National Wreaths Across America Day has become such a big tradition that it’s hard to believe it began from just one personal tribute.
How it Happened
The Worcester family of Harrington, Maine, owns their own tree farm. In 1992, they had a surplus of wreaths during the holiday season, so the family patriarch, Morrill — who had long felt indebted to our fallen veterans — got help from a Maine politician to have those spare wreaths placed beside graves in Arlington National Cemetery in areas that received fewer visitors each year.
Several volunteers stepped up to help, including veterans from American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and a truck company owner who transported the wreaths to Arlington, Virginia, where a small ceremony was held at the cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This remained a small yearly tradition for nearly 15 years until a photo taken at the 2005 ceremony went viral. Almost immediately, thousands of people wanted to know how to help or how they could begin a similar tradition in their states.
Christmas wreaths adorn headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., in December 2005.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)
By the next year — with the help of some civic organizations and volunteers, including in the trucking industry — there were 150 simultaneous ceremonies held across the country. By 2008, the movement to remember, honor and teach had grown so much that Congress had declared the third Saturday in September National Wreaths Across America Day.
By 2014, the now-nonprofit Wreaths Across America had reached its goal of placing a wreath at all 226,525 graves in the cemetery.
Navy personnel from the Navy International Programs Office, Washington, distribute wreaths to volunteers during the Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 15, 2012.
(Photo by Chief Master Sgt. Robert W. Valenca)
Wreaths Across America today
The event continues to grow. In 2018, the organization shipped a staggering 1.75 MILLION wreaths to 1,640 locations that held ceremonies across the U.S. A few dozen locations overseas also participated. According to the organization, this was the first year it was granted permission to place wreaths at Normandy to honor those who died during World War II’s D-Day invasion.
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Charles C. Orf salutes a headstone at Fort Richardson National Cemetery during the annual Wreaths Across America Day at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Dec. 16, 2017.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)
Veterans and Gold Star families are many of the roughly 2 million volunteers who prepared the wreaths, shipped them across the country, and put them on graves.
If there is one comic book character who embodies the military veteran spirit, it has got to be Marvel’s Frank Castle, also known as The Punisher. While there have been several movie and television adaptations, the one that most faithfully portrays the Frank Castle we know from the comic books is Netflix’s The Punisher, starring Jon Bernthal.
Bernthal’s Castle first made an appearance in the second season of Daredevil, and his graveyard monologue solidified his role in the hearts of fans. The first season of his solo series was everything fans of the comics could have hoped for. The next season, which is to be released on January 18, is also highly anticipated, but a dark cloud looms: This may be the finale.
Don’t despair; the pieces are lining up to make this the greatest thing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet.
Deadpool can jokingly play with the PG-13 rating by breaking the fourth wall. The Punisher on the other hand…
(20th Century Fox)
In October, Netflix cancelled Iron Fist. Not even a week later, Luke Cage was also cancelled. A month after Daredevil’s season three premiered, it, too, was given the short end of the stick. Put two and two together and you can reasonably expect The Punisher and Jessica Jones to eventually get the ax as well, but not before their upcoming seasons are released in 2019.
Both Iron Fist and Luke Cage ended on bizarre cliffhangers. You can tell the cancellations probably came as a shock to the show-runners. Daredevil, on the other hand, had enough of a heads up to carefully and properly wrap up the story threads of each character. The Punisher — which wrapped filming in mid-August — hopefully had the same kind of foresight.
The current rumor is that each character will appear in later Marvel properties after the contractual two-year “cooling-off” period is over. If they do come over, they’ll be utilized in the already-established, PG-13 Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that’s great; it’d be amazing to see Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin face off against Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. We could even see Mike Colter’s Luke Cage join the New Avengers alongside Wolverine and Dr. Strange.
But those future appearances will adhere to PG-13 restrictions. If you saw Once Upon a Deadpool, the edited-down, more family-friendly version of Deadpool 2made entirely to keep the Regenerating Degenerate just the way he is in his R-rated films while remaining compliant with Disney, then you know there are creative ways to make this work.
But trying to fit The Punisher, a man known more for his penchant for violence than a tendency to break the fourth wall, into a PG-13 rating may not work quite as well.
There is a silver lining here. The series is afforded something rarely seen in television series: closure. Season 2 can go all out because there’s no season 3 for which to save some energy. They’re not going to get renewed. They can wrap up characters or kill off important ones to better fit the narrative.
We may even get the story that’s always been teased in the comics: his ending. Punisher fans know Castle won’t settle down in some suburban home, but can he keep living the life of a vigilante? He never really managed to keep an ever-growing rogue’s gallery of villains because he kills them all — just to have another secure a place on his sh*tlist. What happens when this well dries up? What is a Punisher without anyone left to punish?
Details about the next season are sparse. Ben Barnes is reprising his role as Billy Russo, who completed his transformation into the villain Jigsaw in Season 1, and Josh Stewart is playing John Pilgrim, who may end up being the villain from the PunisherMAX comic series, Mennonite.
Since the burden of a serialized third season is lifted, the show-runner, Steve Lightfoot, said in an interview that his focus was to make the best season possible and to keep characters true to their comic-book counterparts. And as a huge comic book fan and a veteran, that’s all I’m asking for.
On June 22, 1977, Aleksandr Ogorodnik killed himself with a CIA-supplied suicide pill after the KGB arrested him based on information initially provided by a mole within the Agency. Just over three weeks later, CIA officer Martha (Marti) Peterson — unaware of Aleksandr’s death — was seized in a KGB ambush while servicing a dead drop in Moscow.
The streets of Moscow were one of the most important, and dangerous, battlefields of the Cold War. American intelligence officers like Marti worked with assets like Aleksandr in the shadows to collect Soviet secrets. The Soviets, in turn, closely watched all foreign nationals and their own citizens for signs of espionage.
Although the story of TRIGON ended tragically, the intelligence Aleksandr provided gave US policymakers valuable insights into Soviet foreign policy plans and intentions. It was insights like this which ultimately helped us win the Cold War.
Recruiting a spy:
Aleksandr Ogorodnik was a mid-level official in the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) posted in Latin America and had access to information about Soviet intentions for the region. He enjoyed his life in Latin America and disliked the Soviet system, which he found oppressive.
The CIA recruited Aleksandr in South America in 1973. Upon signing up to spy for the Agency, he was given the codename TRIGON.
TRIGON smuggled documents from the embassy and took them to a safe-house, where Agency officers photographed them. The material he provided gave unique insights into Soviet policies in Latin America, including plans to influence other governments.
Return to the motherland:
In anticipation of his recall to Moscow, CIA officers taught TRIGON operational trade-craft and techniques. He also received training in secret writing, the use of one-time pads, and dead drop techniques.
One of the first female CIA case officer to serve behind the Iron Curtain, Marti Peterson, went to Moscow to be TRIGON’s handler. At the time, the KGB discounted the ability of women to conduct intelligence operations, so Marti went unnoticed for almost 18 months.
TRIGON’s value rose significantly after he returned to Moscow in October 1974. He had agreed to continue spying for the Agency, but he asked that the US government resettle his then-pregnant girlfriend. Before leaving for the Soviet Union, TRIGON requested a suicide device in case he was caught. After high-level deliberations at Langley, his CIA handlers reluctantly gave him a fountain pen containing a cyanide capsule.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
A few months later, per his recontact instructions, TRIGON gave a “sign of life” signal in February 1975. As face-to-face meetings were too dangerous, impersonal operational encounters—using signal sites, radio messages, concealment devices, dead drops, and car drops—began in October and were scheduled monthly.
For nearly two years they worked together, Marti and TRIGON never met. They were only spies passing in the night.
Dead rats for dead drops:
Moscow was a challenging environment to operate within. Even finding one’s way around Moscow proved difficult because Soviet-produced maps of the city were deliberately inaccurate. The Agency had to get creative when communicating with assets, which regularly included the use of dead drops.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
Dead drops are a way for intelligence officers to leave or receive items at a secret location in order to exchange information with an asset without having to meet directly. Everyday items like fake bricks can be used for dead drops. Packed with messages or supplies, the bricks can be deposited at a set location, such as a construction site, for later pickup.
One of the more surprising concealment devices sometimes used by the CIA were dead rats. The body cavity was large enough to hold a wad of money or roll of film. Hot pepper sauce kept scavenging cats away after the “rat” was tossed from a car window at a prearranged drop site.
Marti used a purse to conceal supplies and equipment that she transferred to TRIGON via dead drop exchanges. Because of the KGB’s gender bias, the purse, like Marti herself, did not attract suspicion.
TRIGON soon secured a position in the Global Affairs Department of the MFA that gave him access to incoming and outgoing classified cables to Soviet embassies worldwide. He provided sensitive intelligence about Soviet foreign policy plans and objectives. His reporting went to the President and senior US policymakers.
Meanwhile, Karl Koecher, a naturalized US citizen, was working at CIA as a translator and contract employee. (Unbeknownst to CIA, he was also working concurrently for the Czech Intelligence Service.) He had incidental access to information about TRIGON’s first dealings with the Agency and told his intelligence service, which then notified the KGB.
When that occurred is not known, nor is the time when the KGB began investigating TRIGON. In early 1977, however, his case officers began noticing indications—principally a marked decline in the quality of the photographs—that he had been compromised and was under KGB control.
The Krasnoluzhskiy Most
TRIGON never showed up for a dead drop encounter on June 28, 1977, so another was arranged via radio message for two weeks later.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
On July 15, Marti went to the Krasnoluzhskiy Most — a railroad bridge near Lenin Central Stadium —to set up the dead drop. The bridge spanned the Moscow River with a pedestrian walkway running along the side of the tracks. A spot was prepicked where TRIGON would receive a “drop” from Marti, and leave a package to be retrieved later that same night.
As night fell over Moscow, Marti left a concealment device in a narrow window inside a stone tower on the Krasnoluzhskiy Most. It was a trap.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
A KGB surveillance team was waiting and seized Marti. They took her to Lyubianka Prison, where she was questioned for hours and photographed with some of the espionage paraphernalia Agency officers and TRIGON had used. She was declared persona non grata (an unwelcome person) and sent back to the US immediately.
The Agency later learned that Alexander Ogorodnik had killed himself a month before Marti had been apprehended. He told the KGB he would sign a confession but asked to use his own pen. Marti wrote in her memoir, The Widow Spy, that “Opening the pen as if to begin writing, he bit down on the barrel and expired instantly in front of his KGB interrogators. The KGB was so intent on his confession that they never suspected he had poison….TRIGON died his own way, a hero.”
Before World War II, the U.S. military wasn’t much to look at. Even as the Roosevelt Administration began to prepare for the war, switching on the “arsenal of democracy” and instituting a peacetime draft, it wasn’t enough to deter the Japanese from hitting the United States at Pearl Harbor. When the Americans were battle-tested at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia in 1943, they failed miserably.
China is facing a similar situation, with a large military slowly advancing in technology but lacking any real combat experience. But where will China face its Kasserine Pass?
Despite superior numbers and newer equipment, the Nazis handed the U.S. their butts, and combat experience made the difference. The Nazis had been fighting in North Africa for almost three years by then and the Americans hadn’t seen combat at all. The Americans were rigid and inflexible, while the Nazis already had time to work out all the kinks in their command and control.
At the time, it looked pretty bleak for us… but we all know Tunisia was just a warmup for what would come later.
Your destruction has a last name, it’s P-A-T-T-O-N.
The difference between Patton and the man he replaced was the same issue that troubled the Army as a whole. Where Patton’s predecessor made rank as a teacher and trainer and had no real combat experience, Patton had been leading troops in combat since 1916. For the Chinese, it’s been some 40 years since the Peoples Liberation Army fought a major combat operation – and that did not go well.
In 1979, China invaded neighboring Vietnam, a country that had just finished fighting its own civil war four years prior. So when the Vietnamese had to respond to Chinese aggression, they had almost 40 years of fighting under their collective belt by that time. Vietnam completely wiped the floor with the Chinese. China left Vietnam after just three weeks of fighting and has been largely inexperienced ever since.
A Chinese tank destroyed in Cao Bang, Vietnam in1979.
(Vietnam News Agency)
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army of today is very different from the one who invaded Vietnam. China now has its own homegrown fighter planes, ships, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, among other weapons systems, but while the tech has been tested, the Army itself has largely not been. Meanwhile, the United States has experienced nearly uninterrupted combat opportunities in some form since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and at least 18 years of constant warfare in Afghanistan. But that doesn’t mean training doesn’t have benefits.
Units who train in conditions as close to actual combat as possible fare better when it comes to real-world operations, but any training will help a unit gain experience in its battlefield roles. Once the United States maintained a regular standing army in the postwar world, it was better able to sustain battlefield losses and withdraw from a loss while inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. Research shows that a well-trained unit under experienced commander suffer far fewer casualties when the bullets start flying.
So while China would like the world to tremble at the idea of an advanced, well-trained army and navy exerting its influence and power at will, until the Chinese actually demonstrate the capability to use that training in a real-world combat situation, they’ll always just be trying to push around their smaller neighbors while trying to ignore their real geopolitical rival – the one who’s operating with airbases and seasoned combat troops on their doorstep.
The Taliban last week released a 70-minute propaganda video, titled “Caravan of Heroes #13,” in which they imitated US special forces, the Military Times first reported.
While much of the video shows how the Taliban conducts ambushes and assaults, the first 10 minutes of it shows militants replete with tactical garb and weapons, and employing their tactics.
The video is unusual, since most Taliban videos show their fighters wearing turbans and beards, the Military Times reported.
Screengrab from released Taliban video
“The Taliban want to show their supporters and potential recruits that they are a professional force capable of defeating the Afghan government and the coalition,” Bill Roggio, editor of FDD’s Long War Journal, told the Military Times.
“The Taliban has touted its “special forces” in the past, in previous videos, however this video definitely kicks it up a notch,” Roggio said.
You already know to wear a mask, social distance, and wash your hands often. But if you’re at high risk of getting severely sick with COVID-19, or if you’re very worried about your family’s health, you probably want something more. Isn’t there anything else you can do to boost coronavirus prevention in your family?
Yes, but, they’re not exactly accepted by science — or society. Some of them are backed by limited evidence; others are just bizarre; none are part of the blanket CDC recommendations (although Anthony Fauci has personally endorsed the first). You probably don’t need them for a trip to the grocery store, but if you want that extra sense of security or have to go into a high-risk environment, they can help. Here are extra ways to reduce your COVID-19 risk, even if you’ll look wild doing them.
Slapping a pair of goggles on your face can prevent you from getting infected by the coronavirus. The same way that the virus can get into your body via your mouth and nose, it also can from your eyes — one reason that you’re not supposed to touch your face without washing your hands. “If you have goggles or an eye shield, you should use it,” Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease specialist in the U.S., told ABC News. The same way masks offer some protection to your mouth and nose against droplets containing the virus, goggles do for your eyes.
If you don’t want to look like a mad scientist, glasses and sunglasses can protect your eyes, though droplets can get in from the sides, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. If you wear contacts, it may be best to switch to glasses during the pandemic, especially because people with contacts touch their eyes more often.
Experts recommend wearing eye protection in high-risk situations, such as when caring for someone with COVID-19 or traveling on a crowded airplane. But don’t put all your bets on goggles. A review study from June found that eye protection decreases coronavirus risk, but it also concluded that the evidence was weak. And the path to your respiratory system is less direct from the eyes than the nose and mouth, so it may be harder to get COVID-19 this way.
Sanitize Your Nose
Sanitizing your nose the way you sanitize your hands could reduce your risk of getting COVID-19. But don’t go shooting hand sanitizer up your nostrils. There are specific products made to help, such as the Nosin Nasal Sanitizer, which you swab on the inside of your nostrils for 12-hour protection and a “soft smell of citrus.” Think of it like washing your hands, but for your sniffer. Do it in private and no one even needs to know.
Though it sounds ridiculous, nose sanitizing actually works. The Sanitize Your Nose campaign is backed by a full board of qualified doctors and nurses. The nose is a “perfect warm, moist, hairy reservoir where harmful germs can grow and multiply,” Ron Singer, an orthopedic surgeon, and advisor to the campaign, told FOX Rochester. Nasal sanitizers kill those germs and offer daily protection against them, though they have not been tested against COVID-19 specifically
Wear Masks That Open When You Eat
Though staying home is your safest option, there are masks that allow you to eat on the go if you must. Some of these masks have a zipper you can unzip to pop food into your mouth, like this black number that would be equally at home in a bondage film. Others come with a hole you can stick a straw through for drinking and close when you’re done, like these floral masks. They look absurd, but in theory, they make it less likely you’ll get or transmit COVID-19 while chowing down. However, they aren’t tested. Many of the designs don’t have perfect coverage, so don’t treat them as your go-to mask. But if you need to eat or drink in public, they can offer extra protection.
Get Your Vitamin D
Sounds like bullshit, right? Take these vitamins and you’ll be COVID-free! But Vitamin D may reduce your risk of coronavirus infection or help you get better if you do get COVID-19, according to a new commentary in The Lancet. Though there isn’t any conclusive evidence in regard to COVID-19, past studies have shown that Vitamin D protects against other acute respiratory infections. It makes sense Vitamin D would help fight against the coronavirus too because it supports antiviral mechanisms in the body. If you want more Vitamin D, take a supplement or spend 5 to 10 minutes outside without sunscreen most days of the week.
The first female Marine to try to become an infantry officer has been reclassified to a different military occupational specialty after failing her second attempt at the grueling Infantry Officer’s Course, Military.com has learned.
The officer, who has not been publicly identified, began the 84-day course July 6 and was dropped July 18 after failing to complete two conditioning hikes, Capt. Joshua Pena said.
“IOC students may not fall out of more than one hike during a course,” Pena said.
In all, 34 of the 97 officers who began the course have been dropped. Nine, including the female officer, were recommended for MOS redesignation, meaning they will be placed in a non-infantry job within the Marine Corps.
The female officer first attempted the course in April, just months after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter declared all previously closed ground combat jobs open to women and ordered the services to design plans for integration. She was dropped on the 11th day of that attempt, after failing to complete a second hike.
Notably, the officer passed the notoriously challenging first day’s combat endurance test both times she attempted the course.
While 29 female officers had attempted the IOC on a test basis in a three-year period before the integration mandate was handed down, none would have had the chance to enter infantry jobs upon passing the course.
And because all but one of the female officers were volunteers attempting the course for personal improvement and Marine Corps research purposes, they were not guaranteed a second shot at the course the way male officers were. (The other female Marine was attempting to become a ground intelligence officer, a job that opened before other infantry jobs.)
For that reason, female officers now have their fairest shot at passing the course as the Corps looks to integrate previously male-only units.
But it remains to be seen how many women will attempt to enter these formerly closed positions.
Pena said there are now no female officers enrolled or slated to participate in future IOC classes. The current class will conclude Sept. 20.
In April, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the Marine Corps would not change its physical standards in an attempt to help its first female infantry officers enter the fleet.
“One of the questions I got at IOC was, ‘OK, five years from now, no woman had made it through IOC. What happens?’ ” Mabus said at Camp Pendleton on April 12. “My response was, ‘No woman made it through IOC. Standards aren’t going to change.’ “
The bottom line for the military is always cost-effectiveness (barring elite tier-1 units). As we’ve seen with the Modular Handgun System competition, acquisitions are driven by the lowest bid and not necessarily performance. The argument between Glock and Sig Sauer aside, the necessity of fiscal responsibility forced the Army to limit the effectiveness of their .30-06 ammunition prior to America’s entry into WWII.
The Spanish-American War showed the inferiority of the Krag to the Mauser (U.S. Army)
The Army adopted its first smokeless powder cartridge, the .30-40 Krag, to replace the black powder .45-70 in the early-1890s. After a review of the cartridge’s performance in the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Army ordnance corps made modifications to the round in an attempt to match the ballistics of the superior 7x57mm Mauser cartridge used by the Spanish during the war. Though the ordnance department succeeded in increasing the muzzle velocity of the .30-40, the new cartridge had a tendency to damage the rifles that shot it due to the increase in pressure.
In 1903, following the recommendations of the infantry Small Arms Board, the Army replaced the .30-40 with a higher velocity cartridge, the .30-03. Also called the .30-45 due to its 45 grain powder charge, the .30-03’s service was short-lived. The heavy 220 grain M1903 bullet required high pressures and temperatures to achieve its maximum effective velocity which caused severe bore erosion in rifle barrels. Additionally, the bullet’s weight and roundnose design still left it ballistically inferior to its European 7mm and 8mm counterparts. After just three years, the .30-03 was replaced by the venerable .30-06.
The M1 Garand was designed in .30 caliber due to the surplus of wartime ammo (Springfield Armory)
Equipped with a modern pointed spitzer bullet, the .30-06 was more effective at long range than the .30-03. However, the Army’s claim of a maximum range of 4,700 yards was disproved when the cartridge saw service in WWI. Machine gun barrages used as indirect fire with the .30-06 M1906 round proved to be 50% less effective than expected. In 1918, extensive testing showed that the M1906 cartridge actually had a maximum effective range of 3,300 to 3,400 yards. The Germans experienced a similar problem with their ammo which they solved by replacing the flat-based bullet with a boat-tail bullet. The result for the Germans was a round with a maximum range of approximately 5,140 yards.
In 1926, the U.S. Army ordnance corps applied the same solution to the .30-06. After extensive testing of the 7.5x55mm Swiss GP11 cartridge, the ordnance corps replaced the M1906 flat-based bullet with the M1 Ball’s boat-tail bullet. The new round had a higher ballistic coefficient, greater muzzle velocity, and a maximum range of approximately 5,500 yards. Despite the development of the .30-06 M1 Ball cartridge, the Army continued to field the M1906 cartridge.
Left to right: M1903, M1906, M1 Ball, M2 Ball, and M2AP .30 caliber bullets (Public Domain)
With over 2 billion rounds of wartime surplus ammunition, the Army needed to expend the old ammo before it introduced the new. Over the next decade, old stocks of M1906 rounds were shot in training as the supply of the new M1 Ball ammo was allowed to grow. However, by 1936, the Army realized that its new long-range rifle round had a serious problem—it was too effective.
Firing ranges are designed with an emphasis on safety. When Murphy’s Law rears its ugly head and Private Joe Schmo has a negligent discharge at an angle that lobs a bullet as far as it can possibly travel, that round needs to land within a designated impact area. As a result, military firing ranges of the day had all been designed with the ballistics of the .45-70, .30-40 Krag, and .30-06 M1906 rounds in mind. Due to its increased maximum range, the performance of the .30-06 M1 Ball was beyond the safety limitations of most ranges.
Infantrymen fire both the M1 Garand and M1903 Springfield (U.S. Army)
With war looming on the horizon and the cost of modifying ranges to accommodate the M1 Ball prohibitively expensive, an emergency order was issued to manufacture mass quantities of a new .30-06 round that more closely matched the ballistics of the expended M1906 cartridge as quickly as possible. Developed in 1938, the new M2 Ball cartridge was nearly identical to the M1906, though it had a slightly greater maximum range of 3,450 yards. While the M2 Ball became the standard cartridge for the U.S. military, the Marine Corps retained stocks of the superior M1 Ball ammo for use by their snipers and marksmen.
Despite its ballistic inferiority to the M1 Ball, the M2 Ball was still an extremely capable cartridge. It saw service through WWII, Korea, and even saw limited use in Vietnam before it was replaced by the 7.62x51mm and 5.56x45mm NATO rounds. Today, a high volume of military surplus firearms chambered in .30-06 and a dwindling supply of military surplus ammunition has led to many manufacturers producing commercial .30-06 M2 Ball ammo.
Outside of being the most important football game of the year, the Super Bowl gives us the chance to gather with friends and family and also makes for a good excuse why we’re still a little intoxicated the next day.
One of the most exciting parts for many of us, however, is the performing of the National Anthem. It’s a chance for all of us to get patriotic and be awed by some of the best voices in music (most of the time). Here are seven of the best National Anthem performances in the history of the Super Bowl.
7. Jordin Sparks — Super Bowl XLII
Fresh off of her American Idol win, Jordin Sparks showcased amazing pipes while keeping it simple and classy
This was a surprisingly great rendition of our country’s anthem. Save for some weird pronunciation (Lady Gaga is from Jersey but found an accent on the way up to the microphone, apparently), Gaga amazed the crowd.
One of only two performances in Super Bowl history by anyone directly enlisted, commissioned, or committed to service. This combined chorale demonstration showed what military focus and vocal talent add up to: perfect pitch!
Counting Captain Marvel, there are 21 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And, if you’re planning on binging every single movie (sans Captain Marvel) at home before Avengers: Endgame hits theaters, there’s no a chance to make a little cash on the side. CableTV.com is paying one fan to watch all 20 films back-to-back. (Sadly, Captain Marvel is not yet available on Blu-ray so it isn’t part of the promotion.)
Starting with Iron Man, and going all the way through Ant-Man and the Wasp, a solid binge of these 20 films can earn you $1000 bucks. (Which, if we’re being honest, actually seems low?)
Anyway, whoever takes on this challenge will not only receive id=”listicle-2632762462″,000 in cash, but also every MCU film on Blu-ray, and a bunch of Marvel stuff to make your binge-watching experience comfortable, including a Captain America popcorn popper, a Thanos Infinity Gauntlet mug, and an Iron Man snuggie.
CableTV.com is also throwing in a 0 GrubHub gift card, as you’ll definitely work up an appetite watching that much superhero badassery.
It’s a dream assignment for any Marvel superfan, but we crunched the numbers and we’re sorry to say that it’s not exactly a financially lucrative gig,
The total runtime of the 20 films is 42 hours, 52 minutes. Simple division tells us that, excluding the value of the other prizes, you’d make about .32 in cash per hour on this challenge. It won’t be enough to put you in Tony Stark’s tax bracket is what we’re saying.
Still, it’s a great way to spend almost two days, particularly if you don’t need much sleep and want to be especially well prepared for the release of Endgame on April 26, 2019.
If you’re interested in applying, there’s a pretty simple form to fill out on CableTV’s website. They’re looking for someone with a larger social media following and a strong argument as to their Marvel superfandom.
Applications are due on April 15, 2019.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
George Lafayette Mabry, Jr. was already a hero cited twice for bravery when, on Nov. 20, 1944, he led his troops out of a minefield using only a trench knife, killed three Germans and captured six, and then took the high ground on the enemy’s flank with his battalion.
Mabry was an Army major when his battalion was sent into the brutal Hurtgen Forest. Dense trees limited visibility and prevented American armor from getting close to many positions. German artillery and mortars were pre-targeted on avenues of approach the Americans were expected to take while trench lines, obstacles, and fortifications protected German infantry and artillerymen.
The commander of Mabry’s battalion, Lt. Col. Langdon A. Jackson, Jr., led his men against a German position in the forest for two days only to see the men cut down by overlapping fields of fire before they could make it through the minefields or pass the wire obstructions. Jackson eventually argued with the regimental commander against another attack until he was relieved of his command.
2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment needed someone to take the reins and Mabry stepped up. He asked the regimental commander for a day to reorganize his men and incorporate replacement soldiers. Then he led his battalion, still at only 60 percent strength, against the German positions.
The initial assault by Mabry and his men was stopped by a German machine gun nest that backed them into a minefield. Knowing his men were dead if they didn’t move, Mabry personally moved into the danger area and figured out that the mines were lying under depressions in the snow. Using his trench knife, he began removing the mines to open a route for the battalion.
He then led the scouts forward and came upon a concertina wire trap with explosives on it. The men cut the wire and disconnected the explosives before again moving forward. Mabry spotted three enemies in foxholes and took them prisoner using his bayonet.
2nd Battalion was still in dire straits, facing a series of three log bunkers on the with machine guns on the high ground. Mabry again moved to the front and began the assault ahead of his men.
He kicked open the first bunker and found it empty, but the second one was filled with nine Germans. Mabry killed one with the butt of his rifle before bayoneting another. His scouts finally caught up with him and helped him subdue the rest.
The group then charged the third bunker while under small arms fire. Mabry broke into the fortification and led six new prisoners out at bayonet point.
Mabry was promoted to lieutenant colonel a short time later and received a Medal of Honor for his actions in the forest. He went on to serve in the Korean and Vietnam wars as well as in the Panama Canal Zone. He retired as a major general in 1975 and died in 1990.
Meet ROTC Cadet Colonel Megan Steis. She belongs to the 430th at Ole Miss (@det430olemiss) as she is rolling down final during her senior year at the University of Mississippi.
Megan is one of 12 finalists of Navy Federal Credit Union’s ROTC All-American Award program, which honors exemplary ROTC cadets with a scholarship that is split between their student expenses and their detachment. From a pool of over 170 submissions, cadets have been judged by their Leadership, Military Excellence, Scholarship and Service. Just to be nominated, the candidate must be in the top 25 percent of his or her class academically, as well as ranked in the top 25 percent of ROTC. There is no shortage of excellence among these young ROTC men and women, but Megan has earned her way to the top.
Of the 12, three finalists are chosen to win additional scholarship money, but Megan said no matter the outcome there’s a camaraderie that’s grown between them. They even have a group chat. Megan says these connections across ROTC branches alone have been a reward in and of itself.
“Everybody is outstanding,” Cadet Colonel Steis said.
Nominated by her Detachment Commander without her knowledge, Megan has certainly earned her place among finalists by the work she put into the 430th. She looked at the detachment budget and realized it was in need of attention. What did she do? She began an integrated priority list, and then went on to organize a fundraising effort called “Steps for Vets.” Cadets got sponsors to donate a dollar amount per mile they ran, which promoted physical health on top of raising money. Megan ran over 30 miles. Some of the proceeds went to benefit the detachment, which bought them a T-6 flight simulator. “We are one of the first detachments in ROTC around the country to have a flight simulator.” She noticed there were a lot of people in ROTC at the University of Mississippi who want to be pilots. Her thoughts?
“Let’s go for it.”
And she did. She said the simulator has not only torn down walls between upper and lower classmen, but has been a great recruiting tool as well as help them train for their future careers.
This is especially important for Megan because it is her dream to become a pilot. She’s working toward her hours in the cockpit, but that doesn’t mean her work to continue building resources at her detachment is over.
“We don’t have a joystick. A joystick would be really useful.”
She said the portion of her scholarship for her detachment would not only go to a joystick for the simulator, but she also has plans to grow their alumni outreach program.
“We have amazing alumni at Ole Miss who have had outstanding military careers and we don’t even know who they are. Depending on how COVID turns out in the spring I’d love to have a crawfish boil. It’d be great to have some of that Ole Miss heritage and to have the alumni come back.”
And to anyone considering the ROTC Megan has this to say:
“You have a place here. Try it. I wanted to be a part of something greater than myself. Thankfully I tried it. If I didn’t ever try it I wouldn’t know how much potential I had as a leader. I got here and I realized these people are just like me. They’ve become family.”
Thank you to all the NFCU’s ROTC All-American Awards finalists for your relentless pursuit of excellence. Congratulations, Cadet Colonel Steis, for the scholarship and good luck beyond senior year. The Air Force will be lucky to have you.
1430 Hrs. Local, Sept. 6, 1976. Sea of Japan near Hakodate Airport, Hokkaido Prefecture.
Jet fuel burned faster than he calculated as he pressed lower under the overcast, down to the gray black waves only 150-feet above the Sea of Japan. He hauled the heavy control stick left, then corrected back right in a skidding bank around a fishing vessel that came out of the misty nowhere in the low afternoon cloud cover. White vapor spiraled long “S”s from his angular wingtips in the violent turn nearly touching the wave tops.
That was the second fishing boat he had to bank hard to miss at nearly wave-top level. Rain squalls started. The huge Tumansky R-15 jet engines gulped more gas by the minute. This plane was not made to fly low and subsonic. It was built to fly supersonic in the high altitude hunt for the now-extinct American B-70 Mach 3 super-bomber that was never put into service.
He had to find the Japanese Self-Defense Force F-4 Phantoms that were no doubt in the air to intercept him. If they didn’t shoot him down first, they would lead him to Chitose Air Base where he may be able to land safely. If his fuel held out. But the Japanese Phantoms were nowhere to be found.
So, he hauled the stick back into his lap and the big, boxy Foxbat clawed through the clouds in its last, angry climb before succumbing to a fuel-starved death.
Eventually, he found an airport. Hokodate Airport. A 6,000 foot runway. Not long enough for his MiG-25 though. He’d make it work. On final approach to Hokodate he nearly collided head-on with a 727 airliner. It was better than ditching where he’d lose his biggest bargaining chip. His top secret airplane. He managed a rough landing, running off the end of the runway, climbing out of jet, and firing his pistol in the air when curious Japanese began snapping photos of the incident from a roadway.
It was, as I recall, the biggest thing that had ever happened in my life. I was 15 years old then.
We raced to the hobby shop on our bicycles to consult with the older men who owned the store. What would this mean? Was it real? Would there be a model of the MiG-25 released soon? We poured over the grainy newspaper photos, the best we had ever seen, again and again. We could not believe it, but it was real. The most exotic, highest flying, fastest, most secretive fighter plane on earth had just fallen into American hands. We got our first look at the mysterious MiG-25 Foxbat.
Flight Lieutenant Viktor Ivanovich Belenko, an elite MiG-25P pilot of the Soviet Air Defense Forces, had defected with the most secret operational combat aircraft of the era.
U.S. analysts initially the believed the MiG-25 was a highly maneuverable air superiority fighter with sophisticated lightweight jet engines. The reality was the MiG-25 had massive, heavy engines and was made of mostly simple materials using vacuum tube technology
(The Koku Fan)
What happened in the aftermath of his defection 42 years ago influenced aircraft design, dispelled myths about the Soviet Union, angered one nation and offered relief to another while leaving a third in an awkward diplomatic bind. It was one more minor tear in the tapestry of the Iron Curtain as it slowly unraveled around the edges, like a loose thread that continues to pull out longer and longer.
“What did they think and [what do we] think now? Traitor! Military pilots consider it a huge disgrace for the Air Force of the USSR and Russia.” That is what the administrator of the most active social media fan page for the Russian Aerospace Forces told TheAviationist.com when we asked them what Russians think of Viktor Belenko today. While the Iron Curtain has come down, the hardened attitudes about Belenko betraying the state remain. The Russians still hate Viktor Belenko for stealing their most prized combat aircraft at the time.
In the U.S., “secret” units have been operating Russian MiGs and Sukhois quietly over the American west for years. But Belenko’s defection in 1976 with a Foxbat, the NATO codename for the MiG-25 (the Russians don’t call it that), was an intelligence coup that not only provided technical data and benchmark insights for decades to come, it also provided a core-sample of Communist life in the Soviet Union.
According to Belenko, things were bad in the Soviet Union. In the 1980 chronicle of Belenko’s defection, “MiG Pilot: The Final Escape of Lieutenant Belenko”, author John Baron wrote of rampant alcoholism within the ranks of the Soviet air force. Living facilities at bases in the eastern Soviet Union were poor since some of the bases the MiG-25 operated from had not yet been upgraded to accommodate the larger ground crews needed to maintain the aircraft. Food quality for enlisted maintenance crews was so bad the men refused to eat. While food for officer/pilots like Belenko was much better, when Belenko reached the United States after his defection he mistakenly ate a can of cat food and later remarked that, “It was delicious. Better than canned food in the Soviet Union today!”
But Belenko entered a netherworld when he defected from Russia. While U.S. President Gerald Ford granted Belenko asylum in the U.S. and the Central Intelligence Agency gave him a stipend and built a life for him as a pilot and consultant in the U.S., neither side could fully trust the turncoat. When Belenko arrived in Japan he was given the book by Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch”. Despite his oath of military service to the Soviet Union, Belenko feared and was repulsed by the deep social injustice of Communist Soviet Russia. He had seen people inside the Soviet Union suffering like Denisovitch from poverty, hunger, and oppression. Belenko wanted out. And so, he stole his Foxbat, flew it to Japan and never looked back.
In a footnote to Belenko’s defection with the MiG-25P Foxbat, I did get my scale model airplane kit shortly thereafter. The Japanese hobby brand Hasegawa had sent photographers to Hokodate Airport to photograph the MiG-25 before it was concealed, examined by the U.S. and Japan, and shipped back to the Soviet Union in pieces. Within months of the MiG-25 landing in Japan, Hasegawa released a 1/72nd scale plastic model kit of the MiG-25 complete with decals for Viktor Belenko’s aircraft. It sold for U.S.
Japanese hobby brand Hasegawa obtained photos of the MiG-25 at Hokodate Airport before it was covered and quickly produced an accurate 1/72nd scale plastic of the aircraft.
(The Squadron Shop)
Viktor Belenko continues to live in the United States according to most sources. He was photographed in a bar in 2000 where he was recognized, photographed and spoke openly to people about his experience defecting from the former Soviet Union. In 1995, he had returned to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and safely returned to the U.S. afterward. Belenko told an interviewer he had enjoyed going on fishing trips in the U.S. with test pilot and fighter ace General Chuck Yeager.
Viktor Belenko adapted well to life in the U.S., flying for the U.S. military and enjoying U.S. culture. He even got married in the United States.
There have been other famous defections by military pilots, including a shadowy attempted but apparently failed defection with a Soviet Tu-95 “Bear” heavy bomber. Author Tom Clancy rose to prominence on his breakout fictional novel “The Hunt for Red October” about a Russian captain defecting with a Soviet nuclear powered missile submarine. One of his fictional characters in the book even refers to the Belenko defection saying, “This isn’t some pilot defecting with a MiG!”. But fictional accounts aside, now that the Iron Curtain has long since come down it is unlikely we will ever see a defection from any country like Viktor Belenko’s.
Featured image: Photos of the then-secret MiG-25 Foxbat were taken from a nearby road before it could be covered.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.