We Are The Mighty salutes America's veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans

Every day is Veteran’s Day at WATM, but as the nation pauses to recognize those who’ve served we present this video tribute:

Jobs

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

The best entrepreneurs are like a good cup of coffee: fresh, strong, and bold.

Army Green Beret turned coffee brew master, Evan Hafer, is exactly that. As the CEO of Black Rifle Coffee, Hafer says they’re selling freedom, one cup at a time.


It’s a great tagline. You know what else? It’s an incredible business. The company roasts over a million pounds of coffee per year and grosses over $30 million annually. This isn’t a veteran with a hobby; this is a savvy businessman with a passion.

Here’s my 60 second interview with Evan, filmed recently at the White House.


As the CEO of StreetShares, my team and I fund America’s best veteran-owned businesses with veteran business loans, and contract or invoice financing. The questions we get asked over and over again are how to break away from the crowd; how to stand out as an entrepreneur. Here’s how:

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans
Evan Hafer, Mat Best, and the Team from Black Rifle Coffee.

Lesson 1: Find your passion.

“I fell in love with coffee 20 years ago,” Hafer told me. “I was the only guy who invaded Iraq with a bunch of boutique, small-roasted coffees.” Eventually, he began roasting for his fellow soldiers; they even converted a gun truck into a spot where they could grind coffee every morning.

To be a successful entrepreneur, the first thing you need to do is hone in on your passion. What’s going to make you want to get out of bed every day and hit the pavement until you can’t work anymore? If you’re not passionate about your business, why would anyone else be? Find out what drives you, then figure out how to make money doing it.

Hafer told me, “When I got back from the Middle East, all I wanted to do was roast.” That’s exactly what he did.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans
Evan Hafer inspecting coffee beans.

Lesson 2: Be clear in your vision.

Hafer knew his passion had potential. He teamed up with some friends at Article15 Clothing and did a test-drive of his Freedom Roast coffee on their site. They sold about 500 pounds of coffee, and it inspired him to launch Black Rifle Coffee in December 2014. “Conceptually, guns and coffee go together very well,” he said. “Every range that I’ve been to, coffee has been part of shooting.” He knew what he wanted to create: A lifestyle brand centered on supporting the 2nd Amendment in conjunction with great coffee. “You’re not going to find that anywhere else,” Hafer added.

Hafer’s time in the Army served him well in transitioning to life as an entrepreneur. “In the military, you have to push yourself past mental and physical limits, every day to the point where you’re almost desensitized to the work,” he explained. “Now I feel like I have an endless capacity to just always work. The military gave me the context to reach into basically a bottomless well of endurance.

Lesson 3: Be fearless.

One of the most important assets veteran entrepreneurs bring to the table that their civilian counterparts don’t always have is perspective. “While serving, you’ve been in the worst places,” Hafer offered. “The worst business you are put in will never compare to the worst experience that war puts you in.

“That realization is ultimately what encourages Hafer to be fearless. He explained, “I’m not going to lose my life or kill anyone. That allows me to fail and fail fast, so I can learn from my mistakes. At the end of the day, I don’t care. It doesn’t harm my ego – I just embrace the failure and move on.”

Any entrepreneur will tell you that failure is a part of the game. How you handle risk, and incorporate it into your business model will dictate whether or not you’ll be successful.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans
Evan and Mat Best in the shop.

Lesson 4: Be you.

Hafer always wanted to roast coffee. Now, he wants to make other people a lot of money doing it. “I’d rather make 100 people millionaires than make $100 million dollars myself,” Hafer shared. “This company is a good opportunity to make money.”

One of Hafer’s first hires was a soldier who served alongside him in Afghanistan. With 86 employees, 60 percent are veterans . That was a big part of Hafer’s vision. “It’s not PR – it’s who we are,” Hafer said. “This company is about freedom. It’s not about social issues. The premise of the company is, ‘You do you.'”

Next time you go to order a latte, think about the lessons you can learn from Evan Hafer. Then order your coffee like a good entrepreneur: fresh, strong, and bold.

Articles

Iran-backed rebels attack US ship for third time in a week

For the third time in a week, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason came under attack off the coast of Yemen by Iran-backed insurgents.


We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans
Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94), front, steams in formation with USS Stout (DDG 56), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Monterey (CG 61) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80). The Mason and Nitze have been involved in three missile ambushes by Iran-backed Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen in recent weeks. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik/Released)

Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94), front, steams in formation with USS Stout (DDG 55), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Monterey (CG 61) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80). The Mason and Nitze have been involved in three missile ambushes by Iran-backed Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen in recent weeks. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik/Released)

As was the case in the previous attacks, the incoming missiles were apparently fired by Houthi rebels late Saturday night and did not hit the destroyer. Yemen is about 7 hours ahead of the East Coast of the United States.

According to a report by NBC News, the Mason used countermeasures to avoid being hit. The previous attacks on Oct. 9 and Oct. 12 apparently used Noor anti-ship missiles, an Iranian copy of the Chinese C-802. In the Oct. 9 incident, USS Mason used a Nulka decoy as well as an SM-2 and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles to defeat the attack.

The second attack was defeated using what a DOD statement termed as “defensive countermeasures.”

Following the Oct. 12 attack, USS Nitze (DDG 94) launched three Tomahawk cruise missiles on radar stations officials believed helped the Houthis target the U.S. ships.

The Pentagon reported the radar stations were destroyed, but there had been speculation that the Houthi rebels used personnel in small boats or skiffs to spot targets for the anti-ship missiles.

Iran responded to the attack by deploying at least two surface combatants off the coast of Yemen.

The Mason and Nitze were deployed near Yemen with the USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) after the former Navy high-speed transport HSV-2 Swift was attacked by Houthi rebels using RPG rockets. At least two of the anti-tank rounds hit the Swift, which suffered a fire, and has been towed from the area.

In a statement after the Nitze launched the Tomahawks against the Houthis, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook warned, “The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic, as appropriate, and will continue to maintain our freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandeb, and elsewhere around the world.”

Apparently, the Houthi didn’t think the United States was serious.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why soldiers and Marines get along so well

There’s a never-ending pissing contest between all of the branches of the U.S. Military but, at the end of the day, we’re all still one big, happy, dysfunctional family. We’ll always throw barbs at our brothers while we work with them because we expect the same jokes to be thrown our own way.

No two branches better demonstrate this love/hate relationship than the Marines and the soldiers. Yeah, the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy and yes, the Air Force was once a part of the Army, but — sorry, sailors and airmen — it’s the soldiers and the Marines who inevitably become the closer friends in the end.


We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans

Train. Go to the field. Deploy. Clean. That’s about it for both branches…

(U.S. Army)

1. Our missions are similar

Marines and soldiers often share the same FOBs, the same areas of operation, the same interpreters, and the same objectives. It’s bound to happen when both branches pride themselves on being Uncle Sam’s premier door kickers.

Hell, both branches even share the same joke about one another. You’ll hear both Marines and soldiers talk about how “we’re the first ones in and it’s up to those guys to clean up the mess!” And no matter who says it, there are historical examples of it being true.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans

“Locker room talk” has nothing on “deployed smoke pit talk.”

(U.S. Marine Corps)

2. We get each other’s low-brow humor

When life gets rough, the only thing you can do is joke it off — the more stressful the situation, the raunchier the humor.

Don’t get me wrong. Sailors can tell some pretty dirty, messed-up jokes, but leave it to the Marines and the soldiers to find the line you shouldn’t cross… and then go a few clicks past it.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans

There’s a certain finesse required to kicking in a door that only our brothers would find admirable.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

3. We share the same values

Can you shoot well? Can you max your PT test? Can you insult the boot/FNG to the point that they have to pull out a stress card? Can you and your boys drink an entire bar dry in a single evening? Awesome! You’re one of us.

We also both value our ability to speak with our fists over “soft skills,” like reasoning and negotiation. Don’t believe me? Just watch as either group shows up to a new FOB and there’s an open bunk in the back corner. Someone will get choked out and the winner will get a year in the best spot.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans

And we both want to smack the ever living sh*t out of that one person who always jokes, “if it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’!”

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)

4. We understand each other’s pain

Jokes about how much it sucks to be stuck in the motor pool until 2130 because the some butter-bar misread the serial number on a pair of NVGs are universal — because it happens all the friggin’ time to all of us.

But the empathy runs much deeper than that. Both groups also left in the field for a few weeks just to come back to the monotony of garrison life, where we spend most of our time cleaning things as we wait for the totally-going-to-happen-this-time visit from a general.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans

Here’s to you, you glorious bastards!

(U.S. Army)

5. We both mock our brother’s branch viciously

It’s beautiful when Marines and soldiers sh*t-talk each other. You poke fun at the Navy, and sailors will get defensive. You mock the Air Force, and airmen will probably just agree with you, sucking the fun right out of the joke.

When soldiers and Marines go at it, you’d be surprised by how even the lowest blow is matched by another vicious, hilarious comment… that gets laughed off just as quickly.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army artillery’s new ‘giant sniper rifle’ tech is already in the field

US Army Field Artillery soldiers recently wrapped up testing of the Joint Effects Targeting System Target Location Designation System on the rugged terrain of the Cold Regions Test Center at Fort Greely in Alaska.


The JETS handheld targeting system “is a paradigm shift” in how field artillery can be used on the battlefield, Lt. Col. Michael Frank, product manager for Soldier Precision Targeting Devices, said in October. The system could turn a howitzer or the Paladin self-propelled artillery weapon “into a giant sniper rifle,” he added.

Also read: These are the Army’s high-tech helicopters that will fly in 2030

Twenty soldiers from the 8th Field Artillery Regiment and 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment recently put the system through its paces in a wide range of scenarios at Fort Greely, the Army said in a release.

The troops used the system’s infrared imager and color-day imager to detect and identify vehicles and personnel at various distances, determining whether each was a friend or adversary. They also tested the system in a simulated urban environment, clearing buildings, rooftops, and rooms in order to observe enemy forces in the area.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans
Spc. Tyler Carlson gets ready to scan for targets using the Joint Effects Targeting System Target Location Designation System during testing at the Cold Regions Test Center, Fort Greely, Alaska. (Photo by Scott D. McClellan/US Army Operational Test Command)

“Since the system is smaller, you don’t have to worry about bumping it around when clearing a building,” Sgt. Nicholas Apperson, of the 377the Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, said. “If you have to switch buildings, disassembling and reassembling the system is much quicker than other targeting devices.”

Soldiers were also placed at random rally points anywhere from 500 meters to 2 kilometers from their designated observation posts. After moving to their observation posts, they set up their systems and found targets all around them. They then set up fire missions and sent them to a simulated fire-support team using the new Precision Fires-Dismounted system, an app on the Nett Warrior device, which is an Android-enabled smartphone.

Related: The Army just picked its new sniper rifle

The soldiers were also deployed with maneuver units to walk ridgelines. Upon receiving simulated intelligence reports about enemy targets along their routes, the soldiers had to set up their systems and quickly acquire targets.

They averaged 40 fire missions on each 10-hour day.

Frank praised the system’s accuracy and compact design, and the soldiers testing it at Fort Greely lauded it for similar reasons.

“Its light weight makes it easy to take it out on a mission and utilize it to its fullest capability,” said Pfc. Anthony Greenwood of the 8th Artillery Regiment.

“The JETS system is definitely much lighter and a lot easier to pick up and learn all the functions quickly,” Staff Sgt. Christopher McKoy, also of the 8th Field Artillery, said in the Army release. “It is so simple that you can pick it up and learn it in five minutes.”

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans
Soldiers set up the Joint Effects Targeting System at the Cold Regions Test Center, Fort Greely, Alaska, in 2017. (Photo by US Army)

The Army currently has the Lightweight Laser Designator Rangefinder for targeting purposes, but it is larger and heavier than the JETS, weighing about 35 pounds. It’s also considered a crew-served system, though it is operated by a single soldier.

The JETS target-locator module weighs less than 5.5 pounds and the entire system, including a tripod and batteries, weighs about 20 pounds.

JETS underwent testing during 2017, including airdrop tests at Fort Bragg in North Carolina in August as well as operational testing at Fort Greely in October 2017.

More: The Army is issuing a Marine Corps sniper rifle to squads

The Army said at the end of 2017 that it expected to wrap up JETS testing in early 2018 and have the system in the hands of every forward-observation team by the middle of the year.

The soldiers at Fort Greely, who spent a month with the system, looked forward to using it in the field.

“This system is definitely a major jump from what forward observers are used to and makes our job much more efficient,” said Spc. Tyler Carlson of Battery D, 2-377 PFAR.

Articles

Here’s what it takes to guard the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’

Every year, approximately 4 million people travel to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects to the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending our great country. Most gather in solemn awe at the historic site of “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” standing atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.


If you plan your visit accordingly, you may get to witness the awesomeness that is the changing of the guard, which occurs every 30-minutes during the hot summer and every hour during the cold winter.

Related: This is the story behind the pre-inauguration wreath laying ceremony

In April of 1948, the 3rd US Infantry Regiment proudly took on the responsibility of guarding the tomb 24-hours day. Being a sentinel guard isn’t just about walking back and forth keeping a close eye out, it takes professionalism, honor, and most importantly commitment as one must volunteer for the role.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans
Tomb Sentinels at the Changing of the Guard, Arlington National Cemetery. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Prospects are hand-selected after volunteering and undergo either a 2 or 4 week TDY to learn rifle precision, uniform maintenance, and marching, as well as to, memorize seven pages of knowledge. Verbatim.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans
Sentinel prospect practice drill marching together before heading out for their watch. (Source: 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment/Screenshot)

On average, 60% of the hopefuls will not graduate, but those who do complete the training will move on and become “Newman”.

Newmans assist sentinels prior to guard changes, maintain their uniforms, and must endure three more tests before earning their future position. The entire training takes six to nine months and has a fail rate of 90%.

Sentinels stand a 27-hour guard shift, walking their post a dozen times. Contrary to popular belief, they are allowed to verbally discipline tomb visitors.

Check out 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment‘s video for more behind the scenes of what it take to guard the tomb.

(3d U.S. Infantry Regiment, YouTube)
MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Mike Fisher, benefits breakdown

This week’s Borne the Battle episode features Mike Fisher, the Chief Readjustment Counseling Officer for VA’s Health Administration, who discusses some of the unique and generous benefits that Vet Centers offer.

Vet Centers began in 1979 when Vietnam veterans had difficulty readjusting to civilian life. Vet Centers seek to help and equip veterans by offering a community-based counseling center that provides a wide array of services. In addition, these Vet Centers actively help veterans to simply get started, set goals, and eventually accomplish them.


Vet Centers have quickly expanded and is now celebrating its 40th anniversary. There are currently over 300 Vet Centers, 80 mobile Vet Centers, and a Veteran Call Line as well. This model seeks to make readjustment smoother and more effective.

This week’s episode covers:

  • Mission, Vision, and Peer-to-Peer Model of Vet Centers
  • Expansive services of Vet Centers, including all types of counseling, opportunities, and trauma rehabilitation resources
  • Inclusive Eligibility requirements, including grandfathering of Vietnam veterans and inclusion of all, regardless of character of discharge

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

MIGHTY BRANDED

One of the world’s largest cable companies was founded by a World War II sailor

Ralph Roberts didn’t leave the Navy with the dream of starting the world’s biggest telecommunications provider. When he left the service, television was an emerging technology and radio still dominated the airwaves. The company he would soon found would go on to be America’s largest cable provider at one point – and one of the biggest supporters of military veterans.


The story of Ralph Roberts isn’t a stereotypical rags-to-riches tale set in early 20th Century America. The young Roberts was the son of a wealthy family of immigrants who owned a number of pharmacies in the New York City area. When he was still a boy, his father died of a heart attack and, having lost their fortune, they went to live in Philadelphia. His new stepfather was also a business owner, running a successful cigar company. This early exposure to the freedom of running a self-owned business no doubt influenced Ralph’s decision to attend the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

It was 1941 when Roberts graduated. Later that year, the United States would be pulled into World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Roberts, like many wealthy businessmen, could have probably avoided service with a draft deferment or through government connections. He didn’t. Instead, he opted to join the Navy, where he served for the duration of the war at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans

Roberts married his wife Suzanne during his first year in the Navy.

After the war, Roberts became a “serial entrepreneur.” He started by selling a series of golf clubs, most notably a putter with which he persuaded legendary Hollywood personality Bob Hope to pose with, asking him to do a veteran a favor. He marketed it as the “Bob Hope Putter.” He then went to work in subscription sales for the Muzak company, which made… muzak, music for entertainment productions that could be easily licensed and replicated. Eventually he started working for the Pioneer Suspender Company, a business which he eventually owned. When beltless polyester pant hit the market in the early 1960s, Roberts worried it was the death knell for his business, so he began to look elsewhere.

That’s when he discovered a small cable television provider in Tupelo, Miss. that serviced some 1,200 people. Back in the early days of television, rural customers struggled to get clear reception from over-the-air broadcasters like NBC, CBS, and ABC. The focus was in providing services to major metropolitan areas. In those days, cable wasn’t a package of new and diverse channels, it was just a way to get clear reception using cable instead of a broadcast antenna.

Roberts sold his suspenders company and and bought American Cable Systems. He soon redubbed it Comcast.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans

Comcast would eventually become the country’s largest cable provider, a conglomerate that would acquire other, smaller cable companies and internet service providers, all with Ralph J. Roberts in his trademark bowtie at the helm. Though Roberts died in 2015, the company still regards serving veterans as a core corporate responsibility, supporting National Guard and reserve troops when they’re activated, providing low or no-cost internet services and computers to low-income veterans, pledging to hire 21,000 veterans by 2021, and funding veteran-related initiatives through partner organizations.

One such organization is the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event that brings together important and emerging entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. The annual conference focuses on delivering actionable insights from the stories of others and fostering an environment where people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets are motivated to forge legitimate relationships through conversation that lead to powerful collaborations.

For more information on the Military Influencer Conference, visit MilitaryInfluencer.com. To learn more about Comcast’s initiatives for veterans, visit its corporate page.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why North Korea has a psychological advantage over the US


  • North Koreans are trained by propaganda and military service not to fear incredible hardships like nuclear war.
  • North Korean officials say their country could destroy the US, but they would survive because Pyongyang has many bunkers and shelters.
  • US citizens view their lives and comfort much more dearly, but the US’s nuclear superiority limits North Korea’s advantage to psychology only.

When the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos went to North Korea, the “most telling moment” for him came when his minder, Pak Sung Il, a father of two, told him that “nuclear war with the United States would be survivable.”

Asked why North Korea would entertain the idea of nuclear war with the US if it would totally wipe out their country, Osnos’ minder gave a chilling answer.

Also read: Top US spooks say the North Korean dictator isn’t crazy at all

“We’ve been through it twice before” he said of national devastation, referring to the Korean War and the “Arduous March,” or the famine of the 1990s that killed up to 3.5 million.

“We can do it a third time,” he said.

“A few thousand would survive,” Pak said. “And the military would say, ‘Who cares? As long as the United States is destroyed, then we are all starting from the same line again … A lot of people would die. But not everyone would die.”

Nicholas Kristof wrote of his trip to North Korea in The New York Times and reported a “ubiquitous assumption that North Korea could not only survive a nuclear conflict, but also win it.”

“If we have to go to war, we won’t hesitate to totally destroy the United States,” a teacher at an amusement park told Kristof.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans

But when Western journalists travel to North Korea, they only see and hear state-approved narratives. While officials and official propaganda may unanimously state that North Koreans think they can destroy the US and survive the conflict, regular citizens may not feel the same way.

“This is a government script that everybody studies and repeats,” Kristof told Business Insider of North Koreans’ attitude toward nuclear war. But “people often buy the government propaganda especially if they are in Pyongyang,” said Kristof.

Average North Koreans may or may not believe the official propaganda that they could destroy the US, but their lives revolve around politics and ideology in a way to which the US could never compare.

In Pyongyang, all 16 metro stops are buried deep underground and have been designed to double as bomb shelters. Much of Pyongyang’s infrastructure doubles as bomb shelters, as the memory of the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 — when more bombs were dropped in Korea than in the entirety of World War II — looms large.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans
Every North Korean is required to serve in the military, and years ago children were not excluded. (image Wikicommons)

The last time the US was attacked by a foreign country was Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The US hasn’t lived in fear of nuclear annihilation since the close of the Cold War in the early 1990s.

The vast majority of US citizens never serve in the military, and many do not even know anyone who has. North Korea has mandatory military service for all men and women.

Even if average North Koreans aren’t as fearless in the face of nuclear exchanges as their top officials are, they have a built-in cultural and psychological advantage in facing down such a conflict.

But the advantage is entirely limited to perspective.

North Korea is still trying to produce a single, credible nuclear missile that can reach the US, and the US has enough nuclear weapons to completely destroy North Korea, China, and Russia in about a half hour.

Articles

Watch a US-led coalition airstrike destroy part of ISIS’ oil network near the Iraq-Syria border

While fighting in western Syria seems to have turned in favor of dictator Bashar Assad and his allies in Iran and Russia, US-led coalition strikes on ISIS continue in the eastern part of the country.


The terror group’s oil infrastructure remains a prime target, and a November 25 airstrike near Abu Kamal, close to the Iraqi border, went after several oil wellheads and a pump jack, an important piece of equipment for getting oil out of the ground.

Related: 7 coolest ways to blow up the enemy’s HQ

You can see a clip of the strike below.

The US-led coalition launched three strikes near Abu Kamal on November 25, destroying four oil wellheads and an oil pump jack.

That same day, slightly west of Abu Kamal in Dayr Az Zawr, two strikes reportedly destroyed three pieces of oil-refinement equipment, three oil-storage tanks, and an oil wellhead.

ISIS has relied heavily on oil revenue to finance its operations, and the US-led coalition has put special emphasis on attacking the infrastructure needed to get that oil out of the ground and to the market.

A few weeks after the November 25 airstrikes, coalition aircraft destroyed 168 oil-tanker trucks on the ground near Palmyra, in central Syria. That destruction cost the terrorist group about $2 million in revenue, according to Operation Inherent Resolve officials.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans
Makeshift oil refinery in Syria. (Rozh Ahmad/YouTube screen grab)

While the coalition has been able to target ISIS’ oil infrastructure, fighting positions, and other resources from the air, progress against the group on the ground in eastern Syria has been somewhat halting.

While efforts by Kurdish militants and their Arab partners in Syria to recapture Raqqa, ISIS’ capital city, have been bogged down in recent weeks, the coalition announced on December 12 that Syrian Democratic Forces had liberated 700 square miles of ISIS-controlled territory, retaking dozens of villages around the city, and were starting the next phase of their operation to isolate Raqqa.

These developments come after Syrian government forces, backed by Iran and Russia, retook the northwestern city of Aleppo, parts of which had been held by rebels for years.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans
Putin with president of Syria Bashar al-Assad. (Russian government photo)

That victory appears to have buoyed the outlook in Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus.

The recently reported outline of a deal being discussed by Russia, Iran, and Turkey would divide Syria into zones of influence for those countries, leaving Assad in power as president for at least a few years.

The purported deal appears after numerous fruitless attempts by the US and other western powers to broker a peace in Syria’s bloody, over five-year-long civil war — and may in part be inspired by Moscow’s desire to reassert itself on the world stage.

“It’s a very big prize for them if they can show they’re out there in front changing the world,” Sir Tony Brenton, Britain’s former ambassador to Moscow, told Reuters. “We’ve all grown used to the United States doing that and had rather forgotten that Russia used to play at the same level.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why this Medal of Honor recipient fought his home owners association

Every day, retired Col. Van T. Barfoot treated the American flag with the respect accorded to it by tradition and by the U.S. flag code. He raised the flag to the top of the 21-foot flagpole in his front yard every morning and took it down again – careful not to let it touch the ground and folding it into a perfect triangle – in the evening. But his Virginia homeowner’s association hated the flagpole, saying it brought down the curb appeal of the neighborhood. They told Barfoot to take it down. When he didn’t, they took legal action.

They messed with the wrong Texan. He wasn’t about to cave for some HOA. But they didn’t know that.


We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans

Oops.

Barfoot joined the Army infantry in 1940, well before the start of World War II for the United States. In 1944, with the war in full swing, Barfoot was in Italy, flanking a machine gun nest by himself in a battle near Carano. In order to save his men from the deadly fire raining death on them, Barfoot had to book it through a minefield to kill the enemy and knock out the machine gun. He did that and took out two more. He brought 17 prisoners back to friendly lines.

When three Nazi tanks came to retake the positions held by those machine gun nests, Barfoot took those out too. For his actions that day, he received the Medal of Honor. The man would later go on to fight in Korea and Vietnam before finally leaving the Army in 1974. By the time his HOA picked a fight with the old soldier, Barfoot was 90 years old.

“In the time I have left, I plan to fly the flag without interference,” he told the Associated Press.

We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans

Barfoot after receiving the Medal of Honor.

The HOA’s law firm even sent out a letter that ordered him to either remove the large flagpole from his property, or the firm would file a lawsuit to “enforce the covenants and restrictions against you.” But unlike the time he was running the minefields of Carano at a Nazi machine gun, Van Barfoot wasn’t alone this time. His story made national news. A heavy-hitting Richmond, Va. law firm offered to defend Barfoot for free, Virginia Senator Mark Warner offered his assistance, and even the 157th Infantry – Barfoot’s old unit – called to offer to help.

Not only did the HOA lose to Col. Barfoot like so many of his other fallen enemies, but the Virginia state legislature even introduced a bill that would prevent homeowners associations from banning flagpoles like Barfoots unless they could prove the harm it caused.

Barfoot died in 2012, two years after his row with the HOA. He will be remembered by many – especially the homeowner’s association.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

It wouldn’t do much good for a wounded World War I veteran trying to reintegrate into society to have a passersby gasp in shock and horror every time they saw him. The town of Sidcup in England attempted to ameliorate this shocked, audible response by attempting to warn the locals about the tenants of a nearby soldiers hospital.

Seeing a man on a blue bench when all the other benches in town were a different color warned the locals the image of a man sitting on it might come as a shock – and the veterans were grateful.

WARNING: Some of these images might be disturbing to even modern eyes.


We Are The Mighty salutes America’s veterans

A World War I veteran who was treated at Sidcup

World War I was an entirely different kind of warfare than the world had ever known previously. With that new, modern, and mechanized destruction, came new wounds and scars that would mark its veterans forever. Few in any military had ever seen anything like the gruesome scars of war left on World War I vets, so it’s safe to say that few civilians had either.

The Great War was packed with horrifyingly disfiguring weapons similar to wars past. Bullets are nothing new, neither was shrapnel. But the new weapons of war were able to unload hundreds of bullets in a minute and fire high explosives and poison gas from places the soldiers on the ground couldn’t even see. Soldiers on both sides suffered disfigurement at an astonishing rate. For the lucky ones who survived, that meant coming home to a population that wasn’t entirely prepared to see the horrors of the war.

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The effects of the earliest plastic surgery on World War I veterans, this work done in London.

Sidcup, England had a hospital devoted to such soldiers. The hospital held hundreds of troops whose facial features were an object of terror to the unprepared. The benches of Sidcup were a warning to passersby that a veteran sitting on the bench might be disfigured, and it’s best not to stare. While this may seem offensive to us these days, for veterans who suffered from these afflictions, it was a blessing. Sidcup became the one place in the world where wounded, disfigured vets could walk around without the gasps and cries found everywhere else.

More than that, such hospitals featured pioneering medical techniques to attempt to mitigate the physical damage and return some kind of normalcy to the subject. World War I veterans were essentially the world’s first plastic surgery recipients. For those who couldn’t get that kind of work done, masks were an option – a painted replica of an unwounded face, covering the wounds of war that marked their daily lives.

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Masks for WWI-era wounded soldiers were usually specially designed for the individual, created for the subject’s unique injury or war wound, and then painted one by one to ensure the look and fit of the mask matched the person wearing it. There are many occasions where (albeit in black and white photos) it’s hard to distinguish the masked face from what might be the soldier’s undamaged face.

They were remarkably accurate and allowed the soldiers a degree of freedom, walking around without the horrors of war written upon their faces.

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Beijing tests the waters by reinforcing missile sites in South China Sea

New satellite photography from the South China Sea confirms a nightmare for the U.S. and champions of free navigation everywhere — Beijing has reinforced surface-to-air missiles sites in the Spratly Islands.


For years now, China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea and militarizing them with radar outposts and missiles.

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Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division.. (Dept. of Defense photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

The latest move seems to have been months in the making, so it’s not in response to any particular U.S. provocation, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies‘ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

China previously deployed close-in weapons systems, which often serve on ships as a last line of defense against incoming missiles, and have toggled on and off between positioning surface-to-air missiles on Woody island in the Paracel Islands chain. But this time it’s different, according to CSIS’ Bonnie Glasser, director of the China Power Project.

Related: China says it will fine U.S. ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

China has not yet deployed the actual launchers, but Satellite imagery shows the new surface-to-air missile sites are buildings with retractable roofs, meaning Beijing can hide launchers, and that they’ll be protected from small arms fire.

“This will provide them with more capability to defend the island itself and the installations on them,” said Glaser.

Nations in the region have taken notice. Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told reporters that foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) unanimously expressed concern over China’s land grab in a resource-rich shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in commerce annually.

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The HQ-9 is a Chinese medium- to long-range, active radar homing surface-to-air missile.

The move is “very unsettlingly, that China has installed weapons ­systems in these facilities that they have established, and they have expressed strong concern about this,” Yasay said, according to the South China Morning Post.

But Chinese media and officials disputed the consensus at ASEAN that their militarization had raised alarm, and according to Glaser, without a clear policy position from the Trump administration, nobody will stand up to China.

Currently, the U.S. has an aircraft carrier strike group patrolling the South China Sea, but that clearly hasn’t stopped or slowed Beijing’s militarization of the region, nor has it meaningfully emboldened US allies to speak out against China.

“Most countries do not want to be confrontational towards China … they don’t want an adversarial relationship,” said Glaser, citing the economic benefits countries like Laos and Cambodia get from cooperating with Beijing, the world’s third largest economy and a growing regional power.

Instead, U.S. allies in the Pacific are taking a “wait and see” approach to dealing with the South China Sea as Beijing continues to cement its dominance in the region and establish “facts in the water” that even the U.S.’s most advanced ships and planes would struggle to overcome.

The HQ-9 missile systems placed in the South China Sea resemble Russia’s S-300 missile defense system, which can heavily contest airspace for about 100 miles.

According to Glaser, China has everything it needs to declare an air defense and identification zone — essentially dictate who gets to fly and sail in the South China Sea — except for the Scarborough Shoal.

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Territorial claims in the South China Sea. (Public Domain | Voice of America)

“I think from a military perspective, now because they have radars in the Paracels and the Spartlys,” China has radar coverage “so they can see what’s going on in the South China Sea with the exception of the northeastern quarter,” said Glaser. “The reason many have posited that the Chinese would dredge” the Scarborough Shoal “is because they need radar coverage there.”

The Scarborough Shoal remains untouched by Chinese dredging vessels, but developing it would put them a mere 160 miles from a major U.S. Navy base at the Subic Bay in the Phillippines.

Also read: China’s second aircraft carrier may be custom made to counter the U.S. in the South China Sea

Installing similar air defenses there, or even radar sites, could effectively lock out the U.S. or anyone else pursuing free navigation in open seas and skies.

While U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly floated the idea of being tougher on China, a lack of clear policy has allowed Beijing to continue on its path of militarizing the region where six nations claim territory.

“For the most part, we are improving our relationships. All but one,” Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, said at a military conference on Tuesday.