Since its Cold War inception, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been keeping Russian aggression in check as an increasingly fragmented Europe has shifted and moved over 70 years. Founded in 1949, the alliance started off with 12 members but has grown over the years to 29 member states. Even as the Soviet Union gave way to the Russian Federation, the alliance has cemented its status as the bulwark that keeps Western Europe free.
A lot has happened over 70 years. Political shifts in member countries caused members to rethink their role in the alliance. Russian threats kept many members out for a long time – and still does. And the mutual defense clause, Article V, was invoked for the first time ever.
There were 12 founding members.
Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States founded NATO on April 4, 1949, as a hedge against growing Soviet power in the east. The centerpiece of the alliance is Article V, which obliges member states to consider an attack on a NATO ally as an attack on itself and respond with armed forces if necessary.
The alliance is more than a bunch of disparate parts, it has a unified military command that guides its strategy, tactics, and training on land, on the oceans, and in the air, complete with its own installations and command structure.
You might know of the first Supreme Allied Commander.
An American is always at the top.
The alliance is organized almost like the United States’ command structure. A Chairman of the NATO military committee advises the Secretary General on policy and strategy. The second highest position is the Supreme Allied Commander, always an American general, who heads the operations of the alliance in Europe.
The United States, Britain, and France are currently the most powerful members of NATO, but after the U.S., only Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Poland, and Romania met NATO spending standards. Greece and Estonia are the second-highest spenders as a percentage of GDP.
“Paix en quittant.”
Countries actually left NATO.
Many balked at the idea of the United States leaving the alliance, as then-candidate Trump threatened to do while running for President of the United States. While the U.S. withdrawing from NATO would be a disaster for everyone, a member country leaving NATO isn’t unprecedented.
France left NATO between 1966 and 2009 because President Charles DeGaulle resented the idea that France wasn’t on an equal military and nuclear footing with the United States and wanted more independence for French troops. Greece left between 1974 and 1980 because of a conflict with NATO ally Turkey.
This is as close as they get. Right after this photo, they raided English coastal towns. Because tradition.
One member doesn’t have an Army.
Iceland doesn’t have a standing army (it has a Coast Guard though!) but is a member ally to NATO anyway. The island nation actually does maintain a peacekeeping force of troops who are trained in Denmark, but Iceland joined the alliance on the condition that it wouldn’t have to establish a standing army – NATO wanted Iceland because of its strategic position in the Atlantic Ocean. The island is protected by the Canadian Air Force.
Poland will no longer be taking Russia’s sh*t. Ever again.
Former enemies have joined NATO.
With the fall of the Soviet Union came a slew of countries who were much smaller than their former Soviet benefactor. Many of these countries were once members of the Warsaw Pact, the USSR’s answer to the West’s NATO. In order to keep former Soviet Russia from meddling in their newly-independent domestic affairs, many Warsaw Pact countries who trained to fight NATO then joined it, including Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and (after the unification of Germany) East Germany.
Pictured: Why Georgia wants to join NATO.
New NATO members could trigger the war it was designed to prevent.
The alliance is always courting new members to counter the threat posed by Russia. This means eventually NATO had to start looking east to find new partners – and many were willing. Unfortunately, pushing eastward puts NATO troops on Russia’s doorstep and there are certain countries that Russia considers a national security threat were they to go to NATO. Two of those, Ukraine and Georgia, have seen Russian invasions of their territory in the past few years in an attempt to thwart their eventual membership.
Russia warned NATO of a “great conflict” should either of them join the alliance.
As it would in nearly every war in U.S. history, the U.S. Coast Guard served an important role in the Civil War. During this conflict, the Coast Guard’s ancestor agency of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service performed a variety of naval combat operations.
By 1860, the Revenue Cutter Service’s fleet was spread across the nation, with cutters stationed in every major American seaport. After the presidential election of Abraham Lincoln, the nation began splitting apart. During these months, men in the service like their counterparts in the Navy and the Army had to choose between serving the federal government or with the seceding Southern states, so the service lost most of its cutters in the South. For example, the captain of the Mobile-based cutter Lewis Cass turned over his vessel to state authorities, forcing his officers and crew to travel overland through Secessionist territory to reach the North.
Regarding the Southern-leaning captain of cutter Robert McClelland, stationed in New Orleans, Treasury Secretary John Dix telegraphed the executive officer in January of 1861, that “If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot.” The phrase later became the basis for a song popular in the North as shown in this newspaper clipping.
The commanding officer of the New Orleans-based cutter McClelland refused a direct order from Treasury Secretary John Dix to sail his vessel into Northern waters. Dix next ordered the executive officer to arrest the captain, assume command of the cutter and sail the vessel into Northern waters, indicating that the captain should be considered a mutineer if he interfered with the transfer of command. Dix ended his message by writing, “If anyone attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot,” a quote that would become famous as a rallying message for Northerners. Unfortunately for Dix, the second-in-command of the McClelland was also a Southern sympathizer and the cutter was turned over to local authorities. In addition to five cutters turned over to Southern authorities, Union forces had to destroy a cutter at the Norfolk Navy Yard before Confederate forces overran the facility.
The war required a major increase in the size of the cutter fleet not only to replace lost cutters, but also to support increased marine safety and law enforcement operations. Six cutters sailed from the Great Lakes for East Coast bases and nine former cutters in the U.S. Coast Survey were transferred back to the Revenue Cutter Service for wartime duty. The service also purchased the steamers Cuyahoga, Miami, Reliance, Northerner and William Seward and built six more steam cutters, which joined the fleet by 1864. These new cutters interdicted rampant smuggling brought on by the war, supplied guardships to Northern ports, and helped enforce the wartime blockade.
Revenue cutters taken by Confederate forces were mainly used in naval operations. Union revenue cutters served in a variety of combat missions. For example, the Harriett Lane, considered the most advanced revenue cutter at the start of the war, fired the Civil War’s first naval shot in April 1861 while attempting to relieve federal forces at Fort Sumter. During the ensuing months, Harriett Lane received orders for escort duty, blockade operations and shore bombardment. In August 1861, the cutter served a central role in the capture of forts at Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina, and was transferred to the Navy to serve as a command ship for Adm. David Dixon Porter in the Union naval campaign against New Orleans.
(Illustration by Coast Guard artist Howard Koslow)
The cutter Miami also served as a kind of command ship during the war. In late April 1862, Lincoln, War Secretary Edwin Stanton and Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase cruised from Washington, D.C., to Fort Monroe in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Soon thereafter, Lincoln ordered the bombardment of Sewell’s Point, near Norfolk, in preparation for an assault on that city. On May 9, Lincoln ordered a reconnaissance party from the cutter to examine the shore near Norfolk in preparation for landing troops. The next day, Miami covered the landing of six Union regiments, which quickly captured Norfolk after Confederate forces evacuated the city and the Norfolk Navy Yard.
The gunboat Naugatuck proved unique cutter in the service’s history. Given to the Revenue Cutter Service by New Jersey inventor Edwin Stevens, the gunboat served with the James River Flotilla. In May 1861, Naugatuck assisted in an effort to draw the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia into a battle in the open waters of Hampton Roads. After the capture of its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia’s crew destroyed their trapped ironclad and Naugatuck steamed up the James River with the USS Monitor and other shallow draft warships to threaten Richmond. Naugatuck’s main armament, 100-pound Parrott gun, burst during the subsequent attack on the earthen fort at Drewry’s Bluff and the cutter withdrew to Hampton Roads with the rest of the Union warships. Naugatuck served the remainder of the war as a guardship in New York Harbor.
As with all wars, the Civil War had a transformative effect on the military services. The war transformed the Revenue Cutter Service from a collection of obsolete sailing vessels to a primarily steam-driven fleet of cutters. The important operations supported by cutters also cemented the role of the service in such missions as convoy duty, blockade operations, port security, coastal patrol and brown-water combat operations. These missions remained core competencies of the Coast Guard in future combat operations. The Civil War operations of the service also reinforced the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service’s reputation as a legitimate branch of the U.S. military.
John Wick’s backstory has never been explicitly explained in the films or accompanying comic series. Though the third film or prequel TV series may give us more concrete evidence, we’ve been given enough puzzle pieces to confidently say he served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Given his extreme handiwork with firearms, hand-to-hand combat proficiency, cold demeanor, proper posture, and dispensation of absolute wrath towards anyone who harms the things he loves, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that he once was a Marine. No single point is definitive proof but it’s fun to speculate.
Chad Stahelski, the director of the franchise, was asked by Collider in a 2017 interview about John Wick’s backstory. He said that the series isn’t about overloading the audience with dry exposition, but rather shows the audience little things. Stahelski said,
“We’re giving you the pieces and I think it’s always good… Hopefully in five years, you and your buddies will talk about how ‘he’s this or he’s that.’ We’ll give you a couple more pieces and let you stitch it together.”
It’s the minor details that give one troop away to another in the civilian world and, right about now, our veteran radars are going off.
The most obvious indicators of military service are his tattoos. While most point to his faith, the Latin phrase on his shoulders is a dead giveaway.
John’s tattoo reads, “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat,” or “fortune favors the brave” in Latin. This is also a lose translation of the motto of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines — although their spelling is “Fortes Fortuna Juvat.” This is common enough that it’s not conclusive evidence alone, but it’s definitely a starting point.
Another blink-and-you’ll-miss-it detail almost exclusive to the military community is the style of his watch and how he wears it. It’s got a leather band and he wears it on the inside of the wrist of his non-dominant hand.
War fighters chose not to wear anything reflective as to not give away their position and, by wearing it on the inside of the wrist, it’s easy to keep from breaking. This, however, would also be common among professional hitmen.
His relationship with Marcus
It is strongly hinted at that Marcus was a mentor to John in the past — he taught him everything he knows about firearms and helped bring him into the world of underground wetwork. Given that their age difference isn’t too extreme, it would make sense that Marcus was once his NCO. This would also explain why after John walked out on the life of crime, Marcus was able to stay — because he was there before they both became hitmen.
This theory is also backed up by the film’s color palette. Everything in the film is cold or red — except things dear to John. Take, for example, his wife’s gold bracelet, his dog’s tag, and Marcus’ clothing and home decor. There’s definitely a closeness here; it’s up to us to speculate why.
Apperance in ‘Payday 2’
This one should be taken with a massive grain of salt because it involves evidence from Payday 2, not the John Wick franchise. He was a community unlock in 2014 and had more DLC added during the second film’s theatrical release.
The game doesn’t hold back on explicitly saying that John was a Marine and was brought into the Payday Gang by a series regular, Chains, who is very open about his prior military service.
From adopting military customs to incorporating jargon and acronyms into everyday language, there’s a certain sector of the civilian population that just loves to play “military.” They might say sixteen hundred hours to mean 4 p.m., or call flashlights moonbeams, refer to dinner as chow, bedtime as rack time. Or they might consider doing one of these absurdly ridiculous things on this list.
What we’re including here is part of straight Internet Gold of unknown origins. What we do know is that there’s a list floating around the interwebs somewhere that covers over fifty ways civilians can pretend to be in the military … and it’s so bad, it’s good. For brevity’s sake, we’re only including the top ten most absurd ideas. They’re bad. Like, really, really bad.
1. Dig a big hole in your backyard and live in it for 30 days straight. (Because how else is a civilian going to truly understand what it feels like to suffer through an FTX?)
2. Invite 200 of your not-so-closest friends to come over and dig their own holes. Then, let them live in your yard inside their holes. Make sure your family waves to you from the comfort of the living room. After thirty days, fill in the holes and set out for a 25-mile walk and After-Action-Review. (Keep sharp and don’t you dare think about wearing a field uniform on this ruck.)
3. Build a scale model of your yard. Make your children draw sketches of it, including little arrows indicating what they are going to do when they go out to play. Post these sketches on a bulletin board for reference. (It’s ideal to make several copies of these and post them in the most ridiculous places. But make sure that the copies are faded and almost ineligible.)
4. Perform a weekly disassembly and inspection of your lawnmower. (We’re talking a full-on disassembly all the way down to the smallest parts. Make sure there’s someone watching while you do this, too. Otherwise it doesn’t count.)
5. Empty all the garbage bins in your house, and sweep your driveway three times a day, whether they need it or not. (Cleanliness is next to …?)
6. Repaint your entire house once a month. Paint white rings around all the trees in your neighborhood. Paint all curbs yellow. Paint all rocks red. (The color scheme is very important here, so don’t go trying to paint your rocks yellow and rings around the trees red. We’re not sure why it’s important; it just is.)
7. Do not sleep from 1:00 a.m. Monday mornings until 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoons. Tie a branch around your neck and chew on sand to stay awake. (This is mission-critical even though no one can tell you why. Also, we’ll know if you try to get some sleep in the early hours on Tuesday.)
8. Remove the insulation and widen the frames of your front and back doors so that no matter how tight you shut the door, the weather will still get inside. (Make sure you only bring out cold weather gear when the temperature drops below a certain pre-decided point.)
9. Walk around your car for 4 hours, checking the tire pressure every 15 minutes. Write down on a piece of paper everything you want the shop to fix the next time you bring the car in. Give your wife the list to throw away. (If you miss a 150minute check-in, you have to start all over.)
10/When your children are in bed, run into their room with a megaphone and shout at the top of your lungs that your home is under attack, and order them to cover their fighting positions. Don’t let them eat or sleep again for two days. (Once the enemy is gone, make sure you all set out as a family in full gear for an After-Action review.)
We couldn’t make this up even if we tried … but wow. The lengths civilians will go just to feel like they’re in the military. Might we suggest a visit to a local recruiting office instead?
“The goal of the new branch is to ‘defend satellites from attack’ and ‘perform other space-related tasks’…or something,” announced the teaser.
Daniels, whose producer credits include The Office, The Simpsons, and Parks and Recreation, along with co-creator Carell, were given a straight-to-series order for their new show, a work place comedy about the men and women tasked to create the Space Force. The episode count and release date have not yet been announced.
So far, details about the actual Space Force have yet to be determined — although the announcement has launched the inception of hilarious memes — but if Netflix is smart, their new show will take a few notes from Veep, which is probably the most realistic depiction of government workings (you just know the government is even more balls crazy than the military — you just know it).
There have been a lot of discussions about whether the Space Force is actually necessary. That’s above our pay grade, but we did make a video about what missions it could actually perform. Check it out below:
Ask any military historian: Tactical aggression is a game changer. Throughout history, forces who were more aggressive in combat saw a lot more success compared their predecessors. Ulysses S. Grant’s determination to take the war to the Confederates led to a win for the Union in the Civil War. When Maj. Gen. Lloyd Fredenhall was soundly beaten by the aggressive Nazi Afrika Corps in Tunisia, he was replaced by the famously aggressive George S. Patton, who saw resounding success. The U.S. strategy of building an overwhelming force to push Iraq out of Kuwait led to a decisive victory in a mere 40 days during the Gulf War.
In a game of strategy like NFL football, the same kind of aggression pays off.
For anyone who saw the Bengals-Chiefs game on Oct. 21, 2018, watching Cincinnati opt to take a field goal in the 3rd quarter while down by 30-plus points was a real head-scratcher. Why not risk the turnover when you’re running out of the time it takes to score the four touchdowns you need?
That call — still a bad one — is one made over and over by conservative coaches, even in situations not quite as extreme as the one Cincinnati faced that Sunday night. If a team is facing a 4th down with 4 yards to go on their opponent’s 40 yard line, there’s a good chance they’ll still opt to punt the ball away.
Well, maybe the Bengals always should. Anyway…
Kicking the ball, either for a punt or a field goal, is the safe choice. Whenever a team opts for the kick, fans and sportscasters alike praise the coach for making that decision. Economists and statisticians, on the other hand, lose their minds.
Why? Because there’s no real reason for a coach to be so conservative. Brian Burke, a former Naval aviator who used to fly the F-18C, is a nationally recognized expert on advanced sports analytics. Burke is currently an analyst for ESPN. In 2014, he published a study on Advanced Football Analytics that took a look at 4th-down decision making.
The longitudinal study assumes that coaches want to maximize the number of points they score while minimizing the number of points the other team scores. Then, it took thousands of real NFL plays on 4th down to calculate the potential value of each situation. Every down versus yardage situation has an “expected point” value and a value attached to the result of previous play, which affects the value of that play.
For example, the expected points value of a touchdown is actually 6.3 points because the opponent gets the ball back on the next play, whose value is .07. If you understand the value of the situation a team is in on 4th down, then you can find the statistically-driven decision the coach should make on that down.
If you don’t understand the math, don’t worry about it. People who do understand math created a handy graphic for the New York Times, based on Burke’s calculation. So we can look at the Bengals horrible performance in Kansas City a different way.
The horrible ball handling that led to the turnover aside, the Bengals tried for a fake punt on 4 and 9 from their own 37-yard-line with almost the entire second quarter remaining. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis tried a play that worked against the Chicago Bears in a preseason matchup. No matter how the ball was handled, the Times‘ 4th Down Bot says they should have punted it away.
Later in the game, with 6:20 left in the 3rd quarter and the Bengals down 28-7, Lewis opted to kick the field goal from the Kansas City 15-yard-line. Bengals fans everywhere were livid, given the score. While the the bot created by Burke’s formula and the New York Times doesn’t account for what to do in a blowout situation, Lewis made the mathematically correct call.
Too bad math isn’t enough to make Bengals fans hate Marvin Lewis any less.
Looking at the 2018 season, let’s see if there’s a correlation between game-winning success and 4th down aggression.
As of week 7, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a staggering 4-4 when comes to first downs on 4th down — but their record is still a measly 3-3. That doesn’t correlate, but the teams with the next-highest percentages in 4th down conversions are the Saints (at 87.5 percent) and the Chiefs (at 80 percent). New Orleans and Kansas City are first in their respective divisions. Five of the ten most successfully aggressive teams on 4th down also lead in total yardage, points per game, and total points this season.
One caveat: the least successful on 4th down conversions are also the least successful teams so far this year. So… know your own limitations.
Elleana Bowler cleans a headstone Sept. 19 at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia.
Volunteers are returning to national cemeteries under certain circumstances, following strict COVID-19 guidance.
More than 40 volunteers displayed the new policies during an event Sept. 19 at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia. A group from a local Latter-day Saints church cleaned headstones while wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
“The reason we wanted to do this is every year we look for service to do in our community,” said Tyler Herring, who organized the volunteers. “It’s an honor to be able to come out to do this every year.”
Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Justice Cruzan, a Culpeper County High School student, said she volunteered because she had family members who served. She added cleaning the headstones is a way of repaying the fallen.
“Keeping their headstones clean is honoring them,” Cruzan said.
The cemetery director said groups spending time volunteering during a pandemic is inspiring.
“Witnessing these volunteers dedicate their time and energy on this beautiful autumn day always renews my commitment to NCA’s mission of honoring Veterans and their eligible family members with a final resting place in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our Nation,” said Matthew Priest, cemetery director. “Even in the middle of this pandemic, Americans are going to safely gather to help us honor our servicemembers who have come before us and stood for something greater than themselves.”
Herring said the event was different from previous years with COVID-19 restrictions. He said that didn’t stop the group from coming out.
“We’re still able to social distance,” Herring said. “We’re still able to follow all the mandates we need to, but we’re still able to serve.”
National cemetery directors may allow volunteers to return to the cemetery on a limited basis. The decision to bring back volunteers will be a local cemetery decision based upon current cemetery conditions. Cemeteries use federal, state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. Any volunteers who are considered at risk due to COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to wait until conditions improve prior to resuming any volunteer activities.
Volunteers are essential
Priest said volunteers are an essential part of national cemeteries honoring Veterans and ensuring no Veteran ever dies.
“This is the second year that Tyler contacted me about how his team can help memorialize the men and women interred at Culpeper National Cemetery,” Priest said. “I am always amazed when I see so many patriots volunteer their time to help remember those who stood their final formation for us. Service and commitment are two words that are etched in the core of all Americans. That is evident today.”
As COVID restrictions begin to lift and businesses implement new safety protocols, more and more service members are putting in leave or planning their next family vacations—goodness knows we could all use one after lockdown. Though many hotels are offering lower rates in order to entice tourists to return, there are still popular vacation destinations where lodging is at a premium. Luckily, there are some hidden gems to be found in these areas…as long as you have your military ID. Even if you’re not planning to travel soon, keep these locations in mind for your post-COVID vacations. Since international travel restrictions are still in place, this list will focus on accommodations in the United States. Overseas locations like Dragon Hill Lodge in Seoul, South Korea will not be included.
Hawaii doesn’t have to be expensive (Hale Koa—AFRC)
1. Hale Koa Hotel—Honolulu, HI
Situated in the heart of Waikiki, Hale Koa offers service members an affordable and high class aloha experience. Owned by the DoD, Hale Koa is part of a chain of Joint Service Facility resorts called Armed Forces Recreation Centers. Room rates range from 3 to 1 per night depending on the dates of your stay and your rank (try to find resort rates like that in Waikiki). In order to book a stay, guests must provide proof of eligibility like a CAC or DD Form 2. For a full list of eligibility, see the Hale Koa website. Reservations are accepted up to 365 days before your desired trip. Hale Koa notes that September to mid-December offers the most room availability.
Coronado offers two different locations (Navy Gateway)
2. NAB Coronado/NAS North Island Navy Gateway—Coronado, CA
Coronado in San Diego is a premiere resort city known for the grand Victorian Hotel del Coronado, world-class beaches, and hosting two Navy bases. Both bases offer service members lodging operated by the DoD Lodging Program under Navy Gateway Inns Suites. While the Navy Gateway at NAS North Island offers guests more luxurious accommodations, its location on the north end of the peninsula means that it is further from the shops and restaurants that visitors come to Coronado for. On the other hand, the Navy Gateway at NAB Coronado is just south of the heart of the city. In fact, the lodging is only 1.5 miles from “The Del” and the picturesque Coronado Yacht Club. Both locations offer easy and exclusive beach access. However, if you plan to take your four-legged friend(s) to Coronado’s famous white-sand dog beach, note that only the NAB Coronado location is pet friendly. Pricing and availability vary, but a standard room can usually be had for around 0/night.
A stay in the Magic Kingdom doesn’t have to break the bank (Shades of Green)
3. Shades of Green—Lake Buena Vista, FL
Like Hale Koa, Shades of Green is a Joint Service Facility resort under the AFRC program. Located on the grounds of Walt Disney World in between two PGA championship golf courses, the resort offers nearly 600 rooms and suites reserved exclusively for service members, families, and sponsored guests. A full list of eligibility is listed on their website. Accommodations range in price from a standard room at 9/night for E-1 through E-6, up to 9/night for their top-tier Palm and Magnolia Suites regardless of rank. Compared to Disney’s on-site resorts, Shades of Green is comparable to their Deluxe Resorts like the Polynesian Resort. Though resort guests cannot park for free at the Disney parks, Shades of Green does offer a complimentary bus service to and from the parks. That said, the resort does not provide transportation to or from the Orlando International Airport and on-site parking comes at the cost of /night.
(City of Cape May)
4. Coast Guard Guest Lodging—Cape May, NJ
Most people don’t know that Cape May, NJ hosts basic training for the U.S. Coast Guard. The city claims to be America’s original seaside resort. The pristine beaches, diverse dining options, and rich history make it a great choice for an east coast vacation on the water. While the city has plenty of hotels, bed breakfast inns, and guest houses, the Coast Guard Guest Lodging offers eligible service members lodging options in the form of six fully furnished two bedroom units. Each unit has a living room, kitchen, and full bathroom along with essential housing items. If you and your family are planning an extended stay in Cape May and/or want to visit the surrounding area, these Coast Guard accommodations might be for you. Reservations during the peak season of May 15-September 15 will cost you /night while the non-peak season of September 16-May 14 runs at /night. Two pet friendly units are available and will require a non-refundable pet fee of 0.
The club is located just a few blocks from the Empire State Building (SSMA Club)
5. Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard & Airmen’s Club—New York, NY
Located on Lexington Avenue in the heart of Manhattan, the SSMA Club has been housing service members in the Big Apple since 1919. It is the only private organization in the New York area that provides accommodations at subsidized rates and club-type facilities to service members, veterans, retirees, and their families. The club rents by the bed rather than by the room; there are 21 rooms with two beds, six rooms with three beds, one room with four beds, and one room with six beds. Daily rates range from – per night depending on eligibility. There is also a single VIP Room that goes for 0/night for single-occupancy and 0/night for double-occupancy. Lavatories are communal and separated by gender. The club does not offer food service, but it does have kitchen facilities for guests to use. Common areas include the canteen, library, and two lounges.
Whether you’re looking to vacation at the beach, in a city, or at the happiest place on Earth, keep military-exclusive lodging options like these in mind. The eligibility and nightly rates for use of these facilities vary, so be sure to check their websites. Even if you’re not planning a trip to one of the locations listed, check to see if your vacation destination has a military-exclusive establishment. Service members and their families sacrifice so much for this country; accommodations like these offer a little bit in return.
Military spouses are sharing the impact Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had on their professional ambitions and personal lives.
Ginsburg’s husband, Martin, served in the Army Reserve, leading the couple to be stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in the 1950s. Her military affiliation and courtroom dissents made her a natural icon to military spouses who say they can relate to the justice’s history of facing — and fighting — barriers.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her husband Martin at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Source: Supreme Court.
Libby Jamison, a Navy spouse of 17 years, currently works in an attorney role for the Department of Veterans Affairs. She enrolled in law school in 2004, shortly after getting married and encountering roadblocks to employment in California.
“I think like a lot of us [military spouses], I had no professional network in San Diego. I didn’t know a single person, so I was just throwing out my resume and hoping someone would bite. … Law school had always been in the back of my mind but I wasn’t sure I could ever pull it off. Since I wasn’t having success getting a job, I decided to take the LSAT and apply to law school,” she said.
Jamison says in law school everyone “knew who the justices were,” but she didn’t make the connection between Ginsburg and the military until a special event that included members, like Jamison, from Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN) — an organization that advocates for licensing accommodations for military spouses, including bar membership without additional examination, according to its website.
“MSJDN does a Supreme Court swearing in — a lot of groups do that — where you can take 12 folks and be admitted to the Supreme Court as an attorney. It’s more symbolic because most of us aren’t ever going to argue in front of the Supreme Court,” she explained. “I did that in 2013, and so as part of that I started reading more about the court and the justices, and that’s when I stumbled across the military spouse connection [with Ginsburg].”
That network of “lady lawyers” immediately leaned on each other in the hours after learning the 87-year-old justice had passed away on Sept. 18.
“I think I just yelled out ‘no’ in my apartment and was immediately really sad. And then text messages started pouring in from all my fellow lady lawyers and everyone was just collectively mourning, especially because we have claimed RBG as a military spouse attorney,” Jamison said.
Jamison joins friends at the Supreme Court to pay respects to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Courtesy photo.
In 1956, Ginsburg was one of only nine women at Harvard Law School. She then tied for top of her class at Columbia Law School three years later. Despite those accomplishments, she was rejected for a clerkship at the Supreme Court because of her gender, according to the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project.
Jamison says Ginsburg’s ultimate success with an unconventional path is something spouses can relate to and should embrace.
“I have been thinking about her legacy a lot the last couple of days. At the time, the process was you graduate law school, you become an associate, you work your way up to partner. That was a normal legal career and that’s not what she had. And she talked about that being a strength and how she probably would not have made it to the Supreme Court if she had gone that traditional route. … I think there’s a really big lesson there, especially for military spouses because we all have that non-conventional career path, no matter how hard we try. Maybe you end up on a different path than your peers, but maybe it ends up being a better path,” Jamison said.
The Brooklyn-born justice served more than 27 years on the Supreme Court, leaving a legacy as “a tireless and resolute champion of justice,” Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. stated in a press release.
Josie Beets, Army spouse and former president of MSJDN, says she will remember Ginsburg for positioning herself “not just for equality but for a structural change in the way we take on roles in society.”
“She always said … it’s not about women’s liberation, but it’s about men and women’s liberation and this idea that in some ways men are just as locked into their roles that we as a society frame for them, as women are,” Beets said. “Can we be a society that allows men to be more compassionate and to have more of a role in their family, in their day-to-day lives and also be a society that allows women to excel at work without being the de facto caregiver?”
Beets and her daughter visit a makeshift memorial to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Courtesy photo.
Beets was inspired by her mom to pursue law school and remembers watching Supreme Court hearings as a child.
“My mom went to law school when I was seven and my sister was three. And I remember waking up in the middle of the night and going into the dining room of my grandmother’s house and my mom typing away. … the other piece is I remember watching as a little girl the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings and just feeling like they were being so mean to her and that that was unfair. I learned early on the Supreme Court is important, in ways that I can’t fully understand as a 10- or 11-year-old, and that women didn’t always get a fair shake — and I carried that with me,” she said.
Beets describes feeling grief stricken when she learned of Ginsburg’s passing.
“She [Ginsburg] has opened so many doors that were just painted shut. It’s always been our job to walk through them, but we just have to do it with real vigor and intentionality now. And if we don’t take advantage of the lifetime of opportunities that her work gave to us, we’ve missed our chance,” Beets said.
She adds the best way for military spouses to honor Ginsburg’s life is to “bring someone with you.”
“Particularly in the spouse world, whether your primary role is as the at-home caregiver for family or you’re in the working world, bring someone with you. We are in new situations all the time and we are so challenged all the time, make someone’s challenge a little less burdensome and bring them with you — whether that’s to a networking event or just to lunch with a neighbor to introduce a new spouse to a community. Justice Ginsburg never closed the door behind her. She always brought others up with her and we all have the power to do that every day,” Beets said.
Ginsburg’s journey to the highest court isn’t the only thing she is being remembered for. Her decisions from the bench had a profound impact on the lives of spouses like Brian Alvarado, husband of a now-retired sailor.
Alvarado says he began paying attention to Ginsburg as the fight for marriage equality was taking shape.
“Really 2011, 2012 those years when Prop 8 was really affecting our lives — whether or not our marriage was going to be recognized — that’s when I really started to study who’s who,” he said.
Proposition 8, known as Prop 8, was a California ballot proposition and a state constitutional amendment passed in the 2008 California state election that opposed same-sex marriage, according to Georgetown Law Library. The Alvarados lived in the state at the time.
“When you are in a relationship and you’re not allowed to go about the normal process of growing the relationship, getting engaged, getting married and that whole process — when you have a law in place that dictates that for you, it is a constant thought. It is a constant part of your daily thought process. Imagine that a million times more intense being in a relationship with somebody in the military where there’s already this huge discrimination and generations-long policy and environment where that just wasn’t allowed or wanted in the community,” he said.
Matthew and Brian Alvarado visit the Supreme Court in the days after Ginsburg’s passing. Courtesy photo.
Alvarado described it as feeling like he had no control over his life. Military spouses from same-sex relationships were prevented from moving with their partners, attending command functions or participating in normal volunteer roles.
“Then all of a sudden there is a beacon of hope in a lawsuit or a potential bill or whatever it is that is being presented, you know it’s going to be a long fight but that beacon of hope makes all of that constant anxiety and fear turn right into aggressive positivity,” he said.
The beacon of hope was called Obergefell v. Hodges and it came on June 26, 2015.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. Our phone started going off and the first thing I did was look up the actual written verbiage [of the decision]. I felt like it wasn’t real and I remember in that moment reading and crying and it was like all of those years of weight of being scared of upsetting my husband’s career, afraid of even going onto a military installation … it felt like that light at the end of the tunnel was sitting in my living room,” Alvarado said.
“Nine people sitting in a room hearing opposition and hearing from Jim Obergefell — and then those nine people make a decision, a 5-4 decision, those five people in that moment gave me the right and privilege to live the life that I get to live now. That’s a powerful thing. She [Ruth Bader Ginsburg] changed my life forever.”
Alvarado added that the most effective way that he and others can “continue to bless this country with the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is for everybody to fight and believe in equality for all human beings.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be buried during a private interment service at Arlington National Cemetery, according to a Supreme Court press release.
Alex K. asks: Is it true that sommeliers can’t tell the difference between expensive and cheap wines?
Having a seasoned tongue that can detect the subtle differences between different kinds of adult grape juice is a sure sign of class. In fact, the go-to Hollywood trope for showing that a character is refined is to give them a penchant for expensive wines. Even Hannibal Lecter, one of the most terrifying and cultured characters in film history, had a soft spot for chianti. But the question at hand today is can even the professional wine connoisseurs actually tell the difference between a Chateau Cheval Blanc 1943 and a Bota Box Chardonnay?
To begin with, it’s important to understand what a person has to go through to acquire the label of wine expert, otherwise known as a sommelier. It turns out this varies considerably from absolutely no official required training at all (the label is technically originally a job title) to an extreme amount as in the case of Master Sommeliers, of which there have been less than 300 people who have managed to achieve that certification in the little over a half a century that title has been granted, making it one of the most exclusive professional certifications in the world.
As to the former vastly more common distinction of “sommelier”, some who achieve this certification are simply wine enthusiasts wanting to take their hobby to the next level. Others are those working in the restaurant service industry who may have even got that title via working there way up from a simple waiter at a wine bar and learning on the job.
That said, as sommelier Dustin Wilson notes, “…by forcing oneself to study hard for a long period of time, certification offers young sommeliers the opportunity to gain the context they need to understand wine much faster than they would if they simply relied on the dining room floor as their classroom.”
This brings us to more formal certification. How rigorous a given course for certification is varies from institution to institution offering such, but in general sommeliers must be able to identify with reasonable accuracy random types of wine by taste, sight, and smell, answer various questions about wine making, the various regions of the world that are major wine producers, and what makes wines from them different than wines produced elsewhere. They must also have extensive knowledge of very specific food pairings, as well as demonstrate little things like the best technique for how to open a bottle of wine and pour — while simple for those working in the industry, nonetheless often trips up the hobbyist attempting to get that certification.
On that note, while actual formal training to get such a certification may only take dozens of hours, leading up to passing a given program’s tests a person generally needs extensive experience with all things wine, whether as a long time hobby or experience within the industry.
As you might have gathered from this, all sommeliers are not created equal. Some may be immensely knowledgeable and skilled at judging various wines, while others might be littler better than your wine enthusiast cousin Jill.
This brings us to the elite of the elite — Master Sommeliers. These are the Yoda’s of the wine world, and no coincidence the average salary for one eclipses that of mere mortal sommeliers. For your reference, a run of the mill lowly just starting out sommelier might make as little as in the ,000 a year range, whereas someone who has passed the tests to become an Advanced Sommelier earns around ,000 a year on average. The Master Sommeliers, on the other hand, typically make about 0,000 per year and can usually be found working at some of the world’s finest restaurants.
The testing to become a Master Sommelier is vastly more rigorous, and those invited to test (and it is invite only), must have first passed the Introductory Exam, then the Certified Exam, and then the Advanced Sommelier Exam. Those who pursue this course also tend to already have extensive backgrounds in the culinary arts and typically have many years of experience working as a sommelier at some wine serving establishment.
Once they’ve distinguished themselves enough in the field, they may then be invited to takes the tests to become a Master Sommelier. From here, they are given three years to pass three tests, including a practical restaurant service section, a verbal examination covering all things wine related to incredible depth, from history to grape cultivation in various regions, to various wine making methods; finally, the most difficult test of all is the taste test. In this, they are given six random wines chosen from the thousands produced around world. In 25 minutes, they must correctly identify not just what region of the world each one came from, but also the exact year the grapes used were harvested.
Each candidate is allowed to take each test up to six times in the three year span, but even then, as you might expect from so few having ever achieved this certification, many fail despite already being considered advanced wine experts before even attempting the tests.
Now, given all this, surely the elite wine professionals must be able to tell the difference between random expensive and a random cheap wines, right? Well, yes, the elite of the elite absolutely can. But also, no, they can’t at all actually.
So what’s going on here?
There are several factors that go into this. First, there’s the business side with a variety of factors that go into what makes something an “expensive” or “cheap” wine that go far beyond taste. Making such distinctions smaller than ever, wine making has become huge business on a scale and with scientific vigor never leveled at the industry before — all in an effort to create the best wines for as cheaply as possible.
As journalist and sommelier Bianca Bosker notes, “One of the things that I did was to go into this wine conglomerate [Treasury Wine Estates] that produces millions of bottles of wine per year… People are there developing wine the way flavor scientists develop the new Oreo or Doritos flavor.”
Noteworthy here is that the scientists extensively use sommeliers to help tweak their mass produced wines to be as high quality as possible even to the experts. They further add a variety of things to the wine, not unlike adding ingredients to any beverage, to tweak just about every facet of it until they come up with an end product that they think will maximally appeal to consumers.
As a result, even disregarding business elements effecting price beyond taste, the gap between inexpensive wines and the finest has closed considerably in recent decades, and there are more variety of wines to enjoy today than there ever have been before, all making it an effort in futility for even a Master Sommelier to be able to consistently identify one wine as one that was probably ultra expensive vs. more of a middle of the road variety of the same type of wine.
Partially as a result, while studies using the general public tend to show most can identify the difference between the cheapest of wines at a couple dollars a bottle and, say, a or bottle, as soon as you start to go much above that, we mere mortals tend to be able to differentiate the two with about the same accuracy you’d expect in predicting the results of a coin flip.
That said it turns out there is actually a slight and very interesting correlation. In one study with over 6,000 taste tasters, comprising about 12% sommeliers and the rest the general public, trying to determine if people like expensive wines more than cheap ones, it turned out that:
[W]e find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less. For individuals with wine training, however, we find indications of a positive relationship between price and enjoyment…. Our results indicate that both the prices of wines and wine recommendations by experts may be poor guides for non-expert wine consumers.
Thus, similar to music or really any field, those who are experts do seem to tend to enjoy the finer, more complex, versions of the craft, such as a symphony, vs the general public who prefer listening to the latest from Taylor Swift. Or as one music professor the co-author of this piece once had was fond of stating with respect to pop music vs. things like a symphony, “Cotton candy tastes great, but you can only eat so much of it before you get sick of it and start craving a high quality steak dinner.”
Now, at this point you might be thinking, “Well, sure, it’s easy to be fooled by the business side of things when talking price, but what about all those studies that show wine experts can’t even tell white wine from red in blind taste tests?”
It turns out there is a lot more going on with that than the clickbait headlines tend to indicate, and should be obvious from the fact that Master Sommeliers are able to pass the test they do in the first place, which would be impossible if their skills were really as bad as that. As Wheezy Waiter wisely points out in his aptly titled song “A Headline’s Not an Article” — a headline is not an article.
You see, as ever, our monkey brain’s are gonna monkey brain. We humans are just really, really easy to trick, especially when it comes to our senses. Ever eaten something minty and then drank a room temperature glass of water? Congratulations, you’ve just tricked your body into thinking you’re drinking ice cold water because menthol binds with cold-sensitive receptors that make these much more sensitive than normal, so they trigger more easily and you feel a cold sensation, even though everything is the same temperature as before.
So everything from what you ate or drank before to scents in the environment you’re currently in, to even your level of fatigue can influence the way you perceive the taste of something.
On top of physical things like that, there’s your expectations, which can be absurdly easily influenced, especially when it comes to taste.
So let’s now talk about wine. Contained within the grape juice are many dozens of esters and aldehydes, sugars, minerals, organic acids, etc. etc. This cocktail all derives from the grapes (whose contents are in turn effected by a variety of factors), processes of the yeast as it works its magic, and what the wine is processed and stored in during its journey from plant to your belly. This all creates the colors, smells, and taste which combined to form the flavor your perceive when you ingest the wine. To give you a small idea of the scope of things here, consider that over 400 compounds that influence the scent alone have been identified in wine.
On that note, temperature by itself can make a huge difference to taste, among other reasons, because of how this can effect the boiling point and thus smell and, in turn, taste, of some of these compounds in the wine. As wine enthusiast David Derbyshire notes, “Serve a New World chardonnay too cold and you’ll only taste the overpowering oak. Serve a red too warm and the heady boozy qualities will be overpowering.”
As for the wine experts, while they may have honed their skills with sometimes thousands of hours of study into all things wine, they still have the same monkey brain as the rest of us. Case in point, we have wine expert and journalist Katie Kelly Bell, who was traveling with a fellow group of wine connoisseurs. While at Waters Vineyards in Washington State, the owner poured everyone two glasses of white wine and asked them to identify what type they were. Bell sums up:
We swirled, we sniffed, we wrinkled our brows in contemplation. Some of us nodding with assurance. I took notes, finding the first white to be more floral and elegant than the second. Drawing on my years and years (there have been too many) of tasting, studying and observation, I swiftly concluded that the first wine was an unoaked Chardonnay and the second was a Sauvignon Blanc, easy peasy. Much to my mortification I was dead wrong, as was everyone else in the room. The proprietor chuckled and informed his room… that the wines were actually the same wine; one was just warmer than the other. He wasn’t intentionally shaming us (not one person got it right); he was pointedly demonstrating the power of just one element in the wine tasting experience: temperature.
Now consider a test conducted at the suggestion of winery owner Robert Hodgson at the California State Fair wine competition. Essentially, the panels of 65-70 expert judges were given a huge variety of wines to rank as per usual. But what they were not told was that they were actually given each of the wines three times and from the same exact bottle.
After running this same experiment four consecutive years, what Hodgson found was that, to quote the paper published on the experiment, Only “about 10 percent of the judges were able to replicate their score within a single medal group.” In fact, he even found about 10% of the judges were so far off that they switched a Bronze rating to a Gold for the exact same wine from the exact same bottle.
In another study conducted by Hodgson, An Analysis of the Concordance Among 13 U.S. Wine Competitions, it was found that in the vast majority of cases, receiving a Gold medal at one wine competition had virtually no correlation to not just being ranked similarly at another competition, but in many cases that same wine scoring below average at other competitions.
As to what’s going on here, Hodgson sums up, “…there are individual expert tasters with exceptional abilities sitting alone who have a good sense, but when you sit 100 wines in front of them the task is beyond human ability.”
In yet another test, this one by Frenchman Frédéric Brochet in 2001, he found that simply changing the label of the same bottle of wine from an expensive well thought of type to a cheap one resulted in the 57 taste testers almost universally changed their tune on not just how they liked it, but various attributes about it.
In another experiment, Brochet also gave a similar panel a glass of white wine and a glass of red wine and gave them a list of common words used to describe white and red wines and told them to assign them appropriately to the two wines in front of them. It turns out the red wine was actually the same as the white wine except dyed red, and only a small percentage of the testers were able to accurately identify that both wines tasted the same in the descriptive words they chose to identify each wine. And, yes, contrary to what is almost universally stated, not all of the taste testers got it wrong.
Nevertheless, most did. While you may try to argue that perhaps the results ended up being different because the dye had an effect on the flavor, beyond that it was purported to be flavorless dye, we can at least be reasonably sure it didn’t drastically alter the taste to “jammy”, “spicy”, and “intense”, among other common terms wine professionals use to talk about red wines.
That said, important to note here is that while Brochet’s studies are often cited as definitively showing how bad wine experts are at judging wines, in this case that they can’t even tell the difference between red and white wines, that’s not what that study actually showed at all. Blindfold even amateur wine drinkers and legitimately give them a white and a red wine and they are going to likely do extremely well at telling the difference, as anyone whose drunk wine pretty much ever can attest. Rather, this test simply showed how easily our perception of things is influenced by suggestion.
Just as importantly here, what literally every single source we could find not only leaves out when reporting this story, but in the vast majority of cases falsely states, is the actual qualifications of those being tested by Brochet. It turns out, the people he was using as taste testers were not experts at all, simply undergraduate students studying oenology (wine and wine making). While certainly probably more knowledgeable than your average person on the street, nobody would call an undergraduate mathematics major just learning the ropes a “math expert”, nor would their skills be indicative of what their professors who have vastly more experience and are actual experts are capable of doing.
Thus, how expert any of these students were at the point in their education when given these tests isn’t clear. What would be far more interesting and indicative is to give that same exact test to the world’s Master Sommeliers and see how they did. Presumably because they still have monkey brains like the rest of us, they would still perform poorly, but nobody yet has run that test that we could fine.
However they would do in such a scenario, what is undeniable is that study after study shows that our perception and expectation vastly influences our experiences, not just in wine tasting, but pretty much every facet of life.
As the Master Sommeliers demonstrate by passing the taste test they are subjected to in the first place, with enough time and study, there are actually people who are exceptionally good at identifying and judging attributes of wines in the right circumstances. But overwhelm there sense with 100 wines or change their expectations about what they are tasting and their perceptions will change significantly, seemingly, making them little better than a random person off the street at telling anything definitive about the wine.
And then when adding not just telling attributes about the wine, but also whether it is inexpensive to purchase or expensive, the whole thing is an effort in futility.
In the end, a hand crafted table might cost a lot more than one that is mass produced. But if they are made from more or less the same materials and the company mass producing them hasn’t chosen to cut any corners, the mass produced and often vastly cheaper table will in a lot of cases actually be objectively better, and certainly more consistently so, thanks to machined and automated precision. But that doesn’t stop people from appreciating and enjoying their hand crafted table more than the same basic table purchased from Ikea.
As with everything, you like what you like. Wine tasting is subjective and what about a given type appeals to you is really all that matters. If knowing you paid 0 for that glass enhances your experience, then great. For others buying several bottles of Two-Buck Chuck so they can enjoy many glasses with a large group of friends at a party may make that one all the more enjoyable. For others, the experience of attending wine events where various fancy wines are sampled and discussed more than makes them worth the extra cost and the trip. For yet others, even when sipping alone at home, the cheap wine that has had sugars added to make it a little sweeter might be their preferred cup of tea. As the old adage goes, “The only thing that matters with regard to a wine is whether or not you like it.”
Whatever your preferences, just don’t be a snob about it. Whether a wine connoisseur or not, I think we can all agree wine snobs are right up there with Grammar Nazis in two groups nobody at any expertise level likes, probably not even themselves.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
China recently made history as the first country besides the US to field stealth aircraft with its J-20 fighter, but reports from its regional rival, India, indicate that it may want to go back to the drawing board.
The Indian Defense Research Wing says its Russian-made Su-30MKI fighter jets can spot the supposedly-stealth J-20s, and has already observed them in flight.
India has been basing its Su-30MKIs in the northern part of the country to counter China’s deployments of J-20s, which struggle to take off in the high altitudes near Tibet, Zee News reported.
The Su-30MKI represents a new and effective Russian jet with an advanced array of radars that Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider could probably spot the J-20.
“It is entirely possible that the Su-30MKI can pick up track information on J-20 from quite long ranges,” Bronk said. “But what I would expect is that those tracks may be fairly intermittent and dependent on what headings the J-20 is flying on relative to the Sukhoi trying to detect it.”
Bronk explained that unlike the US’s F-22 and F-35 stealth jets, the J-20 doesn’t have all-aspect stealth. This means that from some angles, the J-20 isn’t stealthy. A senior stealth scientist previously told Business Insider the J-20 is stealthiest from the front end.
If China was flying the J-20s in any direction besides towards India, the Su-30MKI radars could have been spotting the jets from their more vulnerable sides.
“Also, it is possible that the Chinese are flying the J-20 with radar reflectors attached to enlarge and conceal its true radar cross section during peacetime operations — just as the USAF routinely does with the F-22 and F-35,” said Bronk.
For safety and training purposes, stealth aircraft often fly with markers that destroy their stealth during peacetime maneuvers.
If this is the case with the J-20s, then India may be in for an unpleasant surprise next time it tries to track the supposedly stealth jets.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Patriotic rock band Madison Rising and the Navy SEAL Foundation announced a unique partnership with the release of Madison Rising’s new song, “Men of Steel.” Madison Rising is donating 50% of the proceeds from the song to the Foundation in support of its mission of service to the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community.
“Men of Steel” is a new rock anthem that pays tribute to all those who serve.
The song is a special collaboration that started when Madison Rising approached the NSF in 2019 about a potential partnership. “I had always wanted to figure out a way to have music support our mission at the Foundation, and Madison Rising was an ideal partner to make that happen,” said Chris Irwin, Director of Partnerships for the NSF in a press release.
As a result, Madison Rising worked with the Navy SEAL Foundation to write a song about teamwork, camaraderie and the service member experience, that directly supports those it honors. “By donating half of all proceeds on this song to the Foundation, Madison Rising is committing itself to not only raising awareness about our mission, but also raising funds to help us execute that mission,” Irwin stated.
Madison Rising’s mission is to honor veterans, first responders, and active-duty military members by making great rock music that reinforces true American values. This collaboration with the Navy SEAL Foundation is the latest initiative in support of that mission. The band is led by Rio Hiett, a retired Master Sergeant who served in the Air Force, “Madison Rising is on a mission to honor our military however possible and we know this song will have an incredible impact on the community,” he said. The band is well known for hard-charging, patriotic performances at venues including NFL games, NASCAR, and other special events.
“I started singing back in high school with producer and friend, Andrew Lane, in Muscle Shoals, Alabama,” Hiett told WATM. “This is where the love of performing and creating was started and as he went on to become a Grammy Award winning part of Atlanta’s and L.A.’s R B movement, I chose the route of military service.
I spent 20 years as an Air Force AMMO troop, having served half on active duty and half in the air guard.” Hiett served in several operations, including Allied Force, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. “I spent nearly 3 years deployed to the AOR and lost that time with my oldest son Dante’,” Hiett said. “I felt he endured the impact of the deployments far more than anyone else in the family. From the moment I became the frontman for Madison Rising, I had always wanted to have my son be a part of something meaningful. He plays the drums and this was an incredible opportunity to have him be a part of a song [Men of Steel], that has the potential to go a long way in the veteran community.”
Hiett continued, “We were able to team up with Chet Roberts of 3Doors Down and record the song down in their studio in Nashville at Rivergate Studios. SEAL Chris Irwin was also a huge part of the track as it was brought forth from his original idea as we collaborated, rearranged/rewrote, then recorded. So at this point in time, I am incredibly proud of this song, the meaning behind the song and how it was created, but mostly that my son is a huge part of something so amazing.”
Madison Rising has shared the stage with rock legends Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Toby Keith, Weezer and many others, and they have a large following among veterans and first responders.
About the Navy SEAL Foundation:
The Navy SEAL Foundation’s mission is to provide immediate and ongoing support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community and its families. The Foundation stands behind these warriors and their families by providing a comprehensive set of programs specifically designed to improve health and welfare, build and enhance resiliency, empower and educate families, and provide critical support during times of illness, injury, or loss. Like the community it serves, the Navy SEAL Foundation is a high-performing organization committed to excellence. It has received eight consecutive 4-Star ratings from Charity Navigator and it is one of less than 70 charities, from among more than 9,000, to have earned a perfect score of 100 for financial health, accountability and transparency, placing it in the top 1% of all rated charities.
For more information, please visit: www.navySEALfoundation.org.
Ron Rosser was a patriot and a hero. The Medal of Honor recipient who reenlisted in the Army to avenge his brother, died in August at the age of 90.
Army Master Sgt. Ron Rosser served for three years in the post-World War II Army in Japan and Germany and then reenlisted in June 1951 with a single purpose in mind: revenge for the death of his younger brother Richard, who was killed in action in Korea.
Rosser was sent first to Japan. He then volunteered for combat and fought with his command to get a place at the front, eventually landing a spot with Company L, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division.
In an oral history recording for Arlington National Cemetery, Rosser said that Big Army couldn’t understand his motivation for demanding to go to Korea. “I made up my mind that you can’t kill my brother and get away with it,” Rosser said.
Company L participated in both Bloody Ridge and the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge. Bloody Ridge lasted over three weeks, and there were an estimated 2,7000 casualties. The Battle of Heartbreak Ridge was a month-long battle in the Korean War and was one of several major engagements in the hills of North Korea, just a few miles north of the 38th Parallel.
Then, Company L was ordered to take a hill occupied by the Red Army near the town of Ponggilli. Rosser reports that he estimated at least three battalions on the hill, all in heavily fortified positions. The battle began with only 170 men from Company L. Shortly after maneuvers began, the temperature dropped to 20 degrees below zero.
The Red Army was completely dug in, and they had the advantage. Rosser gave his radio to another soldier and decided to charge alone to the Red Army front line. He stopped at an outcropping to assess the situation.
Recorded as part of the oral history for Arlington, Rosser said that he considered how much trouble he’d been through to reach that point and that there was no use wasting the day. “I let out a war whoop and jumped in the trench. I just charged straight into them,” he said.
Rosser was armed with only a carbine and a grenade, a fact that’s noted on his Medal of Honor citation. He gained the top of the kill, killed two enemy soldiers, and then went back into the trench. He killed five more enemies as he advanced, often relying on hand-to-hand combat at times.
But Rosser kept advancing, sometimes relying on his rifle as a club. When he ran out of ammunition, he returned to his position to reload. Rosser said that all he was trying to do was protect the men he was responsible for in his unit. He worried that if he didn’t attack, the Red Army would charge down the hill and decimate Company L.
Of the 170 soldiers in the unit, 90 were killed, 12 were captured, and 68 wounded. As Company L retreated, the Red Army didn’t fire any shots at them.
On his Medal of Honor citation, it states that he killed “at least 13 enemy,” but Rosser counts the number as more than 40.
“The purpose of me doing all that crazy stuff was trying to stop them,” he said in the oral history.
Rosser was awarded the Medal of Honor in a June 1952 ceremony at the Rose Garden in the White House. After President Truman read the citation, he turned to Rosser and said, “Personally I’d rather have [the medal] than be president.”
Once pinned, someone told Rosser that now not only did all officers have to salute him, but so too did the president. He was sure someone was pulling a fast one on him. While not an official regulation, it’s a time-honored custom that shows respect, whether or not the Medal of Honor recipient is in uniform.
Rosser was in the Army until 1968. He repeatedly volunteered several times for combat following the death of another brother, who was killed in action in Vietnam. The Army denied Rosser’s request for combat. He retired as a Sgt. First Class but was later promoted to Master Sgt.
Of being a Medal of Honor recipient, Rosser said it could have been awarded to anyone he served with. “I didn’t do anything they didn’t do. I was just lucky enough to survive it.”