Trump had one question when it came to the War in Afghanistan, according to journalist Bob Woodward’s 2018 book Fear: Trump in the White House: “What the f*ck are we doing there?” And he didn’t just want to know what the generals thought, so he asked the lower ranks.
When Trump took office in 2017 and was presented with options on securing high-value targets and changing the course of the war from the Obama-era policies, Trump changed the conversation, telling then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that he wanted to talk to some “enlisted guys” about the war.
Mattis rolled his eyes.
The President in the Oval Office with many of his original staff from 2017.
“I want to get some real fighters over here who are not officers,” the President told his advisors, including Mattis, former Gen. H.R. McMaster, White House Chief of Staff Steve Bannon, and others. He wanted their “on the ground views” of the war. While the former officers in the room scoffed at the idea of enlisted troops informing the Commander-in-Chief on the then-16-year-long war in Afghanistan, Trump’s controversial Chief of Staff thought of it more idealistically, relating the idea to President Lincoln talking to Union troops during the Civil War.
On July 18, 2017, almost six months to the day after taking office, the President sat down with three soldiers and an airman who spent significant time in Afghanistan and had lunch in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
From left, Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald J. Trump, and National Security Advisor Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster talk with service members during a lunch in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, July 18, 2017.
(White House photo by Shealah Craighead)
Trump was joined in the lunch by McMaster, Vice President Mike Pence, Army First Sgt. Michael Wagner, Army Master Sgt. Zachary Bowman, Army Master Sgt. Henry Adames, and Air Force Major Eric Birch. As the lunch began, the President told reporters they were there “to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going and what we should do in terms of additional ideas.”
“We have plenty of ideas from a lot of people,” Trump said, “but I want to hear it from people on the ground.”
The President asked them what they thought the U.S. was doing in Afghanistan, where they thought it was going, and what they should do for additional ideas. Afterward, Woodward writes, Trump told Bannon the ground pounders’ views were unanimous – “we’ve got to figure out how to get the f*ck out of there… Totally corrupt… the people are not worth fighting for… NATO does nothing, they’re a hindrance… it’s all bullsh*t.”
So when it came time to discuss new policy at the next National Security Council meeting, Trump interrupted McMaster’s briefing, saying his best information came from the “line soldiers” he met that day.
“I don’t care about you guys,” Trump told Mattis, McMaster, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford and the rest of the NSC in a 25-minute dressing down on everyone who informed Afghanistan war policy. “It’s a disaster … the soldiers on the ground could run things much better than you.”
Later in December 1967, the guards hauled a new prisoner strapped to a board into Day’s cell.
Day was in bad shape himself. He had escaped and was on the run for two weeks before being caught. The beatings had been merciless, but the condition of the new guy was something else.
“I’ve seen some dead that looked at least as good,” Day would later reportedly say. The new prisoner was in a semblance of a body cast. He weighed less than a hundred pounds. He had untended wounds from bayonets. His broken and withered right arm protruded from the cast at a crazy angle.
Day thought to himself that the North Vietnamese “have dumped this guy on us so they can blame us for killing him, because I didn’t think he was going to live out the day.”
Then Day caught the look: “His eyes, I’ll never forget, were just burning bright,” and “I started to get the feeling that if we could get a little grits into him and get him cleaned up and the infection didn’t get him, he was probably going to make it.”
“And that surprised me. That just flabbergasted me because I had given him up,” Day said, as recounted in the book “The Nightingale’s Song” by Marine Vietnam War veteran Robert Timberg.
(Simon & Schuster)
Day had just met Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Sidney McCain III, or as Radio Hanoi called him, “Air Pirate McCain.” Day realized this was the Bug’s “Crown Prince,” the son of Adm. John S. McCain, Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command.
The nearly five years he spent as a POW were a reckoning for the future senator from Arizona.
But now, he’s facing a different kind of reckoning.
In July 2017, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer that usually is terminal.
Shortly after the diagnosis, McCain went to the Senate floor to plead for bipartisanship.
“Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and on the Internet. To hell with them,” he said.
“We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle,” he added. “We’re getting nothing done, my friends; we’re getting nothing done.”
McCain, still chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, went home to Arizona before Christmas and has not returned.
Before leaving the Senate, McCain said in a floor speech that “I’m going home for a while to treat my illness,” McCain said in a floor speech before leaving the Senate. “I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you pause to regret all the nice things you said about me.”
“And I hope to impress on you again, that it is an honor to serve the American people in your company,” McCain added.
At his ranch in Sedona, Arizona, McCain has reportedly not been a model patient. He has jokingly accused his nurses of being in the witness protection program.
“His nurses, some of them are new, they don’t really know him, so they don’t understand that sarcasm is his form of affection,” Salter said May 28, 2018, on the “CBS This Morning” program.
“He fights, he’s fought with everybody at one point or another,” Salter said. “You know, he always talks about the country being 325 million opinionated, vociferous souls — and he’s one of them.”
In an audio excerpt from the book, McCain faced mortality.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here,” he said in the book. “Maybe I’ll have another five years. Maybe with the advances in oncology, they’ll find new treatments for my cancer that will extend my life. Maybe I’ll be gone before you hear this. My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable.”
Maverick no more
In the 1990s, A&E ran a documentary on McCain that included in its title the moniker “American Maverick.” The title was probably suitable for a politician who clashed so frequently with others but managed to maintain friendships with rivals, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton.
McCain said he’s seeking to shed the “maverick” label, discussing the subject in an HBO documentary on his life that will air on Memorial Day.
“I’m a human being and I’m not a maverick,” McCain said in a trailer for the documentary obtained by ABC.
“I’ve been tested on a number of occasions. I haven’t always done the right thing,” he said, “but you will never talk to anyone who’s as fortunate as John McCain.”
Throughout his life and public career, McCain has demonstrated humor in dire circumstances and the ability to absorb grave blows and continue on.
When he was told that the Hoa Lo prison, dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” by the POWs, had actually been turned into a hotel, McCain said “I hope the room service is better.”
He could also be self-deprecating.
“I did not enjoy the reputation of a serious pilot or an up-and-coming junior officer,” McCain, with long-time collaborator Mark Salter, wrote in his book “Faith of My Fathers,” describing life before his A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Hanoi.
He had crashed three planes in training. He was assigned to attack aircraft and was not among the elite who flew fighters.
The look that riveted Bud Day in the prison camp signaled that the gadfly and carouser McCain was renewing a commitment “to serve a cause greater than oneself.”
It is a message that he has delivered to Naval Academy graduates and to congressional colleagues, and he has admitted to often falling short of living up to his own mantra.
After his return from Vietnam, there was a failed marriage and his implication in the “Keating Five” scandal, a bribery affair with a a corrupt wheeler-dealer that almost ended his career in politics.
McCain recently described to CNN’s Jake Tapper how he wanted to be remembered.
“He served his country, and not always right,” McCain said. “Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors. But served his country. And I hope you could add ‘honorably’.”
On the campaign trail with McCain
The famously named “Straight Talk Express” campaign bus was actually reduced to a minivan when McCain was broke and running on fumes in the New Hampshire presidential primary of 2008. The few reporters still covering him had no problem squeezing in. The small group included this reporter, who covered the McCain campaigns for the New York Daily News in 2000 and 2008.
McCain would be off to some high school gym to speak, but mostly to listen. Everybody knew the script, because there wasn’t one, and that’s part of what made him a treat to cover.
His “Town Hall” events really were town halls. There might be a talking point at the top, or some message of the day fed to him by handlers, but McCain would get rid of it quickly and throw it open to the floor.
The practice had its downside. There was the guy who seemed to show up everywhere and always managed to grab the mic. He wanted to grow hemp, or maybe smoke it, and thought McCain should do something about it. It drove the candidate nuts.
The ad-lib nature of his campaigns sometimes backfired. There was the time in New Hampshire when he was headed to Boston for a Red Sox game and a sit-down with pitching hero Curt Schilling. Red Sox? New Hampshire primary? Impossible to screw that up.
The news of the day was that opponent Mitt Romney had hired undocumented immigrants to sweep out his stables, blow the leaves off his tennis courts, or similar tasks.
A small group of reporters hit McCain with the Romney question on his way to the car. McCain hadn’t heard. He started to laugh, thought better of it, and rushed back inside the hotel.
He could be seen in the lobby doubling up as aides explained the Romney situation. He came back out, said something to the effect of, “Of course, if true, this is troubling … ” and went to the ballgame.
Somebody wrote that McCain was the only candidate who could make you cry, and that was true.
In 2000, McCain was basically beaten when the campaign reached California. George W. Bush would be the Republican nominee.
McCain was running out the string in San Diego with many of his old Navy buds. On the dais was Adm. James Stockdale, who had been the senior officer in the prison camps. Stockdale received the Medal of Honor for his resistance to his captors.
Somehow, Stockdale had become the running mate of the flighty and vindictive Ross Perot, who had disrespected him and sidelined him from the campaign.
In his remarks, McCain turned to Stockdale and said that, no matter what, “You will be my commander — forever.”
There was a pause, and then the crowd stood and applauded.
His friends from the prison camps would occasionally travel with him on the bus or the plane. They were easy to pick out. During down times, they were the ones who would rag on him about what a lousy pilot he had been. It was a learning experience for those who covered McCain.
One of the former POWs was Everett Alvarez, who was the longest-held Navy pilot from the camps. At an event in California, there was a great rock n’ roll band that opened and closed for McCain. Outside the hall, as the crowd filed out, Alvarez was at an exit, enjoying the band as they blasted out ’60s hits.
“Great stuff,” he said to this reporter, who wondered later whether that was the first time Alvarez was hearing it.
Son of a son of a sailor
The title of the cover song of a Jimmy Buffett album applies to John McCain: “Son Of A Son Of A Sailor.”
His grandfather, John S. “Slew” McCain Sr., was an admiral who served in World War I and World War II. His father, John S. McCain Jr., was an admiral who served in submarines in World War II. Both father and grandfather were in Tokyo Bay after the Japanese surrender in World War II.
John S. McCain III was born on August 29, 1936, at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone. The family moved 20 times before he was out of high school, and his transience became an issue when he first ran for Congress in 1982.
His opponent tried to pin the “carpetbagger” label on him, and said he had only recently moved to Arizona. McCain said his opponent was correct: the place he had been in residence longest was Hanoi. He won easily.
McCain was an indifferent student and his poor academic record continued at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1958 fifth from the bottom in a class of 899.
After flight school, he was assigned to A-1 Skyraider squadrons and served on board the aircraft carriers Intrepid and Enterprise.
In 1967, in his first combat tour, he was assigned to the carrier USS Forrestal, flying the A-4 Skyhawk in Operation Rolling Thunder.
On July 29, 1967, McCain was in his A-4 on the flight deck when a missile on a following plane cooked off and hit the A-4, starting a fire that killed 134 and took more than a day to bring under control.
McCain transferred to the carrier USS Oriskany. On Oct. 26, 1967, McCain was flying his 23rd combat mission over North Vietnam when his aircraft was hit by a missile. He broke both arms and a leg when he ejected and nearly drowned when his parachute came down in Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi.
McCain’s decorations include the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars with combat ‘V’ devices, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.
“In all candor, we thought our civilian commanders were complete idiots who didn’t have the least notion of what it took to win the war,” McCain would later write of the Vietnam war.
A final fight
McCain did not vote for President Donald Trump. The antipathy was there when Trump said during the campaign that McCain was “a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” but the break came later when a video emerged of Trump spewing vulgarities about women.
In speeches and in his writings since, McCain has not referred to Trump by name but made clear that he is opposed to some of the policies and crass appeals that won Trump the election.
In an address in October 2017, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, McCain said that it was wrong to “fear the world we have organized and led for three quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership, and our duty to remain the last, best hope of Earth.”
He said it was wrong to abandon those principles “for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”
To do so was “as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history,” McCain continued.
While hoping for recovery, McCain has made plans for what comes next. He said in the HBO Memorial Day documentary that “I know that this is a very serious disease. I greet every day with gratitude. I’m also very aware that none of us live forever.”
In his new book, McCain said that he was “prepared for either contingency.”
“I have some things I’d like to take care of first, some work that needs finishing, and some people I need to see,” he said.
He has asked that Barack Obama and George W. Bush give eulogies when his time comes. He has asked that Trump not attend his funeral.
McCain has also asked that he be laid to rest alongside Adm. Chuck Larson at the Naval Academy’s cemetery in Annapolis. Larson, who was twice superintendent of the Naval Academy, was McCain’s roommate at Annapolis.
In a message of his own last Memorial Day, McCain recalled his friend, the late Air Force Col. Leo Thorsness, a Medal of Honor recipient for his valor in Vietnam. Thorsness was shot down two weeks after the actions for which he would receive the medal.
“I was in prison with him, I lived with him for a period of time in the Hanoi Hilton,” McCain said.
Through the nation’s history, “we’ve always asked a few to protect the many,” McCain said. “We can remember them and cherish them, for, I believe, it’s only in America that we do such things to such a degree.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
As the citizens of the United States begin to line up at stores to stockpile items to prepare for possible quarantine, medical professionals are advising people to stop panicking. While the seriousness of the coronavirus or COVID-19 cannot be minimized, a mass panic is unnecessary and causing more harm than good. Air Force Capt. Dr. Phillip Mailloux stationed at Scott Air Force Base went on record to discuss the virus and the military’s response to the declared pandemic.
Dr. Mailloux shared that the focus is on force health protection. Although the importance of the mission isn’t understated, ultimately, everyone’s safety is a top priority. This includes ensuring that everyone has the most up to date information to remain safe and healthy.
“Our job is to keep monitoring the situation as it unfolds. We have plans in place – even before the coronavirus came out. Every installation has a disease containment plan for events just like this that we can stick to. We are in the preparation phase, we have all the measures in place that we need to if the event becomes more impactful to the local area. The steps are already known and ready so that the installation can make an agile response,” he shared.
Dr. Mailloux continued by stating that in the case of Scott AFB, they are in close contact with the local health department. Scott AFB is a part of the larger community in the area, like many military installations, so what happens on base or out in the local area impacts everyone. “We don’t have a magical barrier to prevent what’s going on outside the walls from coming,” he said.
He advised that everyone continue following the recommendations put out by the Centers for Disease Control. That website will always have the most up to date information and recommendations for coronavirus. This will include precautions and measures the public can take to prevent the spread.
Dr. Mailloux reiterated that those who are the most at risk are the elderly and immunocompromised. He also advised that the public call in if they suspect they have been exposed or are showing symptoms, rather than come into the emergency room or clinic. He explained that Illinois has a 3-5 day testing turn around currently, and sometimes the virus isn’t always detectable right away, especially on day one.
Although coronavirus has a five-day incubation period, the reason seclusion is recommended for fourteen days is that they’ve seen the incubation period exceed five days before people begin showing signs of the illness.
Social media is currently filled with pictures of empty shelves. Should the public be stockpiling on things like face masks? The doctor said no, because it won’t do any good. “The standard face masks only keep germs in, not out. For it to be effective in preventing transmission of the virus it would need to have a fit-tested seal,” Dr. Mailloux stated. He explained that those that are ill should wear one to prevent spreading their own germs to others, but healthy individuals wearing them does nothing. We are also taking away from those who truly need the masks.
He referenced our first responders and those that will have to continue to show up to serve others. Those sealed and effective masks need to be reserved for them, so they can remain safe.
The CDC has stated that right now, the risk of exposure for most Americans is low. But as the outbreak continues to expand, that risk increases. Currently, the Coronavirus is classified as a community spread illness. Precautions we can take to minimize risk:
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least twenty seconds, especially if you have been in a public place. Dr. Mailloux shared that although it is not thought that the virus can last on open services, we don’t have enough information to confirm it.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Avoid close contact with those that are sick and limit your exposure to the risk if the virus is spreading in your community.
Stay home if you are sick. Dr. Mailloux said this is the first time he is seeing people actually follow the recommendation of not venturing out if you are ill. This virus has increased awareness and the following of protocol to protect others from illness.
Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently used.
Dr. Mailloux encouraged the public to be smart. Even if you are a healthy individual, if you’ve traveled or been in a highly-populated area, don’t go to nursing homes or other areas with at-risk populations. There are instances of individuals, like children, who can be a carrier of the virus and never show but the most minimal symptoms. They then can pass it on to those who are unable to fight it off.
So, if you are heading to the store to stock up on essentials for a couple of weeks to isolate you and your family members, it is encouraged and applauded. But stockpiling toilet paper or overbuying hand sanitizer and cleaner is creating unnecessary anxiety for those who are high risk.
By being socially responsible, we can reduce panic and mitigate risk.
The Army has released an image taken by a combat photographer moments before she was killed in an explosion during a 2013 live-fire training exercise in eastern Afghanistan.
Spc. Hilda I. Clayton, a visual information specialist assigned to the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera), was killed while photographing a live-fire training exercise on July 2 in Laghman Province. Four Afghan National Army soldiers were also killed when a mortar tube accidentally exploded.
One of the Afghan soldiers killed was a photojournalist whom Clayton had been training.
The primary mission of Combat Camera soldiers is to accompany soldiers on deployments to document the history of combat operations.
“Clayton’s death symbolizes how female soldiers are increasingly exposed to hazardous situations in training and in combat on par with their male counterparts,” the Army said in a statement.
Clayton’s name has since been added to the Defense Information School Hall of Heroes at Fort Meade. The award for the winner of Combat Camera’s annual competition was also named after her.
“The Spc. Hilda I. Clayton Best Combat Camera (COMCAM) Competition consists of five days of events to test joint service combat camera personnel on their physical and technical skills,” the Army said.
Military pay raises in 2020 could be in the range of 3.1 percent, an increase of 0.5 percent over the 2.6 percent raise in 2019, according to federal economic indicators that form the basis for calculating the raise.
The first indications of what the Defense Department and White House will recommend for troops’ 2020 pay raise are expected to come March 12, 2019, in the release of the Pentagon’s overall budget request for fiscal 2020.
By statute, the major guideline for determining the 2020 military pay raise will come from the quarterly report of the U.S. Employment Cost Index (ECI) put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
In a January report, BLS stated, “Wages and salaries increased 3.1 percent for the 12-month period ending in December 2018” for the private sector, according to the ECI. The 3.1 percent figure will now be a major factor in gauging the military pay rate that will go into effect in January 2020.
(U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez)
According to the Pentagon’s website on military compensation, “Unless Congress and/or the president act to set a different military basic pay raise, annual military basic pay raises are linked to the increase in private-sector wages as measured by the Employment Cost Index.”
However, the ECI formula, while setting a guideline, has often served as the opening round of debate over military compensation between the White House and Congress.
Congress is not expected to take action on military pay rates for 2020 until approval of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2019.
By law, the NDAA should be enacted before the start of the next fiscal year on Oct. 1, 2019, but Congress has often missed the deadline and passed continuing resolutions to keep the military operating under the previous year’s budget.
The debate over the NDAA could be more complicated and heated this year since the Democrats took control of the House.
Here are the basic military pay raises going back to 2007, according to the Defense Department:
January 2007: 2.2%
April 2007: 0.5%
January 2008: 3.5%
January 2009: 3.9%
January 2010: 3.4%
January 2011: 1.4%
January 2012: 1.6%
January 2013: 1.7%
January 2014: 1.0%
January 2015: 1.0%
January 2016: 1.3%
January 2017: 2.1%
January 2018: 2.4%
January 2019: 2.6%
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Jürgen Stock, Interpol’s secretary-general, told reporters on Nov. 8, 2018, that “there was no reason for me to (suspect) that anything was forced or wrong” about the resignation.
Interpol secretary-general Jürgen Stock.
Details of China’s allegations against Meng remain unclear. His detention appears to be part of a wider “anti-corruption drive” led by President Xi Jinping since his ascendancy to the Chinese leadership.
Activists at Human Rights Watch believe Meng is kept under a form of secret detention called liuzhi (留置), where the person is held incommunicado without access to lawyers or relatives for up to six months.
Sophie Richardson, the organization’s China director, told Business Insider that “we assume but cannot confirm” that.
The wife’s fight
Meng’s wife, Grace, repeatedly denied China’s corruption charges and claimed that her husband’s disappearance was “political persecution.”
She told the BBC in October 2018: “I’m not sure he’s alive. They are cruel. They are dirty,” she added, referring to China’s tactics to silence people.
Reuters reported early November 2018 that Meng had retained two law firms in London and Paris to track down her husband. Business Insider contacted the two firms for comment on Meng’s next steps.
The last text Grace Meng received from her husband on Sept. 25, 2018, says in Chinese: “Wait for my call,” followed by a knife emoji — a possible warning that he was in danger.
Interpol says it can’t investigate, but is “strongly encouraging” China to speak out
The international police organization, where Meng was elected president in 2016, has not provided much clarity either.
It has not released a public statement since Oct. 7, 2018, when it acknowledged Meng’s resignation and has not responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Stock, Interpol’s secretary-general, said on Nov. 8, 2018, that the organization’s rules forbade him from investigating Meng’s disappearance.
“We are not an investigative body,” he said, according to the Associated Press. He added that “we are strongly encouraging China” to provide details of Meng’s whereabouts.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Richardson of Human Rights Watch told Business Insider: “If President Xi was even remotely serious about the rule of law, Meng would be guaranteed fair trial rights, but that is highly unlikely to happen given the profound politicization of China’s legal system.”
Rights groups protested Meng’s election to the Interpol presidency at the time, citing his previous work at China’s ministry of public security in Xinjiang and Tibet. The two regions are home to the country’s Uighur and Tibetan ethnic minorities, who Beijing has attempted to muzzle.
During Meng’s tenure, China submitted multiple “red notices” — Interpol arrest warrants — for dissidents around the world.
Roderic Wye, an associate fellow at Chatham House and former first secretary in the British Embassy in Beijing, told Business Insider in October 2018 that public disappearances were not unusual in China, especially in politics.
“It is often a sign that someone has got into trouble if they fail to appear in public doing their normal duties for a period of time,” he said.
The U.S. military is awash in regulations, laws, and official traditions. How troops march and salute, what uniform to wear to what event, or what you are supposed to say when greeting a superior are all examples of “on-the-books” behaviors expected of service members.
And then there are the “off-the-books” traditions. They are the unwritten rules: traditions that go back way before the books were printed. These activities — especially the ones involving hazing — are often frowned upon, but still continue to happen, usually without any official recognition.
Here are eight examples.
1. Fighter pilots (or members of flight crew) get hosed down after their final flight.
The “fighter pilot mafia” is definitely a thing in the Air Force and Navy, which is the nickname for the pilot sub-culture within each service. Soon after aviators get to a new unit they will go through an unofficial ceremony of receiving their callsigns, and they usually are not very flattering.
On the flip side is the final flight. Much like a football coach gets a giant cooler of Gatorade dumped over their head at the end of a game, pilots sometimes will get hosed down with water by their comrades. In some cases, they’ll be doused with champagne.
In the case of Maj. Vecchione (shown below), his peers also threw string cheese, flour, and mayonnaise on him. Personally, I would’ve thrown in some ketchup and mustard, but hell, I wasn’t there.
2. At a military wedding with a sword detail, the wife gets a sword-tap to her booty to “welcome her” to the family.
Nothing like a little tradition that allows some dude to tap your brand new wife on the butt. When a service member wants to go through the pageantry of having a “military wedding” — wearing their uniform at the altar and bringing along a sword detail — they can expect that at the end of it all, some random dude will be sexually harassing his wife for the sake of tradition.
It goes like this: On the way out right after the ceremony, the couple passes over an arch of swords on both sides. They go through, kiss, go through, kiss, then they get to the last one. Once they reach the final two and pass, one of the detail will lower their sword, tap the bride, and say “welcome to the Army [or Marine Corps, etc]!”
Here’s the Navy version:
3. When a Navy ship crosses the equator, sailors perform the “crossing the line” ceremony, which frankly, involves a lot of really weird stuff.
The Crossing the Line ceremony goes far back to the days of wooden ships. According to this Navy public affairs story, sailors were put through this hazing ritual designed to test whether they could endure their first time out at sea.
These days, sailors crossing the line for the first time — called Pollywogs or Wogs for short — can expect an initiation into the club of those who have done it before, referred to as Shellbacks. During the two-day event, the “Court of Neptune” inducts the Wogs into “the mysteries of the deep” with activities like having men dress up as women, drink stuff like a wonderful mix of hot sauce and aftershave, or make them crawl on their hands and knees in deference to King Neptune. I swear I’m not making any of this up.
In the modern military that is decidedly against hazing rituals, the events have toned down quite a bit. In 1972 a sailor may have expected to be kissing the “Royal Baby’s belly button,” which again, is totally a real thing.
Nowadays however, there’s much less of that sort of thing, and the Navy stresses that it’s all completely voluntary (ask any sailor, however, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “voluntary” with big air quotes).
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
4. Before going on deployment, Marine infantrymen who have never deployed need to shave their heads.
Don’t ask me where this unwritten rule came from or why — other than to distinguish who the total boots in the platoon were — but Marine grunts who have never done a deployment are often told to shave their heads before they move out.
Again, this is one of those “voluntary” you-don’t-have-to-do-this-if-you-don’t-want-to kind of things, but there were 3 guys in my platoon who decided to keep their hair before deploying to Okinawa in 2003. Interestingly enough, they were put on plenty of cleanup details and other not-so-fun jobs as a result.
5. When achieving the next rank or earning parachute wings or other insignia, a service member may get “blood-pinned,” though it’s rare these days.
Soldiers who get through five successful jumps at Airborne School in the past could expect to get “blood wings,” but that practice has died down in recent years as the public has learned of it. After a superior pinned their wings on, a soldier would get their new badge slammed into their chest, which often draws blood.
This kind of thing is frowned upon — and prohibited under military regulations — but it still sometimes happens. In some cases, it’s considered a rite of passage and kind of an honor. I personally endured pinning ceremonies that I volunteered for when I picked up the ranks of lance corporal and corporal.
6. Some units have mustache-growing contests in training or on deployment to see who can achieve the most terrible-looking ‘stache.
The military regulations on facial hair offer little in the way of good looking when it comes to shaves. Most men are not allowed to grow beards (except for some special operators) and although they are allowed, mustaches are generally frowned upon. Why they are frowned upon usually comes down to how terrible they often look.
Don’t expect any mustache greatness ala Rollie Fingers; troops usually have to keep the mustache neatly trimmed within the corners of their mouth. Those regulations give way to the terribleness derived from the “CAX ‘stache,” which is what Marines refer to as the weird-looking Hitler-like mustache they’ll grow out while training at 29 Palms.
These contests sometimes extend overseas, especially when junior troops are away from the watchful eyes of their senior enlisted leaders. But whenever the sergeant major is around, you might want to police that moostache.
7. First-year West Point cadets have a giant pillow fight to blow off steam after the summer is over.
Before they become the gun-toting leaders of men within the United States Army, first year cadets are beating the crap out of each with pillows in the school’s main courtyard. The annual event is organized by the students and has occurred since at least 1897, according to The New York Times.
While it’s supposed to be a light-hearted event featuring fluffy pillows filled with things that are, you know, soft, some [blue falcon] cadets have decided to turn the event bloody in recent years. One first-year cadet told The Times in September: “The goal was to have fun, and it ended up some guys just chose to hurt people.”
That quote came from a story that broke months ago after the “fun” pillow fight ended with at least 30 cadets requiring medical attention, 24 of which were concussions.
8. Naval Academy midshipmen climb a lard-covered monument for a hat.
Around the same time that first-year West Point cadets are beating each other and causing concussions, 1,000 screaming Navy midshipmen are charging toward a 21-foot monument covered in lard with a hat on top. The goal: Retrieve the first-year “plebe” hat and replace it with an upperclassmen hat, a task which signifies their transition to their next year at the Academy.
Beforehand, upperclassmen hook up the plebes with about 200 pounds of greasy lard slapped on the sides of the Herndon Monument, making their task a bit more difficult. They need to use teamwork and dedication to climb their way to the top, which can take anywhere from minutes to over four hours (Class of 1995 has the longest time 4 hours, 5 minutes).
According to the Academy’s website, the tradition is that the first guy to make it to the top will likely rise to the rank of admiral first. That is if he or she doesn’t get themselves fired first.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright speaks to Airmen during his visit at the Red Flag-Alaska building, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, June 10, 2019. Chief Wright visited JBER during Red Flag-Alaska to meet with senior enlisted leader counterparts from throughout the Pacific. Red Flag-Alaska is a Pacific Air Forces-directed exercise that allows U.S. forces to train with coalition partners in a simulated environment. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS CAITLIN RUSSELL)
The 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force carries a smile with confidence, which reflects his easy nature of engaging everyone wherever he goes. Who would have expected young dental technician Kaleth O. Wright in 1989 to one day become that man?
When he started his career in 1993, as a medical professional, Wright wasn’t sure of himself at first. But, with the help of mentors, he worked his way up the ranks. In 2016, he was serving as the command chief of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa. After only a few months in the position, he was surprised to learn of his selection for the highest enlisted position in the United States Air Force.
“To be honest, my initial reaction was I was going to be the token black guy on the slate,” Wright explained.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright swear in delayed entry members during the Washington Redskins versus Philadelphia Eagles game at the FedExField in Hyattsville, Md., Sept. 10, 2017. The game was dedicated to the men and women of the U.S. Air Force in celebration of the service’s 70th birthday. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // SENIOR AIRMAN RUSTY FRANK)
However, he quickly realized that wasn’t the case and instead chose to embrace the opportunity presented to him.
“I decided…I’m going to take the opportunity to get the job, and then do the best that I can,” he said. “I guess, as they say, the rest is history.”
During his tenure, Wright worked with three Secretaries of the Air Force. He first worked with Acting Secretary Lisa Disbrow, then Secretary Heather Wilson, concluding his career with Secretary Barbara Barrett. Wright appreciated their guidance and leadership in tackling the position’s responsibilities and handling top issues that affected Airmen.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, right, checks out a piece of 3D printed material with Staff Sgt. March Tiche, 60th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals apprentice, during his tour Sept. 23, 2019, at Travis Air Force Base, California. Wright arrived at Travis AFB for a three-day visit to meet with Airmen and get a firsthand look at how Team Travis contributes to rapid global mobility. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // LOUIS BRISCESE)
“I’ve had a fantastic relationship with all of them, they were all really great personalities and they all gave me the space to get after enlisted issues,” he said. “So I’ve really appreciated the guidance, feedback, and the listening ear from all three of the secretaries.”
One of the most important relationships during his time as CMSAF was the one with Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen David L. Goldfein. They developed a great relationship, Wright saw him as a big brother as they collaborated on many different projects and decisions.
“We’re able to provide each other feedback…,” said Wright. “We have a lot of fun together. It’s really been great… I got a mini-Ph.D. in leadership just being able to sit beside him.”
Mentorship and guidance to help improve the force didn’t just come from top leadership Wright met with Airmen from around the world to provide feedback on issues that affected them directly. As he traveled and met with other chiefs to discuss policies, Airmen were included in the conversations to advocate for the changes they wanted to see.
The 18th CMSAF led many improvements for the force. He enhanced leadership development by rolling back additional duties, evolving Enlisted Professional Military Education, removing weighted Airman Promotion System tests, and improving talent management and leadership development processes.
He also pushed for joint-custody assignments, changed bereavement to the service’s sick leave policy, and helped make job-specific fitness tests, as well as the diagnostic fitness assessments, which are currently in beta testing.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright greets one of his former Airmen, Tech. Sgt. Amanda Taylor, 726th Operations Group command support staff superintendent, during a base tour Oct. 19, 2018 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Wright and Taylor were stationed together at Osan Air Base, South Korea, between 2007 and 2008 where they used to play basketball together. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS ANDREW D. SARVER)
Initiatives he headed up also included increased dwell time for Airmen after giving birth and the Noncommissioned Officer Career Status Program, which includes indefinite enlistment based on high-year tenure and increased HYT for grades E-5 through E-9.
While addressing these issues, Wright built many relationships. The more he learned about Airmen accomplishing extraordinary things, the more he was determined to make the Air Force a better place for them.
“I think Airmen today are phenomenal,” Wright said. “I think they’re super talented in what we ask them to do. They’re creative, they’re innovative, they’re thoughtful, and they’re committed. I’ve just been amazed at what our Airmen have been able to accomplish, and what they do on a daily basis. And, to some extent, what they put up with on a daily basis.”
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright (right) coins Senior Airman Isaac Buck, 512th Rescue Squadron special mission aviator, at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., Sept. 27, 2019. Wright recognized Airmen belonging to Team Kirtland that performed above and beyond their own call of duty with his challenge coin. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS AUSTIN J. PRISBREY)
Wright explained that he wants Airmen to keep improving themselves and each other.
“I’m a dental tech who became Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, and I think all too often, we provide Airmen with formulas for success…without the benefit of allowing them to dream, and for them to decide, ‘hey, this is what I want to be,'” he said. “It might be the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, or it might it be the President of the United States, but be dreamers – dream big.”
While trying to help those dreams come true, he acknowledges there are still challenges to be met.
“I do believe we have some areas we need to work on, and that’s racial inequality, as witnessed by what’s happening in our Air Force today, and I think we need to embrace technology and really invest in our IT infrastructure–some of the systems that we use are too old and too slow, and they slow our Airmen down,” he said.
U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright shakes hands with a 100th Security Forces Squadron Airman during a visit at RAF Mildenhall, England, Dec. 26, 2018. Both Wright and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein visited Team Mildenhall prior to heading back to the U.S. after a visit to U.S. Central Command during the holidays. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. CHRISTINE GROENING)
Wright put a spotlight on resilience as suicides across the service remain a concern. He prioritized ensuring programs and policies were in place and accessible, such as Task Force True North, which puts resources into squadrons to nurture mental health.
The CMSAF explained the service also needs “to do better with gender equality,” by improving diversity in recruitment, pilot accessions and leadership.
“I do think that in order for us to maintain our status as the greatest Air Force, we have to be tougher on ourselves than anybody else,” he said. “If we work on those areas, we’ll just become a better, more diverse, more capable Air Force.”
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright speaks to U.S. Air Force Airmen during an enlisted all-call at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2018. Wright visited numerous units to speak with Airmen about enlisted issues. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS D. BLAKE BROWNING)
Wright understands there’s still a lot more work that needs to be accomplished. But as he reflects on his time in uniform and as CMSAF, he credits his mentors, family and the Team 18 staff on the growth and success of his venture.
Chief Master Sgt. Manny Piñeiro, Air Force First Sergeant special duty manager, taught him how to be passionate about helping people and Wright credits Chief Master Sgt. Kristina Rogers, senior execute to the office of CMSAF, with, “keeping us all in check.” However, he acknowledges his character development grew from Master Sgt retired Joe Winbush, Wright’s first supervisor, who he considers “my mentor, my pops” from early in his career.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright answers a question during an all-call with the Airmen from the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, Aug. 16, 2017 at Fort George G. Meade, Md. During the CMSAF’s visit he conversed with the Airmen about topics concerning airmanship, professionalism and future enlisted Air Force initiatives. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. ALEXANDRE MONTES)
As his Air Force career concludes, Wright will forever be part of a legacy of leaders.
While the service prepares for Wright’s transition, he noted the new top enlisted leader, Chief JoAnne S. Bass, holds the same passion and focus on the Airmen as well as awareness of how decisions can affect their lives and careers.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright and Chief Master Sgt. Manny Piñeiro, Air Force first sergeant special duty manager, meet with 92nd and 141st Maintenance Group Airmen to discuss the streamlining of the periodic inspection process at Fairchild Air Force Base, March 22, 2019. The periodic inspection is the most in-depth inspection Fairchild maintainers conduct on the KC-135 Stratotanker. The two-week inspection is conducted every 24 months, 1,800 flight hours or 1,000 landings. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. MACKENZIE MENDEZ)
“This type of work is never finished and I’m excited about our next Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force,” he said. “She actually helped build some of these programs and processes. I think she’ll have her own priorities and things she’ll want to work on and I’m confident that she’ll continue to work on some of the things that we literally started together.”
He leaves one last bit of advice to his replacement, “do you.”
“I told her don’t ever be concerned or worry about changing something, eliminating something, offending me, or what have you,” he smiled, wanting her to stay true to her conviction and values. “I had three and a half, almost four years to impact the Air Force. Now it’s your turn.”
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, views a loadmaster training video with Chief Master Sgt. Manny Piñeiro, Air Force special duty manager for first sergeants, and Capt. Joseph Hunt, 314th Airlift Wing chief of group tactics, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Oct. 3, 2019. Wright visited multiple units across the installation including the 19th AW, 314th AW, and 189th AW to learn about Herk Nation’s singular focus on Combat Airlift. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS AARON IRVIN)
Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez had accompanied top special operators in some of the most dangerous missions of the War on Terror, including the Battle of Shok Valley. He was a combat controller assigned to Army Special Forces, calling in attack runs from aircraft supporting the Green Berets.
In 2009 he was tested like never before when, during a raid to capture a high-level Taliban leader, Gutierrez was shot in the chest. The round passed through his lung, collapsing it and ripping a chunk out of his back.
Gutierrez had seen this kind of wound before and estimated he had three minutes left to live.
“I thought about [my job], what I would do before I bled out,” Gutierrez told Fox News while discussing the raid. “That I would change the world in those three minutes, I’d do everything I could to get my guys out safely before I died.”
He stayed on the radio, calling in strikes from aircraft to help the team escape alive. At one point, enemy fighters were lined up on a wall only 30 feet from him. Gutierrez called in three A-10 danger close gun runs against the fighters. The rounds struck so close to Gutierrez that his ear drums burst from the explosions. After the first of the three runs, he allowed an Army medic to insert a needle into his lung, relieving some of the pressure that was forcing his lungs closed. It was the only time he came off the radio despite his injuries.
In fact, through all the chaos of the fight, Gutierrez remained so calm and clear on the radio that the pilots supporting the operation didn’t realize he was injured until he was removed from the battlefield.
“He said he would be off of the mic for a few to handle his gunshot wounds,” Air Force Capt. Ethan Sabin told Business Insider. “Until that point he was calm, cool and collected.
Gutierrez was medically evacuated from the battle after nearly four hours of fighting and losing over half of his blood. No American lives were lost in the raid, a success credited largely to Gutierrez’s extraordinary actions. He recovered from his wounds and was awarded the Air Force Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor for valor awards.
Marine Corps boot camp is a slice of hell that turns civilians into modern-day Marines.
With constant physical training, screaming drill instructors, and so much close-order drill recruits eventually have dreams about it, spending 12 weeks at boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina or San Diego, California can be difficult for most young people.
Having stepped off a bus and onto the yellow footprints at Parris Island on Sep. 3, 2002, one of those young people was me. While in hindsight, boot camp really wasn’t that bad, I thought then that it was the worst thing ever. While writing this post, I thought I would speak in general terms, but since my mother kept all my correspondence home, I figured I would go straight to the source: my original — and now-hilarious-to-read — letters back home.
Drill instructors are the worst.
Having a crazy person with veins popping out of their neck scream in your face and run around a barracks throwing stuff can be quite a shock to someone who was a civilian a week prior. Although I later learned to greatly respect my DI’s, I didn’t really like them at the beginning, as my first letter home showed.
“Our DI’s are complete motherf—king a–holes. There’s no other way to describe them,” I wrote, before including a great example: “Today they sprayed shaving cream and toothpaste ALL OVER the head and we had to clean it up. Yesterday, threw out all of our gear, had to change the racks, and sh– was flying.”
Sounds about right.
My recruiter totally lied to me.
It’s a running joke in the Marine Corps (and the greater military, really) that your recruiter probably lied to you. Maybe they didn’t lie to you per se, but they were selective with what they told you. One of my favorites was that “if I didn’t like my job as infantry, I could change it in two years.” That’s one of those not-totally-a-lie-but-far-fetched-truths.
In my initial letter, I took issue with my recruiters for telling me that drill instructors don’t ever get physical. Most of the time they won’t touch you, but that’s not exactly all the time.
“Oh, by the way, recruiters are lying bastards. They [the drill instructors] scream, swear a lot, and choke/push on a daily basis,” I wrote. (It was day three and I was of course exaggerating).
Mail takes forever to get there.
Getting mail at boot camp is a wonderful respite from the daily grind at boot camp, but letters are notoriously slow to arrive. In my letters home, I complained about mail being slow often, since I’d ask questions in my letters then get a response of answers and more questions from home, well after I was through that specific event in the training cycle.
“Sometimes I write more letters than everyone back home and I have way less time to do it,” I wrote in one letter.
The other recruits were terrible.
I’m sure they said the same thing about me. Put 60-80 people from completely different backgrounds and various regions of the United States and you’re probably going to have tension. Add drill instructors into the mix constantly stressing you out and it’s guaranteed.
Then of course, there’s the issue of the “recruit crud,” the nickname for the sickness that inevitably comes from being in such close proximity with all these different people.
Throughout my letters home, I complain of other recruits not yelling loud enough or running fast enough. “They don’t sound off and we are getting in trouble all the time,” I wrote. No doubt I was just echoing what the drill instructor has given us as a reason for why he was bringing us to the dreaded “pit.”
Getting “pitted” is the worst five minutes of your life.
Marine boot camp has two unique features constantly looming in the back of a recruit’s mind: the “pit” and the quarterdeck. The quarterdeck for recruits is the place at the front of the squad bay where they are taken and given “incentive training,” or I.T. — a nice term for pushups, jumping jacks, running-in-place, etc — for a few minutes if they do something wrong.
But for those times when it’s not just an individual problem — and more of a full platoon one — drill instructors take them to sand pits usually located near the barracks for platoon IT. Think of them as the giant sandboxes you played in as a kid, except this one isn’t fun. For extra fun, DI’s may play a game of “around the world,” where the platoon is run from one pit to another.
Who knew that folding clothes the “navy way” and putting on sheets so tight that you could bounce a quarter off of them would have such a profound affect on my life.
I grew up in Virginia Beach, where most students came from military families and knew what it was like to have military parents. They knew the struggle of parents who had to leave for months at a time, the amount of discipline that was applied to daily chores and homework, and of course the expectation to succeed at anything you do.
Fast forward nearly 20 years and I find that there were many small things instilled in me from my military parents that shape much of the person, husband, and father I am today. Most of what my military parents taught me stemmed from three mandatory rules that I now realize weren’t rules at all, but were actually gifts that have changed my life.
1. Finish what you started.
Baseball was everything for my family. Attending practices, winning games, and playing tournaments were some of my earliest memories. While my father was in love with the sport, that same passion didn’t come naturally for me. I remember wanting to quit right in the middle of a season, only to be denied by parents that “didn’t raise quitters.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)
The rule of “finish what you started” applied to everything in our lives including baseball. It was those moments when I wasn’t allowed to give up that led to many high school awards, graduating college, marrying my wife, and living unafraid to step through life’s open doors. I can even trace my career success that has lead me to my dream job, back to this foundational rule.
2. Treat others with respect.
If my dad was the source of inspiration for my dreams, my mother was the source of discipline to see them become a reality. She never missed a moment or opportunity for me to treat others with respect because she knew that it would set me apart in life.
I’m not quite sure, but I’m pretty sure “yes ma’am” were my very first words. I’ll never forget the time when my mother suspected that I had disrespected an older gentlemen in public. As we were driving home, my mother could sense something was wrong with me. She prompted me to tell her the truth, and believing I was in the wrong, she turned the car around. I was forced to face the man once again and apologize for being out of line with my comments. As a kid, I thought this was absolutely ridiculous and a waste of time. As an adult, I am thankful because my military mother instilled in me the importance of respecting people no matter who they are or where they come from.
I can honestly attribute living a life of treating others with respect to helping me win more clients, close more deals, gain promotions, and winning the heart of my wife. There’s no doubt I wouldn’t be who I am without a mother that championed the rule of treating others with respect.
3. Being a military kid is an asset.
My parents had traveled the world in the name of protecting and serving others. The pride they took in being a part of the military was evident in everything we did as a family. They held my sister and I to a standard that we didn’t realize was different, but it would end up making all the difference. We were challenged to be leaders on our sports team, in the classroom, and even when hanging out with friends.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago)
They made sure that we knew that we were different (not better), than others, to help make a difference wherever we were. My sister and I witnessed this many times as they volunteered, helped those who were less fortunate, and never apologized for the lifestyle they lived because of serving in the military. Today, the most rewarding moments of my life have come from the foundation of making a difference instilled by my military parents. It has lead me to help build water wells in remote countries, prioritize time to volunteer on a monthly basis, and living with a sense of direction.
What my parents set as rules for our household, ended up being gifts that grounded me. Most of what I have and who I am are built upon the foundation of finishing what you start, respecting others, and not being afraid to be different. I am thankful for military parents that were intentional about making sure I knew the value of serving and living beyond myself. I can only hope that my daughter will one day realize these same rules, will be gifts given to her that will make her better like they did me.
Tyler Medina is the Brand Operations Manager at Simplr, a startup specializing in customer service outsourcing. He’s the son of two Navy veterans that served multiple tours overseas, and like most military kids, grew up all over the U.S. He currently lives in Nashville, TN with his wife Sabrina and 2-year old daughter Audrey.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
In his opening statement at his confirmation hearing Thursday, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis said it would be an honor to serve again, mentioned myriad challenges in the world, and brought up a touching personal story about his mother — showing how his family’s military ties and career have come full circle.
“Finally, on a personal note, I’ve worked at the Pentagon twice in my career,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “A few people may know I’m not the first person in my family to do so, when, in the wartime spring of 1942, my mother was 20 years-old and working in military intelligence. She was part of the first government employees to move into the still unfinished Pentagon.”
“She had come to America as an infant and lives today on the banks of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Little could she imagine in her youth that more than 90 years after she immigrated to this country and 75 years after she first walked through the doors of the War Department, one of her sons would be sitting here in front of you today.”
Mattis is right about that. A neighbor and close friend of his mother in Richland, Washington told a reporter in December that she was amazed at what he had accomplished in his career, and apparently his mother said “I can’t even believe he’s my son.”
Neither his mother nor other family members made the trip to Washington, D.C. to see the 66-year-old retired general testify. When asked by Republican Sen. John McCain whether he wanted to recognize any family members in the audience, Mattis quipped: “Thank you Senator. They are safely west of the Rockies.”
Before Mattis spoke, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen testified in support of the general and also mentioned his 94-year-old mother, who he said he was a “devoted son” to. Cohen also mentioned Mattis remains a member of a local food bank in the area.