WWII hero's incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie

Red Erwin was in such bad shape, suffering from burns all the way to the bone, that then-Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay put one of his legendary bull rushes on the regulations to get him the Medal of Honor before he died.

The medal was awarded and presented to Erwin within a week of his near-fatal injuries; it’s still believed to be the fastest approval on record of the nation’s highest award for valor.


Staff Sgt. Henry E. “Red” Erwin, the radio operator on a B-29 Superfortress over Japan in April 1945, beat long odds to survive and go home to Alabama, where he was welcomed at the hospital with a kiss from his wife Betty on the only part of his face that wasn’t scalded.

The doctors didn’t think he would see again, but he did. They thought he would lose his right arm, but he didn’t. Following more than 40 surgeries, Erwin would work for 37 years counseling burn patients and advising on benefits for the then-Veterans Administration in Birmingham, Alabama.

He and Betty would have four children. Following his death in 2002, son Henry Erwin Jr., who had become a state senator in Alabama, said his father “embodied all the ideals of the Medal of Honor. He wore them like a well-pressed suit.”

“He was honest, thrifty and patriotic,” the son told the Pentagon, “[and] treated everyone with courtesy and respect.”

There was never any doubt that what Erwin did on April 12, 1945, deserved the Medal of Honor — not among the other 11 crew members whose lives he saved and definitely not for LeMay, then-commander of the bombing campaign against Japan.

As the radio operator, Erwin was also in charge of dropping white phosphorus charges down a chute to signal rallying points for other bombers in the formation to proceed to targets.

On that day, something went terribly wrong with the “willy peter” charge. It either jammed in the chute or went off prematurely, bouncing back up and hitting Erwin in the face. He was blinded, part of his nose was burned off and his clothes were on fire. Flames were spreading through the aircraft.

Despite his injuries, Erwin picked up the white phosphorus charge, still burning at more than 1,300 degrees Celsius, or 2,372 degrees Fahrenheit. He groped and crawled his way to the cockpit, where he somehow unhinged a small desk blocking his way to a window. He heaved the charge out the window and then collapsed.

On Guam on April 19, 1945, Erwin’s entire body was covered in bandages when Maj. Gen. Willis H. Hale, commander of Army Air Forces Pacific Area, presented him with the Medal of Honor. It had been approved by the newly sworn-in President Harry Truman.

LeMay would later tell him: “Your effort to save the lives of your fellow Airmen is the most extraordinary kind of heroism I know.”

Erwin’s story has become part of Air Force lore, but the effort to honor his legacy and preserve it for new generations has taken on a new form to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

WWII Hero’s Incredible Medal of Honor Story Now to Be a Movie

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His grandson, Jon Erwin, in collaboration with author William Doyle, has written a book, to be published Tuesday, on Red Erwin’s astonishing sacrifice, his life after the war, and the strong Christian faith that saw him through hardship: “Beyond Valor: A World War II Story of Extraordinary Heroism, Sacrificial Love, and a Race against Time.”

In a 1999 History Channel documentary with other Medal of Honor recipients, Erwin said, “I called on the Lord to help me, and He has never let me down.”

Jon Erwin and his brother, Andrew, the director-producer team in a string of successful inspirational movies such as “Woodlawn” and “I Can Only Imagine,” also are at work on a movie about their grandfather.

For Jon Erwin, the book and movie are a way of coming to grips with the meaning of his grandfather’s legacy, which he may not have fully appreciated in his youth.

In a phone interview, he recalled being about six years old when his grandfather took him to the basement and retrieved the Medal of Honor from its display case.

“He let me hold the Medal of Honor in the basement,” but initially said nothing as the young boy tried to grasp what his grandfather was telling him, Jon Erwin said.

Then, Erwin leaned over his shoulder and said only, “Freedom isn’t free.”

The message was lost on him as a boy, Jon Erwin said, and he feels that he never truly comprehended through his teenage years his grandfather’s passion for duty and service.

“I think my generation doesn’t look back enough on the heroism that built this country,” typified by the World War II generation, he said. “I didn’t either. That’s my one lasting regret — that I didn’t take the time to listen.”

Jon Erwin said there is new material in the book, including a stash of letters that his grandparents wrote to each other during the war, interviews with Erwin’s crew members, and a quote from LeMay on his determination to get the Medal of Honor to Erwin quickly.

“I want to pin the Medal of Honor on that kid’s neck before he dies,” LeMay said.

Jon Erwin said his grandmother shared her husband’s general reluctance to dwell on what had happened during the war.

“He didn’t talk about it; that was my husband,” he recalled Betty saying.

‘He Cradled It Like a Football’

Red Erwin was born in Docena, Alabama, on May 8, 1921. His father, a coal miner, died when he was 10. He quit school to join the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “alphabet soup” agencies meant to ease the devastating effects of the Depression.

Erwin joined the Army Reserve in July 1942 and was called to active duty as an aviation cadet in the Army Air Forces in February 1943, training as a pilot in Ocala, Florida. He didn’t make it through flight school and later was trained as a radio operator and radio mechanic.

He was assigned to the 52nd Bombardment Squadron, 29th Bombardment Group, 20th Air Force, which left for the Pacific in early 1945.

From Feb. 25 to April 1 of that year, his unit participated in 10 missions against Japanese cities. On April 12, his B-29, called the “City of Los Angeles,” was the lead bomber in a formation on a low-level mission to attack a chemical plant at Koriyama, 120 miles north of Tokyo.

The following account of the mission is based on Air Force historical records, which included interviews with other crew members, Erwin’s medal citation and the interview with his grandson Jon.

Erwin’s job dropping the white phosphorus charge down the chute on the signal of Capt. George Simeral, the B-29’s flight commander, was crucial to the success of the mission. The bombers flew individually to Japan and would await the phosphorus signal to form up on Simeral’s aircraft.

Over the Japanese volcanic island of Aogashima, Simeral barked the order to Erwin, “Now.”

Erwin pulled the pin on the charge, which contained 20 pounds of white phosphorus, and dropped it down the chute.

There was supposed to be an eight-second delay on the charge, giving it ample time to clear the aircraft, but it either went off prematurely or caught in the chute. Erwin was kneeling over the chute when the charge shot back up and hit him in the face.

Erwin said later that he immediately sensed something was wrong as he lit the charge. “I knew that sucker was coming back. I was completely aflame.”

Thick white smoke spread through the aircraft. The charge, burning at 1,300 degrees Celsius, was eating its way through the metal bulkhead.

The navigator’s table blocked Erwin’s path to a window. He clutched the white-hot charge between his right arm and his chest — “he cradled it like a football,” other crew members said — and reached out with his left hand to unlock the table.

Erwin “stumbled into the cockpit, threw the bomb out the window, and collapsed between the pilots’ seats,” an Air Force report said.

“After Red threw that bomb out the co-pilot’s window, the smoke cleared out, and I could see the instruments. And, at that point, we were at 300 feet,” Simeral said. “If he hadn’t gotten it out of there, well then, why we probably would have gone on in.”

Simeral aborted the mission and headed back to Iwo Jima, the closest place where Erwin could be treated. The crew used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames on Erwin’s clothes, but the white phosphorus embedded in him continued to smolder.

Erwin was in agony but never lost consciousness. He kept asking, “Is everybody else all right?”

On Guam on May 7, LeMay asked Erwin what else could be done for him. He asked for his brother Howard, who was on Saipan with the 7th Marine Division.

Screen idol Tyrone Power, star of swashbuckler hits and a Marine Corps cargo pilot in the Pacific during World War II, flew Howard to visit him in the hospital on Guam.

“And so my brother was there the next morning,” Erwin said. “He stayed with me for 24 hours. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there and that was a great comfort.”

Erwin received a disability discharge from the Army in October 1947 as a master sergeant.

In a 1986 oral history for the Air Force, he said, “I love the military. Even though I was severely burned, if they had retained me, I would have stayed in.”

Reflecting on World War II, Erwin said, “We had the leaders, we had the logistics, and we had the brave men at the right place at the right time.”

In the business of movie-making, Jon Erwin said that he and his brother try to tell stories that “have the power to uplift and inspire people,” adding that their grandfather’s story is the best example.

“The lessons of Red Erwin inspire us with the ideals of endurance and perseverance,” which can mean the difference between success and failure, he said. “And I’ve found that the people who are successful are the people who can go above and beyond. I learned that from my grandfather.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Kill and Survive: A stealth pilot’s guide to excellence

U.S. Air Force pilot Bill Crawford is a stealth pilot, someone who has risen to the very top of an extremely challenging field. But to hear him tell it, it can all be chalked up to a very simple secret, a secret that will sound familiar to anyone who has served in the military.


Kill and Survive: A Stealth Pilot’s Secrets of Success | Bill Crawford | TEDxRexburg

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His trick is becoming the best in the world, studying and refining himself and his processes until he’s above whatever cutoff he needs to clear. And that includes the time in college when he learned that the Air Force was cutting fighter pilot training slots from about 1,000 a year to 100 per year. In order to make sure he cleared the cutoff, Crawford became the best.

Not the 100th best, not the 10th. He received a scholarship that year for being the single best.

And he wants everyone to have the chance to be the best in the world at whatever it is they do.

In his TEDx talk, Crawford talks about bombing Baghdad, conducting inflight refuelings, and, most importantly, conducting the post-mission debrief. The after-action review.

And, yeah, that’s a big part of Crawford’s secret. As anyone in the military can tell you, all the branches have some sort of process for reviewing mission performance and success (two different things) from any operation. Crawford’s version from his Air Force career is asking five questions:

  1. What happened?
  2. What went right?
  3. What went wrong?
  4. Why?
  5. Lessons learned?

The Army had a slightly different version. What was supposed to happen? What did happen? Why? What should we, as a team, sustain about that performance? What should we change? But all the branches have some version of this process.

And this self-review is key to understanding modern military success. If you look at old articles from the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, plenty of hand-wringing in the West was about the pain, death, and destruction Russia inflicted, but many military leaders worried about Russia’s review process after the invasion.

That’s because the most successful organizations and individuals define their processes and actively assess whether or not they are doing it the best way they can. Russia hadn’t historically reviewed their successes all that deeply. But they decisively won the war on the ground in Georgia in five days, then they reviewed their success for how to do better.

And that meant that they wanted to improve their processes. Crawford wants everyone to learn to do that process in their own life just like the American military has for decades, and Russia now does as well. And the process is simple.

But it’s also hard to do. Crawford and his team had to do their debrief from bombing Baghdad right after they landed. So, right after completing 40-hours of flying and bombing, they had to go sit in a room and discuss their process, their success, and what they could do better.

But if you can make yourself do all that, you’re more likely to get better. And if you keep getting better, you’ll be the best.

Articles

The 11 best air forces in the world

What makes an air force good? Is it combat capability? Is it their track record? Much of that can stir up debates and cause one heck of a…disagreement among patrons at any watering hole or establishment.


Then again…life gets boring without such things.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
F-35C Lightning IIs, attached to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, and an F/A-18E/F Super Hornets attached to the Naval Aviation Warfighter Development Center (NAWDC) fly over Naval Air Station Fallon’s (NASF) Range Training Complex. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell)

So, here’s a look at the eleven best air forces in the world:

11. Russian Air Force

The Russians have been working on some new planes, but most of their very large force is old. Still, quantity can have a quality all on its own.

Russia also has long-range bombers and some tankers and airborne early warning planes. It’s just they are old, and maintenance levels have fallen off since the Cold War ended.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
Russian Su-30 fighter (Wikimedia photo)

10. Republic of Korea Air Force

South Korea’s air force has come a long way in the same timeframe as China. F-5s and F-4s have been replaced by F-16s, and they developed the T-50 Golden Eagle, which is a very capable advanced trainer — so much so it has also been turned into a multi-role fighter as well.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
A ROKAF T-50 at the Singapore Air Show. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

9. People’s Liberation Army Air Force (includes People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force)

Twenty years ago, the bulk of China’s planes were copies of the MiG-21 Fishbed. Today, many of the planes are from the “Flanker family,” including home-grown versions like the J-11, J-11B, J-15, and J-16.

China also has the indigenous J-10 and JH-7, while also flying two fifth-generation designs.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
Photo: Xinhuanet

8. Indian Air Force (including Indian Navy)

This country has won a few wars, and also has developed some of their own planes in the past and present. The only reason they are behind the Saudis is their reliance on Russian airframes, while the Saudis and Japanese have F-15s.

Having the second-best carrier aviation arm doesn’t hurt.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
An Indian MiG-29K purchased from Russia. (Photo: Indian Navy CC BY 2.5 IN)

7. Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (including Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force)

Japan could rank higher, but they have limited themselves due to Article 9 of their post-World War II constitution.

While they are stretching the boundaries, the lack of real ground-attack capabilities is very telling. But they have very good air-to-air, anti-surface ship, and anti-submarine capabilities.

With four “helicopter destroyers” that are really small carriers, Japan could vault up very quickly.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
A Mitsubishi F-2A taxis during a 2009 exercise. Note the dumb bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

6. Royal Saudi Air Force

In 1990, the Royal Saudi Air Force had nice gear, but there was an open question of how well they could use them. Today, they’ve been upgrading the gear, and they have combat experience. This 1-2 combination is enough to vault them into the top air forces.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S in its hangar. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

5. United States Marine Corps

The Marines really do close-air support well. Not that they haven’t had aces in their history, but the last air-to-air kill a Marine scored was during the Vietnam War.

Then there are the issues with their F/A-18s, and the need to pull airframes from the boneyard.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
Capt. Jonathan Lewenthal and Capt. Eric Scheibe, AV-8B Harrier pilots with Marine Attack Squadron 231, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), fly over southern Helmand province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gregory Moore)

4. Royal Air Force (including the Fleet Air Arm)

This is a very capable, albeit small, force. The problem is “the Few” are becoming “fewer” — and there have been some uncomfortable gaps, including the early retirement of their Harrier force, which was a poor way to repay the airframe that won the Falklands War.

The fact that the Royal Navy’s new carrier will have to deploy with United States Marines says a lot.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
A Royal Air Force Typhoon in 2012. (Peter Gronemann/Flickr photo)

3. Israeli Defense Force 

The Israelis have had a good air force — much of it based on need. Yes, the airframes are American designs, but the Israelis have installed their own electronics on the F-15I and F-16I planes that are now the backbone of their military.

Plus, their pilots are very, very good.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

1. United States Air Force and United States Navy (tie)

The Air Force and Navy have long been rivals – always trying to one-up each other. But in this case, the two are in a virtual tie. While the United States Air Force has strategic bombers the Navy doesn’t, the Navy, by virtue of its carrier fleet, is much more responsive.

The two services are complimentary and each are very good at what they do.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
An F-15E Strike eagle conducts a mission over Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2008. The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

Articles

The latest Medal of Honor is the 11th to come from Afghanistan’s ‘Wild East’

“It’s a kinetic place,” Army Capt. Florent Groberg said Wednesday of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where his instinctive tackling of a suicide bomber in 2012 earned him the Medal of Honor.


WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
Photo: US Army

Of the 13 Medals of Honor awarded during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 11 have come from actions in either Kunar or neighboring Nuristan province, collectively dubbed the “Wild East” by the troops.

Seven were awarded for combat in Kunar, and four came in Nuristan. The other two were awarded to Marine Lance Corp. William Kyle Carpenter for his actions in southwestern Helmand province and Army Staff Sgt. Leroy A. Petry for combat in southeastern Paktia province.

“It’s just kinetic, they fight as we fight” along the rugged ridges and slot canyons of Kunar, Groberg said. “Kunar’s a tough place, if not the most kinetic place in the world,” he said. “There’s no specific explanation for it. It’s kinetic.”

Before President Obama began the troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the combat mission was ended, successive U.S. and NATO commanders had wavered over the years on whether to maintain combat outposts that came under constant attack from a hostile population in Kunar and Nuristan, or simply to abandon the area.

On Thursday, the 32-year-old Groberg, who grew up in a Paris suburb and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, will become the 10th living American to receive the nation’s highest award for valor since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks when President Obama makes the formal presentation at a White House ceremony.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
Photo: US Army courtesy photo

At a roundtable session with reporters Wednesday, Groberg was joined by three members of his unit who witnessed his sprint to get at the suicide bomber near a bridge in the Kunar village of Assadabad on Aug. 8, 2012 — Staff Sgt. Brian Brink, the platoon Sergeant; Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, the communications specialist; and Spc. Daniel Balderrama, the medic.

All said they felt uneasy as they approached on foot along a paved road to a bridge as the personal security detail for then-Col. James Mingus, now a brigadier general assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado. Mingus was headed to a meeting with an Afghan provincial governor.

“That day, it just felt a little different when we got on the ground,” Groberg said. Brink echoed him: “Everything felt a little different that day. It was a gut feeling. We all felt it. Nobody had to say it. Things just didn’t set right with us.”

In the rear, they heard a car revving its engine. Brink radioed back — “Get him off us, get him off us.” They later concluded that the revving engine was the signal for two men on motorcycles to approach from the front. Brink and others raised their weapons. The men dismounted and backed off.

The road narrowed near the bridge. To the right was a stone wall, to the left a drainage culvert.

Two other men appeared, walking backwards in parallel to the unit. Brink said the man closest to the unit had a bulge on his hip, with his right hand resting on the bulge. Brink raised his weapon again and just as he readied to pull the trigger, Groberg ran at the man, followed by Mahoney.

“You face a threat, you go towards the threat,” Groberg said. For an instant, the man made eye contact. “He had a blank stare,” Groberg said. “He did a 180 and cut directly toward the patrol. I hit him, then we grabbed him and threw him to the ground. He detonated at our feet.”

The second man also set off his explosive device but the force of the blast mainly went into the stone wall.

Groberg was knocked unconscious. About half of his left calf had been torn away. He also suffered a blown eardrum and a mild traumatic brain injury.

Balderrama, the medic, had also been knocked unconscious and suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs. The force of the blast had thrown him into the culvert.

“The first thing when I woke up in that ditch, I was so thankful. He (Groberg) was calling for me, yelling ‘Doc, Doc save my leg.’ I remember seeing his boots covered in blood, his legs covered in blood,” Balderrama said.

Balderrama tried to stand to get to his captain. He couldn’t. “I recall trying to stand up and falling down. I couldn’t put weight on my legs. I kind of shimmied over, I think on my knees or something,” he said.

Balderrama managed to get a tourniquet on Groberg’s leg. “I just wanted to get him to the next level of care,” he said.

The suicide bomber had taken a heavy toll. In addition to the wounded, four had been killed — Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, 46; Army Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35; Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38; and Ragaei Abdelfattah, 43, a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Thinking back on it, Brink said the enemy had planned well for that day. “As we approached the bridge, we were attacked just short of the bridge. It was an absolute choke point. There’s no doubt in my mind, looking back in my mind, that it was well planned, coordinated.  They knew we would have to constrict our formation into a smaller group and they took advantage.”

Groberg never stops thinking back on it. “We all fought those demons of ‘why me.’ Why not me? And in the end, you know, it’s combat,” he said. “All we can do now is honor those guys and their families. And make sure that we are better people, that we live our lives for them. And every day when we wake up, we remember. And when it gets tough, we remember.”

“They made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said of the four who were killed. “We’re here to tell you this. I’m so blessed and honored for the medal, but it doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to them.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

Why the Browns are the most exciting team in the NFL

On Sunday, we all sat in a bar, transfixed, as fans of other teams. There wasn’t a single Cleveland Browns jersey in sight, but the whole bar was whisper-quiet as we watched the Cleveland Browns kicker line up for a (almost literally) last-second field goal against the once-Cleveland based Baltimore Ravens. The kick wasn’t pretty, but it was good.


WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
A Columbus Day miracle.
(Cleveland Browns)

The entire room (and other sports bars in the area) erupted with thunderous cheer. The Cleveland Browns fought their AFC North rival for sixty minutes of game time and won only their second game of the 2018 season. For a brief moment, the Packers fans who watched the Lions stymie Aaron Rogers all day, Broncos fans who watched their team struggle for the second time in the same week, and even deflated Falcons fans had a reason to cheer. The NFL’s perennial underdogs managed to avoid another loss and everyone outside of Baltimore loved them for it.

And Jimmy Haslam hasn’t even paid me to say that.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie

And probably Eli Manning, too.

The ‘Factory of Sadness’ is closed

Much like the rest of the history of manufacturing in the Great Lakes area of the United States, this factory has closed and moved away from the area. Instead of Mexico, that factory has moved its production to the Meadowlands. Sorry, New Yorkers. But hey, at least you have the Yankees forever.

While two wins may not excite anyone from other franchises (the Lions are so 2008), for Cleveland fans and the team’s admirers, many of whom came from watching the 2018 season of HBO’s Hard Knocks, another notch in the W column means more than just a win over the team who stole the Cleveland franchise from a loyal city and fanbase — it means making the most of a bad situation.

The Browns’ constant struggle stretches way beyond the last few years. Frustrated Browns fans have been consistently disappointed in their hometown team for almost two decades after the Browns were reborn as an expansion team in 1999 – with the exception of a Wild Card Playoff appearance in 2002. The team’s lackluster gameplay in all but two seasons in that span made for a lot of very disgruntled fans.

But the days of shouting at an empty stadium are over. After the winless 2017 season — and actually going 1-31 over two seasons — fans of the Browns began to embrace their ever-present struggle. Instead of constantly berating the seemingly-hapless leadership who drafted QB after QB, always making way for the next flash-in-the-pan, fans began to hope for the best, even if “the best” meant a single win here and there.

They were going to laugh along — but let the Browns know they were fed up.

After the end of the 2017 season, fans held a Perfect Season Parade, attended by thousands and marked with a pickup truck sponsored by a Funeral Home, complete with a casket on the back and headstones of every Browns quarterback since 1999. The parade drove around FirstEnergy Stadium, a message to owner Jimmy Haslam.

Browns Fan Chris McNeil organized the parade. And the city of Cleveland was happy to oblige him.

Even if Haslam didn’t get the message, the rest of the country sure did. At the start of the 2018 season, Bud Light set up “Victory Fridges” around Cleveland, connected to Wifi, set to open via electromagnets when Cleveland won their first game since Week 16, 2016. Each fridge contained 200 cans of Bud Light that would be free to any Browns fan. Their Week 1 tie against the Steelers wasn’t enough.

The fridges opened after the Browns’ 21-17 upset win (at home!) against the New York Jets, complete with by a touchdown catch from Browns QB Baker Mayfield and a — probably the only interesting Thursday Night Football (TNF is boring and I’m not alone in thinking so) game we’ll see all year long. And while Carlos Hyde’s touchdown run was critical to the Browns’ win, I watched in amazement as a bar in Los Angeles erupted in cheers for Joe Schoebert’s game-winning interception.

And I wasn’t even at a sports bar. The Victory Fridges opened, the spell was broken, and the Browns suddenly became “America’s Team.” Sorry, Jerry Jones.

Cleveland Browns fans’ newest trend is the “Rally Possum,” referring to an actual possum roaming around FirstEnergy Stadium, caught by a Browns fan during their win against the Jets. A possum was sighted again before the Browns played the Ravens in Cleveland.

Get your Rally Possum T-shirts here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force couple fosters adorable animals in Arizona

Whether they are kept for a few weeks or a lifetime, animals in shelters and foster homes around the nation rely on dedicated and caring individuals that can help them find a forever home.

To ensure these animals receive the support they need, Air Force Capt. Daniel Hale, the officer in charge of plans and scheduling for the 563rd Operations Support Squadron here, and his veterinarian wife, Dr. Kristen Hale, decided to take on the responsibilities that comes with fostering rescue animals.

The Hales began their animal rescue efforts with their dog Squish.


“When I worked emergency, Squish came in at four weeks old after sustaining injuries from being trapped under a couch,” Dr. Hale said. “We decided to take him in as a foster and he’s been with us ever since.”

After adopting Squish into their family, the Hales continued to foster companion animals. In the past three years, the couple has fostered more than 20 sheltered pets.

Medical care

Unfortunately, not all fostered pets in the care of the Hales are immediately adopted by families due to the medical condition of the animals.

“A lot of the pets we take in [have] specific medical needs,” Dr. Hale said. “Without a foster family to give them the individual attention they need, many of the animals would have never found homes because they would have been put down.”

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie

Benny, a dog being fostered by the Hale family, rests on a couch in Vail, Ariz., May 6, 2017. Benny was fostered by the Hale family for three months before he was fully healed and adopted.

Thanks to the help of local rescue shelters, foster families don’t have to worry about paying for the medical expenses of the animals while the rescue pet is in the family’s care.

Because of the nature of some of these medical conditions, the time it takes to nurse the animals to full health can vary.

“We’ve had animals anywhere from three days to six weeks,” Capt. Hale said. “After we’ve made sure they are ready to be adopted, we get them as much exposure as we can through local rescue shelters to increase their chances of finding a family.”

Homeward bound

Because of the efforts of families like the Hales, shelter adoption rates have steadily climbed over the years, leading to fewer overcrowded facilities.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, adoption rates have risen roughly 18 percent from 2011 to 2017, and shelter animal euthanasia rates have decreased approximately 42 percent.

“If you can’t keep an animal around for long or are not ready to make the commitment to permanently care for a pet, you can still make a difference by providing them with a foster home,” Dr. Hale said.

To find out more information on fostering and adopting companion animals, visit your local animal shelters.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

What You’ll Miss When You Get Out

military_transition


Military service ends for everyone at some point.  Regardless of how rewarding and enjoyable it has been, regardless of rank attained or awards earned, eventually it’s time to start the next chapter of a working life – a time to transition to a civilian career.

Also Read: This Project Is A Real And Raw Look At How Military Service Affected Veterans 

For me the time came at the 20-year mark.  I spent the majority of my time in uniform stationed at an air base in Virginia Beach attached to various F-14 squadrons.  When I received orders to teach at the Naval Academy in Annapolis I knew my flying days were most likely over, so I started considering what life on the outside might look like for me once I became retirement eligible.

Nothing really jumped out at me.  Because I’d been a Naval Flight Officer – a backseater – and not a pilot, the airlines weren’t an option (not to mention the airline industry has had a major employment downturn in the last decade or so).  I had a bachelor’s degree but it was in political science . . . pretty useless in terms of determining a viable civilian career field.

In spite of the fact that for decades I had assumed that there would be all kinds of jobs waiting to be blessed by my presence when I elected to get out, only when I actually started looking for one did I realize my options were limited.  And when I say “limited” I’m not necessarily speaking about limited in terms of income potential.  I’m talking about limited in terms of job satisfaction potential.

You see, like most of us who stay in the military past our initial obligations, I enjoyed what I was doing.  Of course there were bad days and the challenges of long periods of family separation, but I was living a life of consequence, working a job that Hollywood makes movies about.  I’d flown from aircraft carriers sailing in hostile waters and worked with incredible professionals.  We had carried out the important missions we’d been given.

So among my fears as I transitioned to my first civilian job – that of a civil servant working one of the aircraft programs at a systems command – was that my day-to-day efforts wouldn’t amount to anything important.

And they didn’t . . . at first.

As I traded my flight suit for khakis and a golf shirt I was thrust into a world of grey areas.  Sure, there were job titles and GS pay scales, but those didn’t replicate the structure I’d known during my time on active duty.  Who was I relative to my co-workers?  Absent rank on my collar or warfare devices and ribbons on my chest what did they know (or care) about my years of service?

Nothing, or so it seemed.  I was suddenly just the new guy.  I had no track record.  I’d never done anything that mattered.  Instead of flying fighters and leading troops I was now tasked with, among other minutiae, updating the program’s social roster.  I felt like I was stuck in that Bruce Springsteen song “Glory Days”:

“Glory days, they’ll pass you by; glory days, like the wink in a young girl’s eye . . .”

I had no flight schedule to comply with.  I had no detailer to call for my next set of orders.  I had no master chiefs to keep me out of trouble.  I had no uniforms to wear.  Nobody was going to be filming any movies about the action-packed life of a civil servant.

In spite of all my “prep” for the transition (including mandatory TAP, of course) I wasn’t prepared for the subjective part of the move – the “spiritual” side, if you will.  I was more lost (and depressed) than I ever thought I would be.  And the scary part is I wasn’t even fully in the private sector; I was working for the Department of Defense.

Fortunately by the end of the first year of my transition, I’d found my footing, job-wise.  I switched programs to one that actually needed what I had to offer in terms of talent, outlook, and enthusiasm.  In time I was a trusted member of a team again, one with a seat at the decision-making table, and the position was rewarding in its own way.  And that job ultimately gave me the confidence and experience to make the move to the private sector into a role that fully leverages my military career and creativity.

Change is hard; transitioning out of the military is harder.  Part of making it easier is thorough prep work research and networking-wise.  The rest is understanding that it won’t be easy and fighting the notion that the best years are behind you.  Sometimes you might need patience.  Sometimes you might need to go after it in a hurry.  But the same elements that made you an effective warfighter will ultimately serve you well during the civilian chapter of your working life.

NOW: The Mighty 25: Veterans Poised To Make A Difference In 2015 

OR: The Vice President Just Pulled A ‘Jody’ Move At The Defense Secretary’s Swearing-In 

Articles

17 images that show why going to the armory sucks

Checking out your weapon from the armory can be like standing in line at the DMV — it’s the worst game of hurry up and wait ever.


You were instructed to show up bright and early to check out your weapon, but the armorers never seemed to be there on time.

But once you received your rifle, life seemed to finally make sense now that you get to shoot something up. After an amazing day at the range, you now have the problem of cleaning the rifle so well the Marines working at the armory will take it back on your first pass.

If not you’ll stay and clean all evening long because the armors usually stand a 24-hour duty.

Related: 33 images that perfectly portray your first 96-hour liberty

So check out how your day typically went after you checked out your rifle from the armory.

1. When you’re told to be on time at the armory but the gate is locked.

Where are they? (Images via Giphy)

2. After 20 minutes of ringing the bell and a few Starbucks espresso shots — you finally gain entry.

Hulk wants in! (Images via Giphy)

3. When the armorer’s window finally opens for the first time after waiting what felt like an eternity.

That’s freakin’ bright. (Images via Giphy)

4. The look you give when the armorer when he asks you for the weapon’s serial number but all the caffeine you drank pulled all the blood out of your brain. Good thing you brought your weapons card with you.

Damn, I’m having a brain fart. (Images via Giphy)

5. Then when you get your beautiful and perfectly oiled rifle from the armor.

It feels like f*cking Christmas. (Images via Giphy)

6. How you felt running to the range to take your stress out on a few already destroyed armored vehicles.

Move! Out of my way! (Image via Giphy)

7. How you felt after putting hundreds of rounds accurately down range.

I’m the strongest man alive! (Images via Giphy)

8. After the adrenaline goes away, you realized it’s already 1700, you still need to clean out all the carbon that’s built up, and you have a date in a few hours.

Where did the time go? (Images via Giphy)

9. This is how fast you ran back to the armory.

Move! (Images via Giphy)

10. You scrubbed your weapon in record time.

That looks good enough. (Images via Giphy)

11. But the armorer used his dirty finger and rejected taking the rifle back into storage.

That’s not the finger we were talking about but okay. (Images via Giphy)

12. Then you yelled …

We feel you. (Images via Giphy)

13. You then began angrily scrubbing your rifle.

F*ck you carbon! (Images via Giphy)

14. Then you noticed the other platoons going home for the day and you’re still stuck here.

Farewell. (Images via Giphy)

15. After your arm gets tired, the perfect idea pops into your head.

I got it! (Images via Giphy)

16. When you walk up to the armorer’s window and you clearly put $10 inside the weapon’s ejection port.

We think she’s trying to drop a hint. (Images via Giphy)

17. It worked!

I’m free. (Image via Giphy)

Articles

1st Cav soldiers among 4 Americans killed in Afghanistan

The U.S. Defense Department on Monday identified the two soldiers killed last week by a suicide bomber at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan as from the 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas.


Army Sgt. John W. Perry, 30, of Stockton, California, and Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt, 20, of Tamaroa, Illinois, were killed Nov. 12 at the airfield north of the capital, Kabul. The soldiers were assigned to Headdquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, the statement said.

Also read: The US lost 6 elite Green Berets in a 72-hour span last week

Two American contractors also were killed in the blast and 16 other U.S. service members and a Polish service member were injured.

The attacker was a former Taliban militant who had joined the peace process in 2008 and had since taken a job at the base, Bagram District Governor Haji Abdul Shokor Qudosi told ABC News on Sunday.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
Airmen patrol the flightline perimeter at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, last June. | US Air Force photo by Justyn Freeman

About 14,000 Americans, including service members and contractors, are based at Bagram. The base was closed to Afghan workers immediately following the attack and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul also closed for business.

The attack occurred while U.S. service members at the base were preparing for a five-kilometer race as part of Veterans Day events.

A later statement from Fort Hood said that Perry joined the Army on Jan. 31, 2008, as a Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment (TMDE) maintenance support specialist. He had been assigned to 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade since Aug. 21, 2014.

Perry was on his second tour in Afghanistan. He deployed to Afghanistan when the U.S. involvement there was called Operation Enduring Freedom from August 2010 to July 2011. He deployed in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in September 2016.

Perry’s awards and decorations included the Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star, three Army Commendation Medals, one Army Achievement Medal, two Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, and Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars.

He also had received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, three Overseas Service Ribbons, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal, Combat Action Badge and Driver’s and Mechanic Badge.

Iubelt had been in the Army less than a year, the statement said. He entered the Army on Nov. 23, 2015, as a motor transport operator and had been assigned to 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade since May 6, 2016. He deployed to Afghanistan in September.

Iubelt’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and Combat Action Badge.

Perry and Iubelt were among about 500 1st Cavalry Division soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan in the late summer of this year in a regular rotation of troops to help train the Afghan military.

The deploying soldiers were part of the Fort Hood division’s headquarters and its sustainment brigade headquarters, Lt. Col. Sunset Belinsky, the 1st Cavalry Division’s division’s spokeswoman, said at the time. They deployed to Bagram Airfield to replace the 10th Mountain Division headquarters, which had served as the planning leader for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan since November of 2015.

The deployment in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel was expected to last about 12 months, Belinsky said. Operation Freedom’s Sentinel is the United States’ continuing mission to train and advise the Afghan National Security Forces in their fight against the Taliban and other insurgent networks.

Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson III, who took command of the 1st Cavalry Division last January, was leading the deployment, taking over duties as the U.S. deputy commanding general for support in Afghanistan.

The deaths of Perry and Iubelt were the second and third in combat for the 1st Cavalry Division in recent weeks. On Oct. 20, Sgt. Douglas J. Riney, 26, of Fairview, Illinois, died in Kabul of wounds received from what was suspected to be an “insider attack” by an individual wearing an Afghan army uniform. American contractor Michael G. Sauro, 40, of McAlester, Oklahoma, also was killed in the incident.

Riney and Sauro had been on a mission for the Afghan Defense Ministry when they drove up to the entry point at an Ammunition Supply Point on the outskirts of Kabul, Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO Resolute Support mission, said in a briefing to the Pentagon late last month.

“They had not started the inspection” when a man wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire, Cleveland said. The gunman was shot dead by Afghan security.

Cleveland said the U.S. could not confirm that the incident was an insider, or “green-on-blue,” attack since the Afghans had yet to identify the gunman.

Riney entered active-duty service in July 2012 as a petroleum supply specialist, the military said. He had been assigned to the Support Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, since December 2012.

Riney was on his second tour to Afghanistan. His awards and decorations included the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal.

Sauro was assigned to the Defense Ammunition Center, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, in Oklahoma, the Defense Department said. He traveled to Afghanistan in September for his third deployment and was scheduled to return to the U.S. in March.

A U.S. soldier and two other U.S. civilians employed by the Defense Ammunition Center were injured in the incident. The soldier was reported in stable condition at the time. Civilian Richard “Rick” Alford was in stable condition and civilian Rodney Henderson suffered minor injuries, the center said, adding that they will both return to the U.S., The Associated Press reported.

The attack came as the U.S. was proceeding with President Barack Obama’s plan to draw down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from the current number of about 9,500 to 8,400 by the end of this year.

The drawdown was taking place as the U.S. considers its troop and monetary support under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump for Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been at war for 15 years.

Afghanistan policy was not a main topic of debate between Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the campaign.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A major US ally in the Pacific wants to scrap an important military deal with the US, and that may give China an edge

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte followed through on numerous threats to end his country’s Visiting Forces Agreement with the US on Tuesday, notifying Washington of his intent to withdraw, triggering a 180-day countdown.


On Friday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said he thought the two sides could reach a political resolution, but recent history suggests the pact’s demise could be an opportunity for China in a strategically valuable region.

Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has repeatedly criticized the US and US officials. The US, which ruled the Philippines as a colony in the first half of the 20th century, remains close with the Philippines and is very popular there — as is Duterte, who had 87% approval in December.

But the Philippine president nevertheless decided to end the VFA, with his spokesman saying it was “time we rely on ourselves” and that the country “will strengthen our own defenses and not rely on any other country.”

While President Donald Trump said he didn’t “really mind,” the US Embassy in the Philippines said it would “carefully consider how best to move forward,” and Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it was “a move in the wrong direction.”

Asked on Friday about the decision, McCarthy touted US-Philippine ties.

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A Philippine marine looks through the sights on a US Marine Corps M777 towed 155 mm howitzer at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, during exercise KAMANDAG 3, October 12, 2019.

US Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert

Washington and Manila have “a long history” of working “very hard together” and of “very strong” military-to-military relations, McCarthy told an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. “We have about 175 days to work through this diplomatically. I think we can drive forward to an end state that will work out for all of us politically.”

The US and the Philippines are also bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, but ending the VFA would undercut those and the legal standing US forces have when in the Philippines.

The latter effect would endanger hundreds of military exercises and other military cooperation. US Special Forces troops have been stationed in the Philippines to help fight ISIS-linked militants, and the US military has trained there with other countries in the region. The Philippines has also hosted US troops deployed as part of Pacific Pathways, which is meant to allow US and forces in the region to build stronger partnerships and readiness.

Asked about the effect of the VFA withdrawal on US basing and training, McCarthy said Friday that “conversations are underway” particularly among the White House and State Department.

“The VFA, by changing that would change basically the freedoms that you have to do the training,” McCarthy said, “but this is a very close ally, and we would work through that, but it’s basically [changing] the protocols of how you would work together if it actually goes through.”

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US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jovanny Rios guides a Philippine marine in a combat life-saver drill during KAMANDAG 2, in the Naval Education Training Center, Zambales, Philippines, October 2, 2018.

US Marine Corps/Pfc. Christian Ayers

Day 181

There a number of reasons the VFA may ultimately survive. Philippine military and security forces value the relationship, under which they receive military assistance, training, education, and weapons.

Philippine officials have suggested a need to review the VFA “to address matters of sovereignty” but have stopped short of advocating withdrawal. Duterte’s foreign secretary also indicated on Tuesday that the announcement should be seen as a jumping-off point for such negotiations, saying “other reactions have been idiotic.”

But it’s not the first time the Philippines has pulled out of this kind of deal. In 1991, it did not renew a mutual basing agreement, leading to the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific, and the withdrawal of US forces.

Manila “quickly discovered that after it did that it was rendered largely defenseless with its limited military capabilities, and China actually started taking very bold actions in the South China Sea, including the occupation of the Mischief Reef,” Prashanth Parameswaran, a senior editor at The Diplomat, said on The Diplomat podcast.

“We’re now left in a situation where we’re not just hypothetically talking about what might happen,” Parameswaran added. “We actually have a historical record about what happens when the alliance goes through periods like this.”

Duterte has won concessions on other issues by pushing on Washington, Parameswaran said, calling a similar outcome this time the “optimistic scenario,” but in light of the impulsiveness of both Duterte and Trump, there remains “an element of risk.”

Agreements like the VFA take time to negotiate and ratify — after ending the basing agreement in 1991, the two countries weren’t able to establish the VFA until 1998 — and other countries in the region, like Australia and Japan, can’t replace US military assistance to the Philippines, leaving Manila weaker in the face of Chinese ambitions.

“That is the big, worrying scenario about Day 181,” Parameswaran said, “because the Philippine military, it’s building up in terms of its capabilities, but it’s still one of the weakest militaries in the Asia-Pacific, and that’s going to be laid bare on Day 181 if this doesn’t get sorted out.”

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

Military Life

6 tips to get you ready for your next tattoo

Service members and veterans of all ages love to document their military experiences and life milestones through tattoos. It’s a solid way to remember all the cool things you did while wearing the uniform.

For many, the art of the tattoo is the perfect balance between self-expression and reflection, but some people don’t have the greatest experience when they sit in the artist’s chair for one reason or another. We’ve got a few tips to make sure you’re a happy camper as you walk out of that next long ink session.


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Hold off on the alcohol

It’s no secret that veterans and active duty personnel like to enjoy alcoholic beverages from time to time. But it’s simply not a good idea to hit the bars prior to getting a tattoo — and not just because it’ll cloud your judgement. Alcohol is an anti-coagulant. If you’ve had too much, the tattoo artist is going to have to contend with you bleeding everywhere as they try to precisely settle ink into the skin.

So, consider getting a drink to celebrate your new tattoo — after it’s done.

Get a good night’s rest

Depending on the size and complexity, tattoos can take hours to complete. Not only that, but you may be sitting or laying in an uncomfortable position as the artist does their work. This can cause certain body parts to fatigue quickly, which is only made worse if you’re not well rested — both mentally and physically.

Get a solid night of sleep. Your tattoo artist will thank you afterward for not continually flopping around trying to get comfy.

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Eat some carbs

Like we said earlier, the tattoo process can take some time to complete and it puts a level of stress on your body. The person getting tattooed will lose some blood and, if it’s your first time, there’s a small chance you might pass out during the session.

The majority of tattoo artists recommend that you scarf down a good amount of carbohydrates to help give your body the energy it needs to withstand the tattooing process.

Take a shower

Most people find it aggravating to stand next to a smelly person while in line at the grocery store. Now, imagine how a tattoo artist feels when they have spend hours inking a stinky someone. Do yourself a favor and clean up before getting tatted up.

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Stay away from putting on lotions

Some people like to rub lotion onto their skin after a shower to help moisturize. Usually, that’s a great idea. Moist, well-kept skin is easiest to work with, but you should avoid applying that lotion on the day you’re scheduled for new ink. The slick surface may interfere with the tattoo machine.

Wear loose clothing

If you don’t want to remove your shirt or pants in order to expose the body part you want to get tattooed, then consider wearing baggy clothing. You don’t want anything to interfere with the tattoo process — and you also don’t want to have to hold your sleeve or pant leg for hours on end.

Articles

The M79 isn’t perfect, but we love it anyway

Every soldier wants maximum firepower.


Firepower is something that can make the difference between life and death in a battle. It’s even better if the firepower is readily portable, so a single soldier can deliver death and destruction anywhere needed.

That’s why soldiers love the M79 grenade launcher. First used in Vietnam, the weapon has a well-deserved reputation for putting the power of a mortar in the hands of the individual Joe.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
An M79 grenade launcher with the leaf-type site unfolded. (Photo courtesy of Airman Magazine)

It isn’t a perfect weapon. The 40-mm round the M79 fires sometimes has less-devastating results than a hand-lobbed grenade.

But it is a simple weapon to use.

First deployed in 1961, the M79 grenade launcher is a single-shot, break-open, shoulder-fired weapon. It is breech-loading and fires a 40 x 46-mm grenade that is easy to load and easy to fire.

“The M79 broke in the middle like a shotgun and loaded in the same way,” wrote Dean Muehlberg, a Special Forces operator who fought in Vietnam during 1979, in his book War Stories. “They were an awesome and deadly weapon.”

No wonder the M79 earned the nickname “The Thumper.”

The M79 uses a “high-low” propulsion launching system that reduces recoil and increases its effective range to up to 400 yards.

It also extends the “reach” of an infantryman. Designed to bridge the effectiveness between the maximum range of a hand grenade and the minimum range of a mortar, the M79 quickly proved its effectiveness during the Vietnam War.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
An M79 grenade launcher rests atop a Marine bunker beside an M249 squad automated weapon. (Department of Defense photo by Staff Sgt. Laird)

U.S. soldiers and Marines could usually shoot grenades best at targets from 150 yards to 300 yards away. Small infantry units benefited the most from the M79 because it increased the destruction they could inflict on enemy targets such as Viet Cong bunkers and redoubts.

The M79 was not only used throughout the Vietnam War but remains in the arsenal to this day.

During the early years of the Iraq War, there were Marine convoy units that carried the M79 to destroy IEDs at a comfortable distance. An explosive round from the grenade launcher often did the job of keeping a road clear more quickly and safely than calling in bomb disposal units.

U.S. special operators also reportedly keep the M79 on hand because it remains a simple and accurate means of destroying an entrenched adversary — even though the M203 rifle-mounted grenade launcher was first introduced into the arsenal in 1969.

The M79 also fired flechette rounds, known as Beehive Rounds because of the sound they made when traveling down range, that dispensed 45 small darts in a plastic casing that could shred flesh and bone when they hit the target point first. Unfortunately, many times the flechettes simply bounced off the target.

WWII hero’s incredible Medal of Honor story now to be a movie
A coast guardsman loads a non-lethal round into an M79. (U.S. Marine photo by Sergeant Brannen Parrish)

It can also fire buckshot, smoke, and tear gas rounds. In Vietnam, the M576 buckshot round replaced flechettes, producing far more lethal results.

The grenade launcher also has the capability of firing less-than-lethal rounds for crowd control and riot suppression. Used by police forces around the world, the M79 is often used to fire sponge rounds or rubber-coated crowd dispersal rounds to break up mobs and restore order.

Time tested, the M79 is proof that newer isn’t always better.

MIGHTY CULTURE

We fought for democracy. It’s time we demand our votes be counted.

I never voted.

I was wrong.


I remember the major calling me into his office as an 18-year-old private for a discussion. The discussion came around to the importance of voting and how it was my duty to vote. I liked to do things the hard way at the time, and I was honest about how I wouldn’t vote. That went over like a lead balloon with the major.

After some yelling and cursing on his part, I agreed to look into voting. It would not be the only time that I spoke bluntly about voting and paid the repercussions for it. As many young service members have found out, no matter how much you push the ground, it doesn’t move anywhere. I did get stronger and times like these reinforced my stubbornness.

I ignored politics on both the local and national level. I focused all of my energies on being the best soldier that I could. At least that is what I told myself. I didn’t feel it was right to pick my bosses, like POTUS, who sits atop the command chain. I never looked into the issues because I didn’t care what happened locally as I was going to be moving anyway, and I certainly didn’t care about what went on in Washington, DC. Plus, I had a high level of disdain for politicians; well, that one hasn’t changed much.

Hindsight is a great knowledge enhancer. As I look back, I was wrong for not exercising my constitutional right to vote.I ignored issues that I should have spent a little time researching, instead of watching a movie or having a few cold ones. I could have dug into the problems instead of sticking my head in the sand. Now having been retired for 18 months, I acknowledge how ignorant I was.

We put our lives on the line so that others can vote in countries around the world, and I failed to do my civic duty at home. I’m now passionate about ensuring service members vote and that their vote counts.

I’m proud to support Count Every Hero, an organization committed to ensuring that every service member’s ballot is counted before a winner is declared. Count Every Hero (CHO) is a cross-partisan, nonprofit organization chaired by General (Ret) Tony Zinni. CHO has two principles: 1: Every service member’s right to vote must be protected and their votes must be counted. 2: Military voters must have an opportunity to register, request an absentee ballot, and cast a vote regardless of their location in the world. To date, 16 retired four-star Flag Officers have joined the movement to ensure every hero’s vote is counted.

General Zinni said, “We count on our troops to fight for our freedom so we owe it to them to count their ballots. No candidate should be declared an election winner until all military ballots are counted.” I fully support his message. Who you vote for is a personal choice. This right is part of why I served for 20 years, defending our freedoms. I don’t care who you vote for, but your vote should and must be counted before determining the winners of our elections.

As for me, I will be like the Afghans and Iraqis I saw with ink on their fingers, so excited to have voted for the first time. I may not have ink on my fingers come Nov. 3, but I will have the same smile and sense of pride partaking in a critical function of our democracy.

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