This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch - We Are The Mighty
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This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Finances are stressful in emergency situations, and it doesn’t matter what rank you are. From an unexpected death in the family to a broken car courtesy of the deployment curse, financial emergencies happen no matter how well you plan for them.


Fortunately for service members, their spouses, and veterans, there’s a little safety net in place for each of the services to help when these things happen, dubbed the “Emergency Relief Fund.”

Army:

The Army has the Army Emergency Relief, a non-profit that helps soldiers, retirees and families with resources in a pinch. Additionally, AER provides access to interest free loans, grants, and scholarships.

The AER is endorsed and run by the Army.

National Guard:

The National Guard has the National Guard Soldier and Airman Emergency Relief Fund, which provides up to $500 to eligible households. For more information, check out the National Guard’s publication on its emergency relief fund.

Air Force:

The Air Force has the Air Force Aid Society, and it provides emergency assistance, education support, and community programs. While the AFAS is a private non-profit, it is “the official charity of the United States Air Force.”

Coast Guard:

The Coast Guard has Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, wich is a private non-profit organization that works closely with the Coast Guard to provide interest free loans, grants, and counseling.

Navy / Marine Corps:

The Navy and Marine Corps share a relief fund called the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. The NMCRS is a non-profit that, though unaffiliated with the Department of Defense, can be found on nearly all Navy or Marine Corps bases.

The NMCRS is completely funded by donations and on-base thrift stores, and it provides financial assistance and counseling, quick assist loans, education assistance, health education and post-combat support, budget for baby classes, emergency travel, disaster relief, and the on base thrift stores.

American Red Cross:

For service members, family members, and eligible veterans who are not near an installation, there is The American Red Cross. The Red Cross works alongside the above mentioned aid societies to provide assistance.

Articles

6 reasons why it’s not a good idea to attack a Marine FOB

Being forward deployed in a foreign country has many dangers. No matter how well you fortify your Forward Operating Base, it’ll never be safe — only safer.


But for months or even years, it’s home for hundreds of service members…surrounded by an enemy on all sides who want to bring harm to them on a daily basis.

One thing Marines take seriously is making sure that while their brothers and sisters rest inside the wire — they’re safe. With different security levels in place, check out six obstacles that the enemy has to breach before even getting inside.

1. Hesco barriers

One aspect of fighting in the desert is the massive amounts of sand, dirt, and rocks that are available. Filling the natural resources in the encased barriers provides excellent protection against most types of enemy fire.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
Marines from 1st CEB, fill Hesco barriers at a combat outpost in Musa Qal’eh, Afghanistan. (Photo via 1stMarDiv)

2. Heavy guns in the nest

Occupying the high ground gives allied forces the best vantage possible. Add in a few Marines with big guns waiting for the bad guys to feel froggy — that’s protection.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
The bad guys may want to rethink how they attack with these Marines on deck. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

3. Serpentine

Even if granted permission to access the FOB, entering should be difficult. Serpentine belts force incoming vehicles to slow down and maneuver through the barrier maze.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
If you don’t have permission to enter, the Marines will definitely open fire.  (Photo via Global Security)

4. Security rounds

Marines carry hundreds of rounds on their person at any given time. Carrying a full combat load on patrol can wear the body down. Inside a FOB, you can ease up on your personal security — a little.

Instead of carrying 210 rounds, they’ll have the 30 security rounds inserted in their magazine.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
(Photo via Gun Deals)

5. Surveillance

In warfare, it’s essential to have cameras positioned everywhere and that see everything.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
Dear bad guys, we totally see you. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

6. Claymores

Over time, the gravel inside the Hescos will settle, causing separation between the individual barriers. When FOB security notices this interruption, they frequently place and conceal claymore mines in between the Hescos until the issue is patched up.

If the enemy tries to and squeeze through — boom!

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
Lance Cpl. Timothy W. Literal sets up a claymore anti-personnel mine. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Dozens of new Air Force Academy graduates are heading straight to Space Force

For the first time, the graduating class of the Air Force Academy will have a contingent of cadets who have committed to serve in the newest branch of the military — U.S. Space Force.

“We’re going to commission [88] Air Force Academy cadets directly into the Space Force” from the graduating class of about 1,000, Gen. Jay Raymond, who serves as the first chief of space operations, said Thursday.


“They will take the oath of office and they will be commissioned into the Space Force, so we are really excited to get those cadets onto the team,” Raymond said.

Saturday’s graduation ceremony has been drastically scaled back because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Vice President Mike Pence is set to address the graduating class in person at the academy’s Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but no family members, spectators or visitors will be allowed to attend. The ceremony has been shortened to 30 minutes, according to academy officials.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

To comply with the official guidelines on social distancing, the cadets will march into the stadium eight feet apart and sit six feet apart, but the ceremony will end with a traditional flyover by the Air Force Thunderbirds.

Space Force, which was formally created only four months ago, is facing enormous personnel challenges ahead with decisions to be made during the pandemic.

However, “this is a historic opportunity” and “we get to start from scratch,” Raymond said Thursday in a Facebook town hall with Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, his senior enlisted adviser.

“There is no checklist on how to set up an independent service,” Raymond said, adding he wants to make sure “we don’t have a huge bureaucracy” that would stifle innovation.

Raymond and Towberman said they are sticking with the timetable of a 30-day window, to start May 1, for current Air Force personnel to decide whether they want to switch to Space Force.

“I understand it’s a life-changing decision” and some may need more time, Towberman said. “If you just aren’t sure, I want you to understand we’ve got a service we’ve got to plan for.”

Those from other services can also apply to join the Space Force.

“If you’re interested, we’d love to have you,” Raymond said.

But Towberman cautioned that service members from other branches should check first with their leadership before volunteering.

In the rush to set up the new force, Raymond and Towberman said some of the fundamentals expected by the traditions of service and the culture of the U.S. military have yet to be decided for the Space Force.

Raymond said it’s yet to be decided what a Space Force honor guard would look like, and Towberman said no decisions have been made on what the rank insignia will look like for enlisted personnel, or even what the ranks will be called.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army Special Forces soldiers practice fighting behind enemy lines

“For us being Special Forces, we are the first on the battlefield, then we are the last to leave,” said a Bulgarian Special Operations Tactical Group Commander.

The captain was the commander of the SOTG for exercise Saber Junction 19. Approximately 5,400 participants from 15 NATO and partner nations including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuanian, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and the US took part in the exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Sept. 3-30, 2019.

The exercise partnered about 100 Multinational SOF from Bulgaria, the US, and members of the Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Defense National Force, or KASP, with conventional forces to improve integration and enhance their overall combat abilities.


This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

A US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.

(US Army photo Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

US Army Maj. Nathan Showman of the 173rd Airborne Brigade watches as paratroopers from the brigade land during a joint forcible entry as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 18, 2019.

To determine the best use of SOF capabilities to support larger combined maneuver, the Bulgarian SOTG Commander coordinated directly with his conventional force counterpart US Army Col. Kenneth Burgess, the commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

The SOTG also placed SOF liaison officers within the brigade staff to facilitate communication directly between the staff and SOF on the ground.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

A US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.

This gave the SOTG the ability to support critical portions of the exercise such as the joint forcible entry, a multinational airborne operation delivering paratroopers from Ramstein Airbase into the exercise to seize key terrain.

Paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade jumped from Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft to set the drop zone for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Bulgarian and US SOF provided early reconnaissance of the drop zone and secured the area for the pathfinder’s jump, ensuring they had up to date information from the moment they hit the ground.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Italian Army paratroopers from the Folgore Airborne Brigade coordinate with US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers after the Italian paratroopers parachuted onto a drop zone secured by special operations forces as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

This multinational coordination was one of the key objectives of the exercise.

“From my point of view, this is the most important exercise for my unit in that it helps prepare us for future NATO missions,” said the Bulgarian commander. “We are currently on standby in my country [as a quick reaction force], so this exercise is beneficial for us.”

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Bulgarian special operations forces exit a US Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade during combined aviation load training as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

Lithuania’s KASP also worked alongside SOF to set conditions for the conventional force. Exercising their real-world mission of unconventional warfare, the KASP integrated with Special Forces soldiers from the US Army’s 5th SFG(A).

This combined time conducted operations ahead of friendly lines in enemy-occupied territory to enable the multinational conventional joint force.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

The KASP are structured similar to the US National Guard, with about 500 professional soldiers and 5,000 reservists, but have a very different mission.

“Our mission is to conduct territorial defense, so we must be ready to defend our country against any type of threat, either hybrid or conventional,” said Col. Dainius Pašvenskas, the KASP commander.

Pašvenskas added that the demand to come to exercises like these within his unit is so high that they have placed internal requirements to be selected. After completing rotations in exercises like Saber Junction 19, they share the techniques they have learned within their units, and teach the unconventional warfare tactics to the rest of the force.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)

The KASP’s missions at Saber Junction 19 included long-range reconnaissance, direct action and personnel recovery.

“We may have different tasks but we will operate in a similar area as Special Operation Forces,” said Pašvenskas. “Working with Special Forces and learning from their experience is an excellent opportunity for us.”

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

Articles

6 things military veterans will love about History’s ‘Six’

The second season of History’s Six is underway and there are a few new faces. Olivia Munn joins the cast as CIA officer Gina Cline. Walton Goggins returns as Richard “Rip” Taggart, who was dramatically rescued in the last season. Led by Barry Sloans’ Joe “Bear” Graves, the team will hit Eastern Europe (even as far as Chechnya) this season to track down a terror network.

Veterans are hard to please when it comes to depicting military life and veterans onscreen. We demand accuracy. We demand realism. Most of the time, we find ourselves disappointed. History’s Six will not disappoint you.

Suspend your disbelief for a moment, fellow veterans. To be perfectly fair, there’s a lot to like and a lot to overlook when it comes to Six — just like any other show on television. Not everyone is going to be a fan. But there is so much more to like from Six. Even the most discerning veteran will find that Six is better than they expected.


1. The realism is relative — and that’s okay

This is something vets have a hard time getting over. Every veteran knows Hollywood gets a lot wrong about the military. There are some egregious examples out there. Some of those make it look like they don’t even try — looking at you, Basic. There are some in which the producers take a few too many liberties for dramatic license, like Jarhead. Despite solid source material, there were just a few things that would never happen in the Marine Corps.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
If you’re an NCO who actually fired an M60-E3 in the air with your shirt off while surrounded by hundreds of Marines at a bonfire, I apologize.

A lot of the screen gems that veterans love are, in some way, dramatized or unrealistic. Full Metal Jacket is an anti-war movie, but vets embraced it as their own, whether they supported the Vietnam War or not. Heartbreak Ridge has little to do with the realistic Marine Corps, beyond the depiction of U.S. forces dialing in artillery support on Grenada using a credit card. So lighten up, Francis.

2. “Ripped from the headlines” stories

Last season, the show took on Boko Haram, the Sub-Saharan terror organization that was behind the Chibok School Girls Kidnapping (of “Bring Back Our Girls” infamy). The group continues its kidnapping and terror reign in the country to this day. One the show, the SEAL team’s leader was kidnapped by Boko Haram and they spent the season dealing with the aftermath and rescue of Walton Goggins’ character “Rip.”

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
You might learn something.

This season takes the team to Eastern Europe to track a clandestine jihadist cell led by a mysterious figure known as “Michael.” If you haven’t been paying attention to the news, Eastern Europe is the front line to a new Cold War, where Russian and American intelligence agencies work to take down terrorist organizations like ISIS and a resurgent al-Qaeda. Russian security services have been fighting this battle for years. It was only a matter of time before American special operators got involved.

3. Olivia Munn’s character is a great addition

Look, I actually heard someone say, “SEAL Teams don’t have women.” And they don’t. Not yet. History isn’t depicting a female SEAL — she’s a CIA operative and there are many, many female CIA operatives in the real world. History’s SEAL Team Six is getting their “Maya.”

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
That’s a Zero Dark Thirty reference, y’all. And If you didn’t know, the real-life ‘Maya’ is so hardcore she makes you look squeamish. All of you.

4. The cast were trained by SEALs

Remember that realism thing we were talking about? You are guaranteed to see some outstanding trigger discipline in the cast of Six. Actors Barry Sloane, Kyle Schmid, Edwin Hodge, Juan Pablo Raba, and the rest of the cast went through their own boot camp run by actual Navy SEALs.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
In case you didn’t know, this is what a Navy SEAL looks like (but we don’t know if it was Jocko Willink who trained them).

The cast of Saving Private Ryan had to go through Capt. Dale Dye’s bootcamp just once, so you might think the cast of Six would only have to do it once, too. Nope. They’re going for every freaking season.

5. It’s about family

Most shows, at their cores, are about some kind of family. But what Six does well is that infuses the family drama that comes with being in a tight-knit family unit. Some media outlet somewhere said it was like a “soap opera,” but anyone who’s ever been in a large family — or a large military workcenterknows that routinely going to work with people you live with is a soap opera in itself.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
Imagine all the stupid fights you had with a sibling. Now imagine deploying with them. See what I mean?

6. Action shows are awesome – when done well

I love a good action movie or TV show. I hate a bad one. There’s nothing worse than watching bad lines being read by some marginal actor only to be rewarded by thirty seconds of action maybe every twenty minutes (if you’re lucky). Go watch a recent Steven Seagal movie on Netflix and tell me I’m wrong.

The action in Six is really well-executed, the cast is pretty great, and the visuals are well-done, too.

Season two just started. You have plenty of time to catch up.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out these amazing photos of sniper camouflage

Snipers are masters of disguise who are able to hide in plain sight, providing overwatch, scouting enemy positions, and, when necessary, taking out threats.

“No one knows you’re there. I’m here. I’m watching you, I see everything that you are doing, and someone is about to come mess up your day,” First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a Texas native and experienced US Army sniper, said during a recent interview.

“We are capable of hurting you in many ways … We’re not going to tell you how we’re coming. But, we’re coming for you.”

Business Insider asked a handful of trained Army snipers, elite sharpshooters who have served across multiple combat deployments in multiple countries, how they disappear in any and all environments. Here’s what they had to say.


This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

An Army Green beret sniper, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), takes aim at a long-range target for a timed shooting event during advanced skills sniper training at Fort Carson, Colorado, Dec. 12, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

Concealment is about putting anything you can between yourself and the watchful eyes of the enemy.

“A sniper is not limited to any one method,” Sipes, a veteran sniper with more than a decade of service, explained. “We are extremely free. You are limited only by however you limit yourself.”

Snipers use a mixture of natural and artificial materials to achieve concealment and camouflage to avoid enemy detection, as the sniper must remain unseen by the enemy to collect intelligence or take a shot if needed. The aim is to effectively blend into the negative space, areas the eye naturally overlooks.

Concealing oneself from an adversary’s gaze is about putting “anything you can between you and whatever might be observing you,” Staff Sgt. David Smith, a sniper instructor at Fort Benning, told BI, explaining that this could be natural vegetation, face paints, false screens, a sniper’s ghillie suits, or the hides they construct.

A ghillie suit is designed with loose strips designed to resemble natural backgrounds like twigs or long grasses, and can make snipers nearly undetectable by visual. Ghillie suits typically do not shield the wearer from detection via thermal imaging, a technology that advanced militaries are likely to use; however, the Army is developing an improved ghillie suit which is expected to offer enhanced protection.

With the tools they bring with them and materials found in the field, snipers can break up and distort their outline, making them significantly harder to spot.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Pfc. William Snyder, 1-173rd Infantry, practices sniper camouflage techniques at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, April 7, 2018.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. William Frye)

In many ways, it’s about knowing your environment.

“The best tool snipers can use to disguise and conceal themselves from the enemy is a solid understanding of their surroundings,” Capt. Greg Elgort, the company commander, told BI.

Snipers need to know the lay of the land, they need to plan their route, and they need to take advantage of whatever nature gives.

“I want to look at the terrain. What can I put between myself and the target,” Sipes, who runs the marksmanship training company alongside Elgort, said.” It’s not just about the face paint or what I attach to my body, it’s the natural environment around me that I can utilize to keep them from seeing me.”

For example, the winners of the International Sniper Competition, two non-commissioned officers from the Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, hid themselves from view with nothing more than a ghillie suit hood and various materials they found in the field.

In particular, they focused on hiding their face.

“Just by being able to disfigure and break up the outline of their face — you know, a human face stands out very vividly in a woodland area — by concealing the outline of their face, they were able to win,” Elgort explained. “It really comes down to an understanding of that and knowing what you’re presenting and adjusting accordingly.”

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Sgt. Chayne Walsh, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares to execute his concealment exercise during sniper training at Fort Benning.

(Patrick A. Albright/MCoE PAO Photographer)

There are a lot of small things that if overlooked could be fatal.

Snipers have to manage their tracks, scent, shadow, glare and countless other things to remain hidden from enemies. “There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” Sipes explained.

Here’s just a few of the many things snipers have to think about.

“If you are facing east in the morning, the sun is going to be coming at you, so you need to do something with your scope to prevent glare,” Elgort told BI. To combat this problem, snipers build cat eyes.

“We use natural vegetation, we use wraps, netting, whatever to block the optics from any observation but allow us to see through it,” Sipes said, noting that other considerations include whether or not he is silhouetting himself against something else. A shadow could give away his position, exposing him to the enemy.

As for scents, he said that snipers avoid scented soaps, smoking, any type of cologne, deodorant, etc.

In colder climates, a sniper can eat snow to hide their breath, but it only works for a short time. “You would have to continuously eat snow, and then you have to pee,” Smith said, bringing up another potential consideration.

Snipers also have to think about bodily excretions. Sometimes when nature calls, a sniper will use bags with sponges to soak up their business. They can also bury it in the earth. Other times, they just have to hold it.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

US Army Sgt. John Stewart, a Sniper assigned to NATO’s Battle Group Poland, improves his fighting position during react to contact drills at Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland, Nov. 8, 2018.

(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Sarah Kirby)

Some environments are easier than others.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Jones, another sniper instructor, identified two decidedly difficult environments for concealment — fresh snow and the urban environments.

“You can disappear into the snow. It takes a little more thought. It’s a little harder to play with the blending in,” he told BI. “And, in the urban environment, there’s just so many eyes on you from the onset that it makes it pretty tough for you to get into your setup without someone knowing that you’re already there.”

Places like cities and suburbs are also the hardest areas to shoot in.

“I can say that the most difficult place to shoot is in an urban environment,” Sipes said, calling attention to the some of the angles and structures obstructing visibility, among other problems.

“The targets are generally moving. They have civilians around them. They’re using the patterns of life on the ground to conceal themselves. And they’re never in one location,” he added.

As for the easiest environments to blend into, that is definitely your standard woodland or jungle, Jones explained.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Hidden beneath twigs and weeds, a sniper’s stomach is flat on the ground, dirt and grime on his face. All that can be seen in the bundles of cheatgrass is a pair of steady, intense eyes.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

One of the greatest dangers is that new technologies are making it harder for snipers to hide.

The US is once again in a time of rivalry with other military powers, and that means they must learn to counter more advanced threats from adversaries like China and Russia.

“Defeating a thermal signature is probably the hardest thing that a sniper has to do, especially with emerging technology by our near-peer enemies,” Smith told BI. Snipers can hide in the visible spectrum, but combating high-end sensors is a challenge.

US rivals are starting to “creep into the thermal arena, and that in itself is dangerous to a sniper because then you can’t hide from that,” Smith said. Thermal imagers can easily detect a human body’s heat against the ambient temperature of the environment around it.

Smith called this a “large challenge” that the Army is “working to defeat that as well.”

Sometimes that means getting back to the basics. Snipers often use laser range finders to get a more accurate read on a target, but that’s not always an option.

“When going against a near-peer threat or an adversary that has the capability to identify that, we have to rely solely on the reticle that’s in our scope,” Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, a sniper instructor team sergeant from Colorado, explained.

There are also new camouflage systems, such as the Fibrotex’s Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System capable of providing more persistent infrared, thermal, and counter-radar performance, that are in development to help the Army’s snipers, as well as other soldiers, hide from the more advanced threats.

Warfare is always evolving, which means that US snipers have to be ready for anything.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Coastie and musician won the chance of a lifetime

U.S. Coast Guardsman Bobby “Blackhat” Walters is the epitome of “cool cat.”


He’s a Coastal Virginia Bluesman and an award-winning recording artist, harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, producer, comedian, and actor. He’s also the winner of the 2017 Mission: Music competition that found incredible musicians from the military community, sent them to Nashville for a professional video shoot at the iconic Ocean Way Nashville Recording Studios, then introduced them America, who voted for which artist would take the stage at Base*FEST Powered by USAA. 

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Walters’ blues and contagious laughter carried him all over the country and right up to that stage, along with headliners Thompson Square and DNCE.

“You know, when you’re going up onto that stage, and the first thing you worry about is ‘please don’t let me trip,'” he laughed. “But then I gathered everyone around me together and I said, ‘Okay guys, rule number one: have fun.'”

Also read: The votes are in – this Coastie is the MISSION: MUSIC winner

For many veterans, who put their creative careers on hold when they join the military, building an artistic life can be challenging. Opportunities like Mission: Music give talented service members a helpful boost as a way of thanking them for that service. Nationwide coverage and the chance to play at an event with major headliners can be a game-changer.

Walters called the experience one of the highlights of his musical career.

“They say you get the rockstar treatment, well, we got the ‘blues star’ treatment!”

Follow Walters’ journey from the U.S. Coast Guard to the blues, to competing in Mission: Music and receiving that victory call, all the way to the stage at Naval Air Station Pensacola and his meeting with Thompson Square in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvbQUBaGlwo

(Bobby Blackhat slays at Base*FEST Powered by USAA)

Articles

US special forces struggle to keep up this pace

A continuous, heavy reliance on the most elite U.S. forces is threatening to erode what many officials now see as an increasingly indispensable set of military capabilities.


Already on the front lines in the battle against terror groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaida, U.S. special forces are increasingly being called upon to help combat a growing variety of threats from state and non-state actors at a pace that Pentagon officials fear may not be sustainable.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
A 75th Ranger Regiment task force trains. (U.S. Army photo)

“We’ve been operating at such a high op-tempo for the last decade-plus,” Theresa Whelan, acting assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. “We’ve mortgaged the future in order to facilitate current operations.

“That has impacted readiness and it’s also impacted the development of the force for the future. And as the threats grow, this is only going to get worse,” she added.

Deployed

Approximately 8,000 U.S. special operations forces are currently deployed to more than 80 countries, according to U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

That figure includes high-profile missions in Syria and Iraq, where about 600 special operations forces have been working with local partners to help defeat IS.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
A special forces team on patrol. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Special operations forces have also been playing a key role in Afghanistan, where just last week two Army Rangers were killed in a large raid with Afghan counterparts that is thought to have killed the leader of IS in that country.

Additionally, SOCOM has been given new responsibilities, taking the lead in coordinating military actions against terrorist organizations and also maintaining the Defense Department’s efforts to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

“Special operations forces are more relevant than ever,” SOCOM Commander General Raymond Thomas told lawmakers. “The evolution, the change in terms of the threat environment, is almost kind of at a frantic level in terms of number of threats.”

But Thomas and Whelan cautioned that the additional responsibilities combined with a larger role on the ground, in many areas, have led to increased strain, especially in a tight budget environment.

In some cases, support staff has taken a hit, Whelan said.

“In fact, we have actually downsized because of requirements for downsizing of the federal workforce, particularly major headquarters organizations,” she told lawmakers.

Funding

Officials also worry about the lack of certainty when it comes to funding.

Nearly 30 percent of SOCOM’s money comes from the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget — meant to help fund current military operations. But SOCOM said the vast majority of that money pays for long-term functions or capabilities.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
Members of Special Boat Team 22 participate in a Special Operations Craft Riverine demonstration at the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Richard Miller/Released)

The renewed concerns about special operations funding came the same day President Donald Trump touted a $20 billion military spending increase, included in a bill expected to be approved by the House of Representatives this week.

“We are at last reversing years of military cuts and showing our determination and resolve to the entire world,” Trump said May 2 while welcoming the U.S. Air Force Academy football team to the White House Rose Garden.

“These long-awaited increases will make America more safe and more secure and give our amazing service members the tools, equipment, training, and resources they need and they very much deserve.”

Still, the impact when it comes to stabilizing SOCOM funding is unclear, as the military spending increase includes billions of dollars for OCO.

Also read: This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

But even if funding is stabilized, there remain deep and long-standing concerns about trying to do too much with not enough, possibly pushing special operations force (SOF) troops past their breaking point.

“SOF leaders are worried about that,” a former SOCOM staff officer warned VOA last year, pointing to a continuous surge in the number of missions over the past 15 years.

“They continually say ‘yes,’ ” the officer said. “When do we say ‘no’ in contemporary times to be able to say ‘yes’ to perhaps something more critical in the future?”

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This is what a war between China and Japan would look like

China and Japan have a long and violent history between each other that’s resulted in a deep-seated mistrust, and in recent years two of the Western Pacific’s greatest powers have been preparing for what would likely be the flashpoint of World War III if it got out of hand.


China and Japan are in a battle of wills over the China Sea that could become a real battle as they build up their militaries, as Defense One wrote in September. But, what would a knock-down fight between Japan and China look like?

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
Japanese soldiers with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force move the F470 Combat Rubber Raiding Craft off the beach during a beach raid as part of training for Exercise Iron Fist 2016, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 24, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ryan Kierkegaard)

China currently has a much larger and stronger military than Japan. It has an active military of over 2.3 million people and a drilling reserve of another 2.3 million. All those troops are equipped with approximately 3,000 aircraft, 14,000 armored vehicles and tanks, and 714 ships.

The Chinese military has also been increasing its military presence in the most likely area that the two countries would fight, the South China Sea. That area of the Pacific is crucial to Japanese trade. Since Japan is an island nation, China could cut off most commercial trade with Japan and force shortages of food and materiel in the country.

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A Chinese tanker soldier with the People’s Liberation Army sits while the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff comes aboard his tank at Shenyang training base, China, Mar. 24, 2007. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen)

But, Japan is no slouch. It could quickly muster over 300,000 fighters to defend the Japanese islands against attack. And it has over 3,500 armored vehicles and tanks with 1,590 aircraft and 131 ships backing them up. While these numbers pale in comparison to China, they’re still large enough to mount a strong defense of Japan’s homeland.

Unfortunately, Japan’s forces likely aren’t big enough to maintain open sea lanes and trade routes if China tried to blockade them. But Japan fields a relatively small military because it has an ace up its sleeve: a mutual defense agreement with the U.S.

America acts as a guarantor of Japanese forces, meaning that a protracted war would likely lead the U.S. to join the fight. America boasts the world’s most capable military and it is skilled at expeditionary warfare, projecting power across vast seas to far away areas.

If a war broke out in the South China Sea, that expeditionary strength would be vital. The American Marine Corps and Navy would send Marine Expeditionary Units to flash points and strategic priorities. Each MEU contains thousands of Marines — ready to fight tooth and nail — plus the logistics necessary to support them and the armored and air assets needed to protect them.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit conduct a beach assault in Feb. 2014. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Austin Hazard)

The Navy would likely dispatch a carrier group to provide additional air support, giving the Marines their capabilities such as increased electromagnetic warfare assets, better surveillance, and a lot more bombs and fighters.

Meanwhile, the Army maintains a 4,000-soldier airborne brigade combat team in Alaska which is capable of airdropping their forces onto strategic islands to reinforce Marines or to establish blocking positions and defenses ahead of predicted Chinese advances.

If called upon, the paratroopers are also prepared for joint, forcible entries. These are operations where the Army and Air Force work together to seize an enemy-held airfield, kill and capture all of its defenders, and then begin using the airstrip for American operations.

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Paratroopers with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, move to an assembly area at the end of a joint forcible entry exercise in Alaska in Aug. 2016. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Justin Connaher)

The Army had slated the Alaska-based unit — the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division — for reduction, but decided to keep the 4th BCT because of increased tensions in the Arctic and potential threats to Japan and South Korea. You know, threats like China.

But China has the defenses in place to make an American intervention costly. First, it has militarized man-made islands in the South China Sea and built mutually supporting bases on them, significantly increasing the costs in blood and ships to an attacker if China has to defend them.

Quartz wrote an excellent piece in September that shows how the islands work together to establish Chinese control.

America and Japan would still likely win the war if they decided to fight it, at least for the next few years. But growing Chinese investment in the military, plus constant industrial espionage, is allowing China to pull closer and closer to American strength. So much so that the RAND Corporation has said that a 2025 war could be costly and unwinnable for both sides.

There is some optimism that the war will never take place. While a recent Pew Research Center poll shows that China and Japan still deeply distrust one another, the countries still maintain an extensive trade relationship. Plus, each side is capable enough to make a war too bloody and expensive for the other side to benefit.

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The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

The Thunderbirds Delta formation flies by One World Trade Center during a photo chase mission in New York City May 22, 2015.

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Photo: Senior Airman Jason Couillard/USAF

Capt. Nicholas Eberling, a solo pilot for the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron, maneuvers his F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft to close in on the refueling boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
Photo: Capt. Zach Anderson/USAF

NAVY:

The USS Constitution (America’s oldest warship) may be in drydock for the next few years, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still “virtually” tour her on Google Maps.

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Photo: USN

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Sunliners of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 81 launches from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) during an air-power demonstration.

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Photo: USN

ARMY:

A soldier, assigned to 3rd BCT, 101st ABN DIV (AASLT) and deployed as part of Train Advise Assist Command-East fires an M4 carbine rifle during a partnered live fire range with soldiers from the Polish Land Forces at Tactical Base Gamberi, Afghanistan.

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Photo: Capt. Charlie Emmons/US Army

Four containerized delivery system bundles parachute from an United States Air Force C-130 Hercules during a joint humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training mission, in Kosovo.

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Photo: Sgt. Melissa Parrish/US Army

MARINE CORPS:

USS WASP, At sea – Two F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters complete vertical landings aboard the USS Wasp during the opening day of the first session of operational testing.

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Photo: Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/USMC

 

Louisburg, N.C – U.S. Marines assigned to Force Reconnaissance Platoon, Maritime Raid Force, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit , conduct a high altitude low opening jump during category 3 sustainment training in Louisburg, N.C.

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Photo: Lance Cpl. Andre dakis/USMC

COAST GUARD:

Coast Guard Cutter Kathleen Moore sits side-by-side with the HMCS Glace Bay prior to the beginning of theU.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) exercise, which brings together units from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, The National Guard, U.S. Navy and others to train Caribbean partners and strengthen maritime partnerships.

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Photo: USCG

Get underway this week with Coast Guard Cutter Active and learn about their recent participation in Exercise Trident Fury alongside the U.S. Navy and Royal Canadian Navy as they take over!

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch
Photo: USCG

NOW: The 13 funniest military memes of the week

AND: More military photos

OR: Watch the top 10 militaries around the world :

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force wants 30 percent more tankers for China fight

The US Air Force needs more tanker aircraft to ensure that America’s heavy hitters can take the fight to China should a conflict arise, according to the service’s senior leadership.

“The challenge in the Pacific is the tyranny of distance, and that means tanker squadrons are very important,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Congress in October 2018, Voice of America reported, noting that the Air Force plans to increase the number of tanker squadrons from 40 to 54 by 2030.


“When we project into the 2025, 2030 timeframe, our pacing threat, we believe, is China,” Wilson further explained to Congress. The tanker plans are part of a larger initiative to boost the overall strength of the Air Force.

The Air Force secretary announced in September 2018 that the service intends to increase the total number of force operational squadrons by nearly 25%, raising the number by 74 to a total of 386 squadrons. The expansion is in service of the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, which point to great power competition as the greatest threat.

In response to criticism about the potential costs, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argued, “It’s expensive. We recognize that. But it’s less expensive than fighting a war with somebody who thought that we were weak enough that they could take advantage.”

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.

(NATO photo)

Aerial refueling aircraft play a critical role in extending the operational range of America’s fighter and bomber aircraft.

In recent months, as tensions between Washington and Beijing have soared to “dangerous” levels, the US has increasingly sent B-52H heavy long-range bombers through the East and South China Seas. There have been over half a dozen flights since August 2018, with the most recent flight taking place on Oct. 10, 2018, a spokesperson for Pacific Air Forces told Business Insider on Oct. 12, 2018.

Tankers have typically accompanied the bombers on these flights, which China has characterized as “provocative.”

While the Air Force is upping its game, China is believed to be doing the same through intense research into advanced anti-access, area-denial (A2/AD) weapons systems, including a new very long-range air-to-air missiles designed to cripple slower, more vulnerable support aircraft in the rear, such as tankers and airborne early warning aircraft.

The missile is suspected to have a range of around 186 miles, farther than US air-to-air missiles.

China does not necessarily need to defeat elite planes like the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in battle. It only needs to keep them out of the fight. China has also invested heavily in integrated air defense systems relying on indigenous and foreign combat platforms.

Some of the weapons systems China is looking at have made appearances in military exercises, but it is unclear how close China is to actually fielding these systems.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

‘Even the brave cry here’: Marines put their gas masks to the test

A sign hanging above the doors to the gas chamber reads, “Even the brave cry here.” A dozen at a time, Marines are ushered into a small, dark, brick room. A thick haze of o-Chlorobenzylidene Malononitrile, more commonly known as CS gas, fills the air.

Marines with Deployment Processing Command, Reserve Support Unit-East (DPC/RSU) and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted gas chamber training Nov. 8, 2019, on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

“During qualification, which can take about four to five hours, Marines are taught nuclear biological and chemical (NBC) threats, reactions to NBC attacks, how to take care of and use a gas mask, how to don Mission-Oriented Protective Posture gear, the process for decontamination, and other facts relating to NBC warfare,” said Cpl. Skyanne Gilmore, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) specialist with the 26th MEU.


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Cpl. Samual Parsons and Cpl. Isais Martinez Garza, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) specialists, suit to Marines for gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)

“The gas chamber training teaches Marines how to employ gas masks in toxic environments, and to instill confidence with their gear during CBRN training. Training in the gas chamber is essential because a service member can never know when they could be attacked,” Gilmore said.

According to Gunnery Sgt. James Kibler, Alpha Company operations chief with DPC/RSU, the unit conducts gas chamber training once a month due to the rotation of service members preparing for deployment.

The 26th MEU was training to complete Marine Corps Bulletin 1500, a biennial requirement for active-duty Marines.

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A US Marine clears his gas mask during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

A US Marine performs a canister swap on another Marine during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)

During the training, CBRN Marines monitor individuals who may be struggling in the gas chamber.

“We calmly talk to them, and we take them step by step of what to do,” Gilmore said. “If they’re freaking out, we have them look at us and breathe. If we have to, we pull them out of the gas chamber and let them take their mask off and get a few more breathes before we send them back in there so they can calm down and realize they’re breathing normally.”

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

A US Marine breaks the gas mask seal as instructed during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)

Having confidence in one’s gear and checking it over twice before going inside helps individuals from losing their composure in the gas chamber.

“Check the seal on your mask and the filters before going inside,” said Gilmore. “When you feel like freaking out, take a breath and realize that you’re not breathing in any CS gas. You should have confidence in yourself and your gear.”

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

US Marines perform a canister swap during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)

Due to the rise in chemical attacks, proper training in the gas chamber could save a service member’s life.

“Throughout Iraq, there have been pockets of mustard gas and a couple other CBRN-type gases that have been found, especially within underground systems,” Kibler said.

“I know that when I was there in 2008, a platoon got hit with mustard gas when they opened up a Conex box. The entire platoon was able to don their masks. Gas attacks are out there; it might not be bombs, but it’s out there somewhere.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

See the military’s awesome tribute to Stan Lee

As a child, Maj. Scotty Autin loved reading Marvel comic books. One of his favorite characters was Gambit, a fictional quick-handed, card-playing thief from New Orleans.

“Considering I’m from Louisiana, I was always drawn to Gambit,” said Autin, deputy commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District. “I read all the comics that featured him and watched the X-Men animated series just to see him. I remember as a 10-year-old, I would practice throwing playing cards just to be like him.”


So when Autin was invited to participate in “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” Jan. 30, 2019, at The Creative Life, or TCL, Chinese Theatre, formerly known as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, in Hollywood, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Prior and active-duty military service members with the Veterans in Media and Entertainment, Los Angeles; 311th Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Reserves, Los Angeles; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District; the 300th Army Band, Los Angeles; American Legion Post No. 43, Hollywood, California; and American Legion Post No. 283, Pacific Palisades, California, pose for a picture prior to the start of “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

The event was a memorial tribute to Lee, the legendary writer, editor and publisher of Marvel Comics, who died in November 2018.

But it wasn’t just because Autin grew up reading Marvel comic books that made participating in the ceremony so important to him; it also was a way to honor Lee’s service to the nation as a fellow Army veteran.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Crowds start to gather Jan. 30, 2019, in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood prior to the start of “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

Lee was a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. While in the service, he started out as a lineman, before the Army realized his writing skills and moved him into technical writing for training manuals, films and posters with a group that included the likes of Oscar-winner Frank Capra and Pulitzer-winner William Saroyan. After the war, Lee returned to Timely Comics, later renamed Marvel, where he served as the editor and co-creator for decades.

He was proud of his military service, said Lee’s longtime friend, Karen Kraft, an award-winning television producer, Army veteran and the chairwoman of the Veterans in Media and Entertainment, or VME, Board of Directors.

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An artist sketches a drawing of Marvel Comic creator Stan Lee with actor, producer and director Kevin Smith during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

“He was very proud to have enlisted and was hoping to serve overseas, but his skill set was quickly discovered as a writer, illustrator and storyteller,” Kraft said.

Lee’s appreciation for his military service carried over to his civilian role at Marvel Comics, where it can be seen in the patriotic themes of “Captain America,” she said.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Paul Lilley, an Army veteran, actor, producer and member of Veterans in Media and Entertainment, center, helps fold a flag to present to “Agents of Mayhem” “Legion M” and “POW! Entertainment!” during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

Organizers of the event, which included VME, wanted to ensure that piece of Lee’s life wasn’t lost during the tribute ceremony. So they organized a color guard. A bugler was brought in to play, “Taps.” An Army band was asked to perform. Autin brought American flags he had flown in Iraq on Veterans Day to present to Lee’s daughter, J.C., and the sponsors of the event. American Legion’s Post No. 43, Hollywood, and Post No. 283, Pacific Palisades, California, got on board to help with a wreath-laying ceremony.

First encounter with Lee

Growing up in Rochester, New York, Kraft was drawn to the comic book creations of Lee.

She and her older brothers would go to the comic book store once a month, where she soon fell in love with Marvel Comics — the artwork, the words, the lettering, the coloring.

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Jimmy Weldon, World War II veteran and a member of the American Legion Post No. 43, Hollywood, takes in all of the activities prior to the start of “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

“No two comic books are the same,” she said. “It so captivates you that you don’t realize you’re reading a comic book. Your mind is filling in the gaps between the boxes and the pages because you’re so enthralled by it. That’s a power; that’s a storytelling magic.”

Kraft first met Lee at a comic book convention when she was young. After the convention and at the recommendation of her mother, Kraft wrote Lee a “thank you” letter, and he wrote a “thank you” letter back. From there, the two kept in touch, she said.

Later, when Kraft worked for the Discovery Channel, she interviewed Lee and other comic book talents for the documentary, “Marvel Superheroes Guide to New York City.” The documentary entailed traveling around New York City to the locations that inspired Lee and other comic book artists.

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A military service member salutes the U.S. flag during the playing of “Taps” at “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

After she left Discovery Channel, Kraft worked with Lee on various projects. Their initial chance encounter and continued correspondence developed into a decades-long friendship.

In Kraft’s eyes, Lee had his own superpower — the ability to connect with people.

“Stan was marvelous in the use of his vocabulary and the way he created these characters you can relate to,” she said. “He created this entire world with all of these different artists … Every character he created is a co-creation. That’s also pretty stunning — including all of these people and inspiring all of that creativity from artists and writers.”

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Jere Romano, post commander of the American Legion No. 283, Pacific Palisades, California, left, along with his wife, Martha, place a wreath by a cement plaque of Marvel Comic book creator Stan Lee’s signature.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

Lee was known for a process called the “Marvel Method,” a creative assembly-line style he used in comic book-making. Lee would write in the captions, another artist would sketch the scene, another would color it and a different artist would finish the lettering. Some credit Lee’s process to his Army experience, where everyone had a job, or Military Occupational Specialty.

Throughout the years, Kraft said, Lee always opened his home and office to her and allowed her to bring veterans over to visit, where he would share his World War II stories. The two both joined the American Legion Post No. 43, Hollywood, together and Lee became an advisory board member of VME.

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Members of the Veterans in Media and Entertainment present a U.S. flag to a Legion M representative during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

“He would talk to veterans about his military service … he loved to share his story,” she said. “His superpower is people. He’s extremely generous, very open with his time, very kind, very funny and very positive. And, he was very proud of his military service. We bonded over that.”

This little known safety net can help service members and veterans in a pinch

Crowds of people gather in the TCL Chinese Theatre Courtyard in Hollywood during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

Kraft recalled one time when Lee spoke to about 300 military veterans with VME.

“I remember in the last meeting, he was very emotional when he said to the veterans in the audience, ‘You’re the real heroes in my world,'” she said. “It was very, very touching.”

A legion of fans

The tribute to Lee at the TCL Chinese Theatre was nothing short of honoring his legacy of bringing very diverse groups together. Directors, producers, military service members and veterans, artists, writers, comic book fans and celebrities packed the theatre courtyard on the day of the event.

The diversity of the crowd didn’t surprise Kraft, who said Lee made everyone feel like they were a part of his family.

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A cosplayer dressed as Spiderman holds a single red rose while listening to friends and fellow colleagues of Marvel Comic book creator Stan Lee pay tribute to him during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

On a small stage on the left-hand side of the courtyard, a military color guard posted the flags, while a bugler played “Taps” in the background. Army band members played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes. Those who worked closely with Lee approached the microphone one-by-one to give testimonials of how he impacted their careers and their lives, including actor, director and producer Kevin Smith. A wreath was placed near a stone plaque engraved with Lee’s signature. Folded flags encased in wooden boxes were presented to the sponsors of the event, which included Agents of Mayhem, Legion M and POW! Entertainment. A flag was later presented to Lee’s daughter on the Red Carpet.

Following the courtyard tribute, celebrities, military members and others walked the Red Carpet leading inside the theatre, where celebrity panelists and others also paid tribute to Lee.

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Actor, producer, writer and director Kevin Smith addresses the crowd to pay tribute to his friend, Stan Lee, during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

The diversity of the crowd, the presenters and the celebrities at the event spoke to Lee’s impact and reach across not only generations, but ethnic and social lines, Autin said.

“During the ceremony, I stood next to a gentleman who was about my age,” he said. “I was in my military dress uniform, and he was dressed as Mr. Fantastic (of the Fantastic Four). To the outside observer, that had no context of the situation, the sight would have looked like it was straight from a Marvel movie script. However, to us, we were both there to honor a man in our own way. The man that had an impact on us individually, as well as our entire generation.”

Lee loved a crowd and would have loved the ceremony and all of the military representation, Kraft said. He would have snapped off a smart salute to all of the men and women in their dress blues, said a quick-witted phrase, and there would be lots of hugging and smiles.

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From left to right, actors Titus Welliver, Wesley Snipes, Laurence Fishburne and Bill Duke, along with a guest, pose for a picture on the Red Carpet during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

“I’m proud that he touched so many lives and inspired so many people to come together,” Kraft said. “People with very different passions, but yet they all share this passion for super heroes — people pushing themselves beyond what they think possible to do what’s right and to be good in this world.”

Finding solace

For Kraft, looking up into the Hollywood Hills, it’s hard to imagine Lee not being there anymore, but she finds solace in his legacy and what he taught her — the power and importance of storytelling to human nature.

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Maj. Scotty Autin, deputy commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, reflects in the background of a wreath honoring the late Marvel Comic legend Stan Lee during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

“Every culture cherishes its legends, its myths, it’s identity through storytelling,” she said. “Storytelling done truly well really uplifts you … It helps carry you through tough times; it pushes you to do bigger and bolder things. His signature was ‘Excelsior,’ which in Latin means ‘upward to greater glory.’ It means keep pushing yourself, keep moving on, keep trying.”

“I think that’s the power of these superheroes that Stan Lee created,” Autin added. “They each speak to us directly for different reasons, they each show us that it’s OK to be flawed or struggling, but also push us to lean on our strengths and help others.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.