As a veteran, you might experience difficult life events or challenges after leaving the military. We’re here to help no matter how big or small the problem may be. VA’s resources address the unique stressors and experiences that veterans face — and we’re just a click, call, text, or chat away.
Seven mental health resources veterans can use right now:
Make the Connection is an online resource designed to connect veterans, their family members, friends and other supporters with information and solutions to issues affecting their lives. On the website, visitors can watch hundreds of veterans share their stories of strength and recovery, read about a variety of life events and mental health topics, and locate nearby resources.
3. Veterans Crisis Line.
The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, and text messaging service. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
4. Vet Centers.
Vet Centersprovide community-based counseling for a wide range of social and psychological services, including confidential readjustment counseling, outreach and referral to eligible veterans, active duty service members, including National Guard and Reserve components and their families. It offers individual, group, marriage and family counseling. And you can get a referral and connection to other VA or community benefits and services at no cost. Vet Center counselors and outreach staff, many of whom are veterans themselves, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief and transition after trauma.
SFC William Petit hugs his children at a deployment ceremony for the HHD 210th Military Police Battalion, Michigan Army National Guard.
( MIARNG photo by Staff Sgt Helen Miller)
5. Coaching Into Care.
Coaching Into Care provides guidance to veterans’ family members and friends on encouraging a veteran they care about to reach out for mental health support. Free, confidential assistance is available by calling 1-888-823-7458, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, or by emailing CoachingIntoCare@va.gov.
6. Veteran Training online self-help portal.
The Veteran Training online self-help portal provides tools for overcoming everyday challenges. The portal has tools to help veterans work on problem-solving skills, manage anger, develop parenting skills, and more. All tools are free. Its use is entirely anonymous, and they are based on mental health practices that have proven successful with veterans and their families.
AboutFace features stories of veterans who have experienced PTSD, their family members, and VA clinicians. There, you can learn about PTSD, explore treatment options, and get advice from others who have been there.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
I really want to hear the safety brief from the Seabees this week. Any time any lower enlisted screws up, they single that dude out and crucify him in front of the unit to make sure it never happens again. When officers screw up, they play it off as a thing that everyone does wrong and remind everyone that they’re the real victim here. Especially if it’s the same officer who screwed up.
“Alright, guys. I know you might have heard about this streaking epidemic, but that stops today!”
Anyways, here’re some memes.
13. He’ll be fine. That drone flying overhead has a sweet Valentine’s Day gift for him.
(Meme via PNN)
12. Always trying to look for that last f*ck to give.
11. Throwing up doesn’t make you less of an alcoholic. It just means you’re making room for more!
10. F*ck Jodie; you can always find a new wife. But what about your dog?
9. Feels like you’re wearing nothing at all… nothing at all… nothing at all…
8. Come on, Seabees. There’s a time and place for running around naked.
7. As long as they only think the party is “just loud,” you’re doing it right.
6. It’s not like they had the balls to try sh*t during the Cold War…
5. Ever wonder why so many Marine brats are born 9 months after the Marine Corps Ball?
4. Just enough motivation to check off the box.
3. Marines will also yell back if they even think you say, “Marine” without capitalizing it.
2. About to leave and you heard the words, “Hey there, hero! Where do you think you’re going?” And Retention wonders why no one speaks to them…
1. Supposedly, you only get Good Conducts for not screwing up for 3 years. Even if you do, you’ll probably still get one anyways…
Russian lawmakers have approved a bill banning the armed forces from carrying smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets capable of recording and keeping information while on duty.
According to the bill, approved in its third and final reading in the lower house on Feb. 19, 2019, only regular phones with no cameras and without an Internet connection are now allowed in the Russian armed forces.
The bill also bans military personnel from sharing information online about their military units, missions, services, colleagues, former colleagues, and their relatives.
The bill says that “information placed on the Internet or mass media by military personnel is … in some cases used to shape a biased assessment of the Russian Federation’s state policies.”
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
The bill was approved by 408 lawmakers with no vote against.
The legislation was necessary because military personnel were of “particular interest for the intelligence services of foreign governments, for terrorists, and extremist organizations,” the Duma said.
In recent years, photos and video footage inadvertently posted online via smartphones by members of the Russian military have revealed information about the location and movements of its troops and equipment.
Human rights activists were also sometimes able to obtain from the Internet video and photographic proof of the hazing of young recruits in the Russian military.
Armenia and Artsakh, the previously self-determined independent country bordering Armenia with a majority Armenian population, spent the better half of fall 2020 at war with neighboring Azerbaijan and Turkey. The conflict drew worldwide attention with mercenaries being brought in from Syria to fight against Armenian diaspora who came from around the world to fight for their cultural home.
On November 10, the Prime Minister of Armenia announced an unpopular ceasefire in which the historic Armenian homeland of Artsakh would be returned to Azerbaijan. The terms of the ceasefire, brokered by Russia, included that Turkish and Russian troops would guard the Armenian-Artsakh border for the next five years. Though this was not the end to the conflict that either Armenia or Artsakh wanted, a historic glass ceiling was broken for the women of Armenia; the first all-women military unit was created.
Prior to the Azerbaijan-Artsakh war, women in military service in Armenia was a fairly new concept. During the first war with Azerbaijan over Artsakh which took place from 1991-1994, at least 115 Armenian women are known to have taken part in combat throughout the conflict. However, the military academies in Armenia were not opened to women until 2013. The Marshal Khanperiants Aviation Institute, where pilots and air defense officers are trained, admitted 5 women in 2013, the first military academy to do so. The next year, the Vazgen Sarkissian Military University admitted its first group of female cadets. Now, in 2020, the Prime Minister of Armenia’s wife has formed the first all-women military unit in the ancient country’s history.
August 2020, a month prior to the resurgence of violence over the disputed region, Anna Hakobyan, wife of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, underwent a seven day combat readiness training program with women from Artsakh. The next month, Hakobyan created a voluntary 45-day basic training program for women aged 18-27. Following successful completion of the program, these women could elect to formally join the armed forces.
In October, a month into the Artsakh war, Hakobyan created an elite unit of 13 females called the Erato Detachment. The unit is named for Armenian Queen Erato, who ruled during the turn of the Common Era. The women of the Erato Detachment underwent more intense military training exercises in preparation for a frontline deployment. In early November, after extensive evaluation, their unit was deemed qualified for combat. Now, since the latest ceasefire, Hakobyan and the Erato Detachment remain on guard in their areas of responsibility. When she returns to Yerevan, Hakobyan plans to continue to grow the Erato detachment saying, “All women should go to battle when necessary.”
Anna Hakobyan answered her nation’s call to action when it was needed, despite her status in Armenia. With her commitment to the country and its people, she created the application process for the all-women military unit, scheduled their training, and got them on the frontlines alongside their male counterparts. Though the conflict is at an unpopular ceasefire, the door has been opened for Armenian women to serve their country and defend their homeland.
On February 3rd, a 70-year-old veteran will be taking the stairs — 1,576 of them.
Jerry Augustine of Middletown, Connecticut is set to participate in the Empire State Building Run-Up, the world’s oldest and most famous tower race. He will join an elite group of runners selected from thousands who vied for a spot in the event.
This will be the ninth time the Vietnam vet has run up the iconic New York City landmark’s 86 flights of stairs. He is running for Team Red White and Blue, a not-for-profit with the mission to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.
The former Army Spec. was tasked with search and destroy missions, recovering bodies, and ambush patrols during his 1966-1967 deployment to Vietnam. The Hartford Courant recently detailed one of his more harrowing missions:
One day, while performing this duty, Augustine fell into a human trap known as punji pit, a camouflaged hole with sharpened bamboo stakes at the bottom. The stakes might be tipped with excrement to cause infection. Augustine was lucky. He said the pit was old and the stakes had rotted and merely collapsed under his weight.
Augustine said another close call came when he was “point man” on ambush patrol. Approaching a clearing, he said, he was spotted by a guerrilla fighter who fired an RPG. The mortar round struck a tree a few feet away. “It bounced off and landed right next to my boot,” Augustine said. He dove for cover, but the round failed to detonate.
“I still think about how close I was to death,” he said. “When, you’re young you don’t think about, but it hits me now.”
He said one of the worst experiences was when his company was sent to recover the bodies of fallen comrades in the aftermath of a three-day battle in fall 1966. “My platoon had the duty of carrying 30 bodies to the choppers to be put into body bags and sent back to friendly lines,” Augustine said. “It was just horrible.”
After the war he struggled with what is now known as ‘post traumatic stress.’ In 1992, his doctor prescribed Prozac, but it made him lethargic. A friend suggested he drop the meds and hit the pavement.
“My son had a paper route on a bicycle at the time, so I started running along with him delivering papers, a couple of miles a day,” Augustine told The Hartford Courant. “Pretty soon I was entering races, and doing pretty well. I became one of the best in my age group. Running made me feel great.”
Augustine won the ESB Run-Up race in the 50s division in 2001. His last race was 2007.
“When I turned 70 this year, I wanted to see if I could still do it,” he told the Courant. “I’d be really happy to get a time of 20 minutes this time. Maybe even 25 minutes. It’s a lot harder now.”
If you would like to get into ‘run-up-the-stairs-of-a-102-floor-building-in-25-minutes-or-less’ shape, here is Jerry’s simple routine:
Sprint up the stairs of a 12 story building: 3 times in a row, 3 times a week.
Sailors work in the ICU unit aboard USNS Comfort on April 20.
President Donald Trump said the US Navy hospital ship Comfort would leave New York City as soon as possible after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it was no longer needed in the city’s fight against the coronavirus.
The Comfort’s initial mission was to aid these hospitals by taking all noncoronavirus patients. But it turned out that there weren’t many noncoronavirus patients to take, prompting criticism when it became known that only 20 patients were received on the 1,000-bed ship in its first day.
According to NBC New York, the Comfort had treated 179 patients as of Tuesday, with 56 still on board at the time.
Cuomo offered to have the ship deployed to another hard-hit area during a Tuesday meeting with the president.
“It was very good to have in case we had overflow, but I said we don’t really need the Comfort anymore,” Cuomo told MSNBC after the meeting. “It did give us comfort, but we don’t need it anymore, so if they need to deploy that somewhere else, they should take it.”
Trump took him up on the offer, saying that Comfort would be sent back to its home port in Virginia to prepare for its next mission, which has not been decided yet.
“I’ve asked Andrew if we could bring the Comfort back to its base in Virginia so that we could have it for other locations, and he said we would be able to do that,” Trump said at the White House coronavirus briefing on Tuesday. “The Javits Center has been a great help to them, but we’ll be bringing the shop back at the earliest time, and we’ll get it ready for its next mission, which I’m sure will be an important one also.”
Leonard Matlovich joined the Air Force in 1963. He served three tours in Vietnam, volunteering for all of them. The son of an Air Force Chief, his service record was nothing short of exemplary. The only problem was that Matlovich was gay in the military at a time when discrimination was accepted practice.
Leonard Matlovich enlisting in the U.S. Air Force, CMSgt Matlovich by his side. (leonardmatlovich.com)
Matlovich might seem like an anomaly by today’s standards. He was a conservative Republican and a staunch Catholic who hated the reforms of Vatican II. He even converted to Mormonism later in his service.
In 1966, he received an Air Force Commendation Medal for bravery during a mortar attack. He personally ran to the base perimeter to bolster the defenses there and help tend to the wounded.
He was innovative and dedicated. An electrician, he came up with a nighttime lighting system for base perimeters that inhibited the ability of North Vietnamese snipers to target the base population. Matlovich personally repaired all the base systems during nighttime attacks, never waiting until the dust settled. This is how he received a second Commendation Medal and the Bronze Star.
Matlovich received a Purple Heart while clearing mines near Da Nang. He was blown up by a mine and as he lay there in pain he realized the physical pain was not nearly as bad as the pain he felt for hiding who he truly was.
That’s when he decided to challenge the Air Force policy on homosexuals in the service. By 1975 Matlovich was up for a discharge based on his sexuality. He lawyered up and was determined to fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court. It caught the media’s attention and Matlovich became the first openly-gay person to appear on the cover of a U.S. magazine.
The Air Force decided to let him stay if he signed a document saying he’d never engage in homosexual acts again. Matlovich refused.
He was going to be drummed out of the Air Force under a General Discharge. It was upgraded to Honorable by the Secretary of the Air Force, based on Matlovich’s service record, but that didn’t stop the Tech Sergeant.
In 1976, Matlovich and his lawyers took their case to the U.S. district court in Washington, D.C. to argue the Air Force policy violated the same constitutional principles that recently won Civil Rights cases for African-Americans and women in the United States.
All it led to was a re-wording of the DoD anti-gay policy.
He fought to stay in the Air Force as an openly-gay man but in the end accepted that the court cases would never stop. He took a cash settlement for his back pay, which he immediately donated to nonprofits who fought for gay rights.
Matlovich spent the rest of his life fighting for equal rights for the LGBT community in the United States. In 1986, he was diagnosed with HIV and began to fight for more attention to HIV/AIDS research. Matlovich was a vocal critic to the Reagan Administration’s response to the outbreak of the disease.
When Leonard Matlovich died of AIDS in 1988, he was buried in Washington, D.C.’s Congressional Cemetery. His gravestone doesn’t have his name on it. He wanted it to be a memorial for all homosexual military veterans. It reads:
“A Gay Vietnam Veteran | When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”
Leonard Matlovich’s gravesite has become a pilgrimage site for the LGBT community, especially those serving in the military of United States and other countries.
Every generation of veterans has its own slang. The location of deployed troops, their mission and their allies all make for a unique lingo that can be pretty difficult to forget.
That same vernacular isn’t always politically correct. It’s still worth looking at the non-PC Vietnam War slang used by troops while in country because it gives an insight into the endemic and recurring problems they faced at the time.
Here are some of the less-PC terms used by American troops in Vietnam.
Barbecue from a “Zippo Monitor” in Vietnam. (Wikimedia Commons)
Barbecue – Armored Cavalry units requesting Napalm on a location.
Bong Son Bomber – Giant sized joint or marijuana cigarette.
Breaking Starch – Reference to dressing with a new set of dry cleaned or heavily starched fatigues.
Charles – Formal for “Charlie” from the phonetic “Victor Charlie” abbreviation of Viet Cong.
Charm School – Initial training and orientation upon arrival in-country.
Cherry – Designation for new replacement from the states. Also known as the FNG (f*cking new guy), fresh meat, or new citizens.
Coka Girl – a Vietnamese woman who sells everything except “boom boom” to GIs. “Coka” comes from the Vietnamese pronunciation of Coca-Cola, and “boom boom” can be left to your imagination.
Disneyland Far East – Headquarters building of the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. It comes from “Disneyland East,” aka the Pentagon.
Donut Dolly – The women of the American Red Cross.
Fallopian tubing for inside the turrets of tanks – Prank used by tankers to send Cherries on a wild goose chase
Flower Seeker – Originated from Vietnamese newspapers; describing men looking for prostitutes.
Heads – Troops who used illicit drugs like marijuana.
Ho Chi Minh Road Sticks – Vietnamese sandals made from old truck tires.
Idiot Stick – Either a rifle or the curved yoke used by Vietnamese women to carry two baskets or water buckets.
Indian Country – Area controlled by Charlie, also known as the “Bush” or the “Sh*t.”
Juicers – Alcoholics.
Little People – Radio code for ARVN soldiers.
Mad Minute – Order for all bunkers to shoot across their front for one minute to test fire weapons and harass the enemy.
Marvin the Arvin – Stereotypical South Vietnamese Army soldier, similar to a Schmuckatelli. The name comes from the shorthand of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam – ARVN.
Number-One GI – A troop who spends a lot of money in Vietnam.
Number-Ten GI – A troop who barely spends money in Vietnam.
Ok Sahlem – Term American soldiers had for villagers’ children who would beg for menthol cigarettes.
Real Life – Also known as Civilian Life; before the war or before the draft.
Remington Raider – Derogatory term, like the modern-day “Fobbit,” For anyone who manned a typewriter.
Re-Up Bird – The Blue Eared Barbet, a jungle bird whose song sounds like “Re-Up.”
Search and Avoid – A derogatory term for an all-ARVN mission.
Voting Machine – The nickname given to ARVN tanks because they only come out during a coup d’etat.
Zippo Raids – Burning of Vietnamese villages. Zippo lighters were famously documented by journalist Morley Safer, seen igniting thatch-roof huts.
Hurricane-like winds roared across the state of California, creating a catalyst that ignited wildfires Oct. 8, 2017. The fires tore through northern California, scorching more than 160,000 acres and leaving more than 15,000 people homeless.
One of the hardest hit areas was Santa Rosa, which lost 3,000 homes to the Tubbs fire.
Senior Airman Martin Baglien, 349th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, and his wife Marissa, were sleeping in their home in Santa Rosa, when they were startled awake by a pounding at their door at 2 a.m. that first morning. As they answered the knock, Marissa’s family stood outside. Their house was gone.
“We were dead asleep, just like everyone else,” Baglien said.
After answering the door, he ran into the street.
“You could see the glow all around us, a total 360,” he said. “You couldn’t know the extent of it.”
To get an idea of the scope of the fire, he and his wife drove to a high point.
“From there, we could see how massive this fire was,” he said. “It was obvious how bad things were getting.”
Driving around, they saw downed power lines and office buildings burning with no one around.
“It was truly humbling seeing my city burn,” he said.
“We went around to friends’ houses, families’ houses, neighbors’ houses, waking up everyone we could,” Baglien continued. “A lot of people had no idea.”
The next move was to go and grab water and start giving it to whoever needed it.
“We just drove around wherever they would let us,” he said. “It was a battle of trying to get in somewhere before they would block off the road. We were just trying to do whatever we could to help, whether that was finding stray animals, waking up neighbors, or bringing people water.”
The homes on the street his family lived on were completely burned to the ground. Chimneys stand above the ashes, like gravestones in a cemetery, tin rememberance of what once was. Charred cars and appliances are all that remains of families’ possessions.
“The neighbors next to my family have four kids, which is pretty hard to deal with,” Baglien said. “They worked out of their home. To see it gone is humbling, to say the least.”
The next day, after his family arrived, the Bagliens drove around giving out clothes, blankets, and water to anyone who was distraught. While trying to figure out where the fire was, they determined what actions to take.
The second day of the fires, he got a call from a friend with bad news.
“My buddy, he works in ambulances, told me, ‘Hey, I just got a radio call. The fire is coming over your ridge. You’ve got to pack your [things] because it’s coming,'” Baglien said.
They immediately drove home to find their neighborhood in chaos.
“People were freaking out, which is just so unnecessary,” he described. “We were seeing fights at gas stations and over water.”
So, Martin, his wife, and in-laws all evacuated. The Airman and his wife sent their family to Petaluma where they would be safe with other family members. However, the firefighter and his wife felt wrong about leaving.
“After we sent them down to Petaluma, my wife and I headed to our evacuation center and just started helping, doing everything we can,” he said. “I told them I was a firefighter and they said, ‘Hey, we can totally use you.'”
The scene was chaotic, he described. He ran around unloading ambulances, hooking people up to oxygen, scrambling to find extension cords, and passing out clothes.
“People were coming up to me saying, ‘I just want to go home,'” he said. “And you just had to look at them, smile, and say, ‘We’ll figure this out.'”
In the midst of all the chaos, Baglien said he saw a lot of joy.
“The community really came together,” he said. “We saw a lot more smiles than frowns, which is truly beautiful.”
Baglien and his wife, a nursing student, devoted themselves to volunteering and doing everything they could to help people out. As an Air Force Reserve firefighter, he really wanted to help out in that way.
“Everyday I would get up, put on my wildland gear, and go to either the nearest strike team or go to the evacuation center where they staged,” he said. “I’d get turned away, which is understandable. But, I’d tell them, ‘I’ll roll hoses, I’ll cook, I’ll clean,’ because you got to look at the bigger picture.”
But Martin and Marissa were not deterred. Whenever he got turned down, the two would just find another place to volunteer.
“You just give time,” he said. “Because it’s all about your family, your friends, your community. It was really important to do whatever we could for those people in need.”
Even though he and his wife were working themselves to exhaustion every day, Baglien still felt something was missing.
“I was getting up and doing everything that I could,” he said. “But, it didn’t feel like enough. I never had that fulfillment.”
Finally, he got a call from Travis Air Force Base to report to base. The Atlas Fire was rapidly spreading in Solano County.
“I jumped at the chance to go to base,” he said. “I was on standby, that’s where you start to see the bigger picture. In the fire department, everyone wants to be on the fire line; fight the fire, do the job, and be a hero. But at the same time, you have to know where your response is and where you are needed.”
The fires have since diminished, leaving desolation in their wake. Now, the recovery begins for thousands across California. Many have taken notice of what is truly important in their lives and have leaned on their community members for support.
“I think with all the destruction and chaos and horrible things we were seeing, a lot of people still got out with their skin,” Baglien said. “Seeing people lose everything, but they still had those smiles, because they still had each other; and that’s all that matters. They realized the things they lost were just [things]. It’s really good for people to see this.”
Baglien credited his Air Force Reserve training for helping him stay calm in such a stressful situation.
“The training we get with the 349th [CES] is wonderful and I truly love it,” he said. “We get very good training from everyone there. I could watch everything – combining the classes we’ve taken and the lectures – you start getting into it, and watching the fire and winds and understanding how hot it is. It really helped me to stay calm.”
Baglien’s home still stands, though his in-laws’ is gone. But, they are getting help.
“We are getting a lot of support from the community for our family,” he said. “Right now, they are living with us and various family members. Someone even just donated us a trailer to use for a while.”
“It’s really beautiful to see the community come together, and definitely for the better,” the firefighter said with hope. “It’s really important that we continue to overcome and we continue to push forward from this, because it really is just another day.”
Some vets with a tendency toward showmanship like to take their talents to YouTube or Hollywood when they hit the post-service world.
But the former F-16 fighter pilots behind Operation Encore took the old-school approach and are working to shatter some of the caricatures of veterans through music. The result is a blend of music genres from a variety of military-affiliated artists that range from folksy bluegrass to present-day pop rock — all of it relating to experiences of war that poke fun at life in the service and lament the tragedy of war.
Chris Kurek is the co-founder and partner with Viper Driver Productions. He’s better known as “Snooze,” one of the two founding members of the band Dos Gringos, a pair of F-16 pilots who released four satirical albums full of songs with titles like “I Wish I Had a Gun Just Like the A-10” to the NSFW drinking song “Jeremiah Weed” to the Willie Nelson-esque “TDY Again.”
The band kicked off when Kurek and his fellow jet jock Robert “Trip” Raymond were deployed to Kuwait for Operation Southern Watch and later Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“We were out there for six months, there was nothing else to do,” Kurek said. He and Raymond wrote some songs and performed for the rest of their squadron.
Their songs drew what Kurek described as “wonky eyes” from some, but their squadron commander was very supportive, encouraging them to record the songs on CD, even offering to put up the money.
“We were kind of writing on stuff that pointed out things that drive you crazy in the military,” he said.
Turns out Dos Gringos’ wing commander was less than pleased with their extracurricular enterprise and barred them from performing at the Cannon Air Force Base Officer’s Club.
But the band went viral in a 2003 sorta way via the enlisted maintenance personnel who particularly dug the song, “I’m a Pilot,” Kurek said. The semi-satirical ditty about a self-centered fighter jock — which evokes a sound similar to some songs from the 80s band Warrant — was passed around the flightline.
Eventually, Dos Gringos would put out three more albums —”2,” “Live at Tommy Rockers,” and “El Cuatro” — before the band had to go on hiatus due to pressure from higher ups as Raymond rose through the ranks.
They were not done with music, though. Both felt some frustration with how some caricatured vets and with what they perceived as an effort by Nashville to cash in on the veteran experience.
Kurek recounted that the war wasn’t always patriotism or sadness, pointing out there was a lot of “goofing off and laughter” because of “boredom.”
“Vets can write about anything,” Kurek said. Eventually, in a conversation with Erik Brine, a C-17 pilot who was a later addition to Dos Gringos, Kurek recounted someone asking, “I wonder if there are any other people who did what we did on deployment – bring a guitar and write songs.”
They began a search, and it was a pair of submissions from Stephen Covell, an Army medic who served with the 82nd Airborne Division, that prompted them to create Operation Encore.
“Those two alone were the best I ever heard,” Kurek said. “They conveyed a combat vet’s experience.”
Covell’s submissions pushed Kurek and Raymond to launch a Kickstarter campaign to pay for airfare, studio time, mixing and mastering.
While two albums, “Volume 1” and “Monuments,” have so far been released, Kurek notes the process has been a challenge, largely due to the way the music industry has changed. Kurek recounted that when the first Dos Gringos album came out, CDs were still king. The rise of iTunes and digital downloads were one shift which evened out – the volume increased, even as they got less per song.
With Operation Encore, though, the big challenge has been the fact that the music industry has shifted once again to streaming services, and it takes hundreds of thousands of streams to get real money. Furthermore, Kurek pointed out that Dos Gringos was a niche market, and their audience knew what they would get.
Operation Encore is different.
“Operation Encore is a compilation, not one band, sound, or genre,” he explained, pointing out some of the songs were pop rock, others country or bluegrass. Furthermore, the singers who appear are scattered all over the world. Just getting the performers together for a concert would entail airfare, hotel rooms, and equipment rental. Not to mention all the stuff that is in the riders for the artists.
Kurek, though, is still hot on his Iraq War-era band.
“I wish we could do one more Dos Gringos album,” he said.
Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s supreme leader, has arrived in Beijing in his first-ever trip outside the country as its ruler, Bloomberg News reported March 26, 2018.
Kim arrived after mysterious journey of a train from North Korea, which recalls visits his father had made to Beijing before his death in 2011.
Numerous reports on social media and news websites tracked the path of a train slowing train traffic in Northeast China, arriving in Beijing, and then coinciding with a motorcade involving police on motorbikes and a limousine. The train is thought to be the same one Kim took to Beijing in 2010.
Yun Sun, a North Korea and China expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider that the mysterious train’s journey “disrupted the whole railway schedule for northeast China, and people are observing that and drawing conclusions about who might be on that train.”
Chad O’Carrol, the managing director of the Korea Risk Group, tweeted that staff at the train station said all the security and obstruction was related to construction but also made the case for why it might have been Kim Jong Un’s first time leaving the country since assuming power.
It would “make perfect sense” for Kim to travel to Beijing “using father’s armored train,” tweeted O’Carrol, who said the route was well tested by North Korean security and that the blackout on state media covering the trip was consistent with trips his father, Kim Jong Il, made to Beijing.
Additionally, Kim is expected to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump in the coming months, both leaders of nations his regime is still technically at war with.
On the other hand, China is North Korea’s treaty ally, and its main lifeline to trade with the outside world. Kim Jong Un has refused offers to visit Beijing in the past, but has recently changed his tone regarding diplomacy and face-to-face meetings.
Did Trump make this happen?
Sun said that China attempted to meet with Kim in the past, but rising tensions as North Korea’s nuclear testing heated up derailed the preparations and deteriorated bilateral relations. Previously, China saw Kim as defiant and abusing Beijing’s support for the country, and denied them “the honor, the validation, of having a meeting” with Xi.
“The only variable has changed,” in the Pyongyang-Beijing relationship, according to Sun, is that Trump accepted a face-to-face meeting with Kim, which she said may have “motivated the Chinese to change their mind.”
Also, North Korea may not be able to handle a summit with Trump on their own, and China has a good deal of anxiety about being left out of diplomatic efforts between Pyongyang and its adversaries, according to Sun.
In any case, the train’s journey to Beijing fits the profile of Kim family visits to China’s rulers in the past, and makes sense from both the Chinese and North Korean sides in the run-up to attempting diplomacy with Trump face-to-face.
If Kim Jong Un wanted to keep F-35s from being able to roam around his country with absolute freedom, he should have been investing in radar technology or fifth-generation fighters instead of nuclear weapons. Now, his erstwhile enemy to the South is getting some of the latest and greatest tech outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“We, on our part, have no other choice but to develop and test the special armaments to completely destroy the lethal weapons reinforced in South Korea, ” said KCNA, North Korea’s state media outlet.
KCNA says a lot of things, though. Very enthusiastically.
South Korea received its first two F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in March 2019 and will have another 38 delivered by 2021. North Korea’s air force consists of very old Soviet-built MiGs and is largely unchanged from the air force his grandfather used. It’s so bad even the North Koreans acknowledge their fleet leaves something to be desired. Now, with South Korea’s acquisition of the world’s most advanced fighter, the North may actually have to make some much-needed upgrades.
“There is no room for doubt that the delivery of ‘F-35A’, which is also called an ‘invisible lethal weapon’, is aimed at securing military supremacy over the neighboring countries in the region and especially opening a ‘gate’ to invading the North in time of emergency on the Korean peninsula,” North Korea said in a statement via KCNA.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their summit at the truce village of Panmunjom.
While Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump are having a very public bromance, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in is largely left out of the media spotlight. When Trump arrived to meet with Kim at the Korean Demilitarized Zone, Moon was on the sidelines while Trump went for a walk in North Korea.
Rapprochement with the United States doesn’t extend to the South in every instance, however. The delivery of the vaunted F-35 prompted the North to issue these stunning rebukes of South Korean defense policy, calling the South “impudent and pitiful.”
“The South Korean authorities had better come to their senses before it is too late, shattering the preposterous illusions that an opportunity would come for improved inter-Korean relations if they follow in the footsteps of the United States,” said North Korea in an official statement.
China reportedly sent an uninvited surveillance ship to spy on the recent joint military exercises with Russia, a move highlighting how lingering distrust and competitiveness weaken the so-called “strategic partnership” emerging between Moscow and Beijing.
Beijing sent thousands of People’s Liberation Army troops accompanied by tanks, helicopters, and artillery to eastern Russia for joint drills in September 2018. China also deployed a PLA Navy Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence (AGI) vessel to shadow Russian naval assets training at sea while Chinese ground troops trained on land, USNI News reported, citing a US official. The latter was apparently not invited, but the opportunity to gather valuable intelligence on a competitor was presumably too good to pass up.
While consistent with past Chinese practices — the Chinese navy has sent spy ships to the Rim of the Pacific exercises — it is unusual to surveil an ally while training alongside them, even if it is technically legal under international law.
Given rising tensions between Washington and Moscow and Beijing, some observers suggested that increasing US pressure was driving Russia and China together, laying the groundwork for a possible alliance. A strategic military partnership between the two powers is alarming given each country’s interest in challenging America’s leadership and unilateral power and authority in the international system.
“It sends a signal to Washington that if the U.S. continues on its current course by pressuring Russia and imposing more sanctions, Russia will fall even more into the firm embrace of China,” Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Institute in Moscow recently told the Associated Press.
The Military Band of the Eastern Military District during the opening parade of Vostok 2018.
The “main political significance” of the Vostok 2018 drills “comes from the signaling by both Russia and China about the possible emergence of a strategic partnership, aimed at countering the threat that both countries feel from continued U.S. dominance of the international system,” Dmitry Gorenburg argued in The Washington Post.
The massive war games, touted as “unprecedented” and expected to be held every five years going forward, came as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to stand together against unilateralism. In June 2018, Xi called Putin his “best friend,” a sentiment seemingly shared by the latter.
But despite the budding bromance between Chinese and Russian leadership, the bilateral relationship between the two countries is undermined by decades of distrust dating back to the Cold War, when Soviet and Chinese troops skirmished along the border and tensions rose to the point that Russia was considering a nuclear strike on China.
Chinese state-affiliated media downplayed talk of a Chinese-Russian alliance, suggesting that the concept was being overhyped. “China and Russia are not allies, and they are firm in not forging an alliance,” the nationalist Global Times explained in a recent editorial. “But the outside world shouldn’t make China and Russia feel an urgent need to strengthen their military cooperation.”
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said recently that he sees “little in the long term that aligns Russia and China.”
Exactly what the Chinese intelligence vessel was doing remains unclear, but experts suspect that it was gathering information on Russia’s more technologically-sophisticated navy given China’s interest in advancing its radar and electronic warfare capabilities, USNI News reported. Assuming the ship was indeed uninvited, China may have been trying to learn more about Russian warfighting than Russia was willing to teach.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.