Old Guard marks 70 years of 'Flags In' to honor Memorial Day - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Almost seven years ago, Spc. Dakota Williams lost more than his stepbrother. He lost his hero.

His stepbrother, Spc. Dylan Johnson, had been deployed in Iraq’s Diyala Province just north of Baghdad for less than a month when a bomb detonated next to his vehicle. The explosion killed him.


Inspired by his service to the country, Williams later joined the Army to follow in his footsteps.

On May 24, 2018, he personally honored his stepbrother when he placed an American flag at his headstone in Section 60 of the Arlington National Cemetery during the annual Flags In event.

“He’s not here, but he’s here,” said Williams, 23, of Salina, Oklahoma. “He’s still such an important part of my life.”

All Soldiers, including Williams, in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” participated in some way in 2018’s Flags In. The regiment has conducted the event before every Memorial Day since 1948. It was then when the regiment was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

Over a course of four hours, more than 234,000 small flags were laid in front of headstones across the 624-acre cemetery. Flags were also placed inside the Columbarium as well, where the cremated remains of service members reside. In all, enough flags were placed to account for the more than 400,000 interred or inurned within the cemetery. Regiment Soldiers also placed about 11,500 flags at the nearby Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.

“It’s a great commitment by these Soldiers to do this, to place them at the hundreds of thousands of graves here,” said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. “What it does is it pays respect and homage to those who served before them, going all the way back to the Civil War and signals the importance of their service and that they will never be forgotten for what they did. So that they know, these young Soldiers today, much as I knew when I was in uniform, that should I have to pay that ultimate price, I would not be forgotten either in America’s hearts and minds.”

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

Col. Jason Garkey, the regiment commander, said Flags In is also a time of reflection for the Soldiers who participate.

“For every one of those headstones where we put a flag at, we have the solemn honor to put that flag in for a family member who can’t be here to do it themselves,” he said. “That’s a privilege.”

Each Soldier who took part in the event had the opportunity to place hundreds of flags into the ground, about 1 foot centered in front of every headstone.

When doing so, Garkey encouraged his Soldiers to read the name engraved onto the headstone.

“I tell them that the cemetery is alive,” Garkey said. “If you pay attention, it will tell you things.”

Buried throughout the cemetery are Medal of Honor recipients, young service members who were killed in war, retirees and spouses — all with a story to share.

Garkey, who took part in his sixth Flags In, recalled one time seeing two graves next to each other with the same last name. From the dates on the headstones, he believed they belonged to a father who had served much of his adult life in the military and his son who had died in combat years before him.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

“There’s no worst thing than for a parent to bury their child,” he said. “But they ended up there for eternity.”

When his Soldiers recognize those sacrifices, he said, it helps put things into perspective while they perform their ceremonial duties.

“You realize there are many stories in the cemetery and that brings the cemetery to something more than just a place where we go to work,” the colonel said. “It makes it a living, breathing entity where we honor our fallen.”

For Sgt. Kevin Roman, who serves with Williams in the regiment’s Presidential Salute Battery that is responsible for firing blank howitzer rounds during ceremonies, Flags In gives him the chance to appreciate those who came before him.

“Memorial Day is a day to pay your respects to the [service members] who have made the ultimate sacrifice or who have served honorably,” said Roman, 23, of Bronx, New York. “For some people, it’s just a holiday and the unofficial start of summer.”

Before he participated in his fourth Flags In, he said every time he gets to place flags it is still meaningful to him.

“When you get out there and start reading tombstones, you gain that respect back that you may have lost during those hard days in the cemetery,” he said. “Everything comes flooding into you and you get that sense of proudness and that American spirit.”

Some gravesites are even more significant to other Soldiers in the regiment, whether they belong to a family member or a service member they once served with.

Garkey places a flag at the headstone of retired Lt. Col. Toby Runyon, a Vietnam War veteran and a family friend who died two years ago.

“I’ll take a photo and send it to his spouse just to say that we were thinking of Toby today,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said, the regiment’s sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will stop at the gravesites of former sentinels.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

“Everybody has got their specific places that they go to,” Garkey said. “There’s a healing aspect that goes into it for us. It’s more than just a task, it’s an experience.”

Esper also placed flags at gravesites in the cemetery. A former Soldier himself, he said, he knows comrades in arms who have died in service to their country.

“On a day like this, I think about also my West Point classmates,” Esper said. “I know one for sure who passed away during my war, Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I had another one who was killed when the Twin Towers were felled on 9/11. And another one killed in Afghanistan. And I think about them as well, because they are peers, and like me, I can relate more to their point in life, where they got married or had children, or maybe never had the opportunity to do either. I think about them especially.”

Over Memorial Day weekend, Esper said, he hopes that Soldiers, family members, and Americans across the country will be thinking about those who fought for and died to secure freedom for the United States.

“Hopefully they will all reflect upon the great sacrifices that America’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines make in defense of our country and in defense of our liberties,” Esper said. “Particularly those fallen heroes that are here in Arlington National Cemetery.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

Articles

This aerial dogfight was like a life-sized version of a bee swarm

Israeli Col. Giora Epstein, one of the world’s greatest fighter aces of the jet era, was leading a flight of four planes during the Yom Kippur War when his team spotted two Egyptian MiG-21s. Epstein pursued the pair and quickly shot down the trail plane.


But that’s when the Israelis got a surprise. The pair of MiG-21s were bait. While the four Israeli planes were pursuing the surviving MiG they could see, approximately 20 more MiG-21s suddenly hit them with an ambush.

What followed was one of the most lopsided victories in modern aerial combat. The four Israeli Neshers fought the approximately 21 MiGs, calling out to each other to help them avoid Egyptian MiGs or to chase down vulnerable enemies.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
The Israeli Air Force’s Nesher was a highly-capable delta-wing fighter based on the French Mirage. (Photo: brewbrooks CC BY-SA 2.0)

During the fight, Epstein’s partner shot down a MiG but got missile exhaust into his own engine, causing a stall. Epstein walked him through a restart and sent him home. Another Israeli pilot chased a MiG out of the battle area, and the third headed home due to a lack of fuel.

Epstein found himself alone with 11 enemy MiGs. What followed was minutes of insane aerial combat as Epstein’s main target pulled off a maneuver thought impossible in a MiG-21: a split S at approximately 3,000 feet. It’s a move that should have caused him to crash into the ground.

But the MiG succeeded, barely. It got so close to the ground that it created a cloud of dust against the desert ground, but then escaped the cloud and flew back toward the sky. Epstein managed to get a burst of machine gun fire out before the MiG could escape, destroying the Egyptian jet. Epstein was left in the fight with 10 MiG-21s out for vengeance for their lost comrades.

The MiGs flew in pairs against Epstein, firing bursts of machine gun fire and missiles at the Israeli ace. Epstein outmaneuvered them, killing two with 30mm cannon fire and forcing the rest to bug out.

The entire battle had taken 10 minutes. See how Epstein did it in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-IQgubLIWU
MIGHTY HISTORY

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Picture the résumé of an average US president.


It likely starts off with a degree from a top school, and includes a stint working in law or Congress. It might even feature some military service.

But the presidents on this list have a few unconventional gigs to add to their experience. At some point in their lives, these 17 presidents tended bars, crafted toys, and even personally hung criminals. Whether or not these odd jobs helped prepare them to take on the White House remains to be seen.

Here are the 17 weirdest jobs of US presidents:

Andrew Jackson was a 13-year-old militia courier during the Revolutionary War.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Portrait of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl.

The turbulent, controversial seventh president of the US was actually the last head of state to serve in the Revolutionary War, in some capacity. Andrew Jackson joined the fighting at the age of thirteen and served as a courier, according to a report from CNN.

His position with the local militia was informal, but that didn’t stop the British from imprisoning the teenager, along with his brother Robert. Some accounts say that when Jackson refused to clean an officer’s boots, the enemy soldier slashed his face with a sword, leaving a permanent scar.

Abraham Lincoln owned a bar

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Lincoln in his late 30s as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Photo taken by one of Lincoln’s law students around 1846.

Did you know that Lincoln was the only licensed bartender to rise to the position of chief executive?

According to Amy Cavanaugh’s article in the Chicagoist, the future president launched a business in New Salem, Illinois. The joint, known as Berry and Lincoln and co-owned by an old militia friend named William F. Berry, functioned as both a store and a drinking establishment. In 1833, Berry and Lincoln received a liquor license and began selling brandy, wine, and whiskey. Later on, the future president would leave the business to become the postmaster of New Salem.

Unfortunately, Berry’s alcoholism caused the duo to fall into debt — which Lincoln wouldn’t fully pay off until he became a congressman.

Andrew Johnson worked for his mom as an apprentice tailor

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Andrew Johnson in 1875. (age 66)

Johnson — who was vice president at the time of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, and became the country’s 17th president as a result — started off as an apprentice tailor for his mother while he was still a teen, according to CNN. Later, he moved up to a tailoring position in South Carolina and Tennessee.

James Garfield tended to mules

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Garfield as a brigadier general during the Civil War. (Brady-Handy Photograph Collection.)

James Garfield’s tenure as the 20th president of the US was cut short by an assassin’s bullet in 1881. His presidency was so brief that most historians exclude him from presidential rankings.

However, there was a time when Garfield’s career was on the rise. According to the “Erie Canal” by Ralph Andrist, the “Ohio farm boy” got his start working for his cousin who owned a canal boat. Garfield made $8 a month driving the boat’s mules.

Also read: This is how US Presidents almost got to choose their own entrance music

Benjamin Harrison yelled for a living

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
1896 Pach Brothers studio photograph of United States President Benjamin Harrison.

In 1888, Benjamin Harrison was elected as the 23rd president of the US — following in the footsteps of his grandfather, William Harrison.

Years earlier, when he had yet to establish a law career, Harrison began a rather archaic side hustle — working as a court crier for $2.50 a day, according to his official presidential website.

Grover Cleveland executed people

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Official Gubernatorial portrait of New York Governor (and U.S. President) Grover Cleveland.

Today, Cleveland is perhaps best known for serving as both the 22th and 24th president of the US.

Few people know about the somewhat morbid turn his career path took early on in his professional experience.

While serving as sheriff of New York’s Erie County from 1871 to 1874, Cleveland personally hanged two criminals instead of delegating the gruesome task.

According to a 1912 article in the New York Times, Cleveland argued that he had “insisted that he had no moral right to impose upon a subordinate the obnoxious and degrading tasks that attached to his office.”

However, this incident came back to haunt him. According to the White House Historical Association, Cleveland was lambasted as “the hangman of Buffalo” during the 1884 presidential election.

Warren G. Harding was a teenage newspaperman

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Warren G. Harding. (Harris Ewing)

Before ascending to a scandal-marred stint in the White House, Harding enjoyed a sterling reputation as the editor of The Marion Star.

Harding bought the struggling paper when he was only 18-years-old and immediately began poaching journalists at the 1884 Republican National Convention.

He always had a soft spot for the paper. After he became president, he even planned to stay on as an associate editor, according to the Marion Star. Harding died before that could happen.

Calvin Coolidge was a toy maker

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Calvin Coolidge, photo portrait head and shoulders, seated. (Copyright by Notman Photo Co., Boston, Mass.)

As the 30th president of the US, Calvin Coolidge became known as a man of few words and an advocate of laissez faire policies.

Coolidge had followed a fairly conventional path to the White House, becoming a lawyer and governor. Before that, however, he took on a rather unusual weekend job in high school.

According to the Southwest Times Record, Coolidge crafted doll carriages at the Ludlow Toy Manufacturing Company.

More: These photos show what our veteran presidents looked like in uniform

Herbert Hoover worked in the geology and mining field

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Hoover’s official White House portrait painted by Elmer Wesley Greene.

Hoover — the 31st president of the US — worked as a geologist and mining engineer to pay for his living while he explored the Western Australian gold fields in the late 1890s, according to CNN.

At the tender age of 23, he was promoted to mine manager and worked in various gold fields until taking a well-earned less physical job as an independent mining consultant.

Harry Truman opened a haberdashery

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
President Harry Truman. Image from United States Library of Congress.

As Careercast notes, long before he lead the country as the 33rd president during WWII, Truman ran a haberdashery in Kansas City. Truman co-owned the short-lived store with a military buddy he met during WWI. The haberdashery shut down during a recession in the 1920s, forcing Truman to seek a new career in politics.

Lyndon B. Johnson worked as a shoe shiner and a goat herder

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Lyndon Baines Johnson in navy uniform.

When Johnson was just 9, he shined shoes during summer vacation for extra pocket change and later used these skills to buff shoes in high school, as well, according to The Week. Later, the 36th president of the US worked as a goat herder on his uncle’s farm.

Richard Nixon worked as a chicken plucker and ran a game booth

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Lt. Cmdr. Richard M. Nixon. (Richard Nixon Foundation)

While visiting family in Prescott, Arizona, in 1928 and 1929, Nixon — the 37th president of the US — plucked and dressed chickens for a local butcher, according to The Week. Later, he worked a “Wheel of Fortune” gaming booth at the Slippery Gulch carnival and said it was his favorite job.

Gerald Ford was a park ranger

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Lt. Cmdr. Gerald R. Ford. (Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum.)

The 38th president of the US said working as a park ranger at Yellowstone National Park was “one of the greatest summer of my life,” according to the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

The feeling is mutual: his supervisor at the park, Canyon District Ranger Frank Anderson, said Ford was “a darned good ranger.”

His most dangerous duty was working as an armed guard on the truck that fed the bears in the park. This high-risk job later became fodder for impressive stories to share with his kids.

Related: From cheeseburger pizza to custard pie: the favorite foods of US presidents

Jimmy Carter grew peanuts

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Before he entered the realm of politics, Carter operated a peanut farm in Georgia. According to Careercast, this rustic gig ” helped Carter appeal to voters throughout his time in politics.”

Ronald Reagan was a circus worker, a superstar lifeguard, and an actor

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan.

At age 14, Reagan briefly worked for the Ringling Brothers circus as an unskilled laborer for $0.25 an hour, according to The Week.

A year later, he took a summer job as a lifeguard at Rock River outside of Dixon, Illinois, according to PBS. There he worked 12 hour-days, seven days a week, for seven summers.

The “lean, tall, and tan” teenager became somewhat of a hero here after pulling 77 people from the danger of the swift river over the course of those seven summers, according to Heritage.

Later, Reagan went into show business. He starred in a few productions and even earned the lifelong nickname “Gipper” from his memorable turn in “Knute Rockne, All-American,” according to Careercast.

In 1981, he became the 40th president of the US at age 69.

Bill Clinton was a grocer and a comic book salesman

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

At age 13, Clinton started working as a grocer in Arkansas, according to Convenience Store News. Ever the businessman, he persuaded his boss to let him sell comic books at the store, too, and was able to rake in an extra $100 for his tenacity.

In 1993, Clinton became the 42nd US president.

George W. Bush was a landman in the oil industry and the part-owner of the Texas Rangers

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

After graduating with his MBA from Harvard, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the US, took a job as a landman for an oil company, in which he scouted potential sites to drill for oil, according to the Miller Center

It wasn’t glamourous, according to The Week: “It was hard, hot work,” he said. “I unloaded enough of those heavy mud sacks to know that was not what I wanted to do with my life.”

Later on, Bush became part-owner of the MLB’s Texas Rangers, according to Careercast.

The nation’s 43rd President was born into a political family, with father George H.W. Bush serving as the 41st President, Vice-President to Ronald Reagan, and Director of the CIA under Gerald Ford.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Newman’s Own awards $200k to veteran organizations

The nation, writ large, has a moral responsibility to ensure the needs of veterans are met, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at a ceremony where the Newman’s Own Foundation distributed funds to charities serving service members, their families and veterans.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford praised Newman’s Own for its dedication to service members, veterans and their families. The group distributed $200,000 to five organizations during the Oct. 5, 2018 ceremony in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes.

Actor and World War II veteran Paul Newman founded Newman’s Own in 1982 with the goal of donating all of the company’s after tax profits to charities. In the years since, Newman’s Own has donated more than $530 million to thousands of charities. In 1999, the company partnered with the Fisher House Foundation and Military Times publications to aim donations at innovative groups that improve the quality of life for service members, veterans and their families. Since it started, Newman’s Own has recognized 179 programs with awards totaling $1,925,000.


Quality service members

“The reason the United States military has been able to do the things it does … throughout my career is because of the quality of young men and women we’ve been able to recruit over time,” the general said at the ceremony.

When Dunford entered the military, the all-volunteer force, which began in 1973, was in its infancy. There were many critics who believed the force would fail. The all-volunteer military has become the superb force of today.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks to James Ferguson, founder of the Warrior Reunion Foundation of Cockeysville, Maryland, during the 2018 Newman’s Own Awards at the Hall of Heroes in the Pentagon, Oct. 5, 2018.

(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The American people do appreciate the military and the sacrifices military families make, Dunford said. “But I am concerned about keeping this up,” he said. “It goes back to something George Washington said … ‘The manner in which we treat our veterans will determine the willingness of future generations to serve.'”

He said the recipients of the Newman Own Awards this year cover the full spectrum of services Americans want their vets to have. “We would want them to have housing. We would want them to have a job. We would want them to have health care, and a piece of that is we would want them to be connected to men and women with which they served so they don’t feel isolated when they leave active duty,” he said.

Appreciation of troops’ service

What these groups — and many more like them across the nation — do “really does send a loud and clear message that we really do respect, we value, we appreciate the service of those in uniform,” he said.

In 2018, the Warrior Reunion Foundation of Cockeysville, Maryland, received a ,000 grant from Newman’s Own. The group looks to help combat vets reconnect with their comrades they served in combat with. It lets veterans sit down with each other knowing that they experienced the same conditions, same uncertainties and sometimes the same traumas.

The Vets on Track Foundation of Garrisonville, Virginia, received a grant of ,500. The foundation furnishes homes for vets and their families who were previously living in shelters or the streets.

Code Platoon of Chicago received ,500 to educate vets and spouses to become software developers.

The West Virginia Health Right of Charleston received ,500 to provide free dental care for West Virginia vets without dental coverage.

And finally, Healing Warriors Program of Boulder, Colorado received ,500 to help provide non-narcotic therapies for the treatment of pain and symptoms of post-traumatic stress for vets.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the name of the space-based branch should be ‘Space Corps’

The formation of a sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces for a space domain is all but official now. After months of floating the idea through Washington, President Donald Trump directed the Pentagon and the Department of Defense to begin the process of creating what will be called, in his words, the “Space Force.”

With all due respect — and believe me when I say I am in support of this endeavor — it should be called the “Space Corps,” as was proposed by the House Armed Services Committee almost a year ago. This is entirely because of how the proposed branch will be structured.

The “Space Force” is said to fall underneath the Air Force as a subdivision. Its Pentagon-level leadership and funding will come directly from the Air Force until both the need and ability to put large amount of troops into the stars arises. The soon-to-be mission statement of the space branch will be to observe the satellites in orbit, unlike the hopes and dreams of many would-be enlisted astronauts. Essentially, this new branch will take over the things currently done by the Air Force Space Command.


Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Who already have the whole “giving recruits’ false hopes of going into space” thing covered.

(Graphic by Senior Airman Laura Turner)

This would put them on the same footing as the Marine Corps, who receive their Pentagon-level leadership, funding, and directives from the Navy. The word “corps” comes from the Old French and Latin words cors and corpus, which mean body. In this context, it means it’s a subdivision.

Corps is also found in the names of many of the Army’s own branches, like the Signal Corps, the Medical Corps, and the Corps of Engineers. The most famous of these corps was the once Army Air Corps, which later became today’s Air Force.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

They earned the term “Force” — it wasn’t just given to them because it sounds cool.

(National Archive)

At the very start of World War I, when aviation was just a few years old, all things airborne were handled by the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps. It was soon changed to the “Army Air Service” when it was able to stand on its own. It was again changed to the “Army Air Corps” between the World Wars.

When it blossomed into its own on the 20th of June, 1941, its name was changed to Army Air Forces — informally known as just the Air Force. The name stuck permanently when it became so far removed from the day-to-day operations of the Army that it needed to become an entirely new and completely distinct branch of the Armed Forces.

Many years down the road, such a “Space Force” may earn its name. Until it is no longer a subdivision of the Air Force, the name is etymologically incorrect.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Let’s just say that the benchmark should be when they can actually reach space without the aid of the Air Force.

(Photo by Senior Airman Clayton Wear)

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 moments when you know the mess hall is about to serve the good stuff

Being a meal card holder has its benefits. It’s awesome to have the perfect excuse to get out at 1730. It’s food you get to enjoy without having to cook it. All you have do is overlook the fact that the meals are deducted from your pay when you’re assigned a barracks room and the fact that there’s barely any chow left by the time you get there —but outside of those details, it’s great!

That optimism starts to wane, however, after eight months of eating the same seven entrees ad nauseam. Then, one glorious day, the cooks throw you a curve-ball by turning what’s normally a grab-and-go dinner into an elaborate, fine-dining experience.


You’ll rarely hear the lower enlisted complain when they’re about to get something that’s not just decent but actually really good. (In reality, lower enlisted troops would probably complain about being given a brick of gold because it’s “too heavy,” but that’s beside the point).

It might seem like random chance, but there’s a method to the madness.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Also, your chain of command will usually pop in to serve the food on the line. Savor that moment.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brian Lautenslager)

Holidays

No one likes being stuck on-post during a holiday. If your leave form got denied or you just didn’t feel like putting in for a mileage pass, it often means your ass will be stuck on staff duty.

Thankfully, the cooks also get screwed out of block leave and work holidays with us. Even if it’s not a big holiday that revolves around a massive meal (we’re look at you, Thanksgiving), the cooks will still serve something festive.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

If you thought Air Force dinging facilities were leagues above the rest during the rest of the year…

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lan Kim)

The lead-up to best-chef competitions

In the service, there’s a competition for cooks in which they’re expected to deliver a gourmet meal to a judge that has the emotionless vile of Gordon Ramsey with the knife-handing ability of a Drill Sergeant.

They don’t want to mess it up and will prepare the only way possible: by practicing. And that practice tastes delicious.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

“Can we get you anything else, Specialist? Steak sauce? Another drink? Another three months in this god-forsaken hellhole? How about some cake? We got cake!”

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson)

Right before the unit is about to get bad news

It’s basic psychology. If you outright tell the troops that their deployment got extended, they’re going to flip the tables over. If you break it to them gently over a steak-and-lobster dinner that somehow found its way to Afghanistan, they’ll take it slightly better.

This is so common in the military that any time the commander shows up and asks for a crate of ice cream bars for the troops, the Private News Network and Lance Corporal Underground buzz with rumors.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

You think they’ll serve the same scrambled eggs that they serve the average boot to the Commandant of the Marines? Hell no. Especially not if they get some kind of warning. That’s you cue to grab food and dash.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans)

When high-ranking officials make the rounds

Not even the cooks are exempt from the dog-and-pony show that comes with a general’s visit. In fact, while the other lower enlisted are scrubbing toilets in bathrooms the general will never realistically visit, the cooks know that the mess hall is the go-to spot to bring the generals to give them a “realistic” view of the unit.

If you’re willing to stomach the off-chance of being dragged into a conversation with a four-star general about “how the commander and first sergeant 100% absolutely always treat you like a real human being and that, oh boy, do you definitely love the unit,” then you’re in for one of the best meals the cooks can offer.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Everyone loves the cooks on Taco Tuesday.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)

Taco Tuesday (and any other themed meal days)

There’s no way in hell any troop would willingly miss Taco Tuesday at the DFAC. Even if you don’t post flyers about it, troops will magically crawl out of the woodwork if it means they’re getting free tacos.

As much as everyone in the unit uses their cooks as punching bags for jokes, they can deliver some mighty fine meals when they try.

Articles

This is when the Pope’s Swiss Guard was deadlier than 300 Spartans

Military history is full of famous last stands – the Greeks at Thermopylae, Custer at Little Big Horn, the French Foreign Legion at Camarón — just to name a few. The last unit people might think of making a famous last stand are the Pope’s personal bodyguards: the Swiss Guard.


Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

But even though the men who would respond to an incident involving the Pope have traded poofy pants for tactical gear, and bladed weapons for Sig SG 550 rifles, those razor-sharp halberds weren’t always just ceremonial. There was a time when the halberds, pikes, and swords carried by the ceremonial guards were the latest in military technology. The Swiss Guard are, after all, the oldest, continuous standing army in the world.

In 1527, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V had just beat down the French in Italy. the only problem was, he couldn’t afford to pay the massive army he used to do it. Understandably pissed, the 34,000-strong army began to march on Rome, believing the Papal States would be an easy target to sack and pillage. They were right… for the most part.

On May 6, 1527, that army broke through Rome’s defenders and looted and pillaged the city for 12 days.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Paintings always make sacking, burning, and pillaging seem so tame.

But the city didn’t just roll over for the renegade army.

Defending Rome was a militia made up of 5,000 and 189 of the Pope’s Swiss Guard. Of those, around 40 or so escorted Pope Clement VII to safety – and they were the only survivors of the assault. The rest were slaughtered, choosing to hold their ground in the Vatican.

While that number seems like a horrifying loss for the Swiss Guards, consider that the elite unit reduced the fighting force of the Imperial Army by three-quarters. Of the 20,000 troops that moved to storm the city of Rome, 15,000 were killed or injured by the city’s defenders.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Are promotion ceremonies standard? What to expect when pinning up

Promotions are an exciting event in a military career, and celebrating them comes standard. The question, however, comes in what type of celebration to expect — essentially, how big is too big? And what’s the “norm” for each rank and service branch?


Because everyone who gets promoted to a new rank is presumably doing so for the first time, there’s a steep learning curve. You can talk to others or attend services of those ahead of you in order to learn what’s expected by you as the service member.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Big or small, salute them all!

It doesn’t matter if you’re getting your first promotion or your 10th, it’s something to be excited about! Enjoy your achievement and bask in the progress of your career. Don’t overlook a promotion for it being “small,” but rather take time to pat yourself on the back.

This is a big deal; you’ve earned it!

Early career promotions

Consider that, earlier in one’s career, promotions will come faster. It’s easier to climb the ranks your first few years in. There’s nothing wrong with this, only to keep in mind that in years to come, promotions won’t come as easily, or as frequently.

It’s a good idea to communicate this to friends and family, too. So they aren’t expecting fast pay jumps … and to give them a better idea of how the military works. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep your loved ones in the know for a better communication process about your future.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Pinning and pomp and circumstance

No matter what rank you’re pinning, there will be some type of ceremony. Keep in mind that, depending on the circumstances, they could be a big deal, or something simple. For instance, if deployed, you might have a fast “here’s your new rank” get together. While, when stateside, you can invite loved ones and plan an actual event.

In general, you get to choose someone to pin (or velcro) on your new rank. Decide who you want this person to be, whether a family member, co-worker or someone else who’s made a profound influence in your life. Ask them in advance, and if they aren’t associated with the military, coach them on what/when to add said insignia.

Branch matters

Promotion ceremonies usually come with much tradition and history. These traditions will vary based on branch, unit and career path. Be sure to get in on the fun and play up whatever will take place. As a member of each branch, you’re likely to know what’s ahead and how the ceremony will play out.

For instance, army members might exchange coins, Marines will march in and out of their promotion stance, and so forth.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Reaching the big jumps

When reaching higher ranks, more is expected on promotion day, most notably a cake! Sources say, even at 8 a.m., a cake will be eaten, and showing up without one is simply not done.

Whether enlisted or an officer, upper ranking soldiers will host a reception to celebrate their big day, and the size of that reception often depends on the rank itself. In general, this is usually E7 or O4 and above, while E9 or O5/O6 will host an even larger celebratory event. Each branch will have its own nuances, so check with those in your unit, or scour the net for best practices with each upcoming promotion.

When a promotion sits ahead, consider the best way to celebrate. Not only to bask in your achievements but to follow within military traditions based on your achievement and branch.

Articles

This Marine came back to his family 5 years after he died

On Feb. 25, 1968, a patrol left the besieged Khe Sanh garrison — where U.S. Marines were outnumbered by North Vietnamese forces almost 4 to 1 — and was drawn into a well-executed ambush.


The patrol, conducted by two squads, was nearly wiped out and few survivors managed to crawl out of the jungle. It was later dubbed “The Ghost Patrol.”

One of the Marines listed as lost in the battle, Pfc. Ronald L. Ridgeway, actually spent the next five years in solitary confinement in a North Vietnamese prison camp before returning to the family that had “buried” him months after his disappearance.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Marine Pfc. Ronald Ridgeway (Photo: YouTube/Vietnam Veteran News Podcast)

The Battle of Khe Sanh began when the North Vietnamese attacked one of America’s northernmost garrisons near the border between Vietnam and Laos. Army Gen. William Westmoreland had predicted the attack months before and reinforced the base with additional men and munitions and ordered repairs and upgrades to the base’s airfield.

When the North Vietnamese attacked on Jan. 21, 1968, it quickly became clear that the preparations weren’t enough. The 6,000 troops were attacked by an enemy force that would eventually grow to an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 enemies, and the carefully hoarded supply of artillery and mortar rounds were 90 percent destroyed by an enemy artillery attack that hit the ammo dump.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
And the Marines needed that ammo. They went through it at a prodigious rate while trying to beat back the siege. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Westmoreland convinced President Lyndon B. Johnson that the base should be held at all costs, triggering a 77-day siege that required planes to constantly land supplies on the improved airfield.

The Marines and other troops on the base sought continuously to knock the North Vietnamese off balance and to relieve the pressure on the base. The February 25 patrol aimed to find North Vietnamese and either kill them or take them captive to collect intelligence.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
F-100 strikes close to the lines while supporting the Marines at Khe Sanh on March 15, 1968. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

It was led by an inexperienced lieutenant who, after his men spotted three enemy fighters who quickly fled, ordered a full-speed chase to capture or kill them despite advice to the contrary from others.

The three enemies turned out to be bait, and they drew the Marines into a nearly perfect crescent-shaped ambush.

The Marines fought valiantly, but they were taking machine gun and other small arms fire from three sides mere moments after the fight began. Grenades rained down on their position as they sought cover, concealment, and fire superiority.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Infantry Sgt. Kregg Jorgenson is rushed behind friendly lines during a firefight in the Vietnamese jungle.(Image: YouTube/CBS Evening News)

Under increasing fire, Ridgeway and another Marine attempted to break contact and return to the base, but they came across a wounded Marine on their way. Unwilling to leave an injured brother, they stopped to render aid and carry him out.

As they stopped, bursts of machine gun fire hit the three Marines, wounding all three. One was killed by a grenade moments later, another died of wounds that night, and only Ridgeway survived despite the enemy shooting him in the helmet and shoulder. He was later captured when a Vietnamese soldier tried to steal his wristwatch and realized the body was still breathing.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

That September, his family was part of a ceremony to bury unidentified remains from the battle and memorialize the nine Marines presumed dead whose bodies were only partially recovered.

But for five years after the battle, Ridgeway was an unidentified resident of the Hanoi Hilton, undergoing regular torture at the hands of his captors.

It wasn’t until the North Vietnamese agreed to a prisoner transfer as part of the peace process in 1973 that they released his name to American authorities, leading to Ridgeway’s mother getting an alert that her son was alive.

Five years after the battle and four years after his burial, Ridgeway returned to America and was reunited with his family. He later visited the grave and mourned the eight Marines whose names shared the list with his. A new memorial was later raised with Ridgeway’s name removed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This soldier searched for peace and balance after his deployment

Jeff Slater was an Army small weapons expert who served in Iraq. He later volunteered for route clearance duty where his job was to intentionally run over IEDs.


On his return home, Slater struggled with depression and feelings of isolation. But he stayed focused on the goal of finding his own enlightenment.

Slater has many striking tattoos, including one on his chest of a hand grenade with wings and the word “Serenity” above it.

“I see the world as a balance between beauty and hate,” Slater says. “Serenity isn’t freedom from the storm. It’s finding peace amidst the storm.”

Slater’s story is part of War Ink: 11 for 11, a video series presented by We Are The Mighty.  The series features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for 11 weeks, a different tattooed veteran will share his or her story.

Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.

Video Credit: Rebecca Murga and Karen Kraft

MIGHTY TRENDING

British Carrier named for the Queen has 6 sailors arrested

Six sailors from HMS Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s largest and most powerful aircraft carrier, were reportedly arrested and taken into custody over drunk and disorderly behavior in Jacksonville, Florida, in September 2018.

The sailors, who were on shore leave, were arrested after locals found them fighting and and urinating in public, the BBC reported.

The incident took place on late Sept. 6, 2018, into early Sept. 7, 2018, according to Jacksonville’s local WJAX-TV station.


Most of them were taken into custody on drunk and disorderly charges, The Florida Times-Union reported.

Three of them were also charged with resisting arrest. One pushed and pulled an officer, one was actively fighting and refused to stop, and another refused to put his hands behind his back and was ultimately stunned by a Taser, according to WJAX-TV.

The group were held overnight before being released back onboard the warship on Sept. 7, 2018, The Sun reported.

HMS Queen Elizabeth arrived in the US in September 2018 after leaving the UK on Aug. 18, 2018. It is on its way to carry out F-35 trials at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland with US and British pilots late September 2018.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

The HMS Queen Elizabeth passes by the Florida coast, where it is stopping to refuel before sailing north to Maryland. Sept. 5, 2018.

(WJXT News / Youtube)

The British navy acknowledged the incident but declined to provide further comment.

A spokesperson for the Royal Navy told Business Insider in a statement:

“We can confirm that a number of naval personnel are assisting US police with their enquiries — it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.

“The Naval Service places great importance on maintaining the highest possible standards of behaviour from its personnel at all times.”

Sergeant Larry Smith of the Jacksonville Beach Police Department also confirmed that all the arrests were related to alcohol, but that they were “a case of good people making bad decisions.”

Smith told the Sun:

“Our officers went down to the ship to speak to their commanders, and while they were still out on the town on Thursday night, there were no more problems from the sailors.

“It was a case of good people making bad decisions, they got drunk and they fought among themselves.

“It happens. They seem to beat the mess out of each other and knock their teeth out, but once they pick up their teeth off the ground they hug and then are best friends again.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest and most powerful aircraft carrier in British history. It took eight years to build and cost the Royal Navy £3.5 billion (.6 billion).

It is home to 900 people — 700 Royal Navy members and 200 industry personnel.

The deployment to the US is significant because it will mark the first fighter jet landing on a British aircraft carrier in eight years, since the decommissioning of HMS Ark Royal.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Humor

5 Army instructions that are broken down way too stupidly

Sometimes you just got to break it down, “Barney-style,” for some soldiers. You know, instruct them in such an easy-to-follow manner that even a kid watching Barney could understand.


As much as we’d all like to pretend that no one in our unit got into the Army through an ASVAB waiver, the fact remains: There’re friggin’ idiots everywhere who need to be told exactly what to do. There are so many simple instructions in the Army, designed so that even our crayon-eating Marine brothers could easily follow them.

Related: 6 reasons soldiers hate on the Marines

These are our favorite, dumbed-down directions.

5. Claymore Mine

Need to set up a Claymore anti-personnel mine, but you’re not quite sure which direction it’s supposed to be pointed? Just remember: front toward enemy.

Mess that up and everyone who’s left in your unit will f*cking hate you.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
At least it lets the as***le Prius driver behind you know to stop tailgating. (Image via Reddit)

4. Army Combatives

If you’ve never had the opportunity to glance through the old-school Army Combatives Manual, you’re missing out.

You’re skipping out on learning lovely, advanced techniques, like how to uppercut someone, how to palm-strike someone in the chin, and, of course…

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
…the swift kick to the nuts: the great equalizer. (Image via Army)

3. MRE

The much-joked-about, flameless heater in the MRE seems simple enough. Put in water, fold the ends, and lean against a “rock or something.”

It actually was meant as a joke when the designer said, “I don’t know. Let’s make it a rock or something.”

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Instructions unclear; got troops stuck in 15-year war. (Image by WATM)

2. AT-4

Pretend you’ve never touched a rocket launcher before. How would you hold it?

Thankfully, the instructions include a tiny drawing and the words, “fire like this.”

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
How else would you be able to fire it? (Image via IMFDB)

1. Army Combat Boots

It’s so simple. It’s written in black and white. Our boots are not authorized for flight or combat use.

Come on, guys. What kind of idiot would void the warranty like that? Oh…

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Apparently, this is just so they don’t need to replace our boots. Thanks, Army. (Image via Reddit)

Articles

These vets brew Semper Fi PA and Jet Noise

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day


Army National Guard Veteran, Tom Wilder, and Army Reserves Veteran, Neil McCannon, set out to build an empire of home-brewed beer in their hometown of Virginia Beach, VA in 2012. After successfully crowd funding their endeavor via Kickstarter, Tom and Neil were delighted to open their doors for business roughly 18 months ago, making them among the first veteran-owned breweries by vets, for vets.

What makes them special is the idea behind their brewery and how frequently they give back to their own community.

“For Young Veterans Brewing Company brewing is about love,” Tom said. “Since our first batch, we have been delighted by the artistry of the process and the creativity of recipe development and perfection. We are captivated by the detail and scientific precision required during the production and maturation processes. Mostly though, we love the joy we provide with our distinctive, high quality beer.”

Tom and Neil began experimenting after a stint as roommates.

“We lived together in a house together with like six other people in our twenties,” Neil said. “We had a home brew kit brought over and we made it together; it was a brown ale and it turned out well. If it hadn’t turned out better than we expected, I don’t think we would have continued.”

“The military has played a pivotal role in both our lives, shaping us as men and as citizens. Combined with our love of craft beer and experience in home-brewing these last five years, our idea took shape and we are ready to begin our new careers as small business owners and as brewers.” — Neil McCannon

This set them apart from most home brewers because they began experimenting shortly after their third batch whereas many will brew from standard kits.

“When you first start home brewing, they supply you with basically everything you need to brew beer,” Tom said. “After the third one we basically said screw the kit and began experimenting on our own, becoming addicted to brewing.”

In opening the brewery, the name was the easy part. Tom and Neil are natives of the area and both served in the military.

“To us, Young Veterans is where we’re from,” Neil explained. “We’re vets and we wanted to open our own business. We’re making a call to where we’re from, and the name was the easy answer. We do have a lot of focus on veterans charities and the military because it meant a lot to us. It was something [the military] we wanted to keep in our lives.”

“We were really worried that someone was going to steal our idea because we were YVBC about two years before we opened,” Tom said. “It would have been easy for someone to come in with a decent amount money and say, ‘Nice name’ and take off with it. We’re lucky that didn’t happen. We were very much among the first of veteran-themed breweries to pop up and shortly after we opened, Veterans Brewing popped up in Chicago, who is a high-volume, money making contract brewery. It puts pressure on us to stand out.”

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Originally, the two were looking to start a grandiose brewery with a large concert space and a tap room, but after considering the options they had in regard to venue size, budget and production, Tom and Neil opened a small brewery near Oceana Naval Base in Virginia Beach, completing their transition from home brewers to brewery owners.

Tom explained that in order to get their feet on the ground Neil attended the Siebel Institute in Chicago and Munich and obtained an International Degree in Brewing Science last year to further their goal and his knowledge as a brewer and Tom gained experience working in multiple facets of a distributing company.”

Today, they can barely keep up with the foot traffic from their 40/60 military to civilian customer base and are looking to expand. They recently found that they’ll be sharing the area with a veterans service group just up the street. Several of YVBC’s craft beers have become a staple in the Hampton Roads community, even traveling to other venues for “steal the taps” events in the area. The tap room features a membership club called ‘Canteen Command’ with military themed swag and a personalized mug that allows members to drink unreleased brews before they debut to the general public.

The duo is known for a variety of incredible brews with catchy names and nostalgic labels like “Pineapple Grenade,” “Jet Noise,” “Semper F.I.P.A.,” “Night Vision,” “New Recruit,” “DD-214,” and “Big Red Rye.” For more information about Tom, Neil and the gang at YVBC, they can be found at yvbc.com or on Instagram: @YVBC.

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day
Brittany Slay is the Editor of American Veteran Magazine and a US Navy veteran, completing a 9 month deployment to Bahrain in 2014. She’s a fan of dark humor and enjoys writing, visiting breweries, and meeting people.

And check out American Veteran Magazine at amvets.magloft.com.

 

Now: 6 pieces of gear you won’t believe the military used 

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