Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

Award-winning songwriters, veterans, and service members will come together to share music at the Songwriting With Soldiers concert on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, at Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium.

The concert will feature musicians performing original songs shared by nonprofit organization Songwriting With Soldiers. Performers include Bonnie Bishop, Gary Burr, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Radney Foster, Mary Gauthier, James House, Will Kimbrough, Georgia Middleman, Gary Nicholson, Maia Sharp and Darden Smith.

Their songs have been recorded by the likes of Garth Brooks, Jimmy Buffett, Cher, Kelly Clarkson, Emmylou Harris, Fleetwood Mac, Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, John Prine and Ringo Starr.


This performance shines a light on two important things – the power of music to help us connect, and the need to listen to today’s veterans and military families. These are the war stories of our times, and they have much to teach us,” said Songwriting With Soldiers co-founder Mary Judd.

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

Photo courtesy of Stacy Powell.

Many veterans struggle with reintegration. Songwriting With Soldiers holds weekend retreats across the country, pairing service members with professional songwriters to craft songs about their experiences in combat and coming home. The creative songwriting process is life-changing for participants as it offers a unique outlet to tell their stories, rebuild trust, release pain and forge new bonds.

The one-hour television special, “Songwriting With Soldiers,” will premiere nationally in prime time on PBS on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, at 10 p.m. (check local listings).

The program, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, will be taped for national broadcast on PBS this fall.

Tickets are on sale now for to the general public and are free to active military, veterans and their families. Tickets are available only at www.songwritingwithsoldiers.org/pbsconcert/.

This collaboration of Songwriting With Soldiers, PBS and WCTE Upper Cumberland PBS is produced by Todd Jarrell Productions and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) with additional underwriting from Sweetwater Music Instruments and Pro Audio.

The information contained on this page is provided only as general information. The inclusion of links on this page does not imply endorsement or support of any of the linked information, services, products, or providers.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy authorizes two-piece swimsuits and other clothing items

The Navy has authorized a range of new clothing items, including two-piece swimsuits for male and female sailors, special pins to designate survivors and next-of-kin of fallen troops, and a thermal neck scarf for cold weather.

In a Navy administrative message Monday, officials announced that sailors have the option of wearing two pieces for their semi-annual physical readiness test, or PRT. But don’t show up in a bikini; Navy officials made clear that this regulation change is for sailors who want more coverage, not less.

Full torso coverage is still required for all swimsuits worn. The new guidance makes it possible for sailors to add a pair of swim shorts to a one-piece, or a rash-guard top to swim shorts based on preference or religious conviction. Also authorized is full-body swimwear, like the “burkini” wetsuit-style option popular with Muslim women.


Robert Carroll, the head of the Navy’s Uniform Matters Office, told Military.com that the change is the result of feedback from the fleet, coupled with the fact that existing swimwear guidance was ambiguous.

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin Kittleson)

“We have sailors who have religious convictions, or religious concerns or beliefs,” he said. “Then you have people who just prefer a different level of modesty.”

The change will also help those, he said, who just want a greater level of warmth in the water.

Swimming is an optional alternative to running in the Navy’s current PRT.

Also newly authorized are special lapel pins, approved by Congress, as official designation for surviving family members of service members. The Gold Star Lapel Button, designed and created in 1947, is awarded by the government to surviving families of service members who were killed in action. The closely related Next of Kin Deceased Personnel Lapel Button was approved in 1973, specifically for family members of fallen service members from the Army Reserve or Army National Guard. The small round pins feature a gold star at the center.

Navy guidance specifies that these pins are approved only for optional wear with the service’s most formal uniforms: service dress and full dress.

Carroll said the decision to authorize the buttons followed a number of requests from the fleet.

Also approved for wear is a black neck gaiter, authorized during “extreme cold weather conditions,” according to Navy guidance. Sailors must procure their own all-black gaiters, and the item is authorized only with the cold-weather parka, Navy working uniform type II/III parka, pea coat, reefer and all-weather coat. The guidance comes out just ahead of the Army-Navy game this weekend. However, conditions at the U.S. Naval Academy are expected to be relatively balmy, at a rainy 53 degrees Fahrenheit, and likely do not merit the gaiter.

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

Sailors swim in the Gulf of Aden during a swim call aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)

When to wear the gaiter is a decision reserved for Navy regional commanders, Carroll said, who will promulgate the policy for their region.

Finally, the Navy is authorizing a new chief warrant officer insignia for acoustic technicians, which is approved for wear by all warrants with a 728X designator. The service redesignated submarine electronics technicians as acoustic technicians in 2017, reopening the field, which had been closed since 2011. The electronics technician insignia had depicted a helium atom.

Carroll said the new insignia will be a throwback to earlier Navy acoustic ratings, and feature a globe with a sea horse in the center and a trident emerging from it.

“They’re pretty excited about it,” Carroll said of the acoustic technician community.

In addition to new uniform items, the Navy announced it is redesigning two current items to improve the design. The summer white/service dress white maternity shirt will undergo redesign “to enhance appearance and functionality when worn,” officials said.

The new shirt, once complete, will include princess seams for fit, adjustable side tabs with three buttons, epaulettes and two hidden pockets in the side seams. The new shirt will also look more like the Navy’s service khaki and service uniform maternity shirts, with chest pockets removed. Additional details, including a timeline for the shirt’s release, will be announced in a future message, officials said.

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

Sailors from the Royal New Zealand navy and U.S. Navy dive into the pool to start a 200-meter freestyle relay during a Rim of the Pacific Exercise international swim meet.

(Department of Defense photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Also being redesigned is the black fleece liner for the Navy Working Uniform and cold-weather parka. Updates will include outer fabric that is resistant to rain and wind, an attached rank tab and side pockets with zip closures.

Officials continue to test the I-Boot 5, a next-generation work boot that improves on previous designs.

“The evaluation will continue through the end of calendar year 2019 to facilitate wear during cold weather conditions,” officials said in a release. “The completion of the I-Boot 5 evaluation, participant survey and final report to Navy leadership with recommendation is expected to occur by the first quarter of calendar year 2020.”

As for other recently rolled-out uniform items, Navy officials say previously announced mandatory uniform possession and wear dates have not changed.

Enlisted women in ranks E-1 to E-6 must adopt the “Crackerjacks” jumper-style service dress blue with white “Dixie cup” hat by Jan. 31, 2020; female officers and chief petty officers must own the choker-style service dress white coat by the same date; enlisted sailors E-1 through E-6 must have the service dress white with blue piping by Oct. 31, 2021; and all sailors must own the new Navy fitness suit by Sept. 30, 2021. The black cold-weather parka is also designated for mandatory possession by April 30, 2021, officials said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Congress introduces new veteran medical marijuana bills

Less than a month into the 116th Congress, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate have introduced four bills that, if signed into law, would require the VA to conduct research on medical marijuana.

Tennessee Republican Rep. Phil Roe, a medical doctor and ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced legislation Jan. 24, 2019, that would require VA to conduct research on medicinal cannabis, to include marijuana and cannabidiol — a component extract of marijuana — for post-traumatic stress disorder, pain and other conditions. The bill, H.R. 747, is similar to one introduced Jan. 23, 2019, by Rep. Lou Correa, D-California, H.R. 601.


In the Senate, Sens. Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, introduced a bill, S. 179, on Jan. 17, 2019, directing the VA to carry out clinical trials on the effects of medical marijuana for certain health conditions.

And on Jan. 16, 2019, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, introduced legislation that would create a pathway for VA to obtain the marijuana needed for research. Gaetz’s bill, H.R. 601, would increase the number of manufacturers registered under the Controlled Substances Act to grow cannabis for research purposes. It also would authorize VA health care providers to provide information to veterans on any federally approved clinical trials.

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(Flickr photo by Herba Connect)

“For too long, Congress has faced a dilemma with cannabis-related legislation: we cannot reform cannabis law without researching its safety, its efficacy, and its medical uses — but we cannot perform this critical research without first reforming cannabis law,” Gaetz said in a statement.

“The VA needs to listen to the growing number of veterans who have already found success in medicinal cannabis in easing their pain and other symptoms,” said Tester, ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, in introducing his bill.

Lawmakers have tried for years to influence the debate on medical marijuana, offering numerous proposals on veterans’ access to marijuana and its derivatives. Marijuana remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug under federal legislation, meaning they have a high potential for addiction and “no currently accepted medical use.”

In 2018, bills were introduced that would have required the VA to conduct research on medical marijuana, allowed VA providers to complete the paperwork patients need to obtain medical marijuana in states where it has been legalized and decriminalized the drug for veterans regardless of where they live.

None made it into law.

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville


In August 2018, Tester, Roe, Sullivan and former Democrat Rep. Tim Walz, now governor of Minnesota, wrote VA Secretary Robert Wilkie urging him to support “rigorous clinical trials” on medical marijuana. They pointed out that VA is currently conducting two small-scale studies, adding that veterans “deserve to have full knowledge of the potential benefits and side effects of this alternative therapy.”

“The pervasive lack of research makes [providers’] jobs even more difficult, leaving VA clinicians flying blind without concrete recommendations to veterans,” they wrote.

To date, 33 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have made marijuana legal for medical purposes.

Roe said that, as a doctor, he believes medical research is needed to determine whether treatments are safe and effective.

“While data remains limited, surveys have shown that some veterans already use medicinal cannabis as a means to help with PTSD. … I would never prescribe to my patients a substance unless I was confident in its proven efficacy and safety and we need to hold medicinal cannabis to the same standards … if research on the usage of medicinal cannabis is favorable, I am confident that it could become another option to help improve the lives of veterans and other Americans,” he said.

In 2017, the American Legion, the largest veterans organization with nearly 2 million members, urged the federal government for marijuana to be removed from the list of controlled substances. The organization also adopted a resolution urging passage of laws that would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy to file homicide charges against commanders of ships involved in deadly collisions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Navy says it is filing negligent homicide charges against the commanders of two ships involved in fatal collisions last year.


The charges are to be presented at what the military calls an Article 32 hearing, which will determine whether the accused are court-martialed.

The actions, including charges against several lower-ranking officers, were announced Tuesday by the Navy’s chief spokesman, Capt. Greg Hicks.

Hicks says the decision to file charges was made by Adm. Frank Caldwell, head of the Navy’s nuclear reactors program, who reviewed evidence of what caused the collisions. The USS Fitzgerald collided with a commercial ship in waters off Japan in June, killing seven sailors.

Ten sailors were killed when the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asia in August.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA hiring housekeeping staff: immediate need to fill positions nationwide

VA is seeking housekeeping staff to fill numerous, immediate openings at health care facilities in Boston and across the country. Boston alone has 57 available housekeeping positions. Temporary, permanent, part-time and full-time positions are available.

During a time of high unemployment, we offer job security, a regular paycheck, excellent benefits and an awesome mission: giving back to our nation’s Veterans.

Our housekeeping staff support our mission to help Veterans get better fast by keeping facilities clean and safe for patients, staff and visitors. And Veterans who become housekeeping aides will work alongside fellow Veterans, who make up 85% of VA’s custodial staff.


With new openings posted daily, be sure to visit the VA Careers website often for the most up-to-date postings across the United States and its territories. You also can apply specifically for positions in Boston. Transferring between locations is easy and you’ll take all of your benefits with you, including accumulated paid time off.

“VA depends on our housekeeping staff to keep our medical centers and outpatient clinics clean and safe for those providing and receiving care,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of VA recruitment marketing. “Now more than ever, we are grateful to those who show up every day to perform the vital tasks without which our facilities could not operate.”

Enjoy excellent benefits

As a VA housekeeping aide, you’ll receive:

  • Paid vacation time that starts building right away, paid sick leave and 10 paid federal holidays.
  • Comprehensive health insurance, including dental and vision care, which may become effective on the first full pay period after you start your job.
  • Generous retirement benefits through the Federal Employees’ Retirement System, or FERS, a three-tier retirement plan that includes a 401(k)-type savings plan with an up to 5% employer match, Social Security and pension.

Child care and transportation assistance programs may also be available. VA employees who have previously served in the military or another federal government role continue to accumulate retirement benefits.

Work at VA today

If you’re looking for a satisfying career working with other Veterans for Veterans, explore our openings for housekeeping aides at vacareers.va.gov.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

After 2.5 year pause, carrier-launched Navy fighters go ‘kinetic’ on ISIS

For the first time in two and a half years, US Navy carrier-launched warplanes conducted an airstrike against ISIS.

On Wednesday, Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fighters belonging to Carrier Air Wing 17 launched from the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf and conducted “kinetic” operations in support of the international coalition to defeat ISIS, Operation Inherent Resolve.


“Daesh operatives will continue to try and take advantage of safe havens; but there is no safe place for terrorists to hide,” US Army Col. Wayne Marotto, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, wrote in a Thursday tweet, referring to ISIS by the pejorative Arabic nickname, “Daesh.”

Twitter

twitter.com

The Iraqi military reportedly requested the US airstrike, which targeted ISIS “bed down” sites near the northern Iraqi city of Baiji, Iraqi officials said. According to Marotto, the US airstrike destroyed a cave and three shelters used by ISIS near Wadi al-Shai in Kirkuk Province. Operation Inherent Resolve officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding ISIS casualties due to Wednesday’s airstrike.

The presence of a US aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf significantly ramps up the airpower potential of US military forces continuing to support the counterterrorism campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. And Wednesday’s airstrike underscores that ISIS remains an undefeated threat — despite US plans to draw down forces in Iraq.

In a speech in Iraq on Sept. 9, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, announced the US would reduce its troop presence in Iraq from about 5,200 to 3,000 troops during the month of September.

“This reduced footprint allows us to continue advising and assisting our Iraqi partners in rooting out the final remnants of ISIS in Iraq and ensuring its enduring defeat,” McKenzie said. “This decision is due to our confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces’ increased ability to operate independently.”

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

An F/A-18F Super Hornet, from the “Fighting Redcocks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22, prepares for launch aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Arabian Sea, Sept. 3, 2020. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cheyenne Geletka, courtesy of DVIDS.

Weeks earlier, while speaking online to a United States Institute of Peace forum from his office in Tampa, McKenzie warned that the conditions were ripe for the resurgence of ISIS forces in pockets of Syrian territory controlled by the regime of Bashar Assad.

“The underlying conditions that allowed for the rise of ISIS remain,” McKenzie, who is the top US commander for the Middle East, said during the Aug. 12 virtual event. “They continue to aspire to regain control of physical terrain.”

While ISIS has lost its territorial caliphate, which once stretched across northern Iraq and Syria, the terrorist army still operates from the shadows in urban areas and mountain redoubts and maintains a steady flow of income through illicit enterprises.

ISIS still counts some 10,000 militants within its ranks, according to a recent United Nations report. The US Treasury Department estimates that ISIS possesses monetary reserves of some 0 million, while the UN estimates that number is about 0 million.

“There’s going to be a requirement for us, us and our NATO and our coalition partners, to have a long-term presence in Iraq,” McKenzie said Aug. 12.

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

A sailor cleans the cockpit of an F/A-18F Super Hornet, from the “Fighting Redcocks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22, on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Arabian Sea, Aug. 27, 2020. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dalton Reidhead, courtesy of DVIDS.

American military personnel remain on the ground in both Iraq and Syria to assist local partners in combating ISIS. Earlier this month, the US announced it was sending M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles to northeast Syria to support American and partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS.

“The mechanized infantry assets will help ensure the force protection of coalition forces in an increasingly complex operating environment in northeast Syria,” Marotto said in a Sept. 18 press release regarding the Bradley deployment.

Russia has deployed its military in Syria to bolster the regime of embattled dictator Bashar Assad, who has presided over a deadly civil war since 2011.

On Sept. 15, US Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller announced the US would provide 0 million in military aid to Kurdish peshmerga forces in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region.

“As we saw at the height of the campaign against ISIS, you brave Peshmerga fighters are indispensable to Iraq’s security,” Tueller said during a Sept. 15 event in the Kurdistan Regional Government’s capital city of Erbil. “We are all grateful for the sacrifices you have made, and the region as a whole is more secure because of your courage and commitment.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units

If you can’t destroy the mountain, go around it.

Despite spending the past 20 years focused on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East, the US military still outmatches its Chinese and Russian competitors. The US is the only country that can effectively respond to a military contingency anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.

Understanding that they are conventionally overpowered, China and Russia have been using irregular warfare to achieve their goals without matching the US military’s might. And they have been quite successful.

In Africa, China has been handing out development aid and infrastructure loans like candy, with the dual purpose of securing geopolitical influence and resources for its growing economy. In Asia, Beijing has been bullying its neighbors on its way toward regional supremacy.

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville
A US Army Green Beret and multinational Special Operations Forces disembark an MH-60S helicopter during the Rim of the Pacific exercise, July 5, 2018.
US Navy/Chief Mass Comm Specialist William Tonacchio

Russia has used social media to influence election outcomes in the US and Europe. Moscow has also been using private military companies, such as the infamous Wagner Group, to achieve strategic goals in Ukraine, Libya, and Syria, among other places.

Both countries understand that in an era of renewed great-power competition — a race between the US and Russia and China for geopolitical influence, economic advantages, and resources — irregular warfare is the ideal strategy against the US.

Now the US Department of Defense is trying to counter that threat by investing in and expanding its own irregular-warfare capabilities.

The Pentagon heralded this shift with its recent decisions to turn the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office into the Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate and to release the irregular-warfare annex to the National Defense Strategy.

The creation of the directorate was included in a November memorandum signed by acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, which elevated the Pentagon’s civilian official overseeing special operations to the same level as a military service chief. The annex was released in October.

Struggle in the gray zone

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville
A US Special Forces soldier discusses tactics with a Latvian Zemessardze officer during a small unit exercise near Iecava, June 7, 2020.
US Navy/Lt. Rob Kunzig

The US military defines irregular warfare as a “violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population(s).”

Irregular warfare doesn’t necessarily mean open warfare, but it can take place in the gray zone between competition that’s below the level of armed conflict and a war that’s formally declared. It can affect all traditional and non-traditional realms of geopolitical struggle, such as the economic, diplomatic, military, intelligence, law enforcement, and cyber domains.

The difference between irregular warfare and counterterrorism is that the former is a strategy that aims to defend US global supremacy against state and non-actors, whereas the latter is a mix of activities and operations against terrorist groups and state-sponsored terrorism.

Same game, different name

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville
Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Forces members and US Army Green Berets conduct mission planning during an exercise, September 8, 2018.
US Army/Sgt. Karen Sampson

Irregular warfare isn’t new to the US military. Indeed, the US campaign against terrorist organizations over the last two decades has included elements of it. But now, the irregular warfare “target deck” has been officially updated to include near-peer adversaries, such as Russia and China.

Irregular warfare against a near-peer adversary isn’t new either, but now the Pentagon recognizes that the strategy’s utility isn’t seasonal but enduring. Previously, the US would use irregular warfare against an adversary, such as the Soviets in Afghanistan, but would then let the capability and resources dedicated to it atrophy.

The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) already has potent irregular-warfare capabilities. Army special operations, in particular, take the lead on that front.

The Army’s Green Berets specialize in foreign internal defense, which means training local troops, and in unconventional warfare, which consists of creating and leading guerrilla campaigns. Both are squarely within the gray zone of irregular warfare.

Additionally, the Army’s Civil Affairs teams help create the necessary civil and political conditions for US diplomacy and political influence to be more effective. The Army’s Psychological Operations teams also help shape the geopolitical environment to favor the US.

Other special-operations units, such as the Marine Raiders or Navy SEALs, can contribute to an irregular-warfare campaign but perhaps not as effectively as their Army counterparts.

But to ensure a robust and effective irregular-warfare capability, US military has to understand and embrace it as a whole.

The conventional side of irregular warfare

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville
Cadets talk with actors playing locals during West Point Irregular Warfare Group’s Unconventional Warfare Exercise in April 2019.
US Military Academy

Policymakers have relied on special-operations forces for almost everything for years, but conventional forces also play a big role in irregular warfare.

For example, if a US aircraft carrier cruises through the South China Sea, it sends a message to China by physically contradicting Beijing’s territorial claims in the disputed region.

Similarly, when an Army mechanized brigade deploys in Eastern Europe and trains with local forces, it sends a dual message: A psychological one to the US partners and allies about American commitment in the region, and a geopolitical one to Russia, illustrating the US’s reach and influence.

Ironically, it is the conventional might of the US military that encourages adversaries to invest more in their own ability to wage irregular warfare.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Jeff Struecker — Army Ranger, pastor, author

This week’s Borne the Battle episode features guest Jeff Struecker, who discusses his life as a soldier, pastor, and author.

In 1987, Struecker enlisted in the army when he was 18. He excelled, serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment, and he played a pivotal role in the Battle of Mogadishu. He also won the 1996 Best Ranger Competition and was also recognized in 1998 as the U.S Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Noncommisioned Officer of the Year.


Black Hawk Down – KIA Sgt. Dominick Pilla – Convoy Scene

www.youtube.com

‘This Week’ Sunday Spotlight: Return to Mogadishu

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to make a great living room obstacle course

Long before obstacle-course races became the dad fitness fad du jour, kids enjoyed crawling, jumping, and swinging from station to station in PE class. And they still do, even if not all of them want to train for a Mini Mudder. Most young kids have a good notion of what obstacle courses are (the world looks like one when you’re small enough) so getting them to race through homemade gauntlets is fairly easy and, when it comes to tiring them out, incredibly effective. It’s an activity that naturally builds on itself because kids will want to provide feedback on specific obstacles and courses can have endless permutations, at least until someone breaks something. The perfect obstacle course should be challenging, silly, and easily deconstructed or reconstructed. But, most importantly, it should be safe ⏤ so no fire pits!


Prep Time: About 30 minutes.
Entertainment Time: 20 minutes to two hours.
Energy Expended by Child: Mostly physical, unless you want to throw in a puzzle or two.

What You Need:

  • Things to jump over, onto, or from. Interlocking foam play mats and tumbling mats are great. So are ropes, toys, cushions, and very stable pieces of furniture.
  • Things to crawl under or through. If you don’t already have a play tunnel, pull a sheet taut and have them crawl under it, army style.
  • Things to throw. Make a station where aim is important. Throwing is a skill very young kids can develop.
  • Things to balance on. An extra piece of woods in the shed can be a balance beam. So can a floorboard if everyone agrees it’s surrounded by lava.
  • If you’re setting an outdoor obstacle course up in the backyard, there are plenty of ready-to-buy obstacles, as well.

How to Play:

The best way to play ‘Obstacle Course’ is by building several stations, each with their own challenge. Depending on the age of the kids, they can help with this part. Here’s an example (note that writing it down can be helpful and make comprehension part of the game):

  1. Balance beam.
  2. Knock down all the cans.
  3. Jump from block to block.
  4. Ride the tricycle across the living room while making a silly face.
  5. Crawl through the tunnel.
  6. Drag a heavy thing past the line.
  7. Walk a ping pong ball with a spoon.
Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

The individual stations can be anything and are only limited by space and imagination. You can add special challenges as kids figure out how to manage certain obstacles. It’s also important to note that stations can reoccur in each running of an obstacle course. It is, for instance, a great idea to get kids to jump multiple times between activities that require more precise muscle control. This forces kids to engage different muscles and tires them out.

It’s also important to note that obstacle course are not merely physical. They are based on rules. It’s good to establish a points system that informs timing (plus 10 seconds for falling off the balance beam) because it incentivizes kids to really do the thing while turning you into a referee and arbiter of success, which puts you in a better position to encourage certain approaches or dish out positive feedback so kids feel like they’re making progress over time. If they aren’t, it also puts you in a prime position to obscure that fact.

To that end, it’s smart to make yourself one of the obstacles. Make kids dodge balls you’re throwing, chase you down, or play the levels game. This allows for you to make the course increasingly difficult and gets you directly involved, which is likely to ramp up interests (kids are predictable like that). On that same note, it’s a good idea to try to do the course — the parts you can fit through — to set a baseline time for your kid to beat. A bit of competition, no matter how silly, provides kids with a way to compete with mom and dad and understand their abilities and bodies in relation to other people’s. This leads to an ability to do a kind of athletic self-assessment that can be helpful later in life. It also tends to lead to absolute exhaustion.

Wrap Up:

Obstacle courses are a great way for your kids to burn off excess energy. And if they ever get tired of the same old course, change the theme or turn it into a narrated adventure: Superhero tryouts, ninja training, find the hidden treasure. Younger kids will especially enjoy embarking on the course as a character on an expedition. In the end, not only is it satisfying to watch your kids challenge themselves but also to watch them enjoy something you all built … even if it was made with couch cushions.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Four-legged smoke eaters: How dalmatians became official mascots of the fire service

One of the oldest traditions still honored in US fire departments is having a Dalmatian in the firehouse. Today, the black-spotted pups serve strictly as mascots, station dogs, and fire safety dogs. But the Dalmatian’s firefighting origin story is far more heroic than most people know.

The Dalmatian breed earned a reputation in Britain beginning in the 17th century for their role as coach and carriage dogs. The wealthy used Dalmatians both as society dogs and as guardians against thieves for their horse-drawn carriages. Stagecoach drivers also relied on the big dogs to guard horses and luggage. Great companions for horses, they formed strong bonds with their much larger animal friends. They were trained to run long distances beside them and would scare off aggressive street dogs that attempted to attack.

The leap into the fire service came with the emergence of the horse-drawn fire apparatus. The Dalmatian’s bark warned passersby they were responding to a fire. 

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville
The Wrazej family trained JT over the summer of 2020. JT is named after James Trainor, an FDNY firefighter who retired after 39 years of service and died in 2018. Photo courtesy of the westsiderag.com.

“When a station call comes into an engine house the dog is out the instant the doors are thrown open, barking and prancing about, seemingly at least with the purpose of clearing the sidewalk,” a New York City newspaper called The Sun reported in March 1912. “They tell of one case in which the fire dog tugged at the dress of a little child that had remained standing in front of the door; and of another case in which the dog barked at the heels of a gentleman who hadn’t moved away quickly enough.”

Traditionally, when they arrived at the chaotic scene, the dog would keep the horses company to calm their anxiety. The presence of the Dalmatian prevented others from potentially stealing any of the valuable firefighting equipment on the rig. In some instances, they joined in on the action.

“They are in danger at fires,” The Sun writes, “for some dogs are great smoke eaters, and go right into the building with the firemen.”

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

Their low center of gravity made them ideal for running under the smoke into burning buildings to locate and rescue children and other people trapped in a fire. 

Sometimes they were known for their antics just like other beloved pets. “Jack the Bum” was one Dalmatian that worked with Truck 9 from the station on Elizabeth Street. This pesky pooch had memorized the eating schedules of all the firefighters, and when he got hungry he’d beg for the crumbs. He’d even go as far as trotting past the entrance of Lyon’s restaurant and around back to the kitchen to eat the scraps. 

The Dalmatians were heralded by the local communities they served. In 1910, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show developed a category specifically for Fire Department Dalmatians. Mike from New York’s Engine Company 8 on 51st Street came in first place, while another Dalmatian named Smoke II of Engine Company 68 on Jay Street in Brooklyn took second.

Interestingly enough, The Sun posed the question as to what would happen to Dalmatians once the motor-driven hose wagons replaced the horse-drawn carriages. “Of course nobody knows for sure just what will happen in that day, but the general opinion among the firemen is that though the horses may go the dogs will stay.”

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville
JT the fire dog is the official mascot of FDNY’s Company 74. Before JT, there was Yogi, Sparky, Buddy, and Chloe. Photo courtesy of @jt_thefiredog/Instagram.

Their predictions were right, except the Dalmatians took on more of a mascot role than as working fire dogs. Yogi, an FDNY Dalmatian who died at the age of 15 in January 2020, enjoyed hitching a ride on the fire truck. He was also a really good boy who brought happiness to the men in the firehouse. Yogi took his name from Ruben Correa, a firefighter for Company 74 on the Upper West Side who was killed while helping people escape the Marriott Hotel at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. He earned the nickname Yogi playing softball with his firehouse teammates.

When Patti Trainor-Wrazej learned of Yogi the fire dog’s passing, she immediately began training JT for Company 74. JT was a quick learner and soon joined his human counterparts on fire runs.

“We built a small bed frame that attaches on and off [the rig] when we need to remove it,” senior firefighter John Keaveny said. “It fits him perfectly so he can lay down during runs and be comfortable.”

JT has become so popular he even has his own Instagram page, @jt_firedog.  

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 hot cocktails to drink this winter

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with mixing up some whiskey, lemon, cloves, honey, and cinnamon — otherwise known as the hot toddy. But hot winter cocktails are not limited to the toddy alone. If you find yourself in a mood for a fortifying warm cocktail when the mercury falls, but want a drink that’s a bit more adventurous — and perhaps the main ingredient of which is something besides whiskey — there are plenty of excellent options. (We see you, hot buttered rum and boozy hot chocolate) To venture out into different territory, and to provide you with some hot alcoholic drinks to get you through winter, we spoke to a squad of New York City bartenders and asked them to share their hottest hot cocktail recipes. From variations on the classic hot toddy and the best damn boozy hot chocolate you’ll ever try to a fancy mulled wine and rum punch that really packs a punch, here are seven warming cold weather cocktails to try.


1. The Hot Teddy

Remember when your mother told you never to play with fire? Well, you’re going to need to disregard that bit of advice in order to make this next level hot toddy. Amir Babayoff, head bartender at Ophelia in New York City, starts with the rich and layered Barrell Craft Spirits Bourbon and adds a touch of French fortified wine for added complexity. Next, some Pineau des Charentes is brought in to bring out the softer part of the drink thanks to notes of peaches, prunes, plums and toasted nuts. Next comes caffeine-free orange and ginger tea. He adds Panella (unrefined sugar cane) with a blend of five winter spices (cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom to finish it with a sweet complexity. Is it an easy cocktail to whip together? Definitely not. But the end result is very much worth the effort.

Ingredients:
1.5 oz Barrell Whiskey
0.5 oz Pineau De Charente
0.5 oz Lemon Juice
0.75 oz Island Syrup
Angostura Bitters
5 oz Hot Water
1 Ginger/Orange Spiced Tea Bag

Directions: Prepare two copper mugs with hot water. Empty one and add 5 oz Hot Water, Tea Bags, Syrup, Lemon Juice and Bitters. Add Bourbon and Brandy to Mug #2 and rinse. Light Mug #2 on fire and pour from mug to mug. Pour into a Snifter and garnish with Cinnamon Stick, Orange Peel and Star Anise.

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(Photo by Eiliv-Sonas Aceron)

2. Spiked Mexican Hot Chocolate

Boozy hot chocolate is a pretty unbeatable winter drink. This version is a lighter, spicier play. “The traditional Italian hot chocolate is usually a rich and indulgent treat that’s perfect for a cold day,” says Anthony Henriquez, Beverage Director at Lumaca in New York City. “But it might not be the best before or after a meal.” This version removes the heavier ingredients and the allspice. The remaining cinnamon and chili flavors blend well with the caramel notes of tequila (they use Chamucos). Topped off with some freshly roasted marshmallows, it’s enough to make you forget about the cold for a few minutes.

Ingredients:
3 cups hot milk
3 tbs cocoa powder
3 tbs granulated sugar
1/4 tbs cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 oz Chamucos Tequila

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a snifter, garnish with two roasted marshmallows.

3. Nightcap

Now, this drink is not for novices. But for those accustomed to using a flame or amateur mixologists ready to raise their game, the Nightcap is worth the effort. Maybe keep a fire extinguisher handy. “When creating this cocktail, we knew we wanted to include absinthe but wanted to experiment with chartreuse since it’s high-proof and knew it would add a very rich, floral flavor” says NR bar owner, Shigefumi Kabashima. “We heat an iron rod over a flame to mix the cocktail with in order to cut the edge of the chartreuse and burn off some of the alcohol.” The drink also has butter, which caramelizes and adds to the cocktail’s rich flavor.

Ingredients:
1.5 oz. Green Chartruse
.5 oz. Lemon Juice
.25 oz. fresh ginger
.25 oz. honey
.5 oz. water
tsp butter
5 dashes absinthe

Directions: Combine all ingredients except for butter in a small heat-proof vessel and carefully heat iron rod over a flame for about one minute. Once the iron is heated, stir the cocktail ingredients carefully in heat proof vessel. Remove rod from and pour into heat-proof cocktail glass, and add in teaspoon of butter.

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(Photo by Gaby Dyson)

4. Mulled Wine

Mulled wine is a classic winter warmer. This one is fortified with a bit of brandy for an extra kick. “I believe that the Mulled wine we make at Valerie just hits the mark for the season,” says Marshall Minaya, Beverage Director for Valerie in New York City. “With a little fresh ginger, honey bonded Apple Brandy, and the constant temperature it is what we want to serve you to warm you up.”

Ingredients:
1 (750ml) bottle Cabernet-Sauvignon
½ cup Lairds Bonded Apple Brandy
1 Orange (sliced)
6 whole Cloves
3 Cinnamon Sticks
3 Star Anise
3 Whole Allspice
¼ cup Honey Syrup
¼ cup Ginger Syrup

Directions: In a medium sauce pot, bring all ingredients to a simmer (not boil). Reduce heat and leave for 10 min. Cool, and store in Cambro. Pour 5oz from thermos into mug. Garnish with a dehydrated lemon wheel and grated cinnamon

5. Hot Fig-Rum Punch

This Hot Fig Rum Punch created by Ryan Gavin, Bar Manager, Gran Tivoli Peppi’s Cellar, has an old-school winter vibe that compliments the season. That was intentional. “I wanted to showcase the versatility of tropical flavors in how they combine well with the more traditional seasonal ingredients such as ginger and fig,” Gavin said. While he says that the punch is warming and wintry, he says the fruity notes from the rum and pineapple “evoke festivities of an exotic nature.” Damn right they do.

Ingredients:
.3 oz. Fig Vin Cotto
.5 oz. Pineapple syrup
.3 oz. Lactic Acid Solution (10%)
1.5 oz. Santa Teresa Rum
4 oz. Hot water
1 oz. Ginger turmeric teabag
Heat on steam wand

Directions: Build and server in a footed 6 oz. glass. Garnish with a quarter fig on skewer

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

6. Coffee & Cream

Spiked coffee makes a great pick-me-up for the colder months. Gavin’s Coffee Cream is a decadently delightful variation with a chilled sweet vanilla cream crown that floats on top of the drink. “We were aiming for some sort of elevated Irish coffee style of drink that would show off not just the delicious espresso but some nutty and rich notes from the brandy and Vin Santo,” Gavin says. “By adding the Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur, we were able to elevate the natural coffee flavor and bring the sweetness up to that magical point that is lip smacking, but not too syrupy.”

Ingredients:
.75 oz Brandy
.75 oz Mr Black Coffee Liqueur
.175 oz Vin Santo
1 oz Espresso
2 oz Hot Water
.75 Vanilla Cream
Glass: Footed 6 oz

Directions: Build and layer all ingredients in a footed 6 oz. glass. Garnish with cacao and bee pollen.

7. The Rum Hot Toddy

Simple and sweet, this Toddy variation is anchored with some stellar spiced rum for an added layer of warmth. “We make our Hot Toddy using Santa Teresa 1796 Rum,” says Kenneth McCoy, chief creative officer of the Rum House. “It’s rich, smooth and has hints of warming spices, that added with a hint of honey, fresh ginger and cinnamon is perfect for a winter warmer on a cold evening.”

Ingredients:
2 oz El Dorado Spiced Rum
.25 oz fresh lemon juice
.50 oz Demerara syrup
Hot water from a tea kettle
1 orange peel
1 lemon peel
Slice of fresh ginger
3-4 gloves
Cinnamon stick

Directions: Fill your Toddy glass with hot water from the kettle and cover the top with a plate to keep warm while preparing the drink. Place lemon peel, orange peel , cloves, fresh ginger and Demerara into a mixing glass use a muddler to lightly extract the juices from the zest’s and ginger. Add rum and lemon juice stir with a bar spoon. Dump water from your Toddy glass, and double strain the cocktail to remove the pulp. Add 3-4 ounces of hot water on top of liquid and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

US service member killed by enemy fire in Iraq

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville
US Marine Corps


A US Marine was killed in northern Iraq on Saturday, according to a Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve report.

The service member was providing force protection fire support at a base in Makhmur when troops came under ISIS (also known as Islamic State, ISIL) rocket fire.

Makhmur is approximately 45 miles southeast of ISIS-held Mosul.

“Several other Marines were wounded and they are being treated for their varying injuries,” according to a statement from Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the service members involved, their families and their coalition teammates who will continue the fight against ISIL with resolved and determination,” Cook wrote.

The identity and nationality of the service member will not been released until the family is notified.

To date, Operation Inherent Resolve has conducted 10,962 strikes, with 7,336 in Iraq and 3,626 in Syria.

Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, 39, of Roland, Oklahoma, became thefirst American to die in combat operations against ISIS, Reuters reports.

He was killed during an overnight October 2015, mission to rescue hostages held by ISIS militants.

Wheeler is survived by his wife and four sons.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 24th

It’s that time of year again: Memorial Day weekend. A solemn moment for the troops to reflect on those we’ve lost along the way and for our civilian friends and family to join us in honoring our fallen.

Now, I don’t fault the civilians who just take the weekend to relax and barbecue as the summer officially starts. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single fallen troop who’d wish to take away someone’s enjoyment. Sparking up the grill and enjoying friends and family is a big part of the American way of life that we fought for — and some paid the ultimate price for.

My gripe is with the complete oxymoron that is the phrase, “have a happy Memorial Day.” It’s just extremely awkward in context. Like, even if someone was a open-bar-at-my-wake kinda person, ‘happy’ and ‘memorial’ just don’t really mesh.

So, I leave you with this… Have a good Memorial Day weekend, however you choose to spend it. Place flags at your local veterans’ cemetery. Crack open an extra cold one for a fallen comrade. Start up the barbecue and tell the kids about the good times you had with your buddy who didn’t make it back. If we’re being honest with ourselves, they all would have wanted us to have a good day in their honor.


Yeah, that wasn’t your typical opener where I practice my stand-up, but I have a feeling I’m not the only one irked by the expression.

Also, here’s a SPOILER ALERT. We joke about the final episode of Game of Thrones in the final meme.

Anywho, here’re some memes:

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(Meme via Victor Alpha Clothing)

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(Meme via Vet TV)

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville
Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(Meme via Military Memes)

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

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