Being deployed to a war zone can sometimes mean intense firefights, well-concealed IEDs, and the overall fear of the unknown. These are just a few of the many dangers many of our service members face on a daily basis.
When our troops gear up to leave the wire they put on their armor, chamber a round into their rifles and some quietly recite a prayer to themselves before heading out.
But sometimes these presumably calm foot patrols can go south in a matter of moments.
Marines depart their entry control point on a foot patrol heading toward the bazaar in Now Zad district, Helmand province, Afghanistan. (Source: USMC Life)
So imagine leaving the outpost unarmed in the face of this uncertainty. That’s what happens on so-called MEDCAP missions.
MEDCAP — which stands for “medical civil action program” — is a process where allied medical personnel exit the semi-safe confines of their FOBs and treat the local populous of their sickly alignments and injuries.
In hopes of gaining the locals’ trust, the medical staff typically don’t wear their protective body armor or carry their side arms to the events.
In several cases, the medical team ends up treating the enemy’s wounds which they may have sustained while battling allied forces — not cool.
Going out unarmed is one thing, but sitting in the same place — sometimes for hours — unprotected in a combat zone is downright terrifying. And one of the biggest dangers comes from suicide bombers, who can sometimes get close enough to detonate themselves or even fire their weapon before getting checked by the guards.
Every military installation has its ups and downs. You could be assigned to a tropical paradise, but you can’t afford anything off-base. You could be assigned to a breathtaking foreign country, but learning the local language will take some time. Or, you could be assigned to Thule Air Base in Greenland, where there’s literally nothing but ice and rock for 65 miles (and, even then, it’s just a remote Eskimo village).
The multinational team stationed there consists of around 400 Danish troops, 150 American troops, and a handful of Canadians. Team Thule is charged with tracking satellites and orbiting debris using a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS), a remnant from the Cold War by being strategically placed roughly halfway between Moscow and New York City.
The BMEWS is still manned and operated by both American and Danish troops. Denmark holds territorial claim over Greenland but gave them “Home Rule” in 1979 and Greenlanders voted for self-governance in 2008. Denmark still handles much of the defense of Greenland, however.
Troops at Thule are locked out from the rest of the world by the ice for nine months, so during the three “summer” months, everyone loads up on supplies that’ll last them the rest of the year. Thule is also home to the Air Force’s only Tug Boat, the Rising Star, which it uses for these resupply missions.
The Military One Source Pamphlet hilariously tries to downplay the roughness of Thule while also telling you that there are no ATMs, no commissary, the PX is extremely limited, and there’s all of one bar and a single “base taxi.”
But hey! At least every barracks room comes with free WiFi and it’s kind of accepted that everyone shelters-in-place during the four-month-long Polar Night where winds can reach 200 mph and the temperatures are -28.
The infantry squad leader is a billet that demands leadership and integrity. There is an unofficial rite of passage that every squad must endure. I’m not talking about the first order issued or the trials of combat. No–it’s when your squad leader sings his favorite, stereotypically “girly” songs. Maybe it’s boredom or his brain has turned to soup because of all the stupid he has to put up with.
In Afghanistan, our squad leader lost a bet to our Staff NCO and had to do a patrol debrief wearing spandex short shorts. What we saw was not meant for mortal eyes. The constant stretching and Ke$ha songs, however, were not mandatory. If he had to pay the price, so did all of us. If your squad leader doesn’t sing ridiculous songs at some point, is he even a real leader?
Ke$ha – Tik Tok
Vietnam Veterans had Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival – meanwhile, we have this. Out of all the things that can give someone PTSD, I can’t listen to this song without remembering the horrors of that day. Was it worth it Staff Sergeant?
Pinkfong – Baby Shark
If you have had kids this song has given you PTSD. Naturally, drill instructors sunk their teeth into it immediately at the height of it’s popularity.
Katy Perry – Firework
For a long time, Katy Perry was the darling of the Marine Corps. She has done numerous shows for the troops on USO tours and even made a tribute music video. She has partnered with UNICEF and Generosity Water to help children around the world. Her humanitarian resume stretches decades into the past making it less inhibiting to be a fan in uniform. If your squad leader didn’t at least hum this during a tactical halt, sweating and losing his marbles – yet happy, then it wasn’t a real deployment.
Britney Spears – Baby one more time
A classic. A must have on the list. Generally the older SNCOs sing this because of their aversion to pop culture, although ironically, this is pop culture – but old.
Christina Aguilera – Genie in a Bottle
Same as above.
Lady Gaga – Bad Romance
When I was a devil pup embarking on my first deployment, this song hit the air waves. Unfortunately for us, since we were without internet, it was one of the only songs people would sing. Mother Monster is beautiful and a great singer. However, when her lyrics come out of the mouth of the leadership, you start reevaluating your life choices.
The Navy’s theme song
As is tradition.
Aqua – Barbie Girl
We’ve all sung this one. Laugh it up because then we’re going in a fun run when its over. Even the Russians are doing it!
Being forward deployed to a combat zone means you’re most likely fighting an enemy with plenty of home field advantage and tons of thought-out hiding spots.
Ongoing bombings topple over buildings and collapse bridges, and new structures replace the destroyed ones all the time; therefore, the most current geographical satellite map you have could already be outdated.
Without a city permit office to register new construction, coalition forces fighting on the ground have to make due with intel they have on hand and do their absolute best to predict where and how the bad guys are going to strike next.
The fact is, knowing how and when the enemy plans on striking is a guessing game, but since history repeats itself, these are common places they have been known to plant their bombs — so keep an extra eye out.
IEDs in the ground
This is by far the most common way IEDs are utilized. These deadly explosives can be hidden quickly in the ground; some last for years before being fully detonated.
Although finding them can be challenging, Allied forces use metal detectors to locate them and mine rollers that are designed to detonate the explosive on their terms.
IEDs in the ground are also commonly located by the “indicators” the enemy leaves behind so their people don’t accidentally step on one. These signs come in forms like stacked rocks and disturbed soil.
In moving or parked vehicles
Known as a “V-BIED” or vehicle-born improvised explosive device, these are some nasty suckers and can hold a lot of explosive materials based on the vehicle’s cargo area.
This method can do some significant damage.
Sometimes the vehicles just appear to be broken down cars parked on the side of a road as a traveling Army or Marine foot patrol passes by. Other times, suicide bombers drive them right up to the front entrance of a military base.
In dead animals
This method works just like the V-BIED. The enemy has been known to hide a several few pounds of homemade explosives (HME) in the bellies of dead animals. The bigger the animal, the more explosive they can implant.
Looks innocent — but stay away.
Ground troops frequently look down when searching for explosives. These IEDs are typically placed high up in trees to combat the turret gunners in an elevated position while in their armor vehicles.
The turret gunner has no real defense; they rely on their eyesight and instinct when traveling down a road in between large trees.
The local kids
Troops often carry a dump pouch used to quickly store spent magazines and others items without having to spend precious time placing them back into their original locations.
The pouch is typically placed near a troop’s hip and is wide open for easy dumping access. Local kids have been known to innocently approach foot patrols and put live grenades into these pouches.
Take a look at the naming convention of any combat arms battalion. Chances are that alpha company is “Assassins,” bravo company is “Barbarians,” and, because there’s no clever, hardcore, historical fighter that starts with ‘C,’ charlie company will be “Reapers” or something.
Toss in the occasional Spartans, outlaws, rebels, anarchists, dragons, zombies, gladiators, and make sure to leave some clever pun for headquarters (something like “Troubleshooters” — get it? It’s an IT thing and it’s because they shoot trouble. Hey, don’t you roll your eyes at me, I didn’t make it up…).
Recently, the Australian Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, issued a directive to ban any and all “death symbology and iconography” from the Australian Army, effective immediately. This includes all of the above-mentioned names and forbids the use of symbols like skulls and weapons in logos (which, technically, should include the most Australian special operations unit, the 1st Commando Regiment, whose logo pictures a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife stabbing a boomerang. Just sayin’).
Lieutenant General Angus Campbell said,
“Such symbology… is always ill-considered and implicitly encourages the inculcation of an arrogant hubris and general disregard for the most serious responsibility of our profession — the legitimate and discriminate taking of life.”
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)
With the utmost respect towards the Australian Chief of Army, hardcore names and symbols don’t take away from the seriousness of combat. It never has and never will. It boosts the morale of our troops while demoralizing the enemy. If even a single life of any American, NATO, ANZAC, and any other allied troop is saved by the psychological impact of these symbols, then repeatedly telling troops they’re hardened killers is worth it.
Death iconography bands the troops together because it’s a fun symbol to be associated with. It’s powerful. It hypes them up for the ultimate reality — some of them will fight in combat and see real consequences. The symbols serve as warnings to the enemy that these people are not to be messed with.
The Navy is the only military service that until now has never had an initial test of fitness prior to recruit training, Lt. Sean Brophy, a spokesman for Naval Service Training Command, told Military.com.
“It’s an effort to raise the bar and develop tough, more qualified sailors during basic military training to increase the lethality of the fleet overall,” he said.
The change was implemented after Rear Adm. Mike Bernacchi, commander of Naval Service Training Command, realized with surprise that the Navy, alone among the services, lacked an entry-level physical standard, an official with knowledge of the process told Military.com.
According to a Navy announcement, recruits who don’t make the minimum run time for the new test on first attempt can take the test again within 48 hours. If they still can’t pass the test, they will be discharged with an entry-level separation.
That form of discharge allows prospective recruits to obtain a waiver from Navy Recruiting Command and apply again for enlistment if they wish to do so.
While the new standard may keep some people out, it’s pretty lenient compared with the other services.
In the Marine Corps, the initial strength test includes pull-ups, sit-ups, ammo can lifts, and a one-and-a-half-mile run. For male recruits, the run must be completed in 13 minutes, 30 seconds. Female recruits have 15 minutes to finish.
The Air Force requires new recruits to complete a run of the same distance in a recommended 13 minutes, 45 seconds for men and 16 minutes, one second for women. Push-ups and sit-ups are also included in the test.
The Army, which also requires push-ups and sit-ups, has prospective enlistees complete a one-mile run before they start training. Men have 8 minutes, 30 seconds for the run, while women have 10 minutes, 30 seconds.
Brophy said the Navy’s standard for its new initial fitness test is based on a calculation of where recruits need to start in fitness to make a satisfactory medium, or passing, score on the physical readiness test administered at the end of boot camp.
“If recruits push themselves through eight weeks of boot camp, there’s a 98 percent chance we can get them to the satisfactory medium,” he said.
While challenges with meeting military recruitment quotas have prompted some services to rethink their entry standards and requirements, Brophy said officials expect this change to produce more qualified enlistees, rather than cutting into the eligible recruitment pool.
“We expect attrition due to [physical fitness assessment] failures to drop,” he said.
And along with the challenge posed by the new test comes an incentive.
Recruits who achieve an “outstanding high” score on their final physical fitness assessment will be meritoriously advanced to the next rank when they graduate boot camp, officials said.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Aerial Port Airmen from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, load cargo on a C-17 Globemaster III during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Oct. 17, 2017. The C-17 is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to bases throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The aircraft can be outfitted to perform tactical airlift, airdrop, and aeromedical evacuation as missions require.
A U.S. Air Force KC-135 performs a dry contact with a C-17 Globemaster III during an aerial-refueling training exercise over Germany, Oct. 19, 2017. The training exercise was done in support of the Strategic Airlift Command operated out of Papa Air Base, Hungary. Strategic Airlift Command consists of 12 NATO and Partnership for Peace nations.
The setting sun at Grafenworh, Germany, shines through the trees as Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade fold the American flag as a part of the retreat ceremony.
U.S. Soldiers with the 615th Military Police Company, 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade conduct a dismounted patrol at the 7th Army Training Command’s Training Area Grafenwoehr, Oct. 18, 2017.
An EA-18G Growler assigned to the “Cougars” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 139 takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is underway on a deployment to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.
The amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) departs Naval Station Norfolk to participate in Bold Alligator 2017 (BA17). Improving Navy-Marine Corps amphibious core competencies along with coalition, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Allied and partner nations is a necessary investment in the current and future readiness of our forces. BA17 will take place Oct. 18-30, 2017, ashore along the eastern seaboard.
Firefighters from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni respond to a simulated casualty during a chemical exposure drill as part of exercise Active Shield at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Oct. 17, 2017. Active Shield is an annual exercise designed to test the abilities of U.S. and Japanese forces to work alongside each other to protect and defend the air station and other U.S. assets in the region.
U.S. Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 (MWSS 371) participate in a simulated aircraft salvage exercise during Weapons and Tactics Instructors Course (WTI) 1-18 at Yuma, Ariz., on Oct. 14, 2017. WTI is a seven week training event hosted by Marine Aviation and Weapons Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) cadre which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of Marine Corps Aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.
Coast Guard responds to barge on fire approximately three miles from Port Aransas, Texas, jetties Oct. 20, 2017. A Coast Guard Corpus Christi MH-65 Dolphin and HC-144 Ocean Sentry are searching for two missing crewmembers.
Coast Guard field responders Petty Officer 2nd Class Aaron Jessup and Petty Officer 3rd Class Justin Basham assess a partially-sunk vessel for pollution in Crown Bay, St. Thomas, Oct. 18, 2017. More than 200 vessels in the area were identified by the Coast Guard and partner agencies as sunk or partially sunk as a result of the recent hurricanes.
Serving in the military is often portrayed as a challenging task and with the right reasons. Nevertheless, there are undoubtedly many advantages — embracing mother nature while serving is the one we’ll focus on. A lifestyle (what I’ve become to understand what the service actually is!) that offers you the chance to travel worldwide is unique and rewarding. The military has created this long culture of moving around, which means more opportunities for soldiers to experience outdoors in different countries and continents. Acknowledging the hardship of continuous relocations for military families, I will emphasize my personally-identified outdoor benefits in serving in the military.
Soldiering up while learning to live in the field
Whoever has been in the army still has vivid memories of their first Field Training Exercise. There’s always that guy or gal who forgot his one piece of equipment he shouldn’t have forgotten leading up to a long, cold, freezing night. I have great stories about the rookie mistakes my buddies and I made in our first days in the field. Yet, this was all part of the learning process, and as time went by, we all learned how to gear up and started to relish mother nature every time.
If you’re a morning person (well, no one cares if you are or not, you’re still waking up early), you can see the morning mist slowly vanishing into nothing. At these times, we enjoyed sharing a cup of coffee and having small talk with our fellow soldiers.
If you like sunsets, there’s nothing like watching them as you eat an MRE with your friends (the MRE is not a must).
Enjoying outdoors all over the world
Having served in the military in Europe, I was fortunate to train with many countries worldwide. I was attached to a Royal Commando Company from Great Britain. We trained together on the beautiful beaches of Albania. Having the sea breeze cool us off after strenuous exercises was something we all craved. The mixture of the Adriatic Sea combined with Commando Fighting Tactics was a combo made in heaven.
On the other side of the world, in Wisconsin, I enjoyed one of the most beautiful spring weather ever. My unit was attached to a National Guard Unit from the Midwest and drove to this beautiful Army Base near the Canadian border. The trees, the air and the scenery were something I’ll never forget.
One of the best pieces of training I’ve ever completed was Winter Survival Training with Austrian, German and Swiss Alpine Infantrymen. My fellow cadets and I attended the two-week training in the Sharri Mountains near the trijunction between Kosovo, North Macedonia and Albania. If you wanted to see the power of nature, this was the place. We would start our morning hikes in beautiful sunny weather, wearing only shirts. As we approached the peak, an immense cloud with atrocious wind would cover us in no time. We would have to rush back to our shelter to survive — the beauty, unpredictability and mercilessness of nature-all within 30 minutes. No other profession offers this opportunity!
There have certainly been times of heavy rain and freezing cold, which I didn’t enjoy and that I’ll never forget. However, having had the opportunity to travel to more than 30 countries and four continents, I have enjoyed the outdoors everywhere I trained and traveled in the military capacity. These travels have made me appreciate nature so much more!
3. Hiking while completing mandatory ruck marches
If you serve in an infantry unit, you will probably have frequent ruck marches. Such activities can certainly be challenging and tedious, but if you’re into hiking and outdoors, they will feel less like work. The opportunity to patrol in mountains and hills with no signs of human construction feels more like a movie from WWII.
The remote areas where this training takes place more often than not offer a fantastic escape from urban stress. This is undoubtedly a factor not to be ignored since today’s world is defined by a fast-paced life with a rapid decrease in outdoor activities. Going out in ruck marches and FTXes will allow you to enjoy nature and fulfill your professional duty while getting paid to do so. Having a few beers and barbeque would be excellent, but we all know that’s not going to happen!
4. Working out in the outdoors with passion and camaraderie
One of the leading military activities known to occur in the outdoors is physical training. Whether soldiers are training with their platoon or in large running formations with their Battalion Commander, they’re undoubtedly enjoying the camaraderie.
As soldiers test their limits in developing their physical stamina, they learn how to cope with the weather and the environment. The all-weather training regimen gives the soldier a challenging task but also prepares them for any engagement. The CrossFit culture has dramatically shifted the culture from gyms to out-of-doors while achieving better results.
Serving in the outdoors and appreciating it
The military profession is essentially defined by the outdoors. All soldiers seem to enjoy it since it gives them an excellent opportunity to develop personally and savor nature. At the same time, they can travel around the globe while experiencing sceneries from all over the world. While this may appear as an unorthodox way to defend your country’s freedoms, it comes with difficulty and risk to soldiers’ lives.
Yet, true warriors overcome all obstacles and learn to appreciate the beauty of nature, wherever they may be.
Being “OC sprayed” is an absolutely terrible experience.
OC, or Oleoresin Capsicum — better known as pepper spray — is used to train military and law enforcement personnel as a necessary exercise, so they know what it feels like and can continue to function if they are sprayed.
“It may be the greatest pain I’ve ever felt in my life,” former Marine Ben Feibleman told WATM. Echoing this sentiment, WATM’s own Mike Dowling described it as “the worst day of his life.”
Despite the suffocating and searing sensation of the face, it’s a non-lethal form of policing, riot control, and personal self-defense. In most cases, the worst that will happen is irritation of the skin, temporary blindness, pain and the psychological effect of fear, anxiety and panic. As part of their training, troops are subject to voluntary OC spraying and asked to perform crowd restraint exercises.
The active ingredient in most OC sprays is a high concentration of pepper and alcohol, which is why “pepper spray” is commonly used to identify the spray. The only way to mitigate the spray’s effect is a direct stream of water to the eyes to flush the chemical out. In most cases – depending on the chemical concentration – the average effect lasts 30 minutes, according to SABRE, a brand of OC spray.
Here’s what a typical OC spray qualification is like:
The pepper spray is voluntary. He may look calm…
… but here’s what he’s really feeling.
Next, nearly blind from the pepper spray, the trainee must take down a threat by submission.
Then, the trainee must simulate fending off a potential threat.
Once training is complete, it’s off to rinsing your face with water.
No matter how much pepper spray hurts, don’t be this guy:
In the summer of 2012, young Benjamin was born to Pvt. Ashley Shelton in the middle of FOB Shindand, Afghanistan. The story was first broken by Stars and Stripes in October 2012, but details surrounding the birth weren’t released until WTHR 13 Investigates got into contact with the mother recently.
Pvt. Ashley Shelton was assigned to the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade out of Ansbach, Germany and deployed in the spring. Normally, Army regulations bar pregnant soldiers and those who recently gave birth from deploying. However, due to her pregnancy tests being disregarded as “false-positives,” she was still sent with her unit.
She continued her regular Army duties, even those that would normally be unfit for an expected mother such as physical training and combat duties. There were no normal signs of pregnancy, such as weight gain or a baby bump. Morning sickness or and cramping was mostly written off with a dismissive, “Well, it’s Afghanistan…”
Then, on Aug. 12, she went to the aid station for cramps. The doctor told her to drink fluids and prescribed her bed rest. On her way back, her water broke and she blacked out. Her child, Benjamin, was born. The U.S. Army has yet to clarify what exactly went wrong, but they conducted internal investigations. Army representatives told WTHR 13 Investigates that they can not talk about personal health issues due to federal health privacy laws.
Years later, Benjamin exhibits some congenital birth defects, which may be a result of mishandled pregnancy. His medical records show a small knot in his lower left leg, described as a club foot, and a lower speech level than normal. Ashley Shelton has been struggling the last years with getting attention for her son’s and her own medical conditions.
That hasn’t stopped the fun-loving kid from running around the playground, though. There’s no telling if the kid ends up being a superhero, but that’s a backstory that tops Marvel and DC characters. Even if the kid doesn’t become a superhero, if he serves in the Army like his mother, you can bet that he’ll have a one-up card on everyone. “Where were you born? Some POG civilian hospital not in the middle of combat? That’s cute.”
Yes, there are jokes aplenty that tear down reservists for anything ranging from a lack of physical fitness to a disregard of regulations to even workspace cleanliness. If you were to judge solely from the bad rap they get from active duty, it’d be hard to fathom that the Reserves play any real role in the military.
The Reserves, for every military branch, require two days of duty a month (drill weekends) and two weeks of mandatory training per year. However, most of the time, reservists are called upon to come in and train more than just two days each month.
Stereotypically, reservists are thought of as “weekend warriors” or part-time military members, but this couldn’t be further from the truth, especially when talking about specific career fields (MOS/AFSCs). In fact, the majority of our fighting forces are made up of reservists that get activated or volunteer to deploy during conflict.
Although there is a multitude of career fields in every branch of the Reserves, it just so happens that the Air Force Reserves has been allotted one of the most sacred duties of them all: Transporting our wounded warriors back home to their families. Today’s aeromedical evacuation (AE) process is a far cry from what we have seen in the past American Wars.
The Air Force Reserves is mobile, efficient, and skilled in triage and, of course, organizing paperwork — yes, paperwork is important! When it comes to patient movement, especially when flying from base to base, flight nurses and medical technicians need to have correct patient diagnoses, medications, proper training, and medical equipment.
How else would they be able to ensure a 98% survival rate that is currently the highest survival rate among all American wars? Not too shabby for a bunch of reservists, right?
There are a total of eighteen AE squadrons under Air Force Reserve Command, nine under the Air National Guard, and four under active duty — two in the U.S. and two overseas.
Training, training, and more training is a big reason the survival rate statistic has climbed recently. The Air Force Reserves trains to deploy and are always ready to go at a moment’s notice.
There are also aircraft attached explicitly to AE missions, such as the C-130, C-17, and KC-135, which are godsends to all of our injured troops. Training on each of these aircraft is mandatory for anyone attached to an AE medical crew.
Thanks to drastic improvements in technology and the specialized skills of AE medical crews, the wounded are no longer misdiagnosed due to incorrect paperwork, and they are not left in the field for months at a time, waiting for a plane to take them back to their families.
Next time someone cracks a joke about a reservist, even though some of the stereotypes ring a little true, remember the crucial role they play in the big operational puzzle that is our armed forces, especially in regards to bringing home our wounded warriors.
Recently, the military healthcare system Tricare posted a photo on its Facebook page that had its fans in a frenzy.
People got pissed; they complained; they shared the post with harsh words; some even used “caps lock” in their comments. It was terrible.
What was so offensive about the post, you ask? If you hadn’t already seen it, it was a wedding photo with the comment “You had me at #TRICARE.” See below.
As someone who works online almost exclusively, I had to laugh at the post. In fact, I laughed a lot. I could understand why some people were upset (hello, pushing a negative stereotype on female military spouses), but mostly I couldn’t understand how the marketing department at Tricare saw the post and said “Oh hey, THIS post is an EXCELLENT idea!”
My first reaction when I saw it, honestly, was “I wonder how long whomever approved this post will have a job?” I post all kinds of crazy things on my own personal Facebook page, but I’ve been called into more than one come-to-Jesus meeting with a boss over a poorly planned social media post.
When that’s your job, you have to be aware of your audience.
And who is the audience for most of Tricare’s social media pages? Probably spouses who want to keep up with changes in Tricare benefits. So it’s no small wonder that a whole bunch of them were butthurt.
So I did what any responsible journalist in my position would do: I shared the flub on my personal Facebook page and asked for hilarious feedback. My friends did not disappoint.
The idea? If we were to marry someone for his benefits, couldn’t we have chosen someone with better perks?
The military benefits are great, don’t get me wrong. But what about if you married:
1. A mob boss
All the Italian food your heart desires and the destruction of your mortal enemies. (this is obviously my first choice)
2. Prince Harry
Crowns and gowns, you’d never have to work! (wait. maybe this is my first choice)
3. United State Senator or Representative
The best health care your tax dollars can buy. Plus no one’s allowed to hurt your feelings. (gag me now)
4. A doctor
All you can eat hospital food! (food? queue the fat dependa jokes, because I AM IN)
5. A dog breeder
Picks of the litter! (meh, I’m not really a puppy person. Don’t shoot me, I prefer a full-grown rescue)
6. Donald Trump
If you ever go bald or are in desperate need of a tanning bed, you’re already in the right place! (If you can stomach this, its an option for those of you under 25!)
7. Any president
Free food, vacations all over the world; top private schools for kids; secret service body guards; couple cabins in the woods; free airfare!! (Woah woah woah…. someone sign my husband up!)
8. A Masseuse
Happy massages for days. (Okay I’m really torn between this one and Prince Harry. Can we choose two?)
9. Bill Gates
When one door closes the windows are always open!! (I’m a Mac girl, so…)
10. A handyman
All the crap around the house might actually get done! (Except my daddy raised me to be able to DO all the crap around the house, so this isn’t an issue here.)
11. Cesar Milan (the dog whisperer)
Maybe he can make the kids behave! (Wait, I have to choose between behaving kids and Prince Harry? Adulting is hard.)
12. A plastic surgeon
Think this speaks for itself. (Meh, not really my cup of tea)
13. A Starbucks barista
I think this also speaks for itself. (Okay, so do you think Harry could make coffee AND be a mob boss AND be a masseuse? Someone with connections find this out for me?)
14. An airline Pilot
Get to travel for free or for little out-of-pocket when there are seats available. (I’m married to a pilot. I see how he drives, I DO NOT want to fly with him.)
15. A personal trainer and chef
Never have to cook again and always fit into your skinny jeans! (I already fit into my skinny jeans. I just buy them bigger now.)
16. A hotel manager
Free room and board with complimentary continental breakfast! (I do enjoy food…)
17. A mechanic
(Free oil changes?)
18. Matt Damon
He’s my fantasy celebrity boyfriend and I’m waiting for his proposal. (Obviously this wasn’t my suggestion. If it’s not obvious, I super like Prince Harry. Just saying.)
19. A farmer
Cheap help from laborers, tractors and back hoes to dig as many holes as I need to bury the bodies. Then, when the old man ain’t worth it anymore I just take him out to pasture on the back 40! (So maybe not husband material, but maybe as a side piece while I’m married to the mob boss? Questions need to be asked here.)
20. A coffee importer
I would always have the best coffee. Ooh or someone who owns a bookstore too! Unlimited coffee and books for life it can’t get any better than that. (Just out of curiosity, does anyone know if Prince Harry has a library? Asking for a friend.)
21. The owner of a winery
(Also need to find out how Harry feels about wine)
22. A civilian so you never have to sleep alone
…Or worry. (I know, too serious)
23. A Costco employee
I used to work at Aetna. Let me tell you — those folks get great insurance. Or they used to. Free glasses once a year for all members of the family. (It IS time for me to get new glasses.)
24. The heir to a million dollar business with really nice in laws
No wait.. better! Heir to an awesome chocolate company. (Note to self, find out how Prince Harry feels about wine and chocolate and masseuse school and libraries and…)
I just realized that Prince Harry is in the military as well, so maybe I just really appreciate a man in uniform and the benefits aren’t really even the icing on the cake.
The family of a fallen soldier says his legacy will transcend his life.
Army Spc. John “Alex” Pelham was killed in Afghanistan in 2014. He was 22 years old. Despite the overwhelming grief and devastation that accompanied his loss, his family is committed to inspiring others through an ongoing initiative to live — and give — like John.
His father, Wendall, had a conversation with his son two days before his death, sharing that after he hung up the phone, he knew he’d never see John again.
“There are warriors that God put on the earth to take care of us,” he said. “At his funeral I said, ‘John would be bigger in death than he ever was in life,’ and he is … as we come up on seven years since his death, that statement was prophetic.”
Described as tall and strikingly handsome, John was a magnet to the people around him. That pull would only intensify after he died.
“He was the epitome of the Green Beret moto ‘De oppresso liber,’ of freeing the oppressed. John did that all the way through school, taking care of the bullies,” Wendall said with a smile.
John’s grandfather, a 30-year veteran of the Army, was his idol. Wendall said his son sought to emulate him. Though John was successfully playing college baseball after high school, he left it all behind for a deep conviction to serve.
In July 2011, John enlisted as an intelligence analyst, leading him to become a coveted soldier with Special Forces.
John was assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His skills as an analyst saved hundreds of lives, long after he was gone, his father said. After an ambush attack, he was killed alongside another soldier. On Feb. 12, 2014, at 4:34 p.m. in Oregon, Wendall’s wife called him at work to say two soldiers in dress blues were on their porch. He knew immediately John was gone.
But to his family, John’s still here. He’s in every facet of what they do and how they approach life. His legacy also lives on at Fort Bragg, with his name inscribed at multiple locations.
“I get to live a part of my son’s life through mine because of his example of what a true servant looks like,” Wendall said through tears. “My son, through his service, has taught me how to be beyonda great leader. My level of empathy and care and love for fellow man is 180 degrees different now.”
After months of healing following John’s death, his family organized a racquetball tournament in his honor. The sport was one of John’s favorite pastimes and something that brought him joy. Wendall realized they needed somewhere to put the money raised, so they formed a nonprofit organization. The name? Live Like John. The mission is to support military charities, veterans, and other Gold Star families.
This doesn’t mean follow John’s more than obvious path, which was headed toward completing the “Q” course and becoming a Green Beret. But rather efforts to service others, community, and humanity.
“I learned a long time ago that to be a great leader — you have to be a servant,” Wendall said.
He encourages everyone to engage in a mission of service, but above all else, teach children to do the same. John is described as a loving man, son, brother, nephew, and friend. He was also an American soldier whose life was lived with such honor and dedication that it has had ripple effects far beyond his death.
The foundation has brought immense healing, but there are still hard days for the Pelham family: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Veterans Day, the holiday season and then, the day John died.
“Your body already knows. It’s already telling me, the day, it’s coming,” Wendall said.
He adds that for those seeking to say “thank you for your service” to service members and veterans, it should be done with meaning.
“Those words said repetitiously lose their luster after a while. You can sip a Starbucks on a cold winter day or get a suntan on a beach in Maui while traveling the world with no restriction, because you are a citizen of the United States of America,” he said. “What’s that worth? Do you understand what it is worth to the families who have given their loved ones’ lives for this freedom?”
Spc. John Pelham will be among a group of service members honored this year through The Unquiet Professional’s 2021 Virtual Memorial Mile. Visit www.theunquietprofessional.org/tupmile for updates on how you can support efforts to honor the fallen.