Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids - We Are The Mighty
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Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

The dandelion is the flower of the military child and when I learned this, as a military parent, I was disappointed. Why would they pick such an ugly flower (or is it a weed?) to represent military kids? When I looked at dandelions, I saw the problem they caused in my yard, but there is more to a dandelion’s story. When you look past the nuances in the yard you can see a bigger picture.

The next summer as we prepared for our PCS and as the dandelion flowers transitioned from flowers to puffs of seeds, I would watch them blow in the wind and the realization of why the dandelion was chosen to represent my military kids dawned on me. It suddenly made so much sense.


Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

Photo: Tessa Robinson

Dandelions are made up of three main parts: The flower (seeds), the stem and the roots. They are tough, can survive almost anywhere and are constantly moving and starting over. One summer I decided to tackle my dandelion problem head on. It was an endless battle, but through my struggle I learned so much about this tough flower. The new dandelions that had just arrived in the spring were easy to remove from the dirt. Their roots were barely beneath the surface, as if they hadn’t decided if they should stay or be ready to move on to a new patch of land. But when I encountered a dandelion that had made it through a few seasons, not only was the dandelion on its own a tougher challenge to remove, but its roots were deep into the ground making it even more difficult. Each one seemed to also have a group of friends surrounding it. The landscape around one dandelion was changed not only by making its mark in the yard, but also by adding to its journey by bringing others in along the way.

Military kids often have to form new friendships fast. Just as quickly as they find friends, they are uprooted from all that is familiar to them. They learn to say goodbye and continually start over. It is a part of the life they lead. As we try to move forward at each assignment and build our roots and networks, we can’t forget the friends we made. We talk about friends from different assignments or those who have moved on before us. And while the friendships were special for a season, we always knew they were only for a season. At least for right now.

A few weeks after arriving at our new assignment our two year old, who had never experienced a PCS, said he was ready to go back home. He had been on vacations before and that is what this move across the country felt like, but now he was ready to go back to what was normal and familiar. We tried to explain to our son that this was our new home until it was time to move again. I don’t think he understood all the implications and challenges, but as military kids seem to do, naturally, he let the words slide off his back and began to make his new life in our new home.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

Photo: Tessa Robinson

Dandelion seeds don’t have any say on where the wind will take them when it is time to venture on. And just like military kids who are along for the ride, they go where their parents and the military take them and find a way to be resilient and start all over again. They put down roots, create new friends, find routines and then a strong wind blows and they get to do it all over again.

And as painful as it is sometimes to watch them toss in the wind, when the dust settles and they find their footing and begin to bloom at each new location you see the beauty that a military life gives. It doesn’t change the pain of saying goodbye to friends. It doesn’t make the tears go away or the fear of being a new kid at school go away. Somehow, through it all they keep pushing forward. It is the only life they have known and despite their choice, they are stronger for it.

Could they have picked a more beautiful flower to represent military children? Of course, there were a lot of different options before landing on a weed. But if you compare a dandelion and a military child the similarities are uncanny. And now when I see dandelions in my yard, I smile and think of how beautiful, tough, and adaptable my children are.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

Photo: Tessa Robinson

Articles

Inside the Navy’s high-tech stealth destroyer

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids
U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works


The Navy’s new stealthy high-tech destroyer has begun “Acceptance Trials” to assess, refine and further develop its many technologies including navigation, propulsion, auxiliary systems, fire protection and damage control capabilities, service officials said.

The ship, called the DDG 100 or USS Zumwalt, departed Bath, Maine, with a crew of assessment professionals on board called the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey, or INSURV.

“This underway period is specifically scheduled to demonstrate ship systems to the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey and the ship will return to port upon conclusion of the demonstrations,” Navy spokesman Matthew Leonard told Scout Warrior in a written statement.

The USS Zumwalt, the first in a series of three next-generation destroyers planned for the fleet, is slated to be operational by 2019, he added. The new ship will formally deliver to the Navy later this year.

“DDG 1000 delivery is expected after successful Acceptance Trials and will include fully capable Hull Maintenance and Electrical (HME) systems.  Following HME delivery, and a brief crew certification period at Bath Iron Works, the ship will sail to Baltimore for commissioning (which is scheduled for Oct. 15) and then transit to its homeport in San Diego where Mission Systems Activation will occur,” Leonard added.

Before beginning Acceptance Trials, the DDG 1000 went through a process known as “Builder Trials” during which the contract building the ship, Bath Iron Works, tests the ship’s systems and technologies.

New Ship Technologies

Once operational, the Navy’s first high-tech Zumwalt-class DDG 1000 destroyer will pioneer a handful of yet-to-be seen destroyer ship technologies, service officials have explained.

Not only does the ship have a new electric drive system for propulsion as opposed to diesel or steam –but the ship is configured with sonar, sensors, electronics, computing technology and weapons systems which have not previously been engineered into a Navy destroyer or comparable ship, said Raytheon officials said.

The Zumwalt-class destroyers will have unprecedented mine-detecting sonar technologies for destroyer through utilization of what’s called an integrated undersea warfare system, or IUW; IUW is a dual-band sonar technology which uses both medium and high-frequency detection, Raytheon developers explained.

Medium sonar frequency is engineered to detect ships and submarines, whereas high-frequency sonar adds the ability to avoid sea-mines, they added.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids
USS Zumwalt, first of three commissioned DDG-1000 Destroyers | U.S. Navy

It makes sense that the DDG 1000 would be engineered detect mines because the destroyer is, in part, being developed for land-attack missions, an activity likely to bring the vessel closer to shore than previous destroyers might be prepared to sail. The ship is engineered with a more shallow-draft to better enable it to operate in shallower waters than most deep-water ships.

The DDG 1000 is built with what’s called a total ship computing environment, meaning software and blade servers manage not just the weapons systems on the ship but also handle the radar and fire control software and various logistical items such as water, fuel, oil and power for the ship, Raytheon officials said.

The blade servers run seven million lines of code, officials explained.

The ship is engineered to fire Tomahawk missiles as well as torpedoes, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and a range of standard missiles such as the SM2, SM3 and SM6.

The ship also has a 155mm long range, precision-capable gun called the Advanced Gun System made by BAE Systems. The weapon can, among other things, fire a munition called the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile which can strike target at ranges out to 64 nautical miles.

Additionally, as a survivability enhancing measure, the total ship computing environment also ensures additional layers or redundancy to ensure that messages and information can be delivered across the ship in the event of attack, Raytheon officials said.

Many of the blade servers and other technical items are housed in structures called electronic modular enclosures, or EMEs. There are 16 EME’s built on each ship, each with more than 235 electronics cabinets. The structures are designed to safeguard much of the core electronics for the ship.

The ship’s integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 58 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to ship technologies and the application of anticipated future weapons systems such as laser weapons and rail guns.

The ship is also built with a new kind of vertical launch tubes which are engineered into the hull near the perimeter of the ship.  Called Peripheral Vertical Launch System, the tubes are integrated with the hull around the ship’s periphery in order to ensure that weapons can keep firing in the event of damage.  Instead of having all of the launch tubes in succession or near one another, the DDG 1000 has spread them out in order to mitigate risk in the event attack, developers said.

In total, there are 80 launch tubes built into the hull of the DDG 1000; the Peripheral Vertical Launch System involves a collaborative effort between Raytheon and BAE Systems.

The DDG 1000 also has an AN/SPY-3 X-band multi-function radar which is described as volume-search capable, meaning it can detect threats at higher volumes than other comparable radar systems, Raytheon officials added.  The volume search capability, which can be added through software upgrades, enables the radar to detect a wider range of missile flight profiles, he added.

As the first Zumwalt-class destroyer gets ready for delivery to the Navy, construction of the second is already underway. The DDG 1001 is already more than 75-percent complete and fabrication of DDG 1002 is already underway, Navy officials said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran is hit with droughts, riots, and now power shortages

The Iranian capital was hit by power outages amid protests in Tehran over worsening economic conditions in the country.

The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that Tehran was hit by a blackout for several hours on June 27, 2018, due to the “overheating” of the nation’s power grid.

The Iran Power Network Management Company, a power supplier, said consumption reached a peak at 4 p.m. local time on June 26, 2018, prompting the blackouts.


The Energy Ministry has said electricity consumption has increased by some 28 percent compared to 2017.

Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said in April 2018 that electricity output from hydropower plants would decrease because Iran was experiencing its worst drought in the past 50 years.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

Ardakanian said power outages were inevitable and urged consumers to use less electricity.

The power shortages in Tehran coincided with demonstrations in the capital and other cities over the falling value of the national currency, the rial.

The value of the rial has plummeted by nearly a half in the last six months, helping feed a spiral of rising prices for everyday goods.

The currency’s fall accelerated after U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that he was pulling the United States out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and reinstating U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

Protesters on the streets and in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar staged demonstrations for three consecutive days starting from June 24, 2018.

There were no reports of fresh protests on June 28, 2018, a day after a heavy police presence on Tehran’s streets and at the Grand Bazaar.

Articles

Iran claims it has an air defense that can defeat some of America’s best fighters

Iran has tested its home-grown air defense system, designed to match the Russian S-300, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ air defense has said, Yahoo reported.


“In parallel with the deployment of the S-300, work on Bavar-373 system is underway,” Farzad Esmaili told state broadcaster IRIB late Sept. 2.

“The system is made completely in Iran and some of its parts are different from the S-300. All of its sub-systems have been completed and its missile tests have been conducted.”

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids
Land-based S-300 surface-to-air missile launchers. Photo under Creative Commons.

Bavar (which means “belief”) is Tehran’s first long-range missile defense system, and is set to be operational by March 2018, he added.

In 2010, Iran began manufacturing Bavar-373 after the purchase of the S-300 from Russia was suspended due to international sanctions.

Russia resumed the sale following the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers which lifted sanctions, and Iran’s S-300 defense system became operational in March.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids
Iran’s Bavar-373. Photo from Iran Military Warfareknow Facebook

On Sept. 2, the new defense minister Amir Hatami said Iran has “a specific plan to boost missile power”.

He said he hoped “the combat capabilities of Iran’s ballistic and cruise missiles” would increase in the next four years.

The comments came amid increasing tensions with Washington, which has passed new sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These American WWII vets were awarded France’s highest honor

Ten California men who fought overseas with the US forces have been awarded the French government’s highest honor for their World War II service.


The veterans were each presented the National Order of the Legion of Honor during a ceremony Sept. 19 at Los Angeles National Cemetery.

Among them was 94-year-old Sterling D. Ditchey, an Army Air Corps 1st lieutenant who flew 70 combat missions in Europe as a B-25 bombardier.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids
Ten California men who fought overseas with the US Army, Army Air Corps, and Marines during WWII pose after they were awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honor, during a ceremony, Sept. 19, 2017, at Los Angeles National Cemetery. Photo via Military.com

Ninety-five-year-old Ignacio Sanchez was part of 35 combat missions as a B-17 turret gunner.

The presentations were made by Christophe Lemoine, the consul general of France in Los Angeles.

Instituted by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the Legion of Honor recognizes exceptional service to France.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here are all the features on the new Air Force OCPs

In addition to a new camouflage pattern, the Air Force‘s new utility uniform will offer different features from the current Airman Battle Uniform.

The service announced in May 2018, it will adopt the Army Combat Uniform, known as the ACU, which sports the Operational Camouflage Pattern, or OCP. The Air Force plans to have all airmen wearing the new uniform by April 2021.


“The decision to move to this new uniform outfits our airmen in the best utility uniform available in the inventory,” Maj. Kathleen Atanasoff said in a statement.

So far, the Air Force is calling the uniform the OCP.

“The [OCP] is proven for better form, fit and function and will be an important part in preserving our service and squadron identities,” Atanasoff said

Here’s a look at the different features of the new Air Force Uniform:

The OCP has two slanted front chest pockets compared to the ABU‘s four pockets on the blouse, which date back to the Battle Dress Uniform design. It has two shoulder pockets, with side zippered closures and Velcro for mounting unit patches.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The rank identification patch for both officers and enlisted personnel is located in the center of the chest instead of on the sleeves for enlisted and collars for officers on the ABU. Name and service tapes, rank and patches are all attached with Velcro.

Airmen will have the option to sew on their name tape and service tape, Air Force officials say.

Officers will wear their rank on their patrol caps. The OCP’s patrol cap features a Velcro-mounted name tape on the back.

The Air Force uniform will differ from the Army’s in Velcro patches, name tape and insignia by using a “spice brown” color, service officials said. The Air Force will redesign patches used for commands down to the squadron level so they incorporate the spice brown color.

The OCP’s blouse has a front zippered closure instead of the ABU’s buttons. Similar to the ABU, the OCP has a two pen slots on the blouse sleeve.

The OCP’s trousers feature slanted cargo pockets as well as smaller pockets above each ankle.

For female airmen, the OCP is less boxy and includes multiple sizes for women.

Airmen will also be required to wear the same coyote brown boots as the Army, Air Force officials said.

Both the OCP and the ABU fabric weight and same 50/50 percent nylon-cotton blend, Atanasoff said. There is no permanent press treatment on the OCP like the ABU. In addition, the OCP has an “insect shield” permethrin treatment.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat controller goes up against 350 ISIS fighters

A special operations airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard will receive the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.

Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, will present the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, in a ceremony Ept. 13, 2019. The award — second only to the Medal of Honor — is given to members of the armed forces who display extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.


Keller earned the Air Force Cross on Aug. 16, 2017, while assigned as a joint terminal attack controller for Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Keller was on a clearance mission in Nangarhar Province against 350 Islamic state fighters, according to the award citation. After 15 hours of sustained contact, the assault force struck an improvised explosive device, killing four personnel and wounding 31. Injured and struggling to his feet, Keller executed air-to-ground engagements while returning fire, repulsing an enemy assault less than 150 meters away.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, receives the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

Keller then helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing zone “under a hail of enemy fire,” the citation said. “When medical evacuation helicopters were unable to identify the landing zone, he sprinted to the center of the field, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to marshal in both aircraft and aid in loading causalities.”

As U.S. forces departed, Keller fought off a three-sided enemy attack by returning fire and passing enemy positions on to another joint terminal attack controller.

“His courage, quick actions and tactical expertise … under fire directly contributed to the survival of the 130 members of his assault force, including 31 wounded in action,” the citation concluded.

A Silver Star medal for the same operation was presented at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 6, 2019, to Air Force Staff Sgt. Pete Dinich, an active-duty pararescueman assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing.

Special Tactics is the Air Force and Air National Guard’s special operations cadre, leading personnel recovery, global access, precision-strike missions and battlefield medical care.

This article originally appeared on National Guard. Follow @USNationalGuard on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sexual assaults in the US military are on a rise

A Department of Defense report released on May 2, 2019, paints a troubling picture of sexual violence in the US military, with an almost 38 percent rise between 2016 and 2018, according to a Pentagon survey reviewed by INSIDER.

The report, which surveyed men and women in the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force, reported that around 20,500 service members experienced sexual assault in the past year — a significant leap from around 14,900 members in 2016, when a similar survey was conducted.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan called the prevalence of sexual assault in the military “unacceptable” in a memorandum sent across the Department of Defense, and reviewed by INSIDER.


“To put it bluntly, we are not performing to the standards and expectations we have for ourselves or for each other,” Shanahan wrote. “We must improve our culture to treat each other with dignity and respect and hold ourselves, and each other, more accountable.”

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan.

The Pentagon has grappled with preventing sexual assault in the ranks for decades, and the latest survey shows their policies have failed to stem the problem as more troops report sexual abuse, nearly 90 percent of which was reportedly perpetrated by another member of the military.

Women in the military, and particularly young women between the ages of 17 to 24, are most at risk of experiencing sexual assault, the report found. Sexual assault rates for women were highest in the Marines, followed by the Navy, Army, and Air Force. The rates among men remained similar to the 2016 report.

“The results are disturbing and a clear indicator the Marine Corps must reexamine its sexual assault prevention efforts,” the Marine Corps said in a statement in response to the findings.

The survey also found increases in sexual harassment and gender discrimination compared to 2016, behavior that could ultimately lead to sexual assault.

The memo described a list of steps that the Department of Defense plans to implement in response to sexual assault, such as launching a Catch a Serial Offender (CATCH) program so members can confidentially report offenders, bolstering recruitment efforts, and better preparing enlisted leaders and first-line supervisors to properly respond to sexual misconduct reports.

The Pentagon also established a sexual assault accountability task force last month, at the urging of Arizona Sen. Martha Mc Sally, the GOP lawmaker and 26-year military veteran who revealed in March that she had been raped in the Air Force by a superior officer.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

Martha McSally with an A-10 Thunderbolt II.

“As a result of this year’s report, the Department is reevaluating existing processes used to address sexual assault and taking a holistic approach to eliminate sexual assault, which include taking preventative measures, providing additional support and care for victims, and ensuring a robust and comprehensive military justice process,” Department of Defense spokesperson Jessica Maxwell told INSIDER.

Lack of confidence

Thursday’s report hints at a culture in which members may be hesitant to come forward about their assaults, especially as the majority of alleged perpetrators are also in uniform.

In total, 89 percent of alleged offenders were service members, the report found, and 62 percent of assailants had been friends or acquaintances with the victim. Alcohol was involved in 62 percent of sexual assault situations.

For service members who did come forward to report sexual assault, 64 percent described a perceived negative experience or retaliation for speaking out. Maxwell, the spokesperson, told INSIDER that there were 187 allegations of retaliation against victims who reported sexual assault in the past year.

“No one in the Department of Defense should have to fear retaliatory behavior associated with a sexual assault report,” she said, adding that measures are being taken by the department to better respond to retaliation.

While sexual assaults in the military had been on the decline since 2006, when more than 34,000 members had reported misconduct, a 35 percent increase in assaults between 2010 and 2012 led military leaders in 2013 to declare “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse in the ranks. While the percentage of sexual assaults did decline in 2016, that trend reversed course in 2018.

“Collectively, we must do everything we can to eliminate sexual harassment and assault in the military,” Shanahan wrote in his memo. “Sexual assault is illegal and immoral, is inconsistent with the military’s mission, and will not be tolerated.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch these vets discuss what they’re looking for in a Commander in Chief

WATM hosted groups of veterans to answer several questions about their time in the military. The vets kept it real when responding to topics ranging from relationships to recruiters.


In this episode, our group of veterans talks about what they’re looking for in a Commander in Chief.

Editor’s note: If you have ideas for questions that you’d like to see a group of veterans answer, please leave a comment below.

Articles

The ‘Kuznetsov Follies’ continue with another jet in the drink

Well, now we know why Russia is operating its carrier jets from land bases. It seems that when it tries to conduct actual air operations on the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier, the planes end up going in the drink.


Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo

According to a report by the Washington Post, the Russians lost an Su-33 “Flanker D” when an arresting cable on the Kuznetsov snapped. The pilot of the Flanker ejected and was safely recovered. The Su-33 went into the Mediterranean Sea, joining a MiG-29K that crashed last month after its own mechanical failures.

An arresting cable snapping can be very dangerous. A video of one incident on USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) where an E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft shows the violence of such an accident. The Hawkeye did not fall into the sea due to superb airmanship on the part of the pilots, but eight sailors on board the Nimitz-class carrier were injured.

Russia had intended to use the Kuznetsov, which was commissioned in 1991 by the Soviet Union, to demonstrate its arrival to carrier aviation. The ship can carry roughly 40 aircraft, and deployed with both the Su-33 “Flanker D” and the MiG-29K “Fulcrum” along with Ka-27 “Helix” anti-submarine and Ka-31RLD “Helix” airborne early-warning helicopters. The 55,000-ton vessel can reach speeds of up to 29 knots, and carries 12 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” anti-ship missiles.

The Russians had hoped to use a successful combat deployment of the Kuznetsov to market its weapons. Syria has become a testing ground for weapons that Russia has deployed, notably, the SS-N-27 Sizzler, a multi-mission cruise missile. The designers of the MiG-29K had particularly been hoping to do well, as they had seen export sales dry up after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, two losses from operations on the carrier have put an apparent damper on sales.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Court blocks Trump administration from changing DoD transgender policy

A court order just halted the Trump administration’s plans to revert the Department of Defense personnel policy on transgender troops implemented by President Barack Obama. The ruling has the effect of keeping the order in place while the case is argued.


According to a report by the Washington Times, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia by President Bill Clinton in 1997, wrote a 76-page ruling issuing the injunction. The ruling nullified President Trump’s memo from Aug. 25. The memo followed up on a tweet by the President from July.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids
U.S. District Court judge Collen Kollar-Kotelly. (US government photo)

“The Court finds that a number of factors—including the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the directives, the unusual circumstances surrounding the President’s announcement of them, the fact that the reasons given for them do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself — strongly suggest that Plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment claim is meritorious,” Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote in the opinion striking down the ban on future accessions and retention of transgender troops.

The ruling drew fire from Elaine Donnelly, the president of the Center for Military Readiness. Donnelly said that the judge in the case was acting as “supreme judicial commander of the military.” She argues that the issue of whether transgender individuals can serve in the military was not about civil rights, but was “a national security issue.”

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter signed off on the June 2016 Department of Defense instruction addressing transgendered troops in the military, which President Trump sought to reverse. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt)

“The United States Supreme Court has on numerous occasions upheld or issued decisions based on deference to the Congress of the United States, which has the power to make policy, and the Executive Branch which implements policy,” she explained.

According to an Aug. 11 report by the BBC, there are fewer than 11,000 transgender individuals serving in the armed forces.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Into the Wild bus was airlifted by the Alaska National Guard for safety concerns

In 1990, Chris McCandless graduated from Emory University and set to begin an itinerant life traveling across America. He moved from California to Arizona, and eventually South Dakota where his car was disabled in a flash flood. McCandless packed up what he could carry and continued his journey on foot. In April 1992, he hitchhiked from South Dakota to Fairbanks, Alaska, where he set out on an old mining road called the Stampede Trail.

After hiking roughly 28 miles through the snow, McCandless came upon an abandoned bus, Fairbanks Bus 142. With thick vegetation deterring further progress, he set up camp in the bus and attempted to live off of the land. His journal documents that he spent 113 days in the area where he foraged for food and hunted animals. In July, after a little over two months of living in the bus, McCandless decided to return to civilization. Unfortunately, the trail was blocked by a swollen river, trapping McCandless in the wild.

On September 6, 1992, a group of hunters came upon McCandless’ bus and discovered his decomposing body in his sleeping bag. The prevailing theory regarding his death is that he died of starvation about two weeks before his body was discovered. McCandless’ story has been immortalized in Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book Into the Wild and its 2007 film adaption of the same name directed by Sean Penn.


Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

McCandless in front of Bus 142 (Photo by Chris McCandless)

The 1940’s-era bus that McCandless took shelter in has since become an object of intrigue, attracting tourists from around the world. However, the trek to reach the bus and the surrounding wilderness is notoriously perilous and many tourists have taken unnecessary risks to see the famous bus. Last year, a woman from Belarus drowned trying to cross the river that prevented McCandless’ return. In February of this year, five Italian tourists had to be rescued on their pilgrimage to the bus, one of them suffering from severe frostbite. As recently as April, a stranded Brazilian tourist had to be rescued after he became stranded trying to return from seeing the bus. Between 2009 and 2017, the state has carried out 15 bus-related search and rescue operations.

Out of growing safety concerns, Alaska state officials decided to remove the bus from its location on the trail outside of Denali National Park. In a joint effort between the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the Alaska Army National Guard, Bus 142 was airlifted on June 18, 2020 by a CH-47 Chinook of the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment. Bus 142 was flown to Healy where it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and taken to a secure location for storage. Officials have not yet decided the bus’s fate, but it may be put on public display in the future.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

Bus 142 rigged and ready to be airlifted (Alaska National Guard photo by Sgt. Seth Lacount)

The removal of the bus is sad for many people who had hoped to one day make the trek out to see it. However, the safety concerns and the costly search and rescue operations it created made Bus 142 “a perilous attraction” in the words of Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker. “For public safety, we know it’s the right thing,” Mayor Walker said. “At the same time, it is part of our history and it does feel a little bittersweet to see a piece of our history go down the road.”


MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a Marine was crowned king of a voodoo island in Haiti

Marines do some pretty spectacular and/or ridiculous things while deployed. Anyone who follows Terminal Lance on Instagram can tell you that much. What Marine Warrant Officer Faustin Wirkus did was pretty spectacular, but really it was just a day in the life of a U.S. Marine. Except this time, the Marine in question ended up being proclaimed king of the island in a voodoo ceremony — and he ended up with a wife, whether he wanted to or not.


Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids
The Status of Forces Agreement is about to get *super* interesting.

At this point, half of everyone is wondering what happened and the other half is wondering if voodoo is why you so rarely see the warrant officers in your unit. Well, It was why then-Sergeant Wirkus had to stop showing up for duty. It wasn’t that Wirkus was opposed to hard work — he was a United States Marine after all, and he grew up breaking coal from slate in the Pennsylvania Coal Country.

But, Wirkus, he had an island to rule.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

Best. Additional Duty. Ever.

Wirkus arrived in Haiti in 1915 with his fellow Marines. He spent much of his first year around the capital of Port-Au-Prince. Germany had been intervening in a number of Caribbean insurrections. The Haitians suddenly overthrew the American-backed dictator on the island, and Caco Rebels installed an anti-American president.

The Marines were sent in to occupy and stabilize the island while enforcing the American “Monroe Doctrine” — an intolerance toward European meddling in the Western Hemisphere. They were also protecting U.S. economic interests. Wirkus was one of many Marines sent to Haiti aboard the USS Tennessee. It was aboard that ship he first saw the island of La Gonâve.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

I totally understand the appeal.

He asked a Marine NCO about the island. The reply was cryptic and short.

“If you’re lucky, you’ll never get any closer to that place than you are now. No white man has set foot on it since the days of the buccaneers. There’s a post on it now, but the men stationed there don’t usually come back — and if they do, they’re fit for nothing but the bug house… Place is full of voodoos and God knows what else.”

Luckily, he was kept in the capital during his first deployment in Haiti. He soon fell from a truck and broke his arm. After his recovery in the U.S., he was sent to Cuba, and eventually back to Haiti. It was four years later and the young Marine was now a Sergeant, but was a commissioned officer in the local Garde d’Haiti, keeping the Caco Rebels at bay in the outer edges of the island nation.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

U.S. Marines in the occupation of Haiti.

He was good at it, and so, of course, he would eventually be sent to the one place everyone told him he would be lucky to never see. No, it was not Twentynine Palms, it was the mysterious island the NCO warned him about: La Gonâve.

Wirkus was extremely interested in the island. It captivated him but none of the other Marines could tell him anything about the island’s interior; none of them had ever dared to venture inland. His first assignment on the island was to assess prisoners of the Garde who were charged with “offenses against the Republic of Haiti” and “trivial voodoo offenses.”

Among them was a woman named Ti Memenne, who warned the Marine that she would see him again. Still, Wirkus sent her on to Port-Au-Prince with a recommendation for lenient treatment.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

Faustin I was reincarnated as Faustin II.

“They made me a sort of king in a ceremony I thought was just a celebration of some kind. I learned later they thought I was the reincarnation of a former king of the island who had taken the name of Faustin I when he came into power. The coincidence was just good luck for me.”Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

Faustin II’s good luck was good luck for the locals. The 19-year U.S. occupation of Haiti did not go as smoothly or nonviolently for the rest of the country. But that good luck ran afoul of the President of Haiti, who was able to visit the island for the first time in 1928. Incidentally, he was able to visit without being murdered by the island’s inhabitants, thanks to the command decisions of Faustin Wirkus. The President was not thrilled with the King and requested he be transferred to the mainland United States.

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

Emperor Faustin II. Or Sergeant Fustin Wirkus. Again, depending on your belief in voodoo.

He went willingly in 1929 and left the Corps shortly after. He returned to active duty in the days before World War II and was made a Warrant Officer who served in the Navy’s pre-flight school in North Carolina. He died just months before the end of World War II and was interred in Arlington National Cemetery,