The final resting place of presidents, bandleaders, war heroes, astronauts, inventors, civil rights leaders, Pulitzer Prize winners, boxers, Supreme Court justices and sports stars, Arlington National Cemetery stands as a memorial to the melting pot of the United States. With connections to some of our nation’s most influential people and pivotal events, its history is as interesting as its denizens.
Arlington is situated on 624 acres overlooking the Potomac River directly across from Washington, D. C. Although today it is surrounded by the nation’s capital, at one time, Arlington was a bucolic estate with a neoclassical mansion, Arlington House. Still presiding over the grounds today, the mansion was built by George Washington’s (yes, that Washington) grandson and marks the beginning of the cemetery’s history.
Before she married George, Martha was married to Daniel Parke Custis. After he died and she wed the “Father” of our Country, George adopted her two surviving children. The oldest, John Parke Custis (JPC), died in 1781 while serving with the Revolutionary Army. He left behind four children, the youngest of which, George Washington Parke Custis (GWPC), was born only shortly before his father’s death.
GWPC and one sister went to live with the Washington’s. When he became of age in 1802, GWPC inherited wealth and property from his deceased father (JPC), including the Arlington land. Hoping to build a home that could also serve as a memorial to his grandfather, George Washington, GWPC hired an architect and built a Greek revival mansion believed by some to be “modeled after the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.”
The home was built in pieces, with the north wing being completed in 1802, and the south in 1804. These two stood as separate buildings until the central section connected them in 1818. During GWPC’s life, a portion of the mansion was reserved to store George Washington memorabilia, which included portraits, papers and even the tent Washington used while in command at Yorktown.
GWPC and his family lived and died on the property, where many of them were buried.
In 1831, GWPC’s only surviving child, Mary, married Robert E. Lee (yes, that Lee). The Lee’s lived on the property with the Custis’s where they raised their seven children. At her father’s death, Mary inherited Arlington. Robert E. Lee loved the property and once described it as the place “where my attachments are more strongly placed than at any other place in the world.”
Prior to the Civil War, Lee had attended West Point (graduating second in his class) and saw service for the U.S. in the Mexican War (1846-1848). A respected and well-liked officer, Lee struggled with his decision to resign his commission of 36 years in order to take command of Virginia’s confederate forces. When he did in April 1861, this choice was seen as a betrayal of the Union by many of his former friends including Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs.
As Arlington, on high ground overlooking the capital, was critical to either the defense or defeat of D.C., Union leaders were eager to control it. After Virginia seceded in May 1861, Union troops crossed en masse into Virginia and soon took command of the estate. The grounds were quickly converted into a Union camp.
By 1862, Congress had passed a law that imposed a tax on the real property of “insurrectionists.” Mary was unable to pay the tax bill in person, and her proxy’s attempt to satisfy the debt was rebuffed. As a result, Uncle Sam seized Arlington, and at its auction, the federal government purchased the estate for $26,800 (about $607,000 today, far below market value).
Not only a good bargain, Union leaders felt that by seizing the estates of prominent Rebels, they would, in the words of Gen. William T. Sherman: “Make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it.”
In 1863, after thousands of former slaves, freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, converged on D.C., a Freedman’s Village was established on the estate “complete with new frame houses, schools, churches and farmlands on which former slaves grew food for the Union war effort.”
One sees more than poetic justice in the fact that its rich lands, so long the domain of the great general of the rebellion, now afford labor and support to hundreds of enfranchised slaves.
As Union casualties began to mount in the spring of 1864, Gen. Meigs suggested burying some of the dead at Arlington. The first, on May 13, 1864, was Pvt. William Christman, a poor soldier whose family could not afford the cost of a burial. Soon, many other indigent soldiers were laid to rest on Arlington’s grounds, near the slave and freedman cemetery that had already been established. Realizing the efficacy of this system, Gen. Meigs urged Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton:
I recommend that . . . the land surrounding Arlington Mansion . . . be appropriated as a National Military Cemetery, to be properly enclosed, laid out and carefully preserved for that purpose.
Serving the dual goals of paying homage to the dead and making “Arlington uninhabitable for the Lees,” Meigs had prominent Union officers buried near Mrs. Lee’s garden. He also placed a mass grave of over 2000 unknown soldiers, topped with a raised sarcophagus, close to the house.
After the war, the Lee’s tried in vain to regain Arlington. Mary wrote to a friend that the graves: “are planted up to the very door without any regard to common decency.” After Robert E. Lee’s death in 1870, Mary petitioned Congress for the return of her family home, but this proposal was soundly defeated.
Shortly after, other monuments and structures honoring the dead were erected including numerous elaborate Gilded Age tombstones and the large, red McClellan Gate at the entrance to the grounds.
The family was not done, however, and in January 1879, following six days of trial a jury determined that the requirement that Mary Lee had to pay the 1862 tax in person was unconstitutional. On appeal, the Supreme Court concurred, so the property was once again in the hands of the Lee family.
Rather than disinter graves and move monuments, however, the federal government and Mary Lee’s son, George Washington Custis Lee, agreed on a sale. On March 31, 1883, Uncle Sam purchased Arlington from the Lee family for $150,000 (about $3,638,000 today).
One of the National Cemetery’s most well known gravesites is that of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy with its eternal flame. Two of his children and Jackie Kennedy are also interred there.
William Howard Taft is the only other U.S. President buried on the grounds, and he along with three other Chief Justices and eight associate justices represent the Supreme Court at Arlington.
Of course, war heroes abound and famous generals buried at Arlington include George C. Marshall (father of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after WWII) and Omar N. Bradley.
Famous explorers interred at Arlington include Adm. Richard Byrd (the first man to fly over both poles) and Rear Adm. Robert Peary (another arctic explorer). John Wesley Powell (of Lake Powell fame) is also laid to rest at Arlington, as are several astronauts including Lt. Col. Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Capt. Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. (the third man to walk on the moon).
You don’t really know your buddies until you deploy together. At that point you get to see a side of them that their families and closest loved ones have never seen — a side effect of spending every hour with them for months on end in a foreign land where all you have is each other.
You get to know the good, the bad, and the weird. Here’s what you can expect:
1. You’ll learn that insults are endearing.
2. . . . as is antagonizing each other.
Generation Kill, HBO
3. You’ll learn exactly how to take the edge off when you go too far . . .
“I was just pulling your chain. Here, take a chill smoke.”
4. . . . because you’ve shared nearly every single thought that you’ve had over the last few months.
5. You’ll learn to think of buds as family.
6. You’ll learn to communicate with each other just by grunting.
7. (Aviators learn hand signals.)
8. Your comfort levels will approach new highs (and lows).
9. And you’ll learn to be totally fine with complete silence.
10. And you’ll learn to be brutally honest with each other.
11. You’ll learn who will be the first to put on his or her “deployment goggles.”
To shed light on the epidemic of veteran suicide, BraveHearts — the nation’s leading equine rehabilitation program for veterans — started its first of three Trail to Zero rides Sept. 7, 2019 in northern Virginia.
The 20-mile ride in each city commemorates the number of veterans lives lost on average each day. The ride educates people on equine-assisted services benefits and healing effects.
Army veteran Tim Detert was one of the Trail to Zero riders. Detert served from 2005-2010 with the 82nd Airborne, deploying to Iraq twice for 18-month and 13-month tours. Following his service, Detert said he started suffering from depression and anxiety, turning to alcohol and opiates. Four friends ended their lives. After a suicidal spell, a friend recommended equine therapy to him.
“It’s completely turned around my life,” said Detert, who has been sober two years. “It’s given me a lot of hope and joy. I was so depressed and down before I came to this program. I was just looking for something and I hadn’t found it until I started working with the horses.”
Army Veteran Mitchell Hedlund, one of the Trail to Zero riders, served in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 and now uses equine therapy.
The BraveHearts president and chief operating officer said she’s seen veterans greatly improve their well being through equine therapy.
“I can’t even tell you now how many times I’ve heard veterans tell me personally that they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the horses,” said Meggan Hill-McQueeney. “They find peace with the horses, they find hope with the horses, and they find purpose with the horses. Alternative therapies like equine therapies are tremendous opportunities.”
Currently, 64 VA medical centers across the country participate in therapeutic riding programs. These programs use equine assisted therapeutic activities recreationally to promote healing and rehabilitation of veterans for a variety of physical disabilities and medical conditions, said Recreation Therapy Service National Program Director Dave Otto. These include traumatic brain injury/polytrauma, blind rehabilitation, other physical impairments, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health disorders.
Children on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall talk to a BraveHearts rider Sept. 7, 2019, during the Trail to Zero ride.
Additionally, VA awards adaptive sports grants annually for organizations and groups that provide adaptive sports opportunities for veterans with disabilities, Otto said. These grant recipients also partner with VA facilities within their region to coordinate such adaptive sports opportunities for Veterans. During fiscal year 2018, VA awarded nearly id=”listicle-2640279831″ million to 12 grant recipients providing equine assisted therapy to Veterans with mental health issues. VA will award up to id=”listicle-2640279831″.5 million of these grants in fiscal year 2019.
BraveHearts is the largest Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) program in the country and serves veterans at no cost to veterans. The program offers equine services to provide emotional, cognitive, social and physical benefits. Veterans at BraveHearts have reported increased self-esteem, self-worth, trust for others, community integration, and decreased depression, anxiety, post traumatic disorder symptoms and self-inflicting thoughts.
In addition to the Sept. 7, 2019 ride, Trail to Zero plans rides for Sept. 14, 2019, in New York City and Sept. 28, 2019, in Chicago.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
A Russian Sukhoi Su-25 “Frogfoot” ground attack aircraft was shot down over the city of Maasran in Idlib, Syria, on Feb. 3, 2018. The aircraft, RF-95486/06 Blue (ex Red), was involved in airstrikes in region and had just fired rockets on a ground target.
Video seen on social media shows what appears to be a person, claimed to be the Russian Su-25 pilot, descending by parachute after the aircraft was hit. The BBC reported that Russia’s defense ministry said: “The pilot had enough time to report that he had ejected in an area controlled by the militants of Jabhat al-Nusra.”
Based on report and the above videos the aircraft was hit by a MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense System): most probably a Chinese FN-6 passive infrared homing (IR) man portable air defence system known to be in the hands of the Jidahists.
According to reliable sources within the Russian military who spoke to TheAviationist.com, the pilot did reach the ground and then engaged unknown ground forces. Our Russian source tells TheAviationist.com that photos from the scene show the pilot’s personal firearm and that, “One store [ammunition magazine] is completely empty, the other two are consumed more than half. The pilot led the fight.” The source claimed the weapon shown in the photos is a Russian Stechkin automatic pistol or APS. This weapon is widely carried by Russian military and federal law enforcement.
Additional sources on Russian social media report that the pilot carried a grenade and may have detonated it close to himself as insurgent forces closed in on him. There is no official confirmation of this information.
Anyway, the pilot was captured and killed. The Russia-based, independent Conflict Intelligence Team posted photographs they say showed the dead body of the pilot and a paper recommending a man named Major Roman Filipov for a state award that was allegedly filled out by Russian air group commander Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Aksyonov.
Novaya Gazeta quoted an unidentified Defense Ministry source as confirming that the pilot was Filippov. According to the newspaper, he was a Ukrainian pilot from Crimea, the Ukrainian region that Russia annexed in 2014.
Video from alleged to be from the crash scene clearly show the wing of an Su-25 with Russian markings along with a damaged engine and fire among debris.
TheAviationist.com showed the Arabic language news broadcast to a translator in Dearborn, Michigan, who told us that the reporter in the video, identified as “Journalist Moazom Al-Chamie”, says the aircraft was shot down by a shoulder fired missile after being spotted by drivers in a truck. The reporter also goes on to say that another Russian Su-25 remained in the area after the incident, and that the men shown in the video hoped to shoot it down as well.
According to Iranian journalist Babak Taghvaee the Su-25 shot down on Feb. 3 2018 was one of six Su-25s of RuAF’s 368 ShAP recently deployed from Sevastopol, Crimea to Hmeymim Air Base, Syria.
The loss of this Su-25 is the 11th Russian aircraft destroyed by enemy action or in accidents during the Russian involvement in the Syrian campaign. Considering the number of combat sorties flown by the Russians over Syria, and the increasing number of man portable air defense systems (MANPADS), these losses could be characterized as low for a campaign of this size.
Russian observers remarked that an absence of infra-red decoy flares being ejected from the Su-25 shown in the videos is unusual. It is common to see a series of bright flares ejected from an aircraft as a countermeasure to heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles.
Video seen on social media showed Su-25 attack aircraft over the same area being engaged by anti-aircraft guns. One video showed an Su-25 taking a near miss as a proximity fused anti-aircraft round detonates near its left wing root.
Following the downing of the Su-25 reports began to appear on Twitter that numerous air strikes were occurring in the area where the aircraft was downed.
Often as the direct memories of events fade, our ability to place them into context and understand their meaning only increases. It only makes sense, then, that some of the best writing about the Civil War, the World Wars, and Vietnam is happening now.
As you prepare your reading lists for holiday travel or look for items to give to family and friends, we present our choices for this year’s best books on Military History.
5. Grant By Ron Chernow
Ron Chernow is an exceptional writer. Among his achievements have been an exceptional biography of Alexander Hamilton that served as the foundation of the Broadway show. His portrait of the Ohio general is equally beautiful. Chernow delves into the relationships and temperament that made Grant a terrific leader as well as his lifelong belief in emancipation.
Grant was a quiet, even shy man, who had concern even for animals, yet was called a “butcher” during the War. It was tacitly assumed that Robert E. Lee was the great General of the Civil War for years and that Grant was merely lucky to have been on the right side of history. The facts do not perfectly align with that viewpoint. Lee may have been a very good strategist, but several skilled men before Grant tried and failed to do what he did. Chernow’s biography gives wonderful insights into what made Grant different.
4. Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden
In the early part of 1968, the 400,000 strong armies of the North Vietnamese and Vietcong launched a general offensive against South Vietnamese and American troops, which, at the time, numbered 1.3 million. The American strategy had been to win a war of attrition in which the enemy reached a point where the number of soldiers being killed exceeded the number of new recruits, making clear the hopelessness of continuing the struggle. With that mindset, the American military elite, politicians, and journalists were shocked by the aggressiveness of the offensive. After the initial shock, the South and the United States regained control of the situation and 60,000 Communist troops died by the end of the year.
Of all the targets of the Tet offensive, the assault on the city of Hue was the most consequential. Hue was the third largest city in Vietnam and at a key logistical point in the country. While the fighting that began with the Tet offensive was generally over within a week, the battle for Hue lasted six weeks and the urban bloodbath changed the war.
Bowden does a wonderful job telling this story from the perspective of the ordinary soldier who fought for his life while being burdened with poor leadership.
3. Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 by Stephen Kotkin
A brilliant recounting of the disastrous period of 1929 and 1941 in the Soviet Union, in which Stalin maintained his absolute grip on power, but whose purging of the military and terrible economic policies almost cost the Soviet Union the war with Germany that started in 1941. What is remarkable is how Kotkin is able to tell the tale from the viewpoint of a monster like Stalin and never loses his readers’ attention.
2. Alone by Michael Korda
Alone follows one of the heroes of history, Winston Churchill, as he rallies a country and averts disaster at Dunkirk before getting help from the previously neutral countries of the Soviet Union and the United States.
1. Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson
An incredible story that few had heard before its recounting by Bruce Henderson, author of And the Sea Will Tell. After escaping Hitler’s clutch, about 2,000 Jews trained at Camp Ritchie in Maryland were deployed in Europe as a key intelligence asset during the War. This is their story.
The spike in tension concerns US officials because of the massive Al Udeid military base in Qatar, where some 11,000 US personnel are stationed and from which US Central Command has run much of the war against ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
According to President Donald Trump, who has publicly backed the Saudi-led effort and criticized Qatar, relocating from Al Udeid would be no significant obstacle.
“If we ever have to leave” Al Udeid, he said, “we would have 10 countries willing to build us another one, believe me, and they will pay for it.”
Trump did try to downplay potential conflict with Doha, saying, “We are going to have a good relationship with Qatar. We are not going to have problems with the military base.” But, he said, “if we ever needed another military base, you have other countries that would gladly build it.”
When asked this week about the situation around Al Udeid, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the US has weighed other basing options as part of what he described has standard operational planning.
“I think any time you are doing military operations, you are always thinking ahead to Plan Bs and Plan Cs … we would be remiss if we didn’t do that,” he said, according to Military Times. “In this case, we have confidence that our base in Qatar is still able to be used.”
The break between Qatar and its neighbors was a departure from the relative stability seen in that part of the Middle East. The Saudi-led bloc’s initial condemnation of Doha came days after Trump left a friendly meeting with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, and the US president appears to have thrown his weight behind Riyadh’s efforts — accusing Qatar of backing terrorism on several occasions, including during his remarks to CBN.
Trump has also joined with the Saudi-led coalition in rebuking Iran for what they see as Tehran’s meddling in the region. But the the conflict with Qatar appears to have strengthened Tehran’s position.
And since Al Udeid would be the jumping-off point for any anti-Iran operations in the region, deteriorating relations between Qatar and its neighbors and the US could affect their plans to contain Iran.
Despite the tensions, the US has kept up operations at Al Udeid and with Qatar.
The US and Qatari navies completed exercises in the waters east of Qatar in mid-June, running air-defense and surface-missile drills. The US also signed off on a weapons deal with Qatar less than a week after Trump spoke approvingly of Saudi-led action against Doha.
Pentagon officials have said tensions around Qatar were affecting their long-term planning ability, echoing comments made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prior to Trump’s first remarks supporting the blockade.
But Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, said operations there are continuing as before.
“Despite the situation going on with Qatar, we continue to have full use and access of the base there,” he told Military Times. “We are able to re-supply it, we’re able to conduct operations.”
China wants to become east Asia’s dominant power. And in order to do that, the country needs a navy that can balance out American and US-allied assets in the region.
China wants a force that is capable of operating for extended periods in the open ocean, away from the coasts or support bases. A “blue-water navy” would allow China to protect vital trade routes while also enabling Beijing to project force in areas far from China’s coastline.
Beijing’s naval development could be one of the biggest strategic challenges the US faces in coming decades. And the Chinese navy is already pretty formidable. The following graphic from the US Office of Naval Intelligence shows every surface ship in the Chinese Navy as of February 2015 (you can view a much larger version of the graphic here):
The largest ship in China’s navy is currently the Liaoning aircraft carrier, a refurbished Soviet-built craft that’s had an array of problems. The vessel is several decades old and of questionable quality — it suffered an unexpected power outage during sea trials in October of 2014.
But the Liaoning may just be a practice carrier for the Chinese Navy. China is using the low-cost vessel to master the operation of carrier battle groups before purchasing and developing more expensive and capable vessels.
There are reports that China is planning on developing three carrier battle groups, in a massive ramping-up of naval force projection.
The Luyang II 052C class guided missile destroyer is also noteworthy. These ships are designed to operate in open ocean away from China’s coasts, allowing Beijing to press its territorial ambitions throughout the Pacific and the South China Sea.
Additionally, a ship model called the Jinan will feature a number of new-generation weapons, and is specially designed to protect any future Chinese aircraft carriers.
“The guided missile destroyer Ji’nan (hull number 152), is equipped with multiple sets of home-made new-type weapons,” China Military Online reports.
“It is able to attack surface warships and submarines independently or in coordination with other strength of the PLAN. The ship also possesses strong capabilities of conducting long-distance early-warning and detecting as well as regional air-defense operation.”
This innovative process uses 3-D printing software to break down a digital model into layers that can be reproduced by the printer. The printer then builds the model from the ground up, layer by layer, creating a tangible object.
Marine Corps Sgt. Adrian Willis, a computer and telephone technician, said he was thrilled to be selected by his command to work with a 3-D printer.
3-D printing is the future
“I think 3-D printing is definitely the future — it’s absolutely the direction the Marine Corps needs to be going,” Willis said.
The Marine Corps is all about mission accomplishment and self-reliance. In boot camp, Marine recruits are taught to have a “figure-it-out” mindset, and 3-D printing is the next step for a Corps that prides itself on its self-sufficiency.
“Finding innovative solutions to complex problems really does harken back to our core principles as Marines,” Willis said. “I’m proud to be a part of a new program that could be a game-changer for the Marine Corps.”
The Marines deployed here use their 3-D printer as an alternative, temporary source for parts. As a permanently forward-deployed unit, it’s crucial for the 31st MEU to have access to the replacement parts it needs for sustained operations. The 31st MEU’s mission — to deploy at a moment’s notice when the nation calls — is not conducive to waiting for replacement parts shipped from halfway around the world. So 3-D printing capabilities dovetail with the MEU’s expeditionary mandate.
‘Fix it forward’
(Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Stormy Mendez)
“While afloat, our motto is, “Fix it forward,” said Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Rodriguez, CLB-31’s maintenance officer. “3-D printing is a great tool to make that happen. CLB-31 can now bring that capability to bear exactly where it’s needed most — on a forward-deployed MEU.”
Proving this concept April 16, 2018, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 successfully flew an F-35B Lightning II aircraft with a part that was supplied by CLB-31’s 3-D printer. The F-35B had a plastic bumper on a landing gear door wear out during a recent training mission. Though a small and simple part, the only conventional means of replacing the bumper was to order the entire door assembly — a process that’s time-consuming and expensive.
Using a newly released process from Naval Air Systems Command for 3-D printed parts, the squadron was able to have the bumper printed, approved for use and installed within a matter of days — much faster than waiting for a replacement part to arrive from the United States.
‘My most important commodity is time’
“As a commander, my most important commodity is time,” said Marine Corps Lt. Col Richard Rusnok, the squadron’s commanding officer. “Although our supply personnel and logisticians do an outstanding job getting us parts, being able to rapidly make our own parts is a huge advantage.”
VMFA-121 also made history in March as the first F-35B squadron to deploy in support of a MEU.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Making further use of the MEU’s 3-D printing capability, the MEU’s explosive ordnance disposal team requested a modification part that acts as a lens cap for a camera on an iRobot 310 small unmanned ground vehicle — a part that did not exist at the time. CLB-31’s 3-D printing team designed and produced the part, which is now operational and is protecting the drone’s fragile lenses.
The templates for both the plastic bumper and lens cover will be uploaded to a Marine Corps-wide 3-D printing database to make them accessible to any unit with the same needs.
The 31st MEU continues to brainstorm new opportunities for its 3-D printer, such as aviation parts and mechanical devices that can be used to fix everyday problems. Though only in the beginning stages of development, officials said, the 31st MEU will continue to push the envelope of what 3-D printing can do in the continued effort to make the MEU a more lethal and self-sufficient unit.
Hundreds of people gathered in a South Georgia Medical Center lobby to honor a 93-year-old World War II hero.
George Aigen was bestowed the highest honor in France: induction into the French Legion of Honor as a knight, or chevalier, April 11, 2019, in Valdosta, Ga.
“More than 70 years ago, George Aigen risked his young life for the freedom of France and Europe,” said Louis de Corail, Consul General of France in Atlanta, who presented Aigen with the medal.
George Aigen enters his pinning ceremony.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)
“France is what it is today, a free and sovereign country, thanks to the bravery of such veterans and thanks to the [United States]. We are now decades away from World War II and yet we still pay homage to veterans, the legacy of their courage and the fight for freedom in a time darkness and despicable ideologies came to power in Europe.”
Matt Flumerfelt plays the French and United States national anthem and during a pinning ceremony.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)
In recent years, France made a special provision to honor all American veterans who risked their lives on French soil from June 6, 1944 to May 8, 1945, Aigen being one of them.
Veterans stand for the national anthem during a pinning ceremony.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)
In April 1945, as a 19-year-old Army corporal, Aigen fought alongside other soldiers in 1269th Combat Engineers Company B and was part of the group who liberated Dachau, the first concentration camp built by the Nazis in 1933.
Judy Hathcock, left, stands for the national anthem during a pinning ceremony.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)
In a previously recorded video interview, Aigen recounted what happened as they approached Dachau, “As I approached the gate, I was a 19-year-old corporal with a rifle in my hand. When we went up to the gate there was hellish chaos.
Joyce Aigen, left, and her daughter Judy Hathcock, stand for the national anthem, during a pinning ceremony.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)
“Everybody was looking for help, they were starving and in very bad shape. We brought in medical help, food and water, and helped as many as we could. Coming face-to-face with it, seeing it eye-to-eye … it was hell on earth. I always said the war was hell, but this is one step further.”
George Aigen listens to remarks during a pinning ceremony.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)
During the ceremony, the crowd reflected on the heroic and selfless actions of Aigen and all of the veterans who fought in the war and had a hand in the liberation of France.
George Aigen salutes everyone in attendance at his pinning ceremony.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)
There are approximately 93,000 current Legion of Honor recipients, and for American veterans to qualify, they must have fought in one of the four main campaigns of the Liberation of France in Normandy, Provence, Ardennes, or Northern France.
Joyce Aigen, and her daughter Judy Hathcock, embrace during a pinning ceremony.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)
Although Aigen’s actions qualified for the Legion of Honor, the process was not automatic. At an after-hours work event in 2016, Aigen and his wife Joyce met Dr. Christine LeClerc-Sherling, a local college professor, who submitted the application.
Joyce Aigen gives remakrs during a pinning ceremony honoring her husband George Aigen.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)
Within five days, the application was sent to the local consulate. From there, the two year journey began with the application traveling to the embassy in Washington D.C. then to Paris to be vetted. Ultimately, the official decree was signed by the President of the Republic of France, March 15, 2019.
George Aigen, and his daughter Judy Hathcock, embrace during a pinning ceremony.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Janiqua P. Robinson)
“At the time we thought it would be a four to 10-month process, but I can tell you that after these years, me and family are the most blessed from that wait,” LeClerc-Sherling said. “Being around George and Joyce has influenced my family so much. It made me a better citizen, a more committed family member and definitely a more loyal friend.
“George and Joyce are absolutely everything that is right with this world.”
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.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Mitchell is used to talking with various people about military careers and the benefits that are offered to those who choose to wear the uniform and serve their country as a soldier. As a recruiter in the Malden, Massachusetts area, he is constantly talking to strangers, even off-duty, according to his wife Eunjee.
“The first year after I moved to America, I knew I needed a car,” Eunjee said. “We went to the car dealership and he recruited the car dealer.”
The couple met in Korea while Staff Sgt. Mitchell was stationed there. Originally meeting online and then they met face-to-face for the first time on New Year’s Day. They married shortly after and Eunjee Mitchell immigrated to the U.S. where her husband became a recruiter. She often would hear the conversations her husband had about joining the military. After two years of listening to her husband, she decided enlisting was the right choice for her.
“He was interviewing other recruiters and one was Korean like me. She told me how the Army helps her a lot to speak (better) English and get her involved in the community,” said Eunjee Mitchell. “The conversation with her gave me the thought that I could try.”
She enlisted as a 92A — Automated Logistical Specialist in the Army Reserves.
“I knew hanging around with me she would be interested in the Army but I didn’t think she would (join),” said Staff Sgt. Mitchell. “I definitely wrote her contract.”
After 10-weeks of South Carolina’s famously hot summer weather, Eunjee Mitchell walked across Fort Jackson’s Hilton Field with the rest of her company as they graduate Basic Combat Training. With three bachelor degrees, she graduated with the rank of specialist.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Mitchell, left, walks with his wife Spc. Eunjee Mitchell during the Fort Jackson Family Day on July 31, 2019.
(Photo by Alexandra Shea)
While she knew her husband would be attending her ceremony, Staff Sgt. Mitchell was able to arrive to the installation early and surprise his wife during the Family Day dress rehearsal.
“While I was waiting behind the trees, I was trying to stay calm. I was very emotional,” said Spc. Mitchell.
She instantly recognized her husband on the parade field and knew “my recruiter is here.”
“I saw him and he was in uniform so I recognized him because he’s so tall,” she said.
Standing at six-feet, five-inches, Staff Sgt. Mitchell is not easily missed. Since immigrating to a new country and culture, Spc. Mitchell has never been separated from her husband, until attending Basic Combat Training.
“I didn’t see her until she was walking out,” said Staff Sgt. Mitchell. “She’s a tough little lady. I’m crazy proud of her.”
The couple were allowed to speak for a short time before Spc. Mitchell had to return to her daily duties. The following day they were reunited for Family Day where they were able to spend an entire day together visiting various parts of the installation and get lunch together.
After the graduation ceremony, Spc. Mitchell traveled back to her home state with her husband. Once there, Spc. Mitchell will rejoin her Reserve unit and attend Advanced Individual Training in the coming months.
When asked what her future might look like now that BCT is complete, Spc. Mitchell said she is excited to begin her new career and possibly a family. She also explained how her experience on Fort Jackson has helped her to understand her husband and brings them closer as a couple.
“The first year we were married I didn’t understand the little things like why he didn’t want to take his boots off in the house,” said Spc. Mitchell. “I understand him more now.”
We’ve published the full answer from Quora user Jon Davis, a Marine veteran who is now a writer and blogger on military, veterans, and Middle Eastern affairs. In Oct. 2014, Davis’ answer was optioned by a Hollywood producer for a potential television series.
These are the accounts of the Second American Civil War, also known as the Wars of Reunification and the American Warring States Period.
After the breakup many wondered which states would come out in control of the power void created by the dissolution of the United States. There were many with little chance against several of the larger more powerful states. The states in possession of a large population, predisposition for military bases and a population open to the idea of warfare fared the best. In the long term we would look to states with self-sufficiency and long term military capabilities.
Here are the states that held the greatest strategic value from day one. They have the ability to be self-sufficient, economic strength, military strength, the will to fight and the population to support a powerful war machine.
Others that have many of the qualities that gave them an advantage are also listed.
For all intents and purposes Alaska and Hawaii ended well enough since they were so far removed from the center of the country that they never really suffer greatly nor benefit from the shattering.
Day 12: “It’s getting scary. My mom said we are going back to Oklahoma to stay with Grandma. The other day my dad was yelling at some men at the door. They seemed really upset. I held Jamie. She is still little. She’s scared and doesn’t understand what is going on. I am scared too. There are also some boys at school who keep picking on her and calling her an “Okie”. We were both raised here, but I don’t really think that matters. All the other families on my street have huge one-star flags hanging from their homes. I don’t want to leave my house, but Mom says we have to go. The highways are packed with people. I wish things would just go back to how it was.”The Diary of Sarah Brennan
First came a period of massive migration back to the homelands. Facing the newly invented discrimination that will be created many felt the need to go back to their own people. While the individual states retained all military assets they couldn’t control the individuals who fight. A Texas Marine stationed in California, would not fight for California. A soldier in New York would not fight against their home in Virginia and a sailor in Houston would not fight against their home state of Florida. The warriors returned to their home states and the states had to reconsider that when they measured troop strength of their new nations. Ultimately, they measured troop strength by how much of the population would return home.
After the migrations rough approximations left the states even, additionally, the balance of foreign nationals changed. At some point there was a migration of people back to their non-United States homeland. Over the next several months many from the North migrated to Canada and in the South to Mexico and South America. Millions of Latinos fled back South to the safety of their families and away from the looming danger of the war.
Day 42: “Citizens of California are advised to stay away from the Mexican Border. In response to the recent surge of immigrants back to Mexico, authorities out of Mexico City have closed entry into the country. Agents from Tijuana are now manning armed sentries posted along the border. There have been scattered reports of refugees attempting to storm the gates being shot by soldiers on the Mexican side. It has also been communicated that the No Man’s Land will be mined within the week and that Mexico will not be allowing any non-Mexican immigrants to enter the country from this point forward. Once again, we strongly advise all those wishing to leave the country to stay in their homes.”
Jennifer Aranda – Channel 14 News
The war was little more than a very tenuous peace for several months. The new nations were mostly focused on the reconsolidating of their forces and trying for quick grabs at resources that were easy to hold. Alliances were beginning to form as some of the smaller states sought to ally with known powers in the region.
The first of what we would call real battles was mostly when some of the regional powers overtook mainly unmanned installations or took over now abandoned Federal assets.
Day 63: “We are gathered here today as the inheritors of a lost legacy. Our nation has been lost to shattering and disarray. For that reason it is our duty to bring back our house to a structure undivided. When we arrived in the District we found it empty and abandoned. The monuments to our civilization watched silently over the broken halls of our once proud Capitol. We came to the District to bring back order. We have done this deed and now it is our charge to bring back the greatness of America and return her to her proud place of honor… We will do these things and we will do the others because we are a great people. We are Americans. We are VIRGINIANS!”
Inauguration speech of President Anthony Stokes
The first real occupation attempts happened when attempts were made to secure more assets.
The Republic of Texas sought to gain strategic advantages in the Central United States. To do this they sought to gain two strategic assets. The first was control of Whiteman AFB, the home of the B-2 bomber program. The base was easily secured and the most coveted military bomber in the world was now in the hands of the Republic of Texas. The next was control of Colorado and her military installations of great value. Then finally was access to the Mississippi River. Two main offenses took place to do just that. The First Battle of New Orleans involved a massive force occupying the city to claim it as a port and artery for future engagements. In Colorado they met stiff resistance as many of the Texas military were unfamiliar with Mountain warfare. Colorado’s major bases fell quickly since Colorado enjoys the smallest force to fight back the Texans, but they adapted an unconventional warfare stance that kept the Texans on edge for months. Still, at this point the mission behind taking Colorado had been achieved–control over its military bases and strategic assets. The insurgency does however slow down the growth of Texas.
New York pushed Northward. They pushed to claim all of New England and the food wealth they will need to supply their people now that resources from the Midwest are no longer available. The takeover is mostly peaceful as many of the states have large, but mostly non-military, populations. They encountered problems when large groups of refugees tried to flee to Canada and rioting ensued.
Illinois was calm. The Midwest Alliance grew steadily by seeking to secure the Great Lakes. They were able to take Ohio through a few fierce, but brief encounters. They also took on Minnesota and the headwaters of the Mississippi River.
The West coast was now controlled by the two main powers–California with its seat of power in San Francisco and The North West Union centered in Seattle. California gained support and took control of all the states West of the Continental Divide and South of the Union. The North West Union pushed as far as Wyoming.
In the South, Georgia gained strength as Alabama and South Carolina joined. The leadership of Georgia advocated a return to confederalism as fanatics gain headway among the people. The Neo-Confederacy movement takes root and spreads throughout the Old South and rekindles a sense of unity among the states who engaged on the side of the Confederacy during the First United States Civil War. Peacefully they are able to convince Mississippi and Tennessee to also join. The growth of Confederate States puts an ever-growing pressure on Florida as it slips into isolation.
Virginia took on the mantle of the Restored United States. They assumed the moral responsibility for reunification, and by taking Washington they were able to secure much of the federal assets and infrastructure available to the country before the collapse. They then commandeered many ships and weapons housed overseas that weren’t lost during the first two months of disarray. They began to gather support among the neighboring states and press their advantages– intelligence, military strength and the symbolic leadership they held by holding D.C. One strategic advantage they wished to push was their economy. While the rest of the former United States was in complete economic disarray, Virginians’ consistent use of the dollar provided a stability that others didn’t have. They wished to solidify this with control of the nation’s gold supply housed in a crossroads what was now a very desperate strategic region. After they peacefully brokered a treaty with Kentucky they received an attack on Fort Knox from forces located in Indiana.
Day 112: “When we arrived at Knox we received heavy resistance from the defenders. Their fire was, for the most part, inaccurate and they lacked unit cohesion, so we found ourselves at an advantage. Not that we are much better off. We received intel that their units were something of a haphazard array of whatever Marines, Sailors, Soldiers or Airmen came out of the woodwork and they just threw them together and called it a unit, much like our own. Still they were professional warfighters. We were lucky they hadn’t yet made it to secure the fort. Back to Knox. We were able to take the base. The fact was that the Kentucky defenders were mostly woodsmen and good-ol-boys from the South. More a militia reliving stories of the Old South than an army, but they fought like wild dogs. After a few hours their main line broke and they retreated back towards the center of the state. About halfway through the day we were able to break into the main buildings where the gold was supposed to be stored. Easily, it would be safe to say we were surprised at what we found. We arrived to find bloodstains in the main hallways and leading into the vault room. The trail faded and we see that the vaults are all completely empty. Every last bar, every last ounce is gone. All that is left are red stains all over the room and bullet holes riddling the walls that look like they could have happened months ago. Those hicks didn’t even know they were guarding a giant empty building. Now the big question is…’So where is the gold?'”
Log of Lt Col. Thomas Scott 2nd Raider Battalion Midwestern Alliance.
At that time the nations were coming together in larger groups. They had access to larger populations to support military strength, economic power to reach out and fund the state, food sources, and leadership.
In the West, states along the coast received the most fighting. Washington began bombing San Francisco from the air to try and decapitate what had become the center of California’s leadership. Retaliation strikes from combined naval and air forces severally weakened Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle. California launched a two-pronged attack by sending in land forces up Interstate Highway 5 and Marines to attack from the North. Their mission was to enter Washington through the Salish Sea and secure Mt. Vernon, preventing escape of enemy forces. The Marines were by and large undetected and completed their mission successfully. The Californian army received shelling on their movement near the town of Cresswell, Oregon. They retreated back to the nearby town of Cottage Grove and secured the Airport there. Now a temporary air base had been established and sorties began taking place allowing for the immediate deployment of troops to the defending town of Eugene. Casualties were high, but once Eugene was secured the way was open to take Portland.
Day 234: “I don’t know what the Army is doing. We have been here holding the Canadian border for days and the Army still hasn’t made it past Eugene. Just get it out. Burn the city to the ground. Mow them down. Just do your damn job. It’s us or them. Make it happen for God’s sake.”
Private First Class Anthony Sullivan – 1st Californian Marine Regiment
In the East the Restored United States was desperately in need of sound military strategy and allies. They had now become completely surrounded by enemy states. Such a solution came through the plan brought about by one General David Meznick. The Meznick Doctrine called for the destruction of strategic economic assets in the North to weaken their ability to make war. The greatest of these were the attacks on the infrastructure of the Great Lakes’ shipping system. With the locks destroyed and the Erie Canal in ruins, shipping between Chicago and the outside world had ended. New York was also cut from its most valuable resource which was the hope of once again shipping America’s goods to the rest of the world after the war. This maneuver had massive consequences to the region. Now deprived of many of their shipping lanes, the Midwest Alliance began to break as food and other supplies were unable to reach its people. Riots in Chicago began to erupt as the people accused the government of corruption, which for all purposes was true. Seeing the coming of the end, much of the Chicago legislature slipped out in the night and booked passage to Montreal on private planes. Left without leadership and provisions, the Alliance crumbled. Its resources became split between the Texas Republic and Restored United States with what was now known as the New England Union claiming Ohio.
In the South, tensions between Florida and the Neo-Confederates had reach their zenith. Troops had taken Tallahassee and were dug in along the Jacksonville-Gainesville Line. Florida was desperate. In a deal made in Houston, Florida agreed to join Texas if it was free to maintain its sovereignty in exchange for military support. With this, Florida and the forces staged in New Orleans attacked. The Jacksonville-Gainesville line was pushed back. Floridian forces moved with speed to besiege Atlanta as Texas occupied the city of Montgomery, Alabama. Texas and Florida forces converged on Atlanta and the siege went on for another month. No one really knows what led to the succeeding events, but a fire broke out in the city. Reports blame Texas shelling or Floridian sabotage, but most official accounts believe that it originated in an apartment complex where a family had been prying up floorboards to burn for heat. The fire spread to the rest of the neighborhood and, lacking their emergency infrastructure, parts of the city were overcome as the rest began to go into disarray. Texas forces secured the major areas of the city while Florida troops took charge of the relief effort for escaping refugees.
The next hundred days were among the most peaceful of the war.The lines between the Republic of Texas and the Californian Union of Democratic States were now amassing troops and solidifying their positions. The Northeastern cites were in the processes of being rebuilt after California gained control as were the cities of Montgomery and Atlanta. Old forces of the losing states’ armies were redistributed to victor nations. Texas held a tenuous peace with the Restored United States as they erected fortifications along the 36th parallel and western side of the Mississippi. California and Texas began building in unison a mass of fortifications on either side of the Continental Divide. Texas also enjoyed use of the river as shipping lanes now connected everything from the Midwest to the Carolinas. This eased the growing concerns of food shortage and redeployment of men.
Most of the fighting was centered between the Restored United States (RUS) and New England Union (NEU). Control of Ohio and Pennsylvania changed hands a few times as the region sought stability. The war reached a turning point when a New York based flotilla made a decisive push to take Washington D.C. In response, a nuclear device was used on the fleet and all the ships, sailors and Marines on that mission were lost. The first active use of a nuclear weapon in more than half a century sent waves through the warring nation states. Other nations of the world grew terrified as they waited for the NEU’s strategy. The worst fears came to pass when a weapon was exploded in Washington D.C. bringing down the powerbase of the Restored United States. Alarms across the world rang out as the RUS gathered itself and prepared to launch retaliatory strikes along the Eastern Seaboard. Before this came to pass a message from New York City came initiating their surrender. The device had been set by a rogue general from New York. Fearing its own impending annihilation, New York City seceded from the Northeast to become its own independent city-state. The rest of New England issued their surrender and joined the Restored United States without incident. The Capitol was moved to Philadelphia.
Day 647: “I can’t believe Washington’s gone. I mean, what are we even fighting for? There is nothing left that was the same. I swear I am starting to feel like all we are animals trying to survive, fighting over the scraps of our fathers. We all knew it was over when D.C. got smoked, but at least that didn’t happen. Many of the men are still sure that NYC planned this out. Leave the rest to fight over the charred out ashes while they run from it all. I just don’t know what to think. Now we are inheriting the Northeast and all its problems. They better be ready. Now Texas has us to the West and South along Carolina. Two years this has been going on and for what? I don’t know how long we can keep this going.”
Log of Col. Thomas Scott 1st Marine Regiment Restored United States.
During the next year the war reached a standstill. Maneuvers and deployments mounted the full force of all three nations. Tensions mounted as the borders grew more and more defended.Texas forces were spread thin. They held the most land, the longest borders and the least population to support their land. It was composed of the elite Texas troops, highly militant neo-confederates, thousands of independent militias and partisans as well as millions of individuals ready to fight their own private backwoods battles.
The Restored United States was a broken nation. Much of it was the remains of conquered other nations. The former state of New York was now missing its greatest assets, income from the the Midwest and international access from New York City. The Capitol had been lost. Their people were now disheartened and disillusioned. The nation they lived in was nowhere near what they were experiencing, yet they still had to survive. A new national identity was forming.
California was doing well relatively speaking. Though there was damage done to the major cities, they enjoyed a good deal of time to rebuild. Their troops were stationed along the divide. Border tensions began to build until a small town skirmish in Wyoming escalated the war to its peak.
Wyoming was now effectively existing on two sides of the divide. Many of the services and resources were split between a small segment of the Western end of the state and the rest of Wyoming. The distance from California was too great for support from San Francisco to offer the Western segment of the state. In many ways they were fending for themselves. Near the division line were two towns, Green River and Rock Springs. Green River lay on the Western side of the state. They also held the only viable water resource between the two. Since the war began, they were able to share, but after rationing was instituted by the Republic, Rock Springs began to need more of the water. Though neither truly identified as Texan or Californian, they were now forced to abide by their laws. Rock Springs was in demand of water. Green River was forced, however, not to abide. Officers from California were sent to enforce the policy to not aid the enemy in any form. After frequently being denied, leadership of Rock Springs went to the town and make a formal request with the officers at Green River. The officers had taken over the mayoral office of the town. The officers denied again Rock Springs’s request. One young man, Jeffery Irving, protested violently. A scuffle began in the office before the officers drew their side arms. Two of the men were shot and Jeffery was killed in the office of the Green River courthouse. The next day citizens from Rock Springs came to the city and stormed the mayor’s office. The two officers were barricaded in the office and requested for support from a nearby base. An hour later troops arrived in the town. They discovered the office broken into and the officers murdered. The order was given to track down the perpetrators. California troops made their way to Rock Springs.
While in town they barricaded the main road where they began searching passing vehicles and taking people in for questioning. A crowd began to build. Taunts and screams let out from the crowd. The crowd became violent. A rock was thrown at the soldiers. A rifleman knocked a man to the ground with the butt of his weapon…
A gun shot sounded from one of the windows on Main Street. The soldier fell down beside the man on the ground. The crowd was silent and a moment of stillness seemed to roar throughout the valley.
A soldier began firing on the window; others fired at the crowd. In a moment the entire crowd was under fire. They ran for the nearest building and anywhere for cover. As the firing stopped the lives of dozens of men, women and children lay frozen on the street. The detachment gathered themselves and left the town before a battle began between themselves and the townspeople. This was the Massacre of Rock Springs.
Day 812: “When we arrived most the bodies had been carried away. Some were lined along the street covered in sheets of white stained crimson. The town was in shock as our troops began filling the streets. Mothers were screaming with anguish as old men roared for action. There was talk of many of the men leaving an hour before we arrived to handle things themselves. I don’t think they know what they’re getting themselves into. We won’t be able to assist them. I feel for these people. I am shocked with them. They are Texas citizens now and we let this happen. It won’t go unavenged for long though. I haven’t seen this many troops gathered like this since we took Atlanta. This is definitely going to be the big push we have all been waiting for to take California. All Hell is about to break loose. God protect us as we march on California.”
Journal of Sgt. Alexander McAnally 33rd Texas Infantry Regiment
A massive invasion force gathered at Rock Springs. Six divisions of the Texas Army and the 1st and 3rd Marines were mobilized for the battle. In the morning B-2s from Whiteman AFB in Missouri began strategic bombing sorties against a number of Californian Union air bases. Conventional bombing missions were also launched. Suffering the greatest were bases near Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Air defense was launched from bases in San Diego, LA and Sacramento with relief forces in the North. Next came what was known as the battle over Nevada. Fighter squadrons met over the desert in many numerous engagements to gain air superiority. Texas was equipped with superior aircraft since they were the only power still investing heavily in improving their local manufacturing capabilities and advancing military technology. They also had the advantage of more experienced warfighters from the wars in the East. California was heavily invested in passive defense systems scattered throughout the desert. Their missile defenses tore heavily into the Texas planes. The air battle was by far the largest air battle in history with thousands of planes involved and hundreds lost to the skies. The fighters from Texas were able to protect bombers in raising the remaining defenses in Salt Lake and Las Vegas while severely damaging others in Los Angeles, San Diego and China Lake.
The Battle of Salt Lake began the Land War. With the region softened, Texas mobilized forces invaded Northern Utah by way of the Forward Operating Base Rock Springs and following Interstate 80. They met fierce resistance in Salt Lake city. Sniper and rifle teams were thoroughly entrenched along with machine-gun nests. Five battalions of thoroughly entrenched Californian infantry were able to hold the city for three days against the overwhelming Texas forces while the air war continued over the sands of the Great American Desert. On the fourth day of courageous fighting the Californians retreated as relief troops arrived. The Texans were now dug into the hollowed-out shell of the former capital of Utah. From this point the Siege of Salt Lake lasted another three weeks.
The battle continued. Texas reinforcements joined on day six. The battle intensified. Texas was the first to escalate. M.O.A.B. bombs were dropped and cleared away a great deal of California defenders. Texas movements quickly divided and overwhelmed the Californians. 6000 were lost and the Californians retreated back to Sacramento. Once Salt Lake was secured Republic forces moved on to Las Vegas. Vegas was easily secured after the battle of Salt Lake. Republic forces gathered in the desert city preparing for the push to Los Angeles. As the army moved out they destroyed the Hoover dam to prevent Las Vegas from becoming a strategic point again. This caused a surge in the Colorado river that destroyed the Davis, Parker and Imperial Dam systems as well. The region would become by modern standards a completely uninhabitable desert again.
It was then that something unexpected happened. The Restored United States attacked in an unsuspected maneuver designed to strike when the Republic and Californian Union were entangled and spread thin. General Meznick again planned out a massive attack to take out the knees from under the Republic forces. His plan was to take out the port at New Orleans and land a decisive series of blows against Texas. As Republic troops moved out to Southern Nevada, covert agents blew the dikes holding back the flood waters from the Gulf. The city, its troops, its ships and resources were all flooded and in disarray. Air strikes and land forces were also made on the stations and bases along the Mississippi River, including Whiteman and the B-2’s stationed there. Transport boats carried thousand to secure the bases along the river down to Baton Rouge. From there bombers cleared a path through to Beaumont, Texas, and on to Houston. Texas Defense forces scrambled to meet the invasion. With eyes to the West, few were prepared for an attack in the heart of Texas. Reserves from Dallas and Austin raced to Houston. The battle intensified. After the destruction of New Orleans, naval forces stationed in the Atlantic maneuvered to support the Texas invasion. Without the support of the New Orleans ships at port, the Republic Navy was overcome. Naval bombardment was laid down on the defenders in Houston, paving the way for the surgical team of RUS soldiers and the wave of troops following the river. The defenses were hindered by the sea of terrified citizens fleeing Houston. As shells rained down from the sea, chaos ensued. The city was going to be lost.
With the loss of Houston imminent, Republic soldiers spread thin on two fronts, and the country severed down the spine of the Mississippi, Texas made a last desperate strike.
It is believed the first city to fall was Chicago. Boston and Philadelphia came shortly after. At the same time, San Francisco and Seattle were lost. Retaliatory strikes claimed Austin, Houston, Atlanta and Oklahoma City. It is believed that many other cities were targeted for destruction, if not for the intervention of some unknown power.
Four high-altitude nuclear devices were detonated over the former United States. These weapons showered the region with energized electrons that shorted the circuits of electrical devices in their target radius. Below is a graphic representation of what this blast did to the United States.
Most of the country fell into regions of 50 to 80% damage, however considering overlap, historians assume that the damage was at least 90% to all of the continent and all its coveted luxuries were reduced to plastic and glass. This of course didn’t stop at the devices themselves, but everything networked into the infrastructure was brought down as well.
The four devices together were seen from various parts of the country. Their effects brought down all major computer systems, information networks, communication relays, and nearly all circuit-based technology on the continent. There is no official record of who fired the weapons. Any logs created were probably lost in the very blast they created. Many believe that it was a last ditch effort to limit the destruction of the United States in the event of Atomic Holocaust. Some believe it was due to international intervention. The world’s final discipline upon them for what they were doing. Many of the religious groups who would come from this era believe it was the work of God, though they cannot agree whether it was a sign of his mercy or punishment upon a sinful nation. Whoever was responsible, the truth is that the devices probably stopped more bombs than actually went off that day, but they didn’t protect anyone from the next five years. America was dark.
Day 842: “I was out on the porch catching fireflies with Jamie on the night the lights went out. We had caught a whole jar full when I saw a bright light come from the sky way far off in the North. Daddy screamed and jumped on us and he held me really close as we fell to the ground. The light grew really bright and then all of a sudden this wind crashed the field. The wind whooshed through like it was going to carry Daddy, me, and Jamie away. Then it went away. I looked up and the light in the sky faded away. I watched it dim until it turned to nothing. Then I looked around and realized I couldn’t see anything. All the lights in the house went off. All the other houses did too. All the street lights were off and the whole town was dark. I asked Daddy what had happened. “I don’t know,Sweetie. We need to get back into the house before it gets too cold.” I looked hard and tried to find a path back to the porch. Then I saw the light flicker on Jamie’s cheek. The jar in her hand began to flicker and I could see the fireflies coming back to life. It wasn’t much, but they were the only lights for miles and Jamie was all I could see.”
The Diary of Sarah Brennan
Day 846: I don’t know which is worse, the casualties we suffered at Salt Lake or the retreat back through the Sierra Nevadas. We lost the vehicles and had to go the rest of the way on foot once we reached the California border. All the trucks stopped dead and everything’s gone silent. We have lost all contact with San Francisco. I am trying to keep the men going, but I honestly don’t know if I am going to be able to keep any of us alive. The snow is thick and is keeping us moving at a crawl. Foraging is not providing us the food we need. We have already lost as many men trying to get back to the base as we did in the battle. My greatest fear is that the men will begin to realize where we are. I don’t know why God would put me in this situation in the middle of the Donner Pass. Please don’t let the men know what happened here and start to get any ideas. We are no longer being pursued. Perhaps they know how desperate we are. Please Lord, just let us make it out the pass.”
Log of Lt. Joseph Ramirez, 3rd California Infantry Regiment
After the collapse came the period historians remember as the American Dark Age.
Five years passed. With all the infrastructural losses came a loss in leadership. The cities were evacuated due to no water, food, or power coming in. Towns like Ardmore, Oklahoma became overnight metropolises taking in the flood of humanity escaping from cities like Dallas and the ruins of Oklahoma City. A local Indian casino to the South from before the war became a refugee camp for more than 60,000 people. The Oklahomans welcomed them warmly as now there was no war. There was no Texas, nor California and certainly no America. Now everyone was simply a survivor of the 2nd American Civil War.
In the chaos of the collapse, micro-wars sprang up. With no government protection, towns and villages attacked one another. Local Sheriffs declared themselves Generals of fifty-man armies. Much of the former United States fell into a feudal bid for power waging county against county and town against town. They fought battles over salt mines, water from a local creek, or farmland.
In the South a plague swept through the countryside. Many reputable reports indicate that it happened when the controls at the CDC in Atlanta were destroyed after the bombing or from the EMP. Genocides and ethnic cleansing also scarred the landscape in Chicago, Alabama, Miami and Los Angeles.
It was towns like Ardmore, Oklahoma that finally brought us out of the dark. They rebuilt the agricultural backbone and got people back to work now that peace was assured through the destruction of the capacity to make war by the large nation-states. Veterans gathered to provide a unified defense force for the new agrarian cultures that built themselves out of the ashes. New farms were established and refugees built homes all along the landscapes. As food became less of an issue for the people, factories began to rise again. The infrastructure began returning as power was restored, transformers were replaced, networks were brought back online. As the towns became secure and prosperous again people moved back into the
cities. Dallas, Sacramento, Columbus, and Richmond rose to become important regional powers again. The eyes of the nation looked to these cities as fears of the rekindling of the Unification wars began to surface. Old hatreds began to echo.
It was from Dallas that a movement started. One young girl led a peace movement from the heart of the former Republic of Texas.
Day 2871: “This girl in Texas is calling for us to formally end the hostilities. I don’t know if I could ever trust someone from Texas again, but she was just a girl when this whole thing started. It’s not like she is to blame for anything, but it is just hard to get behind someone from down there. We are tired, there isn’t anything left worth fighting for. If there is anything left it would have to be that this has to end before it all happens again.”
Sgt. Anthony Sullivan – California Civil Restoration Administration
Day 2912: “Give this girl your support. What we did was criminal. As a people we destroyed what took great men hundreds of years to bring together. It took us less than two years to bring each other to the brink. We lost our greatest cities and our best people. Now there is one of our own calling for repentance and recompense. Pray for her strength and success.”
Pastor Joseph Ramirez
Day 2945: “There’s going to be a peace conference in New York City. They’re back up and running for the most part. Hopefully we can do something good there. I will be part of the delegation from the RUS. We haven’t thought of ourselves as that for years. Still, we have to go and let it be known that Columbus doesn’t want anymore fighting. We are more than this collection of third-world city-states that are built on the breakdown of our legacies. I hope this little girl from Dallas is more than hopes and dreams.”
Mayor Thomas Scott of Columbus
Day 2953: As the much talked-about New York City peace accords prepare to open, all the attention of the country is on this girl from Oklahoma. She was one of the early people to flee with her family from Texas. She, with her father, mother and young sister, lived with family on a small farm in Southern Oklahoma. There they survived the conscription notices for service, the bombings, The Dark and the two-year winter.
She took up work in an old cookie factory, now shelling pecans from local harvests. After the Dark she administered relief efforts at a local Indian casino for refugees fleeing Texas after the they lost power and feared their own annihilation. She was able to gain respect and was eventually made responsible for finding the refugees work on the local farms. Thousands knew her for work and generosity. She built up relief shelters to gather together aid to the refugees and give them jobs. While still barely in her 20’s she was one of the main people responsible for the rebuilding of vital resources in Oklahoma City. When the lights came back online and grocery shelves were stocked again in Dallas, she was there. Pushed into local politics she was a unifying force for the region.
While in Dallas she championed a peace movement. Dallasites and Texans began to question if the war should continue, if their safety could be secured with the history of the war and Texas’ role in it. She was the voice of reason in a sea of fears. She gained support from those she helped and her message spread across lands owned by the Republic and all the way to Columbus and Sacramento.
Now leaders from across America are going to New York City and are meeting for the first time since the break-up of the United States to discuss a resolution to the failed Wars of Reunification. In her honor, the much talked about Brennan Treaty will be presented to the delegation, ratified and hopefully pass within the week. Here’s to hope and to Sarah Brennan.
That could be the response from more Marines and even other military service members of this Millennial generation, as fewer troops are claiming a religion than those of previous decades.
Earlier this month, Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, issued an all-hands message to encourage his men and women and Navy sailors assigned to their units to take note of their own “spiritual fitness.”
“During this time, I ask each of you to reflect on what you and the Marines and sailors you lead are doing to achieve and maintain an optimal level of strength and resilience. Your leaders and chaplains at all levels stand ready to engage with you in this task,” Neller, a veteran infantry officer entering his second year as the service’s top general officer, wrote in the Oct. 3 message. “By attending to spiritual fitness with the same rigor given to physical, social and mental fitness, Marines and sailors can become and remain the honorable warriors and model citizens our nation expects.”
The general’s mention of honorable warriors and model citizens – most Marines serve four to eight years and then return to civilian life – harkens to a generation ago. In the 1990s — with a military facing force cuts, ethical scandals and retention concerns — then-commandant Gen. Charles Krulak often spoke with Marines about the importance of integrity, having a “moral compass” and courage to do the right thing.
It wasn’t specifically directed at religion or spirituality but took a broad, holistic approach at building better “citizen-soldiers.”
In this generation, will that challenge to look inward at their spirituality, however they define it to be, resonate with Millennial Marines? And, if so, how?
If religious affiliation is any measure of that, military leaders might well be worried.
Last year, the Pew Research Center found that fewer Americans were identifying as religious. In its 2014 Religious Landscape Survey, the Pew Research Center found that 70.6 percent of Americans identified with a Christian-based religion, with “Evangelical Protestant,” “Catholic” and “Mainline Protestant” the top groups. Almost 6 percent claimed non-Christian faiths – Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, for example.
But almost 23 percent in the survey of 35,000 Americans said they were unaffiliated – known as “nones” – or nonbelievers, and 15.8 percent of them claimed no ties even to agnostics or atheists. That was a significant change from 2007, when 16 percent identified as “nones.”
The biggest group, 35 percent, among “nones” are Millennials, considered those born between 1981 and 1996, and “nones” as a whole “are getting even younger,” Pew found. It’s also an age group — 20 to 35 — that’s well represented within the military services.
So how will today’s Marines receive this latest message?
The Marine Corps hasn’t detailed just what the push for spiritual fitness will entail, but it’s described as part of leadership development and a holistic approach to overall fitness along with physical, mental and social wellness. The service’s deputy chaplain, Navy Capt. William Kennedy, said it wasn’t a program but “an engagement strategy to enable leaders at every level to communicate the importance of faith, values and moral living inside the Marine Corps culture of fitness.”
“Spiritual fitness is for everyone,” Kennedy said in an email response to WATM. “Every Marine has a position on matters of spirituality, belief in a higher being and religion. The individual Marine chooses if and how they will grow in spiritual fitness, enabling them to fulfill their duties successfully while deployed and in garrison.”
Scott said the Navy’s top chaplain Rear Adm. Brent Scott sent a letter to all Marine Corps’ chaplains, challenging them to “engage their commanders and the Marine Corps in conversations on spiritual fitness.”
A non-profit group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has criticized the Corps’ plan as an attempt to push religious, if not Christian, values on all Marines.
Mikey Weinstein, the group’s founder and president and a former Air Force lawyer, has threatened to sue the Marine Corps to stop it from mandating spiritual fitness training for every Marine rather than having it be voluntary. Weinstein told Military.com last week that the service’s plan to include spiritual fitness with some training and education courses is “nothing more than a Trojan Horse for fundamentalist Christians to proselytize to a captive audience.”
“If they call this ‘mental fitness,’ that’s great,” Weinstein told WATM. But while Marines are regularly tested in physical fitness and military proficiency, he said, “who gets to decide what Marines are spiritually fit?”
While troops can be required to sit through legal discussions with a judge advocate or medical training with medics, they can’t be required to attend teachings or preaching by unit chaplains, he said, citing separation of church and state. If the Marine Corps sets mandatory lectures, testing or measuring tools or classes that discuss things like faith or “a higher power,” for example, that will push it into religious beliefs and violate the constitutional prohibition against religious tests, Weinstein said.
“If they do it, they’ll be in court,” he said.
In 2010, MRFF threatened to sue the Army when it pushed out a similar assessment program on spiritual fitness for soldiers, and Weinstein said the service eventually revised it.
But “spiritual fitness” remains a popular concept around the military — a phrase that might seem to avoid any specific religion to many but still retains an element of a belief. The Air Force considers it one of its comprehensive fitness pillars, along with mental, physical and social. And spiritual fitness is often mentioned in programs to help build resiliency among troops, including those grappling with combat or post-traumatic stress and even in programs to strengthen relationships among military couples and families.
Navy chaplain Kennedy described spirituality generally as something “that gives meaning and purpose in life.” It also might “refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living,” he said. “For some this is expressed in commitment to family, institution or esprit de corps. For others, it may apply to application of faith.”
Military chaplains have the duty to advise commanders and service members on “spiritual matters.” They “are required to perform faith-specific ministries that do not conflict with the tenets or faith requirements of their religious organizations. Additionally, chaplains are required to provide or facilitate religious support, pastoral care and spiritual wellness to all service members, regardless of religious affiliation,” according to a July 2015 Defense Department Inspector General report on “rights of conscience protections” for troops and chaplains.
Weinstein, who said he’s Jewish but “not that religious,” said his group isn’t anti-religion and counts 48,000 active-duty troops among its members, with 98 percent who affiliate with a religion. Many supporters don’t want the military services telling them what or whether to believe, he said, adding that “thousands of military people [say] that’s my personal business.”
But is spiritual fitness inherently a part of something religious, or is it separate from a religious belief?
It may depend on who is defining it. A spiritual fitness guide briefing slide by the U.S. Navy Chaplains Corps, whose members advise Navy and Marine Corps units, describes spiritual fitness this way: “A term used to capture a person’s overall spiritual health and reflects how spirituality may help one cope with and enjoy life. Spirituality may be used generally to refer to that which gives meaning and purpose in life. The term may be used more specifically to refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living.”
Would having no religious affiliation or belief render one without spirituality? For some Leathernecks, the Marine Corps itself is like a religion, with its own spirituality that “non-believers” – like POGs or people-other-than-grunts – can’t understand.
The Marines’ own institutional bible, so-to-speak, the warfighting publication “Leading Marines,” stated in its 1995 edition: “This manual is based on the firm belief that, as others have said in countless ways, our Corps embodies the spirit and essence of those who have gone before. It is about the belief, shared by all Marines, that there is no higher calling than that of a United States Marine.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to correct attribution from the Marine Corps Deputy Chaplain.