‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association

Homeowners associations like to tell American property owners what they can and can’t do with their own properties, homes, and vehicles. While to a certain extent, this makes sense, some HOAs can take it a little too far. 

For about a month, the “Battle of River Oaks Boulevard” raged in a Houston residential neighborhood as lawyer Tony Buzbee fought for the right to park his World War II-era Sherman M4A4 tank at his home. 

M4 Sherman tank, (By Joost J. Bakker CC BY 2.0)

Buzbee’s home on River Oaks Boulevard is supposedly in one of Houston’s more upscale, classier neighborhoods. But the local homeowner’s association display flagrant disregard for history and a lack of class as they tried everything they could to get the Sherman tank off the street and out of their lives. 

There was nothing wrong with the tank or where it was parked. The Sherman was a fully operational and completely restored original named “Cheyanne” that had sat in the Normandy Tank Museum near Omaha Beach until Buzbee purchased it in 2016.

The lawyer purchased it to preserve a bit of history while teaching others about the history of World War II. 

“It was this particular type of piece of equipment that helped us win that war,” Buzbee, the grandson of a Normandy vet, told a reporter. “And had we not won that war, this would be a completely different country, now we celebrate our freedoms and our right to speak, and our right to have a tank on our front yards.”

Tony Buzbee tank owner
Attorney and politician Tony Buzbee speaking about his decision to donate the tank to a museum.

Meanwhile, the local homeowner’s association claimed it “impeded traffic,” caused “safety issues,” and that neighbors had “serious concerns.” All of these claims are not true. In one instance, a neighbor even professed his wish that the Sherman tank was a permanent addition to the neighborhood.

This is Texas, after all. The main cannon isn’t even operable.

Buzbee even cleared the tank’s arrival with the local police and security forces in the area. He followed local law enforcement regulations and orders to the letter. That’s when the local HOA decided to step in and cause a fuss. 

The first salvo was fired by the HOA, who sent Buzbee a certified letter stating he had to remove the tank. Because the letter upset him so much, he decided to do nothing just to see what the HOA would do about it.  Then he started getting parking tickets and citations for the tank, even though he had cleared its position with the Houston Police Department. 

He still left it there. But when the citations kept coming, he decided to move it, despite his adamant belief that he was in the right and his neighbors loved the piece of history in their neighborhood. 

So even after surviving landing at Normandy, fighting through the hedgerows of France, winning World War II, almost being lost to history after the closure of the tank museum, and Buzbee importing the tank across the ocean from France, all was for naught. All it took was a bunch of tightwads in a Houston suburb to forcibly remove one of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of democracy. 
In an almost ironic twist of history, the tank that helped secure the freedoms we enjoy at home was taken down by a small group of people imposing their will on the majority. If anything, it sounds like River Oaks Boulevard needs more Sherman tanks, not less.

Articles

Here’s what it takes to be on the Marine silent drill team

Discipline, self-control, and honor are just some of the defining characteristics of a U.S. Marine who serves as a member of the 24-man silent drill team. Also known as the “Marching Twenty-Four,” the drill team’s function is to demonstrate the outstanding professionalism of the Marine Corps.


In 1948, they first performed at the Sunset Parades at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. Their perfectly executed movements received such an amazing response from the crowd, the drill team was born.

Serving on the team requires extensive discipline, so finding new recruits is a challenge.

Related: 21 photos showing the awesomeness of the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon executes their refined movements with hand-polished, 10.5 pounds, M1 Garand rifles with fixed bayonets during the Sunset Parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Each fall, the drill team prospects are hand-selected from the School of Infantry located in Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Camp Pendleton, Calif. After a detailed interview process and rifle drill audition conducted by experienced personnel, those Marines who are selected are assigned a position and will serve a two-year ceremonial tour.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
These Marines spend hours practicing their drill to craft perfectly executed movements. (Source: US Military Videos and Photos/YouTube/Screenshot)

In addition to their ceremonial duties, the drill team members train alongside infantry Marines in the field to maintain their skills during the offseason.

When experienced team members request to move up in ranks and become rifle inspectors, they will go through a series of inspections graded by rifle inspectors who served in the previous season.

Also Read: 5 military training drills that’ll blow your mind

Although the team practices using verbal communication, not a single word will be spoken during their exceptional performance.

Military Life

6 tips to get you ready for your next tattoo

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

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


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Hold off on the alcohol

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

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

Get a good night’s rest

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

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

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Eat some carbs

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

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

Take a shower

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

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Stay away from putting on lotions

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

Wear loose clothing

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

Military Life

5 things you need to know to fight an NJP

Everyone makes mistakes from time to time but some errors are permanent. Maybe you’re innocent, maybe you did it, maybe the command doesn’t care what the facts are and want to make an example out of you. Regardless of what went down, you’re still an American with rights. Higher ups will try to intimidate you into believing you don’t have rights and pressure you to give in – especially if you’re innocent because of ego. This is how you fight back against a Non Judicial Punishment (NJP).

1. Shut up

Demand a lawyer immediately and stay firm. Answer NO questions. In fact, do not say anything to anyone. Do not mention your case or any details. Not even to your friends – especially your friends. Everyone not on your side is going to interrogate your allies. Your strongest weapon is silence. Do not talk to witnesses or the opposing party. Do not confirm or deny anything is even taking place.

A soldier demonstrating the process of reviewing an NJP
Screenshot from a training video intended to familiarize the Alaska National Guard force with nonjudicial punishment, or NJP.

2. Lawyer up

You have the right to an attorney, if they can’t provide you with one, the NJP is postponed until they can. If you’re underway at sea or deployed you won’t have one for awhile. They will threaten throw you in the brig, ration your food and attempt to force you to sign a guilty plea. Stay strong and wait for your lawyer. Once, they know your lawyer is in communication with you they will immediately change their tune. Remember that Staff NCOs are not lawyers, they’re not your friends, and never believe anything they say when it comes to your case. You have the right to meet with your lawyer when they’re available. They cannot stop you from attending your scheduled meetings with your legal council. Do everything your lawyer advises to a T.

3. Write a statement

You have the right to know the charges brought up against you. Process them and write a statement in private. This will help you keep the facts straight while it is still fresh in your mind. Do not hand it over until your lawyer takes a look at it. Be as detailed as possible but do not say you have a written statement ready. This is your secret weapon and you will often catch the opposition off guard. Staff NCOs expect you to roll over and just take it. In their hubris they will provide a verbal statement. This is when you provide your written statement. Any question you are asked just say ‘that information is provided in my written statement’ over and over again.

They’re trying to make you contradict yourself. They may play cop, bad cop, point to the statement and stay firm and respectful.

4. Take corrective action before the trial

Delay, delay, delay. They want to get it over as fast as possible but this is a war of attrition. Set your meetings with your council as frequently and as far across that calendar as you can. If you did it and you know you won’t be able to win, fill those gaps in the calendar with seeking professional help. When it comes time to pay the piper, it will reflect positively that you show remorse and are going above and beyond to make sure this never happens again.

If you are innocent, fight for every second. At first you will have the lawyer provided by the military, use this time to find a lawyer that specializes specifically in the circumstances of your case. It’s easier said than done to not think about the price but your entire life could be changed by the outcome of this case. Stand your ground. Gather as much evidence of your innocence as you can.

Screenshot from a training video intended to familiarize the Alaska National Guard force with nonjudicial punishment, or NJP.
The result of NJP proceedings have a lot to do with how you conduct yourself throughout them.

5. They could be relieved of command themselves

If you’re innocent and they’re still going to crucify you, request a court martial instead — it is also your right. The risk is bigger, yes, but if you win, your reputation will remain intact. Also, the higher ups do not want it to go to court martial because if you win, and they know they’re wrong, it will go very badly for them.

Here is a little secret I learned in S-3 Operations, if the battalion commander has three or more court martials during his time as the commanding officer of your unit he will be placed under investigation. ‘What is going on in this unit?’ If they see tons of NJPs and court martials thrown around for frivolous things people will be relieved of command. If you’re innocent and you know other court martials have happened since the last change of command – do it. Force their hand and call their bluff. They will either drop all charges or risk an investigation where they may lose their rank too. No one is safe from that kind of thorough investigation, every case will be investigated. Just because your command wants you to fry doesn’t mean your service branch wants you to.

If you’re guilty, have your attorney stand down, plead guilty, write a statement, take corrective action, and you may get a slap on the wrist. It can be in the form of keeping your rank, keeping your pay, restriction to your quarters, and some extra duty like sweeping and mopping the company office for two weeks. If it’s a company level NJP and you’ve only had one or two for minor offenses, chances are good you’ll be able to leave with an honorable discharge – and get away with NJP.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Abraham Lincoln’s wrestling skills made him the John Cena of his time

You know Abraham Lincoln as the emancipator and one of America’s greatest presidents, but a wrestler?


At 6-feet-4, 180 pounds, the frontier man was a highly regarded grappler who went 12 years with only one defeat in approximately 300 matches. According to Lincoln biographer Carl Sandberg, Abe was also an accomplished trash talker once challenging an entire crowd of onlookers after beating a foe: “I’m the big buck of this lick. If any of you want to try it, come on and whet your horns.”

Related: Here’s what America’s 6 sailor presidents did when they were in the fleet

Historians recount Lincoln’s badassery to as early as his teenage years. At age 19, he defeated the Natchez thugs by throwing them overboard during their attempted to hijack Lincoln’s stepbrother’s river barge. Ten years later, while working for an enterprising storekeeper in New Salem, Illinois, he doubled as a prize fighter for his boss who promoted his famous match against county champ, Jack Armstrong. Lincoln won by knockout when he threw Armstrong off his feet.

Lincoln was neither the first nor last president to succeed in wrestling. At age 47, George Washington famously defeated seven members of the Massachusetts militia during the American Revolution, Teddy Roosevelt cross trained in boxing and Jiu-Jitsu. Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant and William Taft were also champions, wrote Jennie Cohen for History.

Legend has it that Lincoln once beat a man by picking him up and tossing him 12 feet during a campaign speech. This American Heroes Channel video perfectly shows why you don’t want to get into a scuffle with honest Abe.

Watch:


American Heroes Channel, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

Female veterans pose on same ship that carried WW2 troops

Award-winning nonprofit Pin-Ups for Vets is releasing its 13th annual fundraising calendar to raise money for VA hospitals; ill, injured, and homeless veterans; deployed troops; and military families. The 2019 calendar, photographed on the iconic Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, features 19 female veterans decked out in World War II inspired fashion.

“Fans of Art Deco will appreciate the look of the upcoming calendar that reflects the vintage glamour of this 1936 cruise liner, now permanently docked in Long Beach, CA as a floating hotel,” said Pin-Ups For Vets Founder, Gina Elise, who established Pin-Ups For Vets in 2006, as a way to honor the WWII service of her grandfather.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association

Gina Elise, Founder

Gina has devoted her life to giving back to the military community. To date, Pin-Ups For Vets has donated over ,000 to help hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans’ healthcare program expansion across the United States.

The 2019 calendar is officially ready for pre-order at www.PinUpsForVets.com. All 2019 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar pictures were taken by Shane Karns Photography — and let me just tell you…he really nailed it.


‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association

Kirstie Ennis, U.S. Marine Corps veteran

From a linguist, to a Human Intelligence Collector, to a combat photographer, to a combat medic, to a motor transportation operator, to a heavy equipment transporter driver leading convoys in Iraq, to a helicopter door gunner in Afghanistan, these ladies also include an above-the-knee amputee veteran (Marine Corps veteran Kirstie Ennis — who, by the way, at the time of this publishing was climbing Mount Denali in support of Service to Summit to raise money for Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that builds or modifies homes and gives them to veterans in need).

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association

Julie Noyes, Army veteran

Army veteran Julie Noyes says, “It can be so difficult as a female service member to feel empowered in her beauty without feeling like she may betray the professionalism of her uniform when we only seek to be treated like our male counterparts. I feel that Pin-Ups for Vets does a superb job at raising money and awareness for our elderly, wounded vets and our currently deployed troops while also showcasing the class and beauty of female veterans without objectifying them. What Pin-Ups Vets Founder Gina Elise has done with this publication and non-profit is nothing short of empowering and inspiring.”

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association

Naumika Kumar, Navy Veteran

“I will always be thankful to the Navy. I met my husband in the Navy who is also a veteran now and I graduated from National University with Master’s Degree in 2012 as well. I am happy to see there are organization such as Pin-Ups For Vets who are doing so much to support the military and Veterans. I am happy that I got an opportunity to be part of the organization.”

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association

Patti Gomez, Army veteran

Patti is a veteran of the United States Army, where she proudly served in the New York Army National Guard as a 35M (Human Intelligence Collector) of the 42nd Infantry Division, located in Glenville, New York. She volunteered to attend JRTC in Fort Polk, Louisiana, alongside the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in July 2016. She also trained at Warfighter at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, with her unit in October 2017. Patti attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and attended Advanced Individual Training at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

“Pin-Ups for Vets is an incredible organization with an important mission. Being a part of a nonprofit that helps veterans and empowers women at the same time is truly an honor and one that I couldn’t pass up when I was asked to be a part of the 2019 calendar. As the reigning Mrs. New York America, my platform is veteran organizations — and Pin-Ups for Vets is truly among the best of them!”

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association

Check out that cover image!

The 2019 calendar can be purchased at: www.PinUpsForVets.com or by check to: Pin-Ups For Vets, PO Box 33, Claremont, CA 91711.

Articles

Here’s why flamethrowers were so deadly on the battlefield for both sides

Used as the ultimate weapon to clear out enemy trenches, the flamethrower made its first major war debut during the early days of WWI, unleashing terror upon British and French forces.


The flamethrower dates back to the 5th century B.C. when elongated tubes were filled with burning coal or sulfur to create a “blowgun” that could be propelled by a warrior’s breath.

Considered one of the most devastating weapons on the battlefield, the modern day flamethrower was often considered just as dangerous for the trooper wielding it as it was for the enemy it faced.

Related: The 7 deadliest weapons of the Crusades

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
This Marine sprays his deadly flamethrower at an enemy building. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

At first, the German army tested two types of flamethrowers — a Flammenwerfer (a large version) and the Kleinflammenwerfer (designed for portable use). Using pressurized air or nitrogen, the thrower managed to launch the stream of fire as far as 18 meters (the larger version shot twice as far).

The weapon consisted mainly of two triggers, one to shoot the fuel as the other ignited the propellant.

As American forces adopted the weapon, its popularity grew during the island hopping campaigns of WWII since the Japanese commonly use bunkers or “pillboxes” as defensive positions.

Although the flamethrower was a highly effective killing tool, the operator was at a total disadvantage as the supply tank only allowed the weapon to spread its deadly incendiary for about 10 seconds before running out of fuel — leaving the operator somewhat defenseless.

According to retired Marine Willie Woody, the average life expectancy of a flamethrower trooper on the battlefield was five minutes. Since the fuel tanks weren’t constructed of bulletproof materials, the tanks just made bigger targets.

If struck by a hot round in the right spot, the result could be a massive explosion.

Also Read: The British and Germans built these deadly hollowed-out trees in WWI

Check out the Lightning War 1941‘s video below to see the flamethrowers effectiveness during battle.

(Lightning War 1941, YouTube)
Military Life

Here are the best military photos for the week of March 2nd

As a service member, there’s no telling what the week will bring. Thankfully, the ranks are filled with expert photographers who have a keen eye for capturing what military life is like, both in training and at war.


These are the best photos of the week:

Air Force:

A U.S. Air Force pararescueman, assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, performs tactical critical casualty care on several simulated casualties aboard a U.S. Army CH-47F Chinook during a personnel recovery exercise at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Feb. 27, 2018. While deployed to Afghanistan, the pararescuemen primarily fly their missions on the Chinooks, making the 83rd ERQS the first joint personnel recovery team in Air Forces Central Command.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

494th Aircraft Maintenance Unit Airmen work on an F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Feb. 28. Airmen are trained to operate under a variety of different conditions to maintain mission readiness.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Eric Burks)

Army:

Sergeant John Chambliss, crew chief, Alpha Company, “Task Force Voodoo”, 1st Assault Helicopter Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, Louisiana National Guard preforms pre-flight inspection of a UH-60M Black Hawk, Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Feb. 27, 2018. The flight featured an all-African-American crew in recognition of Black History Month and the growth that has occurred within the aviation community over time.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas X. Crough, USARCENT PAO)

U.S. Soldiers assigned to 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, detonate a flex linear charge at a range near the Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland, Feb. 28, 2018. These Soldiers are part of the unique, multinational battle group comprised of U.S., U.K., Croatian and Romanian soldiers who serve with the Polish 15th Mechanized Brigade as a deterrence force in northeast Poland in support of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew McNeil, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Navy:

The official party salute the colors during the change of command ceremony for Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi. During the ceremony Capt. Forrest O. Young, from Washington D.C. relieved Capt. Michael S. Wosje, from Sioux Falls, S.D., as Commander, CVW-5.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matthew C. Duncker)

Seaman Zimir Wilkins, assigned to the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), stands starboard-forward lookout as the ship transits the Strait of Gibraltar Feb. 28, 2018. Oak Hill, home-ported in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael H. Lehman)

Marine Corps:

A Marine low crawls through a cement tunnel during the combat endurance course aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Feb. 28.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Benjamin McDonald)

U.S. Marines assigned to the Maritime Raid Force (MRF), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), conduct fast rope training from an MH-60S Sea Hawk, attached to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), Feb. 26, 2018. Iwo Jima and the 26th MEU are conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jered T. Stone)

Coast Guard:

Members of a an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew, from Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Officer Port Angeles, Wash., and emergency medical service personnel move an injured hiker to a stretcher on the air field at the air station, Feb. 24, 2018. EMS personnel then transported the 68-year-old male, who had reportedly suffered shoulder and back injures after a fall, to the Olympic Medical Center.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric Mangiarelli.)

Articles

These athletes are gearing up for the Warrior Games

Sergeant Ryan Major’s life changed forever in a flash and a bang in November 2006.


While deployed in Iraq, the infantry soldier from Baltimore stepped on an improvised explosive device. He lost both of his legs and several fingers on both hands.

Major, now retired, was one of about 70 wounded soldiers and veterans from across the Army who gathered at Fort Bliss the first week of April to compete in the Army Trials.

The event, which was held at Fort Bliss for the third straight year, is used to determine the Army’s team at the upcoming Warrior Games, an Olympic-style event for wounded, injured and ill service members of all branches. This year, the Warrior Games will be held in Chicago June 30 to July 8.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
Army Trials for 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games. (Dept. of Defense News photo by EJ Hersom)

Participating in adaptive sports helped to get Major out of a serious depression he had fallen into after being severely wounded, he said. Adaptive sports are designed or modified for disabled athletes to compete against others with similar disabilities or injuries.

“Before I got injured I loved competition, sports, and getting into shape,” said Major, who represented the Baltimore Veterans Affairs at the Army Trials.

Participating in adaptive sports “changed my life,” he said.

“It made me more sociable with other veterans who have similar injuries and stories,” Major said.

Sports also helped him to have a more positive attitude about his injuries, he added.

During the Army Trials, Army athletes in wheelchairs, with prosthetic limbs, and some with injuries that weren’t apparent at first glance competed in a variety of events.

They came from more than a dozen installations and participated in track and field, cycling, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, and seated volleyball.

Most had compelling stories, like Major, about how participating in sports got them out of a dark place and thrust them into a new chapter in their lives.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games Bicycling. (Dept. of Defense photo by EJ Hersom)

Lt. Col. Luis Fregoso was one of the organizers of the Army Trials with the Warrior Care and Transition Program in Arlington, Va. This Army organization oversees the most critical cases of wounded, injured, and ill soldiers and helps them transition back to active duty or to civilian life.

Sports can play a huge role in the healing process, said Fregoso, who is from Los Angeles.

“A lot of soldiers, when they have this life-changing event happen to them, they will get into a dark place,” Fregoso said. “The common theme is they just don’t feel their normal self and start spiraling into a bad area, especially in their mind.”

Sports help them to adapt to their “new normal” and can give them the confidence to tackle other areas in their lives, Fregoso added.

Retired Master Sgt. Shawn “Bubba” Vosburg still has the look of a soldier out on a mission. But he suffers from post-traumatic stress, a traumatic brain injury, and a slew of other injuries up and down his body.

Competing in sports helps to “tie you back to the military,” said Vosburg, who is originally from Colorado Springs, Colo., but now calls El Paso home. He represented Fort Bliss during the recent competition.

“You do so much time in the military, and you lose that when you retire,” Vosburg said. “But (adaptive sports) introduces you to new people whom you consider friends and family, and that family is growing.”

Vosburg credits sports for saving his life and he wants to return the favor to his fellow veterans.

He is working on a master’s degree in social work at the University of Texas at El Paso and wants to help “bring more soldiers out of the dark, like I came out of,” he said.

Also read: Here’s what happens when a wounded warrior uses his arm for the first time in 10 years

Retired Staff Sgt. Isaac Rios was shot multiple times and was hit by a mortar round during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

For many veterans, leaving the service and going back to civilian life is a culture shock and even downright scary, Rios said.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
A member of Special Operations Command throws the shot put during field competition for the 2015 Warrior Games. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt Ezekiel R. Kitandwe)

Sports, however, helped to give him a new way of looking at life, said the Brooklyn, N.Y., native who represented Fort Bragg, N.C.

“You can’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it,” Rios said.

Sgt. 1st Class Julio Cesar Rodriguez, of Worcester, Mass, battles depression and an arthritic hip.

Participating in sports, like archery, gives you something to do and something else to focus on besides the darkness clouding your mind, said Rodriguez, who represented Fort Gordon, Ga.

“It taught me to remove those negative, dark items out of my mind and focus on the present and my way forward in the future,” he said.
Military Life

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks

Most veterans lived in the barracks (or dorms for you Air Force types) at some point during their time in service. Despite the improvements to military quarters over the years, many people just can’t stand barracks life because of things like buffing hallway floors, the senior leader walkthroughs, and the early morning health and welfare inspections. Bottom line: barracks life is not everyone’s cup of tea.


 

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
Marines barracks party in 1967.

 

But be advised: When you finally leave to live off base or finish your term of enlistment, you may come to the realization that ‘barracks life’ wasn’t really all that bad. Here are some things you might actually miss about living in the “Bs”:

1. Free room and board

 

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
Airman 1st Class Robert Ruiz, 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron, enjoys the comfort of his dorm room. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Anthony Jennings)

 

Remember all the money you saved during your time there? No worries about paying a landlord or making mortgage payments. You didn’t have to concern yourself about paying a power or water bill. Although a military lifestyle is tough, this feels like a small pass on adulthood.

2. Being close to PT formation

 

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
Soldiers conduct physical training outside new barracks at Fort Bragg, N.C. New barracks include suite-like living quarters for Soldiers, where bathrooms and kitchenettes are shared with only a few others. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

 

Getting an extra thirty minutes or even an hour of sleep is something you take for granted when living in the barracks. You don’t have to deal with the stress of driving to base and trying to beat the morning traffic to the front gate. Waking up, brushing your teeth, and walking to formation from your room is pretty awesome.

3. It’s easy to borrow things

 

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
Inside old school U.S. Navy barracks.

 

Need some shaving cream or laundry detergent? Just ask your buddy next door or on the rack beside you. Someone in the barracks would more than likely hook you up.

4. Living with your battle buddies

 

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
U.S. Marines in front of barracks at U.S. Naval Base Key West, FL in 1963

 

Getting to live in the same building with your friends is fun. You can always find someone to watch the game, hang out, or play video games. Barracks life builds great camaraderie among the unit.

5. Barracks grill outs

 

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

 

There was nothing quite like those grill-outs in the courtyard on the weekends. If your courtyard had a basketball or volleyball court, it made these events that much better.

6. Barracks parties

Admit it, some of the best parties you ever attended were from the comforts of your building. They were a blast, full of shenanigans, and sometimes unpredictable. Whether you enjoyed your time living there or disliked them, some of your fondest memories in service probably happened in the barracks.

 

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
U.S. Soldiers hanging out in a barracks day room in 1968.

What are some of your favorite barracks stories? Tell us in the comments section.

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

Articles

How interrogation techniques are used on recruits and no one knew it

For countless years, various interrogation techniques have been used to locate the bad guys, gain confessions and convict criminals. In 1996, the CIA and Army intelligence officers were forced to release a collection of writings called “Kubark” after a Freedom of Information Act request.


This former secret document reveals practices used against the nation’s enemies to admit wrong doings and learn information to prevent future attacks.

Related: President ponders review of suspected terrorist interrogations and black sites

Section nine (shown below) describes the stages of coercive techniques used to extract vital information from sources. Once you look closely, you may realize you’ve experienced one or more of these techniques up close and personal during your stay in boot camp.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
The levels of Kubark from the original document published in 1963. (Source: NSA Archive / Screenshot)

Here’s how 8 out of 12 forms of counterintelligence interrogation techniques are used on recruits in basic training.

1. Arrest

In this case, arrest doesn’t mean being handcuffed and hauled off to jail, we’re talking about using the element of surprise to achieve the maximum amount of mental discomfort. Picture a few drill sergeants barreling into a squad bay screaming and yelling waking up their recruits at moments notice — it’s the same principle.

2. Detention

According to the NSA archive, the continuity of a man’s surroundings, appearance, daily habits, and actions define his identity. In boot camp, the recruit has no control over any of these aspects in his new military life.

3. Deprivation of Sensory Stimuli

Basic training is known for breaking down recruits before they’re built back up. So recruits are banned from anything positive at least until graduation.

4. Threats and Fears

When a DI tells you that nothing you can do is right and you’re a complete failure, it takes a toll on the mind. Even worse, if you fail you’re going to have to repeat the tough evolution if you don’t get a move on.

5. Debility

Living in close counters with up to 80 other people means getting sick is almost guaranteed. Getting a head cold and forced to hard days work can break anyone’s spirit. The interrogation doesn’t stop for a detainee if they have a little fever.

6. Pain

Everyone’s threshold to tolerate pain is different. As many would collapse and quit, others use it as motivation to push forward and fight. Boot camp is all about mental and physical toughness and so is surviving a harsh interrogation.

7. Heighten Suggestibility and Hypnosis

This state of consciousness means getting someone to accept suggestion without them thinking about it and taking action. In military terms, it’s building up muscle memory.

8. Narcosis

Today it’s mainly known as sleep deprivation. Everyone needs rest or they can make vital mistakes. Boot camp is widely known for keeping military hopefuls up for multiple hours conducting various tasks to see how they respond to the stress.

Also Read: This Navy SEAL’s intense boot camp prepares actors for movie combat

Military Life

The critical role of women in the military

Throughout history, women have played pivotal roles in the military. Women have served on the frontlines since the Revolutionary War – Margaret Corbin, famously defended Fort Washington in 1776 – but it wasn’t until 1901 that women were allowed to serve in the military in any official capacity.

“Albeit only in certain branches and typically in wartime,” Captain Veronica Bean, Public Affairs Officer for the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Drum, told We Are The Mighty. “Since then, we’ve seen major legislative and institutional changes, including the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948, which allowed women to serve during peacetime and the Department of Defense’s 2013 decision to allow women to serve in combat roles.”

World War I was the first time the military opened to women on an official level by the Army.

Women were allowed to serve in the military when the need for manpower grew too large to ignore. “The country realized we needed all hands on deck to support the war,” Bean explained. “As women successfully completed their original duties, more and more jobs opened up to them. World War I served as a turning point where the nation saw how valuable women were to the war effort. It set the conditions for WAVES, WAACS and WASPS in World War II and generations of future service.”

Trailblazers from each branch include: Deborah Sampson, U.S. Army; Esther McGowin Blake, U.S. Air Force; Genevieve and Lucille Baker, U.S.Coast Guard; Loretta Walsh, U.S. Navy; Opha May Johnson, U.S. Marine Corps.

“The first women to serve in the armed forces enlisted in the Navy in 1917,” Bean shared. “While the women served stateside, they were afforded the same benefits and pay as their male counterparts. The military was one of the first institutions to offer equal pay between the sexes. This was a groundbreaking social change—remember, this was three years before the U.S. ratified the 19th amendment which grants women the right to vote.”

In January 2013, Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, lifted the ban on women in combat roles and gave the military two years to complete integration.

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
Capt. Kari Asai, an F-15E weapons officer assigned to the 492nd Fighter Squadron, RAF Lakenheath, England, stands in front of her aircraft following a training mission during Red Flag 13-3, March 6 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Asai’s unit is working with allied nations to gain combat experience over the skies of Nevada’s Test and Training Range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Benjamin Newell)

“Limiting the roles in which women could serve in the military effectively capped female career progression,” Bean said. “Take into consideration that the most senior strategic leaders – the chiefs of staff or combatant commanders for example – historically have combat arms backgrounds, which is why these positions were filled only by men until just a few years ago. The Department of Defense’s decision to allow women to serve in all capacities of the military freed women to also serve at all levels of leadership. As women progress up the ranks and fill these senior leader positions, we’re starting to have women, for the first time, impact decisions that ultimately affect the entire force.”

Today, women serve in all facets of the armed services. 

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Martineau, Staff Sgt. Sarah Ledwith and Senior Airman Marissa Vanzee pose for a photo March 6, 2016. They form an all-lady weapons load crew and in a recent evaluation earned accolades for being “best loading operations seen to date.” Their supervisor said that their “work ethic and sense of urgency was instrumental to the 158 AMXS Weapons Section shining during Combat Hammer 2016.” (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Victoria Greenia)

“Gender diversity in the military makes us better, because it allows a myriad of experience and perspective to be included in the planning and decision-making process,” Bean explained. “More importantly, allowing women to serve in the same fashion as their male peers breaks down stereotypes about what women can and can not do both physically and professionally.”

Bean told We Are The Mighty that as a woman in the military, there are many women who currently serve or have served that inspire her.

“Army Gen (Ret.) Ann E. Dunwoody was the first woman in the military to achieve the rank of general. Needless to say, she was a trail blazer and an inspiration to all the women who have followed in her footsteps,” she said. “More recently, U.S. Army Reservist, LTC Lisa Jaster was the first female reservist to complete Ranger school -and the third of all components. I really admire her for her grit and tenacity, but especially because she took on that challenge – a school whose motto is “not for the faint or weak of heart” – at age 37 after having two children. The average trainee is 23. She’s a reminder that the only limits we have are the one we put on ourselves.”

Although the military has come a long way in equality, there is still work to be done.

“Being a female service member can be a lonely experience,” Bean said. “It’s quite common to sit through a series of meetings in which I am the only woman in the room. But despite this, or perhaps because of this, the bond which is shared between sisters-in-arms is stronger than anything I’ve ever experienced outside of the military. The mentorship and support that military women provide each other aren’t talked about enough.”

Looking toward the future of women in the armed forces, Bean is hopeful.

“Today’s military recognizes that our strength lies in our diversity, and our senior leaders are making significant changes to grooming standards, uniforms, and training programs in order to recruit and retain women,” she said. “I’m excited about what the future holds, and I hope more young women will consider joining the profession of arms.”

Articles

This airman is a survivor — and a leader

Air Force Staff Sgt. Srun Sookmeewiriya — or “Sook,” as many people know him — may seem like a happy and carefree airman at first glance.


The 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron’s noncommissioned officer in charge of reports regularly puts forth an earnest effort here to keep his unit alive and running, so his dark past and his struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts come as a surprise to many.

“He’s like the morale person — that’s what everybody else refers him to,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Melissa Vela, the 313th EOSS NCO in charge of console operations. “He’s so full of energy. He’s so infectious, he makes everybody laugh.”

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
Air Force Staff Sgt. Srun Sookmeewiriya, 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of reports, holds a picture of himself with his younger brother, Thana, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Feb. 16, 2017. Sookmeewiriya, who attempted to commit suicide twice, said he draws inspiration from his brother to remain resilient and encourages airmen to open up about their struggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua)

Unknown to many of his wingmen, Sook’s current persona is possible only because he recovered from serious trauma he experienced as a young man. When Sook still lived in his native Thailand, both of his parents committed suicide. He witnessed his mother’s suicide, and he found his father’s body after his father had taken his own life and attempted to kill Sook’s younger brother, Thana.

“I saw him lying there in bed,” he recalled. “I wasn’t sure what happened. I tried to wake him up to see if he was still alive. I thought I was alone, and I didn’t know who I would go to now. My head was just spinning at that point. It was a shock.” Thana survived the gunshot wound, but was never the same, physically or mentally, Sook said.

Suicide Attempts

With his mother and father gone, Thana was the only family Sook had left. He went to a boarding school, where he said depression haunted him and other children bullied him for not having parents. This led to a suicide attempt by ingesting a large amount of over-the-counter medication. He was in a coma for two days.

Sook finished boarding school and eventually immigrated to the United States, where Thana would join him soon afterward. Sook spent his early time in the U.S. with relatives from his father’s first marriage. He would bounce from family to family because of his troubled personality, he said, and he also felt as if he was just an outsider because of his status as a “half-relative.”

“I felt like I didn’t belong, because I wasn’t a part of their family,” Sook said. “I didn’t feel any emotion when I hugged them.”

‘The Battle of River Oaks Boulevard’ pitted a Marine against a homeowners association
Trauma can take many forms; in recent years the military is striving to raise awareness of its symptoms and provide treatment.

The feeling of being an outsider overwhelmed Sook, and he tried to kill himself again.

“I didn’t want to deal with the state I was in: not feeling welcome and not feeling like I was part of the family,” he said. “At that time as a kid, I thought that the best way was to just end it all and leave.”

Sook said he tried to hide his attempted suicide, but his relatives eventually found out and sent him to a doctor to get help. His half-sister, Kim, was especially appalled, and confronted him about what he done. She asked, “What about your brother?”

Also read: 5 things military spouses need to know about PTSD

“When she mentioned my brother, I totally thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m leaving him behind,'” Sook said. That’s when he decided to turn around and confront his issues instead of running from them. Sook described his brother as his inspiration in his fight against depression.

“He was the only family I had up to that point. It was me and him. He has been through a lot tougher things than I had. Because of the gunshot wound, he was scarred for life. He didn’t grow up normally, but he never gave up. That’s one reason why I should not and will not give up on him, because he didn’t either.”

Strength in Recovery

As part of his recovery process, Sook found strength in his faith and from Kim, who helped him get back on his feet.

“It took me a while — basically, a couple years,” he said. “I think I’m still bouncing back to this day. I think of this tragedy as a lesson, and that lesson is to not repeat the same thing that [my parents] did.”

Sook joined the Air Force as a civil engineer airman, and cross-trained to be an air mobility controller. He adopted Thana as his dependent, and eventually married and started a family. He noted that although his life still has its ups and downs, he copes by confiding in his wife. He also expressed gratitude for the support his coworkers give him continuously.

“Having a good work center in the Air Force actually helped me out a lot,” he said. “When I have other issues, they continue to help me out.”

Vela described how surprised she was when Sook opened up to her about his past, saying that she would have never guessed that an airman like Sook would have experienced so much trauma.

“I was speechless the whole time he told his story,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, are you OK?’ To me, I can see the strength in his words and his actions. Seeing the strength that he had to come forth and tell his story is amazing.”

Encouragement for Others

Sook shares his story occasionally with the public, hoping to encourage people suffering from depression to seek help and not to try to survive on their own. He said he emphasizes how important it is to open up to people who care, and that many people are standing by at agencies on the base ready to assist in their battle against depression.

“Don’t bottle up those issues,” he added. “If you stress out, talk it out. Find somebody who is willing to listen.”

Sook said he encourages airmen to look for a cause and to do what it takes to survive so they can continue to fight for it.

“Don’t give up. Look for what you’re fighting for,” he said. “I fight for my brother, my wife, and my kids. It’s their future and my future.”

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