Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets - We Are The Mighty
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Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

Simone Askew. Remember her name.


She is the leader of the pack, so to speak, of the Class of 2021 at the US Military Academy at West Point, and the first black woman to hold the position.

That Cadet Askew shattered West Point’s glass ceiling is no small measure — no small measure in the armed forces, for sure, and no small measure of 21st century America.

The military, like the world of business, has long been considered a man’s world.

And the telltale signs of war, peace and tribalism reflect where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re headed. Cadet Askew and her teammates are leading America across a new threshold.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets
West Point Academy. Photo courtesy of US Army.

For one, West Point is the oldest of our military academies. It was founded after President Thomas Jefferson, who had not served in the military but became commander in chief when he was sworn into office, signed the Military Peace Establishment Act in 1802. The act specified that the academy be established along the Hudson River in New York.

One of the largest footprints Cadet Askew is stepping into belongs to Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, West Point’s first black cadet captain and now commander of US Forces Korea.

“We are role models to a lot of young people, not just African-Americans and soldiers,” the now 58-year-old Gen. Brooks once said.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets
Lt. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks. Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Salcido.

Indeed, America’s current state of affairs proves that America’s future leaders will have much with which to contend. Geneneral Brooks, who, like Cadet Askew, attended high school in Fairfax County, Virginia, is staring down the barrel of the North Korea nuclear threat.

On the home front, civil unrest and tensions among various cultural factions make the rounds of daily news and undistilled social media every day.

Remember Shoshana Johnson and Jessica Lynch, the two soldiers who were captured in Iraq in 2003 during the “global war on terror”? The Marines rescued both, and both wrote successful biographies.

They, too, became role models even though their capture spawned anew the debate over whether women should even serve in combat areas.

Cadet Askew, 20, had barely entered grade school at the time.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets
Simone Askew. (Photo from Ken Kraetzer via YouTube)

Cadet Askew not only is making history, she is studying it as well. In fact, her major is international history, an ever-changing subject in this ever-changing world of ours.

She also loves volleyball and is on the West Point crew team — understanding, as too many of America’s political leaders and wannabe political leaders do not, that team sports give you a different perspective on leadership.

The media gave anyone interested a glimpse of Cadet Simone Askew in her new role as first captain of cadets at West Point, leading the Long Grey Line of cadets on a 12-mile basic training trek — smiling all the way.

Cadet Askew already sounds like she’s preparing the Army Class of 2021 for the history books.

“It’s humbling,” she said, “but also exciting as I step into this new opportunity to lead the corps to greatness with my teammates with me.”

As I said, remember the name Simone Askew.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Every current Presidential candidates’ stance on Afghanistan

There are a lot of people running to be the next President of the United States. And it’s not just Democrats crowding the field. In the coming few years, the President is going to have to figure out what the U.S. should do about its longest-ever war, the War in Afghanistan.


What to do about it is proving to be the biggest humdinger in all American history. It seems to be a war the United States cannot lose or win or forget – but whoever is in power in the coming Presidential term will likely feel the pressure to do something about it. There are currently too many candidates to list accurately, but we’ll mention the top names among Democratic challengers and include the latest challengers to President Trump’s GOP nomination.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets
Donald Trump

President Trump

The problem for the guy in the big chair is that he has to make decisions right now and anything he has in the works could be compromised by disclosing it to the public. All we can say for the President is that he recently scrapped a peace agreement with the Taliban over the group’s continued attacks and killing of U.S. service members in Kabul. According to the President, peace talks are “dead” as far as he is concerned.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

Mark Sanford

Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford recently threw his hat into the ring to challenge President Trump’s primacy in the GOP race. The President declined to debate Sanford or his other challenger, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. But when it comes to the war in Afghanistan, Sanford is a well-known budget hawk and is running as a fiscal conservative. It’s unlikely the expensive war will continue if a President Sanford starts cutting budgets.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

Bill Weld

The republican, former Massachusetts governor, and 2016 Libertarian Vice-Presidential candidate has expressed anti-interventionist views on not just Afghanistan and Syria, but anywhere in the world.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

Joe Biden

The former multi-term Senator and Vice-President to former President Barack Obama says he would bring U.S. combat troops home in his first term and keep a residual presence in the country for counterterrorism operations.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

Cory Booker

The New Jersey Senator says he would bring American troops home from Afghanistan as soon as possible but remarked it would be necessary to ensure the country doesn’t become a safe haven for terrorists again.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

Pete Buttigieg

South Bend Mayor and Afghanistan veteran believes it’s time to end the war with a negotiated peace agreement that keeps a special operations and intelligence presence in Afghanistan while bringing the rest of American ground forces home.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

Kamala Harris

California prosecutor-turned Senator Kamala Harris believes a political solution is the way forward, preferably one reached in the first term of a Harris Administration. She says a withdrawal plan should be designed by military leaders and national security advisors while leaving Afghanistan on a path to stability.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

Beto O’Rourke

The former Texas Representative who almost unseated longtime Senator Ted Cruz in 2018 believes in withdrawing all U.S. service members by the end of his first term. He says he wants to reach a responsible end to military operations and shift the U.S. priority to putting Afghans in charge of their own future.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

Bernie Sanders

Sanders, the longtime Senator from Vermont, says he would remove U.S. military forces from Afghanistan “as expeditiously as possible,” using a coordinated diplomatic and political strategy to deliver humanitarian aid. A Sanders administration would maintain a political presence to help Afghanistan develop its economy and strengthen its central government.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

Andrew Yang

The businessman and entrepreneur believes the United States gets no benefits from fighting in Afghanistan or any of what he calls America’s “Forever Wars.” According to Yang, Americans are sick of paying trillions, and watching thousands of Americans die without feeling any safer. A Yang Administration would help the country diversify its economy and prevent it from being a safe haven for terrorists.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

Elizabeth Warren

During the third Democratic Primary debate in September 2019, Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

“What we’re doing right now in Afghanistan is not helping the safety and security of the United States. It is not helping the safety and security of the world. It is not helping the safety and security of Afghanistan. We need to bring our troops home,” she said.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The National Guard has been activated. Is this martial law?

At a White House briefing on Sunday, March 22, President Trump stated that the National Guard would be stepping up to assist three states that have been hit the hardest to date by the novel coronavirus: California, New York and Washington state.

President Trump explained that the Guard activation was to help effectively respond to the crisis. This certainly isn’t unprecedented — the National Guard is frequently used in emergency situations. But this definitely got people talking: Are we heading toward martial law? And what does that mean?


Trump Deploys National Guard To Help States Respond To The Coronavirus | NBC News

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In a press release issued by the National Guard Bureau, a spokesperson said, “The National Guard is fully involved at the local, state and federal level in the planning and execution of the nation’s response to COVID-19. In times of emergency, the National Guard Bureau serves as a federal coordinating agency should a state require assistance from the National Guard of another state.”

Additionally the release explained, “At the national level, Guard members are training personnel on COVID-19 response, identifying and preparing National Guard facilities for use as isolation housing, and compiling state medical supply inventories. National Guard personnel will provide assistance to the states that include logistical support, disinfection/cleaning, activate/conduct transportation of medical personnel, call center support, and meal delivery.”

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

New York Army National Guard Soldiers move a floor during the placement of tents at the New York-Presbyterian-Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., as medical facilities prepare for the response to the outbreak of COVID 19 patients March 20, 2020. The Soldiers are part of the statewide effort to deploy National Guard members in support of local authorities during the pandemic response. U.S. Army National Guard/Richard Goldenberg.

So that’s what the National Guard does and is doing in this situation … but what does “federalized” actually mean?

Under Title 32 of the U.S. Code, the National Guard can be federalized, meaning that the Guard still reports to the respective state’s governor but the federal government picks up the associated costs. In his briefing, President Trump remarked that he had spoken with the governors of the three states that were impacted.

“We’ll be following them and we hope they can do the job and I think they will. I spoke with all three of the governors today, just a little while ago and they’re very happy with what we’re going to be doing.” Trump said. “This action will give them maximum flexibility to use the Guard against the virus without having to worry about cost or liability and freeing up state resources.” He added, “The federal government has deployed hundreds of tons of supplies from our national stockpile to locations with the greatest need in order to assist in those areas.”

See, that’s nice. They’re going to help build temporary hospitals and coordinate logistics and resources. They’re not going to be driving tanks up and down the streets to make sure people stay in their homes.

Are they?

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets
Tank convoy

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In a call with reporters Sunday night, Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, said, “There is no truth to this rumor that people are conspiring, that governors are planning, that anyone is conspiring to use the National Guard, mobilized or not, Title 32 or state, to do military action to enforce shelter in place or quarantines.” He did say that he expected more states would move to Title 32 as the need developed.

Military action enforcing shelter in place or quarantines would be considered martial law.

In dictionary terms, martial law is the suspension of civil authority and the imposition of military authority. The military is in control of the area; it can act as the police, the courts, even the legislature. Martial law is enacted when civilian law enforcement agencies are unable to maintain public order and safety.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

Sounds reasonable and fine, right? Wellll, until you start really digging into what martial law can include, like a suspension of parts of the Constitution, namely the Bill of Rights. In previous uses of martial law, we’ve seen confiscation of firearms (remember Hurricane Katrina? The government seized firearms and supplies when deemed necessary and acceptable, which at the time, they stated was when citizens were resisting evacuation or when a firearm was found in an abandoned home). Other suspensions include due process (Habeas corpus), road closures and blockades, strict zoning regulations (quarantine anyone?) and even automatic search and seizures without warrants (who can forget the images of SWAT teams running through houses in Boston searching for the bombers after the marathon? Do you think they stopped to get a warrant before they went into each one? Spoiler alert: no.).

Martial law has happened in the United States before and someday, it very well may happen again.

But for now, the Guard is just doing what they do best: bringing some much-needed logistics support and maybe even a little hope.

Articles

The last soldier killed in WWI died one minute before the war ended

Sergeant Henry Gunther was actually a private the day he charged a German machine gun nest for the last time in World War I. He had just been busted down in rank for criticizing the war in a letter he wrote home, and he wasn’t happy about it.


Luckily for millions of other soldiers and civilians in Europe, everyone knew the Armistice would come into effect on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

This is why so many question why Sgt. Gunter charged a German machine gun nest at 10:59 that same day.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets
A memorial to Gunther built on Nov. 11, 2010 at his gravesite in Baltimore.

Gunther and his unit came across a German position north of Verdun on Nov. 11, 1918. As they took cover from the machine guns, they received word that the war would be over in less than an hour.

That’s when Sgt. Gunther charged the position with a fixed bayonet.

The Germans fired a number of warning shots and tried to yell at Gunther – in English – to stop.

But Gunter wasn’t the only troop to die in that last hour of World War I. Some 3,000 men died in that short time. Some historians even speculate that Gunther was ordered to charge the machine guns.

Even though so many others died around the same time, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force General John J. Pershing declared that Gunther would be known as the last man killed in action in the war.

Sergeant Henry Gunther was engaged before the war started and just secured a job as a bookkeeper in the Baltimore area before he was drafted in 1917.

After his death was recorded at 10:59, his fellow troops moved his body and buried him near where his company was posted. His remains were moved to the United States in 1923.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets
A man in WWI-era French uniform stands beside a memorial stone at the spot where Henry Gunther fell on Nov. 11, 1918. The stone was unveiled by the French government as part of a 90th anniversary event in 2008. (Photo by American War Memorials Overseas)

On Veteran’s Day 2008, a memorial was constructed on the site where he was killed in Chaumont-devant-Damvillers, France.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Congressman calls on Marines to relax haircut rules during pandemic

When Marine Corps family members in Maryland reached out to their congressman with concerns about crowded base barber shops, Rep. Jamie Raskin said that — of all the challenges the country faces during the coronavirus pandemic — this was an easy one to solve.

“The people who joined the Marines are protecting us and we have an obligation to protect them,” Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, told Military.com. “[Grooming standards] can be relaxed in a way that does not endanger our national security.”


Raskin, who wrote a letter to Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger on Tuesday, is the latest to question the service’s adherence to strict grooming standards during the global pandemic. A video shared on social media that showed Marines without masks lined up to get their hair cut prompted Defense Secretary Mark Esper to ask, “What don’t you guys understand?”

In his letter, Raskin urged Berger to relax Marine Corps grooming standards temporarily “to protect both Marines and the barbers and hairdressers who serve them.”

Berger has received the letter but wishes to keep private his communication with lawmakers, Maj. Eric Flanagan, the commandant’s spokesman, said.

The commandant has left decisions about relaxing standards to stem the spread of coronavirus up to commanders, but Raskin said the massive health crisis the pandemic presents calls for top-down guidance.

“This calls for precisely the kind of institutional leadership and cohesion that the Marines are famous for,” he said. “The commandant can act here to prevent high-risk situations from materializing.”

I’m asking the @USMC Commandant to temporarily relax grooming standards in the Marine Corps during the COVID19 pandemic to avoid putting Marines base barbers at unnecessary risk of infection. Our fighting forces protect us we must protect them (with no risk to nat. security).pic.twitter.com/meuZG9ToOv

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Having Marines wait in lines for haircuts as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the military ranks is unnecessary, Raskin said. The ongoing public health struggle against coronavirus, he said, requires leaders to help reduce any unneeded close physical contact.

Each of the military services has issued its own guidance on how to enforce grooming standards during the pandemic. The Navy, the service hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis, was the first to give commanders the authority to relax male and female hair-length rules on March 18.

The Air Force also issued guidance last month to commanders about relaxing grooming standards. Soldiers have been told to follow the service’s hair regulations, but not to be overboard with extra cuts to keep it super short during the outbreak.

In his letter, Raskin stressed that it only takes one infected Marine or barber to spread COVID-19. That could lead to a chain reaction of COVID-19 cases in the ranks, he warned.

The congressman acknowledged that military leaders have a lot to consider when it comes to new policies during the unprecedented situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But if family members are worried about their Marines’ safety, public leaders have an obligation to consider their concerns, he said.

“I hope the commandant can strike the right balance,” Raskin said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army says it needs more entrepreneurs

The military needs innovative ideas from small businesses and entrepreneurs now more than ever, said Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.

McCarthy spoke Feb. 21, 2019, at Muster DC, an event in the nation’s capital for military veterans aspiring to be entrepreneurs.

“If you look at the history of the Department of Defense, we were at our best when entrepreneurs were doing business with us,” he said.


As an example, he cited that the first jeeps for World War II were actually designed and built by a small motor company called American Bantam in Butler, Pennsylvania. Later, the design was shared with Willys-Overland and Ford to produce the jeeps on a larger scale.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

1941 American Bantam Jeep Prototype.

DOD was at its best when small businesses brought their ideas and “partnered with big corporations to scale out those ideas,” McCarthy said.

“We got away from that for the last several decades,” he said, adding the Army’s practice has been to put out 1,000-page requests for proposals, or RFPs, specifying the exact size and weight of each component of a system.

Businesses maybe had a better solution, he said, but they would never share it, because that’s not what they were incentivized to do.

That culture needs to change, McCarthy said, and that’s one reason the Army Futures Command was organized. It’s why soldiers have been placed alongside tech innovators at an “accelerator hub” in Austin, Texas.

The purpose of Futures Command is to drive innovation, he said, “so that we can do business faster. So small businesses don’t get their cash flow crushed waiting years for us to make a decision.”

Out of more than 800 programs that the Army oversees, eight have been granted a special “transactional authority” to do business differently, he said.

The Futures Command has eight cross-functional teams: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, Army network, air and missile defense, soldier lethality, synthetic training environment; and assured positioning, navigation and timing.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

A soldier with the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade loads a Stinger onto an Avenger Air Defense System during a live fire training exercise at Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, July 24, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)

The Army needs a “quick win” in these eight programs, McCarthy said, in order to change the acquisition culture and to keep ahead of near-peer adversaries. The U.S. military has enjoyed a vast technological advantage for years, he said, but competitors are quickly catching up.

McCarthy said he’d like to see soldiers in accelerator hubs across the country so entrepreneurs will have easy access to pitch their ideas.

Entrepreneurs who are military veterans have an advantage, he said, because they are resilient and can deal with stress. They know how to organize and plan.

When getting ready to leave the Army, where he served as a Ranger, McCarthy said at his first interview in Manhattan, he was asked what he knew about finance.

“I said, ‘Nothing. But I know how to plan and I know how to organize and there would be nothing you can put me through that I hadn’t been through already in the form of stress and pressure,'” he said.

After the interviewer stopped laughing, McCarthy said he took a chance and hired him. The company even held the job open for a year, because soon afterward, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred and McCarthy agreed to stay in the Army for a deployment before going to work in New York.

Veterans are not afraid to engage, he said, and have commitment. “Nobody wants to follow a leader that hedges,” he said. “They want somebody that’s playing ‘double-in’ every day.”

Veterans have some of the key attributes business leaders need to have, he said, “especially if they’re going to start their own business.”

Other talents the Army needs most right now include systems engineering and software coding, McCarthy said.

Weapons systems are sophisticated and have millions of lines of coding, he said.

Most failures of weapons systems in the past came from not having the right systems architecture, he said, which resulted in weapons not being able to communicate with other platforms.

Military Life

7 things all troops should know before becoming a sniper

For decades, snipers have been a dominating instrument of warfare striking fear in the heart of their enemies — scoring record kill shots from distances up to two miles away.


With Hollywood tapping into the sniper lifestyle with such films as “American Sniper” and the “Sniper” franchise, many young troops get a misconception of what it’s like to be one.

So we asked a few veteran snipers what would they want young troops to know before embarking on the intense journey to become a sniper. Here’s what they said:

1. It’s not like in the movies

Hollywood often showcases a sniper as a single-man force tracking down that perfect location to take that most concealed shot possible.

In modern day, scout sniper teams typically consist of 4-8 man teams consisting of a shooter, spotter, radioman, and additional troops to provide security.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets
A Scout Sniper team from 3rd Battalion 5th Marines (Darkhorse) during cold weather training in Bridgeport, Ca. (Source: Mark Hamett)

2. Shooting is only a fraction of what a sniper does

A sniper needs to properly plan the mission, insert and quietly maneuver to a well-concealed firing location, stalk his prey, complete the math calculation before firing his weapon accordingly, then safely egress out.

A mission could last days.

3. Have mental conditioning

Being sniper isn’t just about being an excellent marksman — although that’s important. But when you’re in an operational status, a sniper has to overcome many mental constraints like lack of sleep and sometimes limited rations. The teams typically only leave the wire with what supplies they can carry — and that’s it.

The teams are usually outnumbered by the enemy and must maintain discipline throughout the mission. If the sniper has a mental breakdown in the field, the mission could be lost.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets
A scout sniper candidate as he as crawls through a swampy area.

4. Patience is a virtue

Making a mistake because the sniper is in a hurry is unacceptable and can get him killed. A sniper’s hyperactive moment could result in death.

5. The selection

Completing sniper indoctrination doesn’t guarantee a spot in the platoon. Sniper teams look for the guy who is not only capable of firing that perfect shot but has an outgoing personality. Once a troop is selected, they will go on to the next phase of intense sniper training.

6. It’s constant training and learning

Battlefield tactics change and evolve based on the environment the shooter is facing. That said, a sniper team must be able to adapt and overcome any situation that presents itself.

If the wind keeps up or the sniper is forced to relocate, he will more than likely have to reconfigure his sight alignment within moments.

Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets
A U.S. Army sniper using a Barrett M82.

7. It’s not a way out of the infantry

Young troops tend to believe that going through the sniper pipeline is an easy way out of the grunt lifestyle. To outsiders, life in the scout sniper platoons can appear more glamorous because of the modernized gear they train with and operate.

The truth is, that’s just additional heavy gear they must haul during their missions.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Kentucky Colonels are real and they have nothing to do with chicken

If you’re anything like me and had a subscription to Civil War Times Illustrated when you were ten years old, the first time you saw Colonel Sanders (of KFC fame), you probably thought to yourself: “That’s not a colonel! I’ve seen colonels before in Civil War Times Illustrated and they definitely don’t dress like that. What gives?”

Ten-year-old me wasn’t wrong, but Colonel Harland Sanders was a colonel – a Kentucky Colonel – and the distinction is less about military service and more about service. Specifically to the State of Kentucky.


Meet the first black woman to lead West Point cadets

Get this man some bourbon.

The Kentucky Colonels are a voluntary but exclusive philanthropic organization, and the only way to receive a commission as a Kentucky Colonel is to be nominated by the Governor of Kentucky. The Colonels offer grants, scholarships, and more in the form of charitable donations from its membership. The goal is to give back for the betterment of the people of the state while doing the most good with the money they have.

They enjoy the occasional party now and then too.

In order to become a Colonel of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, you’ll need first to be nominated to the Governor or the Secretary of State. The Colonels are, after all, designated representatives of the governor of Kentucky and the “aides-de-camp” of the commonwealth’s chief executive. That’s all due to the history of the organization.

The title of Kentucky Colonel began as a way to bestow respect on elder generations who fought the British in the American Revolution and the War of 1812, as the Kentucky Militias were particularly feared and/or respected by British troops. The governor, Isaac Shelby, personally led Kentucky troops in the War of 1812. When there was no war left to fight, the militias were disbanded – but the governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky still required an aide-de-camp, so he hired one. That was Col. Charles Stewart Todd. After a while, the role of the governor’s aide-de-camp became more ceremonial and, eventually, honorary.

Nowadays, being designated a Kentucky Colonel still means assisting the governor, but the Colonels exist as envoys of the governor and state, those who preserve Kentucky heritage and history, while improving the lives and living conditions for those who live there. Previous Colonels include boxer Muhammad Ali, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, actress Betty White, Pope Benedict XVI, and the past seven U.S. Presidents, just to name a few.

So while the uniform and rank may be ceremonial, the duties and expectations of the Kentucky Colonels are very real.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Bringing back the original meaning of Memorial Day – with flowers

For me, Memorial Day has always been about more than just picnics and barbecues. I have five members of my family buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The earliest served in the Spanish American War, and all the way to World War II. It’s important that their service be honored and remembered — especially on Memorial Day.

In early May 2011, I was looking for some way to give back to my country. I worked as a flower grower in Ecuador and I had an idea. Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day. After the Civil War, people would go to cemeteries and decorate gravesites with flowers.


I met with two other Ecuador-based American flower growers, and together we were able to coordinate a massive donation of fresh flowers. I called up the administration at Arlington National Cemetery and said, ‘We’ve got 10,000 roses for you, for Memorial Day.'” And they happily accepted the offer.

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Memorial Day Flowers Foundation at Fort Logan National Cemetery.

And that was how the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation had its start. Scouts and other volunteers place a flower in front of each headstone. Volunteers quietly read every headstone and note the dates and circumstances. This moment of reflection and remembrance is important. It’s a very personal tribute.

What began at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day in 2011 with 10,000 roses, has expanded to dozens of cemeteries around the country. Last year, the foundation distributed 400,000 flowers at 41 cemeteries and other Memorial Day observances around the country.

That expansion would not have been possible without volunteers and broad-based partnerships and support. These days, the foundation sources flowers from 80 to 90 farms, including farms in California, Colombia, Ecuador, and Ethiopia.

Since 2013, we have worked with local groups to organize floral tributes for Memorial Day at National Cemeteries and Veterans Cemeteries across the U.S.

Our growth would not have been possible without the guidance and involvement of the National Cemetery Administration. Cemetery directors find our efforts provide a way for the general public to connect with their mission to honor our late veterans and instill an appreciation for the sacrifices they make.

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Memorial Day Flowers Foundation volunteers prepare roses at the Houston National Cemetery.

We also distribute bouquets of flowers to gold star families attending the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar over Memorial Day Weekend, organized by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

In 2019, more than 100 cemeteries are participating in the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation’s efforts around the country.

The numbers amaze me every time I look at them. Now we talk about tens of thousands of flowers. We still have a long way to go, before every veteran’s gravesite is recognized on Memorial Day, but we are well on our way to reaching that goal.

I also know the difference just one flower can make. One year, as we gave out flowers on Memorial Day, I handed a rose to an older woman. She thanked me and said, “His father brought me roses the day he was born.” Then she invited me to walk with her to visit her son’s gravesite. And as we stood there together in the hot sun and she told me her son’s story, I knew one flower could mean everything to one person

Placing a flower for Memorial Day to honor a fallen service member or veteran is a quiet tribute; a heartfelt reminder of just what flowers can mean to people — and what it means to honor the sacrifices of U.S. military members and their families. It brings together people from all walks of life to honor those who have served our country and it helps all of us learn more about our history.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the US maintains strategic advantage in the Arctic

In 1935, Billy Mitchell, former U.S. Army brigadier general and airpower advocate, testified before Congress that Alaska was the most strategic place in the world. From there, he said, U.S. Army aircraft could reach any capital in the northern hemisphere within nine hours.

Much of that flight time was over unoccupied polar ice, as only the most intrepid of explorers ventured high above the Arctic Circle.

As technology improved, the coming decades led to increased civilian and military activity over, under and on the Arctic ice sheet.

Today, however, it is environmental changes that are leading to increased activity above the Arctic Circle.


Citing a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Arctic Report Card, a Department of Defense report to Congress in June, 2019, stated, “The Arctic’s environment continues to change, including diminished sea ice coverage, declining snow cover and melting ice sheets. Temperatures across the Arctic region are increasing more than twice as fast as the global average…”

The result has been the opening of sea lanes year-round, increasing both Russian and Chinese civilian and military presence near U.S. borders and the borders of its allies.

As an Arctic presence enables global reach for whomever has this strategic access, Russia has been reopening, fortifying and building new military bases in the region.

While Russia’s presence in the region has been increasing, melting permafrost beneath some of the U.S. Air Force’s most remote satellite tracking and communications facilities threatens its capability to observe and respond to threats.

The accompanying video explores how the Air Force is addressing the challenge of maintaining a strategic advantage in the Arctic, as this northernmost arena for the great power competition becomes more and more accessible.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows

Every Fourth of July, I find myself at a fireworks show enjoying the pretty lights and the prettier colors only to be slapped in the face with a muscially-driven grand finale that should be an awe-inspiring feat of Amerigasmic glory.


Except that the music driving that finale often has nothing to do with America. At all.

I’m talking about the 1812 Overture. Here’s the part you definitely know:

I may be an overreacting history nerd. I accept that possibility. But also consider that I want us all to bask in the glory that is the history of the United States. We are f*cking amazing.

We’re back-to-back World War champs, we have the strongest military in the history of ever unless Star Wars turns out to be real, and we don’t need to take other countries’ history as our own.

My (correct) guess is that people think the 1812 Overture is so-named because of the War of 1812, fought between Britain and the United States, often called our second war for independence. That war was fought to a grinding draw.

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A draw is not a loss. Just sayin’.

They burned Washington. We burned what would become Toronto (only because London was too far to swim, but dammit, we would have). We checked the vaunted Royal Navy in both oceans and the Great Lakes.

We even teamed up with pirates and beat the British at New Orleans. (Side note: we should bring back pirate alliances.)

My other (probably correct) guess is that if an American doesn’t live in New Orleans or upstate New York, the bulk of what they know about the War of 1812 is that it started in 1812. And because the sun obviously revolves around the Earth and the Earth obviously revolves around America, the 1812 Overture must be about our War of 1812.

What else did history have to pay attention to in 1812, other than America toppling the giant again, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2“-style?

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Pictured: America. Obviously.

(Reminder: a draw is not a loss.)

It turns out, a whole hell of a lot was going on. Namely, 1812 is the year Napoleon’s Grande Armée (minus all the men he lost to disease and lice on the march) captured Moscow. But before they did, the Russians made sure to douse the city in vodka and burn it to the ground.

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The French Army spent the winter in Moscow trying to find snails, or whatever it is they ate, in a burned-out city as babushkas laughed at them from the shells of former homes and distilleries.

This is how Tchaikovsky was inspired to write the 1812 Overture, an awesome piece, complete with church bells and cannons and lots of drums and what not.

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Simpsons did it.

But Tchaikovsky didn’t like it. He called it, “very loud and noisy and completely without artistic merit, obviously written without warmth or love.”

There are a number of clues in the song that should have signaled to us that it — like many things — isn’t about us. For starters, it’s written by a Russian named Tchaikovsky. That should have been our first clue.

Secondly, the Marseillaise — the French National Anthem — is actually played in the 1812 Overture. More than once.

So when I’m watching the fireworks on July Fourth, I’m always quizzically raising an eyebrow as we celebrate our independence with the French National Anthem.

Unlike other Americana that borrows from other countries songs (The Star-Spangled Banner, for example, is the tune of a British drinking song set to Francis Scott Key’s poem about the bombing of Fort McHenry), the 1812 Overture is a piece we will never be able to fully co-opt as uniquely American.

So play something else. I recommend “The Battle of the Kegs,” an American propaganda song about Patriots scaring the sh*t out of British sailors with a bunch of beer kegs during the Revolution.

Special Thanks to Logan Nye for contributing to this post.
MIGHTY FIT

The “real” keto diet…you’re probably doing it wrong

The ketogenic diet is confusing. That confusion has sparked a growing craze in the diet by all kinds of zealots and gurus that preach the Holy Gospel according to Keto.

Here’s what it was originally intended for.

The classical keto diet is a diet that is 90% fat. This is actually not feasible and not recommended unless you are receiving help from a medical professional. It was used to treat children with epilepsy.

The keto diet that your roommate is doing is probably somewhere around 60-75% fat and has been shown to help fat loss and boost energy levels. Although an analysis of the research has shown no super special metabolic advantage of diets high in fat. It simply tricks you into eating fewer calories, that’s the common factor of all diets that work.

When you eat this much fat and less than 50 grams of carbs a day, your body creates an alternative fuel source called ketones.

The whole point of the diet is to get yourself to the point in which your body is running off of ketones rather than glucose, which is its normal form of fuel. This is where the disease-fighting benefits come from and where some claim that the real benefit of the ketogenic diet comes from. But it isn’t easy to get to a state of ketosis. Here’s some guidance to help you actually get there so you can test the suggested benefits for yourself.


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Ketosis is like an exclusive hipster nightclub. If you don’t pass the test, you aren’t getting in…

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

To do keto right, you need to test

How do you know if you’re running off of ketones for fuel? There are some signs that will help you. These include:

  • Experiencing the Keto flu
  • Having bad breath
  • Being extremely thirsty

But none of those things are a guarantee that your body is in a state of ketosis. You may just be a sick person with bad breath that is constantly neglecting their hydration requirements.

In order to know if you are actually in ketosis, you need to test your blood, urine, or breath with a device that is calibrated to do just that.

Otherwise, you may just be on a low-carb diet and not running on ketones. This would mean that you have little glucose in your system, since you get it from carbs, and you have no ketones in your system. This is a recipe for low performance and low energy.

Why The Keto Diet Works – Calories Don’t Count!

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Calories still count

So many people fall for the lie that “calories don’t count” on a keto diet. The mythology falls in line with the carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity, which has been basically completely disproven.

You may have heard a false correlation like this:

Insulin stores fat → if you don’t produce insulin, you won’t get fat.

Since carbs cause insulin to be secreted, the thinking is that if you don’t eat them, your body can’t store fat. This is very misleading and not even close to the full story of fat storage.

This is a very scientifically deep topic, so I’ll just sum it up like this.

There is NO process in the body that is 100% attributable to one process or substance alone.

When you are on a keto diet, you can eat too much. If your goal is to lose some fat or maintain your current weight, it is in your best interest to count and measure what you’re eating.
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Learn to love these small, fatty fish. They will help you bring some variety into the keto diet.

Photo by Zeshalyn Capindo on Unsplash

Some keto-friendly foods you can find on base

If you are ready to test daily that you’re in ketosis and ensure that you are meeting your macronutrient ratios for the day, then you may be ready to start picking out the foods you will eat.

This is where the ketogenic diet thrives actually and how most people are able to achieve fat loss on the diet. Because it is so restrictive, it is quite easy to pick the foods you should eat.

Here is a list of some foods you could find even in the seven-day store on base.

  • Sardines in oil (the fattier, the better)
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Any keto approved snack bars like products by Ketobrownie
  • Avocados
  • Smoked salmon jerky (ensure it is fatty and not lean)
  • Butter (don’t eat a stick of butter though, that’s gross)
  • Fatty cheeses
  • Bacon
  • Egg yolks (the whites are okay as long as you don’t exceed your protein intake)
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Butter? Yep. Coffee? Sure! Cookies? No Friggin’ Way!

Photo by Taylor Kiser on Unsplash

That’s pretty much it. Most keto diets consist of lots of fatty meat and plenty of butter. Avocados are a staple; if you don’t like them, keto is not for you.

In addition, most keto diets have you eating close to 50 g of carbs a day. These should come from fruits and vegetables, not rice or bread. You need the micronutrients from these foods, or you run the risk of getting weird diseases like scurvy, as if you’re some dirty pirate circa 1632.

Just to hammer home the types of things you shouldn’t be eating on a keto diet, here’s a short list. Be prepared to say goodbye to all the good junk foods…

  • Doritos
  • Cheetos
  • Basically all snack chips
  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Noodles
  • Large quantities of fruit
  • Candy
  • Chocolate
  • Ice cream (unless it is minimally sugared and just high in fat)
  • Popsicles
  • Energy drinks with real sugar
  • Soda
  • Alcohol
  • Salad dressing
  • Popcorn
  • All grains

To sum everything up, keto may be perfect for you if you:

  1. Want to test your blood or pee on a stick every day
  2. Enjoy counting your macros to ensure you don’t overeat on the wrong things
  3. You hate all things delicious
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MIGHTY TRENDING

How Army Corps finds ‘cremains’ among ashes is utterly fascinating

In November 2018, the Camp Fire decimated the rural town of Paradise, California, becoming the state’s most destructive and deadliest wildfire ever. The windswept wildfire razed more than 14,000 residences, and at least 86 people were killed.

While Sacramento District’s official involvement following the Camp Fire has been minimal, that hasn’t prevented district employees from getting involved.


Joanne Goodsell was recently hired as a Cultural Resources Specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She is also an archaeologist, and wanted to find a way to use her skill-set to help victims of the fire. She would have been motivated to help regardless of where the fire took place, but this one hit home — literally. Goodsell grew up in Paradise.

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(Courtesy Photo)

“It was personal. I had wanted to do something to help, but there’s not much you really can do outside of donating. But sometimes you want to help firsthand, to find a way to do more,” said Goodsell.

She did donate money, but was still looking to find how she could do more. That’s when she came across a Facebook post leading her to a group called the Institute for Canine Forensics.

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(Courtesy Photo)

The ICF, in coordination with two Northern California archaeological consulting firms, was asking for archaeologists to come out and help with the unfortunate task of trying to find people’s ashes; not of those who perished in the fires, but the ashes (also called cremains) of previously deceased and cremated loved ones that were now intermingled with the ashes and debris of their burned out homes.

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(Courtesy Photo)

“A friend had posted a link where the ICF was asking for archaeologists to help with the recovery efforts,” said Goodsell. “So I got in contact with them and found this was a good fit for my skill set as an archaeologist.”

Goodsell’s involvement soon inspired other archaeologists in her section at the Corps to volunteer as well. Joe Griffin, Chief of the Cultural, Recreational, and Social Assessment Section soon got involved, as did archaeologists Hope Schear and Geneva Kraus.

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(Courtesy Photo)

Finding ashes among ashes would seem an impossible task, but the ICF brought in dogs that are specifically trained to locate human cremains. After a client has requested service, an ICF handler speaks to the client to determine the approximate location of the cremains and what kind of container they were in. The dogs then sniff through the debris field and either sit or lay down when they find a scent. From there it’s up to the teams of archaeologists.

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(Courtesy Photo)

Nature’s chemical reactions also provide some help in the archaeologists’ searches. First, the texture of the human ashes are different from ashes of say, burned drywall or wood. Second, when the cremains burn a second time, they turn a different color than the typical gray or white ash surrounding them, making them easier to see.

Dressed in protective clothing, the archaeologists would determine a search area, set up a perimeter and begin excavating down to ground level, removing layers of ash and debris as they worked toward where they believed the cremains to be.

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(Courtesy Photo)

Most often, they eventually found the cremains on the ground, surrounded or mixed in with other ash and debris. Original ceramic containers almost never survived the fire, and metal urns melted. It was helpful that sometimes the searchers also found the original metal medallion that stays with a cremated body, making recognition of the human ashes a bit easier.

“One set of cremains were in a fireproof safe, and even it burned, but we still found some cremains in there,” said Goodsell. “Our highest recovery rates were often for cremains that were in the original containers and had been sitting on the floor of a closet.”

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(Courtesy Photo)

The loss of a loved one’s ashes can add a sense of guilt to the already heavy burden of losing a home, especially for those who had yet to fulfill a promise to spread a loved one’s cremains as requested in person or in a will. Fortunately, Goodsell said they had close to a 70 percent success rate in recovering and returning entire cremains and medallions.

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(Courtesy Photo)

The job of searching for cremains at the Camp Fire is finished, at least for now, but Goodsell hopes that in the near future cremains recovery will become standard operating procedure following wildfire disasters.

“This is not going to be the last time this is needed,” said Goodsell. “Finding and returning the cremains means a great deal to these family members. Even if it was a small, token amount, people were very, very grateful.”

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