In case you didn’t know, the former Secretary of Defense, Chaos Actual, Gen. James Mattis (ret.) wrote an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal and it’s just ahead of his memoir covering how he learned leadership from his time as a young buck Lt to his time leading the Pentagon.
Of course, Mattis makes a very in-depth analysis into why America’s allies are vital and some insight into his resignation last December – but he also makes a case against the tribalistic political-sphere that seemed to envelope 2019. He’s always remained apolitical, despite sitting in the Trump cabinet. The petty squabbling and BS just distracts from the mission.
I know reading lists were sort of his thing – and it’d be kind of awkward for him to put his own book on his own reading list for people to buy and read. So just assume it’s on there since I don’t think he’s even updated it since he was last in the office.
Anyways, here are some memes to get your extended weekend started while I shamelessly give an unsponsored plug for the Patron Saint of Chaos’ new book.
As moviegoers flock to their local cinemas to watch the latest installment of Star Wars, it’s important to remember that the whole film franchise wouldn’t be what it is today without the efforts of a young, highly motivated individual, named Luke Skywalker, who had big dreams, but was stuck in a small town.
The original film follows his dynamic journey from living with his uncle’s family to joining the resistance and taking down a dark empire.
It takes a unique character with big aspirations to pull all that off, and it makes us wish Luke was in our squad.
He needs to work on that salute, though. (Image via GIPHY)
Comedy writer and performer Bill Dana, who won stardom in the 1950s and ’60s with his character Jose Jimenez, has died.
Dana died June 15th at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, according to Emerson College, his alma mater. He was 92.
Dana served as an Army infantryman during World War II and earned the Bronze Star.
Early in his career, Dana wrote jokes for Don Adams and Steve Allen, on whose show he served as head writer. It was for a sketch on “The Steve Allen Show” that Dana created Jose Jimenez, which eventually led to his own NBC sitcom, “The Bill Dana Show,” which aired from 1963-1965.
The character’s shy, Spanish-accented introduction, “My name … Jose … Jimenez,” became a national catchphrase.
Dana became a favorite of NASA’s Mercury astronauts, eventually being named as the honorary 8th member of the first team of Americans in space.
Dana recorded eight best-selling comedy albums, and made many TV appearances while continuing behind the scenes as a comedy writer.
Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy ships drilled in the East China Sea in August 2018, practicing honing its skills and countering missile threats from rivals like Japan, the US, and other potential combatants.
More than 10 naval vessels from three different command theaters participated in an air-defense and anti-missile live-fire exercise on Aug. 11, 2018, according to Chinese media reports.
“Intercepting anti-ship missiles is an urgent task as the surrounding threats grow,” Chinese military expert Song Zhongping told Global Times, specifically referring to the potential threats posed by the US, Japan, and other countries that engage in military activities near China.
“Anti-missile capability is indispensable to building a fully functional strategic PLA Navy. Such exercises are aimed at ensuring the PLA is prepared for battles,” the expert explained.
PLAN Type 056 corvette.
During the drills, the Meizhou, a Type 056 corvette with the South Sea Fleet armed with both anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, gunned down an incoming anti-ship missile, according to Asia Times. The Tongren, another ship of the same class with East Sea Fleet, reportedly missed a missile on purpose to demonstrate the ability to follow with a successful second shot.
The drill comes on the heels of two other naval drills in the Yellow Sea and South China Sea.
China’s naval exercises appear to be, at least in part, a response to part of the most recent iteration of the Rim of the Pacific maritime drills. On July 12, 2018, aircraft, submarines, and land-based missile systems manned by US, Australian, and Japanese military personnel opened fire on the former USS Racine, a decommissioned ship used for target practice during the sinking exercise.
For the “first time in history,” Japanese missiles under US fire control were used to target a ship and sink it into the sea.
China is actively trying to bolster the combat capability of its naval force, the largest in the world today. China is producing new aircraft carriers, as well as heavy cruisers to defend them. China’s growing power is becoming more evident as it attempts to flex its muscles in disputed seas, such as the East and South China Sea.
The sinking exercise during RIMPAC “demonstrated the lethality and adaptability of our joint forces,” US Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. Phil Davidson said of the drill in a statement published on Facebook.
“As naval forces drive our enemies into the littorals, army forces can strike them,” he said, adding, “Conversely, when the army drives our enemies out to sea naval firepower can do the same.”
In response to Chinese drills in the East China Sea, where China and Japan often feud over the contested Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, Japan will deploy an elite marine unit for drills before the end of 2018. The Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, which has not been in service since World War II, was reactivated in March to counter potential Chinese threats to Japanese territory, according to Taiwan News.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
We published our favorite 63 COVID-19 memes not too long ago and the response was overwhelming. Turns out during these serious, scary and uncertain times, one thing is for sure: We could all use a good laugh. And one more thing that’s for sure: the memes just keep on coming. We bring you this week’s best COVID-19 sayings and memes.
1. This is why we can’t have nice things
It’s bad enough we cancelled March Madness. Can ya’ll just please follow the directions so we can have some summer?
2. And you thought finding love in the time of cholera was bad
At least it’s not you, it’s COVID-19.
3. 6 feet, damn it!
I always thought Pooh was the selfish one, breaking into everyone’s houses and stealing all the honey. Maybe it’s clingy Piglet.
4. That homeschool life tho
If you can teach fractions pouring wine, you can teach gym with chores.
5. I volunteer as tribute
You know you’re going to get voluntold anyway.
6. Spoiler alert: nowhere
I got so excited when I saw Absolutely.
7. Wasn’t me
It’s always the wife.
8. Dad joke
Oh, so punny. Sorry, not sorry.
9. The truth hurts
If only hoarding had an immunity boost with it.
10. I’d like to pass over 2020
11. Puerto Backyard-O
Just be careful of the DUI checkpoint in the hall.
12. So full of hope
So full of $hit. 1
13. This little piggy
That’s the one who stayed home, Karen.
14. You put the lotion on the skin
But honestly, isn’t there a tinnyyyyy part of you that thinks it would be so nice to be touched by another human again?
15. The quarantine cut
This cut will help you social distance like never before!
16. It ends with credits
After Tiger King, is there really anything left to watch?
17. Poetry in action
We might need this on a t-shirt.
18. Allergies be like
No, but seriously. You know you can’t sneeze without everyone panicking.
19. Blend and repeat
We call this breakfast.
20. No pants either way
Just don’t confuse the two.
21. Life lessons
Here Timmy, blow your nose. And breathe in.
22. Bad Boy vs. Death Row
These are important life lessons.
23. Stay-at-home order
Except for everyone in the military.
24. Quarantine body
We might need to issue a lockdown on our snack cabinet…
25. Nobody wants bed bugs
26. Show me the money!
Plumbing is an essential service. Hoarding is not.
27. Is today the day?
And to think you might not even know for 5-14 days…
28. Another COVID-cut
You can always just shave it off…
29. Prince Charmin
The year of the hunter.
30. Hashtag no filter
No truer words were ever spoken.
31. Speaking of Matthew McConaughey…
At least he got thinner?
32. Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat
We know we’re mixing Disney movies, but that bidet is a whole new world.
33. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma
We know Carol Beskin is the real cause behind coronavirus.
34. United as one
That’s how the heartland does. ‘Merica.
35. April Fool’s
Although, this might be footage of Florida over the weekend… #STAYHOME
36. Muscle atrophy
Too many leg days?
37. How we all feel
Don’t forget to change out of your daytime pajamas into your nighttime pajamas.
38. Oh Kermieeee
Is Quarantini a breakfast beverage?
39. Pants are always optional
Video chats should come with a 15 minute courtesy.
40. The difference a year makes
Just a healthy change in perspective.
41. Men are from Mars…
He probably does want to talk about it.
42. Two thumbs up
“No, really, we don’t mind.”
43. We’ll never forget
The Purell. The panic. The year the world stopped.
Keep your sense of humor, wash your hands, stay home and stop the spread. And more than anything, we hope you and your family stay well.
For most Americans, Kazakhstan evokes images of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat character, driving across America, uttering timeless quotes about his wife, his neighbor Ursultan, or those a**holes in Uzbekistan. Those interested in military history might want to look beyond Borat’s neon green bikini – it was a Kazakh who hoisted the Soviet flag over the Reichstag during World War II after all and until it was absorbed into the Soviet Union, Kazakh tribes remained largely undefeated in military history.
In 1969, a burial mound was discovered near Issyk in what was then the Kazakh SSR of the Soviet Union. The mound contained an ancient skeleton along with warrior’s gear and funeral treasures belonging to a long-dead Scythian soldier, estimated to be buried around the 5th Century BCE. Based on the funerary treasures, the skeleton was considered to be that of a noble, a prince or princess. Among those treasures was what has come to be called the “Golden Man” amongst Kazakhs – a suit of ornate armor made of more than 4,000 pieces of gold.
The suit is so ornate and valuable, the Kazakh government will only show replicas of the Golden Man in museums. The original is said to be housed in the main vault of the National Bank of Kazakhstan in Almaty.
The Prince is from a tribe of ancient Scythian warriors called the “Saka” who lived in the lands north of what is today Iran. While the ancient historians called all tribes living in the Asian steppe Scythian, the ancient Persians referred to those Scythian tribes at their northern border as the Saka. These nomadic peoples likely fought against Alexander the Great as his forces moved west. They also engaged Cyrus the Great’s Persian forces, killing him in battle around 530 BCE.
The Scythian tribes of this time were not dominated by men, and like their modern-day Soviet Kazakh armies, women would fight alongside their men. It was their Empress Tomyris who led the army that killed Cyrus. Descendants of these same tribes would resist incursions from early Russian, Chinese, and Roman armies.
So while it’s very possible the “Golden Man” wasn’t a man at all, the ancient, cataphract-style armor – armor used by nomadic-style cavalry units – is a beautiful historical work of art. The gold works depict snow leopards, deer, goats, horses, and majestic birds. These are all depicted on the likely ceremonial armor and form a clear basis for the modern style of tribal jewelry-making in the Central Asian country.
As for the bones of the ancient warrior, they were reinterred using the customs of the Scythian warriors of the time. The people of this area are still so very close to their tribal origins that they all know from which of the three tribes of Kazakhstan they descend.
The American Legion is calling on Congress to reconsider its position on marijuana, asking lawmakers to remove the drug from Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act and reclassify it as a drug with “potential medical value.”
In a resolution passed at the 98th National Convention of the American Legion on Sept. 1, the Legion’s Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Convention Committee unanimously recommended the delegates pass a resolution urging the DEA to “license privately-funded medical marijuana production operations in the United States to enable safe and efficient cannabis drug development research.”
Officials with the American Legion say there’s some evidence marijuana helps in the treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD. Research conducted by the Legion’s Ad Hoc Committee on TBI/PTSD found that the conditions cost the economy $60 billion.
“The response of the membership has been very positive,” says William Detweiler, the chairman of the Legion’s Ad Hoc Committee on TBI/PTSD. “Our veterans deserve the best medical care that we can offer. We believe that funding additional medical research in this field will provide another ‘tool’ in the physician’s toolbox for treatment.”
In 2011, the Ad Hoc Committee was formed to look into the issues surrounding the treatment of veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress. The goal was to determine what treatments are being employed by VA and DoD currently and what other treatments and protocols that may be available that are not being currently used or approved.
Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act includes drugs like marijuana, heroin, and LSD while Schedule 2 includes oxycodone, morphine, and Ritalin.
Now that the national convention passed the resolution supporting medical marijuana research for veterans with certain conditions, the National Commander of the American Legion and the staff can urge Congress and the DEA to provide funds for research on medical cannabis.
Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Nadja West said marijuana is still an illegal drug and soldiers using it will face discipline, but she sees some benefit to using chemicals within pot to treat PTSD and TBI.
“Using marijuana has a lot of adverse health effects, it’s surprising that’s not brought out when they’re trying to legalize it. … It’s more dangerous that some of the carcinogens that are in tobacco,” West said during a media roundtable in Washington. “But if there’s some component of [marijuana] that can be useful to treat our service members, anyone who has post-traumatic stress disorder … I’m for that.”
The American Legion did not survey the 2.4 million veterans it represents to find their feelings on medical marijuana but has found their constituents to be generally receptive to the idea.
“Veterans are exhausted and feel like guinea pigs; they’re getting desperate,” said Dr. Sue Sisley, a researcher from Arizona who spoke at the Legion’s National Convention. “It’s a big breakthrough. While I can’t say definitively that medical marijuana works for PTSD – we are three years away from published data – we owe it to veterans to study this plant.”
Most units in the military have a motto that they use to stand out. Some of them are even pretty cool. But the most badass unit mottos are forged in the crucible of combat.
Here are seven units that live by the immortal words uttered in battle:
1. “Keep up the fire!” – 9th Infantry Regiment
The 9th Infantry Regiment has a long history, but its service in China is particularly noteworthy. Not only did the 9th pick up its regimental nickname, Manchu, from its time there — but also the unit’s motto.
He was immediately targeted by Chinese snipers and mortally wounded himself. His dying words to his men were “Keep up the fire!”
The unit successfully stormed the city and captured it from the Boxers.
2. “I’ll try, sir” – 5th Infantry Regiment
Battle of Lundy’s Lane, July 25, 1814. (New York State Military Museum)
During the War of 1812, the 21st Infantry Regiment engaged the British at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane.
After the Americans were decimated by British artillery on the high ground, Lt. Col. James Miller, the regimental commander, was given the near suicidal task of launching an assault to capture the guns. He simply responded, “I’ll try, sir.”
The 21st advanced on the British position and fired a volley that swept the artillerymen from their guns. They then charged with bayonets, driving off the remaining British troops and capturing the guns.
3. “These are my credentials” – 8th Infantry Division
After landing in Normandy in July 1944, the 8th Infantry Division was part of the arduous task of liberating the port city of Brest. After weeks of hard fighting, the Germans finally capitulated on Sept. 19.
When Brig. Gen. Charles Canham, deputy commander of the division, arrived to accept the surrender of the German commander, Gen. Ramcke, the senior German officer demanded to see the American’s credentials. Canham, simply pointed to his battle-hardened soldiers and replied, “These are my credentials.”
4. “Rangers lead the way!” – 75th Ranger Regiment
The Rangers of WWII spearheaded many Allied invasions, particularly on D-Day at Normandy. The Rangers of the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions found themselves pinned down on Omaha beach along with the rest of the assault force.
Trying to inspire the shell-shocked men of the 29th Infantry Division, Brig. Gen. Norman Cota, the assistant division commander, came across the men of the 5th Ranger Battalion. When they identified themselves as Rangers Cota then gave one of the most famous orders in the history of the U.S. Army: “Well, goddammit then, Rangers, lead the way!”
Their efforts effected the first break through on Omaha and what would later become their motto — Rangers lead the way.
5. “I’ll face you!” – 142nd Infantry Regiment
The 142nd first saw action as part of the 36th Infantry Division in World War I. After facing heavy fighting near the village of St. Etienne, the regiment faced off against the Germans at the Aisne River. The regiment sent a patrol across the river to reconnoiter behind enemy lines.
As they attempted to return to friendly lines, they came under heavy fire from the Germans. A young lieutenant, inspiring his men, turned towards the Germans and shouted, “I’ll face you!” and refused to turn his back.
6. “Nothing in Hell must stop the Timberwolves” – 104th Infantry Division
The 104th Infantry Division was a unique formation.
Having trained specifically as a nightfighting unit, the division then received a unique commander — Mej. Gen. Terry de la Mesa Allen. A combat commander who had previously commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Africa and Sicily, he had an unorthodox command style combined with a hard-charging attitude.
When Allen took command, he gave the division its new motto, “Nothing in hell must stop the Timberwolves,” and he meant it.
The 104th fought under numerous Allied commands and was always held in the highest regard, often being cited as the finest assault division. Through courage, grit, and determination the Timberwolves defeated the Germans and lived up to their motto.
7. “Let ’em have it!” – 59th Infantry Regiment
The 59th Infantry Regiment shipped to France during World War I as part of the 7th Brigade. During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the 59th took part in the fighting around Chateau-de-Diable.
During the engagement, a squad approached from the Chateau. Initially the men held their fire, afraid of gunning down friendly forces, until a sergeant with the regiment realized the mistake and yelled out, “They come from the wrong direction, let ’em have it!”
It was later discovered that the squad was German soldiers in American uniforms and the sergeant’s words became the unit motto.
From New Jersey to Washington state, National Guard members across the country are gearing up for election-related missions — ranging from cybersecurity support to responding to civil unrest — in an already record-breaking year for state activations.
Governors have continued to activate National Guard troops in the final days leading up to the presidential election, which has been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. Soldiers and airmen are supporting polling stations, leading cybersecurity missions, and even preparing for civil disturbances in the wake of what could prove to be a contentious election in which results might not be known for weeks.
As of Friday, 10 states were actively planning for Guard members to handle election-related missions and 15 were indicating they plan to do so. Those missions include working polling stations and cybersecurity missions.
No Uniforms, No Weapons
Armed troops won’t be guarding polling places on Tuesday.
Leaders in several states said the hundreds of Guard members activated by their governors will be wearing civilian clothes and won’t be carrying weapons. That’s true in Wisconsin, New Jersey and Nebraska, officials from those states say.
“Our service members are placed on state active duty, and they show up in civilian clothes to the polling stations, so any member of the community that is coming into a polling station isn’t going to be able to recognize that they are in the Guard,” said Brig. Gen. Robyn Blader, assistant adjutant general of the Wisconsin National Guard. “They are going to look like anyone else from the community.”
Several hundred Guard members assisted at polling places during the primaries, Military.com reported this summer. They were under strict orders to stay out of the actual voting process, filling gaps created during the pandemic since older people who tend to volunteer at polls were staying home to prevent contracting COVID-19.
In New Jersey, one of the states where Guard members assisted during the primaries, troops are helping process mail-in ballots. The country has seen a huge uptick in mail-in ballots during the pandemic. About 240 New Jersey National Guard soldiers and airmen are already supporting 18 counties’ board of elections, Lt. Col. Barbara Brown, a Guard spokeswoman there, said.
“This support is an extension of the Guard’s active role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey,” she said. “The [New Jersey National Guard] is fully capable and prepared for this mission.”
Guard members in other states, such as Washington and Delaware, are taking on cybersecurity missions. U.S. intelligence officials warned earlier this month that Iran and Russia obtained voter registration information, and were already attempting to interfere in the election.
The National Guard has 59 cyber support units, Wayne Hall, a National Guard Bureau spokesman, said.
“Each state is different and has the advantage of tailoring its National Guard forces to their specific requirements to support elections, especially the states with cyber units,” he said. “We consider this flexibility one of the National Guard’s primary strengths.”
The National Guard for Washington State has been working with state officials since the 2018 midterm elections, performing vulnerability assessments on firewalls and ensuring that software is up to date, Air Force Brig. Gen. Gent Welsh, assistant adjutant general for the Washington Guard, said this week.
“One of the unique things about the Guard is we dip into the talent that we’ve got in the civilian areas so having companies like Microsoft and Amazon … allows us to draw those folks into the Guard that have got cutting edge experience working in a tech company is able to pair that with the military training they have,” Welsh said. “And then when we have issues like we are having with our election system, we’ve got some really, really talented and qualified folks to do that work.”
Bracing for Conflict
Guard members say they’re not anticipating trouble at the polls, but if a problem breaks out, they say troops working on election day would respond the same way a civilian would.
“In that case it’s a 911 event to call in local law enforcement to handle any violence or any threats of violence,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, adjutant general for the Nebraska National Guard, said.
If violent protests erupt after the election, Guard officials said it will be up to state leaders to coordinate with law enforcement units for potential National Guard response.
“I think the chief executives of each state are already thinking about these kinds of issues and they would be the focal point for any use of the National Guard for any civil unrest or disturbance following the election,” Bohac said.
After a long and often contentious campaign though, some National Guard members have for months been preparing to respond. In Tennessee, the Guard has a contingency plan to support the state highway patrol, Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, the Tennessee National Guard’s adjutant general, said.
“That has been a pretty established drill we have been executing since May and we do have a number of contingency plans,” he said. “We do talk with them more frequently; we have had a number of planning meetings just so we have a multitude of options that might be available.”
Guard personnel would primarily be tasked with providing protection for state and local facilities to free up the highway patrol to conduct law enforcement activities, Holmes added.
“We know our mission,” he said. “We have had to deploy for civil unrest, so we have a very good working relationship with them.”
In New Jersey, the Guard has a reaction force to assist the state for contingency responses when requested by proper authorities, Brown said.
“Our 8,500-member force remains committed to responding to our state and its citizens during times of need,” she said. “We live, work and raise families in these communities and will stay during this critical time for as long as we are needed.”
For now, though, leaders say they’re focused on ensuring troops aren’t burned out after a busy year for the National Guard.
“Our state leadership worries about our Guardsmen being overworked during our state call ups, but they work with our soldiers and airmen to ensure they are getting the rest they need and they are rotated out so they can take leave,” Joseph Siemandel, director of public affairs for the Washington National Guard, said.
The state activations follow National Guard missions for the pandemic, wildfires, border missions and protests across the country. Missions inside the U.S. peaked for the Guard in June, when more than 86,000 of its soldiers were engaged in domestic missions.
The National Guard provided 8.4 million days of support for domestic operations in fiscal 2020, which ended on Sept. 30.
“Due to all the peaks we’ve had, there’s no way that we would have been close to that in any previous year,” Hall said.
The missions haven’t come without controversy though, particularly after tens of thousands of Guard members were called on to support law enforcement personnel in responding to protests in dozens of states following the May death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody.
As Americans brace for the possibility of more unrest, National Guard leaders say they’ve reinforced law enforcement earlier this year and are prepared to do so again.
Officers, medical staff, and interpreters are a few of the high-value targets that enemy forces focus on first while in a war zone. But the enemy also has their crosshairs on another professional that’s excellent at sniffing out homemade bombs: military working dogs.
Over 1,600 dogs train and serve alongside our brave troops, adept at hunting down the nasty ingredients used to produce those dangerous IEDs. Despite the serious nature of their mission, military working dogs are the subject of some of the funniest memes ever created.
BTS became the first Korean music act to have a #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 when the English-language single “Dynamite” topped the charts in August. They achieved another milestone this week with “Life Goes On,” their second #1 hit and the first record sung mostly in Korean to top the American charts.
And yet, a dark cloud loomed on the horizon. All males in South Korea are required to enlist in the military and complete either 18 months (Army or Marine Corps), 20 months (Navy) or 21 months (Air Force) service. They can complete their obligation anytime after they turn 18 but must start by the time they turn 28.
BTS is so hot right now, bigger than the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC added together at their peak. They’re undisputedly the most successful Korean music group of all time. Not only does their music sell, they’re generating millions of dollars in sales of BTS-branded shirts, hats, posters, card games, pillows, mugs, dolls, phone accessories, puzzles, tote bags, candles and other merchandise too numerous to list here.
Jin (first names only, please) is the group’s oldest member at age 27 and he’s turning 28 on December 4, so the singer was faced with having to leave the group at the height of their international popularity to complete his military service. Fellow group member Suga will also turn 28 on March 9, 2021 so the crisis was real for the seven-member group.
The South Korean parliament wanted to take action but had a tight needle to thread here. How could they keep the country’s #1 cultural export going while not appearing to cater to the decadent lifestyles of international popstars?
Their solution was to pass a law that allows entertainers who have received a government medal for global cultural impact to defer their service for an extra two years until age 30. That gives Jin 730 more days to pursue his career before duty calls.
Jin has long acknowledged his commitment to service. In 2019, he told an interviewer, “As a Korean, it’s natural. And some day, when duty calls, we’ll be ready to respond and do our best.”
BTS (also known as Bangtan Sonyeondan, which translates to English as Bulletproof Boy Scouts) has one of the most devoted fan bases in music history, rivaling the devotion that the Beatles or Michael Jackson inspired at their peaks.
Those fans may not be too happy about the compromise, since athletes like soccer player Son Heung-min (now playing in the English Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur) and more than a few classical musicians have been exempted altogether from service for their contributions to South Korea’s image around the world.
Maybe BTS can keep the hot streak going and the government will grant a new waiver in two years. Or maybe Jin and Suga will complete their service and return triumphantly to their careers just like U.S. Army veteran Elvis Presley did back in 1960.
The months following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, would forever shape the way the military does business.
In an effort to provide some sense of comfort to the families of those who perished that September day, the US Army Human Resources Command established the Joint Personal Effects Depot at present day Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Virginia.
Its close proximity to the Pentagon made Arlington the perfect area to account for and process personal items of fallen warriors, return them to the families, and help provide closure.
But as America’s resolve strengthened, the young men and women of this country took up arms to defend the freedoms of its citizens against an unconventional new enemy in a war against terror thousands of miles away.
With the possibility of a rising number of casualties stemming from this new war, America’s military was faced with a new challenge — how to care for its fallen?
As the war on terror intensified, the need for an expanded personal effects facility soon became evident and the JPED was relocated from Arlington to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
Working out of old and sometimes dilapidated World War II era warehouses, workers at the JPED ran an assembly line operation without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer until 2005, when the decision was made to consolidate the Joint Personal Effects Depot, along with the services’ mortuary, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
“I was assigned to the depot in Aberdeen as a mortuary affairs specialist with the Army Reserve and I can say it was less than ideal conditions to work in,” said Nelson Delgado, JPED operations management specialist and retired Army Reserve master sergeant.
“Back then, everything was moved from station to station,” he said. “It was cramped and there was too much room for mistakes. One day, General Schoomaker (retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker, 35th Chief of Staff of the US Army) showed up and asked us what we needed.
“That’s how we got to Dover.”
In March 2011, construction of the current 58,000 square-foot state-of-the art facility was finally completed by the Philadelphia District Corps of Engineers at a cost of $17.5 million. A few months later in May, the first personal effects processed there.
Staffed by a mix of active and Reserve component Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines, as well as a handful of Department of the Army Civilians and contractors, the JPED, along with the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations facility provides dignity, honor, and respect for the families left behind.
When Soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice in theater, their personal effects are inventoried, packed, and rushed to the JPED, usually within five days.
“If it comes through the front door, it has to be accounted for by us and sent to the family,” said Delgado. “We don’t throw anything away.”
“Sometimes, what might seem insignificant to you and me may, in fact, be very important to the families. We’ve actually had instances where families have called back asking for something like a gum wrapper that was given to the service member by a child,” he said.
As items arrive at the depot, they are carefully x-rayed and screened for unexploded ordnance in a blast-proof corridor before they are ever brought into the main facility.
From there, items are brought into an individual cage where they are inventoried and packed for shipment to the service member’s primary next of kin.
“All the preparations are done, from start to finish, in one single room,” Delgado said.
“We ensure there are two Soldiers present in the cage at all times in addition to a summary court martial officer. This gives us a system of checks and balances and also reduces the risk of cross contamination of items,” he added.
Each cage is equipped with photographic equipment, washers and dryers, and cleaning materials. As items are inventoried, they are carefully inspected and then individually photographed. Soldiers go through great pains to ensure each item is soil-free and presentable for the family members.
“We want to make sure everything that the individual service member had with them in theater is returned to the family,” Delgado said. “What we don’t want to do is make a difficult situation worse.”
“If an item is soiled or bloodstained, we will stay here as long as it takes to get it clean so it can be returned. Besides memories, this is all the families have of their loved ones,” he said.
After items are cleaned and inventoried, they are carefully packaged into individual plastic foot-lockers.
Each item is pressed and folded. They are placed neatly in the containers, and wrapped tightly with several layers of packaging paper and bubble wrap. Smaller items, such as rings, watches or identification tags, are placed into small decorative pouches, inscribed with the service member’s individual branch of service.
Items such as Bibles, flags, or family photos are placed at the top of the first box, so that they are the first things the families see upon opening it.
“We emphasize box one, because that is usually the box the families will open first. But that doesn’t mean we neglect box two, or box six, or even box 10,” Delgado said. “We treat each box the same way because we really want the families to know we care about their loved one.”
“That’s why we take our time and make sure items are neat and presentable, not just stuff thrown in a box.”
After the items are finally packaged and sent to the transit room, Soldiers scour the cage one last time and sweep the floor before exiting. Great attention to detail is given to make sure everything is accounted for and nothing is overlooked.
Soldiers at the JPED are meticulously screened for duty fitness by HRC’s Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division before they are ever assigned there.
Assignments at the JPED can be emotionally taxing on the Soldiers working there.
Soldiers regularly attend resiliency training to help them cope with the tasks they are asked to perform. The JPED chaplain is as much there for them as he or she is for the grieving families attending dignified transfers.
“This is a job that not a lot of people want, or can do, but at the same time, this can be the most rewarding job you will ever do,” Delgado said.
“Taking care of the personal effects is the last part of the process. This is what helps bring some sense of closure to the families. The families don’t see what goes on here, but we get to know the service members and their loved ones by working here. We develop a closeness and connection with them,” he added.
For Delgado and others working at the JPED, that connection sometimes hits close to home.
“Sometimes you see kids as young as 19 years of age coming through here,” he said. “I have a 19-year-old kid at home. Sometimes it hits a little too close to home. I don’t know anyone working here that hasn’t cried at one time or another.
“I spent 23 of my 25-year Army Reserve career as mortuary affairs and I was blessed to get assigned to the JPED. This is our way of giving back to the families of the fallen. It’s an honor to do this.”