Jake Larson, a World War II veteran, will be returning to Normandy, France June 2019 after 75 years. Jake is the last surviving member of a unit that stormed Omaha Beach. Many men died during World War II, and Jake often questioned why he had survived.
Jake, 96, told the New York Times, “I never thought I’d be alive 75 years later. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”
He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and had only returned to France in his mind. His humble salary at a printing business never afforded such a luxury.
However, with the help of two women and an online fund-raising campaign, Jake can now return to France for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.
“I can’t believe people would donate to me — they don’t even know me,” Jake stated.
Jake is planning to write a memoir and calls his trip to France the final chapter.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
If you happen to ever find yourself slated to have society as a whole decide it would be best if they killed you, the silver lining is that in many parts of the world where this is still a thing, the last meal you ever eat is likely to be significantly better than the ones you’ve been consuming up to that point in prison. So how did this rather odd meal tradition come about and is it actually true death row inmates can get anything they want to eat?
To begin with, while it’s commonly stated that the whole idea of the last meal request came about due to Christ’s famed last supper, there doesn’t seem to be any direct evidence of this.
So how did the tradition actually start?
While history is absolutely littered with various cultures having feasts associated with death, such as the public feast for Roman gladiators the night before their potential date with death, called the coena libera, it wouldn’t be until slightly more modern times where we start seeing those being executed widely granted such a courtesy en masse. Once this did start to become a thing, in the early going, while wealthy individuals slated for execution, as ever, could generally request whatever they wanted any time, and were even often allowed servants to attend them as they awaited their execution, common things granted to the poor before their execution seem to have been at best a swig of some alcohol or the like.
Things began to pick up steam considerably on this front around the 16th century, however. Or, at least, things appear to have. It is entirely possible that such courtesies were widely granted before this to even the poor, with documented evidence of it simply not surviving. On that note, things like the printing press’ invention in the 15th century began making documented history of rather mundane events like the executions of random Joe Citizens more, well, documented. Thus, it may or may not be coincidence that accounts of such courtesies started to pop up more and more around the 16th century and progressing from there.
Whatever the case, by the 18th century, particularly in places like England, such practices were definitely around and relatively common. For example, in London it was common to allow the condemned to enjoy a meal with various guests, generally including the executioner, on the eve of the execution. Further, there is record of Newgate Prison death row inmates being allowed to stop at a pub on their march to their death at the Tyburn Fair gallows. At the pub, they would typically share drinks with their guards and executioner.
Over in Germany, perhaps the best documented case of the food practice around this time was that of Susanna Margarethe Brandt of Frankfurt. On January 14, 1772, Brandt, a poor servant girl, was executed for allegedly killing her newborn child. Eight months before this murder, she’d become pregnant by a journeyman goldsmith who she never saw again after they had sex. She subsequently successfully hid her pregnancy all the way to the eighth month when she gave birth secretly and alone in a laundry room on August 1, 1771. Unfortunately, when the baby came out, whether because newborn babies are insanely slippery or she just failed to realize it was about to drop, it fell from her and smacked its head against the stone floor. The child then, according to her, wheezed momentarily and then ceased to breathe. Brandt subsequently panicked, hid the baby in a stable and fled the scene. However, having no money or means to support herself, the next day she returned to Frankfurt where she was eventually arrested for murdering the child. Whether she did or not, and even if it would have survived anyway given it was premature, is a matter of debate even today, but she was nonetheless convicted of the murder and sentenced to death.
Shortly before her execution, however, she was the guest of honor at what has been dubbed the “Hangman’s Meal”- a rather large feast prepared for the condemned and various officials who had condemned her. If you’re curious, the meal in this case supposedly was “three pounds of fried sausages, ten pounds of beef, six pounds of baked carp, twelve pounds of larded roast veal, soup, cabbage, bread, a sweet, and eight and a half measures of 1748 wine.” Of course, the young Susanna reportedly ate none of it, merely drinking a little water as the officials feasted around her. Not long after, her head was lopped off.
Moving over to the United States where the idea of the “last meal” is perhaps best known today, it would appear this tradition did not initially jump across the pond when Europeans began setting in the Americas. Or, at least, surviving accounts of executions don’t seem to mention such courtesies, with some exceptions usually having to do with drink or something to smoke. For example, in 1835, the New York Sun reported shortly before his execution, murderer Manuel Fernandez requested and was granted a bit of brandy and some cigars, courtesy of the warden at Bellevue prison.
As the 19th century progressed, this sort of thing became more and more reported, as did eventually the practice of granting last meal requests, which by the early 20th century became quite common.
This all leads us to why. Well, as far as more historic cases, such as the early known instances in Europe, it’s generally hypothesized that people did it as a way for officials and executioners to more or less say to the prisoners “We’re going to kill you, but it’s nothing personal.” In essence, offering a bit of kindness to the condemned before their death with the prisoners themselves seemingly appreciating the courtesy, at least when it came to the alcohol.
On that note, it’s widely reported from this that the practice was instituted as a way to ensure the ghosts of the executed would feel friendly towards their condemners and executioners and thus not come back and haunt them, but we couldn’t find any primary documentation backing such a notion.
Whether that’s true or not, moving on to more modern times, the underlying reason why prison officials started doing this is not any better documented and there doesn’t ever seem to have been any laws requiring it, for instance. It’s just something people did on their own and the idea spread, presumably thanks to the media’s then love of reporting everything about the last hours of those being executed, and the general public eating it up across the nation.
Whatever the case, law professor Sarah Gerwig-Moore, co-author of Cold (Comfort?) Food: The Significance of Last Meal Rituals in the United States, posits of all this,
Last meals may be an offering by the guards and prison administrators as a way of seeking forgiveness for the impending execution, signaling that ‘it’s nothing personal.’… There are standard operating procedures that put up a wall between guards and prisoners, but nevertheless, there is a fondness between them… The last meal as a tradition is really a way of showing humanity between the caregivers of people on death row who are completely powerless and who come to care about these people — they feel complicit, and conflicted. The last meal is a way to offer, in a very, very small way, a show of kindness and generosity.
On this point, she also notes from her research, “The most generous meals correlate to the states that execute the most people — except for Texas…”
Texas, of course, having executed about 1,300 people in the last two centuries and trending the opposite of everyone else- actually increasing the number of executions in recent decades. For reference here, they’ve conducted 562 executions (almost half their couple century total) since 1982- apparently doing their best to adhere to the supposed 13th century Papal decree at the Massacre at Béziers, “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.” This translates to, “Kill them. For the Lord knows those that are His own.” Or to put it in the form that is apparently Texas’ state motto- “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out.” (Joking asside, Texas’ state motto is actually the single word- “friendship”, owing to the fact that the name of the state derives from the Caddo word for “friends” or “allies”.)
On the note of Texas, last meals, and being friendly, in 2011 Senator John Whitmire very publicly pushed for an ultimately got the special meal requests for those about to be executed abolished, at least officially. He noted of this, “It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege… enough is enough… If you’re fixing to execute someone under the laws of the state because of the hideous crime that someone has committed, I’m not looking to comfort him… He didn’t give his victim any comfort or a choice of last meal.”
That said, proponents on the other side of that argument generally state that part of the point of offering such courtesies is to demonstrate that while the state is killing someone on behalf and with the express consent of the public as a whole, if it’s not done in a humane way, the public and the state are no better than the person being killed. As Professor Kathy Zambrana of the University of Florida sums up, “It comes down to how do you treat one human being when you’re about to take someone’s life.”
History professor Daniel LaChance of Emory University further chimes in, “These last meals — and last words — show the state is democratic and respects individuality even as it’s holding people accountable. As horrible as the deed they’ve been convicted of [is], the person still has some kind of dignity that we’re acknowledging.”
As to what drew the ire of Senator Whitmire to come against the then almost century old Texas tradition of the last meal, it was the meal request of death row inmate Lawrence Russel Brewer, who was sentenced to death for taking part in the rather horrific and senseless racially motivated murder of James Byrd Jr in 1998. So what did Brewer ask for? A couple chicken fried steaks, a triple decker bacon cheeseburger, a beef and cheese omelet, fried okra, a full pound of BBQ, a half loaf of bread, three fajitas, and a meat lover’s pizza. For dessert, he requested a container of Blue Bell ice cream and peanut-butter fudge. To wash it all down, he asked for three root beers.
When the time came, however, he ultimately ate nothing.
This all brings us to whether inmates can actually request and receive basically anything they want. While the media widely reports this is the case, including with this specific example of Brewer, this isn’t correct at all. In fact, in the vast majority of cases where inmates request something elaborate like this, what they actually get is just a simple, one-person version of it.
As famed “death row chef” Brian Price, who prepared well over 100 such meals, states, “The local newspaper would always say they got 24 tacos and 12 enchiladas, but they would actually get four tacos and two enchiladas… They only get items in the commissary kitchen. If they order lobster, they get a piece of frozen pollack. They quit serving steaks in 1994. If they order 100 tacos, they get two or three.”
That said other states and prisons sometimes do it differently. For example, in nearby Oklahoma, they allow the meal to be purchased from a local restaurant if desired, though capping it at … Other states that allow similar, such as Florida, are more generous, allowing for a budget of .
Of course, as you might have guessed from all we’ve said so far, those actually involved in making or acquiring the last meal may or may not pitch in if they so choose to go beyond. For example, in Cottonport, Louisiana, when one unnamed death row inmate requested lobster, the warden at the Angola prison, Burl Cain, went ahead and paid for a full lobster dinner, with Cain then dining with the inmate. You see, much like many historical instances of this sort of thing, before Cain’s recent retirement, he would always extend an invitation to the condemned to have their last meal with him and sometimes other select guests.
Of course, as with Susanna Brandt and Lawrence Brewer, it’s quite common for death row inmates to forgo eating their “last meal”, as the whole impending death thing generally leaves many without an appetite. To try to get around the problem, the so-called last meal is sometimes not actually the last meal at all, with it generally designated the “special meal” by prison officials. Even when it is literally the person’s last meal, it is usually scheduled far enough ahead that they might still be able to eat, but not so far away that they’ll have to go an extended time without eating before their execution. For example, in Virginia the rule is the meal must be served at least four hours before the execution. In Indiana, they go even further with the special meal often coming a few days before the big show, in a time when the person can actually enjoy it on some level.
For those who don’t have an appetite, they often share. For example, in places like Florida, in certain cases family or friends may be allowed to enjoy the meal with the condemned. Some inmates instead donate it to others. For example, in 1951, Raymond Fernandez, one of the “Lonely Hearts Killers” along with his lady love Martha Jule Beck, made a request that his meal be given to another inmate to enjoy.
On a similar note, in the early decades of this tradition in Texas, it was relatively common for the condemned to order and be given large portions of food for their special meal precisely so they could have enough to share with every other inmate on death row in the prison. This extra food request was usually honored by prison officials because it was seen not just as a mercy, but something that helped keep all those on death row in line directly before executions.
That said, not all inmates have trouble eating. Perhaps the most famous case of this was murderer Rickey Ray Rector. After committing two rather senseless murders, he attempted to kill himself by shooting himself in the head. However, he ended up living through the ordeal owing to shooting himself in the temple- a common way to kill one’s self in the movies, but in reality very survivable if medical aid is nearby, with the person effectively having just given themselves a lobotomy.
Despite his rather deficient mental faculties as a result of the whole bullet through the brain thing, Rector was controversially sentenced to death. The issue became even more of a media sensation after the fact when it was learned that while he happily ate his last meal, he chose not to eat the pecan pie that he got with it. Why? He told the guards he was “saving it for later.”
Once again showing the humanity of the guards involved, they went ahead and saved the piece of pie just in case there was a last minute stay of execution.
This all brings us to what prisoners actually usually request for their last meal. While exact fare is rather diverse (for example in one case a person simply requested a “jar of pickles” according to the aforementioned Brian Price), if categorizing this into groups, it often comes down to either things you’d find at McDonald’s or KFC (or literally McDonald’s or KFC meals in many cases), something fancy, or a favorite home cooked meal from the person’s childhood or the like.
As for the first two categories there, it’s noted that the vast majority of death row inmates come from rather impoverished backgrounds, and thus often go with favorite food items they are accustomed to and haven’t gotten while in prison- things like fried chicken, cheeseburgers, french fries, and soda, or the like. That said, some go the other way, picking foods they couldn’t really afford when in the land of the free, or may have never even tried at all, like lobster or filet mignon. As for favorite home cooked meals, the aforementioned Brian Price states when he prepared these meals, he always did his best to make it just as the inmate described, or even potentially getting a specific recipe from the condemned’s loved ones.
Regardless of what camp one goes with, some choose their last meal not on what they necessarily intend to eat, but rather to make a statement.
As for such statements, going back in time a bit in 1963, murderer Victor Feguer requested nothing more than a single solitary unpitted olive for his last meal. He then requested the seed be buried with him in the hopes that it would grow an olive tree as a symbol of peace and rebirth.
On a similar note, one Jonathan Wayne Nobles, who apparently had been on drugs since he was 8 years old living in foster homes, as an adult murdered two women while high on a cocktail of substances. In prison, however, he got off the drugs and became a devout Catholic and, not just model inmate, but model person. As one example, at one point he attempted to save the life of a random woman he heard about who was dying from kidney failure. However, while he did successfully find a doctor willing to perform the procedure to take one of his kidneys out and give it to the woman, it ultimately turned out the pair were did not have matching blood types and the woman died. Doubling down, Nobles later attempted to have all his organs donated after his execution, but this request was denied as Texas did not allow death row inmates to donate their organs. Going back to his last meal request, he simply asked for the Eucharist (communion).
To end on a lighter note- well… relatively speaking…- in the 1940s Wilson De la Roi, who murdered a man while in prison, was slated to be killed via a somewhat newly minted poison gas chamber in San Quentin. When asked what he wanted for his last meal, he merely requested a bunch of indigestion tablets. When asked why, he stated that he felt sure he was soon to have rather severe case of gas…
Military equipment is notoriously cheap and can sometimes fall short of expectations when in the hands of the dirt-eating grunts who use them the most. But, every once in a while, a company comes by and makes something that not only lives up to its potential, but manages to make its way into the hearts of troops everywhere (things as wonderful as the M27 are few and far between). So, when DevTac developed the Ronin Kevlar Level IIIA Tactical Ballistic Helmet, we wondered how effective it really was.
Thankfully, Dr. Matt Carriker, a veterinarian and fellow gun enthusiast, put the helmet to the test on his YouTube channel, Demolition Ranch. We’ve covered a previous video of his where he tested Army helmets, seeing just how bulletproof they really are, but does this Boba-Fett-looking helmet stand up to the test?
Let’s find out!
This thing just looks awesome.
Before the test, Dr. Carriker goes over some of the basic features of the helmet to provide a baseline of what to expect. Some of those features include armor plating — some parts Level II, others Level IIIA. Allegedly, the helmet is able to withstand most bullets shot from a pistol.
You never know if you’ll catch a ricochet in the face while squirrel hunting.
Dr. Carriker starts off easy and light, hitting the helmet with a .22 LR fired from a suppressed pistol, then moving onto a .22 Hornet round fired from a Taurus Raging Hornet. The results for both are the same — some chipped paint but no penetration, which is what we hoped would happen given such a small bullet.
There are some scratches and holes, but nothing went all the way through.
Next, he hits it with a .410, shooting a Charles Daly Defense Honcho. The lenses are supposed to stop a shotgun blast, and they do, but they get shot out. Afterwards, like a true, red-blooded American, he double fists a pair of Maxim 9s to hit the helmet with 9mm rounds. Still no penetration.
We might have to get one for ourselves here… For professional reasons, of course.
After seeing that 9mm ain’t going to cut it, Dr. Carriker goes on to test a .357 magnum round shot from a Desert Eagle. After that, he picks up a .44 magnum and then, later, a .45-70 Government round shot from a revolver. The results for all three, despite doing significant damage to the helmet, were the same: no penetration.
The distinctive and venerable OH-58 Kiowa helicopter, mothballed and grounded in the dry desert of Arizona, after being retired from US Army service with almost 50 years of service, is finding its wings again in Greece.
For an Army aviator, this was also a chance to get back into the seat of a historic platform and to share his knowledge and flying skills to a new generation of Hellenic pilots.
“I lucked out with this (foreign military sales) case as I was an instructor pilot in the Kiowa prior to switching to the Apache,” Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Meadows, a military aviation trainer from the US Army Security Assistance Command, said of his selection.
Chief Meadows is assigned to USASAC’s Security Assistance Training Management Organization at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and is the team lead for the initial Greek OH-58D training program as well as the first OH-58D Technical Assistance Fielding Team deployed to Greece.
Thirty-six aircraft wait to be loaded onto the transport ship at the port in Jacksonville, Florida.
(John Zimmerman/Army Futures Command)
A total of 70 Kiowa Warrior aircraft were granted to Greece in early 2018 under the foreign military sales program administered by USASAC.
The helicopters were unloaded at the Greek port of Volos on May 16, and then flown by US and Greek crews to the Hellenic Army Aviation air base at Stefanovikio where pilot and maintainer training is being conducted.
Loading of one of the six flyable aircraft into the transport ship at the port in Jacksonville, Florida.
(John Zimmerman/Army Futures Command)
“The procurement of the Kiowa Warrior helicopters by Greece helps build partner capacity by covering an immediate gap in Greece’s attack or observation helicopter requirement,” said Andrew Neushaefer, USASAC’s country program manager for Greece.
The Kiowa helicopters had been invaluable to the Army as a light observation and reconnaissance aircraft since it was first received in 1969 and saw immediate action supporting the US war efforts in Vietnam.
Five OH-58D aircraft sit on Greek military ramp ready for training at the Hellenic Army Aviation air base at Stefanovikio, Greece.
(John Zimmerman/Army Futures Command)
In 2013 almost 350 aircraft were retired under an Army-centric effort to modernize their aviation fleet. The newer and more complicated AH-64 Apache was chosen to fulfill the Kiowa’s role until a future vertical lift aircraft could be fielded.
According to Bell Helicopter, as of 2013, the OH-58 airframe had more than 820,000 combat hours in its decades of service. During the wars following 9/11, the OH-58D version, known as the Kiowa Warrior, accounted for nearly 50% of all Army reconnaissance and attack missions flown in Iraq and Afghanistan, the highest usage rate of any Army aircraft.
Greece saw an opportunity to upgrade its defensive capabilities and acquired the helicopters at a reduced cost as it was only required to pay for packing, crating, handling and transportation, as well as any refurbishments, if necessary.
But bringing any new aircraft into a military’s service, even as seemingly uncomplicated as a 60’s-era helicopter, requires a well-trained and highly qualified team of aviators and maintainers to fly and manage the aircraft.
After serving faithfully for more than 40 years, the OH-58 Kiowa Warriors assigned to 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, took to the skies for the last time at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, April 15.
(US Army/Sgt. Daniel Schroeder)
Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Meadows, left, stands with the battalion commander of the Greek Army helicopter training unit at the Greek port of Volos, before flying the newly arrived helicopters to the Hellenic Army Aviation air base at Stefanovikio, Greece.
(US Army Security Assistance Command)
Chief Meadows was involved with the Greek’s OH-58D case from the early stages and has had many challenges to overcome in bringing the program together.
“I made frequent drives to Fort Eustis in Virginia to assist in the regeneration of the Kiowas and began flying them again in order to support the training mission,” Meadows said.
Although assigned initially as a Contracting Officer Representative and the government flight representative, Meadows had the skills and experience to do much more and was selected to be an instructor as well.
An OH-58D Kiowa flies off at Fort Polk, Louisiana, November 9, 2015.
(US Army/Capt. Joe Bush)
Once Meadows and his team got the program on the ground in Greece they faced a number of challenges, mostly associated with maintenance and logistics.
“The Greek system of maintenance and logistic support, although effective, is very different than the US systems,” Meadows said. “If we had something break, and it wasn’t a common issue, any parts needed had to be shipped from the US to Greece, which adds substantial time from parts demand to replacement. That being said, the Greek maintainers are excellent. They are doing a superb job at learning this aircraft and maintaining it.”
An OH-58D Kiowa flies off at dusk over an AH-64 Apache at Fort Polk, Louisiana, November 9, 2015.
(US Army/Capt. Joe Bush)
Meadows also knew that providing this aircraft to Greece would greatly contribute to their national security interests.
“Seeing Greece gain this capability and being part of it is amazing,” said Meadows. “The mission set of the Kiowa and the pilots it produces will greatly complement the already robust Hellenic Army.”
To date, under the FMS program, at least 10 countries have OH-58s in their inventory with Croatia, Tunisia and Greece being the latest.
Editor’s Note: The OH-58 is a single-engine, single-rotor military helicopter used primarily for observation, utility, and direct fire support. The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior version is primarily used as a light attack and armed reconnaissance helicopter to support troops fighting on the ground.
US Vice President Mike Pence agreed to hold a secret meeting with North Korean officials while at the Olympic Games, The Washington Post reported Feb. 20, 2018.
The meeting was set to go ahead Feb. 10, 2018, but the North Koreans pulled out less than two hours before. It was the same day North Korea’s visiting delegates, which included Kim Yo Jong, the sister of Kim Jong Un, met with South Korean President Moon Jae-In and invited him to Pyongyang for a meeting between the leaders.
“North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the vice president softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics,” Nick Ayers, the vice president’s chief of staff, told The Post.
The vice president’s office told The Post that the delegation pulled out of the meeting because the vice president met with North Korean defectors and had announced new sanctions. Before reaching South Korea, Pence said the US would soon unveil the “toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever.”
Ahead of his tour of Asia, Pence had not confirmed whether he would meet with North Korean officials, once saying only, “we’ll see what happens.” The US State Department, however, had explicitly ruled out any planned meeting.
“There are no plans to meet with any North Korean officials during or after the Olympics; I want to be clear about that. There are no plans to do so,” the State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Feb. 6, 2018. “The secretary and the vice president said we’ll see what happens when we get to the Olympics.”
This contradicts the latest report from The Post, which said that the meeting between Pence and North Korean officials took two weeks to organize and that efforts began after the CIA received word North Korea wanted to meet with Pence.
Pence agreed to the meeting before leaving for his Asia trip on Feb. 5, 2018. President Donald Trump; the White House chief of staff, John Kelly; CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Defense Secretary Jim Mattis; and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were all reportedly involved in the discussions.
According to The Post, the purpose of the meeting was to convey the US stance on sanctions and denuclearization, rather than open the door to negotiations.
“The president made a decision that if they wanted to talk, we would deliver our uncompromising message. If they asked for a meeting, we would meet,” Ayers said in a statement to CBS News. “As we’ve said from day one about the trip: This administration will stand in the way of Kim’s desire to whitewash their murderous regime with nice photo ops at the Olympics. Perhaps that’s why they walked away from a meeting, or perhaps they were never sincere about sitting down.”
The meeting was set to take place at the Blue House, the South Korean equivalent of the White House, with Pence, a National Security Council representative, an intelligence representative, and Pence’s chief of staff meeting Kim Yo Jong and North Korea’s official head of state, Kim Yong Nam.
The Post said North Korea confirmed the meeting the morning of the day it was to take place but pulled out hours later.
“At the last minute, DPRK officials decided not to go forward with the meeting. We regret their failure to seize this opportunity,” Nauert told the news media.
“We will not allow North Korea’s attendance at the Winter Olympics to conceal the true nature of the regime and the need for the world to remain united in the face of its illicit weapons programs. The maximum-pressure campaign deepening North Korea’s diplomatic and economic isolation will continue until North Korea agrees to credible talks on a way forward to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.”
North Korea and the US do communicate
The news of the meeting discussions shows that while the two countries don’t have diplomatic relations, North Korea and the US do indeed communicate.
Last year, Tillerson confirmed there were “three channels open to Pyongyang.”
It’s unclear what these channels are, after North Korea ended communication to the US via its mission to the United Nations in New York in 2016.
US military units rely on wireless networks and radio-frequency communications to talk on the battlefield, sharing intelligence, targeting data, and orders.
But concern is growing that rivals like China and Russia could pick up those transmissions and jam them, change them to confuse or deceive, or track them to target the people sending and receiving them — tactics Russia and Russian-backed forces are believed to have used before.
The Pentagon has started exploring the use of laser communications systems that are harder to detect and disrupt.
Marine Corps field radio operators remove the free space optic system from a tactical elevated antenna mass at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Aug. 17, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Timothy Valero)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been working on sensors and hardware to send and receive signals from free-space optical technology — which sends light beams through the air rather than a cable — for some time.
in early 2017, the Defense Department awarded million for a three-year project involving three of the service branches, focused on developing a laser communications system — “basically fiber optic communications without the fiber,” Linda Thomas, whose team at the Naval Research Laboratory got about one-third of the grant money, told Breaking Defense at the time.
Thomas’ team’s Tactical Line-of-sight Optical communications Network, or TALON, was able to send messages through laser beams over distances similar to those of Marine Corps tactical radios, which typically can range to about 45 miles.
Free-space-optical communications systems are available commercially, but their range is limited. The Naval Research Lab team was able to exceed the range of those systems, a problem that involved sending the low-power beam through the atmosphere without it being made unintelligible, though Thomas didn’t say how they did it.
Marines have already gone into the field to test a free-space optics system developed by the Naval Research Lab.
Marines lift a tactical elevated antenna mass mounted with the free space optic system at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, August 17, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kindo Go)
Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Force tested a free-space optics system that “transfers data on a highly secured and nearly undetectable infrared laser, separate from the radio frequency spectrum” in Okinawa this month, according to a Marine Corps release.
The mobile system allows more data — larger files and imagery — to be transmitted without using more of the radio-frequency spectrum, “an already constrained resource,” one of the Marines involved said.
“When it first came up, we thought it would be a lot more difficult to set up and understand,” said Marine Sgt. William Holt, a cyber-systems administrator. “When the Marines heard ‘free space optics’ and ‘lasers,’ they got nervous about that. Then when they actually got behind the gear and were able to operate it, it was easier than expected.”
Thomas and other engineers from the Naval Research Laboratory were also on hand.
“We came out to Okinawa because it was one of the harshest humid environments with highly variable weather on very short time scales,” she said. “We are looking at how the system operates and handles these conditions and how we can better fulfill the needs of the future Marine Corps.”
Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.
(Russian Ministry of Defense)
‘The threat is out there’
US Marines are not the only ones gearing up to communicate in a contested environment.
China’s People’s Liberation Army considers electronic warfare a central component of its operations, and its EW doctrine “emphasizes using electromagnetic spectrum weapons to suppress or to deceive enemy electronic equipment,” the Defense Department said in a report about Chinese military capabilities released in August 2018.
Chinese units “routinely conduct jamming and antijamming operations against multiple communication and radar systems and GPS satellite systems in force-on-force exercises,” the report said. In addition to testing Chinese troops’ ability to use these systems, such tests “help improve confidence in their ability to operate effectively in a complex electromagnetic environment.”
Russian forces carried out similar tests during the massive Zapad 2017 exercise conducted late 2017.
A training specialist from the Army Space and Missile Defense Agency shows Army National Guard soldiers on how to detect electromagnetic interference on a GPS receiver, June 23, 2018.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden)
According to Estonia’s military intelligence chief, Col. Kaupo Rosin, the amount of jamming Russia deployed against its own forces during that exercise “was at a level we haven’t seen.”
“The threat of the Russians is that if they are jammed, they can fall back into a civilian infrastructure on their own land, which gives them an advantage in operating in the vicinity of Russia,” Rosin told Defense News in 2017. “So they have that advantage.”
US troops have also tested their capacity to thwart electronic interference.
Ohio National Guard troops trained with a team from the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command in summer 2018 in order to be to detect and mitigate cyberattacks on GPS systems.
“There are adversaries out there with the capability to deny, degrade and disrupt our capabilities,” said Capt. Kyle Terza from US Army Space and Missile Defense Command. “The threat is out there and … we have to be trained and ready to operate without it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Dogs have long been known as “man’s best friend” but it wasn’t until recently we knew how vital the connection and companionship would be. K9s for Warriors is saving lives because of it.
When retired Army National Guard Master Sergeant David Crenshaw enlisted in 2000, it was a lifelong dream realized. He was in the middle of Army Basic Training when the planes hit the World Trade Center and life was forever changed, for everyone. When he wasn’t drilling, Crenshaw was a volunteer firefighter.
He was deployed to Iraq in 2004, which had been invaded by U.S. troops the year before. Crenshaw was Military Police and assigned to Personal Protective Detail. Although he returned home 15 months later thinking he was fine, he wasn’t. 2005 began a slow decline, one which he never anticipated.
“I’m from the northeast right outside of New York so 9/11 had a huge impact on me,” Crenshaw shared. “It’s just one of those stories of a kid in America who wanted to go do his job. You do your job and what’s asked of you over there…I remember someone telling me if I ever wanted to do anything else not to tell them [the Army] I was having any mental problems.”
So he stayed quiet. Once he returned home, he became a 911 dispatch operator until he left to become a firefighter in 2006. A year later he went to the academy and became a police officer. It was a role he’d hold for seven years. In 2010 he began his new job as an instructor for the Army’s Officer Candidate School.
In 2014 he made a move from the police department to the prosecutor’s office in order to do special investigative work. Crenshaw spent almost a year undercover with the gang and narcotic operations. It took its toll.
“It started to play on me. Morally, it wasn’t who I was as a person. It also started to affect things that were happening around me. All the symptoms that come about with PTSD like the hyper vigilance, paranoia, always on guard – all that stuff was being amplified,” Crenshaw explained. His mother was also diagnosed with stage IV cancer during this time. “I didn’t realize this was PTSD, I thought it was just the stress of the job and my sick mother.”
It was toward the end of the investigation when Crenshaw began to realize something was wrong. A VA appointment would lead to being labeled with PTSD, but highly functioning. Unfortunately, all he heard was the past part of the diagnosis. “About a year to the day, I had what I like to call my fall from grace,” he shared.
During this time he became his mother’s hospice caretaker and watched her pass away. Simultaneously, he was in the middle of a divorce and a contentious custody battle. “The day she passed, that’s when my PTSD skyrocketed,” Crenshaw shared. “ I know of the process of how they remove the body. All I kept thinking about was Iraq and the two bodies we put on the helicopter.”
This would lead to thinking about death every time he knocked on a door with SWAT to execute a search warrant. With Crensaw always being first in, he knew the risk. “I kept saying, ‘Is this going to be the day I catch it?” but I was saying it almost with a sense of relief,” he said. Things got progressively worse, leading to an altercation with his now ex-wife.
His fall, as he called it, led to losing his job with the prosecutor’s office. “It was actually a load off my shoulders but it was short lived because then it became a fight for my life,” Crenshaw shared. He credits K9s for Warriors helping to save his life, thanks to his service dog, Doc.
From the moment they were paired, Crenshaw felt the connection. He realized it that first night by watching how Doc calmed him before he even knew he was becoming anxious. His life was forever changed. “He’s wearing all of my stuff. My burdens, worries and anxiety,” Crenshaw shared. “PTSD was a weight at my ankle holding me down. It’s no different than a drug or an addiction, it really does sit there and lie in wait.”
Crenshaw is open in sharing he’ll never be cured from his PTSD, however, Doc’s continuous presence manages it and allows him to lead a new and fulfilling life. But the path to getting a service animal isn’t easy and often comes with long wait times. It’s something K9s for Warriors is hoping to change.
The PAWS Act (Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers) was reintroduced into Congress on March 3, 2021. K9s for Warriors, the largest provider of service animals to veterans, is backing it. If passed, it would require the VA to provide grants to pay for service dogs for eligible veterans. “I hope the PAWS Act is just the first leg…We need to find a way to come together and make one loud unified voice on this,” he said.
Although Crenshaw was quick to point out his incredible mental health team at the VA, he was also open about the problems and continued barriers. Namely, the unending prescription pills fostered onto him for his symptoms. All of which he no longer has to take, thanks to Doc.
The endless bureaucratic red tape and fight Crenshaw endured for his medical retirement, mental health support and to get Doc was exhausting, he said. Although he made it out the other side, he wasn’t unscathed from the experience of seeking help. It’s a fight many veterans give up on.
“My main goal in life now is to just be here for veterans and cops, too,” Crenshaw said. “It’s amazing how many cracks there are and how many barriers there are from the military to the VA and even in the civilian world with the understanding. So, wherever and however I can advocate for them… I will.”
A common gripe among those in the military is that there aren’t enough accurate representations of us in film and on television. There’s plenty of representation, sure, but “accurate” is the operative term, here — and Hollywood tends to get more wrong than they do right. Every once in a blue moon, however, you’ll stumble upon a tiny golden nugget truth on screen. That special piece of media will ignite a fire within you and you’ll be forced to stand up and shout, “that right there! THAT is what it was like!” to all your civilian friends.
Now, we’re not saying Hollywood does a piss-poor job. Service members have a tendency to be extremely nit-picky when it comes to military depictions on screen. We see even the smallest flaw and we say, “nope. They got it wrong again.” Realistically, there are many reasons why that happens, but it’s most likely because they didn’t have someone on set who knew what they were talking about.
But when they get things right? Well, you get the items on this list:
R. Lee Ermey was immortalized by this performance.
‘Full Metal Jacket’
Specifically, we mean the boot camp scene. The entire film is great, but the representation of Marines in the first act of the film is (mostly) accurate. This can be attributed to the legendary R. Lee Ermey. He was actually a drill instructor and Stanley Kubrick was dedicated to making everything as authentic as possible.
Oh, and it has Jake Gyllenhaal in it.
Based on the true story written by Anthony Swafford, the film adaptation paints the character of Marines in a very accurate light. The dark humor put forth by the characters and the way they portray our mannerisms on screen are absolutely spot on.
So, how’d they do it? Well, if you’ve read the book and you’ve seen the movie, you’ve probably noticed that they didn’t stray too far from the source material, which was written by someone with first-hand experience.
The Marines in this series are downright authentic.
Based on the novels of Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie, this miniseries was produced by none other than Saving Private Ryan star Tom Hanks, and it nails the attitude of Marines. If you’ve served in the Marine Corps, you can appreciate even the smallest details, such as the Marines stealing Army rations because they’re superior.
The nod of approval for this series.
If you thought The Pacific and Jarhead got Marines right, then you’ll be blown away by Generation Kill. When it comes down to it, the series not only got the character and mannerisms of Marines down pat but, the situations, scenarios, and leadership are all true-to-life, too.
Again, this show was based on Evan Wright’s source material, which surely added to the authenticity — he even wrote a couple episodes. Oh, and it certainly helps to have Marines like Rudy Reyes playing themselves.
The cast of this series could not be more perfect.
‘Band of Brothers’
Unsurprisingly, we’ve got another Tom Hanks-produced miniseries atop this list. This series portrays the brotherhood (as the title suggests) experienced in the military better than anything else. Not only do they get the gear, the actions, and the missions right, it’s all capped off by amazing acting performances. Most of the characters are fantastic, but nobody compares to Damien Lewis’ enthralling rendition of Maj. Richard Winters.
So, what’s the secret sauce here? In addition to an immense attention to detail, the actors actually met with their characters’ real-life counterparts. If you’re making a movie about a group of people who did extraordinary things, who better to learn from than the men themselves?
Another Memorial Day has come and gone and, along with it, comes another report from the family of a service member who was killed in action about encountering a man in civilian clothes at Arlington National Cemetery. Calling himself Dave, the man talked to a Gold Star spouse for a bit, then moved on.
The wife of the fallen service member had no idea she was talking to Gen. David Goldfein, the 21st Chief of Staff of the Air Force.
She only found out because her friend noticed the coin that “Dave” left on the headstone of her husband — the coin of his office. She posted the story on social media some time later, which was confirmed by the popular Air Force Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco.
That’s the kind of person General Goldfein is. This isn’t an isolated incident. On Memorial Day 2017, an airman at Arlington spotted a man in his dress blues walking among the graves at Section 60 — the resting place for those who fell in Iraq or Afghanistan — putting his hand on each for a moment of reflection.
Cody Stollings, the airman who recognized Gen. Goldfein, introduced himself and talked to the general for a bit. It turns out General Goldfein keeps the names of every airman who is killed under his command in a book. Each year, he visits them at Arlington to pay his respects.
For many Americans, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Niger, and Somalia have become a fact of life. When news about OIF, OEF, OAE, or OIR hits, no one really listens anymore. The acronyms change, but everything else stays the same. This is the cost of endless war. Andrew Bacevich, a historian and retired colonel whose son died in Iraq, said it best,
“A collective indifference to war has become an emblem of contemporary America.”
Those in charge of prosecuting the wars, however, should find it relatively easy to support the troops — by reaching their objective and bringing those troops home. But the Chiefs of Staff don’t hold that kind of command authority. They’re in an advisory position for the National Security Council.
In a time where the War in Afghanistan seems like it will never end and new hot spots seem to pop up all the time, it’s good to know the Air Force has someone at the top who’s seen and fought in war and knows that the people who die fighting them are more than numbers on a PowerPoint slide.
It’s nice to know that someone at the top really gives a shit.
Tell us a little about your background, from your service in the Navy to your career as a Private Investigator and finally to hosting Mysteries Decoded.
I graduated from high school in a town with one stoplight and really wanted to get out and see the world! The Navy recruiter was the first to call me and try to pitch the military. I told him he was wasting his breath and that I wanted to enlist…I might have been the easiest recruit he ever enlisted! I served in the Navy for five years and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and then separated honorably to attend college.
In 2014, after working in the entertainment industry for a few years, I went to Private Investigation school and opened my own company this year. The show came about because they were looking for a Private Investigator who ideally understood the world of television…and bam! Here we are. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to combine my two careers.
How did you feel about looking into a military establishment (Area 51)? Where is the boundary between military secrets and the people’s right to know? Or maybe even in this case, military secrets and Planet Earth’s right to know?
Area 51 was admittedly a difficult episode for me. My co-host on the show, Ryan, is a UFOlogist and a journalist without a military background (although very appreciative of veterans and their service). He heavily advocates for transparency. I understand the importance of keeping certain things under wraps for national security purposes.
There were also a few issues brought up in the context of the show that I was quiet about. I came across a few things during my service that are not common knowledge and it’s not my place to put them out for everyone to know. With that being said, if it is something outside of what I experienced while in the service, it’s fair game.
Area 51 is getting a lot of attention right now with the upcoming “raid” — what do you think people will learn if/when they show up to Groom Lake?
Honestly, I think most people will just chalk it up as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Most people are not planning to raid. I fear for those who do intend on crossing that gate because it’s undeniable the military is prepared. Tear gas, rubber bullets, and unfortunately, if necessary, lethal methods as well.
To be fair, people have been warned to not cross into the base. I hope everything stays calm and people abide by the law, but my feeling is you’ll always have a few people who either don’t understand the consequences or don’t care.
What is something you learned when shooting this episode?
I learned a lot more about Bob Lazar, the whistleblower who claims to have worked at S-4. When I first read his claims and his background, I was inclined to dismiss him. The more I learned and the deeper I dug, I realized there was much more going on than most people knew. He is perplexing and his story is one of a kind.
Mysteries Decoded | Cases And Cover-Ups Trailer | CW Seed
Mysteries Decoded | Cases And Cover-Ups Trailer | CW Seed
You’ve been investigating a lot of mysteries for this show. Have any of them given you second thoughts? What are some of the biggest insights you’ve gleaned?
I went into Lizzie Borden based off the research I conducted believing she did kill her parents and through the investigation, came to the conclusion it absolutely was her. In my opinion, it is the oldest documented case of affluenza. She killed her parents and moved to an estate in a more upscale part of town. The only thing that did surprise me was the paranormal things we experienced while in the house. I was not a huge believer in that, but there were too many things that happened for me to look the other way or explain it away — as much as I wanted to.
An upcoming episode, The Bermuda Triangle, was fascinating for me. I loved the scientific aspect of it. We spoke to physicists, Navy officials, historians, pilots, you name it. What we uncovered made me understand why certain things may have happened there. Other things, however, still remain a mystery. It was fascinating delving into the science behind the disappearance of ships and aircraft.
Often times with a few of these cases, someone coming forward could have led to an earlier resolution. I see this in day-to-day life as well and especially in my practice. It takes courage to be transparent and do the right thing, but too many people don’t want to get involved. Definitely come forward, whether it’s something that would shed more light on a subject, or in other scenarios — help right a wrong.
One last questions: are there aliens at Area 51?
I don’t believe there are aliens walking around at the base, no. But have they ever been here? Not sure. Are their bodies at Area 51? Can’t say that either. But I think it’s pretty odd to believe we are the only intelligent beings that exist in the universe…there are a septillion planets. Statistically, the odds are not that we are alone… 🙂
The US Navy said on Wednesday that one of its aircraft was intercepted by a Russian jet while flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea.
The US Navy P-8A Poseidon, an anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft, was flying over the Mediterranean Sea when it was approached by a Russian Su-35 fighter jet, US Naval Forces Europe-Africa said.
“The interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high-speed, inverted maneuver, 25 ft. directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk,” the Navy said in a statement.
The crew of the P-8A Poseidon experienced “wake turbulence” during the 42-minute encounter, the Navy said.
“While the Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible,” the Navy added. “We expect them to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents.”
A Russian Su-35 jet performed a similar maneuver toward a P-8A Poseidon over the Mediterranean Sea in June. The jet buzzed the US aircraft three times in three hours and conducted a pass directly in front of it.
“This interaction was irresponsible,” the Navy said in a statement at the time.
On both occasions, the Navy said its aircraft was flying in international airspace and was not provoking the Russian aircraft.
Russia performed another provocative test by firing an anti-satellite missile on Wednesday, US Space Command said.
Russia’s direct-ascent anti-satellite test “provides yet another example that the threats to US and allied space systems are real, serious and growing,” Gen. John Raymond, the head of Space Command and chief of space operations for US Space Force, said in a statement.
“The United States is ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the nation, our allies and US interests from hostile acts in space,” Raymond added.
Bobby Fair had seen his share of danger while serving as a U.S. Marine. The former infantryman who also served on AAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles, though, never imagined that his warrior training would come in handy at college.
When a suspected Somali-born jihadist used a car and knife to carry out his attack at Ohio State University, the college’s Buckeye Alert system sent out the warning very quickly. Fair would recall his training kicking in.
“A light bulb clicked in my head and I said, ‘Hey this room needs to be secured right now. We need to get a barricade up. All the students that are not being used in the barricade need to get off to the side of the classroom, completely away from all the windows,’ ” Fair told ABC News.
Fair lead other classmates in barricading the door – which had no lock – with chairs and desks. Once that was done, he ensured that the students in that classroom stuck together.
“You could just see on my fellow students’ faces the tension, the stress and everything while it was going on. It was so confusing. We didn’t have the slightest clue what was going on out there,” Fair told ABC, noting that in this situation, staying put was the best course of action.
“Every situation is going to be different, but in my best opinion the best route to go is to hide, remain out of sight, out of mind,” he told Fox 28 in Columbus. “I hope this actually gets people thinking ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter where you are. Terrorist attacks can happen.’ We are in a very pivotal time in the day and age we live in and you can’t rule out that there is always somebody out there that wants to hurt you. Unfortunately, it is just the world we live in.”
We veterans suck at sleeping and relaxing. We got used to going 1000 miles an hour for an indefinite period of time until we were told by our OIC to take some leave and get our shit together before we burnout.
As civilians, that time may never come. For better or worse, you probably don’t have anyone that remotely resembles an OIC in your life anymore.
If we are looking at each day as a mini-deployment cycle, that means after work we should be taking leave, getting psychologically evaluated, spending time with family, and caring for ourselves.
I don’t mean this as a joke either. If we are constantly managing the damage each day inflicts on us, we are more likely to thrive in our post-military lives.
You can talk about computers, chalkboards, sunglasses or life.
Connect with others. The purpose of the work day, like deployment, is mission accomplishment, not necessarily forming bonds and finding common ground with others. We do need real connections with other people though. The recent bestseller Lost Connectionsbeautifully lays out how a lack of meaningful connection in our lives is one of the leading causes of depression and anxiety.
Bond with your kids, join a book club, talk to your high school best friend, volunteer at the soup kitchen. It doesn’t much matter, as long as the conversations you’re having get past talking about work and the weather. Enter the conversation with the intention of learning something new about your fellow human.
Who am I?… Typical Derek Zoolander reflection questions.
Wind down your body. Maybe you haven’t had the chance to train yet today, if so… get your ass training. If you have already, it’s time to cool down physically, as this will help you to cool down mentally as well. I prefer a static stretch while I watch old episodes of the Office or YouTube videos on the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. It doesn’t have to be something complicated.
Whatever you decide should include the intention of releasing stress and tension from your body. Dedicated breathing, a bubble bath, or a glass of whiskey while staring at the stars can all work if the intention is correct.
Wind down your mind. Sometimes this happens in tandem with cooling down the body, sometimes we need more. Yeah, meditating is f*cking great for this, but it isn’t a requirement.
Just like above, choose an activity that you intend to serve the purpose of letting go of the day’s stresses. Reading, listening to Miles Davis, or calmly venting to your spouse can all serve this purpose.
A full day for you to rest and repair so you can tear shit up again next week.
Having a daily rest and relaxation plan is the first line of defense, but sometimes life gets messy. It’s rare that the work day actually ends at 1700 or that you don’t have other obligations in the evenings. This is precisely why the Sabbath was created–even God needs to rest.
Taking a rest day doesn’t have to have anything to do with religion if you don’t want it to. What it is, is a day where you schedule things that are restorative and relaxing.
Physically your body needs time to recover. When stress hormones are high, your immune system and internal recovery procedures are compromised. Any type of stress can and will impede your ability to recover, even if it’s the kind of stress you may enjoy.
When we weight train we are literally causing damage to our muscles. They can only fully be repaired with proper nutrition and dedicated rest.
I dare you to sit on the beach and do nothing except watch the waves. It’s harder than you think.
Many veterans are some degree of a type-A person. If you:
Have little patience
Are a workaholic
You probably fall into this category.
Type-A people like to do things that get them going and dislike the idea of unwinding. They like to work out at super-high intensities. If they aren’t sweating gallons, they feel like they haven’t done anything.
Telling one of you guys to chill and unplug for a day probably feels like I want you to take a vow of silence and live in a monastery. Take heed, the research shows that you are not necessarily anymore immune to stress than the rest of us without mitigating practices like above. In fact, as a type-A personality, you may even be more at risk for health issues or low performance than others.