Just remember to “keep your feet and knees together!”
5. The smell of Bengay in the morning
Before long, the smell of Bengay, the over-the-counter analgesic cream used to relieve muscle and joint pain, will fill the barracks each morning to help students with their joint and muscle pain.
6. Swing Landing Trainer
The Swing Landing Trainer is not fun. Students are strapped into a harness to step off a platform and swing back and forth. The discomfort experienced on this device when swinging, especially for male students, is terrible. Students will continue to swing on the harness until they are released by the Black Hats. Trainees must perform several proper PLFs to pass this stage of training.
Most hit the ground like a stack of potatoes.
7. “Hurry up and wait” goes to a whole new level
Finally, it’s jump week… but the wait isn’t over. Students will wake up early, run to the chute shed, rig up, and just wait and wait for many hours. Students are not allowed to sleep or talk as they wait. It’s the ultimate example of “hurry up and wait.”
8. A mix of emotions
Time to jump! There’s certainly level of excitement and fear at this point, as jumpers hook up to the static line and prepare to jump. Some people question their judgement at this point, as butterflies flutter in their stomachs and thoughts of “why the hell am I doing this” circle in their head. For others, this is the best moment of their life!
9. Jumping Out
Probably the two most common reactions: “This is awesome” or “Holy Shit!”
10. Pinning of the Wings
After completing five parachute jumps, Lt. Col. Kay Wakatake has her wings pinned on by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Richardson at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Photo by Captain Greg Peterson)
The pinning of parachute wings is the crowning achievement of three weeks of training. The badge is pinned (or slammed) on the graduate’s chest. This rite of passage solidifies an individual as a member of the Airborne family. The best part of all of this: You’re no longer a leg!
“The only way they could capture the beach was to blast the Germans out of each pillbox… and that’s what they did,” wrote Jay Kay, a U.S. Navy ensign who piloted a landing craft filled with American troops during the D-Day invasions of June 6, 1944. Ensign Kay survived the war and would move to Florida to become a dentist in the postwar years, leading an ordinary life for a man who did an extraordinary thing.
Kay was just one of thousands of American, British, and Canadian troops who did their job assaulting Hitler’s vaunted Fortress Europe and then wrote home about it. Now, thanks to AARP and the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University, we have a chance to watch the memories of Kay and others come alive with the help of award-winning actor Bryan Cranston.
AARP has taken original 35mm film footage of D-Day, from preparation to landing and beyond, and digitized it to full-quality 4K footage. This captivating imagery was then skillfully edited and narrated by the Emmy-award winning actor, whose credits include the acclaimed shows Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad, as well as the Broadway hit Network and many, many film credits.
In three vignettes created by AARP, Cranston reads the words written by American troops, officer and enlisted alike, who supported the landings at Normandy that day. From the sea, he reads the words of Ens. Jay Kay, who piloted landing craft. From the air, the words come from Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, who was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Distinguished Unit Citation after the war. On the ground, the words are from PFC. Dominick “Dom” Bart, part of the first wave of Operation Overlord.
The three videos recount the feelings shared by the men who jumped into occupied France, who drove other men onto the beaches through mine-filled waters, and the men who risked everything on those beaches to free the millions of Europeans who lived and died under the Nazi jackboot.
At times, they are equally hopeful and heartbreaking, a recollection of a rollercoaster of horrors and anticipation felt by those who fight wars. They are filled with the memories of young men who are encountering war and death, often for the first time, in a trial by fire that took them through one of history’s most extraordinary events, a battle that signaled the beginning of the end for one of the world’s most sinister monsters.
The 17th century wasn’t exactly the most progressive time in history, as evidenced by the fact people with dwarfism were literally traded about by the upper echelons of society like Pokemon cards. Amongst the pantheon of known “court dwarfs” as they were called, one stood above them all thanks to the frankly astonishing life he led in his rise from the son of a commoner to ultimately seeing himself not just a Captain of the Horse, but a knight as well.
Jeffrey Hudson, or “Lord Minimus”, Sir Jeffrey, or Captain Hudson to give him his proper titles, was reportedly born sometime in June of 1619 in the town of Oakham located right in the heart of the quaint English county of Rutland. The son of a stout and broad shouldered man, called John Hudson, Jeffrey’s dwarfism was not initially apparent. This is largely because Jeffrey had what is known as “proportionate dwarfism” which, as the name suggests, is characterised by the individual having limbs of proportionate size to their body. As a result, Jeffrey’s family didn’t actually notice that anything was amiss until he just stayed abnormally small.
There were many hypotheses bandied about during Jeffrey’s lifetime about how exactly he came to be so small, with our personal favourite being a contemporary one espousing that the cause was his mother choking on a pickle while giving birth… However, experts have since concluded that he, like many proportionate dwarfs, most likely just had hypopituitarism, much to the chagrin of those of us who like the pickle story.
In any event, Jeffrey was born into, while not a well to do family, at least a well connected one. Jeffrey’s father, John, was described as a man of “lusty stature”, which was a bit of a requirement of his job- breeding and managing bulls meant for fighting with other animals for the Duke of Buckingham, George Villers.
Little is known of Jeffrey’s childhood, that is, until his dear old dad decided to present him to the Duches Katherine Villers at the age of 7. You see by the time Jeffrey was around 7 years old, he reportedly stood “scarce more than a foot and half in height”, while still being near perfectly proportioned.
Jeffrey’s father knew how uncommon this was as well as how prized dwarfs were at court. It turns out many royals kept at least one dwarf, among other such “pets”, around for their own and their guests’ amusement. His hope seemingly was that Jefferey would be made a member of the Duchess’ court as such an object of entertainment.
While this might seem somewhat cruel, it should be noted here that Jeffrey’s future prospects were not exactly good in this era. By seeing if the Duchess would take little Jeff as part of her court, John potentially was ensuring his son a life of luxury, if, of course, also one that would be extremely demeaning. But he would be demeaned by people either way. Thus, might as well choose the life that would see him have his own servants, plenty of food in his belly, and anything he could wish, rather than scraping a living as a commoner.
Whatever his father was thinking, the young Jeffrey was indeed accepted and quickly became a beloved plaything of the Duchess, who spent her time dressing him in miniature outfits and taking delight in the reaction he garnered from friends when she presented him at parties.
Mere months later, Jeffrey’s life was once again upended when the Duke’s household was expecting a visit from King Charles I and his wife, Queen Henrietta.
At the appropriate moment, Jeffrey burst out of the pie wearing a small suit of armor and brandishing a little sword that he swung about wildly to the amusement of all.
The Queen is said to have immediately become enamored with Jeffrey’s “remarkable smallness”, and asked the Duchess if she could take him home to add to her own little collection, which comprised of a couple other dwarfs, a giant called William Evans who was reportedly over 7 feet tall, and a little monkey named Pug. Happy to oblige, the Duchess handed Jeffrey over to the Queen in 1626.
After this, Jeffrey went to live with the Queen in London and became known as “Lord Minimus”, with his remarkably near perfect proportions and extremely small stature, even for a dwarf, being particularly valued. As noted by Sir Walter Scott when Jeffrey had reached adulthood and still not added much in height from his 7 year old self,
He although a dwarf of the least possible size, had nothing positively ugly in his countenance, or actually distorted in his limbs….His countenance in particular, had he been a little taller, would have been accounted, in youth, handsome, and now in age, striking an expressive; it was but the uncommon disproportion betwixt the head and the trunk which made the features seem whimsical and bizarre- and effect which was considerably increased by the dwarf’s moustaches, which it was his pleasure to wear so large that they almost twisted back amongst and mingled with his grizzled hair.
Going back to his childhood, due to the massive difference in height between Evans and Jeffrey (over 7 feet vs about 1.5 ft), apparently one of many popular party tricks Evans and Jeffrey used to perform was to have Evans presented to guests, at which point he’d pull a large loaf of bread out of one pocket, then pull Jeffrey out of another. The two would then proceed to prepare some food for the guests using the bread.
It wasn’t all about entertaining guests, however. While Jeffery initially was treated as little more than a pet, for whatever reason the Queen, who was about a decade older than Jeff, and he hit it off, quickly becoming extremely close.
It’s speculated by some that their shared sense of being outsiders to the society in which they lived may have played a part- the Queen being a French Catholic living in England at a time when both were somewhat taboo. Things got even worse for her when she was further isolated by her husband, King Charles, when he had almost her entire retinue, including her close friend Madame St. George, forcibly removed by guards and kicked out of the country in June of 1626, around the same time Jeffery came into the Queen’s life.
With Jeffrey her trusted confidant, the Queen saw to it that he became educated, taught how to be a gentlemen, and even began giving him courtly tasks, rather than having him working solely as entertainment for guests and herself. For example, in 1630 the Queen sent a then 10 year old Jeffrey to France as part of a delegation to retrieve her midwife, Madam Peronne, ten Catholic friars, and various valuables from her mother Queen Marie de Medicis.
While there, along with famed court dance master and hunchback Jacques Cordier dit Bocan who was also part of this delegation, Jeffrey reportedly wowed the court in France with his dancing abilities, in the process collecting quite a lot of rather expensive gifts from impressed members the court.
Unfortunately for Jeff, this journey ended in disaster when the ship he was on while headed back home was captured by pirates. The midwife and Jeff, his own newfound valuables, along with those sent as gifts to the Queen, were taken, though the others aboard, like the friars and the dance master, were allowed to go free.
When the Queen found out what had happened, she reportedly was extremely concerned for Jeffery’s safety. As to how she got him back, this isn’t clear, but it can be presumed she paid some sort of ransom for his return. Whatever the case, return he did shortly thereafter and continued his life at court.
Unfortunately for the Queen, her baby died not long after being born, though reportedly Jeffrey was a great comfort to her during this period, staying by her side throughout her long recovery from what was described as an extremely difficult labor. From here, Jeffery was her constant companion and when he got older one of her most trusted advisors.
On that note, a curious and academically inclined child, Jeffrey was known to be a voracious reader. He also soon was known in the Queen’s court for his rapier wit and penchant for devilishly cutting put downs to any who would insult him- something that only served to make him even more popular with the Queen and later the King who are both said to have been endlessly amused by Jeffrey’s growing confidence and ability to reduce anyone insulting him to a sputtering idiot with a marvelously well-crafted insult of his own.
Beyond book learning and his weaponpized wit, Jeffery was also taught to use actual weapons and to ride horses, with a special saddle and custom-made pistols more suited for his stature made for him.
By all accounts, as with so many other areas of learning, Jeffrey excelled at horsemanship and became an exceptional marksman- two skills that would ironically result in the latter half of his life go horribly wrong.
Nevertheless, at the age of 23, Jeffery was keen to do his bit for his King and Queen when the English Civil war began in 1642. Though still only around 20-23 inches tall, he didn’t hesitate to lend his newfound talents to the war effort. Impressed by the dwarf’s candor, the King and Queen granted him the title of “Captain of the Horse”, although it’s not clear if Jeffery actually was allowed to lead troops in battle or if it was just a ceremonial position. It was also around this time the the King knighted Jeffrey, though that one was reportedly a joke during a party. Nevertheless, it was an official knighting from the King.
As for Jeffrey, he took his new positions incredibly serious, insisting upon being addressed as Captain Jeffrey Hudson after being given that rank.
When the Queen fled England at the height of the war, Jeffrey dutifully accompanied her to France. Upon arriving in the country, emboldened by his recent successes in life, he made it known to the Queen’s entourage that he would no longer accept jibes about his height and that he’d defend his honor with his life, if necessary. After all, whether originally as a joke or not, he was now a knight of the English court, a Captain of the guard, an excellent marksmen, and one of the most trusted confidants of the Queen.
This brings us to an event that would change his life forever, occurring in 1644 when he was about 25 years old.
A gentlemen of the court evidently decided to ignore Jeffrey’s insistence that he was no longer some court pet to be teased, and instead apparently insulted Jeffrey in some way, though what exactly was said has been lost to history. Enraged, Jeffrey challenged the man to a duel- a challenge that was accepted, with pistols on horseback being chosen for the fight.
Showing how much he thought the whole thing was a joke, Jeffrey’s opponent chose to face him not wielding a pistol of his own, but rather a squirt-gun like device, as noted in a letter from Queen Henrietta of the event,
The giving cavalier took no firearms, but merely a huge squirt, with which he meant at once to extinguish his small adversary and the power of his weapon. The vengeful dwarf, however, managed his good steed with sufficient address to avoid the shower aimed at himself and his loaded pistols, and, withal, to shoot his laughing adversary dead.
Not just shooting him dead, from horseback, Jeffery demonstrated his prodigious skill as a marksmen, by putting a rather sizable hole in his opponents forehead, almost hitting him right between the eyes.
This all might have amused the royals, except that the man Jeffrey had just killed happened to be the brother of the Queen’s Master of the Horse, Baron William Croft.
This still might have been OK, except on top of having a well connected brother, it turned out that dueling was illegal in France at the time. Meaning that Jeffrey had just committed murder in the eyes of the court.
Sir Jeffrey was promptly arrested, with calls to have him executed, but the Queen was having none of it. Although apparently extremely displeased at Jeffrey for embarrassing her in this way among the aristocracy and while a guest in the country, she nevertheless wrote to Cardinal Mazarin pleading that Jeffery’s life be spared. Her request was granted, and instead of being executed, Jeffrey was exiled from France.
Exactly what happened to Jeffrey after this isn’t clear, other than apparently shortly thereafter he found himself on a ship that was captured by Ottoman pirates. Being something of a novelty, he was sold into slavery and spent around two and a half decades in this state.
Ultimately freed sometime in the late 1660s as a part of efforts by England to get its captured citizens released from slavery, the first mention of him back in England after this period occurred in 1669.
As to what he got up to as a slave, little is known of this, other than an account gleaned from interview he gave to author James Wright who was writing a history of Rutland book. From this, we know only a couple things. First, Jeffrey somehow grew 22 inches, approximately doubling his height from age of around 25 to 50 when he returned.
This is where we have some small reference of what his life was like as a slave when he credited his growth to the stresses of hard labor as well as “buggery”. For those not familiar, this is another word for sodomy, seemingly implying at least part of Jeffrey’s role as a slave for someone was as a sex toy, or perhaps other slaves used him for such.
Whatever the case, now free, the much taller Jeffrey now was simply a short man, instead of a miniature one, meaning he wasn’t able to resume his former post at court. Compounding the issue was that Queen Henriette had died in 1669, the year he appears to have returned to England, so benefiting from her patronage also was not an option.
Ultimately he was given money by the Duke of Buckingham George Villiers II, who was the son of Jeffery’s first patron, as well as from Charles II, son of Queen Henriette, to help set himself up on his new life.
Unfortunately for him, when he traveled to London in 1676 to request a pension from the court, this was a peak time of anti-Catholic sentiment in the country. This saw Jefferey promptly arrested upon arriving in London for the sole crime of daring to be a Catholic- a faith he’d taken up as a youth because the Queen.
Jeffrey subsequently spent the next four years or so in prison, being released in 1680. As to what he got up to after, this isn’t known, other than he died 2 years later at the age of 63 in 1682, buried in a pauper’s grave without so much as a headstone, despite officially being a knight and a Captain of the Horse.
While it isn’t known where he was buried, a marker was created at some point near his place of birth which states simply, “Sir Jeffery Hudson-1619-1682- A dwarf presented in a pie to King Charles 1st.”
The Vanscoyk family in Yuma, Arizona. All photos by Kayla Mattox Photography.
Family first, mission always.
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Charles Vanscoyk and his wife, Staff Sgt. Alexandra Vanscoyk, are both aviation supply specialists who recently returned to the fleet after completing tours on recruiting duty. The transition has been met with unexpected challenges that magnify the logistics needed for couples seeking successful careers and a growing family.
The Vanscoyks met in 2013 shortly after Alexandra left college and enlisted in the Marine Corps. She says the two quickly became friends, deciding to date after being stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, together.
“For three years our lives crossed paths on and off and eventually timing lined up where we were both single and we decide to try dating each other,” she explained in an email.
Alexandra said it came natural to date someone who understood the military lifestyle.
“It was always difficult finding civilians who wanted to date a ‘female Marine.’ I’m not really sure why. My best guess is our job title is intimidating to most civilians and we usually have an alpha personality which can also come off as intimidating. It also made conversations easier. We use so many acronyms and random jargon that most people will never understand, no matter how many times you tell them. So, for me, dating a Marine was what seemed realistic,” she said.
Missouri-native Charles Vanscoyk followed his twin brother into the Marines in 2004 after a short stint at college proved school wasn’t for him. Charles says a conversation with the recruiter made him realize the military was what he had been looking for.
“Growing up I was an athlete and liked to be challenged and stay competitive. Plus coming from a small town in the middle of nowhere the idea of travel and adventure sounded cool,” he said.
Both Marines were attached to Recruiting Station Houston, completing the independent duty assignment then relocating to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona. They both admit it’s been an adjustment to not only be back in the fleet, but doing so with the added stress of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Under normal circumstances, childcare is a trending issue for households with working parents. Alexandra says a good command definitely makes it easier for them.
“Since we are both active duty it’s very difficult to come up with a solid routine while the daycares are closed. We’ve got two kids at home — one school aged who needs to complete online class work and an infant who needs constant attention. Thankfully our command has been very helpful but I know other dual couples who have not been as fortunate,” she said.
Prior to the pandemic, she adds, some of the challenges “were deciding who would stay home if the kids got sick, who would take time off work for appointments, worrying about when you or your spouse has 24–hour duty,” though she is quick to point out their family has benefitted from “very understanding units and leadership.” And the exposure to solid leadership over the years has guided her throughout her career.
“The commanding officer at my first unit had a moto: “family first, mission always.” At the time I didn’t have a family but it stuck with me. At my second unit I had two different COs and both were huge family men. Seeing them, 15 years plus into their career and still having a strong family made me realize it is possible to have the best of both,” she said.
Alexandra adds that her advice for younger service members is to find a good balance for work-home life, especially if you’re in a dual military relationship. Charles echoes that sentiment.
“The best advice I could give is put your family first. Still be a good Marine and proficient at your job, but understand this machine that is the Marine Corps will not fall apart if you are not there. Be there for you kids and family. Don’t miss those moments you will never get back with your family,” he said.
The Vanscoyks have their sights set on serving in the Marines for the long haul, with Alexandra weighing the idea of either pursuing warrant officer school or becoming a career recruiter. Charles says he has checked the box on many of his goals making career progression the natural focus.
“As a Marine you always strive for the next rank, so MSgt is my goal. And continue to try and motivate and inspire these next generation of Marines that will carry on the legacy,” he said.
The story begins in pre-revolutionary Philadelphia.
As a result of early trading with Caribbean countries, colonists along the fishing ports massed great quantities of rum and citrus fruits.
These fish houses, as they were called, kept punch bowls of Fish House Punch in their outer foyers to entertain guests as they waited to be seated.
The combination of rum, brandy, lemon juice, water, and sugar gained a reputation for packing a punch among early colonists, including Continental Marines.
U.S. Marine Corps legend, Gen. Victor “Brute” Krulak (center) insisted that this drink be served at every one of his birthday celebrations after 1940.
“The recipe for true Fish House Punch was kept secret for almost 200 years,” according to Gary and Mardee Regan’s review on Fish House Punch, located on the Amazon.com website. “The Formula was first developed at the Fish House Club, also known as the State in Schuylkill, or simply the Schuylkill Fishing Company in Philadelphia, an organization formed in 1732 by a group of anglers who liked to cook.”
According to the Regans, the Fish House Punch recipe fell into public hands some time around the beginning of the 20th century, and the formula has been seen in print many times over the past hundred years.
Nevertheless, for those who mix this historical punch, the history surrounding it is legendary and so is the taste.
Early Sunday, a fire broke out below decks on the USS Bonhomme Richard which is currently docked in her home port of San Diego.
The fire was reported to be as a result of an explosion below deck, possibly originating in the hangar bay of the amphibious assault ship. The first reposted call went out around 10am and was later expanded to a three-alarm call for the San Diego Fire Department.
Injuries have been reported for 17 sailors and 4 civilians, but no details have been confirmed.
The Bonhomme Richard, named after Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones’ famous ship, is primarily used to embark, deploy and land elements of a Marine assault force in amphibious operations by air, landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles. It can also act as a light aircraft carrier. The ship was commissioned in 1998 and San Diego became its home port in 2018. She has deployed numerous times in support of Operation Iraq Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and was part of humanitarian efforts in during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster.