This is why it's awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Thanking those who served is always appreciated. Nearly every single veteran signed on the dotted line to contribute to something bigger than themselves and, when civilians extend their gratitude, the good will is reciprocated — that is, on any day outside of the last Monday in May.

Yes, the gratitude is always welcomed, but Memorial Day isn’t the time. If prompted, nearly every veteran will give a polite response along the lines of, “thank you for your sentiment, but today is not my day.”


Memorial Day is a day that’s often confused with Veteran’s Day (November 11th) and Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May). While most countries around the world remember their fallen troops on Armistice Day (which commemorates the signing of the treaty that ended World War I — also November 11th), the United States of America began its tradition of taking a day to remember the fallen shortly after the end of the American Civil War.

In its infancy, the holiday was also called “Decoration Day” and generally fell on or around May 30th — depending on where you lived. It was a time when troops, civilians, family, friends, and loved ones would visit the graves of fallen Civil War troops and decorate them with flowers in remembrance.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
It was expanded after WWI to include all fallen troops from all wars.

The date was chosen because no major battles had taken place on that day — instead of honoring those died in a single battle, mourners could remember all who fell. It was also around the time most flowers started to bloom in North America.

After World War I, the country gradually transitioned to using Memorial Day as a way to honor fallen troops from every conflict. The celebration was kept around the same date and, on this day, the nation still decorates the graves of fallen troops with flags and flowers.

The final Monday in May became a federal holiday with the creation of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and was chosen out of convenience. It gave every American a federally recognized, three-day weekend in order to continue the tradition of honoring those who sacrificed everything for our freedoms.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
As pleasant as it is to enjoyu00a0time off and au00a0cookouts are, it turned into a double-edged sword.
(Photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

The convenience of this three-day weekend was noted in a 2002 speech by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who said the change undermined the meaning of the day to the general public. To many, it also marks the unofficial beginning of summer, a time filled with barbecues and trips to the lake.

Now, that’s not to say that these pleasantries should ever stop — Americans enjoying their freedoms is what many troops fought to uphold. It’s important to remember, however, that day has, and always will be, in remembrance of the fallen. It’s a day of solemn reflection most troops and veterans spend thinking of their fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
If a veteran can make it there, this is generally how they spend their three-day weekend. If they can’t, this is where their head is at.
(Photo by Senior Airman Phillip Houk)

To properly thank a veteran this Memorial Day, visit one of the many national cemeteries and join them in placing flags, flowers, and wreaths on the graves of those who deserve our thanks. To find a national cemetery near you, please click here.

MIGHTY FIT

4 ‘Can you do THIS?’ fitness challenges

So here’s the story. I normally run a few times a week, strength train and figure skate as often as I possibly can. (What can I say? I love knife shoes.) I’ve since gone through several quarantine phases. It started with, “I’m going to use this time to be in the best shape of my life!”…aka denial. It was then followed by stress baking, boredom snacking and finally my current stage: Trying my best to find balance.

Instead of stressing myself out with rigid fitness goals, I’m listening to my body and choosing workouts I actually feel like doing. For motivation, I’m trying a new fitness challenge each day to appreciate everything my body can do. (Even when I’ve eaten more onion and garlic pretzel chips than medically recommended.) These are a few of the exercises I’ve tried so far…can you do them all?


Stand Up From the Floor…No Hands Allowed!

Okay, this one sounds deceptively easy. Lay down on your stomach and try to get up without using your hands for help. Roll over, sit up, bend your knees, lean forward and try to rise to your feet. It doesn’t require exceptional strength, but you do need to have decent flexibility throughout your hips and hamstrings.

Balance on One Leg for 60 Seconds

Another exercise that sounds crazy easy, except that you have to do this balanced on the *ball* of your foot. You don’t have to raise all the way up to your toes, but your heel must be lifted off the ground for it to count. Start out with one hand on a chair or countertop for balance. First, lift your free leg up, keeping your foot pressed lightly against your standing leg for stability. Then, lift up onto the ball of your foot and start the timer.

This is a test not only of balance but of the strength of all the stabilizing muscles from your calves to your core. Thirty seconds and up is considered good, and 60 seconds is excellent. Pro-tip: Try focusing on keeping a tight core and flexing your glutes to hold the position longer!

Hold a Plank for 2 Minutes

The humble plank is a great, full-body exercise, and it’s pretty tough. Just hold the “up” part of a pushup as long as you can, making sure your back isn’t arched and your butt isn’t sticking up in the air — save that for yoga class! While you only need to hold planks for around 30 seconds to benefit from them, it’s fun to see how long you can hold them! (Not to brag, but I did it for 3.)

Pistol Squats

This is the toughest one on the list, hands down. To do a pistol squat, you extend one leg straight out in front of you and squat down to a minimum of 90 degrees- some people can go all the way to the floor! It’s super tough, and you need more than just strength. You need a ton of flexibility to keep your free leg from hitting the floor. A cheat as you work your way up to a full pistol squat is to hold onto a railing to lessen the resistance. I managed 5 before I couldn’t make it back up and fell on my butt.

Which exercise was the toughest for you? Hopefully, you surprised yourself!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia announced it will test its ‘unstoppable’ Satan missile

A top Russian General announced on March 13, 2018, that Russia’s military will conduct a second test of its new, most powerful nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile amid rising tensions with NATO.


“The first launch of this missile took place at the end of December 2017. At the moment, preparations are in full swing at the Plesetsk cosmodrome for another pop-up test,” Russian General Valery Gerasimov told state-run media, referring to testing the missile’s systems used to eject from its silo as a “pop-up” test.

Also read: The 20 coolest artillery pieces in history

During Putin’s State of the Nation speech on March 1, 2018, he talked up the new system, called the RS-28, or the “Satan 2” by NATO members, while showing footage of its testing.

But like much of Russia’s military hardware, the actual footage only showed an ejection test, and then a computer animation took over to demonstrate the missiles flight path, which has not yet been tested.

When discussing the missile, both Putin and Gerasimov discussed how it could defeat missile defense systems, without mentioning that no one has yet built missile defense systems designed to counter a Russian ICBM attack.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The RS-28 can carry as many as 16 nuclear warheads, or fewer, heavier warheads and possibly decoys or countermeasures, The Diplomat’s Franz Gady reports.

Putin, during his speech, also mentioned that the missile can pair with a hypersonic glide vehicle that would further complicate any attempts at interception.

Putin’s talk of Russia’s new offensive nuclear weapons comes as he seeks re-election on March 18, 2018. Though nobody seriously expects Putin to lose the election where no meaningful opposition is running and he has controlled the media throughout, experts have told Business Insider he’s under pressure to deliver tangible results of his leadership.

Related: This is how Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ nuclear weapon works

Both the US and UK have called Putin’s talk of new nuclear systems “irresponsible,” while both countries stand ready to condemn Moscow if authorities can prove that a nerve agent attack carried out against a former spy in the UK can be traced back to the Kremlin.

The UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May said it was “highly likely” that the attack was Russian in origin, and that the UK would retaliate if it proved true.

Additionally, Gerasimov said in separate comments that he believes the US will try to blame a chemical weapon attack on civilians on Syria, and use that to launch an attack against the country, against which Russia would retaliate.

Articles

4 terrible pieces of advice ‘Carl’ would give to the US President

It was reported earlier this month that during a July 19 meeting with his national-security team, President Donald Trump turned down counsel of his generals, saying he leaned “toward the advice of rank-and-file soldiers.”


As one of those “rank-and-file” soldiers who has sat through countless sensing sessions where dumb asses give the stupidest advice on how to run the Army, I can see plenty of room for error.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Case in point (Comic by Maximilian at Terminal Lance)

Writer’s Note: This is not intended to be a political piece. It’s only meant to shine a light on the humor that would come from giving “Carl” — or the person that has to be THAT f*cking guy in your unit — the ultimate open door policy. Soldiers could have great ideas that could help turn things around in Afghanistan. But not Carl.

1. Every base would get a luxurious boost in MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation).

Soldiers are more ready and resilient if they aren’t bored out of their f*cking minds, right? Some soldiers make it seem like it’s a matter of life and death if they have to twiddle their thumbs for more than 10 minutes at a time. Carl’s first piece of advice?

“Porn, Mr. President. No one can be busy twiddling their thumbs if their twiddling their little rifleman instead. Gonna need tablets and good WiFi for every combat outpost. And make sure to not put some dumb password on it. No one wants to look for a sticky note when they’re trying to get sticky, you feel me?”

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Back in my day, all we had was a broken pool table and a library that only a few people went to, and we pretended like we were fine with it! (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

2. Get rid of the MREs for junk food.

Did you know there’s a lot of science behind MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat)? They have to have at least 5-year shelf life, specific calorie counts, have a variety of nutrients and hold their nutrients through a quick heating process, are specifically pH balanced, stay oxygen controlled, and so much more. But Carl doesn’t realize that.

“Beer and brauts. And make sure they have lots of pork so the locals won’t want to touch us. Come to think of it, put some stickers in ’em that say, ‘Infidel filled with pig,’ so all the enemies will know our blood is unsafe to touch. Yeah, mess with us, lose your virgins. Expiration dates? Nah, we’ll drink ’em before they go bad.”

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
The last of these were made in ’08. Unless they were kept in a temperature of below a constant 40°F, these f*ckers should all be expired. We should be safe now. (Photo via Wikicommons)

3. Put fast food joints on all FOBs.

I remember my first time at Ali Al Salem Air Base. One of my NCOs took me to the McDonalds. He bought me a burger and told me “Ski, (every service member with a Polish last name has it reduced to the same three letters) enjoy this burger because it’s all down hill from here.” I replied, “But Sergeant, this tastes like cat sh*t flattened in an ash tray.”

“Like I said, all down hill from here.”

And Carl doesn’t get that it’s a problem of logistics and security.

“Here we go, President Trump. What they really need over there is a little taste of home, specifically, a taste of home-fried chicken from Kentucky. Yeah, KFC. Finger-licken good.”

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Yet, it tasted so much better the second time around. (photo via TheBlueShadow)

4. The definition of “hazing” would get a lot more intense.

‘Member hazing? I ‘member.

There’s a difference between taking a wooden mallet and giving someone a seizure and tapping someone on their new rank to say “good sh*t, sergeant!” There’s a difference between having a lighthearted joke with the new guy by telling him to run around everywhere on a scavenger hunt and things that are the definition of sexual assault.

“But like, they were super mean to me. One of ’em said I should go get the keys to the drop zone for the airborne guys. But, get this, there’s no such thing! Yeah, so no more snipe hunts, Mr. President. And also, no more hard stuff right after lunch. I need time to digest my KFC.”

Related: This is why the military shouldn’t completely outlaw hazing

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

 

What dumb ideas do you think Carl would give the President of the United States? Let’s hear them in the comment section.

Associate Editor and Army paratrooper Logan Nye contributed to this story.

MIGHTY HISTORY

9 photos of escort carriers, the U-boat killers

Fleet-sized aircraft carriers, such as the USS Enterprise and USS Midway, captured the public’s attention during the air battles of World War II.

But the majority of the US Navy’s aircraft carriers during the war were actually smaller, lesser known vessels: Escort carriers.

There were five different classes of escort carriers, all of which varied slightly. But in general, they were about half the size of fleet-sized carriers.

The Casablanca-class, which had the largest number built with 50 hulls, typically carried 28 aircraft, including 12 Grumman TBF Avengers torpedo bombers and 16 F4F Wildcats fighters, Timothy Bostic, a reference librarian at the Navy Department Library, told Business Insider.

Referred to as “Jeep carriers” or “baby flap tops” by the press, escort carriers were slow, lightly armored and had few defensive weapons.

But they were also expert at hunting and killing enemy submarines, and exacted a heavy toll on Germany’s U-boats.

Here’s how they did it.


This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

The USS Long Island underway in May 1943.

When German U-boats began sinking convoy ships in the beginning of the war, Great Britain asked the US for help, which responded by building escort carriers. The first escort carrier was the USS Long Island, which was built from an old freighter and launched in January 1940.

Source: US Navy

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

The USS Chenango (CVE-28) off Mare Island Navy Yard, California on 22 September 1943.

The US then built four more from oiler hulls, including the Chenango, which were sent to help with landings in North Africa, where they proved extremely successful in anti-submarine warfare. This led to the building of dozens more and deployments to the Pacific.

In total, the US built and launched 78 escort carriers between 1941-1945.

Source: US Navy

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

The USS Sangamon (CVE-26) anchored off the the Solomons in 1943.

Escort carriers had initially been used to protect convoys, ferrying planes, among other duties. But by 1943, the US had evolved its tactics to hunt and kill U-boats.

Source: US Naval Institute

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

The USS Bogue (CVE-9) underway near Norfolk in June 1943.

In May 1943, the USS Bogue scored the first escort carrier kill of a German U-boat after spotting the surfaced U-231 and sent a Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber after it, which released four depth bombs and took it out as it tried to submerge.

Source: US Naval Institute

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

A US Navy landing signal officer guides a Grumman TBF-1 Avenger on board the USS Card.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

The USS Core (CVE-13) in 1943 or 1944.

But what led to the escort carriers’ eventual success over the German U-boats was the Allies code-breaking U-boat radio traffic in 1943, providing escort carriers with accurate locations of enemy submarines.

Source: US Naval Institute

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

USS Card (CVE-11) underway off Virginia in March 1943.

This breakthrough also allowed the Allies to hunt and kill German U-tankers, or “Milch Cows,” which refueled the short-range U-boats at sea.

Source: US Naval Institute

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

The US Navy escort carrier USS Santee (CVE-29) anchored in October 1942.

This new knowledge of German U-boat and U-tankers allowed the Allies to evolve their tactics, sending escort carriers with destroyers away from their convoys to hunt and destroy the enemy submarines.

Source: US Navy

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

USS Card CVE-11 in 1944.

By the war’s end, escort carriers had sunk a total of 53 German U-boats.

Source: US Naval Institute

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

Military Life

Here’s the military’s incredibly painful ‘OC spray’ training

Being “OC sprayed” is an absolutely terrible experience.


OC, or Oleoresin Capsicum — better known as pepper spray — is used to train military and law enforcement personnel as a necessary exercise, so they know what it feels like and can continue to function if they are sprayed.

“It may be the greatest pain I’ve ever felt in my life,” former Marine Ben Feibleman told WATM. Echoing this sentiment, WATM’s own Mike Dowling described it as “the worst day of his life.”

Despite the suffocating and searing sensation of the face, it’s a non-lethal form of policing, riot control, and personal self-defense. In most cases, the worst that will happen is irritation of the skin, temporary blindness, pain and the psychological effect of fear, anxiety and panic. As part of their training, troops are subject to voluntary OC spraying and asked to perform crowd restraint exercises.

The active ingredient in most OC sprays is a high concentration of pepper and alcohol, which is why “pepper spray” is commonly used to identify the spray. The only way to mitigate the spray’s effect is a direct stream of water to the eyes to flush the chemical out. In most cases – depending on the chemical concentration – the average effect lasts 30 minutes, according to SABRE, a brand of OC spray.

Here’s what a typical OC spray qualification is like:

The pepper spray is voluntary. He may look calm…

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Photo: Cpl. Manuel A. Estrada/USMC

… but here’s what he’s really feeling.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

 

Next, nearly blind from the pepper spray, the trainee must take down a threat by submission.

 

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Photo: Seaman Apprentice Brian H. Abel/US Navy

Then, the trainee must simulate fending off a potential threat.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Photo: Cpl. Manuel A. Estrada/USMC

Once training is complete, it’s off to rinsing your face with water.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Photo: Gunnery Sgt. Scott Dunn/USMC

No matter how much pepper spray hurts, don’t be this guy:

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

These guys just surprised a struggling vet with a new car

Larry Yake, an Army veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was one of several “Vets in Vettes” at the front of the Oct. 28 Meadville Halloween Parade.


When the Corvettes provided by Community Chevrolet pulled over alongside the stage erected in front of the Market House, Yake thought it was just part of the parade. Little did he know that he would be going home with one of the cars in the parade — not one of the Corvettes, but a car that promises to go a long way toward improving Yake’s quality of life.

Also read: Get your tissues — The Rock just surprised a combat vet

“I was surprised,” Yake admitted from in front of the Market House, where he had returned after finishing the parade. His daughter, who he’s raising on his own, and friends and family members were there, as they had been for the presentation moments earlier — they had known of the surprise presentation, but none had let on to Yake.

“I was almost emotional,” the disabled vet said. “I had to choke it back a little bit.”

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Army veteran Larry Yake (center, leather jacket) accepts a vehicle from Operation Build Up. Video still from Operation Build Up Facebook.

Yake is the fourth Meadville-area veteran to receive a refurbished car from Operation Build Up, a nonprofit based in Lima, New York. Representatives of the organization rode in the parade behind the Corvettes, pulling a trailer with the white 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer that would be given to Yake.

Justin Cogswell, CEO of Operation Build Up, said the organization had recently started a Pennsylvania hub.

Also Read: This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

Cogswell knows firsthand the challenges vets can face upon returning home, especially if those challenges include transportation. Soon after he returned from serving with the Marines in 2009, his vehicle became disabled and before he knew it, he had been evicted and had lost his job. For nine months, he bounced from one living situation to the next.

“When I actually got a vehicle,” he said, it only took me a couple of weeks to get my life back in order. I realized the main thing that was preventing me from establishing a solid civilian life was not having a vehicle.”

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Operation Build Up’s logo, from Facebook.

“I feel that once veterans lose transportation,” he added, “they lose the ability to prosper.”

Jim Severo owns RANZ Bar and Grill, a veteran himself and has served on the Operation Wounded Vetz organizing committee for the past five years. Over the summer, Severo hosted an earlier car presentation at RANZ and helped arrange the surprise for Yake, even scheduling “chance encounters” so that Yake was in the Corvette Severo was driving in the parade.

“This town has really embraced them,” Severo said of Operation Build Up. “These guys are very passionate about what they do and there’s definitely no shortage of struggling vets.”

Yake was similarly passionate about his appreciation as he watched the tail end of the parade march past the Market House.

“This car is really going to help me take care of my daughter and meet my VA appointments,” Yake said.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day
Paratroopers of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. US Army Photo by Pfc Liem Huynh.

After entering the Army in 2005, Yake served as a member of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, serving in Iraq from 2005 to 2006. After returning home, he served again in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2008.

It’s been about five years since he had a car, Yake said, and he already knows what he wants to do first with the car Operation Build Up is giving him.

“I’m going to my parents’ house and show them the car,” he said, “because they’ve always been there for me through everything.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

See how A-10s are practicing to fight Russia in Europe

Russia’s increasing aggression in Europe has made some countries nervous. This is particularly true for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — former Soviet republics that have since joined NATO. To make matters worse, these countries don’t have much in the way of military power.

That said, NATO is doing what they can to reassure these countries. To do that, they’re putting on an exercise known as Saber Strike. This exercise brings together 19 countries, including Baltic nations and Poland, to “build readiness” in the area — sending a clear message to a particular Eastern neighbor.

This year’s exercise features the 2nd Cavalry Regiment moving from its base in Germany to Poland, simulating the type of deployment the unit would make in a real crisis.


This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

In a fight with Russia, A-10 Thunderbolts would likely use AGM-65 Mavericks as a primary weapon against air-defense systems.

(DOD photo by Jim Haseltine)

One of the units taking part in this exercise is the 127th Operations Group, the parent unit of the 107th Fighter Squadron of the Michigan Air National Guard. This unit has flown the A-10 Thunderbolt II, a plane designed for close-air support missions, since 2008. This is the plane that would back up NATO forces sent to defend the Baltic states if anything were to go down.

The United States currently has 13 squadrons that operate the A-10. This plane, famous for the BRRRRRT emitted by its GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun, has a top speed of 450 knots and a maximum range of 2,240 nautical miles. In addition to its massive gun, the A-10 can carry up to eight tons of bombs, missiles, and rockets.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

The A-10 Thunderbolt II was designed to help NATO defeat the hordes of Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks threatening Western Europe.

(USAF)

The Air Force is currently running the OA-X program to try to (partially) replace the A-10 — right now, the AT-29 Super Tucano and the AT-6 Wolverine, a pair of light attack planes, are looking like favorites. Unfortunately, as it stands now, those planes aren’t nearly as capable as the A-10.

Watch the video below to see the A-10s with the Michigan Air National Guard take part in Saber Strike ’18!

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MOVIES

Bill Burr, Jeff Ross, and Eagles of Death Metal rock out at Hollywood American Legion

In the first-ever Stand Up and Rock Out benefit event, American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood, California, got a heavy dose of comedy and heavy metal; attracting celebs, rockers, and plenty of vets. Held in the new, beautifully remodeled theater at The Legion, the sold-out event featured sets from Bill Burr, Jeff Ross, and Bob Saget and a performance by Eagles of Death Metal.


Rounding out the show was Joe Derosa with American Legion member Jon Stites hosting the whole event.

Jon is no stranger to comedy, having made the rounds all over LA and abroad. Before becoming a professional standup comedian, Jon was a grunt in the Army and even spent a little time as a college language professor. Now, he helps the iconic Hollywood American Legion get the street cred it deserves by bringing them acts like Bill Burr and Eagles of Death Metal. Check out the video above for a taste of the epic jam session and stay tuned for news about more rock shows coming to a Legion near you.

If you want to check out more Jon Stites, catch Mandatory Fun, where he breaks down the most hilarious clips from across the military.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Kurds just launched their ‘endgame battle’ against ISIS

The moment the people of Iraq and Syria have waited so long to see has finally arrived: the Kurdish SDF are assaulting the last ISIS stronghold in the Middle East. For years, ISIS and its so-called caliphate conquered and subjugated people across the two countries – including the Kurds, against whom they committed numerous atrocities.

It’s all in the past now, as the U.S.-backed Kurdish SDF just brought the war on ISIS to their last doorstep.


In the small Syrian town of Baghuz, near its eastern border with Iraq, ISIS fighters are using smoke and suicide bombers to try to slow the progress of the Kurds as they roll through ISIS’ last stronghold. The SDF waited weeks before assaulting the area in an attempt to allow innocent civilians to flee the combat zone. Now, the battle has begun, and it’s not looking good for the Islamic State, despite its potentially thousands-strong numbers.

No one in the region will be particularly sad to see the threat of the Islamic Caliphate dissipate. In 2014, the Islamic State saw a surprisingly easy territory grab across Iraq and Syria, capturing weapons, vehicles, cash, and oil in a blitz of unprecedented success.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Kurdish SDF forces have arrested scores of ISIS fighters trying to flee the area.

Inside the captured territory, life under ISIS rule was harsh and repressive, with dire consequences for noncompliance. Under the strictest forms of Islamic law, civilians would be put to death for offenses ranging from smoking cigarettes to dancing. The terror group destroyed numerous historical and religious sites considered blasphemous by their brand of Islam and threatened persecution and genocide against religious and ethnic minorities they considered apostates.

Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq began to strike back just as fast. U.S.-backed Kurdish and Iraqi forces had retaken all ISIS-held territory in Iraq by the end of 2017. Though Syria remains a country fractured by civil war, at least one faction is finally on its last leg as the SDF empties the last pocket of ISIS.

At the end of the operation, American forces are likely to go home, as President Donald Trump has restated time and again, most recently in the 2019 State of the Union Address. They are slated to leave Syria by the end of April. For the U.S.-backed Kurdish militias, the future is far from certain.

Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, considered armed Kurdish groups in Syria to be terrorist groups, no better than ISIS itself. Turkey maintains a large presence in Syria after intervening in the country in 2015. To date, Turkey has struck SDF positions numerous times, despite U.S. warnings – and the SDF has promised retaliation for any Turkish attacks in Syria.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first combat qualified female naval aviator died in a crazy accident

When Lt. Kara Hultgreen died while trying to land on the USS Abraham Lincoln, the event touched off a national debate about women in combat roles and the military pushing women who weren’t ready into active service. Except Hultgreen was more than qualified to be a naval aviator – she was just a victim of a well-known deficiency in the F-14’s Pratt & Whitney engine.


This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

“Top Gun” doesn’t mention engine deficiencies.

Hultgreen’s mom thought she would be the perfect debutante. Instead, her little Kara set out to be a Naval Aviator, flying the F-14 Tomcat. The goal didn’t stop at the F-14, Kara Hultgreen wanted to be an astronaut one day. But she didn’t start with the Tomcat, she started her career flying the less-pretty EA-6A. She made it to the Tomcat 18 months later.

“Yes, it’s a macho job in a number of ways,” she told Woman Pilot magazine before she died. “But that’s not why I wanted to do it. I did this to become a fighter pilot. It makes me feel no less feminine and it should not make men feel less masculine. The F-14 is a humbling jet and I’ve been humbled.”

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Call Sign: “Revlon”

What she meant by being humbled is that Hultgreen narrowly failed her first attempt at F-14 carrier qualification. But she passed easily her second time around, ranking third in her class overall. Tragically, it was a similar event that would result in her death.

On Oct. 25, 1994, she was attempting to land her F-14 aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. She overshot the landing area’s centerline and attempted to correct the mistake. Her correction disrupted the airflow into her Tomcat’s left engine, which caused it to fail. This was a known deficiency in that particular engine. What she did next caused the plane to tilt over to the left. When her Radar Intercept Officer realized the plane was not recoverable, he initiated the plane’s ejection sequences. He was fired out, and .4 seconds later, Hultgreen was fired out of the plane.

But by then, the Tomcat had turned over by 90 degrees and Hultgreen was launched into the ocean, killing her instantly.

By the time she died, Lt. Hultgreen had more than 1,240 hours of flying time in the F-14 Tomcat and had landed on a carrier some 58 times, 17 times at night. She was ranked first in defending the fleet from simulated attacks by enemy aircraft and in air refueling, and second in tactics to evade enemy aircraft and in combined familiarization with tactics and aircraft. The Aerospace Engineer was a Distinguished Naval Graduate of Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Yet, despite all of her achievements, training, and preparation, there were some who blamed the military for her death, alleging her superiors overlooked her mistakes in training in trying to beat the Air Force in training the first female fighter pilot. One group, the Center for Military Readiness, claimed to have obtained Hultgreen’s training records in 1995, records which they said would have disqualified her as an aviator.

These records are contradicted by records released from Hultgreen’s family the year prior, however. Her colleagues and fellow pilots praised her performance as a naval aviator and reminded people that 10 F-14 pilots were killed in accidents between the years of 1992 and 1994. Hultgreen once even brought an EA-6A Intruder to a safe landing, despite flying it with crippled landing gear.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 silver linings of a global pandemic

These are strange times. Life as we know it has constantly been in flux as hourly updates roll in, new laws are enacted, and we draw farther and farther into isolation. It’s been harder than usual to find the light in a dark moment, but there are actually a few good things we can hold onto.


This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

A new appreciation for the older generations

The young appear to be spared from the worst of the virus waging war on the world today. Before coronavirus, it’s hard to recall a time where American culture took a long hard look at its aging generations with such love and appreciation. Knowing our last remaining Holocaust survivors, WWII Veterans, Korean and Vietnam soldiers all fall within the “high risk” category has caused many of us to rethink how we care for our elders.

Will we reimagine elderly care from distant centers to family-centered care? It’s certainly something to consider.

We get to take a hard look at consumption

There’s a long list of things we can’t do right now that’s affecting many of our lives and schedules. Yet, when we really think about it…does any of it actually matter? Coming off the high-speed rat race of life, we have all seen just how materialistic our lives are. What truly matters when it’s all on the line? The ones around you, the people you love.

Let us all take this reset to reconfigure life to slow down a few paces. To become centered, perhaps for the first time, around those who we couldn’t live without and to let go of the things that we realized we didn’t need.

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We’re all getting to restructure our families

Living life in the fast lane, it becomes easy to look past or completely miss the gaps in our parenting or marital relationships. We’re all pulled in so many directions that we literally do not have the time to do the work. Like it or not, you’re likely taking a long hard look at the product of that life and lucky for you, you have the time to course-correct.

Now is the time to go back to basics, ensuring you have your bases covered. It’s time to address what we can to be on a better and stronger path when life resumes.

Relationships will be stronger for this

With so much uncertainty, and so much free time, it’s likely you’ve thought about who you’re giving your time to, and who in your life you may have neglected a bit. It’s easy in life, especially the military life, to focus solely on life in your current town. Long-distance calls to your former bestie have become less frequent.

Thanks to isolation, there’s absolutely zero reasons for this. It’s time to renew, reconnect and review your friend list.

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Push the reset button

Self-care is now daily care with all the time life has granted you. With literally nothing else better to do, why not start that next chapter you’ve been waiting for? Do the virtual Yoga retreat. Bake until you become amazing. Try and fail and try again because, after all, who is watching?

Whatever you do during your quarantine time, do it well and come out stronger for it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA employees volunteer to answer nation’s call

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1,000 Veterans Health Administration staff have volunteered for more than 3,700 deployments to support Veterans and civilians in the most hard-hit areas of the country.

Volunteers deploy through VA’s Disaster Emergency Personnel System (DEMPS), VA’s main program for deploying clinical and non-clinical staff to an emergency or disaster elsewhere in the country. The all-volunteer assignments vary in skillsets, geographic locations and length of time for the support.

Many volunteers deploy multiple times

Sophia Didley, a nurse manager at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland, has deployed three times through DEMPS.

Didley, a 24-year Air Force Veteran, went to Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. More recently, she deployed to assist with the COVID-19 response at the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home, a state Veterans home. She also deployed to the Waters Edge Healthcare Rehabilitation Center, a private rehabilitation facility, both in New Jersey.

Didley describes the DEMPS experience as similar to the military in the sense that you are volunteering at any given moment to go anywhere in the world, or in the case of DEMPS, the country.

These VA employees put aside their fears, leave their homes and families, and volunteer where they are needed most – to support their colleagues while caring for Veterans sick with COVID-19.

No truer definition of paying back Veterans for their service

“Most of the time your family is proud of you and fearful at the same time,” Didley said. “My friends were my cheerleaders. I was proud to be helping with this pandemic.”

To date, VA personnel have deployed to more than 49 states and territories to support VA medical centers with surges of COVID-19 cases and to provide support to state and community nursing homes.

VA staff are currently deployed to facilities and Federal Emergency Management Agency regional response coordination centers across Arkansas, California, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Ruth Ortiz, a respiratory therapist at the Gainesville VA Medical Center in Florida, has also been on three DEMPS deployments – all three in this year alone. At the beginning of the year she went to Puerto Rico for earthquake relief. Later in the year she traveled to New Orleans and then San Antonio for COVID-19 relief.

“You’re not really sure what you’re walking into when you get there,” Ortiz said. “Once you are presented to the department where you’re going to work, you’re given your assignment and you’re oriented and basically you hit the ground running. For New Orleans and San Antonio, I was working in their COVID ICU. So that was a very new and challenging experience for me.

“The DEMPS program is a very rewarding program. It is going to take you out of your comfort zone. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be a very rewarding challenge. You’re going to use your skills and your knowledge in any type of critical care setting you might come into. It is just an amazing experience to be a part of.”

VA’s Fourth Mission – assisting the nation

Since its inception in 1997, the DEMPS program continues a long history of service and support. It has grown in scope and complexity. DEMPS volunteers deployed to New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They also deployed to Puerto Rico in response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. For a period of four months in 2017, DEMPS deployed more than 1,200 staff in response to hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

The state and community support is provided as part of VA’s Fourth Mission to assist the nation in times of emergencies and disasters. During the pandemic, VA has supported states with direct patient clinical care, testing, education and training. We have provided more than 908,000 pieces of personal protective equipment, including gowns, gloves, masks, face shields and other resources. As part of Fourth Mission humanitarian support, VA has also admitted 376 non-Veteran citizens for COVID-19 care at VA medical centers.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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