With a deafening roar that rattled windows, SpaceX — the rocket company founded by Elon Musk — fired up its new Mars rocket-ship prototype for the first time April 3, 2019.
The roughly 60-foot-tall stainless-steel rocket ship, called the “Starhopper” (previously the “Test Hopper”), is a basic prototype of a much larger vehicle called Starship. When completed, perhaps in the early 2020s, the two-stage launcher may stand perhaps 400 feet tall and be capable of landing its nearly 200-foot-tall spaceship on Mars.
The Starhopper prototype gave a full-throated yet brief one-second roar of its sole Raptor engine at 7:57 p.m. CDT on April 3, 2019, based on Business Insider’s eyewitness account.
“Starhopper completed tethered hop. All systems green,” Musk tweeted shortly after the brief firing here on Brazos Island. SpaceX had planned to test the rocket ship earlier this month but had issues with ice-crystal formation in the engine.
A camera on South Padre Island, which is located about 5 1/2 miles from SpaceX’s launch site, recorded the first fiery “hop” test through the haze:
FIRST STARSHIP RAPTOR STATIC FIRE TEST AT SPACEX BOCA CHICA TEXAS
The sound here on Brazos Island was deafening — so loud that part of a resident’s window blinds was knocked off its frame.
“I was cooking collard greens and my house started rattling. It was like a couple of jet airplanes taking off in your living room,” said Maria Pointer, a retired deck officer who lives with her husband, Ray, about 1.8 miles from SpaceX’s new launchpad.
She said previous tests by SpaceX were loud — comparable to the noise of a jet engine — but “this was magnified to about 10 jet-engine roars,” she said.
First Raptor Static Fire test on StarHopper – April 3, 2019
“It reminds you of when the Blue Angels fly over real low,” she added. “That’s the sound. It rattled everything. This was the full Raptor with all the juice going to it. This was the real thing.”
The lone road to SpaceX
SpaceX has been coordinating with Cameron County law enforcement to close access to Highway 4 — the only road into and out of the remote beach community, which about two dozen people share with SpaceX.
During SpaceX’s tests and road closings, renters and longtime residents are permitted to pass through a soft checkpoint about 15 miles east of Boca Chica Village. For safety reasons — the Starhopper is an experimental vehicle that might explode — no one is allowed to pass through a hard checkpoint about 1 1/2 miles west of the launchpad.
Boca Chica Beach, a popular spot with locals from Brownsville and other areas, is also closed during testing operations. Each day of testing has lasted about eight hours.
SpaceX workers taking Starhopper to a launchpad near Boca Chica Beach, Texas, on March 8, 2019.
On April 3, 2019, multiple residents said the road closings had proved increasingly vexing, given their frequency, extended hours, and tightening security meant to ward off gawkers.
When Cameron County, the state, and other authorities gave SpaceX permission to use the site in 2014, the company agreed to close the road about once a month. Ray Pointer said the road had closings more or less every day for the past week.
Despite the tightened security and compounding inconvenience, Maria Pointer said it was fun to hear and see a bit of history taking place.
“This is the good part about it all,” she said. “It’s exciting.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Army Spc. Gabriel D. Conde’s short life spanned the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, from the euphoria over the fleeting early successes to the current doubts about the new strategy to break what U.S. commanders routinely call a “stalemate.”
When Conde was six years old, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the Taliban had been defeated and the Afghan people were now free “to create a better future.”
He was seven years old when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “We’re at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities.”
When Conde was 12, then-President George W. Bush was at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to declare that “the Taliban is gone from power and it’s not coming back.”
In 2009, when Conde was 13, then-President Barack Obama said he would “make the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.”
He sent 30,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan, with a timeline for their withdrawal.
Obama wanted the withdrawal to be complete by the time he left office, but he left behind about 8,500 U.S. troops to deal with a resurgent Taliban and a new enemy — an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria called Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or IS-K.
August 2017, when Conde was 21, President Donald Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan that discarded “nation building” in favor of a plan to drive the Taliban into peace talks and a negotiated settlement.
Trump acknowledged that his initial impulse was to pull U.S. troops out completely, but he agreed to boost troop levels from 8,500 to about 14,000.
The presence of U.S. troops would now be conditions-based and not subject to artificial timelines. “We’re going to finish what we have to finish. What nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it,” Trump said.
Late April, 2018, the Taliban announced the start of its 16th annual spring offensive.
On May 1, 2018, when Conde was 22, he was killed by small-arms fire in the Tagab District of Kapisa province northeast of Kabul. A second U.S. soldier was wounded.
Conde, of Loveland, Colorado, served with the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), of 25th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. His unit was expected to return to Alaska at the end of May 2018.
Also on May 1, 2018, the Trump administration took official note of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan by granting political asylum to former Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, the first female fixed-wing pilot in the Afghan Air Force, who had been training in the U.S.
Through her lawyer, she had successfully argued to immigration authorities that the chaos in Afghanistan, and death threats against her and her family, made it impossible for her to return.
On the same day that Rahmani won asylum and Conde was killed, the latest in a wave of suicide bombings and terror attacks devastated the Shash Darak district of central Kabul in what Afghans call the “Green Zone.”
Two suicide bombers had slipped past the estimated 14 checkpoints surrounding the district, Afghanistan’s TOLOnews reported.
The first set off a blast and the second, reportedly disguised as a cameraman, joined a pack of reporters and photographers rushing to the scene and triggered a second explosion.
At least 30 people, including nine journalists, were killed. A 10th journalist was killed on the same day in an incident in Khost province. (Short biographies of the 10 journalists can be seen here.)
Mattis put on spot over attacks
In response to May 1, 2018’s events, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, echoed what other commanders and Pentagon officials have said so many times before during America’s longest war.
They mourned the loss of a valorous soldier and the victims of the bombings. They said the strategy of increased airpower and the buildup of Afghan special forces is showing progress. They pledged to stay the course.
At a session with Pentagon reporters May 1, 2018, Mattis said the Taliban are “on their back foot.”
The recent terror attacks show that they are desperate, he said.
“We anticipated they would do their best” to disrupt upcoming elections with a wave of bombings aimed at discouraging the Afghan people from voting, Mattis said.
“The Taliban realize the danger of the people being allowed to vote,” he added. “Their goal is to destabilize the elected government. This is the normal stuff by people who can’t win at the ballot box. They turn to bombs.”
At a welcoming ceremony on May 2, 2018, for the visiting Macedonian defense minister, Mattis was challenged on how he could point to progress amid the wave of bombings and a recent series of watchdog reports on widespread and continuing corruption in Afghanistan.
“The message from this building has consistently been that the situation is turning around, that things are improving there,” Mattis was told. “How do you reconcile this difference?”
“First, I don’t know that that’s been the message from this building. I would not subscribe to that,” Mattis said. “We said last August NATO is going to hold the line. We knew there would be tough fighting going forward.
“The murder of journalists and other innocent people is a great testimony to what it is we stand for and more importantly what we stand against,” he added.
“The Afghan military is being made more capable. You’ll notice that more of the forces are special forces, advised and assisted, accompanied by NATO mentors. And these are the most effective forces,” Mattis said.
“We anticipated and are doing our best and have been successful at blocking many of these attacks on innocent people but, unfortunately, once in a while they get through because any terrorist organization that realizes it can’t win by ballots and turns to bombs — this is simply what they do. They murder innocent people,” he said.
For the long run, “We’ll stand by the Afghan people, we’ll stand by the Afghan government and the NATO mission will continue as we drive them to a political settlement,” Mattis said.
Nicholson’s two-year plan to end the ‘Forever War’
“Actions like this only strengthen our steadfast commitment to the people of Afghanistan,” Nicholson, who doubles as commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said after the bombings May 1, 2018, and the death of Conde.
“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of those killed and wounded, and we stand with our Afghan partners in defeating those who would threaten the people of this country, whose cries for peace are being ignored,” he said.
Like many of his troops, the 60-year-old Nicholson, a West Point graduate, has served multiple tours in Afghanistan. When he was confirmed by the Senate in March 2016 to succeed Army Gen. John Campbell as commander, he would go back to Afghanistan for the sixth time.
Since 9/11, “the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan has largely defined my service” in 36 years in uniform, he told the Senate.
Nicholson is the son of Army Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson, also a West Point graduate, and is distantly related the legendary British Brig. Gen. John Nicholson (1821-1857), who fought in the First Anglo-Afghan War.
Early on in his command, Nicholson was at the forefront on the military advisers who convinced Obama to approve the expansion of the air campaign against the Taliban and IS-K. In February 2017, he began arguing for more troops to partner with the Afghan National Defense Security Forces.
Mattis later signed off on what was essentially Nicholson’s plan. And Trump, in coordination with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, authorized it in an address to the nation in August 2017.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)
In a video conference from Kabul to the Pentagon in November 2017, Nicholson said it would take about two years to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan under government control and drive the Taliban into peace talks.
“Why 80 percent? Because we think that gives them [the Afghans] a critical mass where they control 80. The Taliban are driven to less than 10 percent of the population; maybe the rest is contested,” Nicholson said.
“And this, we believe, is the critical mass necessary to drive the enemy to irrelevance, meaning they’re living in these remote, outlying areas, or they reconcile — or they die, of course, is the third choice,” he said.
Nicholson’s remarks contrasted with a simultaneous report from the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office.
In his foreword to the IG’s quarterly report, Acting IG Glenn Fine said, “During the quarter, Taliban insurgents continued to attack Afghan forces and fight for control of districts, and ISIS-K terrorists launched high-profile attacks across the country.”
Fine added, “Internal political tensions increased in Afghanistan, and corruption remained a key challenge to governance despite positive steps by Afghanistan’s Anti-Corruption Justice Center.”
Fine also said that maintaining the accuracy of future IG reports made available to the public is becoming more difficult, since key statistical measures are now being classified.
“When producing this report, we were notified that information that was previously publicly released regarding attrition, casualties, readiness, and personnel strength of Afghan forces that we had included in prior Lead IG reports was now classified,” Fine said. “In addition, we were advised that ratings of Afghan government capabilities were now classified.”
The strategy — what strategy?
In announcing the strategy for Afghanistan in August 2017, Trump made clear that he was doing so with grave misgivings.
“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen,” he said.
The skeptics are many. “Why would anybody call this a strategy? We declared we wanted to win, but we didn’t change anything fundamentally that we’re doing,” retired Army Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, who served two tours in Afghanistan, told Military.com.
The focus now, as it has been for years, is on building up the Afghan military into a more effective force capable of holding and administering territory retaken from the Taliban, he said, “but that army assumes the existence of a functioning government.”
“We are creating a military that assumes the existence of a state that does not exist,” said Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow of the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security.
“What it boils down to is that we can’t decide what we want,” Dempsey said. “The only consensus we have on Afghanistan is that we don’t want to lose.”
In her analysis of the Trump administration’s strategy, Brookings Institution scholar Vanda Felbab-Brown wrote that the president basically had three options — “full military withdrawal, limited counterterrorism engagement, and staying in the country with slightly increased military deployments and intense political engagement.”
“The option the Trump administration chose — staying in Afghanistan with a somewhat enlarged military capacity — is the least bad option,” Felbab-Brown said.
“Thus, the Trump administration’s announced approach to Afghanistan is not a strategy for victory,” she said.
“Staying on militarily buys the United States hope that eventually the Taliban may make enough mistakes to seriously undermine its power,” she said. “However, that is unlikely unless Washington starts explicitly insisting on better governance and political processes in the Afghan government.”
Watchdog reports contrast with claims of progress
The goal of better governance is dependent on an Afghan military as the enabler, but the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said May 2, 2018, that the number of Afghan soldiers and police has declined sharply in the past year.
In a report, SIGAR said that the combined strength of the military and police dropped nearly 11 percent over the past year, from about 331,700 in January 2017 to about 296,400 this January, well below the total authorized strength of 334,000.
“Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the U.S. and our international allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing,” John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, told reporters.
At the end of January 2018, insurgents controlled or had influence over 14 percent of the Afghanistan’s 407 districts, SIGAR said, while the Afghan government controlled or influenced 56 percent. The remaining districts were contested, SIGAR said.
The report also noted the significant increase in the air campaign: “The total of 1,186 munitions dropped in the first quarter of 2018 is the highest number recorded for this period since reporting began in 2013, and is over two and a half times the amount dropped in the first quarter of 2017.”
In addition, the report indicated that Nicholson’s plan to bomb drug production centers and have the Afghan military interdict shipments in an effort to cut off Taliban funding was having little effect.
“From 2008 through March 20, 2018, over 3,520 interdiction operations resulted in the seizure of 463,342 kilograms of opium. But the sum of these seizures over nearly a decade would account for less than 0.05% of the opium produced in Afghanistan in 2017 alone,” SIGAR said.
Since 9/11, the U.S. has invested more than $850 billion in the war and efforts to bolster the Afghan government, but a recent drumbeat of reports from SIGAR and the Pentagon Inspector General’s office have highlighted widespread and continuing corruption.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April 2018, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, called on Army Secretary Mark Esper to justify a $50 million contract that SIGAR charged was used to buy luxury cars such as Alfa Romeos and Bentleys for Afghan officials and pay for $400,000 salaries for no-show jobs.
“Please tell me that a senator 20 years from now is not going to be sitting here and going, ‘How in the world are taxpayers paying for Alfa Romeos and Bentleys?’ ” McCaskill said.
‘We’ve kind of been going about it wrong’
As of March 2018, there were roughly 14,000 U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, according to U.S. officials.
Of the 14,000, about 7,800 of these troops were assigned to NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.
The 7,800 number reflects an increase of 400 personnel from the deployment of the Army’s first Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB, to Afghanistan.
In February 2018, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a report on what those troops can be expected to accomplish this year that was at odds with the upbeat assessments of Mattis and Nicholson.
“The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency” and the “unsteady” performance of the Afghan military performance, the DNI’s report said.
Afghan troops “probably will maintain control of most major population centers with coalition force support, but the intensity and geographic scope of Taliban activities will put those centers under continued strain,” the report said.
Mattis and Nicholson have singled out the SFAB as a key component in reforming and refining the operations of the Afghan security forces.
The SFAB concept takes specially selected non-commissioned and commissioned officers, preferably with experience in Afghanistan, and assigns them the train, advise and assist role in place of conventional Brigade Combat Team units.
Before the deployment, Army 1st Sgt. Shaun Morgan, a company senior enlisted leader with the SFAB, told Stars & Stripes that there were no illusions about the difficulty of the job ahead.
“So, we’ve been kind of going about it wrong for a while, I think,” Morgan said. “Maybe this is an opportunity to get on the right foot toward getting it right.”
Previously in Afghanistan, “we couldn’t get it through our heads that we weren’t the fighters,” Morgan told Stripes in a reference to the role of U.S. troops as partners and advisers to the Afghans who were to take the lead in combat.
“I think the bosses decided maybe this is the right shot, and it just makes sense to me,” Morgan said.
The Afghans also were under no illusions on the continuing threats posed by the Taliban and other insurgents, and the risks they take to go about their daily lives.
Shah Marai Faizi, the chief photographer for Agence France-Presse in the Kabul bureau, was among the nine journalists killed in May 1, 2018’s suicide bombings in Kabul. He was the father of six, including a newborn daughter.
In 2017, Shah Marai wrote an essay titled “When Hope Is Gone” that was read in part on the Democracy Now cable program.
“Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity,” he wrote. “I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five, and they spend their time cooped up inside the house. I have never felt life to have so little prospects, and I don’t see a way out.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Transitioning into civilian life can be tough. Veterans are often advised to look for a job in a field they’re passionate about and excited to join. Remember the old career day adage, Do what you love and you’ll never work a day?
One USMC veteran took that advice to heart and, being a Marine, decided not to do it halfway. As a result, the entertainer known as “Will Pounder” was recently honored as “Best Newcomer” at the AVN Awards. The Adult Video News Awards.
(Do we have to spell it out? He’s in X-rated films, people. You know, the kind you watch in your barracks alone. Not with your mom.)
Reached for comment for this story, Pounder said, “Best Male Newcomer to me means that I’m doing my job well.” He continued, saying, “I like to provide a safe experience that allows my scene partners to explore themselves sexually and to overall have a fun day so that everyone leaves with a smile on their face.”
His award got us wondering, how many other veterans have decided to earn their keep in the adult film industry?
Spoiler: A lot.
We can speculate on the reasons why, beyond the really obvious reason: sex. Maybe it’s because veterans are already used to frequent, random medical tests and they’re already comfortable with being naked in front of people? Maybe they just miss having close camaraderie with their co-workers? For the record, Pounder said he thinks the percentage of veterans to non-veterans working in the adult industry is probably about the same as in any other industry.
Regardless of their reasons, Pounder is far from the first to trade fatigues for his birthday suit. He wasn’t even the first vet to score that Best Newcomer award. Brad Knight—a Navy veteran—brought it home in 2016. That’s right. A sailor got it done before a Marine.
But we don’t even have to speculate on why some veterans are drawn to this particular industry. Brick Yates, a Navy veteran who runs a company that produces adult films about and starring military service members and veterans, agreed to answer the why question for us, at least as it applies to his films, in which service members and veterans perform.
“Active service members are always being told not to fraternize, but we all fantasize about good-looking people we work with,” Yates said. “So, it’s natural for a Marine or sailor or soldier to want to have sex with another service member because the military makes sure that is a very taboo subject still.”
Yates said that, though he understands that some people might find adult films featuring uniformed service members offensive, his company has the exact opposite intent. “We respect the uniforms these people don to the fullest,” he said, noting that he believes a military fetish is no different than a fetish for police officers or, that plot-staple, the pizza delivery guy. “People can disagree with me and that’s okay. I know not everyone is pleased with my work, but it is truly not meant to be degrading or disrespectful in any manner. We aren’t out here to make the service look bad in any way.”
Though typing your MOS into a job translator isn’t likely to yield a result of “X-rated movie star,” there does seem to be something of a …pipeline. (Sorry.) And while adult entertainment recruiters probably won’t have a table at any on-base hiring fairs, there are active efforts to recruit vets into the industry, ensuring that the supply of veterans-turned-adult-entertainers never dwindles.
Besides, military veterans have been starring in adult entertainment for decades, since even before X-rated film legend Johnnie Keyes took off his Army uniform in the early 1970s. Again, we’re not going to post links here, but the by-no-means complete list of vets who’ve gone on to adult entertainment fame includes, Johnni Black (Army), Dia Zerva (USMC), Chayse Evans (USMC), Julie Rage (Army), Nicole Marciano (USMC), Fiona Cheeks (USMC), Amber Michaels (Air Force), Kymberley Kyle (Army), Viper (USMC), Amanda Addams (Army), Misti Love (Army), Loni Punani (Air Force), Sheena Ryder (Army), Sheena Shaw (Army), Alura Jenson (Navy Army), Kim Kennedy (USMC), Alexis Fawx (Air Force), Lisa Bickels (Army) and Tiffany Lane (Army). Cory Chase (Army), is a vet even non-adult film viewers know as the female film star Ted Cruz got caught peeping.
And Diamond Foxx’s name might also be recognizable to those who aren’t familiar with her work. She was discharged from the Navy for “sexual misconduct” but entered military news again earlier this year when a West Point cadet tried to raise money online so that he could bring her to the Yearling Winter Weekend Banquet as his date.
With all we’ve said about vets in adult entertainment, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention retired LTC David Conners, aka “Dave Cummings”. After 25 years of service to the U.S. Army, he went on to service… sorry, sorry… he started his career in the adult entertainment industry at age 55, appearing in hundreds of adult films, and being inducted into both the AVN and XRCO (X-rated Critics Association) Halls of Fame, before his death last fall. Which, we suppose means that while Will Pounder and Brad Knight are USMC and Navy veteran adult film stars who certainly started their second careers strong, it was the old Army guy who really had the staying power. Hooah!
Loni Punani, Air Force veteran and adult entertainer.
Though adult films are totally legal for veterans to film, it’s a UCMJ violation for active duty service members to have a side job—any side job— without obtaining prior permission from their command. And commands have a long history of punishing, and even discharging, service members who engage in activities that prejudice “good order and discipline or that is service discrediting,” risk potential “press or public relations coverage” or “create an improper appearance.”
Yates said the “is this allowed” question can be tricky. “I have spoken with a few officers about their Marines being in my films and it really depends. It’s more the details of the film than it is the general fact of them doing (adult entertainment). Military brass are people, too, and some don’t care if their personnel do (adult entertainment), but some do. As long as they are safe, not reflecting poorly on their branch of service and not in their own uniform, they are usually fine.”
Air Force Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart received a formal reprimand, was removed from her position as a training instructor and was demoted after she posed nude in a 2007 Playboy magazine spread.
And in 2006, seven paratroopers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division were court martialed on charges of sodomy, pandering and engaging in sex acts for money. According to reporters who covered the case, the soldiers were not gay but, because they engaged in homosexual acts on screen at a time when the military was still under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, they were punished for the activity.
Yates also warned that service members and veterans who are interested in entering the adult industry should be savvy and a little suspicious. He said that while there are some really great people in the industry, there are also some bad ones. Potential adult film stars should verify that the companies that recruiters claim to represent are real and should ask to see references and examples of previous work before engaging in any onscreen work themselves.
All to say, if it’s your dream to turn your night passion into your day job, it might be safest to wait until you’ve got that DD-214.
Until then, feel free to enjoy the talents and attributes of your brothers and sisters in arms who’ve found their futures in a whole different kind of service.
It’s hard to imagine days without Prime delivery, instant downloads and fast food. But 160 years ago, things like mail took a really long time. The Pony Express changed delivery forever.
Here are 5 facts you probably didn’t know about the Pony Express:
It actually was pretty fast
Before the Pony Express, if you sent a letter from somewhere on the east coast to California, it would take upwards of 25 days. If it had to go by ship, it would take months. The Pony Express men began their deliveries in April of 1960 and their average delivery time was only 10 days. The riders set a record when they delivered President Lincoln’s inaugural address to California in just seven days and 17 hours! But that speed came at a price.
Here’s what it cost
Each delivery initially cost around , which would be well over 0 today. So, suffice to say, the average person wasn’t utilizing this service. Instead, things like newspaper and government reports or even business related material was sent on the Pony Express. The cost to send mail was high and so was the risk of those involved.
When the owners started the company, they set up around 200 posts or relief stations across frontier country. Each rider would switch mounts every 10 to 15 miles at one of these stations and pass off their delivery to a new rider after about three or four days. Although history may talk about the dangers of being a rider, these posts were set up in very remote areas and often attacked or ambushed by Indians. More men who manned these stations died than riders.
Your weight was a qualifying factor
Not just anyone could be a Pony Express rider. They had to be between 100 to 125 pounds, brave and expert riders. One such advertisement for riders went even further. They specifically asked for men not over 18 who were willing to risk death daily and stated that orphans were preferred. All riders also had to sign an oath, promising not to drink, curse or fight.
It lasted less than two years
Although this was an incredible advance in delivery for its time, it didn’t last. Western Union developed the transcontinental telegraph line and launched it in 1861 — rendering the Pony Express useless. Despite the fact that the Pony men only operated for 19 months, they would go down in history as legends. The Pony Express stories of bravery while racing across the Wild West have been retold a thousand times over, even if many of these stories have been exaggerated and are considered folklore.
The Pony Express trademark is now owned by the United States Postal Service and its history is richly celebrated. To learn more about the Pony Express, check out the website for their national museum.
As states continue to reduce restrictions on cannabis use, more and more military veterans are rejecting opioids and prescription pain medications while experiencing positive results from cannabis products. CBD products are being used over prescription drugs to help treat pain and symptoms of PTSD, as well as for anxiety or sports recovery.
Combat veterans, like world-record base jumper and skydiver Andy Stumpf and Omar “Crispy” Avila, are huge proponents of CBD, specifically the hemp-derived offering available from Kill Cliff, a veteran founded/run organization that makes clean sports beverages.
I had the chance to chat with both guys and find out a little more about their military background and why they turn to CBD, as well as which strands/methods they prefer to utilize.
Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf set world records as a BASE jumper and skydiver.
Andy Stumpf enlisted in the U.S. Navy while he was still in high school, hell bent on becoming a Navy SEAL. While on a combat deployment, he was shot at close-range by an insurgent. Despite the severity of the injury, Stumpf continued his SEAL career by becoming a BUD/S instructor and the first E-6 selection commissioned through the Limited Duty Officer Program in the history of Naval Special Warfare. After commissioning, he joined SEAL Team Three for his final combat tour in Afghanistan. He was medically retired after seventeen years of service and hundreds of combat operations throughout the world.
In 2015 he jumped from 36,000 feet and flew over 18 miles in a wingsuit in an effort to raise one million dollars for the Navy SEAL Foundation.
“In the military, if you went to the medic with any symptoms, whether headache or bodyache, they used to give — and I’m not judging when I say this — a literal sandwich bag of 800mg Motrin, which certainly works for pain suppression but also liver liquidation and stomach upset. I could have asked for narcotics, but my body never responded well to it,” reflected Stumpf.
Now, he uses hemp-derived CBD for pain relief and the ability to sleep. He enjoys the Kill Cliff CBD drink after a two-hour training session to help “round the edges.” The 25mg CBD recovery drink gives him zero neurological suppression which is why he prefers it over something like a sublingual edible or a topical product.
“I’ve tried everything from topicals, salves, pills, and they all have a time and place. What I like about this product is that I can use it to maximize my recovery and health,” he shared.
Omar “Crispy” Avila on active duty before his life-threatening attack.
Omar “Crispy” Avila shipped out to Iraq in 2004 for what would be his first and last deployment. Near the end of his 11 months in country, his convoy was ambushed and his Humvee was struck by an IED that hit the fuel tank and exploded violently, propelling the vehicle into the air and killing one soldier instantly.
Avila climbed into the turret of his Humvee to provide cover fire for his team as flames engulfed the vehicle. He caught fire as grenades and ammunition succumbed to the heat, forcing him to jump from the roof of the burning vehicle. He broke both of his femurs and attempted to extinguish the flames.
He woke up three months later at a VA hospital in Texas. More than 75 percent of his body was covered in third and fourth degree burns and part of his right foot had been amputated.
“I weaned myself off a lot of medications and I find myself waking up every single day with a lot of pain. I’m not saying that this CBD drink is the cure for everything but at least for me, it brings the pain and anxiety down,” Avila stated.
Avila opened up about anxiety (“it creeps up on you like a mother f***er”) and said the Kill Cliff drinks help him at the end of the day or when anxiety builds but he still wants to feel productive.
Launched in June 2019, Kill Cliff CBD is the fastest growing CBD brand in the country. The bioavailability of a CBD beverage is superior to other forms of CBD. It is nano-encapsulated and easily dissolved in the stomach before going straight into the bloodstream. Kill Cliff offers three flavors: The G.O.A.T., Orange Kush and Mango Tango.
For what it’s worth, I had the chance to try out the (very delicious) Mango Tango and it launched me into a calm state of concentration. Their promise that it “won’t alter your routine” held up remarkably well.
Anyone curious about trying it out for themselves can find the CBD products and other Kill Cliff clean energy drinks online and take comfort in knowing that the company was founded and is run by former Navy SEALs as a sustainable way to give back to the special warfare community through the Navy SEAL Foundation. Since 2015, Kill Cliff has donated over one million to military charities.
Mines are some of the most dangerous weapons used on the battlefield. They are the unseen enemy that can totally wreck an army or a navy. While still destructive, land mines are often stuck in one place, easily found, removed, or bypassed once made aware of their presence. Naval mines have come a long way in a short time, and are able to count the number of enemy ships that pass before attacking and can even swarm oncoming warships.
How they take down warships starts with a bang.
A Polish Mina Morska naval mine used between 1908-1939.
The damage a ship takes depends on the power of the mine and its initial explosiveness versus how far away from the ship’s hull the mine is when it explodes. The closer to the ship the mine is, the more direct damage the ship will take. But the direct damage isn’t the only type of damage a mine does to a ship. Other types of damage occur from the bubble created by the underwater explosion as well as the resulting shock wave from the explosives themselves.
Direct damage can be exacted by using more and more high explosives in mines. This will also affect the bubble jet and shock wave. The bubble jet removes water from the area of the explosion temporarily, but when the water comes rushing back in under the surface, it does so at such high velocity that it can penetrate a ship’s hull. The shock wave from a naval mine is enough to tear out the engines from a ship, toss around the crew, and kill divers.
Each kind of damage can do incredibly grievous harm to the ship and its crew. Results from mine detonations can be seen in incidents around the world. When the USS Samuel B. Roberts hit a mine, for example, the U.S. Navy stunned Iran with its response.
Modern mines are simple devices that are designed much like bombs. There is an explosive case surrounding an arming device and explosive train that will detonate the mine when it’s supposed to go off. When mines are deployed, the arming device activates the mine. When the train is aligned with the arming device, the target detecting device activates. This is the trigger that senses when it should go off. There are many kinds of detection devices: magnetic, seismic, acoustic, and pressure mines.
Different kinds of ships generate a different response from different mines, and the mine is smart enough to know when to explode. When it does, the resulting explosion, bubble jet, and shock wave can literally tear a ship in two.
The 17th century wasn’t exactly the most progressive time in history, as evidenced by the fact people with dwarfism were literally traded about by the upper echelons of society like Pokemon cards. Amongst the pantheon of known “court dwarfs” as they were called, one stood above them all thanks to the frankly astonishing life he led in his rise from the son of a commoner to ultimately seeing himself not just a Captain of the Horse, but a knight as well.
Jeffrey Hudson, or “Lord Minimus”, Sir Jeffrey, or Captain Hudson to give him his proper titles, was reportedly born sometime in June of 1619 in the town of Oakham located right in the heart of the quaint English county of Rutland. The son of a stout and broad shouldered man, called John Hudson, Jeffrey’s dwarfism was not initially apparent. This is largely because Jeffrey had what is known as “proportionate dwarfism” which, as the name suggests, is characterised by the individual having limbs of proportionate size to their body. As a result, Jeffrey’s family didn’t actually notice that anything was amiss until he just stayed abnormally small.
There were many hypotheses bandied about during Jeffrey’s lifetime about how exactly he came to be so small, with our personal favourite being a contemporary one espousing that the cause was his mother choking on a pickle while giving birth… However, experts have since concluded that he, like many proportionate dwarfs, most likely just had hypopituitarism, much to the chagrin of those of us who like the pickle story.
In any event, Jeffrey was born into, while not a well to do family, at least a well connected one. Jeffrey’s father, John, was described as a man of “lusty stature”, which was a bit of a requirement of his job- breeding and managing bulls meant for fighting with other animals for the Duke of Buckingham, George Villers.
Little is known of Jeffrey’s childhood, that is, until his dear old dad decided to present him to the Duches Katherine Villers at the age of 7. You see by the time Jeffrey was around 7 years old, he reportedly stood “scarce more than a foot and half in height”, while still being near perfectly proportioned.
Jeffrey’s father knew how uncommon this was as well as how prized dwarfs were at court. It turns out many royals kept at least one dwarf, among other such “pets”, around for their own and their guests’ amusement. His hope seemingly was that Jefferey would be made a member of the Duchess’ court as such an object of entertainment.
While this might seem somewhat cruel, it should be noted here that Jeffrey’s future prospects were not exactly good in this era. By seeing if the Duchess would take little Jeff as part of her court, John potentially was ensuring his son a life of luxury, if, of course, also one that would be extremely demeaning. But he would be demeaned by people either way. Thus, might as well choose the life that would see him have his own servants, plenty of food in his belly, and anything he could wish, rather than scraping a living as a commoner.
Whatever his father was thinking, the young Jeffrey was indeed accepted and quickly became a beloved plaything of the Duchess, who spent her time dressing him in miniature outfits and taking delight in the reaction he garnered from friends when she presented him at parties.
Mere months later, Jeffrey’s life was once again upended when the Duke’s household was expecting a visit from King Charles I and his wife, Queen Henrietta.
At the appropriate moment, Jeffrey burst out of the pie wearing a small suit of armor and brandishing a little sword that he swung about wildly to the amusement of all.
The Queen is said to have immediately become enamored with Jeffrey’s “remarkable smallness”, and asked the Duchess if she could take him home to add to her own little collection, which comprised of a couple other dwarfs, a giant called William Evans who was reportedly over 7 feet tall, and a little monkey named Pug. Happy to oblige, the Duchess handed Jeffrey over to the Queen in 1626.
After this, Jeffrey went to live with the Queen in London and became known as “Lord Minimus”, with his remarkably near perfect proportions and extremely small stature, even for a dwarf, being particularly valued. As noted by Sir Walter Scott when Jeffrey had reached adulthood and still not added much in height from his 7 year old self,
He although a dwarf of the least possible size, had nothing positively ugly in his countenance, or actually distorted in his limbs….His countenance in particular, had he been a little taller, would have been accounted, in youth, handsome, and now in age, striking an expressive; it was but the uncommon disproportion betwixt the head and the trunk which made the features seem whimsical and bizarre- and effect which was considerably increased by the dwarf’s moustaches, which it was his pleasure to wear so large that they almost twisted back amongst and mingled with his grizzled hair.
Going back to his childhood, due to the massive difference in height between Evans and Jeffrey (over 7 feet vs about 1.5 ft), apparently one of many popular party tricks Evans and Jeffrey used to perform was to have Evans presented to guests, at which point he’d pull a large loaf of bread out of one pocket, then pull Jeffrey out of another. The two would then proceed to prepare some food for the guests using the bread.
It wasn’t all about entertaining guests, however. While Jeffery initially was treated as little more than a pet, for whatever reason the Queen, who was about a decade older than Jeff, and he hit it off, quickly becoming extremely close.
It’s speculated by some that their shared sense of being outsiders to the society in which they lived may have played a part- the Queen being a French Catholic living in England at a time when both were somewhat taboo. Things got even worse for her when she was further isolated by her husband, King Charles, when he had almost her entire retinue, including her close friend Madame St. George, forcibly removed by guards and kicked out of the country in June of 1626, around the same time Jeffery came into the Queen’s life.
With Jeffrey her trusted confidant, the Queen saw to it that he became educated, taught how to be a gentlemen, and even began giving him courtly tasks, rather than having him working solely as entertainment for guests and herself. For example, in 1630 the Queen sent a then 10 year old Jeffrey to France as part of a delegation to retrieve her midwife, Madam Peronne, ten Catholic friars, and various valuables from her mother Queen Marie de Medicis.
While there, along with famed court dance master and hunchback Jacques Cordier dit Bocan who was also part of this delegation, Jeffrey reportedly wowed the court in France with his dancing abilities, in the process collecting quite a lot of rather expensive gifts from impressed members the court.
Unfortunately for Jeff, this journey ended in disaster when the ship he was on while headed back home was captured by pirates. The midwife and Jeff, his own newfound valuables, along with those sent as gifts to the Queen, were taken, though the others aboard, like the friars and the dance master, were allowed to go free.
When the Queen found out what had happened, she reportedly was extremely concerned for Jeffery’s safety. As to how she got him back, this isn’t clear, but it can be presumed she paid some sort of ransom for his return. Whatever the case, return he did shortly thereafter and continued his life at court.
Unfortunately for the Queen, her baby died not long after being born, though reportedly Jeffrey was a great comfort to her during this period, staying by her side throughout her long recovery from what was described as an extremely difficult labor. From here, Jeffery was her constant companion and when he got older one of her most trusted advisors.
On that note, a curious and academically inclined child, Jeffrey was known to be a voracious reader. He also soon was known in the Queen’s court for his rapier wit and penchant for devilishly cutting put downs to any who would insult him- something that only served to make him even more popular with the Queen and later the King who are both said to have been endlessly amused by Jeffrey’s growing confidence and ability to reduce anyone insulting him to a sputtering idiot with a marvelously well-crafted insult of his own.
Beyond book learning and his weaponpized wit, Jeffery was also taught to use actual weapons and to ride horses, with a special saddle and custom-made pistols more suited for his stature made for him.
By all accounts, as with so many other areas of learning, Jeffrey excelled at horsemanship and became an exceptional marksman- two skills that would ironically result in the latter half of his life go horribly wrong.
Nevertheless, at the age of 23, Jeffery was keen to do his bit for his King and Queen when the English Civil war began in 1642. Though still only around 20-23 inches tall, he didn’t hesitate to lend his newfound talents to the war effort. Impressed by the dwarf’s candor, the King and Queen granted him the title of “Captain of the Horse”, although it’s not clear if Jeffery actually was allowed to lead troops in battle or if it was just a ceremonial position. It was also around this time the the King knighted Jeffrey, though that one was reportedly a joke during a party. Nevertheless, it was an official knighting from the King.
As for Jeffrey, he took his new positions incredibly serious, insisting upon being addressed as Captain Jeffrey Hudson after being given that rank.
When the Queen fled England at the height of the war, Jeffrey dutifully accompanied her to France. Upon arriving in the country, emboldened by his recent successes in life, he made it known to the Queen’s entourage that he would no longer accept jibes about his height and that he’d defend his honor with his life, if necessary. After all, whether originally as a joke or not, he was now a knight of the English court, a Captain of the guard, an excellent marksmen, and one of the most trusted confidants of the Queen.
This brings us to an event that would change his life forever, occurring in 1644 when he was about 25 years old.
A gentlemen of the court evidently decided to ignore Jeffrey’s insistence that he was no longer some court pet to be teased, and instead apparently insulted Jeffrey in some way, though what exactly was said has been lost to history. Enraged, Jeffrey challenged the man to a duel- a challenge that was accepted, with pistols on horseback being chosen for the fight.
Showing how much he thought the whole thing was a joke, Jeffrey’s opponent chose to face him not wielding a pistol of his own, but rather a squirt-gun like device, as noted in a letter from Queen Henrietta of the event,
The giving cavalier took no firearms, but merely a huge squirt, with which he meant at once to extinguish his small adversary and the power of his weapon. The vengeful dwarf, however, managed his good steed with sufficient address to avoid the shower aimed at himself and his loaded pistols, and, withal, to shoot his laughing adversary dead.
Not just shooting him dead, from horseback, Jeffery demonstrated his prodigious skill as a marksmen, by putting a rather sizable hole in his opponents forehead, almost hitting him right between the eyes.
This all might have amused the royals, except that the man Jeffrey had just killed happened to be the brother of the Queen’s Master of the Horse, Baron William Croft.
This still might have been OK, except on top of having a well connected brother, it turned out that dueling was illegal in France at the time. Meaning that Jeffrey had just committed murder in the eyes of the court.
Sir Jeffrey was promptly arrested, with calls to have him executed, but the Queen was having none of it. Although apparently extremely displeased at Jeffrey for embarrassing her in this way among the aristocracy and while a guest in the country, she nevertheless wrote to Cardinal Mazarin pleading that Jeffery’s life be spared. Her request was granted, and instead of being executed, Jeffrey was exiled from France.
Exactly what happened to Jeffrey after this isn’t clear, other than apparently shortly thereafter he found himself on a ship that was captured by Ottoman pirates. Being something of a novelty, he was sold into slavery and spent around two and a half decades in this state.
Ultimately freed sometime in the late 1660s as a part of efforts by England to get its captured citizens released from slavery, the first mention of him back in England after this period occurred in 1669.
As to what he got up to as a slave, little is known of this, other than an account gleaned from interview he gave to author James Wright who was writing a history of Rutland book. From this, we know only a couple things. First, Jeffrey somehow grew 22 inches, approximately doubling his height from age of around 25 to 50 when he returned.
This is where we have some small reference of what his life was like as a slave when he credited his growth to the stresses of hard labor as well as “buggery”. For those not familiar, this is another word for sodomy, seemingly implying at least part of Jeffrey’s role as a slave for someone was as a sex toy, or perhaps other slaves used him for such.
Whatever the case, now free, the much taller Jeffrey now was simply a short man, instead of a miniature one, meaning he wasn’t able to resume his former post at court. Compounding the issue was that Queen Henriette had died in 1669, the year he appears to have returned to England, so benefiting from her patronage also was not an option.
Ultimately he was given money by the Duke of Buckingham George Villiers II, who was the son of Jeffery’s first patron, as well as from Charles II, son of Queen Henriette, to help set himself up on his new life.
Unfortunately for him, when he traveled to London in 1676 to request a pension from the court, this was a peak time of anti-Catholic sentiment in the country. This saw Jefferey promptly arrested upon arriving in London for the sole crime of daring to be a Catholic- a faith he’d taken up as a youth because the Queen.
Jeffrey subsequently spent the next four years or so in prison, being released in 1680. As to what he got up to after, this isn’t known, other than he died 2 years later at the age of 63 in 1682, buried in a pauper’s grave without so much as a headstone, despite officially being a knight and a Captain of the Horse.
While it isn’t known where he was buried, a marker was created at some point near his place of birth which states simply, “Sir Jeffery Hudson-1619-1682- A dwarf presented in a pie to King Charles 1st.”
Jumping into freezing water is just part of the legacy of being a Navy SEAL. During World War II, the U.S. Navy Combat Demolition Units were just a handful of guys equipped only with a pair of shorts, a knife, and maybe some explosives. But those amphibious roots are still close to the hearts of the Navy special warfare community — that’s why they still call themselves “Frogmen.”
Some 74 years ago, in the English Channel during the predawn hours of June 6, 1944, these Navy Combat Demolition Units braved the freezing waters — not to mention the thousands of Nazi guns pointed at the water’s edge.
They were trained for this.
They weren’t necessarily trained to be the secret first wave of invaders up against some of the most fortified positions in the world. No, instead they were trained to win against any and all odds or obstacles. These men were the precursor to modern day SEALs, moving to do their part on the beaches before the D-Day Landings.
That’s how SEAL training works to this day. Recruits are taught to overcome the things they think can’t be done. Now, in tribute to those few who landed at occupied France well before the rest of the Allies, 30 current and former Navy SEALs, as well as some “gritty” civilians, will recreate those NCDU landings.
Today’s SEAL reenactors will do a seven-mile swim to land at Normandy, where they’ll scale the cliffs of Omaha Beach to place a wreath in memorial. At that point, they’ll gear up with 44-pound rucks to do a 30-kilometer march to Saint-Lô.
Why? To raise awareness (and funds) for the Navy SEAL Heritage Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida — and the wide range of programs they offer to support family members of SEALs who fell in combat, doing things only the U.S. special operations community would ever dare.
“The greatest barrier to human performance is your own mind,” says Kaj Larsen, a Navy SEAL veteran who is also a seasoned journalist and television personality (among other things). “… what [BUD/S training] is really doing is putting guys into the [SEAL] community who aren’t going to quit in combat.” Larsen will be among the SEALs hitting the beach on D-Day 2018.
The goal is to keep the 2018 mission as close as possible to the original mission of the D-Day Frogmen.
The night before D-Day, an ad hoc team of underwater demolition sailors, along with Navy divers and Seabees, led by Ensign Lawrence Stephen Karnowski, rigged the mine fields, obstacles, and other impediments set up by the Nazi defenders to explode so the main invasion force could make it to the beach.
It was 2 a.m. when the NCDU units slipped into the water, wearing little more than diver’s shorts and carrying satchels of explosives. The water temperature at that time of year peaks at just below 58 degrees Fahrenheit (for reference, water freezes at 32 degrees).
This is why today’s SEALs get that mental training: they need it.
Be sure to listen to this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast to find out more about “The Murph” workout (Larsen was a close friend of SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Michael P. Murphy for whom the exercise is named), to learn about a “Super Murph,” how SEALs are dealing with their fame in the wake of the Bin Laden Raid, and why veterans might be the future of American journalism.
You can also find out how to follow Kaj and his work, as well as what comes next for the veteran journalist.
Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
When it comes to the economics of adult entertainment, things are pretty similar to its Silver Screen counterpart. There’s a lot of money spent behind the scenes to make the films. Locations, production crews, and other associated costs can really make a dent in even the most well-prepared budget.
“It’s a process,” says adult actress Mercedes Carrera in an interview with We Are The Mighty. “And sometimes it’s not as fun as people think it is.”
Time is money. There’s no room for errors, no time for first-timers to start in the mainstream adult film world. And not just anyone can get their foot in the door.
So when Carrera tweeted to her fan base about the idea of casting average-joe veterans to co-star in her upcoming project, the response blew her away.
“I just threw a tweet out like two days ago,” Carrera recalls during a February 2017 interview. “It said ‘contact me, I’m gonna do this whole vet only thing. It’s gonna be its own site.’ ”
Carrera’s tweet was part of her plan to launch a new adult entertainment website that is veteran focused — including using vets as actors.
While some may question whether the star’s use of veteran “free talent” is taking advantage of former service members — even using words like “exploitation” — she insists that is both an oversimplification and simply untrue.
“I’m not going to be making money off of vets,” Carrera says. “The numbers just don’t work out for me in that. I still have to pay for some locations, I have to pay my production staff. This project will be a sub-site from my website, but I already know that no one is gonna buy 80 percent of these scenes.”
The tweet was picked up by one website and her inbox was soon flooded with a thousand emails. To say she’s a big deal among veterans is an understatement, in her eyes. She gets messages and emails all the time from servicemen and women, just to tell her that her work helped get them through a deployment, despite General Order Number One, which prohibits work like hers in the CENTCOM theater.
“It’s probably two thousand by now,” she adds. She gets three new emails every minute. And answering them has become a sort-of full-time job, one she says she truly enjoys.
Her outreach to the veteran community is nothing new. In 2016, she took Army Sgt. Anthony Berg to the Adult Video News Awards, one of her industry’s biggest nights.
To her, wasn’t a publicity stunt, she still keeps in touch with Berg and his wife, and both attended the awards with her.
The reasons for her devotion to vets is simple, she says. Carrera is a military brat — her father served in Vietnam and he, like many other returning Vietnam veterans, did not get the homecoming Iraq and Afghanistan veterans receive today.
People actually spit and hurled things at him as left the airport, she said.
“It was a different time, and he was getting out as the war was very unpopular,” Carrera recalls. “And he was coming back to Los Angeles at the time so you can imagine the social climate.”
Aside from her family connection to veterans, Carrera says she genuinely loves them and connects with the community. She has a lot of respect and admiration for a community who cares more about their friends than themselves, and that includes the vets who respond to her her contests.
“They take care of each other,” she says. “This happened when I took a date to AVN last year, too. These guys are, instead of submitting themselves, they’re submitting their buddies.”
Veterans interested in her veteran movie project will have to provide their own time and travel and pay for industry-standard disease screening. The adult film industry is one with inherent health risks and is regulated by state government.
“When I perform, I always pay my own travel expenses and for my own tests,” she said. “We all [in the adult industry] pay for our own tests all the time. That’s the nature of the industry.”
Carrera hasn’t always been an adult video actress. She began her career as an aerospace engineer. Though she still loves to “build sh*t,” Carrera recalls her move to the adult industry as a natural one for her.
While there are a few veterans who have transitioned from the military to the adult industry, there aren’t many. And though some may want to join the ranks of her world, Carrera can tell you that breaking in isn’t easy.
“The failure rates for new men are 80-90 percent,” she says. “Producers don’t even want to audition new guys. It’s too much of a risk to the production cost. For those veterans who do want a break in the industry, I’m offering them a chance to see if they can do it.
She doesn’t see veterans as victims she can take advantage of, she just wants to give aspiring veterans the opportunity they may not have had otherwise.
In Mercedes Carrera’s mind, we all give back to our veterans in our own way. This project will be her way.
“I’m at a point in my career in the where my recommendations carry weight and I’ve earned that by earning my stripe in the industry,” she says. “Veterans have reached out to me for years asking me how to get started, and now I have the chance to help them.”
There are many joyous things about the holiday season, but this time of year can also bring on stress, depression, and other challenges. For veterans or their family members, the unique experiences of the military and transitioning back to civilian life can make enjoying the season difficult.
Here are a few things to keep an eye out for as the holiday season approaches — as well as healthy tips for managing these challenges.
The holidays are typically times spent with family members and friends. But veterans transitioning back to civilian life — or even those who returned home years ago — might find themselves avoiding the people and activities they would usually enjoy.
“I’m a pretty extraverted, amicable person, but I didn’t want anything to do with anybody. I didn’t want to talk with anybody,” says Bryan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Sometimes a vicious cycle can develop: The more time you spend alone, the less you feel like people will understand you. And the less you feel like people understand you, the more time you want to spend alone.
“You can’t isolate yourself,” says Bryan. “You have to surround yourself with good people that want to see you do better. Take advantage of the programs they have at the VA or the nonprofit organizations that are there to help veterans out.”
Feelings of guilt can sometimes lead people to withdraw, become irritable, or feel like life has lost meaning. These behaviors can strain personal relationships, especially during the holidays, when most people spend a lot of time with family members and friends. But if you’re having trouble forgiving yourself — for something you did or did not do — talking with your family members and friends is actually a positive first step.
If you notice yourself withdrawing from loved ones, here are a few ways to begin breaking a pattern of isolation. If these actions feel overwhelming, start with small steps.
Identify the thoughts and feelings that make you want to be alone.
Reach out to your family members or friends, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing. Research shows that spending time talking with family members and friends improves your mood and your health.
Connect with veterans’ groups or participate in clubs or hobbies focused on something you like.
“Isolation and withdrawal [are] not going to get you the end result that you need,” says Marylyn, a U.S. Army veteran. “You want to get back to enjoying your life, the things you like to do, and be able to explore new things. So you’re going to eventually have to talk to someone and connect with someone.”
Whether you’re walking through a crowded shopping mall or attending a large party with loud noises, you may find yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable during the holidays. Your military training taught you the importance of being observant and alert when you need to be — and being in that state of high alert in civilian life may be stressful.
“When you’re in large crowds or there’s a lot of chaos, you have to keep an eye on everything because you don’t know where a potential threat is,” says Casey, a U.S. Army medic. “After you see things like a life or death matter, your No. 1 goal is ‘I’m always going to protect myself.'”
This experience of feeling on edge is also called hypervigilance, a symptom experienced by some veterans who have returned from war or experienced traumatic events during their time in the military. Hypervigilance is a state of being on very high alert — constantly “on guard” — to possible risks or threats.
“It takes a long time to shed that alertness,” says Casey. “Once it’s there and you depend on it to stay alive, it’s really hard to lose it once you’ve been back.” Talking to your family and friends can be a first step. Turn to them whenever you are ready.
From a faith-based U.S. Army unit to an entire “ghost” army, take a look at the four most unusual military units of all time.
An inflatable tank, styled after the M4 Sherman (Wikimedia Commons)
The Ghost Army
Inspired by a trick that the British pulled in North Africa, the summer of 1944 found soldiers of the U.S. Army undertaking a very unusual task – building a phantom army. To achieve this goal, the Army gathered artists, designers and sound effects experts to encourage confusion behind enemy lines. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops is better known as the Ghost Army because it used inflatable rubber tanks and jeeps, along with sound effects and subterfuge to deceive Germans during WWII.
The 23rd took part in more than 20 missions, many of which used illusion and artistry that rivals any Hollywood set. Painters and illustrators worked collaboratively to design uniforms and create dummy vehicles. Sound engineers helped by broadcasting phony radio traffic and mimicked the sounds of an army on the move. There were even actors hired to spread misinformation that would hopefully get picked up by Nazi spies.
The Germans fell for it, and the ruse worked. With the Ghost Army in place, Germany had no clear idea of the US forces’ actual size. The Ghost Army was so convincing that they were even plugged a hole in General Patton’s lines for several days without being discovered. It wasn’t until 1996 that the Ghost Army’s contribution became public knowledge, and by then, many of its members had gone on to illustrious careers in art and design.
The Monuments Men
This particular unit was tasked with attempting to preserve Europe’s cultural heritage during WWII. The Monuments, Fine Arts and Archies unit included handpicked art historians, museum curators and academics who skirted the front lines of combat to prevent historically essential buildings and art from being destroyed.
Members from the unit created special maps for the Allies to ensure that culturally significant structures weren’t inadvertently destroyed as the Allies pushed deeper into Europe. To do this, the unit drew plans that showed aircraft pilots where to avoid on bombing runs. While the war was in full swing, the Monuments Men even set about restoring landmarks that were already damaged.
As the war wound down, the unit shifted its focus from preservation to rescue. It tracked down and recovered sculptures and paintings looted by the Nazis. As the Nazi regime crumbled, Monuments Men found thousands of pieces of art stolen from Jewish families and museums. Most of these pieces of art were placed deep in salt mines and castles to avoid detection. The Monuments Men did their part in finding the pieces, and then after the war, the artwork was returned to its original owners.
The Mormon Battalion
Composed entirely of Latter Day Saints service members, the Mormon Battalion has the unique and unusual honor of being the only faith-based battalion in all of U.S. Army history. When negotiations between Brigham Young’s church leaders and the US military reached an impasse, it was suggested that a battalion be formed made up of all Mormons. The Mormons hoped their unit might pave the way for their planned exodus to the American West by providing training, equipment and pay. But President Polk saw it as a way to make allies of the Latter Day Saints.
The 500-person battalion never saw any combat, but it became one of the most well-traveled units in all of American history. The service members marked the start of their service by making a grueling might from Iowa through indigenous lands all the way to Santa Fe. From there, they marched on through the untamed lands of Arizona and then to southern California. Once in SoCal, the battalion performed garrison duty in both San Diego and Los Angeles.
Just two years after being formed, the battalion was retired in July 1847. Most of its members headed back north to the Utah Territory to join the rest of their religious pioneers.
King Frederick William I (Wikimedia Commons)
The Potsdam Giants
Everyone always wants to have the biggest army, but for King Frederick William I of Prussia, the idea of having the strongest soldiers in the world was an obsession. At the start of the 18th Century, the monarch tried to gather the tallest troops he could find in all of Europe and create an elite regiment called the “Potsdam Giants.” Records indicate that several of the service members were over seven feet tall.
To entice this elite unit, King Willian spent a fortune hiring tall soldiers from other militaries in the world. He even instructed his own covert agents to conscript unusually tall civilians into the unit. At one point, William tried to encourage his tallest soldiers to marry tall women. The unit eventually disbanded, but not before William managed to spend a significant amount of money.
From a ghost army to a unit dedicated to preserving history, these four units prove that there’s a lot more to being part of a military than just standing in formation.
In 1967, a 77-year-old Dwight D. Eisenhower ascended to the top of the famed St. Louis Arch, the gateway to the West. It wasn’t a planned trip, but the former President decided to go visit it anyway. And he wanted to go to the top, something the Secret Service forbids Presidents, past and present, to do. But Ike was the one who signed off on the construction of the Arch in 1954 and besides – who was going to tell the Supreme Allied Commander “no?”
In case you were wondering about the answer to that question, it’s “no one.”
But he was the only one and even Eisenhower, a former President by the time he ascended to the highest peak of the 630-foot archway, had to do some sneaky work to be able to get to the top over the objections of his contingent of bodyguards. Eisenhower’s visit to the Gateway Arch came after hours, so there were no other tourists around, and it wasn’t a scheduled part of his itinerary, so potential assassins wouldn’t ever have known he would be there. He took the famed tramway up the arch over the objections of the Secret Service.
While Ike isn’t the only President to overrule the objections of the those who protect him, he’s the only one who forced his way up the St. Louis Arch. By the time he came to visit the city on the Mississippi River, two more Presidents had occupied the Oval Office after his tenure. It was a pretty safe bet.
The view inside the top of the arch.
Getting to the top is actually a pretty cleverly designed tram that is part elevator and part Ferris wheel. But the top of the arch is a very small, cramped space that doesn’t make for a lot of room to maneuver or for a lot of people to spend any significant amount of time. It also keeps people relatively close together, which is a problem for a protective unit trying to keep people out of arms reach of the world’s most powerful person.
Despite the cramped space, some 160 people can fit in the top of the arch, and a complete trip to the top takes about 45 minutes on average. That’s a lot of time, space, and opportunity to give a would-be threat.
But in reality, the Leader of the Free World is actually the one in charge, and they can do whatever they want, but the USSS really doesn’t want the President up in the Arch.