South Korea announced April 23, 2018, it has halted its propaganda broadcasts, which it blasts from speakers along the Korean border, in preparation of a highly-anticipated summit between President Moon Jae In and Kim Jong Un.
South Korea’s defense ministry announced in a statement it would pause its radio program in order to “reduce military tensions between the South and North and create the mood of peaceful talks.”
“We hope this decision will lead both Koreas to stop mutual criticism and propaganda against each other and also contribute in creating peace and a new beginning,” the defense ministry said.
South Korea’s pausing of the program would be the first time it has done so in two years.
South Korea’s propaganda program has used giant loudspeakers periodically since the Korean War but has become more subtle in recent years, according to the BBC. The system is used as a type of psychological warfare against North Korea, and broadcasts news, criticism of the Kim regime, and even K-Pop music across the border in hopes of spreading information and spurring North Koreans to defect.
North Korea also has its own loudspeaker system along the border, although defense officials told Reuters they could not verify whether North Korea had ended their broadcasts though their volume was softened ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The high-level inter-Korean summit is set to take place in the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018.
The Korean leaders have held talks only twice since the end of the Korean War which has led to decades of tension between the two nations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the 1994 classic Forrest Gump, the eponymous character begins his life story by talking about how his mama always said you can tell an awful lot about a person by their shoes. That’s very much true — if they’re not all wearing the same combat boots.
So, what personal belonging can you use to judge someone when everyone’s issued the same gear? That’s right: a troop’s vehicle.
Take, for example, a Toyota Prius driver. Chances are they’re a fresh, butterbar Lieutenant who graduated from some West Coast university before going to Officer Candidate School. They’re also probably the type of officer who doesn’t see anything wrong with telling the gritty, chain-smoking first sergeant that he technically outranks him. Then they’ll wonder what that blur they saw was just before getting choked out…
9. POS clunker
Troops can joke about not giving a single f*ck, but when this troop says it, you know they absolutely mean it.
If they’re not a broke E-1 who just needed a way to get around post, then their life and career are likely in the same condition.
8. Reasonable (and bland) car
This person probably has their life together. They got the car at a reasonable rate and they’re probably a pretty nice person who will help the new guy in the unit get squared away. And then — poof — they’re ETSing to go to college on the GI Bill.
These inoffensive, average troops will likely never be brought up in anyone’s “no sh*t, there I was” story.
7. Lifted pick-up truck
There’s no way this person is able to see through their rear-view mirror. They’ve either got a truck bed full of crap they’re helping other people move around, they can’t see through their many gun racks, or they’ve printed out their enlisted record brief and have plastered every medal they’ve ever been awarded on there.
6. The ironic white Toyota Hilux
This guy thinks he’s a joker. The white Toyota Hilux is the vehicle of choice of many of the terrorists he fought. This guy thinks it’s freaking hilarious to drive one around as a trophy vehicle (but they probably just picked it up off Craigslist).
They’ll probably tell the squad an unfunny joke in the middle of formation, look around when no one laughs, and then say it again before being told to shut the f*ck up.
5. Brand-new Mustang or Corvette
These guys fall into one of two categories. Maybe they actually do understand cars and take pride in their baby. Maybe they saved up money to find the perfect muscle car at a decent rate. Maybe they’re not a complete showoff. Nine times out of ten, the three previous statements are false.
The one guy who regularly maintains his Corvette in the barracks parking lot absolutely hates the other nine because they give him a bad name.
4. Mysterious Nissan Skyline GT-R R34
Don’t ask questions of this guy. You don’t know where or how they got the vehicle and you’re afraid to hear the answer.
This guy actually does know cars, which could be useful on motor pool days — if they weren’t at their fourth dental appointment this month.
3. Minivan with military spouse stickers
“F*ck my life” is the mantra of this troop. You’ll find these senior NCOs in the training room talking about their glory days. They used to be somebody. Once they were loved by their troops and feared by their enemies. This man was a goddamn war hero…
…And now his life is babysitting troops. He tells his men Tide Pods aren’t edible before going home and watching the same episode of Paw Patrol for the 500th time with his three kids.
2. The Harley Cruiser
Remember the first sergeant that choked out the butterbar in the earlier Prius example? This is that guy.
It’s nothing personal — this dude truly does hate everyone. He’s definitely going to remind people that it takes an act of Congress to demote him before he takes his KA-BAR to the Hilux Joker’s tires.
1. High-end luxury vehicle
This person hasn’t spent a day of their adult life outside of the military but they will scare people right into the retention office like they’re on commission.
They’re probably married and their civilian spouse is almost guaranteed to raise hell at the main gate if they’re not saluted.
“Do you know who the hell my husband is?” — “Do you know the hell I am, ma’am?” (Photo by Valerie OBerry)
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles believed to have been fired by Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen Oct. 9. Both missiles missed the 9,200-ton vessel and landed harmlessly in the waters of the Red Sea.
The latest near miss comes eight days after HSV-2 Swift was attacked and hit by at least two RPGs. The U.S. Navy reported that the Mason used “onboard defensive measures” as soon as the first missile was launched.
The Arleigh Burke Class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado/Released)
While the Mason carries a variety of weapons to address incoming aircraft and missiles — including the RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missile, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), the Mk 45 Mod 4 5-inch gun, and the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), which take out the incoming aerial threats physically, or achieving a “hard kill” — the Navy says the ship used so-called “soft kill” systems to avoid a hit.
Soft kill systems work by fooling the inbound threat and getting it to hit where the targeted vessel isn’t.
The Mason has two such spoofing systems on board, the AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite, and the Mk 36 Super RBOC chaff system. The AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite is on virtually every Navy surface ship. The system works by jamming radar seekers of anti-ship missiles, causing them to either pursue phantom targets or by reducing the effective range of the seeker, enabling the ship to evade the missile.
The Mk 36 Super RBOC system usually works with the AN/SLQ-32, and works by firing rockets that dispense chaff (essentially aluminum foil), creating false targets to confuse the seeker of an incoming missile. These “foil packets,” to use Chappy Sinclair’s term from the original Iron Eagle, were first used in World War II to confuse German radar.
Chaff was heavily used by the Royal Navy during the Falklands War. In one incident, a British frigate successfully decoyed a missile using chaff, but the missile then locked on to the Atlantic Conveyor, sinking the merchant vessel, which was carrying helicopters to reinforce the British forces trying to re-take the Falklands from Argentina.
The Mason was one of three vessels sent to assist HSV-2 Swift after the 1 October attack that damaged the vessel and started fires. Houthi rebels, surrogates for the Iranian regime, claimed to have sunk the vessel. Iran has been known to export anti-ship missiles like the Noor (a knock-off of the C-802 anti-ship missile). One exported missile damaged the Israeli corvette Hanit during the 2006 Lebanon War.
Yemen has been a risky place for U.S. vessels in the past. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Cole was damaged while refueling in Aden in October 2000. Despite having a 40×60-foot hole punched in her hull, the Cole returned to active service.
The US Commander of Naval Forces in Europe has warned CNN in an interview that Russian submarine activity has reached levels not seen since the Cold War.
Speaking of the spread of submarines, their aggression, buildup, and capabilities, Admiral Mark Ferguson warned that the situation could pose serious problems for NATO in the coming years.
“The submarines that we’re seeing are much more stealthy,” Ferguson told CNN. “We’re seeing (the Russians) have more advanced weapons systems, missile systems that can attack land at long ranges, and we also see their operating proficiency is getting better as they range farther from home waters.”
Ferguson’s concerns echo those raised by NATO Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone, who told IHS Jane’s 360 in February that Russian increase has once again made the North Atlantic a primary area “of concern” to the military alliance.
Additionally, the admiral warned that such levels of Russian activity are nearly unprecedented.
There is now more reported “activity from Russian submarines than we’ve seen since the days of the Cold War,” Johnstone told Jane’s.
And it is not just the number of Russian submarines in a previously uncontested area that has NATO concerned. Although Russia’s navy suffered strongly after the fall of the USSR, Moscow’s submarine forces continued to stay effective.
Playing to its strengths, the Kremlin has successfully continued to focus on its submarine forces through both an effort to modernize and professionalize that segment of the Navy.
US Navy Rear Adm. Dave Johnson said, during a 2014 symposium at the Naval Submarine League, that he was so impressed by the new Russian nuclear guided missile submarine Severodvinsk that he had a model of the submarine built from unclassified data.
“The rest of the world’s undersea capability never stands still,” Johnson said.
Johnstone echoed these comments from Johnson to Jane’s. Russia, in his view, has made “technology leaps that [are] remarkable, and credit to them.”
And retired Admiral James Stavridis, a former NATO supreme allied commander, told CNN that “Russian subs pose an existential threat to U.S. carrier groups,” as the US can no longer maintain “100% awareness of Russian sub activity.”
This sudden Russian expansion is additionally deeply troubling to NATO due to a lack of knowledge about what Moscow’s potential plans may be. This, coupled with Russia’s perceived willingness to interfere in Ukraine and other neighboring states, has unnerved NATO members.
“Just outside NATO’s territory we face major challenges that could have direct consequences for Norwegian and allied security,” Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide writes. Norway has increased military spending by 9.4% for 2016.
The US has also slated an increase in funds for submarines. Over the next five years, the Pentagon is hoping to have $13 billion for submarine research, development, and procurement.
Work hard; play hard, right? Military personnel like to enjoy their vacations and travel as much as civilians. Although there are typically on-base hotels in each state that provide adequate accommodations, it’s always nice to have a little extra special attention paid to you and yours while on vacation.
Morale and Welfare hotels are nothing new, but there are some out there that are simply better than the others, and could add the cherry on top to your next getaway or family vacation.
Check out these spots:
The front of The New Sanno in Tokyo, Japan.
1. The New Sanno — Tokyo, Japan
The New Sanno, a U.S. Navy Joint Services establishment, is situated in downtown Tokyo, Japan. Not only does it provide luxury in its 149 rooms, but it also boasts three restaurants, a Starbucks, bar, and an AFEES, which accepts both the U.S. dollar and the yen. It’s almost hard to believe these types of accommodations even exist within a morale and welfare hotel and, frankly, they put Air Force facilities to shame — and that’s saying a lot.
You’ll feel like you’re at home away from home when first arriving in the grand lobby. Attendants at the activity counter are eager to help you find the best deals around the city and offer information about transportation and sightseeing. Plus, it’s a short ten-minute walk away from the subway, which takes you anywhere in the city.
Reservations fill up fast at this establishment, so it’s best to plan a good sixth months in advance.
Above is the ocean front view of the Hale Koa.
2. The Hale Koa — Hawaii, USA
Hawaii is on everyone’s bucket list, but the prices scare most people away. Now, you’ve got the option of staying on an actual military base if you want to visit — Schofield Barracks is one such base — but do they offer an ocean view? The Hale Koa is a gem of a secret that may not be free, but offers an oceanfront view and a luau every week, among other amenities.
The prices climb alongside rank, so an E-6 and below can expect to pay an average of 7.00 a night. It might sound steep, but the average rate for a hotel (one not even near the beach) is almost double that price.
The quaintness of The Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmens’ Club beckons to visitors in the Big Apple.
3. The Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmen’s Club — New York, USA
Visiting the Big Apple might seem daunting, especially if you’re trying to do so on a budget. The Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmens’ Club is actually a 501c non-profit that has a history dating back to 1919. The owners wanted to provide a “Home Away From Home” for all United States Armed Forces servicemen and servicewomen of all ranks and their families; active duty, reserve, National Guard, military retirees, and honorably discharged veterans, as well as members of the armed forces of our allies.
There’s also a canteen located in the hotel, and although meals are not served by the staff, the kitchen facilities are open to any guests who want to cook their own meals. It’s centrally located and close to numerous pubs, restaurants, dry cleaners, and all of the major tourists spots New York has to offer.
Hidden away in the heart of San Francisco, The Marines’ Memorial Club offers a plethora of amenities.
4. Marines’ Memorial Club — San Francisco, USA
Lastly, we couldn’t forget about San Francisco, another go-to tourist city in this great country of ours. The Marines’ Memorial Club is located in Union Square and is also a 501c non-profit that aims to commemorate the men and women who have fallen in defending our country.
What’s special about The Marines’ Memorial Club is not only the pet-friendly environment, but also their resident pet bulldogs that reside on the grounds. More highlights include a rooftop bar with a daily happy hour and a complimentary breakfast served every morning. There’s simply everything you could ask for and more at The Marines’ Memorial Club. Rooms are a little more expensive if you’re not a member, but you can become one by filling out their online submission form.
A few years ago a team of journalists from Syracuse University traveled to rural Washington state to tell the stories of hundreds of veterans living there, some off-the-grid, away from the country for which they fought.
The project includes the story of Chad Olsen, a Marine who killed his wife and himself in 2009, and the stories of those who knew him. It features the stories of Ryn Rollins and Adam Howerton, who (at the time) were 18 and enlisting in the Army. The project also shows how one Marine veteran who struggles with post-traumatic stress and returning to everyday life after three tours in Iraq.
The project also follows “trip-wire veterans,” a small group of vets who escaped their lives into the wilds of American back country because they were unable to face their war memories and were provided little help when they returned. The term “trip-wire” comes from the Vietnam War, where the Viet Cong would booby trap trails used by U.S. servicemen to injure and maim troops outside their bases.
The term was first coined in the early 1980’s, when around 85 people were documented living in the Washington wilds. It was not known then how many were out there. One former trip-wire vet was Mike McWatters. He lived in New York’s Adirondack Mountains for two years after seeing heavy combat in Vietnam. In 1983, he started work to reach out to these veterans to encourage them to seek treatment.
“I know one vet who went into the woods naked,” McWatters said. “He came out in full leather clothing, having gained 40 pounds, carrying weapons he’d made.”
When these veterans were first discovered, the media often inaccurately portrayed them as criminals and drunks or worse. In June, 1988, Dan Rather and CBS News interviewed six “Vietnam veterans” who admitted to killing civilians or seeing friends killed in action, and had since become homeless, suicidal drug users after the war. Later investigations showed none of it was true.
The reality is not so black and white. The project hit important topics beyond PTSD – women, race (specifically Native Americans) and the wives and children veterans leave behind, all from the rural town of Republic, Washington.
This team did more than just tell tales of the people living there. They provided thoroughly researched background information on veteran suicide, the steps to getting a VA disability claim, and an infographic on U.S. wars from 1900 (current as of 2010) and those who fought them.
When a civil war between Chinese powers ended with victory for the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1949, the Republic of China’s government retreated to a region of the nation that had only recently been returned from Japanese control, known as Taiwan. They quickly established a provisional capital in Taipei, and so began a half-century long staring contest from across the Pacific Ocean’s Taiwan Strait. Today, tensions remain high between these two Chinese governments, prompting complex foreign relations and sporadic military posturing between each government and their respective allies.
On Tuesday, Taiwan conducted an unusual series of military exercises aimed at preparing the nation to defend itself against a Chinese attack even after its military installations had been rendered useless by wave after wave of Chinese air strikes and naval bombardments. Taiwan knows China could feasibly neuter their military response capabilities fairly quickly, and in order to stay in the fight, they’d need to get creative with how they field their intercept and attack aircraft. When you’re fresh out of airstrips but still have fighters to scramble, what do you do?
You close down the freeways.
Freeway or Runway? It all depends on the circumstances.
(Photo courtesy of Taiwan’s Freeway Bureau)
“Our national security has faced multiple challenges,” Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen told the press on Tuesday. “Whether it is the Chinese Communist Party’s [People’s Liberation Army] long-distance training or its fighter jets circling Taiwan, it has posed a certain degree of threat to regional peace and stability. We should maintain a high degree of vigilance.”
As a part of the drills, Taiwan launched four different types of military aircraft from portions of highway that were shut down for use as makeshift airstrips. Long stretches of blacktop normally reserved for slow-moving commuters fighting their way through workday traffic instead became packed with American sourced F-16 Fighting Falcons and Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye surveillance aircraft, along with French Mirage 2000s and Taiwan-made IDF fighters. Each aircraft took off carrying a full combat load.
The drills not only demonstrated Taiwan’s ability to scramble fighters and support aircraft from the freeway, it also proved conclusively that Taiwan’s troops can conduct refueling and ammunition replenishment operations right there on the highway, redeploying jets back into the fight quickly even after their air bases have been destroyed.
Taiwan fighters land on highway for Chinese ‘invasion’ wargames
“There are only a few military air bases which would become the prime targets in the event of an attack. The highway drill is necessary as highway strips would be our priority choice if the runways were damaged during a war,” Air Force Colonel Shu Kuo-mao explained.
Over 1,600 military personnel took part in the drills, along with Taiwan’s new variant of the F-16 that has been called the “most advanced fourth-generation fighter on the planet” by its builder, Lockheed Martin. The F-16V offers advanced AESA Radar sourced through Northrop Grumman, as well as a variety of updates and upgrades to avionics and combat systems meant to make it a formidable opponent for just about anything in the sky that isn’t Lockheed Martin’s flagship fighter, the F-35, or its sister in stealth, the F-22.
The F-16V is touted as the world’s most advanced fourth generation fighter by Lockheed Martin
(Promotional image courtesy of Lockheed Martin)
The F-16s that took part in Tuesday’s drills notably flew carrying two Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles, and two AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles, sourced from the United States, meaning their primary role in a fight would be to engage with encroaching aircraft and vessels, rather than air-to-surface strikes against the Chinese mainland.
With only about a hundred miles separating Taiwan’s shores from China’s, it stands to reason that combat operations would begin with a heavy bombardment of Taiwan’s few operational airstrips. These drills, however, suggest that even such an offensive may not be enough to stop Taiwan from responding with some of the best fighters on the planet.
After losing Frank Levingston, who died at the age of 110 last week, the veteran community now has another supercentenarian: World War II vet Richard Overton now assumes the title of oldest living American military veteran, just in time for his own 110th birthday.
Overton was born in Bastrop County on May 11th, 1906. He lives in Austin, Texas. According to his wikipedia page, he enlisted in the Army at 36 years old on September 3, 1942. He was a corporal in an all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion in the South Pacific and made stops in Hawaii, Guam, Palau and Iwo Jima.
Overton retired from the Arm
y as Sergeant in 1945 and moved to East Austin, Texas. He worked at local furniture stores and then took a position with the Texas Department of the Treasury. He has lived in the same home – which he bought for $4,000 – for 71 years. He was married twice, and did not have children. He outlived all of his 10 siblings – and wives.
A documentary, Mr. Overton, has been produced on his life and profiles his daily routine, thoughts on longevity, and military service. According to the film’s Facebook page, it will be available at the Short Film Corner Cannes Court Metrage for the duration of the Cannes Film Festival, which starts today.
The candid combat vet has been interviewed numerous times. Here’s what he had to say on a variety of subjects:
“War’s nothing to be into,” said Overton in a 2013 interview with USA Today. “You don’t want to go into the war if you don’t have to. But I had to go. I enjoyed it after I’d went and came back, but I didn’t enjoy it when I was over there. I had to do things I didn’t want to do.”
“They tried to kill me in the Army, but God wouldn’t let ’em. I stayed for nearly five years and I didn’t get a scratch on me.”
“You put a taste of whiskey in your coffee in the morning, and it’s like medicine,” he advised Cigar Aficianado in 2015. He later told local paper My Statesman that he also uses it to sleep: “at night when I go to bed, I put two tablespoons in my 7 Up. It makes you sleep soundly.”
“You don’t ever leave a bullet under the trigger. Leave it empty. You got to clean your gun every day. You got to keep that barrel clean, because you got to use it every day.” (Watch his interview with Guns.com here)
He had his first cigar at 18, and has been a regular ever since. Cigar Aficianado observed “he prefers them mild and on the smaller side—he doesn’t enjoy the fat cigar trend, doesn’t like a cigar that’s too big to hold comfortably in your mouth.”
“I don’t inhale them,” Overton said. “It’s the good taste. Cigars are my friend,” he added. “They keep me company.”
“You’ve got to stir around a lot—your muscles get dry, your blood gets slow,” he told Cigar Aficianado last year. “You need to get up and move around. If your muscles get sluggish, it slows your blood down.”
Meeting President Obama in 2013:
“When I come back, everybody wants to know what he said. But I ain’t said one word. I ain’t no tattletale and I don’t talk tales.” he told My Statesman.
“And everywhere I go now, somebody know me,” he says. “Every time I go to a store, somebody say, ‘I seen you on TV.’ I say, ‘No, you didn’t.’ ‘Yes I did, too,’ they say.”
“I feel good,” Richard Overton told NBC News. “A little old, but I’m getting around like everybody else.”
Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy got a shocking view of the future of warfare in 1944 when, as they were moving supplies from ships to the shore, a jet-powered, Nazi bomber ripped past at approximately 460 mph.
The Arado Ar 234 was the first operational jet bomber and flew at up to 540 miles per hour, so quick that no Allied fighter could match it without going into a dive.
For the air crews assigned to protect the American forces landing supplies in Normandy in August 1944, attacking the Arado was essentially impossible. Loaded with reconnaissance gear, it flew over the beaches at 460 mph while taking a photo every 11 seconds.
At that speed, it could fly over all five original D-Day beaches in less than eight minutes. By the time that fighter aircraft made it into the air to hunt the Arado down, it would already be long gone.
That didn’t quite make the Arado invincible, though. Like the slightly slower British de Havilland Mosquito, a prop-driven British bomber and reconnaissance aircraft that go its speed from its light weight, the Ar 234 was left vulnerable when it was forced to maneuver or slow down for bombing runs.
The P-51 is one of the only aircraft to shoot down an Arado Ar 234 in flight. It did so thanks to a group of P-47 Thunderbolts that forced the jet-powered bomber into a speed-bleeding turn. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Philip Bryant)
One of the only Ar 234s ever shot down was caught because it was forced into a sharp turn while coming out of a bombing run.
A group of German jets were bombing Allied bridges on the Rhine when a group of American P-47s came at them. The German jets took a tight turn to avoid the P-47s, losing so much speed that they were left vulnerable. American Capt. Don Bryan was in a P-51 nearby and was able to position himself so that the turning German planes had to fly just underneath him.
Adolf Hitler considered the Ar 234 one of his wonder weapons that would save Germany, but it suffered from a number of shortcomings. First, the fragile engines needed an overhaul after every ten hours of flight and were replaced after 25. The jet also needed long runways and large amounts of fuel, two things that were hard for a Luftwaffe on the retreat to provide with regularity.
In the end, the jets were sent on just a few operational missions. The Normandy reconnaissance was the first, and they also did duty over the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge and in the final defense of Germany, flying first against the bridges over the Rhine and later against Soviet troop concentrations.
“Every Thanksgiving our culinary specialists take on the huge task of feeding our Sailors, and every year they succeed,” said NAVSUP Director of Navy Food Service Cmdr. Scott Wilson. “Being away from family and friends during this time of year isn’t easy, but that motivates our Culinary Specialists to provide a quality meal to our Sailors. The joy we see on Sailors’ faces makes all of the effort worth it.”
Thanksgiving Day will be observed as a federal holiday for most Department of the Navy personnel Thursday, Nov. 23.
NAVSUP’s mission is to provide supplies, services, and quality-of-life support to the Navy and joint warfighter. With headquarters in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and employing a diverse, worldwide workforce of more than 22,500 military and civilian personnel, NAVSUP oversees logistics programs in the areas of supply operations, conventional ordnance, contracting, resale, fuel, transportation, and security assistance. In addition, NAVSUP is responsible for food service, postal services, Navy Exchanges, and movement of household goods.
Stephen Funk grew up with a lot of speaking problems. For a long time, he was actually mute. He would be able to speak again one day, however, in a voice that would stand out because it belonged to a United States Marine.
Funk enlisted in the Marines at age 19, right after high school and the attacks of 9-11, to go to Afghanistan. His father served, so did his grandfather. In boot camp, he qualified as an expert rifleman, but something about it bothered him. When his instructor told him he wouldn’t shoot as well in combat, Funk told the instructor he was right, because he thought killing was wrong.
“Throughout the training, all the conditioning is trying to make you think its okay to kill and go to war,” Funk says. “But the whole time it felt wrong to me. At the end of it, I ended up not wanting to go anywhere to fight at all. I didn’t want to be a part of it.” Funk would soon gain international notoriety for becoming the first U.S. troop to refuse to fight in the Iraq War.
“I didn’t really expect it to be a big deal,” he recalls. “I could have easily gotten out under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I am gay and they could have discharged me without the hassle. But I had this moral awakening about my service. I didn’t feel that it was right to get out under DADT, which I didn’t believe in either.”
He applied for conscientious objector status. There were many other conscientious objectors Funk knew of, but none served time in jail. Funk was sentenced to six months confinement (he served five), a demotion to E-1, forfeiture of pay, a fine, and a bad conduct discharge. The crime: Unauthorized Absence.
“Unauthorized Absence is really common,” Funk explains. “Anytime you’re not where you’re supposed to be, that’s unauthorized absence. As a reservist, if you miss a weekend, that’s unauthorized absence, but they’re not going to put you in the brig for that. They might make you come in on an off-weekend to make up for it, but they’re not gonna send you to jail.”
Funk felt the level of punishment didn’t fit the crime. He felt the Corps was making an example of him. The 27 other conscientious objectors with Funk who applied (16 were granted CO status). The Marines’ stance was the other objectors avoided prosecution because they reported for duty on time.
More than a decade later, Funk remembers being surprised about the public response to his story.
“I figured it would be a more local story in the U.S.,” Funk says. “I remember thinking how weird it felt on both sides. I was mischaracterized by both sides. I was vilified by people on one side, which I thought was unfair. By other side I was lionized, and all of a sudden I had to represent all the antiwar veterans and that didn’t seem right either. I felt it was covered a lot more fairly in international media, especially in the UK and Japan. But the coverage led to me being punished more than I might have been. If I had left under DADT there would have been no repercussions, but I felt the punishment was harsher since I had a more public stance.”
People still remember Stephen Funk. Every once in a while, someone looks him up and reaches out. After 13 years, many wonder if he would do it all over again.
“If placed in the same position, I probably wouldn’t join in the first place,” Funk says. “But I had a lot of great experiences afterward and I did get to meet a lot of veterans with all sorts of different backgrounds who I never would have had the chance to meet.”
Funk just graduated from Stanford with a degree in International Relations. He spent much of his school years founding and working with Veteran Artists, helping veterans through creative arts.
“I don’t want to distance myself from everything veteran related,” he says. “because this was still a big part of my life. So I helped veterans express themselves through art, no matter what their views were.”
It was 1945, and the world was at war. Charles Hessemer was just 17 years old when he took a drive to Detroit, Michigan with a friend to enlist in the United States Navy. Hessemer’s older brother had already joined and was in Europe fighting. Hessemer gave a wry grin when he admitted that there may have been some fibbing in regard to his age. But he felt called to go. Hessemer had watched so many men that he knew die during that war. He wanted his chance to fight for his country — and those who lost their lives.
Hessemer could never have imagined that joining the Navy would change the course of his entire life. “You are born to do a particular thing and you will do it whether you want to, I firmly believe this. We are guided in what we do,” he shared.
Hessemer dreamed of getting stationed on an aircraft carrier. Everyone he went to boot camp with was being sent to San Diego, which meant action. He had visions of being on a dive bomber and sailing the high seas. As he watched his friends leaving, he was told to go down to the personnel office. Upon arrival, he was told that he had passed a second, more abstract test that all recruits were given. The test didn’t have any wrong answers, but his responses were deeply creative due to his way of thinking. It was those answers that would earmark him for “special” duty, something only five other graduating recruits were chosen for.
But the officer couldn’t tell him what it would be.
Hessemer decided to take it, feeling the pull towards something unique. Although he thought he would ship out soon after accepting the special assignment, he would end up waiting another five weeks. He found out later it was due to his last name – of German descent – which caused in-depth investigations.
For many years, Adolf Hitler’s number two man was Rudolf Hess. Hess would go on to edit Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, and become deputy leader of the Nazi party. Due to the closeness of Hessemer’s last name, the Navy wasn’t taking any chances.
The investigations would span all the way back to his time in grade school, but would finally come back with an approval. The six men selected for the special assignment were then put on a train and took a three day trip to Washington, D.C., still unaware of what they would be doing.
Hessemer and the others arrived in D.C. and reported to the temporary building the Navy was using as the brand-new Navy Department was being built. He shared the story of continually running into a heavily braided admiral in the hallways of that building. The second time Hessemer almost knocked him over, he remembers the admiral saying: “Young man, you and I seem to be having a problem.”
That man was Fleet Admiral Charles W. Nimitz, the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. From the moment he assumed command after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he brought the fight to the enemy and would eventually sign the Instrument of Surrender from Japan. As Hessemer walked away from him, his head was spinning.
Eventually the new building was ready. Hessemer remembers how heavily secured it was, as he had to show his identification three times before he made it into the office where he was assigned to work. The six men were brought to a room and told to pick a desk. He remembers looking around and seeing one by the window, so he chose that one. As he searched the drawers, he found the book that would change his life, “How to Draw the Figure.” Hessemer finally found out what his special assignment was at that desk. He was a secret code breaker.
Hessemer spent three years as a part of the communications annex, breaking codes, and he was sworn to secrecy for life. During this time, he read that book he found front to back and enrolled in art night classes. “That book was just waiting for me. I know it,” said Hessemer.
He began to win awards for his paintings. Hessemer eventually left D.C. after two years to work onboard the famous aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Randolph, anchored in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
He left the Navy in 1948 with an honorable discharge and was accepted into the American Academy of Art in Chicago in 1950. Although passionate about painting, he felt like something was missing. By accident, he tried painting figures with a palette knife – something no one at the time was doing. From the moment he began, he knew he found what he was meant to do for the rest of his life. His favorite thing to say is that, “An artist’s life is a climb up an endless stairway which he must never stop climbing.”
Hessemer would go on to work as an art director for several successful art ad agencies while painting at night and on the weekends. He spent 10 years truly perfecting his palette knife work before he knew in his heart it was beyond good. It was breathtaking.
“Everything has its reason, it just comes to you and you say that’s it – and you do it,” he said. He believes every mistake you make is only a serious mistake if it makes you quit. When Hessemer was asked what he would tell today’s veterans as they leave the service, he implored them to find their passionate purpose and give it everything they have.
These days, Hessemer is retired from ad agency work and spends his days and nights painting alongside his furry rescue dog, Charlie. Hessemer is 92 years old and still living his purpose, every day.
Visit his website to see his incredible palette knife paintings.