Why is it so hard to understand what it's like to be a veteran? - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal. 


As soon as he wrapped up his studies in film and literature at Boston University, Henry Hughes followed family tradition and signed up for the Army. For the next five years, he took fire, dodged IEDs and grappled internally with the meaning of military service while on two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. After Hughes returned home and earned another degree from the American Film Institute, he began making movies, including his short film,”Day One,” which tells the story of a female Army interpreter facing a moral quandary during her first day on the job: saving the newborn child of a known enemy. The film was nominated for this year’s Academy Award for best live-action short.

NationSwell spoke to Hughes, a Got Your 6 Storyteller, by phone from Los Angeles about the lingering questions from war and their portrayal on film.

 

What inspired you to serve your country?

For me, it was a long family tradition. We basically had someone in the Army since the [American] Revolution. I wanted to be part of that tradition.

Is there one question that you continually ask yourself about your experience?

It’s probably, “why is it not so simple?” It’s a very complex part of my life, not something that is full of simply good memories or simply bad memories: it’s a mixture of all types of life. So I always wonder why it’s not like anything else. At this point, why can’t it be simpler? Why is it so difficult for everyone to understand it?

I’m guessing that’s why did you decided to make the film “Day One?”

For sure, it’s about those questions. There’s not a reducible answer like the one I just tried to give you. So that’s why I thought I could make a movie about it instead, to kind of show the way it felt. So the movie is not a true-to-life of what exactly happened to me that one day. But the feeling when I’m watching the movie, it’s that sublime space of things that are horrible and beautiful in the same breath.

What’s the most important lesson civilians can take away from art that’s made about war?

I would say that everyone’s wartime experience is subjective. I don’t know if there’s some sort of universal experience.

What’s your favorite movie about war?

For me, it’s “The Thin Red Line.” I think it touches me because there’s no other war movie like it, that accepts the soulfulness of the warrior experience. A lot of movies don’t go that way, they kind of go along the more visceral, more experiential route.

What is the quality you most admire in a comrade?

What I actually admire most is hard to come by in our community: vulnerability. When it’s a vulnerability to look at your military experience, I really love meeting those people.

Who was the most inspirational person you encountered while serving?

I would say my interpreter on my second tour. She’s the one I based the movie on, or it’s inspired by her. She’s an Afghan-American woman, naturalized as an American citizen, but born over there. The deck was stacked against her, and she looked inside herself to find out what she thought was right and wrong. It wasn’t something that someone told her to do. She just had incredible integrity.

If you could change one thing about your service, what would it be?

I wouldn’t want one of my guys to be wounded or for any of my guys to die.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I would probably say chasing down my wife. It was a long shot, and it worked out. In 2010, after my first tour, I flew to New York without knowing she was there. We hadn’t spoken in a long time. We knew each other as children, when we were 13, and I hadn’t seen her in a number of years. I thought I could track her down, and so on Facebook messenger, I basically said, “Hey, I just landed in New York. Let’s hang out. We haven’t seen each other in a decade.” We went on one date and then a few more dates. She started me writing me a lot of letters when I was in Afghanistan again for my second tour, and we decided to be together.

How can the rest of us, as civilians, do more to support veterans?

Just look at them as people first. I feel like there’s a big divide on some level, but a lot of it is imagined. The fact of the matter is that all of those veterans are just people. I would look at them that way first and then look at their experience.

To you, what does it mean these days to be a veteran?

Well, it’s inescapable, I suppose. The definition of being a veteran is you can never not be a veteran one once you are one. And that speaks to, I think, how profound that experience is. There’s no way you can stop being a veteran.

 

Articles

That time a Navy admiral left Marines hanging during a Japanese attack

The Marines on Wake Island had a last stand that belongs with the Alamo in terms of its legendary status. One Marine, Henry Elrod, became a legend during that stand.


What is not as well known is that there was an effort to try to either relieve or evacuate the Marines from Wake Island. Samuel Eliot Morison described that operation in “The Rising Sun in the Pacific,” Volume III of his 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Most of the F4F Wildcats defending Wake Island were lost in the initial attack. The remaining would also fall to the Japanese, but not before sinking the Kisaragi battleship. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Within days of the Pearl Harbor attack, Adm. Husband E. Kimmel started the effort to help the Marines on Wake.

Kimmel saw a chance to catch part of the Japanese fleet by surprise using Wake as a form of bait. Given that Wake was 2,300 miles from Pearl Harbor, there was no time to waste.

That said, the expedition still took time. All three carriers in the Pacific Fleet would take part. But there were a few problems. The

USS Saratoga (CV 3) was the carrier that had the planes of VMF-221, 14 F2A Brewster Buffalo fighters (utter pieces of junk, but that is another story). In a fateful decision, Kimmel put Rear Adm. Frank Jack Fletcher in charge of Task Force 14, which had the mission to steam into Wake Island.

Fletcher would command from the cruiser USS Astoria (CA 34).

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
U.S. Navy Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo fighters pictured during a training flight from Naval Air Station (NAS) Miami, Florida (USA). 14 of these planes were slated to reinforce the Marines on Wake Island. (US Navy photo)

Vice Adm. William F. Halsey, in command of Task Force 8 on the USS Enterprise (CV 6), would be held in reserve. Vice Adm. Wilson Brown, on board the USS Lexington (CV 2), would carry out a diversionary raid on the Marshall Islands.

Shortly after the expedition departed, Kimmel was relieved by Vice Adm. William Pye, pending the arrival of Chester W. Nimitz at Pearl Harbor. The expedition made its way towards Wake, but Fletcher was seemingly obsessed with his destroyers’ fuel state. Much as the Civil War-era Gen. George McClellan temporized about pressing the attack against Robert E. Lee in late 1862, Fletcher would take time the Marines could not afford to get the fuel he thought he needed for his ships.

Even after messages from the Marines on Wake reported the presence of enemy dive bombers and their desperate situation, he chose to fuel on Dec. 22. Morison would note that the destroyer with the least amount of fuel still had almost 90,000 barrels of fuel oil in its tanks.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Frank Jack Fletcher. (US Navy photo)

Even with the difficult refueling, the USS Saratoga was 425 miles from Wake at 0800 on Dec. 23, where the Marines were in desperate combat with the Japanese. Pye called off the Wake Relief Expedition when word of the landings reached Pearl Harbor. Morison notes that the Marines had actually wiped out the invasion force on Wilkes Island, and it took time to convince the hard-fighting Marines to surrender. They would spend almost four years in Japanese prison camps. Almost 100 of them would be massacred on Oct. 5, 1943.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Inexplicably, Fletcher would still be assigned seagoing commands after the failure of the Wake Relief Expedition. The USS Lexington would be lost during the Battle of the Coral Sea. The USS Yorktown (CV 5) would be sunk at the Battle of Midway (where Fletcher did the smart thing and let Raymond Spruance take the lead).

Fletcher would leave Marines hanging again at Guadalcanal, when a decision to pull back the carriers would lead to the disastrous Battle of Savo Island, where the USS Astoria and three other heavy cruisers would be sunk.

Fletcher was wounded when the USS Saratoga was torpedoed at the end of August, 1942. After that, he’d be shunted off to backwater commands until the end of World War II. He died in 1975.

Articles

Two Hellfire missiles found on a passenger flight

Serbian officials got a surprise last Saturday when a bomb sniffer dog found two Hellfire missiles on a passenger flight that had arrived from Lebanon.


Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
US Navy sailors load an AGM-114N Hellfire missile into its case onboard the USS Jason Dunham. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deven B. King

Some reports have stated that the missiles were live, but Serbian officials investigating the incident told Reuters that the Hellfire missiles may have been training rounds.

The weapons arrived on an Air Serbia flight and were scheduled to fly on another plane from Belgrade to Portland, Oregon. The Lebanese military said in a statement that they were sending the missiles to Portland so that they could be turned in as part of a deal with the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.

Air Serbia operated the aircraft where the missiles were found and has assisted in the investigation.

AGM-114 Hellfire missiles can be launched from aircraft, boats, and land vehicles and is primarily designed to defeat enemy armor. It carries either an 18 or 20-pound warhead and can travel up to five miles at 995 mph to destroy a target.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The A-10 vs. F-35 showdown could happen this spring

As the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program barrels toward its final major testing process before full-rate production, program leaders say a much-discussed comparison test between the beloved A-10 Thunderbolt II and the new 5th-generation fighter is very much still in planning and could kick off as soon as April 2018.


In a roundtable discussion with reporters at the F-35 Joint Program Office headquarters near Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28, the director of the program said the final test and evaluation plan is still being constructed. That will determine, he said, when the A-10 vs. F-35 test begins, and whether it happens in the main test effort or in an earlier, more focused evaluation.

Also read: Mattis wants the F-35 to be part of the US nuclear triad

“The Congress has directed the [Defense Department] to do comparison testing, we call it,” Vice Adm. Mat Winter said. “I wouldn’t call it a flyoff; it’s a comparison testing of the A-10 and the F-35. And given that the department was given that task … that is in [the] operational test and evaluation plan.”

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
The F-35A performs a test flight on March 28, 2013. (Lockheed Martin)

Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, or IOTE, is set to begin for the F-35 in September 2018. But two new increments of preliminary testing were recently added to the calendar to evaluate specific capabilities, Winter said.

The first increment, which was completed in January and February 2018, took place at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska and evaluated the ability of the aircraft to perform in extreme cold weather conditions, with a focus on the effectiveness of alert launches. The results of those tests have yet to be made public.

The second increment, set to begin in April 2018, will focus on close-air support capabilities, reconnaissances, and limited examination of weapons delivery, Winter said. The testing is expected to take place at Edwards Air Force Base in California and other ranges in the western United States.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Questions surrounding the F-35’s ability to perform in a close-air support role are what prompted initial interest in a comparison between the aging A-10 “Warthog” and the cutting-edge fighter in the first place.

The requirement that the two aircraft go up against each other was included as a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017 amid congressional concerns over plans to retire the A-10 and replace it with the F-35.

Related: This pilot landed her shot-up A-10 by pulling cables

In an interview with Military.com in 2017, Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, then-director of the F-35 program’s integration office, said he expected the A-10 to emerge as a better CAS platform in a no-threat environment.

But the dynamics would change, he said, as the threat level increased.

“As you now start to build the threat up, the A-10s won’t even enter the airspace before they get shot down — not even within 20 miles of the target.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

WhatsApp message claiming the Queen died spread by confused Navy staffer

The viral WhatsApp message that claimed Queen Elizabeth II had died was started by a Royal Navy staff member who confused a practice drill for the real thing.

The false news spread across social media last Sunday, garnering thousands of tweets and Facebook posts, and spawning several hashtags.

The cause of the false alarm was a misunderstanding by someone at Royal Navy Air Station Yeovilton, Portsmouth News reported.


Naval personnel were practicing “Operation London Bridge” — the codename for the procedure for when the Queen dies — when one person thought it was happening for real and passed the message onto those outside the base, the paper said.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

The WhatsApp message that spread across social media on Sunday announcing the Queen’s death.

(Twitter/tylerslullaby)

The sourcing attached to the initial viral WhatsApp message was “from a guards reg WhatsApp group,” referring to a regiment in the British Army’s Guards Division.

“Queens passed away this morning, heart attack, being announced 930 Am tomorrow, channel dash 0800 tomorrow in full numbers 1s,” it said, referring to the Navy’s ceremonial uniform by its colloquial name of “number 1s.”

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson debunked the news, speaking to British media on Monday, calling it “business as usual.”

The Queen welcomed NATO leaders at a reception at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday night, looking sanguine and very much alive.

Queen Elizabeth hosts NATO world leaders at Buckingham Palace

www.youtube.com

Citing the Royal Navy, the Portsmouth News, said the incident was a “genuine mistake” and that “no malice” was intended.

The Royal Navy later said in a formal statement: “We can confirm an internal exercise took place at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in line with established contingency plans for recall of personnel.”

“These exercises are conducted on a regular basis and no significance should be drawn from the timing of the exercise.”

“While the exercise was conducted properly, we regret any misunderstanding this may have caused.”

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

Articles

11 insider insults sailors say to each other

Sailors have unique ways to get under each other’s skin.


A comment that may seem harmless to an outsider might be a jab to a shipmate. Just add the word “SHIPMATE” to the insult to take it to the next level. Consider yourself warned and use the following sailor insults at your own risk:

140 sailors go down, 70 couples come back.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Submariners hate this one, used by surface sailors to mock submariners going on deployment.

“Unsat”

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

“Unsat” is short for unsatisfactory. This is not derogatory, but sailors hate the term being used to describe their work, something they did, their appearance — anything. When the chief says, “Shipmate, your haircut is unsat,” sailors know they’d better do something about it.

B.U.B.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Stands for ‘Barely Useful Body.’ Sometimes used in a derogatory manner, but sometimes used to describe someone who’s been injured or physically unable to perform 100 percent. Either way, it hurts the ego.

The Bulls–t flag

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

This is an imaginary flag someone raises when they believe that what you’re saying is pure bulls–t. It’s usually phrased, “I am raising the bulls–t flag on that one.”

Buttshark

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Photo: US Navy

Otherwise known as a brown-noser or butt snorkeler. This is a person who tries too hard to buddy up with another – usually a superior – to gain favor.

Check Valve

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Photo: US Navy

Also known as a “one-way check valve.” This is a term used mostly by submariners and surface ship snipes to describe someone who does things for him or herself but doesn’t reciprocate.

C.O.B.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

This one has several different derogatory meanings to describe the senior enlisted person aboard a ship: Chief of the Boat, Crabby Old Bastard, and Clueless Overweight Bastard.

F.L.O.B.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

It stands for Freeloading Oxygen Breather. This is a term mostly used by submariners to describe someone who is not carrying their share of the load.

“How’s your wife and my kids?”

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Photo: Seaman David Brandenburg/US Navy

A phrase used to get under the skin of sailors from opposite crews.

Joe Navy

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

A derogatory term used for a lifer with no life outside the Navy who engages in a lot of buttsharking.

Pecker Checker

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

This is the official, unofficial term used to describe a Navy doctor or corpsman. Sailors know better than to address the doc this way before a physical.

By no means is this a complete list, so feel free to add more terms in the comments below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 22nd

It was recently reported that, back in October, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit drank Reykjavík, the capital city of Iceland, dry when they pulled into port. That’s not an expression or an over exaggeration. They literally drank every last bit of alcohol in the city over the course of their liberty to the point where the town reportedly had troubles restocking for their own citizens.

The most astounding thing about this entire story is that only one young, dumb lance corporal got in trouble for disorderly conduct — and we can only assume they’ve since been Ninja Punched into oblivion. But seriously, I have strong reservations about there only being one drunken problem. You mean to tell me that we can’t throw a barracks party without the MPs getting involved and an entire MEU got sh*tfaced drunk and only a single idiot did anything wrong?

I’m not saying it’s completely impossible — maybe things happened and were simply kept in-house — but if it’s really true and everyone was that well-behaved… BZ. Color me impressed.


To all you troops out there that aren’t that one Marine in Reykjavík, you’ve earned yourselves some memes.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

(Meme via Artillery Moments)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

(Meme via Do You Even Comm, Bro?)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

(Photo via US Army WTF Moments)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

(Meme by Ranger Up)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

(Meme via ASMDSS)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Articles

The ‘Fork-tailed devil’ terrified Japanese pilots

Among the fighters that allowed America to win World War II, the P-38 Lightning was uniquely successful and was dubbed the “fork-tailed Devil” by the Germans even though its greatest successes came in the Pacific, Mediterranean, and North African theaters.


Army Air Corps leaders first solicited for what would become the P-38 in 1937 with the specification X-608, a request for a new pursuit aircraft that could fly 360 mph at 20,000 feet, reach 20,000 feet in six minutes, and run at full power at that altitude for at least an hour. They also wanted a long combat radius and plenty of firepower.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
The J model of the P-38 carried the same .50-cal machine guns and 20mm cannons of its predecessors, but could also carry bombs. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

Lockheed, a newcomer to the military market, submitted the XP-38, a radical departure from conventional aircraft design that featured three pods and two tails. The outer pods lined up with the tails and each carried an Allison V-1710 engine with 1,000 hp.

While the XP-38 was a radical design, the Army adopted it anyway because they needed its power and speed to compete with new German and British designs. And it packed a lot of punch with four .50-cal. machine guns and a single 20 mm cannon, all crammed into the nose.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
The P-38 Lightning was the premiere twin-engine American fighter in World War II. It had four .50-cal. machine guns and a 20 mm cannon in its nose. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Museum)

The plane went through continued testing and design refinements before reaching Army pilots in 1940. Upon its debut, it was capable of reaching an altitude of 3,300 feet in one minute and could hit 400 mph with a range of 1,150 miles.

But production was slow and the Army had only 69 P-38s, so Lockheed was forced to subcontract parts to get the plane into combat for the U.S. But the P-38 arrived on the front lines with a vengeance. In early 1942, its pilots became the first Americans to down a Luftwaffe plane and P-38s carried seven of the top fighter aces of the Pacific theater.

The Lightning’s finest hour probably came on April 18, 1943. Naval Intelligence had learned that Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, the commander and architect of the Pearl Harbor attacks, would be inspecting troops in the Pacific on that date.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
The last known photograph of Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto before he was killed by American P-38s. (Photo: Public Domain)

The military rushed together a plan to attack the admiral. The scheme called for fighters to fly approximately 600 miles out and 400 miles back with enough fuel available in the middle for fierce fighting. The only Pacific fighter capable of the feat in 1943 was the P-38 equipped with drop tanks.

A kill team of four P-38s flew with 12 others to an intercept point, dropped their tanks, and attacked the two bombers and six fighters of Yamamoto’s flight and escort. Two Americans had to peal off when their drop tanks failed to disconnect, but the other 14 successfully downed both bombers and the Zeros bugged out. One P-38 was lost in the battle and Yamamoto was killed along with his deputy.

America’s top-scoring fighter ace of all time, Maj. Richard Bong, achieved all of his 40 aerial victories in P-38s and the number two ace, Maj. Thomas B. McGuire, Jr., achieved most of his 38 kills in the P-38.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Famed aviator Charles A. Lindbergh with Maj. Thomas B. McGuire, America’s second-highest fighter Ace of all time. (Photo: U.S. Air Force archives)

All of this is not to say that the P-38 was perfect. It suffered a number of drawbacks including a tendency to become unstable at speeds approaching Mach 1 and to become unresponsive to controls during high-speed dives.

In Europe, the plane that dominated over the Pacific became a major liability for pilots because it wasn’t designed to withstand the extreme cold of Europe’s winter air at 20,000 feet and higher, especially in the particularly bitter 1943-1944 winter.

Pilots suffered hypothermia and frostbite in the barely heated cockpit and the engines were prone to failures as their intakes over-cooled incoming air.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

The commander of the 20th Flight Group, Col. Harold J. Rau, was ordered to provide a written report as to why the P-38 wasn’t more successful in Europe. He asked the recipient to imagine a fresh-out-of-flight-school with less than 30 flight hours who was suddenly attacked by Luftwaffe fighters.

He must turn, he must increase power and get rid of those external tanks and get on his main. So, he reaches down and turns two stiff, difficult gas switches to main, turns on his drop tank switches, presses his release button, puts the mixture to auto rich, increases his RPM, increases his manifold pressure, turns on his gun heater switch, turns on his combat switch and he is ready to fight.

And the process was unforgiving of errors. Reversing the order of the engine steps or skipping a step could cause the engine to explode or throw a rod, either of which would rob the pilot of vital power during a dogfight. And all of this has to be done while German rounds are already ripping past or through the plane.

Luckily, the debut of the P-51 gave a viable alternative to the P-38. It didn’t suffer from the cold-weather problems of the P-38 and had comparable or better speed, range, and maneuverability at most altitudes while being easier for rookies to fly. It’s only major shortcoming against the P-38 was that it had only one engine and it was more susceptible to damage than either of the Lightning’s two.

MIGHTY TRENDING

First US service member to test positive for the coronavirus is finally recovered after 49 days in isolation

The first US service member to test positive for the coronavirus has recovered after spending 49 days in isolation.

A 23-year-old soldier stationed in South Korea became the first US service member to fall ill as the coronavirus spread from China to countries around the world. He tested positive on February 26, and his wife tested positive two days later.


US Forces Korea said in a statement Thursday that the soldier has returned to his off-base residence outside Camp Caroll and is waiting for a decision on when he can return to duty.

The soldier “was cleared from isolation after having been asymptomatic for more than seven days, being fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications, successfully passing two consecutive COVID-19 tests with negative results at least 24 hours apart, and being cleared by USFK medical providers,” USFK explained.

South Korea was, at one point in time, one of the worst hit locations outside of China, but the situation in the country has stabilized. South Korea has had only around 10,000 cases with a little over 200 deaths.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

South Korea and U.S. Army Joint Security Area Security Battalion fire team members perform a four-man carry of a simulated injured service member during a joint search and recovery exercise April 8, 2016, at Camp Bonifas, South Korea. 51st Civil Engineer Squadron fire prevention firefighters assisted in the exercise by teaching South Korea and U.S. Soldiers how to safely enter a crashed aircraft to rescue individuals.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Dillian Bamman)

While there were roughly two dozen USFK-related cases, only two US service members were infected. There are over 28,500 US military personnel in South Korea.

USFK said that it “continues to maintain a robust combined defense posture to protect the Republic of Korea against any threat or adversary while maintaining prudent preventive measures to protect the force.”

As of Wednesday, 2,486 US service members have tested positive for the coronavirus worldwide, with 85 requiring hospitalization. While 446 have recovered, two have died from related complications, according to the latest figures from the Pentagon.

The hardest hit US service branch has so far been the Navy with 951 cases. The majority of those cases are aboard the deployed aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which has reported more than 600 coronavirus cases.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey

The National Guard commander of the U.S. state of Iowa has cancelled a visit to Kosovo over Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s refusal to cancel 100 percent tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

A spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Pristina confirmed on Feb. 11, 2019, that Major General Timothy Orr’s visit was canceled “in connection to tariffs of Serbian and Bosnian goods.”

The spokesman added that the embassy had no comment on further visits or scheduled training.


Kosovo Security Forces commander Rahman Rama said he had been told the visit had been scrapped, and then informed Kosovo President Hasim Thaci of the decision in a letter.

“This is a consequence of the fees imposed on Serbia, which prompted the decision of the U.S. government,” Rama told RFE/RL.

Orr was scheduled to arrive for a three-day visit on Feb. 16, 2019, during celebrations for Kosovo’s 11th birthday.

The Iowa National Guard has worked with the Kosovo Security Force as part of the State Partnership Program since 2011.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Kosovo President Hasim Thaci.

Rama said that cooperation with the National Guard was one of the best partnerships the country has with the United States, not only for its military benefits, but also in the areas of culture and education.

Both Brussels and Washington have pressed Kosovo to repeal the tariff on imported Serbian and Bosnian goods, which has strained international efforts to broker a deal between the former foes.

Kosovo imposed the import tax in November 2018 in retaliation for what it called Belgrade’s attempts to undermine its statehood, such as spearheading a campaign to scupper Pristina’s bid to join Interpol.

Belgrade has not recognized the independence of its former province, proclaimed in 2008 after a 1998-99 guerrilla war.

More than 10,000 were killed in the war, which prompted NATO to launch an air campaign in the spring of 1999 to end the conflict.

The possibility that Serbia and Kosovo might end their long-running dispute through a land swap was briefly floated in 2018.

But the proposal was immediately abandoned following a firestorm of criticism from rights groups as well as Haradinaj, who is against ceding any territory to Serbia and recently said the fate of the tax shouldn’t be linked to relations with Belgrade.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This could be the origin of the ‘lucky cigarette’

Smoking cigarettes has been a popular pastime among troops since the very first line formed at the armory. Everybody, both civilian and service member alike, has their reason for smoking, but one thing is consistent between the two crowds — flipping one cigarette upside down and saving it for last.

This last cigarette is referred to as the “lucky cigarette” and it’s considered bad luck to smoke it before the others in the pack. People all over the internet have speculated at the origin of this superstition, but it’s very likely that it all started with troops in WWII — and the Lucky Strike brand cigarettes they used to get in their rations.

So, if you’ve ever wondered why your veteran friend saves a single, specific cig for last, here are the best explanations we’ve found:


Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

(U.S. Marine Corps)

World War II

In WWII, troops would get Lucky Strike cigarettes in their rations and each cigarette was stamped with the brand’s logo. It’s believed that those fighting either in Europe or the Pacific would flip every cigarette in the pack except for one. That way, when a troop sparked one, they’d burn the stamp first (this was before the days of filtered cigarettes).

That way, if a troop had to drop the cigarette for any reason, the enemy couldn’t quickly determine the country of origin — any identifying mark was quickly turned to ash. The last cigarette was the only exception — and if you survived long enough to smoke it, you were considered lucky.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

U.S. Marine Corps LVTP-5 amphibious tractors transport 3rd Marine Division troops in Vietnam, 1966.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Vietnam

Some swear that this tradition comes from the Vietnam War.

By this point, filtered cigarettes were becoming the norm, so you could only smoke ’em one way. Still, the tradition remained largely intact. Instead of flipping every cigarette on end, troops would invert a single one and, just as before, if you lived long enough to smoke it, you were a lucky joe.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Hopefully you can quit when you get out.

(U.S. Army)

In either case, having a “lucky cigarette” in your pack has since become a universal superstition.

Whether you’re in the military or not, flipping that one cigarette is considered good luck, even when your life isn’t in immediate danger.

Articles

China wants to build a US-style aircraft carrier

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. | PLA


China has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, that’s designated as a training vessel and has never been on a combat deployment, but new photos suggest that they want to build a true, US-style aircraft carrier.

Mike Yeo of the US Naval Institute News Service reports that China has set out to develop a Catapult-Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) variant of the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark.

Also read: How Russia plans to imitate US naval power with its aircraft carrier deployment to Syria

Right now, China’s aircraft carrier uses a ski-jump design, where planes hit a ramp to launch of the ship. This greatly limits the maximum weight of the planes, meaning they can’t carry as much fuel or ordnance as land-launched variants can.

Only the US and France operate true flat tops, or aircraft carriers that use either catapults or steam powered launchers that grip and throw the planes off board with such force that no ramp is needed. Therefore, US and French planes launching from carriers can carry much more substantial loads of fuel and bombs for better range and efficacy on missions.

But now photos surfaced in Yeo’s piece suggest that China is trying to imitate these flat top carriers. Here’s a photo of a J-15 with additional nose landing gear (this is what the catapult couples with during launches).

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
A photo from the Chinese language Internet showing the nose gear of a J-15 Shenyang thought to be designed for carrier operations. | USNI News

Below we see Huangdicun Airbase, where it looks like China has tried to emulate a steam catapult, which the US Nimitz class carriers have, and an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS), which the US plans to deploy on the coming Ford class carriers.

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?
Huangdicun Airbase. | USNI News

Aircraft carriers provide several advantages over land bases, chief among them the fact that aircraft carries allow nations to project power around the globe.

Currently, China is building a second ski-jump style carrier, but it seems it may be planning a third flat top some time soon.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This soldier’s wild-looking ghillie suit makes him a deadly force

Snipers have to be able to disappear on the battlefield in a way that other troops do not, and the ghillie suit is a key part of what makes these elite warfighters masters of concealment.

“A sniper’s mission dictates that he remains concealed in order to be successful,” Staff Sgt. Ricky Labistre, a sniper with 1st Battalion, 160th Infantry Regiment of the California National Guard, previously explained.

“Ghillie suits provide snipers that edge and flexibility to maintain a concealed position,”he added.

A ghillie suit is a kind of camouflaged uniform that snipers use to disappear in any environment, be it desert, woodland, sand, or snow. US Army Staff Sgt. David Smith, an instructor at the service’s sniper school, recently showed off a ghillie suit that he put together from scratch using jute twine and other materials.


Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Ghillie bottoms have some kind of webbing or net material attached to the back of it where jute and other materials can be attached to break up the outline of the groin area.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

A view of the ghillie bottoms from the back.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Ghillie tops, like the bottoms, also have some kind of webbing or net material attached to the back and shoulders where jute can be attached to break up the outline of the shoulders and the space beneath the arms.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

A view of the ghillie top from the back.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

The Ghille tops and bottoms have been reinforced in the front with extra material in order to allow for longer wear of the suit with less damage to the natural material under it and to allow for individual movements like the low crawl.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

The head gear, which can be a boonie hat, ball cap, or some other head covering, has webbing or net material sewn in so that the sniper can attach jute or vegetation to it in order to break up the natural outline of a wearer’s head and shoulders.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Snipers concealed in grass by their ghillie suits.

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

When it all comes together, snipers become undetectable sharpshooters with ability to provide overwatch, scout enemy positions, or eliminate threats at great distances. “No one knows you’re there. I’m watching you, I see everything that you are doing, and someone is about to come mess up your day,” First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran Army sniper, previously told Insider.

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