Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

When deployed troops buy whatever they need, if they pay in cash, they won’t be given pennies, nickels, dimes, or quarters as change. Instead, they’ll be given cardboard coins (colloquially called “pogs,” like the 90s toys). And, now, coin collectors are going crazy for them.


Depending on where in Iraq or Afghanistan troops are stationed, they may have easy access to an AAFES (Army Air Force Exchange Service) store. Bigger airfields have larger stores that sell all an airman could want — meanwhile, outlying FOBs are just happy that their AAFES truck didn’t blow up this month.

Giving cardboard in return for cash isn’t some complex scheme to screw troops out of their 85 cents. Logistically speaking, transporting a bunch of quarters to and from a deployed area is, to put it bluntly, a heavy waste of time. While a pocket full of quarters may not seem like much, having to stock every single cash register would be a headache. So AAFES, the only commercial service available to troops, decided in November 2001 to forgo actual coins in favor of cardboard credit.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Carrie Bernard)

The AAFES coins aren’t legal tender. They are, essentially, gift certificates valid only at AAFES establishments. If troops can manage to hold on to their cardboard coin collection throughout a deployment, they can exchange the coins for actual money at any non-deployed AAFES customer service desk. Occasionally, AAFES runs promotions that gave double-value to troops returning their pogs — but troops who decline to cash in might be getting the best value in the end.

The weirdest thing about the AAFES pogs is the collectors’ community that has grown from it. Coin collectors everywhere have been going crazy for our AAFES pogs. On eBay, you can typically find a set of mint-condition paper coins going for ridiculous prices. Of course, like every collector’s item, complete sets and the older coins go for much more.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think
I get that it’s a typo on President Reagan’s name, but seriously… that was just worth five cents. (Screengrab via eBay)

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Canadian military okayed beards and it’s about time the US discussed it

As reported by CBC, the Canadian Armed Forces will now authorize their troops to grow a beard — within certain limits, of course. Canadian service members’ beards must not exceed two centimeters (roughly 3/4th of an inch) in length, must be kept off the neck and cheekbones, and may not be in any non-traditional, trendy style.

This puts our brothers to the north in league with the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and most of our other NATO allies in realizing that beards aren’t as detrimental to troops as once believed. This leaves the United States and Turkey as the last two beardless, major US powers — but the Turkish Armed Forces haven’t yet taken the debate off the agenda.

With the Global War on Terrorism winding down and garrison life becoming an ever-growing aspect of a troop’s career, it’s about time the Pentagon at least entertains the idea of allowing conventional troops some leeway on facial hair grooming standards.


Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

Even a tiny bit of stubble will stop a gas mask from completely sealing and let all that nastiness inside.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton)

The current policy that requires U.S. troops to be clean-shaven comes from the need to properly seal a gas mask in the event of a chemical attack. In World War I and II, such a policy made absolute sense. Chemical weapons were used extensively against Allied troops and anyone fighting in areas where the enemy was known to use them kept their mask close by.

Today, the use of chemical weapons against US troops is not a complete impossibility. After all, Saddam Hussein used nerve gas against Iranian troops and the Kurds in 1987, sarin gas was used in 2013 during the Syrian Civil War, and many terrorist organization — including ISIS, Aum Shinrikyo, and Al-Qaeda — have been known to use chemical weapons in their attacks.

While a chemical weapons attack against U.S. service members could happen, today aren’t taking gas masks with them on patrol. Ounces make pounds and any additional weight slows troops down — especially when the odds of needing a mask are so slight. So, most troops opt to leave their mask back at the tent, unless mission dictated.

But even if the worst should happen, the Canadian military developed a gas mask that fits over the entire face and chin and is designed specifically with beards in mind. In the absence of such a mask, troops can just slather a bunch of Vaseline on their beard before putting the mask on — believe it or not, that does the trick, too.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

Shaving while deployed also runs into the issue of wasting a valuable resource — water — on an arbitrary task.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Rosalie Chang)

The next argument against beards is that they’re not in line with a “professional appearance.” The problem here is that there’s no real, defined standard as to what’s considered “professional.” That being said, we all know there’s a fine line between having a well-kept beard and looking like a bum.

On the same side of the coin, certain Special Operations Command units have turned a blind eye toward facial hair standards. You’d have to be very firm in your convictions if you’re going to call out a Green Beret, a quiet professional, for being unprofessional.

The two loudest voices on the matter are that of Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who opposes beards as he believes it would loosen discipline standards in the ranks, and the Command Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey, who is in favor of beards as long as they are kept to a strict standard. And Dailey supports a caveat that would revoke beard privileges in environments with a high risk of chemical attacks.

There are pros and cons on either sides of the facial hair debate but, as it stands now, the need for a clean-shaven face simply isn’t as dire as it once was. And, as shown in an informal study done by Military Times, a vast majority of troops and veterans are in favor of loosening the grip on facial hair standards now that troops are spending more and more time in-garrison.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happens when military aircraft find your anti-aircraft truck

Originally, the thing that terrified everyone about ISIS was how fast-moving it was and how sophisticated its battlefield strategy and equipment was. But as the battlefield has shifted against ISIS, their deployments have become less terrifying horror stories and more hilarious follies.


For example, have you heard the one about the ISIS anti-aircraft truck that was discovered by coalition aircraft? Yeah, turns out the anti-aircraft truck isn’t all that good at detecting aircraft.

Task Force Trailblazer, the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade, and other coalition forces were hunting for ISIS remnants in Iraq when they spotted the truck. While ISIS has lost its territory and de facto state, that just reduced it to a more “normal” terrorist organization — and it still has a decent arsenal of weaponry.

Hunting them down is important to finally #DefeatISIS, and eliminating the more sophisticated weapons makes it easier and safer to go after all the rest. Anti-aircraft trucks, in the scheme of things, are fairly sophisticated and important.

But the thing about coalition aircraft is that it includes a lot of aircraft and weapons that can engage enemy targets at well beyond the ranges at which they are easy to spot and attack. Basically, a jet can kill you from much further away than you can kill the jet, unless you have very good missiles and radar.

So, when U.S. forces found the truck, they called in an airstrike against it. It’s not immediately clear which weapon and platform was used against it, but it does look like a missile or fast-moving bomb enters the frame just before the explosion. While the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade was cited in Operation Inherent Resolve’s tweet, the 35th didn’t deploy with any attack helicopters, and so it’s likely that the attacking aircraft came from somewhere else.

Regardless, the footage is sweet and available at top. Enjoy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Private’s Medal of Honor sold for more than $15,000 by German auction house

A Medal of Honor awarded to an Army infantryman for heroism during the Spanish-American War has been sold for $14,000 euros, or nearly $15,500, a Munich-based auction house confirmed Thursday.

The sale comes after advocates including Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and the National Medal of Honor Museum staged a late campaign to stop the auctioning of the medal, saying it damaged the dignity of the nation’s highest award for combat valor. It belonged to Pvt. Thomas Kelly, who earned it in 1898 while fighting in Santiago, Cuba.


But the German auction house Hermann-Historica, which is not bound by U.S. law, went through with the sale. The listing site shows just one bid; the medal ultimately went for four times the starting bid of 3,000 euros.

Bernhard Pacher, managing director of Hermann-Historica, told Stars and Stripes that he had previously sold four Medals of Honor, and added that the seller was a private individual “looking to beef up his pension.”

Reached for comment Thursday, a Hermann-Historica employee confirmed the medal’s sale but asked that further queries be sent by email. An emailed query did not receive an immediate response.

While the sale and barter of the Medal of Honor is illegal in the U.S., the law is not binding on international sellers.

Dave Knaus, a spokesman for the National Medal of Honor Museum, told Military.com that the museum is looking into who bought the medal and contemplating future steps. He said the museum is currently compiling historical data on other medals that have gone missing or changed hands.

Efforts to locate a surviving relative of Kelly, who died in 1920, had not been successful, Knaus said.

According to Kelly’s medal citation, he “gallantly assisted with the rescue of the wounded from in front of the lines and while under heavy fire from the enemy.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The military origins of the necktie

“Nothing sexier than a man in a fine cravat,” the beautiful and mysterious woman said flirtatiously.

“Except for a woman who appreciates a fine cravat,” Barney Stinson responded confidently.


“How about we just call it a tie?” The woman joked. The two laughed and the 17th episode of season 5 of How I Met Your Mother continued. But what is a cravat, why is it called that, and why is it the same thing as a tie? For that answer, we have to go back to the 17th century and a hired boost in military power.
Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

The Croatian Cravat Regiment parades through Zagreb wearing their traditional uniform (Croatia Times)

The Thirty Years’ War was fought from 1618-1648 primarily in Central Europe. France entered the war in 1635 and, in order to augment his own forces, King Louis XIII hired Croatian mercenaries from the Croatian Military Frontier to fight for him. These mercenaries wore traditional knotted neckerchiefs which tied the tops of their jackets. Although they were designed to be purely functional, the ties had a decorative effect that piqued the interest of the ever fashion-conscious Parisians. In fact, the Croatian neckties caught the attention of the king who found them rather appealing. He liked the garment so much that he made the ties a mandatory accessory for royal gatherings. In honor of the Croats who introduced the ties, he named the garment “la cravate”—derived from the French word Croates meaning Croats.

Following the introduction of the tie and the death of King Louis XIII, the boy-king Louis XIV began to wear a lace cravat around 1646 at the age of seven. This set the fashion trend for French nobility who quickly donned lace cravats as well. These lace cravats, or jabots, were tied in place by cravat strings, arranged neatly with great time and effort, and tied in a bow. Soon, the trend spread across Europe like wildfire and both men and women were wearing fabric neck pieces as a sign of wealth and status.

In the 18th century, the cravat evolved to include the Steinkirk, a type of cravat designed to be worn in deliberate disarray. Yet again, this fashion trend evolved from the military as a result of the Nine Years’ War. According to Voltaire, the fashion trend originated at the Battle of Steenkerque where the French were attacked by surprise forcing the French gentlemen to hurriedly don their cravats and wear them in disarray throughout the fight.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

Photo portrait of William Tecumseh Sherman c. 1864 (Matthew Brady—Public Domain)

The 18th century saw another evolution of neckwear with the introduction of stocks in 1715. Stock ties were worn as everyday apparel throughout the 18th and 19th century, but became a more formal garment in the later 19th century. They are still worn today by equestrians, especially in dressage where the ties are often mandatory and required to be white. The term originally applied to a leather collar, laced at the back, and worn by soldiers to promote holding their heads high in a military manner. Leather stocks also served a practical battlefield purpose; the layer of leather around the neck afforded some protection against saber or bayonet strikes. The leather stock saw continued use into the 19th century and gave the United States Marines their nickname of “Leathernecks”. The modern Marine dress uniform pays homage to leather stocks with its stiff standing collar. General William T. Sherman is also seen wearing a leather stock along with his necktie in many of his Civil War-era photographs.

The industrial revolution saw the demand for neckwear that was easier to put on, more comfortable, and could last an entire work day without needing to be readjusted. This demand was met with the traditional long necktie that we are familiar with today. Neckwear has come a long way from King Louis XIII’s adoption of the cravat and its evolution and constant influence by the military is a bit of sartorial history that we can still see today.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How ‘Rocky’ Versace earned a Medal of Honor as a POW

Described as “the bravest man you’ve never heard of,” Captain Humbert Roque Versace’s story is one that is not as well known as it should be. So allow us to remedy that by discussing how he spent two years basically being a huge pain in the ass for his captors in a Vietnamese POW camp — so much so that he managed to become the first person in the U.S. Army to earn a Medal of Honor for his conduct as a prisoner of war.

Born in 1937 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Versace was the son of decorated army colonel, Humbert Joseph Versace, and famed author, editor, and pilot Tere Rios, who, among other things, wrote The Fifteenth Pelican, which would inspire popular 1960s TV show The Flying Nun.


The oldest of five children, “Rocky” as he was known was a smart and headstrong child who would later be described by his brother, Steve, as being “infuriatingly opinionated” and “If he knew he was right, he was absolutely atrocious…” — a trait that played a role in his earning a Medal of Honor.

Like his father before him, Versace joined the army, attending West Point Academy in 1959 and graduating with honors. Over the next two years Versace received training as both an Army Ranger and a parachutist, eventually rising to the rank of Captain during a tour in North Korea as a tank platoon leader. In 1962, the newly minted Captain Versace was assigned to serve in a mostly ceremonial role with the distinguished Old Guard at Fort Meyer. Soon enough, however, he volunteered to serve in Vietnam.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

Humbert Roque Versace.

Prior to being shipped off to Vietnam, Versace received yet more training, this time to become an Intelligence Officer. As part of his training, he received a crash course in Vietnamese, a language he was fluent in by the time his tour of duty began in May of 1962. This, combined with Versace’s fluency in French, made him an invaluable asset to the Army and incredibly popular with the South Vietnamese forces and civilians of the Mekong Delta.

His fluency in Vietnamese was important to Versace as his dream was to eventually become a Catholic priest and missionary to the people of South Vietnam. Thus, Versace spent much of his free time as a soldier there volunteering at local orphanages, assisting townspeople and securing vital and not-so-vital supplies to make life a little easier for the locals. In regards to the latter, in addition to securing food and building materials, Versace also continually wrote letters to schools in the United States asking for toys and learning materials for the children of the villages he visited.

A year later, with his tour of duty coming to an end, Versace applied to stay in Vietnam for another 6 months despite receiving news that his application to seminary had been accepted. As it would later emerge, Versace had decided that he still wanted to be a priest but his decision to embark on a second tour of duty was born out of an earnest desire to continue helping the orphans he’d become so attached to during his time in the country.

Two weeks before this second tour was set to end, Versace volunteered for a highly dangerous mission to assist South Vietnamese troops take down a North Vietnamese command post located deep in the U Minh Forest.

During the mission Versace and his fellow soldiers were ambushed and overrun by Viet Cong forces. Hopelessly outnumbered, he called for a tactical retreat, along with First Leiutenant Nick Rowe and Sergeant First Class Dan Pitzer, covering the exit of South Vietnamese soldiers with sustained rifle fire as a hail of bullets tore overhead. During the ensuing firefight, Versace was hit in the back and legs by bullets and shrapnel as he stood, completely exposed to the hellstorm raging around him firing his weapon into jungle.

Running low on bullets, Versace charged the enemy in an apparent effort to single-handedly beat them all to death with the butt of his rifle. During his charge, he was injured once more, falling to the ground and being quickly set upon and beaten by the enemy forces.

After being physically overpowered, Versace, along with Pitzer and Rowe, were stripped of their weapons and boots, before all three were marched barefoot into the jungle towards a POW camp…. Which is when Versace got mad.

Remembering Captain HR ‘Rocky’ Versace on Memorial Day 2016

www.youtube.com

For the next two years Versace made life for his captors hell as they tried and failed to do the same to him. Strikingly handsome with a tall, imposing frame and a magnetic personality, Versace became the pseudo-leader of his fellow POWs. Frequently tortured and interrogated, he refused to give them any information and relentlessly badgered his captors about their treatment of his friends and comrades, citing articles from the Geneva Convention and using his time in isolation to think up ever more creative insults.

Tired of his antics, in an effort to keep him away from other POWs, Versace was eventually locked inside of a bamboo cage away from everyone else, which didn’t stop him from boosting the morale of everyone around him by cheerily singing pop songs. When the Viet Cong locked Versace in an isolation cage even further away from the rest of the POWs, he just sang louder. When they began gagging him so that he couldn’t speak or sing, he started leaving messages of support in the toilet.

Not content to just sit around singing, during his imprisonment, Versace escaped four times, each time being captured not long after. In the first instance, he was so severely injured at the time that he couldn’t walk, but instead crawled away from the camp in agonizing pain through marshland. As you might imagine, it didn’t take the Viet Cong very long to locate him once they’d discovered he’d managed to escape.

Each time he was recaptured, Versace was noted as telling his captors that he’d do it again the first change he got, prompting them to redouble their efforts to break him. As you can probably guess by now, these efforts failed miserably.

At first the Viet Cong tried “re-educating” Versace, attempting to brainwash him with political propaganda. Versace reportedly spent much of his time during these sessions loudly arguing with his indoctrinators.

Along with inspiring his fellow POWs, this saw to it that the bulk of his captor’s frustrations and anger were directed towards him, something his fellow POWs were also reportedly very grateful for. As noted by President George Bush some four decades late, “By focusing his captors’ anger on him, he made life a measure more tolerable for his fellow prisoners, who looked to him as a role model of principled resistance.”

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

Humbert Versace’s memorial plaque outside MacArthur Barracks at West Point.

In addition to inspiring POWs, Versace’s tenacity inspired the people of Vietnam; when the Viet Cong tried to parade a beaten and bloodied Versace through local villages, he’d offer words of encouragement in Vietnamese to those gathered. This was much to the annoyance of the Viet Cong who’d warned against such insubordination by threatening to viciously beat him within an inch of his life if he did so.

Frustrated with their inability to break this man, the Viet Cong eventually made the decision to execute Versace. When he was informed of this, he reportedly responded by singing God Bless America for 5 hours straight the night before his execution was to take place. This song was the last thing any of his fellow prisoners ever heard from Versace.

Following through on their threat, Rocky Versace was executed on Sep. 26, 1965. His body was never recovered, but a headstone was placed above an empty grave in Arlington National Cemetery.

For his conduct as a POW, initially Versace only received a silver star, the Army’s third highest award. This was something his fellow soldiers didn’t feel reflected the full extent of his actions and sacrifice while a POW, resulting in a concerted effort from a “hodgepodge group of soldiers and civilians” aware of the full details of what Versace endured to see him awarded America’s highest military honor.

In 2002, this request was finally fulfilled, with one of Versace’s brothers, Dr. Stephen Versace, accepting the medal from then President George Bush. In his speech, Bush noted:

In his defiance and later his death, he set an example of extraordinary dedication that changed the lives of his fellow soldiers who saw it firsthand. His story echoes across the years, reminding us of liberty’s high price and of the noble passion that caused one good man to pay that price in full.

In addition to being the first American POW to earn a Medal of Honor for his conduct during his time as a prisoner, Versace is an inductee in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes as well as a member of the Ranger Hall of Fame.

Said his former fellow prisoner Sergeant Dan Pitzer of the man himself,

Rocky walked his own path… for that guy, duty, honor, country was a way of life. He was the finest example of an officer I have known… Once, Rocky told our captors they might as well kill him then and there if the price of his life was getting more from him than name, rank, and serial number… He got a lot of pressure and torture, but he held his path… He was brutally murdered because of it… I’m satisfied he would have it no other way…. [He] valued that one moment of honor more than he would a lifetime of compromises.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The spectacular naval origin of the phrase, ‘son of a gun’

These days, Americans are less likely to exclaim “son of a gun” than the more-explicit “son of a b*tch,” but there was a time when “son of a gun” itself was not used in mixed company — and that time was more than 200 years after the age of sail.


It seems the Royal Navy, while not keen on having women aboard its ships, sometimes overlooked the practice. Different times throughout its history saw sailors of the Royal Navy either bring either their wives or lovers aboard ships that might be out at sea for a while. While it wasn’t officially tolerated, there are instances of a ship’s company turning a blind eye to it.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

At this point, it’s important that everyone knows I’m talking about prostitutes.

Everyone aboard a ship was counted in the ship’s log back in those days. The log was a detailed account of who was working, who came aboard, who left, who died, etc. It also kept track of who was born aboard one of the King or Queen’s ships. It was uncommon, but it did happen. Women had to get around the world just like anyone else. The Royal Navy kept this count, just like any other ship.

But say there was one of the aforementioned female guests aboard a ship. If that woman just happened to give birth aboard ship, that child would have to be kept in the log. If a child was born with uncertain paternity — that is to say, there were too many possibilities as to who the father could be — the newborn still had to be counted in the log.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

Like an old-timey recording of the Maury Show.

If this was the case, the child’s name was recorded as the “son of a gun” — the son of a seaman below decks. Eventually, the common use of the phrase began to refer to any child born aboard a ship, even those of officers accompanied by their wives. Then, it began to refer to any child of a military man, not just the bastard children of sailors.

Some 200-plus years later, it’s used to lovingly refer to a mischievous person or as an expression of awe or esteem. To use an expletive or insult in the same vein, we’ve moved on as a society. Who knows where language will go next?

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to work out with your spouse (and not hate each other forever)

If you’re hoping to facilitate a healthy, loving, and lasting relationship, it’s a great idea to workout with your spouse! Also, if you’re hoping to ensure that you’re forever trapped in an endless Mobius strip of resentment, one-upmanship, and inventive new levels of searing joint pain, it’s a great idea to workout with your spouse! Yeah, exercising with your spouse can really go either way, sorry.

Be honest: You’ve seen couples working out together, and your reaction is generally either “Why don’t we do that?” or “Who in the ruddy blue hell has time for this GOOP new-age Pitbull-obsessed-$750-for-Athleta-pants-nonsense?” And both reactions are valid! Couples who work out together share a valid interest that carries the side benefit of helping to keep both parties alive, and Athleta is seriously expensive, guys. It’s black yoga pants, calm down.


But if you want to work out with your wife, how do you ensure you remain in that first group, and stay free of both workout-relationship struggles and tank tops that cost 5 because they feel sort of fluffy? Read on! (Erm, read on separately, as we’re about to drop some serious samurai-level psychological trickery that won’t work if your spouse knows about it. Unless they already read this and they are doing it to you. *makes mind blown motion* Anyway, it’s something to think about when you’re on the treadmill for 45 minutes.)

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

(Photo by Tomasz Woźniak)

DO: make it a joint effort

If you’re going to do this, do it together. No dropping each other off at the gym and reconnecting in an hour after you’re all blasting quads or crushing jacks or pulverizing obliques or whatever. Work out a way that it’s a couples’ venture. You don’t have to make her watch you on the lat pulldown machine, and you don’t have to watch every minute of her kickboxing workout (although those are awesome), but if you’re in this together, be in it together.

DO: be supportive

There are going to be about a dozen exceedingly hot people in your field of vision. Remind your spouse that he/she is easily the hottest thing in the room, regardless of how long the 5’4″ yoga-pants model can do a plank, which will sometimes be like two minutes, those people are like magical ab-crunching elves.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

(Photo by Victor Freitas)

DO NOT: grunt

Unless you are performing a workout that involves Mjolnir, keep the volume down. Unless you are lifting more than 1,400 lbs. from a standing position, shut up. Unless your spouse is deeply turned on by you making the kind noises that would indicate you’re singing a Korn song, shut up. Also, if your spouse is turned on by Korn, find a new spouse.

DO NOT: Instagram

Under no circumstances should you:

  1. Scroll through Instagram workout models together
  2. Scroll through Instagram workout models separately
  3. Scroll through Instagram workout models in the other room after she goes to sleep
  4. Literally anything involving a peach emoji
  5. Honestly the whole thing is just bad news, those people are almost certainly emotionally bankrupt empty vessels whose primary joy comes from anonymous like numbers*, and the more you two focus on your thing the happier you will all be.

* Except the Rock and Chris Hemsworth, who are both great.

DO NOT: tell your partner to stop doing “vanity exercises”

Unless, that is you want to have a fight at the dumbbell rack. We all have our annoying tendencies. Just turn up the “Sweat Mix” in your AirPods and let them feel better about their show-off zones.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

(Photo by Stage 7 Photography)

DO: go running together

In addition to being a quality exercise that will make your heart work better in your 70s, running offers many fringe benefits, like being outside, spending time together, possibly exploring new trails or paths or beaches, pushing each other, and possibly even doing literally nothing other than quietly enjoying each other’s company. It also might hurt your knees and cause you to trip over roots in the forest, but it’s worth a shot.

DO: try out new classes together

Chances are pretty good your gym offers a bunch of classes featuring words that sound totally made-up, like “aerial fitness” and “black light yoga.” And they might be terrible ideas born because some 20-year-old intern came across a workout content farm online! But unless you’re training together for a marathon or an Olympic discus competition or to launch a workout-couples Instagram (DON’T), you’re probably there to get a little healthier and spend time together. So, pick one or three of the dumbest-sounding classes, and try them out (If you don’t want to hate one another immediately, avoid any class with “Boot Camp” in the title)

Worst-case scenario, you try something new and get a little better at pole dancing. Best-case scenario, you can make merciless fun of those idiots when you’re home later. See, you’re bonding already.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Only 55% of Americans know what Memorial Day is about

Only 55% of Americans know what Memorial Day is about, and only about one in five plan to fly a flag at half-staff or attend a patriotic event on May 27, according to a Harris poll survey commissioned by the University of Phoenix.

The survey, conducted April 9-11, 2019, among 2,025 adults, showed that only 28% had attended a local ceremony or patriotic event on a previous Memorial Day. It also found that only 23% had flown a flag at half-staff, while 22% had left a flag or flowers at a gravesite or visited a military monument.

Only 55% could correctly describe Memorial Day as a day to honor the fallen from all the nation’s wars, the Harris survey states, and 45% said they either always or often attended a commemoration activity.


About 27% of those surveyed thought Memorial Day honored all military veterans, 5% thought it honored those currently serving, and 3% thought the day marked the official beginning of summer, the survey states.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

(U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

Of those who said they had participated in some form of commemoration activity on Memorial Day, 52% said they had thanked a veteran, 14% said they had worn a Memorial Day button, and 14% said they had joined in a National Moment of Remembrance, according to the survey.

Older adults are more likely to observe Memorial Day and describe it correctly, the survey found. About 53% of those aged 55-64 commemorated Memorial Day, compared with 40% of those aged 18-34, according to the survey’s findings.

Former Army Sgt. Brian Ishmael, director of Military and Veterans Affairs at the University of Phoenix, said in a phone interview that it is “a little bit disappointing” to know that so many Americans are unaware of the true meaning of Memorial Day.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

Staff Sgt. Steve Sandoval of the 147th Combat Communications Squadron pays respects to his wife’s grandfather, James C. Peebles, U.S. Army, who served in World War II. Sandoval was among thousands of volunteers from the local community who placed flags on 67,000 grave sites at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in honor of Memorial day.

(Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Julie Avey)

Ishmael, who served two tours in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, said that “being a combat veteran myself, that has to be a bit disappointing.”

At the University of Phoenix, “we put a lot of emphasis” on explaining the real meaning of Memorial Day, he said. For this Memorial Day, the mostly online university will continue a 10-year tradition of planting flags on the Phoenix campus.

This year, the university plans to plant 15,000 flags with the theme “Their Legacy Lives On,” Ishmael said.

However, the for-profit University of Phoenix has had a checkered history of serving veterans and its use of GI Bill funds for tuition.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

Navy captain places flags at the grave of his uncle, who served during the Vietnam War.

(U.S. Navy photo by Greg Vojtko)

In 2009, the university agreed to a .5 million settlement with the federal government on allegations that it was illegally paying recruiters based on the number of students enrolled.

And in 2015, the Defense Department suspended the university from recruiting on military bases and accessing federal education funds.

It was alleged that the university had violated rules against for-profit colleges seeking to gain preferential access to potential students from the military. The suspension was lifted in 2016.

Ishmael acknowledged the allegations against the university but said they are dated, and the school is now “100% focused on our veterans” and their education.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

NATO forces are converging on Norway for Trident Juncture, which will be the alliance’s largest military exercise in nearly two decades.

But military activity has been increasing on the other side of the Baltic Sea and in Kaliningrad — areas that have long been flash points for Russia and NATO.

Moscow assumed control of Kaliningrad after World War II and retained it after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Now an 86-square-mile exclave, Kaliningrad is home to about a million people who are separated from the rest of Russia by Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus. But that location makes it strategically valuable.


It has Russia’s only Baltic Sea port that is ice-free year-round. In addition to several air bases, it is also home to Russia’s 11th Army Corps. It also looks over one side of the Suwalki Gap, which NATO worries could be blocked during a conflict, cutting the Baltics off from the rest of Europe.

Russia appears to be upgrading its military facilities there.

Moscow has in the past deployed Iskander short-range, nuclear-capable missiles there temporarily, but in February 2018, a Russian lawmaker confirmed that the Iskander, which has a maximum range of about 310 miles, had been moved there permanently in response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe.

It was “the biggest move we’ve seen” in regard to Russian military activity in Kaliningrad, a US defense official said at the time. The Kremlin said it had a “sovereign right” to put forces there.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

Russian crew members service an Iskander missile.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

Satellite imagery taken between March and June 2018 showed activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, the main base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, including the fortification of buildings “characteristic of explosive storage bunkers,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One in July 2018.

Other imagery detailed in June 2018 by the Federation of American Scientists showed renovations of what appeared to be an active nuclear-weapons storage site.

Imagery taken between mid-July and the beginning of October 2018 showed upgrades at least four sites in Kaliningrad, according to CNN.

That included construction of 40 new bunkers and the expansion of a military storage area near Primorsk, which is Russia’s second-largest Baltic port. Images also showed improvements at the Chkalovsk air base and upgrades at a base in Chernyakhovsk, which houses Iskander missiles.

Kaliningrad received much of the Soviet weaponry in Eastern Europe after the USSR’s collapse, and for a long time the area “was a bit of a dumping ground,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.

Moscow’s focus on Kaliningrad increased in the early 2000s, around the time the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — joined NATO. Their inclusion was especially galling for Russia, which sees them as its “near abroad.”

“Kaliningrad has been on a trajectory of improvements since the Baltic tensions and certainly since” the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Townsend said.

The Iskander deployment is of a piece with Russian efforts to influence other European capitals, Townsend added. “They would say, ‘Look, if NATO puts troops into the Baltics, we’re going to put Iskanders onto Kaliningrad.”

Northeast Europe is a particularly sensitive area for Russia, Townsend said.

St. Petersburg, from which the Baltic can only be reached by passing Finland and Estonia, is Russia’s second-biggest city. To the north is the Kola Peninsula, home to Russia’s Northern Fleet and its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

“The Baltic is kind of a backdoor to that. Kaliningrad helps to defend that backdoor,” Townsend said. “So that’s very sensitive.”

Russian officials reportedly told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in early 2017 that they would be willing to use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO if there was a war in the Baltics.

‘There’s a big regional adversary right there’

Russia’s military is not the only one active in the Baltics.

The NATO buildup cited by Moscow as reason for permanently deploying Iskander missiles was the multinational battle groups the alliance has stationed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since 2016.

More recently, the US Air Force and the Estonian air force heralded the completion of a joint-use facility at Amari air base near the latter’s capital, Tallinn, which was the first completed military construction projected fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative.

Soviet jets were stationed at Ameri during the Cold War, but since 2004 it has hosted NATO aircraft during their rotations in the alliance’s Baltic air-policing mission. (The Baltic countries don’t have their own combat aircraft.)

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

US airmen from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron marshal in an F-15C Eagle at Siauliai air base, Lithuania, Aug. 29, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Improvements at Amari “provide strategic access into that very contentious part of Europe,” said Brig. Gen. Roy Agustin, director of logistics, engineering, and force protection for US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, according to Stars and Stripes. “You look right across the border and there’s a big regional adversary right there.”

The EDI, previously called the European Reassurance Initiative, has funded military projects in Europe since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the US has spent millions upgrading facilities across Eastern Europe to allow its military and partner forces to respond quickly to crises.

EDI funding also covers Operation Atlantic Resolve, which includes US armored rotations in Europe, a continuous presence in the Black Sea area, and prepositioning equipment and weapons around the continent.

The Pentagon’s 2019 budget request for the EDI was nearly doublewhat it got for the program in 2017 and six times what was allotted for it in 2015.

North of the Baltics, Sweden and Finland — close NATO partners that remain outside the alliance — have also turned increasing attention to military readiness.

Sweden’s armed forces said in 2018 that they needed to boost staffing from 50,000 to 120,000 by 2035 — in addition to adding new surface vessels, subs, and combat aircraft — to meet future challenges.

The report also said Sweden’s military budget would need to more than double over that period. Every mainstream party in the country’s September 2018 parliamentary election backed a military budget increase, but that growth will take time.

Stockholm’s defense outlay has tumbled since hitting 3.68% of GDP in 1963. The 1.03% of GDP currently spent on the military is a historic low, according to Defense News.

Sweden has also reintroduced military conscription and put troops back on Gotland Island in the middle of the Baltic Sea.

More recently, Finland, which shares a 838-mile border and a history of conflict with Russia, has begun pumping money into military modernization — notably id=”listicle-2614964544″.5 billion for the Squadron 2020 program, which includes buying four multirole, ice-breaking, submarine-hunting corvettes armed with surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and sea mines.

The program will also fund upgraded fast-attack missile vessels and upgrades to Finnish mine-layers and mine-countermeasure vessels, according to Defense News.

“The Baltic Sea has become a possible focal point for tension between East and West,” said Finland’s defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. “We are dealing with a more unpredictable Russia.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Social-distancing hobbies that will help decrease your stress level

2020 sure hasn’t been the most relaxing year, now has it? If you’re anything like me then you’re over everything.

You don’t even want to scroll social media anymore because it makes your blood pressure rise. I have always been able to fall down the Instagram rabbit hole into trashy reality TV star drama to zone out for a bit, but now even that isn’t possible because they are on hiatus due to quarantine too! So, what am I doing to try and rid myself of some of the negative energy surrounding me these days? How do I disconnect after hearing the newest updates on what it will be like to teach for the 2020-2021 school year? Well, sometimes whiskey. But more recently I’ve been looking into healthier ways to deal with my stress and try to zone out for a bit.


First up is yoga. 

Now, I am hardly the lithe yogi you see in the movies. I used to laugh at the idea of doing yoga to relax. Mainly because I would get so in my own head about not being bendy enough to traditional-looking enough to be in a yoga class. But now I find that it is actually a great way to get out of my head. While I’m still glad no one can see me doing downward dog from the comfort of my living room, I like the soothing music, the calm tone of the yoga instructors, and the 30 minuets a day I carve out for just my own well-being. If you aren’t sure where to start with a yoga routine head to YouTube, one of my favorites is MadFit. She is just very encouraging and calming, even laughing at herself when she falls out of a pose.

I have a friend that turns to meditation when the stress levels are getting too high. 

He told me a quote once that stuck with me. “Meditate 20 minutes every day. And if you don’t have the time, then do 40.” It took me a moment to realize what he was saying. It means that you NEED to make time for the things that will help you be healthy, physically and mentally. While I am not big on meditation myself, I can find a few moments to do some deep breathing when yet another news update rolls across my screen.

You can also turn into your grandma to relax. 

Don’t laugh! There has been a huge upswing in 20- 30-year old’s learning to crochet and knit these days! Maybe yarn crafts aren’t your thing, but you get creative in some other way. Painting, writing, coloring curse words in an adult coloring book. Any of those things help you focus on the task at hand and get you out of your head and your problems for a while. I know that when I wasn’t focused on the scarves I was knitting on deployment (I’ve been an 80 year old woman in a 30 year old body for a long time), I’d end up having to take the whole thing apart and start over. While I never quite mastered anything bigger than a baby blanket, just having something to keep my hands busy that wasn’t my cell phone seemed to calm me.

There is also the option to go get some fresh air. 

Going on a hike or a bike ride or even just walking the dog are all socially-distanced approved activities still. Get out of the house and get your sweat on. Remind yourself from a beautiful mountain top that there is more to this world than the four walls you may feel trapped in these days. Daily I take my dog on a walk that should take us about 10 minutes. However, he likes to stop and smell EVERYTHING. His pace forces me to slow down and enjoy the feeling of the sun on my face. If you live somewhere coastal, you can drive on down to the water and let the sound of the waves calm you the same way. Just get out of the house. Stretch your legs. Breathe deeply and return home refreshed.

Are these things too tame for you? 

Because not everyone is looking to get their Zen on, and I understand that. If that’s the case, see if you can’t swap the yoga videos for some kickboxing instead. And maybe instead of wandering the beach you can see if your local shooting range is practicing safe social distancing standards. I’ll admit that as much as I love relaxing with a good book, there is a serious adrenaline rush that makes me calm down just as much when I have torn apart a target or two on the range. Plus, it makes me feel better knowing my aim isn’t getting rusty…

So, whatever it is that makes you feel a little less frazzled, make time for it. Make it a priority the same way you do your job, your family, your faith. You schedule everything else that is important to you, why not schedule in some time to make sure your mental health can be kept on track with some relaxation too?

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Marines can be so arrogant, according to a Marine

Admit it, you read that headline and thought, “Yeah! Marines are super cocky!” Well, you aren’t exactly wrong. Hell, even if you are a Marine, you’ll agree with that fact. But why are we this way? What is ingrained in our DNA that makes us so damn arrogant?


Marines already know the answer. We’re reminded of it every day while we’re on active duty. Higher-ups are constantly telling us that we’re a bunch of morons with guns bad asses backed by a long and illustrious history of proof. But, if questioned by anyone outside of the Corps, we might not have an easy answer. Furthermore, service members in other branches might be supremely annoyed by the arrogance — and who could blame them?

So, if you’re wondering why this is, here’s your answer:

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

The fighting spirit and notorious reputation we’ve gained throughout history is a huge source of arrogance for us.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

History

As mentioned above, Marines can always point to their history as proof that we really are as badass as we say. Of course, higher-ups and drill instructors might have you believe that it’s because Marines have never lost a battle or retreated but… that’s not exactly true.

Marines have definitely had to surrender, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t fight like hell beforehand. When Marines had to surrender, you can bet that they made the enemy pay for it with blood. Regardless, Marines have a history of (usually) winning battles, typically against overwhelming odds. Victory comes at a high price. The ability to do this is certainly something to be proud of.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

Overcoming the challenge of boot camp is just the first step.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski)

Training

Whether Marine Corps boot camp is, in fact, the toughest basic training in the military is impossible to prove, but one thing is for sure: it sucks. And then after that, if you’re a grunt, you’ll go to the School of Infantry and, any one of us will tell you that SOI sucks way worse than boot camp ever could.

Even when you hit the fleet, you’ll still have to train for deployments, and that sucks, too. But through the experience of “The Suck,” you gain a lot of pride. You overcome these insane challenges that you never thought you could, and you understand that you did so by digging deep into your own spirit to find the motivation.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

Even something as simple as morning PT sucks.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Carlos Cruz Jr.)

Lifestyle

The lifestyle of a Marine is, in short, not that great — especially considering that we almost exclusively get leftovers no one else wanted. We work with trash and usually come out on top regardless. Remember the training we were talking about? It sucks worse than everyone else’s (outside of special forces) because we simply don’t have the ability to make it any easier.

But who needs easy when you’re a badass? Not Marines. If there’s anything that lends itself to the arrogance of a Marine, it’s the lifestyle. Having to live in barracks with broken air conditioning during the summer in Hawai’i or the Stumps, eating garbage mess hall food, having strict rules regarding everything, etc. These are all things that make us believe we’re better than everyone else because we know that we have it tough, but that’s what makes us so damn good.

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

Marines can be some of the best people you’ll meet.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ernest Scott)

Humility

No matter what you think about arrogance or Marines or the combination of the two, Marines can be some of the most compassionate, humble people you’ll ever meet, and it’s specifically because of our tough lifestyle. We don’t have the best gear to work with and our living quarters suck, but we learn to live with less and it teaches us to appreciate little things.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

On June 6, 1944, hundreds of Army leaders waited tensely for a moment that they’d been preparing for four long years: their graduation ceremony. During that ceremony, an Army general took the podium and confirmed to them that another long-awaited moment had come that same morning: the Allied invasion of Fortress Europe.


www.youtube.com

The cadets, crammed into lines of chairs inside a large building, included Cadet John Eisenhower, the son of D-Day commander, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. When Eisenhower is called to the stage to receive his diploma in the video above, the crowd erupts into a burst of applause.

West Point graduates, typically commissioned into the Army on the same day they graduate, in 1944 knew that they would be involved in the final long, slow push to Berlin. Indeed, Eisenhower would go on to serve in Europe in World War II and fight in Korea before going into the Army Reserve and eventually retiring.

The crowd at the graduation was likely not surprised by the news. American radio stations first caught wind of the invasion hours earlier when German stations announced that it had begun. As the morning wore on, Allied commanders confirmed the reports and then allowed the BBC, stationed on a ship bombarding the French shore, to begin broadcasting.

By the time the sun rose over West Point, the news was well-known. But, the three-star confirming the invasion was probably still a welcome confirmation for many. After all, there were false reports of an invasion only three days earlier when a BBC teletype operator accidentally hit the wrong key.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information