On July 31, 2020, the town of Stockton, California held a drive-by birthday celebration for a distinguished resident of The Oaks at Inglewood assisted living facility. A parade of local residents and first responders turned out to greet Marine Maj. Bill White a very happy 105 birthday.
Maj. White in January (Pegasus Senior Living)
“Feels just as good as it did at 104,” Maj. White said.
The outpouring of fanfare and support were a testament to Maj. White’s positive spirit and service to the nation. For his family members, who haven’t been able to visit him much because of the coronavirus pandemic, the celebration was a touching display.
“It’s very heartwarming and very just—it does get to you that there are so many people that love him and appreciate him for his service,” said Maj. White’s daughter Mary Huston.
Maj. White enlisted in the Marine Corps in October 1934. Before the outbreak of WWII, he was stationed in Shanghai. During the war, he fought on Iwo Jima where he earned a Purple Heart for wounds suffered from a grenade. Maj. White continued his service after the war, spending 30 years in the Corps.
Maj. Bill White in his Marine dress white uniform (Bill White)
Maj. White’s dedication to service continued after the military. He served as a police officer and started a family. One of his favorite hobbies is scrapbooking.
“This started way back,” Maj. White said. “My mother, parents taught me to conserve and observe memories as much as possible.”
Maj. White made headlines back in February when he put out a call asking for Valentine’s Day cards to add to his collection of memories. He launched “Operation Valentine” the month before with a goal of 100 cards. By the end, Maj. White’s call had gone viral on social media and he received more than half-a-million cards and gifts from around the world including a special note from NASA and President Trump.
Like any good Marine, Maj. White keeps his uniform in good order and likes to wear it for special occasions. Looking sharp in his dress blues, Maj. White revealed that the secret to his longevity is keeping his mind sharp by reading. “Right now I’m trying for 106,” he said. “One at a time.”
Our family made the downsize of a lifetime – from a 2,667 square foot home to 39 feet. That is, a 39-foot travel trailer AKA camper. My husband, our two boys, ages three and one, dog, and cat – we packed up the essentials, stored what was sentimental and sold/donated the rest.
Now, we are full-time campers. Mobile living where we can pick up and go as needed, living in minimal space and with maximum experiences.
It was a life I never though I’d have, and now, one I can’t imagine not doing.
We have more time outdoors, more time together, fewer things to worry about.
The day we moved into our long-term slot we were full of peppy energy. We were starting this new adventure that was outside the norm, but so incredibly exciting. After settling down around the campfire, I felt the beginning stages of an eventual miscarriage. Here we were, making this epic family move, book-ended with thrills and sadness. There are surprises we can control and those that we cannot, and we were taking in both at full force.
In the camper, everything is so simple. Those three bathrooms I had to clean before? I can deep clean the entire camper in less time. Yard work? Now we do it for fun. Because we get to be outside and the to-do list is miniscule.
The absolute icing on the experience: we have time for our kids. So. Much Time. We go on bike rides, walks, down to the park, to the pool – all the outdoor activities that we never seemed to have time for before. I’m not longer tied to things like housework that kept me from being a good Mom. (At least, that’s how it felt at the time.)
This is, of course, why we did it. We were tired of the grind. Drill hours are exhausting as a rule. (Where are you other drill wives at? You are my people!) But with two littles, my self-employment and a too-big yard and house … it was just work – work at home, work at work, work at raising kids. Work at trying to find time for fun and plan for said fun.
Sure it was hard to sell our house; good memories are always hard to leave behind.
But as military life goes, you can’t keep it all. You hold onto what matters, and then you make the decisions you have to make. In this case, it was moving your family into a camper.
Originally it was to help us through a PCS … until we thought, “Why not just do this indefinitely?!”
We had some help in that decision, of course, thanks to the military norm of dramatic and rapid plan changes.
But now, we’re steadily living that camper life. We have wonderful neighbors, and the boys have plenty of friends at the ready at all times. When a tree fell on a neighbor’s camper, we turned it into a block party, cutting firewood and eating pizza.
Because, as it turns out, this lifestyle is a thing. Families of all sizes pile into their campers for PCSs, TDY, and for entire duty station stints. It’s an entire world that I’m fascinatingly taking in as we go.
There are tanks to be emptied. Rules about what can go down the sink. I have minimal fridge space. Neighbors can likely hear me yelling at the kids – blah, blah, blah. But it’s an exciting process, one that fuels me every day.
As for the downsides – no, it didn’t solve every problem. My husband is still OCD about the way the bikes are parked or worried about there being to many things outside the camper. I’m still my normal amount of hot mess.
There are moments where we are tripping over one another, frustrated with the lack of space. We are regularly woken in the middle of the night to a propane detector that’s set off by the dog’s gas. (Not making this up; it happens to other people too.) We have to haul up the laundry to use coin machines. But laundry is always my least favorite chore; I’ll never enjoy it unless its’ done for me. And a lack of walking space also means a lack of things I have to clean.
Like everything, there are the ups and downs in life and you decide what’s important. For us, this is the life we get to be a better family, a more engaged, less-stressed version of our former selves. I encourage more people to give it a chance.
In 1987, singer David Bowie played a concert in West Berlin, near the Reichstag. The performance was so loud, a massive crowd gathered on the East side of the nearby Berlin Wall to better hear his performance. He could hear the East Germans behind the Iron Curtain, singing along.
At the time, he didn’t know it would be the catalyst for the beginning of the end the city’s crushing divide.
The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to keep East Berliners (and all East Germans) inside East Germany. It certainly wasn’t needed to keep Western citizens out. It quickly became a symbol of the Iron Curtain over Eastern Europe, the barrier between East and West that kept one side subject to the oppression of forced Communism and the other a burgeoning society of freedom and self-governance.
It was in Berlin where Bowie recorded his 1977 album, “Heroes,” a song about two lovers, one from East Berlin and one from the West. Living with punk legend Iggy Pop in the city’s Schöneberg neighborhood, Bowie could walk outside his door and see the tyranny and death that came with living in the heart of the Cold War. The song’s lyrics were so descriptive of the city’s plight, it became one of Berlin’s anthems:
I, I can remember (I remember) Standing, by the wall (by the wall) And the guns, shot above our heads (over our heads) And we kissed, as though nothing could fall (nothing could fall) And the shame, was on the other side Oh we can beat them, forever and ever Then we could be heroes, just for one day
70,000 Germans attended the 1987 Concert for Berlin.
The artists spent years in Berlin recording his albums “Low” and “Lodger,” along with “Heroes.” Today, they’re referred to as Bowie’s “Berlin Trilogy.” A decade after recording “Heroes,” Bowie returned to Berlin as part of the Concert for Berlin, a three-day festival held near the Reichstag, the seat of West Germany’s parliament. Nearby was the Brandenburg Gate and, running through it, the notorious Berlin Wall. The music, forbidden in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) rang out loudly in the West, and wafted over the wall.
Along with Bowie came Eurythmics, Genesis, and Bruce Hornsby. Thousands of East Berliners began to crowd the area near the gate, trying to get an earful as East German guards fought them back, dragging them away from the area and arresting the unruly. If they couldn’t listen near the wall, they could listen over the airwaves. The radio station Radio in the American Sector broadcast the concert in its entirety throughout the city, with the blessings of the artists and recording labels.
“It was like a double concert where the wall was the division,” Bowie told The Atlantic. “And we would hear them cheering and singing along from the other side. God, even now I get choked up. It was breaking my heart. I’d never done anything like that in my life, and I guess I never will again. When we did ‘Heroes’ it really felt anthemic, almost like a prayer.”
Eventually, the crowd broke into a full-on chant of, “the wall must fall!” and “Gorby, get us out!” When the concert ended on the third night, the East German police beat back the crowd with billy clubs. Even though Bowie headlined the second night, it’s believed his performance attracted more East Berliners to the wall the next night. It was the overreaction from the East Berlin police that turned so many residents against the regime. It completely changed the mood of the city, which would only be divided for two years longer before frustrations overwhelmed the wall.
“The title song of the ‘Heroes’ album is one of Bowie’s best-known works and became the hymn of our then-divided city and its yearning for freedom,” said Berlin Mayor Michael Müller. “With this song, Bowie has not only set musical standards, but also unmistakably expressed his attachment to our city.”
Bowie played Berlin again in 1989, after the wall fell and the city was united. His last show in Berlin was in 2004. When Bowie died in 2016, the German government officially thanked him for bringing the wall down and unifying a divided Germany.
There’re no two groups of Americans that get along quite as well as the military and the first-responder community. It makes sense on a broad level; they’re both occupations filled by people who hope to help their fellow man and make the world a slightly better place.
But it goes much deeper than that — it’s not just a shared, we-got-10-percent-off-our-meal-at-a-restaurant connection.
Civilians just don’t understand the actual amount of paperwork and bureaucracy that happens in both. That fact alone is why so many police officers love ‘Hot Fuzz.’
(Photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Taylor)
They share the same culture
Part of what makes the armed forces fun is the inter-service banter exchanged between branches. Funnily enough, first responders playfully mock one another as well.
EMS will throw some jabs in jest at firefighters and firefighters will tell jokes at the police’s expense. Hell, even within the different bureaus, police will riff on each other. Law enforcement officers and firefighters, just like Marines and airmen, will happily mock one another all day long, but treat each other as family when push comes to shove.
This is just one of the many areas in which the two cultures overlap.
They also come up with the same off-the-wall insults that troops love.
(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Pedro A. Rodriguez)
They share the same lingo
Troops say a lot of little things that they don’t realize are uncommon in the civilian world, but the lingo is easily understood by first responders.
The phonetic alphabet is an obvious one, but it makes my veteran heart grow knowing that police also call each other blue falcons.
The hardest times for both are often the memorial services.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Fowler)
They share the same bad days
The sad reality is that the bad days both groups experience can be hard to explain to civilians.
There are fantastic moments that you can be proud to share with your children and your spouse, but helping the world will also show you things that’ll keep you up at night — you can’t know this feeling without experiencing it.
Have you ever been to a fire station? It’s basically a frat house in between calls.
(Photo by Jamal Wilson)
They share a strong bond of brotherhood with their peers
It’s no secret that troops are close to one another — and first responders are no different.
They grow together through shared pain, mockery, and brief moments of brevity until the sh*t hits the fan again. This level of camaraderie is respected across both groups.
Or you enlist for a change of pace but end up doing the same thing in a different uniform.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Octavius Thompson)
Many have served in both
The main reason why so many of each community can relate with one another is because many troops leave the service and make a living as a first responder, and vice versa.
During a moment of peace in Basic or Boot Camp, it’s not uncommon to hear a new troop say that they were a volunteer firefighter for a few semesters in college.
“The Soviet cosmonaut has become the first to set foot on the moon.”
For All Mankind introduces the stakes right away — and they hit hard for anyone familiar with the iconic moon landing of 1969 and what it meant to Americans.
It’s a seductive concept, as proven by Amazon’s TheMan in the High Castle, a dystopian show depicting an alternate history where the Axis powers won World War II. The first season begins in 1962. The United States is divided between the Nazis and the Japanese but our heroes discover a film tape that shows Germany losing the war.
For those of you who are fans, you’ll want to check out For All Mankind, an upcoming series brought to you by the new streaming platform Apple TV+. The premise is simple: what if the Soviet Union were to win the space race of the Cold War?
First, here’s the trailer:
For All Mankind — Official First Look Trailer | Apple TV+
For All Mankind — Official First Look Trailer | Apple TV+
For All Mankind is created by Emmy® Award winner Ronald D. Moore (Outlander, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica) and Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi (Fargo, The Umbrella Academy). Told through the lives of NASA astronauts, engineers, and their families, For All Mankind presents an aspirational world where NASA and the space program “remained a priority and a focal point of our hopes and dreams.”
Now, there were a lot of zany ideas going on during the actual Space Race of the Cold War, which would be marked by the desire for each side to prove its superiority. Military might and nuclear capabilities were growing, wars between Communist and Capitalist countries were escalating, and space exploration was rising. When the Soviets successfully launched the world’s first satellite into Earth’s orbit, American urgency rose.
It ended well for the U.S. when Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. The glory was ours! Everyone could just calm down.
But…what if history had gone another way?
“Get back to work.”
“We thought it was just about being first. Turns out the stakes are much bigger than that,” announces a voice in the trailer.
For All Mankind explores building a base on the moon, which has water on it. “We’re going to Mars, Saturn, the stars, the galaxy.” The first look at the series gives weight to the Space Race in a new and imaginative way, including (to my immense relief), lady astronauts.
Here’s one way the Soviets actually did beat out the United States: Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space, whose mission Vostok 6 took place on June 16, 1963. The U.S. kept women out until Sally Ride’s first space flight on June 18, 1983. I’m biting my tongue here…
Props to For All Mankind for writing women into their alternate history in ways our own countrymen refused to do.
Apple TV+ is “a new streaming service where the most creative minds in TV and film tell the kinds of stories only they can. Featuring original shows and movies across every genre, Apple TV+ is coming this fall. Exclusively on the Apple TV app.”
The platform has already announced series like See, which places Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard in a dystopian future where the survivors of a global virus are left blind; Amazing Stories, a Steven Spielberg-helmed fantasy anthology; and even an untitled Brie Larson CIA drama series.
Charles Jenkins, a U.S Army deserter to North Korea who married a Japanese abductee and lived in Japan after their release, has died. He was 77.
Jenkins was found collapsed outside his home in Sado, northern Japan, Dec. 11 and rushed to a hospital and later pronounced dead, a group representing families of Japanese abductees to North Korea said Dec. 12.
Japan’s NHK national television said he died of a heart failure.
Jenkins, of Rich Square, North Carolina, disappeared in January 1965 while on patrol along the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea. He later called his desertion a mistake that led to decades of deprivation and hardship in the communist country.
Jenkins met his wife Hitomi Soga, who was kidnapped by Pyeongyang in 1978, in North Korea and the couple had two daughters, Mika and Blinda. His wife was allowed to visit Japan in 2002 and stayed. Jenkins and their daughters followed in 2004.
Once in Japan, Jenkins in 2004 was subject to a U.S. court-martial in which he said he deserted because of fear of being sent to fight in Vietnam. He pleaded guilty to desertion and aiding the enemy and was dishonorably discharged and sentenced to 25 days in a U.S. military jail in Japan.
Jenkins and his family lived in Soga’s hometown of Sado, where he was a popular worker at a local souvenir shop and could often be seen posing in photos with visiting tourists.
Soga is one of 13 Japanese that Tokyo says were kidnapped by the North in the 1970s and 1980s as teachers of Japanese culture and language for agents spying on South Korea. Pyongyang acknowledged the abductions and allowed a Japan visit in 2002 for Soga and four others, who eventually stayed.
Jenkins, in his 2005 autobiographical book To Tell the Truth and in appearances at conferences on North Korean human rights, revealed that he had seen other American deserters living with women abducted from elsewhere, including Thailand and Romania.
After settling in Japan, he visited North Carolina to see his mother and sister, but he said he had no plans to move back to the U.S.
One of the biggest threats North Korea poses is not measured in a few nukes on a few dozen ballistic missiles. We get it that nukes can do a lot of bad stuff, and the consequences of their use can be downright horrific. But they aren’t the only game in town.
In fact, one of North Korea’s deadliest threats are regular old howitzers.
To be honest, we’re talking lots and lots of howitzers. A veritable horde of howitzers, in fact. Try close to 8,000, according to GlobalSecurity.org. However, South Korea has not been idle in the howitzer field.
According to Hanwha Defense Systems, the South Korean military has been using the K9 self-propelled howitzer. This vehicle carries a 155mm howitzer that has a range of about 25 miles that can fire up to eight rounds a minute, including a burst of three rounds in 15 seconds.
But the firepower isn’t all this is about. The K9 is also able to scoot – able to dash at just under 42 miles per hour and go as far as 223 miles on one tank of gas. The crew of five is able to start shooting within 30 seconds, and they have 48 rounds on board. The vehicle can be quickly resupplied by the K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicle, which can reload the K9 in just under 18 minutes.
It can take punishment, too. Its armor protects the crew from 14.5mm machine gun fire and fragments from 152mm artillery shells. According to GlobalSecurity.org, over 1,100 of these self-propelled guns are in South Korean service.
The K9 has also secured an export buyer in Turkey, which is acquiring 300 of these guns. In short, this gun will potentially see action on both sides of the continent of Asia.
It takes about 2 seconds to figure out when you talk with 22-year special operations veteran Pat McNamara that he’s about as straight a shooter as they come.
But it’s more than just the trigger squeeze, proper sight alignment and firm grip honed over many years as the senior marksmanship NCO for the world’s top counterterrorism unit that makes him hit the bullseye every time. In an exclusive interview with We Are The Mighty, McNamara demonstrates why he’s such a popular trainer and mentor beyond the world of tactical shooting and athletic strength training.
“I’m always on the up and up. I’m always brutally honest,” McNamara said in a phone interview July 14.
And it shows when he’s talking about veterans who use their former service to get perks.
“Here’s the thing, I’m not a fan of ‘professional veterans.’ Guys who rest on their laurels and say ‘I’m a vet, be nice to me, I’ve done this for the country,” McNamara says. “F$%ck you, get a job, figure it out for yourself. I did my service voluntarily. I did it for myself and my country, I wasn’t doing it for accolades.”
Not long after he left the storied Delta Force special operations unit in 2005 as a Sgt. Major, McNamara established his own training and fitness company, dubbed Tactics-Marksmanship-Adventure-Concepts-Security, based in his hometown of Pinehurst, North Carolina. Since then, McNamara has emerged as one of the most innovative — and edgy — tactical trainers in the business.
With an aggressive in-your-face style that doesn’t suffer fools, McNamara has never been afraid of challenging the tactics of other high-profile competitors.
In one video, McNamara shreds the long-taught concept of “scan and assess” after a shooter hits his target. Calling it “theater through institutional inbreeding,” McNamara argues practicing the scan and assess is the same as yelling “I quit!” in a gunfight.
But McNamara’s skills go well beyond the range or the gym. A student of sports psychology and leadership under stress, the former commando is always trying to find ways to teach students better and challenge the status quo.
“The guys I’m training, I want them to be stronger and more effective, because I need them to be stronger and more effective,” McNamara says. “I’m always trying to be a more effective instructor … and to present a more powerful delivery so that learning takes place more effectively.”
Despite his Athenian physique and distinctive, pointed goatee, McNamara does have a softer side as well — he’s a diehard fly fisherman, musician and an graphic artist who’s unapologetic about his new mission as a family man and husband.
To get a better look inside the mind of Pat McNamara, we asked him five questions about his job and his life as a soldier.
Okay, right out of the gate, where do you come down on the age-old debate of 9mm versus .45 ACP?
Now, I have a love affair with my 1911. But the caliber debate is f$%cking dead. It’s all about bullet placement. And the thing is you can get 9mm all over the world.
I’m not going to hold back here. Which is better in a fight, an AK-47 or an AR-15?
Easy one, AR, that’s not even close. That 7.62×39 is a devastating round. It’s going to go right through a lot of stuff — it’s really freaking bad ass. But ergonomically, the AK-47 is just not sound — that’s a conscript army freaking gun. To me the AR is just a more professional platform, and there’s a lot more you can do with it. And when it comes to accuracy … if you have a good barrel and good ammo, you can group at 500 with that thing easy.
You did a lot of cool things as a Delta operator, I’m sure. But what was the most annoying mission ever?
It was the Balkans. We were waiting “on the bubble” for 36 days. Just waiting for 36 frickin’ days, and we never got to hit our target. There were others that were [worse], but they didn’t last as long. And the conditions on that one were horrible.
What is your #1 tip for good leadership?
Show up before everyone else and be the last one to leave. You know, never be late, light and out of uniform.
Another one is always have an ear — you gotta look people in the eye and listen to them, you can’t blow people off. You have to be genuinely frickin’ concerned.
It’s beach reading season. What’s on the top of your stack of books to read this summer?
Right now I’m reading something called “Mindset.”
I’m always trying to read stuff that’s applicable to my job and my guys because I’m training — I have a vested interest.
People tell me to read this book or that, but I like to read sports psychology and science.
“Don’t come here, it’s too dangerous!” my sister texted my mother a few weeks ago. “If you were to become infected with coronavirus, I would never forgive myself.”
My parents live in Naples, southern Italy, where I was born and raised before becoming an American citizen in 2018. My sister is in graduate school to become an anesthesiologist and she works in one of the most affected hospitals in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, one of the first areas to be designated as a red zone in the country.
The Costagliola family on vacation at Disney World.
My parents, who are both over 65 years of age, were supposed to go visit my sister up north before coming to visit my family and I in New York, something they do at least once a year. We had it all planned out: they would join us in Syracuse — where we are currently stationed — and after a week, we were going to take a road trip all the way down to Florida, stopping at the most iconic landmarks on the East Coast, taking plenty of photos for my two children to look back on one day and reminisce on the precious moments they spent with their grandparents.
My 8-year-old son was counting down the days until the arrival of his Nanna and Babba, who had promised to bring an entire suitcase filled with presents for him and his 4-year-old sister — something they do every time they come visit. “Mamma, only 30 days left!” he shouted with excitement as he stepped off the school bus one afternoon. “Baby, I have to tell you something…” I said as I invited him to sit on the couch next to me. The words that came out of my mouth during that conversation sounded like something out of a script of an Apocalyptic science fiction movie.
Tiziana Costagliola at work at one of the most affected hospitals in the Lombardy region.
Only a few hours earlier, I had spoken to my parents via Skype and my mother, a primary care provider, told me with tears in her eyes, “I love you, and that’s why I won’t come visit you guys.”
I couldn’t believe it.
The coronavirus had started spreading in Italy, but it was mostly contained in the red zone. It wasn’t even in southern Italy yet. Borders were open, flights were departing as scheduled, cruise ships were taking excited passengers to the most exotic corners of the world, and theme parks were still selling way too much candy to children running toward their favorite ride.
Yet, my parents had decided to cancel their trips. They would not be going to visit my sister nor would they be coming to visit us in the United States of America. “It’s going to get much worse before it gets better, sweetheart.” My mother explained, “And I would never forgive myself if I unknowingly brought the virus to you all.”
It’s going to get much worse. That thought kept haunting my mind, day and night. It sounded like a prophecy.
“We were just told to choose which patients to save…” my sister wrote a few days later in a family group chat on WhatsApp. “We are to pick younger patients over older ones, as they have better chances of surviving the coronavirus.”
Meanwhile, life in the United States of America was proceeding as usual. Children off to school, grocery shopping done, and manuscripts edited. But the headlines in the news began mirroring what I was hearing from my mother and sister back home. Not enough hospital rooms. Virus spreads to southern Italy as well. Italy struggles to contain outbreak. Italian hospitals out of ICU beds. Airlines have canceled their flights to and from Italy.
It was a nightmare. What was happening to my home country? What was happening to my family and friends?
But then, Italy took a deep breath, looked in the mirror and reminded herself of who she is. The land of art, eternal love, good food, genuine smiles, warm sun and glittering Mediterranean waters. An entire red zone with 60 million people in quarantine, Italians stepped outside their balconies, playing instruments, singing, dancing and keeping each other company.
Coronavirus: quarantined Italians sing from balconies to lift spirits
At the end of their impromptu concerts and shows, they could be heard yelling, “Andrà tutto bene!”
Everything’s going to be alright.
And now that we are also facing the reality of the outbreak here in the United States of America, let’s remind ourselves that, if we all do our part, everything will be alright.
As for that vacation, we were planning on taking; it wasn’t canceled, just postponed to when we are allowed to finally hug each other again. And if my children have it their way, it’ll be even bigger and better than the one we had originally planned.
When you think of the VFW, what comes to mind? For many of us younger veterans the stigma is that your local VFW post is a dark, dusty bar with a bunch of older vets telling war stories. Whether that is fair or not, the VFW has had an issue attracting younger veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to its ranks, despite the obvious benefit that the VFW provides to those vets.
One post in San Antonio is moving to change all that.
VFW Post 8541 has created a cyber café in its facility with the intent that younger veterans will have a place to hang out, build fellowship, have an escape and be part of the local veteran community. And no, this isn’t a couch with an Xbox and two controllers.
Take a look at this:
Video games have come a long way since Space Invaders and Pong. Nowadays, it’s a billion-dollar industry that continues to grow every year. Consoles continue to war with each other, video game franchises compete to have the best upgrades in graphics and gameplay, and players now compete in more organized tournaments. Esports has blown up quite a bit with professional leagues forming with players making six figures a year! (Tell that to your girl the next time she gets mad when you have a COD marathon!)
Even pro sports leagues are getting in on esports. The NBA, NASCAR and Formula 1 have all had their best stars compete when everything was shut down during Covid.
While some people scoff at the amount of time and energy people put into gaming, there have been proven benefits to veterans.
Video games have been increasingly recommended to veterans as a way to cope with the effects of PTSD, anxiety, and depression. How so? Mental health experts will tell you that a great way to deal with mental health issues is to find an activity that puts you into a flow or zone. Whether it’s running, shooting drills, surfing, reading a book, or playing a game, an activity that takes up your concentration and allows you to escape and give your attention completely to that task has proven to be beneficial.
Video games provide just that. Even the Department of Veteran Affairs now says that “Video games can help in overcoming such problems as PTSD and substance abuse disorders.”
This is something Bill Smith saw during his deployments and is now bringing to his VFW post.
Bill Smith is VFW post commander who served 32 years in the Army, most of it in the Special Forces.
He did two deployments to Afghanistan and one to Iraq. After getting out in 2015, he was involved with the VFW and was rapidly put in charge of Post 8541 when the post came under suspension 3.5 years ago. He went to a meeting to talk about the suspension and found himself nominated to take over. Immediately, he looked for ways to get things back on track. And boy, has he. Post 8541 has been the #1 post in Texas the last 2 years out of 298 in the state. That is based on membership, community services, legacy programs signups. For each new life member, you get points for that.
Right now, Bill’s priority is getting lots of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to sign up. It has been an issue that many posts struggle with or don’t even try to attempt.
Not only has Bill’s post been starting to get a younger crowd, but it has been a good smooth transition.
As Bill says, “The only way to change it is to get in there and change it.” So, he went and found ways to attract younger vets.
“I was connected with the Texas Guard… just selling. I would get out and tell them this is what we have going on, come out and try it out. “Bill continues, “We had a banquet hall and one of the first things we did, was open up the hall for military functions.” A great example was a Special Forces Party that was held at the hall. The VFW picked up a id=”listicle-2647079334″,000 bar tab for the party to help with the costs. The next day the post had 40 new signups. Bill also created a family room at the post. Now if you want to get to the VFW, but have the kids, you can still go. While these were great steps, Bill was still thinking ahead of the curve. Which brings us to the cybercafé and video games.
Where did Bill get the idea?
“When I was in Afghanistan, I was embedded with French Special Forces. When I went to Bagram, I went to JOC and was berthing with some guys in 7th Group. As I was sitting there, I kept hearing. ‘Who shot me? Who did this?’
Bill saw in their down time they were gaming a lot. It was their escape and they spent a lot of time decompressing through video games. He also saw ODA guys playing in their down time.
“My sons are 26 and 23 and they game a lot, so I saw gaming was big. My oldest son’s friend, Sam Elizondo owns LFG Cybercafe and they sponsored a team for a tournament. Bill decided to talk
And talking to Sam, they came up with the cybercafé idea.
Sam Elizondo, after talking to Bill, decided to help make this idea into a reality. Sam said, “I think what I love most is that we arrived at this leg of the journey out of Bill Smith’s relentless drive to help people. He wants to give these younger combat veterans a place to heal and a place to be. It’s been a privilege to use my skill set for that mission.”
Sam’s background and livelihood are in gaming. He also comes from a military family. As Bill and Sam started planning, they knew they had to get the support of the current VFW Post members on board. After all, it’s their club and building a video game center in their post was something that might not sit well with Vietnam veterans. But to Sam’s surprise, the older vets were really receptive to the plan. Once they started seeing the plan turn into a reality, they became even more excited.
The buildout of the café started in January and is almost done. However, there was one big obstacle that Bill, Sam, and workers had to deal with. Covid -19 shut down the post for a while but they pushed through on building it out. Unfortunately, with the current rules, Texas has their post shut down just when they were about to open the café. While veterans will have to wait just a big longer before they can take advantage, the work that Sam did is utterly amazing.
This is just the first step. Most games will be provided via Sam’s company. There will be about 70 games for the PC consoles which he will manage the system remotely Right now the plan is to have 12 PCs and 6 Xboxes. Also, Grande Communications is installing fiber optic cable so that the Post will have the best download speed.
Microsoft also made a generous contribution. They shut down their brick and mortar store and decided to donate thousand in hardware. The post has had admittedly older computers (some running on Windows XP) so now they will have fast computers and fast internet connection. Sam is also helping build out a new business center with these resources so vets young and old can have access to computers.
So, what next?
Sam hopes, “Veteran Esports Competitions and just a better connected family of VFW’s. There is so much value in building out infrastructure like what POST 8541 is doing that the sky truly is the limit. They have the ability and the network to do some incredible things. It just needs to be embraced.”
Once COVID is over, the café will be open for vets to come game. The hope is it will be a place for them to escape the world and find comfort in fellowship. Bill and Sam are hoping other VFWs will take notice and build their own centers. This will hopefully lead to gaming competitions between local and long-distance posts.
The VFW has been a backbone of veteran activity for decades. Thanks for forward thinkers like Sam and Bill, it is shaping up to continue to be that backbone.
The U.S. Defense Department has approved the Air Force’s new KC-46A Pegasus refueling tanker for initial production despite recent technical challenges that resulted in program delays.
The service late last week announced that Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, approved the Boeing Co.-made aircraft based on the 767 airliner for low-rate initial production, known in acquisition parlance as Milestone C.
“I commend the team for diligently working through some difficult technical challenges,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, said in a statement.
Earlier in the week, she suggested Kendall’s decision might not come until later in the month and that failure by Congress to approve a budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 would hurt the acquisition effort.
Under a continuing resolution, “KC-46 production would be capped at 12 aircraft,” not the 15 as proposed in the fiscal 2017 budget, and the result would be to “delay operational fielding of this platform,” James said.
Parts of the plane that required reworking included the boom used to refuel Air Force planes (hoses extend from the body and wings to refuel Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, as well as those from allies); the fuel system (which was overhauled after workers loaded a mislabeled chemical into it); and wiring and software.
Boeing has reportedly spent more than $1.2 billion on the repairs, including installing hydraulic pressure relief valves to alleviate “higher than expected axial loads in the boom” discovered in tests to refuel the C-17 Globemaster III, according to the Air Force statement.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said he was confident “the KC-46 is ready to take the next step.”
Meanwhile, Darlene Costello, an acquisition executive with the service, said, “I appreciate Boeing’s continued focus as they work to finish development prior to first aircraft delivery.”
Boeing plans to deliver the first 18 KC-46As to the service by January 2018, a date that was previously scheduled for August 2017.
The Air Force within the next month will award the Chicago-based aerospace giant two contracts with a combined value of $2.8 billion for 19 aircraft.
The service plans to spend $48 billion to develop and build 179 of the planes to replace its aging fleet of KC-135s, according to Pentagon budget documents. Boeing forecasts an $80 billion global market for the new tankers, the website Trading Alpha has reported.
The Air Force has selected as preferred bases for the aircraft Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, and Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire.
Anyone who’s followed the Army-Navy Game for the last few years knows that spirit videos have become an integral tradition in days leading up to the game. While one or two might get traction in the news media, the truth is that military members everywhere make spirit videos to support their service academy. And now there’s a go-to place to upload and watch them.
Some spirit videos are more famous than others, like Rylan Tuohey’s Pro-Navy “Helm Yeah” and “We Give A Ship” videos. Then-West Point Cadet Austin Lachance responded in time for 2017’s Army-Navy Game with the extremely well-produced spirit video masterpiece, “Lead From the Front.”
But they don’t have to be contenders for the GI Film Festival to be good. Now, thanks to DVIDS, they all have a forum.
Even if it’s just a group of First Lieutenants, Army alums all, deciding on who should get to watch the game with them or an entire Stryker Brigade Combat Team poking fun at “Helm Yeah” and getting sick of all the winning, spirit videos are now very much a part of the greater traditions surrounding the annual contest.
Army and Navy units stationed all over the world may not be able to make the big game, but they can still be a part of the fun, making and uploading videos to DVIDSHub, the military’s multimedia imagery database. It’s a collection of photos, video, and other multimedia gathered by members of the U.S. military, made available to the public on DVIDSHub.net. It’s a searchable collection of official and unofficial multimedia collected every day by military members everywhere.
Some are modeled to be commercials for the game. Others are just showing what they do every day and announcing their support to the guys who will take the field in Philadelphia on Saturday, Dec. 8. The 3rd Cavalry Sapper Troop, currently deployed to Iraq, just showcased a cardboard Navy ship sealed with Duct Tape, rigged to explode.
Of course, you can still find fantastic videos from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard on DVIDS. The site is a public affairs site, meant to make all the imagery captured by U.S. troops in the course of their duties available to the American taxpayer. If a military event is unclassified and was captured by a military journalist, chances are good you can find it on DVIDS.
But Army-Navy Game spirit videos are a good break from the continuous mission. Show your spirit appropriately and never blow up a Navy effigy without trained Army explosives experts or artillery fire mules on site.
All members of the Department of Defense, including troops, must undertake an annual training to test their knowledge of cyber awareness. A few years back, they changed the test up just slightly to make it far less of a bore and more like a crappy 90s text-based video game.
Everyone freaking hates this training and, if it weren’t mandated at the Pentagon level, no one would willingly subject themselves to it. That is, of course, with the exception of YouTube’s biggest star, PewDiePie.
He had only the trophies and Jeff to keep him company.
Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, known by most as “PewDiePie,” grew in popularity through his video-game related content — particularly his “Let’s Play” format, through which fans could watch him play games as he delivered hilarious commentary.
His videos have actually created success for many smaller, indie games, particularly in the horror genre. He’d showcase otherwise-ignored games, give them a glowing review or overreact to intense moments, and his rabid fans would immediately buy said game, propelling it into the spotlight. He has since become the biggest YouTuber, currently sitting at 65 million subscribers.
Recently, he finally took on the dreaded Cyber Awareness Challenge — with commentary provided throughout, of course. Being the avid gamer that he is, the ‘Challenge’ proved trivial, but he actually took it far more seriously than anyone in the military does.
Unlike the god-awful test of old, the modern training awards “trophies” for getting everything correct, so PewDiePie gave it his all.
That’s literally the exact same answer that everyone gives for that question. The dude stole a phone in the Pentagon… You better go grab that phone!
As he slogged through, he coincidentally ripped the exact same moments of the training that troops mock relentlessly. The training wastes no time in offering pieces of painfully obvious guidelines. For example, the very first tip the government puts out there in promotingcyber awareness is “don’t look at pornography at work.”
He also ran into many of the overly stupid characters that populate the training, like Tina, the coworker that constantly tries to get you to download stuff, and Jeff, the IT manager that tells you just how proud of our work he is in the most monotone fashion possible — but for some odd reason only has a box of tissues on his desk?
Pewds, who never served in the U.S. military, was ill-prepared for many of the minute details — like taking your CAC/PIV out of the computer whenever you walk away — but actually did very well. He did, however, fallfor some of the traps that seem to violate common sense.At one point in the training, your phone is stolen and you’re given the opportunity to chase down the thief, and so he did. But the correct answer is to”alert the security POC.”
BZ, PewDiePie. You managed to sit through the same crap all troops do without clawing out your eyes. BZ.
PewDiePie passed the DoD Cyber Awareness Challenge with flying colors and was given the Certificate of Completion that every member of the Department of Defense needs to turn in.
He says he’ll print it, which is exactly what you’re supposed to do. Instead of turning it in to his S-6 to reinstate his government computer permissions, I’m sure he’ll hang it on his wall or something.
To watch the same training that sucks the soul out of the military (complete with hilarious commentary), check out the video below.