Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

2:20 p.m. on February 20, 2020, is not a time Nikki James Zellner will soon forget.


Zellner received an emergency notification from the daycare her two sons, Ronan and Owen, attend in Virginia Beach, where the Navy family is stationed. The facility alerted parents to come pick up their children due to a carbon monoxide leak.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

“When we arrived, the children and staff had been evacuated and I was starting to hear stories related to what was going on behind the scenes,” she said. “The one that gave me the biggest pause was that a teacher’s husband had to bring in a detector because the teachers and students were getting sick after hours of symptoms, and there was no detector on site, because there was no Virginia law requiring them to be.”

At that moment, the narrative for Zellner went from “this happened to my child” to “I’m not going to let this happen to anyone else’s child.”

She started by communicating directly with the daycare, asking direct questions, and refusing to jump to conclusions.

“While waiting for their feedback, I got busy researching,” Zellner explained. “I learned that carbon monoxide (CO) detectors weren’t required in Virginia schools, regardless of if they had a source for CO on-site (common sources are fuel-fired sources like furnaces, HVAC systems, kitchen appliances), if the school was built prior to 2015. It wasn’t part of the state code – and in Virginia, it wouldn’t be retrofitted to existing unless legislation was passed to make it apply.”

But Zellner’s research also uncovered a scary reality nationwide.

“Only five states require CO detectors in educational facilities like daycares, public schools, private schools and any place where children are taken care of,” she said. “How many kids and educators aren’t being protected because people just assume carbon monoxide detectors are on site?”

Zellner’s first points of contact were Senators, Representatives and Delegates that represent Virginia and her district. Then, she spoke to the Director of State Building Codes at the Department of Housing and Community Development to make sure she had a firm understanding exactly of the law and when it applied.

“I also started a petition making folks aware of the situation,” she shared. “Within three days, we had 1,000 signatures. Within the week, we had a breaking news story and a commitment from one of the Delegates to work with us on possibly introducing legislation in the 2021 session.”

To date, Zellner’s petition has more than 1,200 signatures, and her determination landed her on the front page of the Sunday edition of Virginia’s leading newspaper.
Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

“There’s this strange feeling that comes over you when you know that you’re the person that’s supposed to do something,” Zellner emphasized. “That you have the means to do something, and you have the unique perspective to tell the story on why something needs to change. I have a background in media relations and content development, I know how to investigate and ask direct questions, I know how to navigate the political landscape after working in a nonprofit and I’m not afraid to put myself in the line of fire and make a ruckus about it. These are our children. These are our educators. It’s too big of a risk. I feel compelled to raise awareness about it – I can’t explain it any other way. All stakeholders are accountable for solving this – hopefully before it upgrades from close call to tragedy.”

What inspires you about the military community?

The most inspiring thing to me about the military community is their ability to problem solve any situation. What’s today’s mission? How can we help each other? What’s our end goal? This isn’t just the service members – these are the wives, the mil-kids, the support givers – it truly is a community of givers. And it’s up to each member of the community to give more than they take – and I think that really sets the military community apart.

What piece of advice would you give to fellow military spouses?

The biggest piece of advice I have for military spouses is to share your stories. Get comfortable talking about the uncomfortable. Humanize your experiences and make those connections. If we as a group want people to understand our lives, we have to share our lives not just inside but outside of the military community.

What is your life motto?

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re going to stay silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

If you could pick one song as the theme song of your life, what would it be and why?

‘No Hard Feelings’ by The Avett Brothers. The Avett Brothers have some of the most honest music out there – and this one just really hits home for me. For me, it’s really about forgiving and being forgiven – and just being able to distinguish what’s important and what’s not so you can live a meaningful life. I think it’s my theme song because even after some really impossible hardships, I’m still able to take gifts from those moments instead of just pain.

What’s your superpower?

I have a fierce love for my people. I will turn superhuman when it comes to their needs – regardless of how much time I have or what’s going on in my life. If you’re someone I trust and love, I will spring into action for you in the biggest way possible.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Green Berets and foreign weapons… Like kids in a candy store

One of the perks of having a career in Special Operations units was the chance to be trained up and get to fire all manner of foreign, rare, and sometimes very old weapons that you will find still in use.

Special Forces weapons sergeants will be trained in a multitude of U.S. and foreign weapons, and know how to effectively put them to use if they are come across during a foreign deployment.


There is no shortage of weapons that you will come across in many of the Third World countries and some are amazing that they are still in use. And many of them shouldn’t be.

Once in South America, we came across an ancient Thompson submachine gun that looked straight out of Chicago in the times of Al Capone. The old M1928 Thompson with the vertical foregrip, the Cutts compensator, and the noisy 100-round drum magazine (the thing rattled loudly), no wonder the GIs of World War II hated it and opted for the 30-round stick mags.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

But the Chicago piano was probably last cleaned by Capone’s cronies when we came across it. It was rusted and in crappy shape. However, some Break Free and WD-40 will cure most anything. That said, we all took great delight in cutting that bad boy loose. In close quarters or in clearing buildings, it is still a pretty fearsome weapon. The only thing missing was the violin case.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
Thompson Submachine Gun, Model 1928A1, stored in a violin case (WikiMedia Commons)

The Panamanian military under Manuel Noriega had a lot of mini-grenades made by Argentina. If memory serves me well, they were stamped with FMK2. Slightly smaller than a normal frag grenade, you could toss those suckers quite a distance. They even came with a different fuse that could be used to fire from a rifle. After “Just Because,” we disarmed the military, and took away nearly all of their cool weaponry, including the Argentinian frags, and gave them rusty ass .38s that some bean counter found in a warehouse in the U.S., as the SF guys transitioned them from military to National Police. But that is a story for another time

But those frags were popular with the SF guys and used for another purpose, they even caught some fish off the coast after Noriega was sent packing to Miami. We’d call it fishing with “Dupont lures.”

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
This replica of a Dutch V40 mini-grenade posted by OnyxSkyDV on AR15.com is a close approximate.

Another weapon that was a blast to shoot was one that is still being used today by the West German military. Back in World War II, the German MG-42 was feared by American GIs, who called it “Hitler’s bone saw” because of the incredible rate of fire the weapon had. The MG-42 had a cyclic rate of about 1550 rounds a minute, easily twice that of the Brownings that U.S. troops carried. The current M240B machine gun in use today has a cyclic rate of fire of about 600 rounds per minute.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
A German Waffen SS soldier involved in heavy fighting in and around the French town of Caen in mid-1944. He is carrying an MG 42 configured as a light support weapon with a folding bipod and detachable 50-round belt drum container. (WikiMedia Commons)

Originally chambered in 7.92 x 57mm Mauser ammunition, the obvious drawback of the weapon was that, because of the rate of fire, it overheated quickly and needed frequent barrel changes. Now, rechambered for 7.62 mm NATO, the West Germans still use it today.

We came across one of the originals in the WWII caliber with boxes of ancient ammo, it still fired and after putting some serious lead downrange (and setting the range grass on fire, yes it was dry season), it was no wonder why GIs feared it.

The biggest weapon I ever personally fired with the M40 106mm recoilless rifle. Our partner nation Honduras had an anti-tank company in the 6th Infantry Battalion up in the mountains near the border with Nicaragua. They would frequently get alerted up on the border because the Sandinista army units would threaten the border with their armored vehicles.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

I wrote about one such deployment there in an unintentionally comical piece for another publication. Prior to us being deployed there, our entire SF A-Team got some great training from the SWC Weapons committee on the 106 and then we took a few of them out to get some rounds downrange. The 106 will penetrate 12 inches of cold-rolled steel at about 300 meters.

So despite the guys from Range Control, telling us NOT to fire at an old bulldozer that was sitting there invitingly yellow with the blade dug into the ground…”Danger close” they said…we couldn’t resist. One of us, I will not divulge the name of the guilty party (on the grounds that it may incriminate me…er someone) put a 106 HEAT round right through that blade. Cut through it like a hot knife through butter.

But I think the most fun weapon I ever got to fire was the Russian made ZU-23-2.

ZU 23-2 AA gun firing.

Originally designed as an anti-aircraft weapon, the weapon was a towed 23mm dual weapon. It is towed on a small trailer that can be quickly transformed into a stationary mount. It was used to great effect by NVA and Viet Cong troops during the Vietnam war. Eventually, it was replaced by the ZSU-23-4, the tracked, light-skinned vehicle.

We were supposed to be firing both, however, the ZSU broke down with an electrical short so we just fired the ZU with the autocannons. It is simple and easy to operate and packs a tremendous punch. It is devastating to troops, buildings, and light-skinned vehicles.

While no longer used primarily as an anti-aircraft weapon, it is still in use today and can be found in many places mounted on pickup trucks as a technical. Large amounts of them can be found in Libya, Syria, Yemen as well as many other places.

Those are just a few of the weapons I came across and although I did get to drive an M-1 Abrams once, I didn’t get the opportunity to fire the main gun. Maybe another time…

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

Explosion at Army ammunition factory with volatile history

An explosion inside an Army ammunition factory in Missouri on April 11 left one person dead and four others injured.


The Army Joint Munitions Command, which is tasked with managing military weapons and equipment, confirmed that the explosion occurred in a mixing building at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in the city of Independence, local outlet KY3 News reports.

The man killed in the explosion reportedly worked at the plant for 36 years.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
Lake City Army Ammunition Plant. (U.S. Army photo)

Manufacturing ammunition is “dangerous work, and our employees risk their lives to protect our men and women in uniform,” said Lt. Col. Eric Dennis, commander of the plant, according to KSHB Kansas City. “This is a sacrifice they make to support our country, and I am humbled by the ultimate sacrifice this employee made today.”

An explosion injured six people at the same factory in 2011 in a construction area where the powder is loaded. All of the nearly 1,800 employees were sent home following the most recent unexpected detonation. Investigators are still trying to decipher how the explosion occurred.

Federal investigators fined the 707,000-square foot facility three times in the last decade (2008, 2011, 2012) for workplace safety violations.

The private contractor operating the plant in 2011 was initially charged $28,000 for safety issues, and paid $5,600 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which cited “serious” problems with the handling of potentially dangerous chemicals.

The property holds more than 400 buildings, including nine warehouses. The plant primarily generates and tests small-caliber ammunition.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Failing Forward

Senior U.S. Air Force leaders are embracing and promoting the concept that if their Airmen are not failing, then they are, more than likely, not moving forward.

They believe pushing the envelope is necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant and the occasional failure should be viewed by supervisors not as a negative, but as part of a greater positive.


In this series, we hear senior Air Force leaders give examples of how taking calculated risks and failing throughout their careers taught them valuable lessons, propelled them to future success and made them better leaders.

Failing Forward: Dr. Richard J. Joseph

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DR. RICHARD JOSEPH, AIR FORCE CHIEF SCIENTIST

Dr. Richard J. Joseph, Air Force chief scientist, believes failure is a necessary component and result of the scientific method. The failures of ideas and theories, when tested through experimentation and prototyping, inform, and are often the root of, future successes.

However, he also believes that project failures are often rooted in past successes of large technological bureaucracies. Large organizations with far-reaching strategic plans often stifle the creativity, experimentation and risk acceptance necessary to achieve game-changing technological advances.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

Dr. Richard J. Joseph, Chief Scientist of the U.S. Air Force, looks through virtual reality goggles at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 29, 2018. The harness training was a requirement before flying on a B-52 Stratofortress with the 20th Bomb Squadron. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // SENIOR AIRMAN PHILIP BRYANT)

Joseph serves as the chief scientific adviser to the chief of staff and secretary of the Air Force, and provides assessments on a wide range of scientific and technical issues affecting the Air Force mission. He has more than 40 years of experience as a physicist, directed energy researcher, senior program manager, national security advisor and executive.

Failing Forward: Dr. Will Roper

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DR. WILL ROPER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE FOR ACQUISITION, TECHNOLOGY AND LOGISTICS

As the Air Force’s Service Acquisition Executive, Dr. Will Roper oversees Air Force research, development and acquisition activities with a combined annual budget in excess of billion for more than 465 acquisition programs.

He promotes the concept of “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” as a foundational culture shift necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant.

This philosophy is manifested in his promotion of rapid prototyping and funding innovative ideas through Air Force Pitch Day and AFWERX’s Spark Tank.

Roper believes that by spending money to develop fledgling technologies and ideas quickly, and then prototyping them rapidly, flaws are found much earlier in the development process.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, speaks to a crowd of small businesses, venture capitalists, and Airmen during the Inaugural Air Force Pitch Day in Manhattan, New York, March 7, 2019. Air Force Pitch Day is designed as a fast-track program to put companies on one-page contracts and same-day awards with the swipe of a government credit card. The Air Force is partnering with small businesses to help further national security in air, space and cyberspace. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH SGT. ANTHONY NELSON JR.)

This method avoids committing to the huge cost of the much longer traditional system and weapons development and acquisition where flaws are only found years and hundreds of millions of dollars later. Then the Air Force is stuck with that flawed system for decades.

However, in order for “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” to work, Roper believes the Air Force must adjust its attitude towards risk.

He points out that his own success actually points to a persistent flaw in the Air Force’s tolerance for risk – people are only rewarded for taking a risk that pays off. Roper insists that to foster an innovative culture, people must be rewarded for taking a good risk in the first place.

“Why are the people who succeed the only people we cite when we talk about risk taking as a virtue?” Roper said. “I’m trying to be very mindful with Air Force program managers and people taking risk that they get their evaluation and validation for me at the point that they take the risk.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

SciFi loves nuclear hand grenades, but you’ll never get one

Ever since America figured out nuclear bombs, science fiction writers have flirted with all the different ways that nuclear weapons could work. But while lots of SciFi weapons have come to fruition, like drones and pain rays, the nuclear hand grenade will always be a weapon of fiction.


Fallout 76 Nuka Grenade

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The military worked hard to expand its arsenal of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, making both large, high-yield weapons, like thermonuclear bombs, as well as smaller weapons, like nuclear cannons and recoilless rifles.

Nuclear weapons, explained in fiction with a bunch of mumbo jumbo and explained in the real-world with language that feels the same, follow specific physical rules. To trigger a nuclear explosion, material that can undergo fission—meaning that its atoms can be split apart and release energy—have to be brought from below a critical mass to above a critical mass.

Basically, you have to have a bunch of material that you’ve kept separated, and then you have to collapse it quickly. Once enough fissionable material is in a tight enough space, it’ll explode. Going from subcritical to critical will cause a nuclear explosion, usually within a millionth of a second. Fusion weapons work by allowing a fission reaction to trigger a hydrogen fusion process.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

The Davy Crockett Bomb was a nuclear device delivered via recoilless rifle. While the warhead was about as small as it could be while reaching critical mass, the explosion was still large enough to give third-degree burns to everyone with 350 yards.

(U.S. Army)

And that brings us to why you’ll never see a nuclear hand grenade. You have to, have to, reach critical mass for the weapons to work. The minimum amount of nuclear material needed for a plutonium reaction is 11 pounds of weapons-grade material. That’s a heavy hand grenade. Even then, it requires a “neutron reflector,” a layer wrapped around the material that reflects any escaping neutrons back into the sphere. Graphite, steel, and other materials work for this purpose.

But that adds on more weight. A uranium weapon would be even worse, weighing in at 33 pounds plus its reflector. And that’s without accounting for the weight of the parts needed to keep the nuclear material compartmentalized until it’s time to set it off.

But even worse for the operator, these small amounts of nuclear material would have a devastating effect at much larger ranges than an operator could possible throw it. Take the W54 warhead placed on America’s lowest-yield nuclear missiles, the Davy Crockett bomb fired from a recoilless rifle and the AIM-26 air-to-air nuclear missile.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

A W54 warhead explodes after a Davy Crockett test shot. It’s the smallest warhead ever deployed and nearly the smallest warhead possible, and it still kills everything within a few hundred yards.

(YouTube/Jaglavaksoldier)

The W54 had approximately 50 pounds of uranium, about as small as you could get while still achieving critical mass. Even that small amount of material created an explosion with the same yield as 250 tons of TNT. Think you can throw a 33-pound grenade far enough to be safe from the 250-ton blast? Hint: You would need to throw it at least 350 yards just to avoid third-degree burns from radiation.

So, while the Fallout series lets you play with Nuka grenades and Star Wars features thermal detonators, real nuclear hand grenades will always be out of reach.

Sorry, everyone. But, the good news is that laser rifles have a real chance. Sweet.

Humor

10 memes that will make you proud to be in the E-4 mafia

The E-4 mafia is one of the tightest groups in the military. The group consists of service members who fall between the pay grades of E-1 and E-4 and is known for (unofficially) running the military. Sure, the senior enlisted and officers give the orders and the NCOs pass those organized plans along, but it’s the mafia that gets sh*t done.

As a member of this unique club, you must follow an unwritten rule that states we don’t talk about being in the mafia or the sh*t we pull off. Since most troops obey this fundamental rule, not much information gets out about this special, underground world. Although we’re not allowed to speak about the mafia that much, it’s definitely okay to crack jokes about the lifestyle through motherf*cking memes.


Let the humorous commentary begin!

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

To all the current members of the E-4 Mafia: Cheers, and remember to enjoy your time in the suck.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How ‘Rocky’ Versace earned a Medal of Honor as a POW

Described as “the bravest man you’ve never heard of,” Captain Humbert Roque Versace’s story is one that is not as well known as it should be. So allow us to remedy that by discussing how he spent two years basically being a huge pain in the ass for his captors in a Vietnamese POW camp — so much so that he managed to become the first person in the U.S. Army to earn a Medal of Honor for his conduct as a prisoner of war.

Born in 1937 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Versace was the son of decorated army colonel, Humbert Joseph Versace, and famed author, editor, and pilot Tere Rios, who, among other things, wrote The Fifteenth Pelican, which would inspire popular 1960s TV show The Flying Nun.


The oldest of five children, “Rocky” as he was known was a smart and headstrong child who would later be described by his brother, Steve, as being “infuriatingly opinionated” and “If he knew he was right, he was absolutely atrocious…” — a trait that played a role in his earning a Medal of Honor.

Like his father before him, Versace joined the army, attending West Point Academy in 1959 and graduating with honors. Over the next two years Versace received training as both an Army Ranger and a parachutist, eventually rising to the rank of Captain during a tour in North Korea as a tank platoon leader. In 1962, the newly minted Captain Versace was assigned to serve in a mostly ceremonial role with the distinguished Old Guard at Fort Meyer. Soon enough, however, he volunteered to serve in Vietnam.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

Humbert Roque Versace.

Prior to being shipped off to Vietnam, Versace received yet more training, this time to become an Intelligence Officer. As part of his training, he received a crash course in Vietnamese, a language he was fluent in by the time his tour of duty began in May of 1962. This, combined with Versace’s fluency in French, made him an invaluable asset to the Army and incredibly popular with the South Vietnamese forces and civilians of the Mekong Delta.

His fluency in Vietnamese was important to Versace as his dream was to eventually become a Catholic priest and missionary to the people of South Vietnam. Thus, Versace spent much of his free time as a soldier there volunteering at local orphanages, assisting townspeople and securing vital and not-so-vital supplies to make life a little easier for the locals. In regards to the latter, in addition to securing food and building materials, Versace also continually wrote letters to schools in the United States asking for toys and learning materials for the children of the villages he visited.

A year later, with his tour of duty coming to an end, Versace applied to stay in Vietnam for another 6 months despite receiving news that his application to seminary had been accepted. As it would later emerge, Versace had decided that he still wanted to be a priest but his decision to embark on a second tour of duty was born out of an earnest desire to continue helping the orphans he’d become so attached to during his time in the country.

Two weeks before this second tour was set to end, Versace volunteered for a highly dangerous mission to assist South Vietnamese troops take down a North Vietnamese command post located deep in the U Minh Forest.

During the mission Versace and his fellow soldiers were ambushed and overrun by Viet Cong forces. Hopelessly outnumbered, he called for a tactical retreat, along with First Leiutenant Nick Rowe and Sergeant First Class Dan Pitzer, covering the exit of South Vietnamese soldiers with sustained rifle fire as a hail of bullets tore overhead. During the ensuing firefight, Versace was hit in the back and legs by bullets and shrapnel as he stood, completely exposed to the hellstorm raging around him firing his weapon into jungle.

Running low on bullets, Versace charged the enemy in an apparent effort to single-handedly beat them all to death with the butt of his rifle. During his charge, he was injured once more, falling to the ground and being quickly set upon and beaten by the enemy forces.

After being physically overpowered, Versace, along with Pitzer and Rowe, were stripped of their weapons and boots, before all three were marched barefoot into the jungle towards a POW camp…. Which is when Versace got mad.

Remembering Captain HR ‘Rocky’ Versace on Memorial Day 2016

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For the next two years Versace made life for his captors hell as they tried and failed to do the same to him. Strikingly handsome with a tall, imposing frame and a magnetic personality, Versace became the pseudo-leader of his fellow POWs. Frequently tortured and interrogated, he refused to give them any information and relentlessly badgered his captors about their treatment of his friends and comrades, citing articles from the Geneva Convention and using his time in isolation to think up ever more creative insults.

Tired of his antics, in an effort to keep him away from other POWs, Versace was eventually locked inside of a bamboo cage away from everyone else, which didn’t stop him from boosting the morale of everyone around him by cheerily singing pop songs. When the Viet Cong locked Versace in an isolation cage even further away from the rest of the POWs, he just sang louder. When they began gagging him so that he couldn’t speak or sing, he started leaving messages of support in the toilet.

Not content to just sit around singing, during his imprisonment, Versace escaped four times, each time being captured not long after. In the first instance, he was so severely injured at the time that he couldn’t walk, but instead crawled away from the camp in agonizing pain through marshland. As you might imagine, it didn’t take the Viet Cong very long to locate him once they’d discovered he’d managed to escape.

Each time he was recaptured, Versace was noted as telling his captors that he’d do it again the first change he got, prompting them to redouble their efforts to break him. As you can probably guess by now, these efforts failed miserably.

At first the Viet Cong tried “re-educating” Versace, attempting to brainwash him with political propaganda. Versace reportedly spent much of his time during these sessions loudly arguing with his indoctrinators.

Along with inspiring his fellow POWs, this saw to it that the bulk of his captor’s frustrations and anger were directed towards him, something his fellow POWs were also reportedly very grateful for. As noted by President George Bush some four decades late, “By focusing his captors’ anger on him, he made life a measure more tolerable for his fellow prisoners, who looked to him as a role model of principled resistance.”

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

Humbert Versace’s memorial plaque outside MacArthur Barracks at West Point.

In addition to inspiring POWs, Versace’s tenacity inspired the people of Vietnam; when the Viet Cong tried to parade a beaten and bloodied Versace through local villages, he’d offer words of encouragement in Vietnamese to those gathered. This was much to the annoyance of the Viet Cong who’d warned against such insubordination by threatening to viciously beat him within an inch of his life if he did so.

Frustrated with their inability to break this man, the Viet Cong eventually made the decision to execute Versace. When he was informed of this, he reportedly responded by singing God Bless America for 5 hours straight the night before his execution was to take place. This song was the last thing any of his fellow prisoners ever heard from Versace.

Following through on their threat, Rocky Versace was executed on Sep. 26, 1965. His body was never recovered, but a headstone was placed above an empty grave in Arlington National Cemetery.

For his conduct as a POW, initially Versace only received a silver star, the Army’s third highest award. This was something his fellow soldiers didn’t feel reflected the full extent of his actions and sacrifice while a POW, resulting in a concerted effort from a “hodgepodge group of soldiers and civilians” aware of the full details of what Versace endured to see him awarded America’s highest military honor.

In 2002, this request was finally fulfilled, with one of Versace’s brothers, Dr. Stephen Versace, accepting the medal from then President George Bush. In his speech, Bush noted:

In his defiance and later his death, he set an example of extraordinary dedication that changed the lives of his fellow soldiers who saw it firsthand. His story echoes across the years, reminding us of liberty’s high price and of the noble passion that caused one good man to pay that price in full.

In addition to being the first American POW to earn a Medal of Honor for his conduct during his time as a prisoner, Versace is an inductee in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes as well as a member of the Ranger Hall of Fame.

Said his former fellow prisoner Sergeant Dan Pitzer of the man himself,

Rocky walked his own path… for that guy, duty, honor, country was a way of life. He was the finest example of an officer I have known… Once, Rocky told our captors they might as well kill him then and there if the price of his life was getting more from him than name, rank, and serial number… He got a lot of pressure and torture, but he held his path… He was brutally murdered because of it… I’m satisfied he would have it no other way…. [He] valued that one moment of honor more than he would a lifetime of compromises.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

popular

How the fallout of the Iran Deal may spark an all-out Middle East war

Just an hour after President Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement, Israel hit an Iranian site in Syria with a missile strike. The next day, the IDF hit more than 50 sites controlled by the Iranian Quds force in response to claims of missile strikes within Israel in a massive escalation.

What comes next may not be all that surprising.


Israel retaliating with overwhelming firepower is nothing new. Since its birth, whenever Israel comes under attack, its policy has been to hit back hard enough to discourage the attacker from ever wanting to strike again. The effect works in the short term, but the resulting peace has never been permanent.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner
With a few notable exceptions.

The difference today is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing no less than four corruption scandals, for at least one of which Israeli police have recommended a indictment. At one point in 2018, half of Israelis believed the embattled Prime Minister should resign. But security is big in Israel – so big in, fact, that Netanyahu and the ruling Likud Party saw a huge surge in popularity between missile strikes on Syria.

The party is pulling in its highest polling numbers in a decade, according to Tel Aviv-based public opinion expert, Dahlia Scheindlin.

Netanyahu’s job security depends on his ability to handle military matters that seem to come to Israel every so often. But will a few missiles fired from Gaza be enough to beat the charges in Israel’s Supreme Court? Maybe not. That’s why Iran is such a blessing to Israel’s Bibi-Sitter.

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

What’s more, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, seems pretty sick of Palestinians missing opportunities for peace with the Jewish state, reportedly telling them to “make peace or shut up.” Warming relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel could mean closer military ties and a new partner for the Saudis in the ongoing ideological war against the Islamic Republic. A new, powerful alliance will embolden both countries.

Iran, for all its rhetoric, has never been to war with Israel but its strategy for keeping terrorism and fighting out of Iranian borders is to project power and influence into neighboring countries and fight its enemies there, instead of the streets of Tehran. This does not earn Iran many friends in the region, but it works, considering there have been relatively few attacks inside Iran compared to neighboring nations.

Meanwhile, some Iranians took to Twitter (with the hashtags #ThankYouTrump and #WeAreHostages) to thank President Trump for leaving the Iran Nuclear Agreement, in the belief that renewed U.S. sanctions will hurt the regime enough to cause widespread unrest and, eventually, regime change.

The idea of starving out Iran and its ability to sell oil was once enough to bring the Islamic Republic to the negotiating table, but that doesn’t mean it will work again. The Iranian economy isn’t entirely dependent on oil (though oil accounts for 80 percent of its revenue) and maintains a large regional economy. But banking restrictions will hurt the economy — and the regime — even further. By 2012, Iranian currency lost 40 percent of its value, making simple, daily purchases too expensive for many Iranians and led to widespread food and medicine shortages.

So, who do Iranians blame: the regime or the West?

As Benjamin Netanyahu can attest, nothing is better to rally public support for your government than a good war. For Iran, survival of the regime depends on the severity of the war — and the Iranian regime needs a really good enemy right now for a war they have a chance to win. Iran can’t beat the United States, but it can beat Israel. It can definitely beat Saudi Arabia.

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Saudi Arabia can’t beat Houthi Rebels in Yemen after three years and a coalition of 23 countries helping them. It needs Israeli help against Iran.
(VOA News)

Rallying around the flag is one of the oldest political tricks in the book. A wave of patriotism overtakes a population in the face of a perceived threat while the leaders of dissenting opinions tend to fall silent rather than become victims of the oncoming wave. But in the face of the Israeli Prime Minister’s corruption charges and the threat of looming economic demise in Iran, the two regional powers seem destined to clash in a bloody diversion from domestic woes.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Navy SEAL wants to inspire kids to reach their full potential

Marc Lonergan-Hertel grew up in Massachusetts with the dream of becoming a Navy SEAL — a dream he made into a reality. But he had a long way to go before achieving such a feat. He decided he needed to toughen up first, so he joined the Marine Corps, where he eventually found himself in Force Recon.

His military career took him through some of the toughest training the military has to offer. And he wrote about it in his memoir, Sierra Two: A SEAL’s Odyssey in War and Peace.

But Lonergan-Hertel didn’t stop there. He continued a life of adventure and service after leaving the military and today, he wants to call attention to real-world heroes he met along the way. He wants his transformative journey to help inspire others — namely, our nation’s youth — so they can maximize their full potential and achieve their dreams.

He calls himself a Protector.


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Lonergan-Hertel’s Book is available on Amazon.

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Lonergan-Hertel and 1st Force Recon.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

Those who fight monsters inevitably change,” Lonergan-Hertel says, explaining what he means by the title “Protector.” It’s from a popular saying about post-traumatic stress, written by an unknown author. The quote goes on to note that if you stay in the fighting long enough, you will eventually become the monster. The former Navy SEAL wants to keep Protectors from getting that far.

“There is a cost to being a protector. Love is the only way to heal the wounds [that change you]. Remember this: As a protector, you run toward the things that others run away from. You go out to fight what you fear. You stand between others and the monsters on the other side of the wall.”

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Lonergan-Hertel in his world-record paraglider flight, 70 South Antarctica.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

You can read about his adventures fighting monsters in his book, Sierra Two. After his time in Force Recon, he left the military and worked as a Emergency Medical Technician in Los Angeles as well as a hunting guide in Colorado. Eventually, he decided to explore the Army and join the Special Forces. Shortly after joining the California National Guard, he was able to wear a maroon beret in support of 19 Special Forces Group and prepared to try out for Delta Section. He didn’t make Delta, but it did prepare him a selection packet he could submit to the Navy. He graduated from BUD/S in 1996 and joined SEAL Team Four. He left the military in 2000, but didn’t leave behind the adventurer’s life.

“My platoon chief recommended me for an around-the-world expedition through the Cousteau Society,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “I ended up getting the position as a team member and expedition leader and scout for NatGeo and Discovery Channel programs to Antarctica the Amazon jungle, where I had experience as a SEAL.”

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Lonergan-Hertel and his NatGeo Team. Lonergan-Hertel is center, in the cowboy hat.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

During his military career and post-military adventuring, he began to question what he valued most in life. He began to look for his true purpose. As his journey sharpened his self-awareness, he was soon transformed into a new person. He became a Protector – and wanted to be the best Protector he could be. His life took him to rescue hurricane victims, assess the environment in Antarctica while diving under the ice shelves, hike up the Amazon River Basin alone and encounter endangered tribes along the way — he even lost his best friend to pirates along the same river.

“I wrote my book because I realized how much our life journey sharpens our awareness of what really matters in life,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “Real life experiences transform us as human beings and gives us an understanding of risk and sacrifice.”

He even has a line of survival gear, that includes a heat reflective thermal field blanket sleep system, called First Line Survival. Lonergan-Hertel calls it “base camp in a bag” and all the proceeds from First Line Survival benefit his Protectors tour.

But the longtime adventurer is more than just an author. He’s crossing the country with fellow Protectors to tell their stories in stage presentations, meant for school-age children but meaningful to parents as well. He wants children to grow up with the confidence to realize their abilities and potential, to see a personal path toward a positive future, and realize they have the power to do this within themselves at all times.

“I understand very clearly that the gift of life can be away very quickly,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “The best thing I can leave behind is to inspire others to have confidence in themselves and to help others who have a more difficult journey in life.”

Articles

This was the world’s longest-serving modern military rifle in active service

In 2015, the standard issue service rifle for the Canadian Rangers got a much-needed upgrade. They were finally able to put away their well-worn Lee-Enfield No. 4 rifles, which were first issued in 1941.


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A Canadian Ranger protecting mining facilities. (Department of National Defence photo)

Canada’s Rangers are a reserve unit that operates in the Canadian Arctic. It’s made up of 5,000 of Canada’s finest outdoorsmen and features a roster of heavily Inuit and other First Nations peoples. They conduct sovereignty patrols and maintain early warning system sites, giving Canada a military presence in the increasingly militarized (but still desolate) Arctic areas.

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Star Marualik, a Canadian Ranger with 1 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group coaches a soldier from the Arctic Response Company Group’s 2 Platoon during range day in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, for Operation Nanook 10 on Aug. 15, 2010. Operation NANOOK is one of three major recurring sovereignty operations conducted annually by the Canadian Forces (CF) in Canada’s Arctic. (Department of National Defence photo)

Related: How the US is losing the war in the Arctic before it even begins

Naturally, the wilderness areas of the frozen north aren’t the safest places in which to be casually hiking around. That’s why the Canadian Rangers exist.

In their day-to-day mission, they need a service weapon that can handle temperatures below -58 degrees, resist saltwater corrosion, and still take down a polar bear from 300 meters.

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(Radio Canada photo by Levon Sevunts)

That’s why it took 68 years to replace their Lee-Enfields.

First formed in 1947, the Canadian Rangers’ intimate knowledge of their home turf allows them to act as guides and trainers for special forces units. During World War II, the Lee-Enfield was the standard issue rifle for British and Commonwealth troops. After the war, the abundance of the rifles made it easy to equip new units with the rifle.

Other firearms can make similar claims. The U.S. Marines still use the M1911 pistol. Taliban weapons caches have been found to contain Lee-Enfield bolt action rifles from 1915. Mosin-Nagant rifles used by insurgents from Chechnya to Syria to Iraq were made by the Tsarist Russian Empire in 1882. But the Lee-Enfield No. 4 was the longest-serving modern military rifle issued by a government for its armed forces.

See Also: Rebels in Syria fought with rare, expensive Nazi-made rifles

Now that the Lee-Enfield No.4 has been replaced, they will be offered to the public for sale, donated to museums, and individual Rangers will even be allowed to purchase their service rifle.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Why former NFL player decided to join the Army

A former NFL Arizona Cardinals cornerback is training for his new team — the Army.

Spc. Jimmy Legree is in his second week of Basic Combat Training; after he graduates he’ll continue training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to become a communications specialist.

Serving in the military was one of his childhood goals, said Legree, who is assigned to D Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery.


“I went a different route by going to college and playing football, but once that window was closed I reverted back to my Plan A, which was joining the military,” said Legree, who graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2013.

There are similarities between football and BCT, and it was an easy transition for him, he said.

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Spc. Jimmy Legree, D Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery, is in his second week of Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Okla.

(Fort Sill Tribune staff)

“You have your head coaches and that’s similar to drill sergeants who are correcting any mistakes that you make, said Legree, who played two seasons for the Cardinals.

“In football you wear a helmet and shoulder pads, and here you wear your ACH (Advanced Combat Helmet) and all your equipment.”

Former Arizona Cardinal and Army Ranger Cpl. Pat Tillman is an inspiration for him, said Legree.

“He is definitely inspiring — his passion for the game, and his passion for the country was motivation for me,” Legree said.

Legree’s parents were not in the military, but other extended family members and some of his friends have served in the armed forces, he said. His brethren of former teammates supported his decision to join the military.

Legree enlisted at Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Once they (recruiters) found out I played for the NFL they were all ecstatic, but definitely excited to get me enlisted, get me going.”

Legree is treated no different than the other 215 trainees in the battery, said Capt. Steven Paez, D/1-19th FA commander. The trainees came here to become professional American soldiers and everyone is treated the same.

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Spc. Jimmy Legree (with mouthpiece) practices combatives Dec. 11, 2019, with Pvt. Anthony Randolph at Fort Sill, Okla. Legree, who played two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals, is in his second week of Basic Combat Training.

(Fort Sill Tribune staff)

Paez said he learned Legree had played in the NFL when he was serving him Thanksgiving dinner. (It’s an Army tradition where senior leaders serve junior soldiers the holiday meal.)

“I noticed he was a little older (age 28) than everybody else, and I asked him what he was doing before he got here. He said, ‘I was in the NFL.'”

Legree is not the oldest trainee in the battery, Paez said. The oldest is 34 years old; the youngest is 17.

Senior Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Jason Aqui, D/1-19th FA, described Legree as a mature, humble, positive, and quiet trainee.

“I’ve definitely noticed that he brings the platoon together to accomplish its tasks,” Aqui said. He was also one of the more physically fit trainees coming into BCT.

Drill sergeants will take advantage of Legree’s maturity and put him into leadership positions as the 10-week BCT progresses, Aqui said.

The battery will graduate Feb. 21, 2019, and Legree said he is already thinking of a long military career.

Articles

How the Marines and the Navy work together on the high seas

The seven-month odyssey of a “blue-green” flotilla that saw combat in Yemen and Syria and conducted training exercises across a large swath of the globe demonstrates the enduring importance of the Navy-Marine Corps team overseas, commanders of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit said May 24.


Departing San Diego on Oct. 14, the 11th MEU and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group reportedly supported a Jan. 29 raid in Yemen in which a Navy SEAL — Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens — was killed. They also brought artillery and infantry troops to Kuwait for later duty, providing firepower to Kurdish partners besieging Raqqa, the Syrian city that doubles as the capital for the terrorist Islamic State.

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U.S. Marines with Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 (HMLA-369), 3d Marine Aircraft Wing, exits a CH-53E Super Stallion upon return from a deployment with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 12, 2017. Friends and family members welcomed home Marines from the 11th MEU’s Command Element during a homecoming ceremony. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Clare J. Shaffer/Released)

The howitzers manned by the Marines conducted more than 400 fire-support missions in Syria, firing more than 4,500 shells at ISIS targets, according to the 11th MEU.

“It was the right Marine air-ground task force to provide supportability, mobility, and lethality,” 11th MEU spokesman Maj. Craig Thomas said during a news conference May 24 at Camp Pendleton. “The Marines supported local Syrians who are fighting to rid ISIS from their country.”

Also read: Marines arrive in Syria to support assault on ISIS capital

Citing the classified nature of the Yemen operations, Thomas said he couldn’t comment on that raid.

His report card for the MEU comes during a series of debates not only about America’s policies toward Yemen and Syria but also grumbling concerns about the future of Marine expeditionary units.

Experts continue to fret about how Marine battalions will conduct their amphibious missions in an age of super-fast and precise, long-range anti-ship-air missiles, plus Pentagon budget woes that appear to prioritize submarines and destroyers over amphibious assault ships like the Makin Island.

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Sailors man the rails aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) in 2012. | (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro/Navy)

That flagship vessel returned to San Diego on May 15. It and the fellow amphibious assault ships Somerset and Comstock combined to carry more than 4,500 sailors and Marines, spending three months in the Pacific Ocean and four months in the waters off the Middle East and Africa.

Beyond the combat operations in Syria, the group held exercises in Hawaii, Guam, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Djibouti, Oman, and the Persian Gulf. Marines also stood ready to evacuate the embassy in the South Sudanese capital of Juba during hostilities there — the sort of mission that makes an amphibious ready group and Marine expeditionary unit “the 9-1-1 organization from the sea,” 11th MEU commander Col. Clay Tipton said.

Retired Marine Col. Mark Cancian — a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C. — echoed Tipton’s perspective that the MEU remains a lasting example of flexible armed response from the sea.

“What makes a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force so valuable is the ability of the Marines to mix and match capabilities,” Cancian said. “That’s what they’re doing and that’s what they should be doing.”

And that’s particularly important for Syria because how the Marines were used dovetails with President Donald Trump’s foreign policy goals — defeat the Islamic State without putting too many boots on the ground, he added.

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U.S. Marines with Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines (BLT 2/1), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), conduct a Table 3 combat marksmanship course of fire as a part of sustainment training on the flight deck of the USS San Diego (LPD 22). (U.S. Marine Corps photos by Gunnery Sgt. Rome M. Lazarus)

“The thing that the Marine Corps can provide that’s really needed is fire power for allies like the Kurds or Iraqis — artillery, mortars, aircraft,” Cancian said. “So far, Trump’s policy has been adamant about not using infantry, except in a limited role to protect artillery and other units that are on the ground to add firepower for allies.”

If the mission in Syria grows, Cancian could envision Marine and Navy logistical heft toting more supplies to Kurdish militias or the Free Syrian Army, perhaps even occupying an airfield and using it as a forward operating base. The Corps also could deploy more artillery observers and so called “Joint Terminal Attack Controllers” who call in airstrikes, but Cancian doubts the White House would land a large number of “boots on the ground.”

“The tough question on Syria is the same as the one in Iraq: What happens next, after ISIS is defeated? … That’s a huge fork in the road for the Trump administration, but it’s still months away,” he predicted.

Potential rivals at sea such as Russia, China, and Iran increasingly field anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles that can be fired from hundreds of miles away. Large amphibs, their hovercraft and lumbering armored troop carriers that take hours to wade ashore and unload, would be punished by precision missiles, experts contend.

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Marines assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) board an MV-22 Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced) on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Devin M. Langer)

The Makin Island is one of the world’s largest amphibs. But it’s also considered a transitional vessel, with similar but superior high-tech “Big Deck Amphibs” like the San Diego-based America poised to share space in the piers.

The America, and up to 10 of its planned sister warships, will feature bigger fuel tanks and storage capacity along with hardened decks to support the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, the next-generation aircraft that takes off and lands vertically. In other navies, those ships would be considered aircraft carriers — a point that has sparked questions about whether the Navy favors that capability over its traditional mission of putting Marines ashore.

“The answer, to me, is that we had better prepare to fight for command of the sea,” said James Holmes, a professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College and a former Navy surface warfare officer who is widely considered one of the world’s top experts on maritime battle. “As the greats of sea power tell us, you have to be able to win command of the sea if you want to use the sea to do things like conduct amphibious landings.

“So we need to be ready to do these things, but chances are there will be delays while we fight our way into the theater, reduce shore-based missile batteries and on and on. Sea power is no longer just about navies,” he added.

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Assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) with the AAV platoon, Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), leave the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Wenger/Released)

Holmes believes the Marines might fret about the future of the amphibious fleet because ongoing studies have called for converting some assault ships into light aircraft carriers and replacing them with other vessels when they’re retired, but the Navy must strike the right balance.

“As far as priorities, certainly the types of ships we need to defeat our enemies and take command of the sea must take precedence,” he said, adding that it’s “a lot easier to improvise a fleet of amphibious transports than it would to improvise destroyers or nuclear-powered attack submarines.”

In a major war, like a potential Pacific-wide bout with China, the traditional mission of the amphibs likely wouldn’t end.

Holmes said Marines could be called to seize islands, much as they did in World War II. Cancian added that the Corps also might return to traditional missions like coastal artillery batteries, working alongside the Army and other services to to defend anti-ship missile batteries on the islands and shoals peppering the Pacific Ocean.

That concept is still a work in progress.

“The bottom line is that there’s no answer about the ultimate future of the ships and the marine expeditionary units, but we do know that in peacetime they’re very useful,” Cancian said. “You’re seeing in the Middle East just how useful they are.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ultimate military history road trip

This article is sponsored by Super 8 by Wyndham.

From America’s first struggles for survival to the Civil War and on through the World Wars, what stands out most about the rising power of the United States Military is the people who served in it. Many of their stories, interwoven into the wars they fought, have tragically evaporated into history — but they are not all lost. The United States’ dedication to preserving its history means there are hundreds of monuments, statues, and markers intended to keep the memories and stories of service members, past and present, alive for generations to come.

And nothing breathes life into these stories quite like visiting the places where they happened. If you want to better understand this great nation of ours, there’s no better way than to get to know its past. With one long road trip, you can get a great overview of American history — and the essential role the U.S. Military has played throughout.

And with a Super 8 by Wyndham near each of the following important places, you wouldn’t need to spend an arm and a leg to do so. Enjoy redesigned guest rooms — featuring signature black-and-white artwork, stylish bedding, and modern amenities — along with complimentary breakfast, free WiFi, and reserved Veteran parking. With Super 8 as your reliable road companion, you can hit the road and enjoy visiting these military destinations.


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1. Fort Ticonderoga, New York

It seems appropriate to start your journey at an important place in the history of two wars: Fort Ticonderoga, New York. First taken from the French by a joint British and Colonial force during the French and Indian War, the guns kept at the fort were captured by the American Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. They were moved via a “Noble Train of Artillery” to Boston, where General George Washington used them to surprise the British and force them to leave the city.

Reenactments of battles and other important scenes in Fort Ticonderoga history are held year-round. Check out the historic site’s website for more information.

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2. Saratoga, New York

The Battle of Saratoga was a pivotal moment in the Revolutionary War. Horatio Gates’ victory over Gen. John Burgoyne was so complete, it forced the evacuation of British Forces in New York and, for a time, made Congress consider naming Gates Commander-In-Chief over George Washington.

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3. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is at the heart of Revolutionary War history. It was the site of the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party (reenacted every year in December), the first skirmishes of the Revolution at Lexington and Concord, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and many, many other significant events. You can visit the Minuteman National Historic Park, Dorchester Heights, which was once occupied by the Continental Army, and a short drive south toward Philadelphia will bring you to the Valley Forge Historic site and the site of Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware River.

And don’t forget about naval history — a visit to “Old Ironsides,” the USS Constitution, is worth the trip.

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4. West Point, New York

The home of the United States Military Academy has been a part of history since its inception. It was never captured by the British and was the site at which Benedict Arnold’s treason was uncovered. Its fortifications were ordered by General Washington himself, the military academy was signed into law under the administration of President Thomas Jefferson, and the names of its graduates permeate not just American history, but world history.

Historic sites to visit at West Point include the first national Civil War memorial (The Battle Monument), Fort Putnam, the superintendent’s house, and of course, the West Point Museum.

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5. Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania

In just four hours, you can drive to the Civil War-era Gettysburg Battlefield, now preserved as a national park site. There, you can tour the battlefield, visit the national cemetery, watch reenactments of the fighting, and even visit the statue of John Burns, a War of 1812 veteran who joined in the fighting.

Also Read: This War of 1812 veteran saw the Battle of Gettysburg from his porch

One day at Gettysburg may not be enough for real military history buffs. You can ride the entire area on horseback and catch a live reading of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, among many other events.

6. Fort McHenry, Maryland

A short drive from Gettysburg sits the Fort McHenry National Monument and Shrine in the Baltimore area. The War of 1812 is often overlooked by even the most dedicated military history buffs, but from Fort McHenry, you can watch War of 1812-era reenactments and even see where the Star-Spangled Banner itself was still famously waving after the British bombardment of the fort.

If you want to see the actual Star-Spangled Banner Francis Scott Key wrote about, catch it at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, just an hour or so south.

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7. The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland

Annapolis is the home of the U.S. Naval Academy. Though not as old at the U.S. Military Academy, the Naval Academy has no shortage of history. The USNA Museum is a must-see for any military history buff.

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8. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian is in the National Capital Area, filled with the stories and sites from American military history. It is here you can get a real sense of the foreign wars of the United States, including World War II, the Korean War, and (soon) World War I and the Global War on Terror.

But nowhere else is the lasting human toll of a foreign war more present than at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Even just an hour spent people watching at this hallowed memorial will give you a sense of what those who fight wars really sacrifice — and how that sacrifice can never be forgotten.

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9. Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia

There may be no more hallowed ground in U.S. Military history than Arlington National Cemetery, where the United States keeps its greatest heroes, the ones who gave what Abraham Lincoln called, “the last true measure of devotion.”

While the entire cemetery is worth the walk, don’t forget to watch “The Old Guard” Tomb Sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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10. Appomattox Court House, Virginia

When Wilmer McLean bought his new house to get away from the Civil War fighting that wrecked his former residence, he would never have dreamt the war would eventually end in his living room. Take a visit to his house in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, where Generals Lee and Grant negotiated the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, effectively ending the Civil War. It’s just a four hour drive from the nation’s capital.

You can even watch a recreation of the event.

Now Read: The Civil War started and ended at the same guy’s house

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11. Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina

Right on the border between North and South Carolina near Route 221, you can get a glimpse of what the Revolutionary War looked like in the Southern Colonies at Cowpens National Battlefield. Though it may seem far from any area of strategic importance, the colonial victory at Cowpens forced British General Cornwallis to eventually meet the Americans at Yorktown, in Virginia.

Check out: This daring ruse turned the tide of the American Revolution

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12. National Infantry Museum – Fort Benning, Georgia

Get in the car and drive eight hours south to Columbus, Ga. — the home of Fort Benning and the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center. Nowhere else can you see history and legacy of the U.S. Army Infantry come alive like at this amazing museum. They have a giant screen theater and cater to those interested in learning about the story of the Army Infantryman.

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14. New Orleans, Louisiana

A trip through Alabama, Mississippi, and into Louisiana brings you to New Orleans, where the party isn’t the only thing larger than life. The World War II museum in New Orleans is second to none, anywhere else in America. It would take you at least two full days to do a brisk tour of the site.

But if World War II isn’t your thing, there’s no place south of the Mason-Dixon Line that revels in its War of 1812 history like the Crescent City. The unlikely team of Andrew Jackson’s ragtag army and the Pirate Jean Lafitte’s sailors fighting the British to a joint victory will never be forgotten.

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15. The Alamo – San Antonio, Texas

The fighting at the Alamo took place long before Texas entered the Union. In fact, it led indirectly to Texas winning its independence as a sovereign state. But the legendary heroes that fought to their deaths at the Alamo are now a part of American history, as the independence of Texas and its annexation by the U.S. led to the Mexican War and the acquisition of territory that extended the United States from sea to shining sea.

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16. Liberty Memorial – Kansas City, Missouri

The Liberty Memorial, the National World War I Museum, was established as a library dedicated to the memory or World War I on Armistice Day (when it was still Armistice Day), Nov. 11, 1926. In 2004, Congress rededicated the site to be the official museum dedicated to the memory of World War I.

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17. Wounded Knee Museum – Wall, South Dakota

There aren’t a lot of Plains Wars sites more poignant than the Wounded Knee Museum in Wall, South Dakota. Though heralded as a great victory for the United States at the time, the battle is now generally regarded as a massacre of native tribespeople, and a transformative event in their history. The 1890 event was the end of an era for Native Americans and for the United States itself.

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18. U.S. Air Force Academy – Colorado Springs, Colorado

The youngest service academy is a majestic site in and of itself, but nearby are also numerous air and space museums as well as a World War II aviation museum thorough enough to blow any amateur military historian’s socks right off their feet.

Going across this beautiful country, east to west, is a long journey — and if you want to truly soak in the abundant history of our nation, you’ll need to be rested. For a reliably great sleep at a great rate, seek out the comforts of the newly renovated rooms at Super 8 by Wyndham.

This article is sponsored by Super 8 by Wyndham.

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