There’s a lot of death in the military; that’s what happens in wars — people kill each other. Whether it’s by partaking in the fighting or as a result of collateral damage, it is inevitable.
According to popular myth — mostly what we’ve watched during all those Halloween specials — people become ghosts by suffering a violent or unfair death. By this reasoning, bases and battlefields are gold mines for spooky military ghost stories.
Join us for a ghostly episode of the We Are The Mighty podcast where we explore the lost souls and vengeful spirits roaming military bases and battlefields in the afterlife.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — affectionately called “Wright-Patt” for short — is located just outside of Dayton, Ohio. If you ask the locals or the airmen stationed there, they will tell you about the Air Force Museum, the Oregon District, and maybe even the Dayton Dragons baseball team.
But if you get a couple of beers in them or earn their trust by shouting “O-H,” the locals may even tell you about all the alien bodies, ghosts, and secret tunnels the Air Force hides there.
1. The Roswell Aliens (and their ship) are there.
Many Americans believe a UFO – and its extraterrestrial crew – crash-landed in the New Mexico desert near Roswell on July 2, 1947. They also believe the site was cleaned up by the Air Force from nearby Roswell Army Air Force Base.
Eyewitnesses reported that 3-foot tall, grey-skinned aliens died in the crash. According to Loren Coleman, the co-author of “Weird Ohio,” they and their space vessel were shipped off to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s notorious “Hangar 18.”
Everyone else has been trying to get in there ever since.
Senator Barry Goldwater supposedly asked USAF Gen. Curtis LeMay if he could see what was inside. LeMay told the Senator that not only could he not get in, but he should never ask again.
2. The tunnels under a Wright State University were originally meant for the Air Force.
Just down the street from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is Wright State University. The school has a convenient system of underground tunnels that allow students and faculty to make their way to class despite the sometimes chilly weather outside. There are almost two miles of tunnels.
Some locals believe that during the Cold War the base was a prime target for Soviet ICBMs. So naturally they assumed the tunnels were part of the base’s plan to escape nuclear blasts and radioactive fallout. Others think the tunnels are part of an abandoned, separate military facility.
When the next building went up two years later, the electrical systems of the two needed to be merged, so they built a simple tunnel between the two buildings. Eventually, they started allowing everyone to use the maintenance tunnels to move between buildings.
3. Hap Arnold’s house is haunted…
Henry H. “Hap” Arnold was the only person ever to be dubbed “General of the Air Force.” As a major, he once lived on a house near Huffman Prairie, where the Wright Brothers worked on their planes – now on Wright-Patt Air Force Base.
Many commanders lived in the house, but the Arnold House (as it’s called today) is named for its most famous resident. For years, visitors reported strange noises, objects moving on their own, odd shadows, and other phenomena.
The ghost hunters heard sounds from the bathroom, girls laughing in the dining room, spectres turning on lights (at the request of the show’s hosts). One of the hosts even interacts with a ghost through a series of taps as responses to questions.
4. … and so is the Air Force Museum.
Chris Woodyard, author of “Haunted Ohio,” believes she is constantly followed while walking through the cavernous museum as she tries to read the information panels. She writes that many airmen were very attached to their planes and some of the pilots seemingly live in them still.
“The Hopalong” is a Sikorsky UH-19B that would medevac troops in Korea and Vietnam. The museum staff say they see the pilot in the seat, flipping switches and “trying to get home.” The seat is actually still stained with that pilot’s blood.
A young Japanese boy is said to hang around “Bockscar,” the B-29 that dropped the “Fat Man” atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. He supposedly comes out at night, when few people are around.
The “Black Mariah” is a Sikorsky CH-3E helicopter transport used for classified missions. It sits at the museum, still filled with bullet holes. People say you can hear the moans and voices of the troops it carried.
Parts from the “Lady Be Good,” a B-24 that disappeared during a bombing run on Italy, are said to rearrange themselves. The POW exhibit is supposed to make visitors feel an inexplicable sense of “sick dread” as they approach. Some airmen report that the ghosts actually “show up for work,” by walking in the doors, opening lockers, and going into the break room. Even Nazis are reported to show up to the WWII exhibit.
And finally, the museum’s “Strawberry Bitch” supposedly houses the only malevolent spirits at the USAF museum. Reports of rattles and clanks, shadowy figures, and strange lights are common. One former janitor claims a ghost from the B-24D even slapped him in the face.
5. The Air Force is engineering alien technology.
The Roswell Crash wasn’t the only extra-terrestrial crash in the U.S. — depending on who you ask. Some allege there were more before 1952, and all the debris and their pilots (with blue-green skin this time) were all taken to Wright-Patt. One of the crashes held as many as 16 alien bodies.
When there were any survivors, American medicine killed the aliens trying to save them. Cellular genetic research is supposedly conducted by the Air Force there.
Another crash yielded a ship made of lightweight material, impenetrable by any earthly means. Whenever a UFO crash happens, the wreckage is sent to Wright-Patt to be reverse engineered, or so the story goes.
Some believe technologies gleaned from UFOs at Wright-Patt include fiber optics, lasers, night vision, the integrated circuit, and particle beams.
6. The whole base is pretty much haunted.
The “Ghost Hunters” crew actually had their hands full at Wright-Patt. Building 70 in Area A houses a “waxy” figure clad in a blue polyester dress with a ruffled white shirt.
Others reported footsteps, electronics turning themselves on, and unexplained whispers in the same building.
In building 219, an old hospital converted to an office, children running and playing interrupted a Judge Advocate General’s meeting in the basement — which used to be the morgue. The doors on the third floor once slammed shut all at the same time.
Clint Emerson is not your average U.S. Navy retiree. He’s not your average anything and he never was. That might be why so many Fortune 500 companies want Emerson to not only speak at their corporate gatherings but also teach them how to survive some extreme circumstances.
In his books, he covers everything from making a homemade taser to teaching your children how to handle themselves during an active-shooter situation. No one needs to be a sheep among wolves when going about their daily lives – and Emerson wants you to know how to handle yourself.
“Violence is not limited to bad guys,” Emerson says. “Violence is okay for good people to activate and use against anything coming your way.”
He spent 20 years in the Navy as what he calls a “violent nomad.” But it was a lifelong dream. In this episode of Mandatory Fun, he describes how a chance meeting in an airport with a man who claimed to be a SEAL altered the course of his life forever.
But he wants you to be a violent nomad in the same way – he wants to make you self-reliant, able to self-rescue, and capable of helping others in any given situation, be they natural disasters, man-made crises, or medical emergencies. And you can do it without hiring him and his consulting firm to show you what “violence of action” means.
“This kind of violence of action can save your life,” he says. “You just need to know how to turn it on.”
Mandatory Fun guest: Clint Emerson — Retired US Navy SEAL, New York Times Best Sellers author, and crisis management professional. Learn more about Emerson at:
Spend a little time around any military installation, and you’re bound to hear tell of ghosts and urban legends. Often, the local gossip is just that, mere myth and fabrication.
But sometimes, an area is beset with enough spooky evidence that is hard to ignore, as is the case with the following ten haunted military bases.
You might want to turn the lights on before reading this list.
10. West Point Military Academy, New York
With reports of a ghostly cavalry still reporting for duty, the academy often pops up on most haunted lists. In 2017, ‘Thrillist‘ named West Point the most haunted place in New York.
Of particular interest is Room 4714, where an opalescent figure is said to drift in and out of stone walls, terrifying first-year plebes as they settle into their new sleeping quarters.
Perhaps, not so coincidentally – Sleepy Hollow and West Point are a mere 42 minute drive apart. Maybe that’s also part of the reason Ed and Lorraine Warren – the famed ghost-hunters whose stories inspired films, “Annabelle,” “The Conjuring,” and “The Amityville Horror” – also lectured at the academy in the 1970’s.
9. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
Fort Leavenworth’s Frontier Army Museum has documented nearly three dozen haunted houses, making Leavenworth one of the most haunted Army installations. The museum has dockets of stories captured throughout the base, and from the nearby correctional facilities of: U.S. Penitentiary Leavenworth, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks and Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, where multiple inmates within the facilities are on death row.
F.E. Warren is old, having begun operations in 1867 as Fort D.A. Russell. Airmen stationed here have reported other-worldly screams so terrifying that they’ve called base Security Forces to report it. The responders understand, because in the Security Forces Group Building 34, K-9 units whimper and whine at the staircases. The building was once the base hospital, its basement, the morgue.
The base’s haunted reputation routinely fills seats on the Cheyenne Visitors Bureau “Haunted Halloween Trolley Tour,” and has attracted the Colorado Paranormal Investigation (CPI), a Denver-based team of ghost hunters, and the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society. Both agencies have recorded unexplained paranormal activity.
On-base housing residents offer the following advice: “Want to know if your house is really haunted? Wait for Halloween, and see if the trolley tour pauses by your driveway.”
7. Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
Under the shadow of Mt. Rainer, in what used to be mere uninhabited rugged wilderness, Joint Base Lewis-McChord has accumulated its share of the ephemeral. Once the site of a guest house called The Red Shield Inn, the Fort Lewis Military Museum has been a hub of paranormal activity with reports of hauntings dating back decades – including rumors of an exorcism to placate an actor’s restless spirit who was murdered in the inn.
Although records of the exorcism have not yet been officially substantiated by the Catholic Church, numerous accounts and reporting suggest the event might have indeed occurred.
6. Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana
When a state boasts tales of voodoo, spooky hotels, and ghost roads – it’s small wonder that when hospital and cemetery space is repurposed in Louisiana, the dead don’t get the message. Military members whose office space just happens to be along Davis Avenue, coincidentally the site of the former base hospital, have reported doors slamming shut, footsteps running down hallways, and objects thrown across the room. Even the Base Exchange and Commissary are haunted here, as both locations were built upon the former home of the Stonewall Cemetery.
As if the base hauntings weren’t scary enough, the nearby cities of Shreveport and Bossier-City are a hotbed of spookiness, including an eerie creek crossing called “Green Light Bridge” where unexplained green lights hover around the small, country bridge. Those who live near the area know, “green means go” and if you ever see the lights – run.
5. Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia
The ghost stories swirling throughout the misty Georgia landscape are many. As the 13th Colony, the state certainly makes a good case for itself as being one of the most haunted in the continental U.S.
Warner Robins is located 18 miles south of Macon, Georgia – a city home to many haunted legends itself, including the chilling Hay House, named one of the “13 Most Beautiful Haunted Destinations in the World” by Architectural Digest. It’s a house where wedding photographers have captured the wedding party, and ghosts, on camera.
And, if you fancy meeting a witch, just head a few miles outside of the base to “Gravity Hill.” Legend has it that locals were actually kind to the witch who lived here in the 1800’s, and interred her body in a grave upon her death. It’s believed she continues to repay the kindness by helping cars over the ridge. To see her work, place your car in neutral, and watch as it rolls…uphill, against gravity.
There is also plethora of unexplained phenomena that would send Mulder and Scully running, including multiple UFO sightings, and a strange incident from 1954. Still not completely understood, over 50,000 birds, representing 53 species flew straight into the base’s runway flood lights, and careened like projectiles into the ground. To date, the event remains one of the largest mass bird mortality incidents in recorded U.S. history.
4. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio
Dubbed the “Birthplace of Aviation,” Wright-Patterson is one of the largest Air Force bases and also home to the USAF Aviation Museum – full of historic planes, where some of the former air crews…haven’t quite left.
But it’s Building 219 in particular that has presented the most paranormal activity. The three-story brick building was also the site of a hospital, the basement level of course serving as the morgue.
Hauntings there are so well known that the base featured on the SyFy Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” series. The production team actually received DoD permission to be escorted onto the base for an investigation, which heavily focused on Building 219. Several phenomena were recorded, including footsteps and incessant tapping.
When one of the ghost hunters asked the dark, empty air, “Give us two taps if you want us to leave,” and two taps quickly sounded – he said he felt obligated to honor his word and the team quickly left. Only later, while investigating their digital recordings did they hear women’s laughter following the taps.
3. Fort McNair, Washington D.C.
Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April 1865, the arms of justice moved swiftly. After a 12-day manhunt, John Wilkes Booth was shot and killed by police, while his co-conspirators were quickly apprehended and imprisoned in the Washington Arsenal awaiting trial. Four would be sentenced to death by hanging, two others given life sentences.
One of the guilty sentenced to die included Mary Surratt, the proprietress of the boarding house where Booth and his associates developed the assassination plot. Although Surratt adamantly maintained her innocence, she was found guilty – and became the first woman executed by the U.S. federal government, with President Andrew Johnson himself signing the orders for execution.
The guilty watched from their jail cell windows as their own gallows were constructed in front of them, in the south part of the Washington Arsenal Courtyard.
The Washington Arsenal is now…none other than Fort McNair, where it is said an angry, restless spirit roams the grounds, shrouded in a dark bonnet and long black dress, melting snow in a path, as if still retracing her steps to the gallows…
2. Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
In a place that has experienced intense emotion and devastating tragedy, something is bound to be left behind.
Even before enduring one of the most tragic military attacks on U.S. soil, the Hawaiian Islands teem with stories of the supernatural. Locals warn to watch out for Pele – the goddess of fire who also has a proclivity for hitchhiking as the “White Lady.” There are the ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors called “Night Marchers” who drum their way across the sky during full moons, and of course, deities who guard the volcanoes, placing a curse on anyone foolish enough to take lava rocks from the Islands.
Bookended alongside the Islands’ own haunted history is the tragedy of Pearl Harbor. A total of 2,403 Americans were killed in the attack, the majority of deaths occurring in Pearl Harbor, while others occurred on neighboring installations, Schofield Barracks, and Wheeler Army Air Field. The torpedoed USS Arizona took 1,177 souls with her as she sank to the ocean floor, and still lies in memoriam.
Numerous military members have reported eerie noises from the harbor, disembodied screams, and appliances that seem to have a mind of their own. Those living in base housing have also reported mumbling voices, footsteps, and laughter, doors and cabinets that open…and close, on their own, and flickering lights, just to name a few encounters.
1. Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan
Japan frequently tops the most haunted lists in horror film and literature, and the notoriety is warranted. Tales of terror stretch back in Japanese literature to the Heian period (794-1185), in a time so ancient that stories were inked onto scrolls, known as Gaki-zoshi, or “Scrolls of the Hungry Ghosts.”
Unsurprisingly, Kadena Air Base and the surrounding military community have reported all manner of terrifying activity. Ghosts have approached one installation gate so many times, that the activity has been captured in multiple videos.
Building 2283 on Kadena was once a tranquil single-family base housing unit built next to a daycare center, until an alleged family murder took place in the home. The USO used to hold ghost tours here, until curtains parted by themselves and a landline phone – long disconnected, rang in the house in front of terrified tour groups. Before the building was demolished in 2009, the next-door daycare teachers complained that their students kept throwing their toys over the fence. When questioned, the children replied, “the little kids on the other side asked us to.”
And the hair-raising terror continues in the Kadena Hospital Caves on the Banyan Tree Golf Course. The caves were once a former bomb shelter and hospital where 350 medical staff, and 222 nursing students from Japanese military units were assigned in WWII. When U.S. Forces came ashore, the caves were…evacuated. Some evacuated by ingesting potassium cyanide pills, others jumped to their death from nearby Maeda Point.
To this day, off the cliffs of Cape Maeda, scuba divers report seeing ghosts…underwater.
The incoming Commander-in-Chief has a full plate of foreign and domestic issues come January 20th. His or her first term is filled with potential flare-ups around the world. Some include the usual suspects, like Iran and Russia but also some newcomers.
In this episode of the We Are The Mighty podcast, our veteran hosts discuss the potential wars our next Commander-in-Chief will have to avoid or engage.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, we speak with U.S. Navy SEAL veteran turned entrepreneur, Eli Crane. You may have seen Eli pitch his business, Bottle Breacher, on the hit TV show Shark Tank. Eli’s appearance landed him partnerships with celebrity businessmen Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary.
Eli stopped by our show to talk about what military strategies he uses to run his multi-million dollar business.
A lot of the tactics that we use on the SEAL teams actually work really well in business,” Eli Crane states. “When you make some of the correlations — in battle, you have the enemy, in business, you also have an enemy, but we usually call them the competition.
Bottle Breacher is one of the fastest growing veteran-owned and operated businesses in Arizona.
Eli and his wife Jen dove into the Shark Tank with their sole product. A recycled, authentic, decommissioned .50 caliber Bottle Breacher, manufactured in a one-car garage.
Having enticed sharks Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary to invest, today they feature an ever-expanding product line, serving customers both domestically and internationally.
Bottle Breachers aims to provide the best handcrafted, personalized gifts and promotional products on the market.
Through their success, Crane’s company has donated to over 200 non-profits in the last year alone. Shopping with Bottle Breacher means supporting military veterans, active military personnel, first responders, children’s foundations, and various other non-profits.
At the end of the day, we do a lot more than bottle openers. What we really specialize in is mens gifts
Eli and his wife on the sandy training grounds of the Navy SEALs. (Source: Bottle Breachers)
As a kid, Eli always looked up to those who served in the military and decided to join a week after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. On his second attempt, Crane graduated BUD/s with class 256 and was later assigned to SEAL Team 3 under legendary American Sniper Chris Kyle.
For the WATM audience, Eli and team outstanding team have decided to give us a 20% discount on all items! Simply use the code WATM20 at checkout.
In Spring 1993, a Vietnamese farmer was on his way to work his rice paddy when he passed his wife and children in the road. The wife sat on a rock and greeted him “scornfully,” as his children cowered behind their mother. The meeting shocked the farmer, as his wife and his three children were killed when their village was attacked in 1968 and his house was burned to the ground.
Stories like these are common in Vietnam, where rural communities attach deep meaning to spiritual encounters. In this case, the man understood his wife’s grave had been disturbed in the village’s recent developments. He immediately set out to give them a proper reburial. But there are many, many more ghost stories throughout Vietnam, relevant to the war fought there. Many of those persist to this day.
Saigon’s haunted apartments
The building at 727 Tran Hung Dao in Ho Chi Minh City – also known as Saigon – was a building that housed American service members for much of the Vietnam War. But its construction was plagued by accidents from the get-go, some of which killed the workers building it. Many blamed it on the number of floors the building had, 13, which was considered unlucky.
In order to assuage their fears and get the building completed, the architect decided to call in a shaman to fix the building’s feng shui issues. It’s said the shaman brought the dead bodies of four virgins from the local hospital and buried them at the four corners of the building, which would protect it from evil spirits.
To this day, residents hear screams of horror in the middle of the night, the sound of a military parade on the march through the building, and the apparition of a spectral American GI walking, holding hands with his Vietnamese girlfriend.
The tunnel rats encounter
On Reddit, a terminally-ill Vietnam veteran recounted a story of his time in Vietnam that he was going to take to his grave but opted to put it on r/nosleep instead. For the uninitiated, Army Tunnel Rats were troops who would crawl into NVA and Viet Cong tunnels to eradicate the troops that hid there below the surface. It was one of the war’s most dangerous jobs, crawling around in the dark, avoiding booby traps and trying to kill before they killed you.
This Tunnel Rat was crawling into the deepest tunnel he’d ever been in, along with his partner. When they finally arrived in the main room, they were astonished that no booby traps were set and an oil lamp was still lit. The only thing they found was a tarp, but when they moved the tarp, it revealed a set of stone stairs, moving deeper underground. The stairs were odd, and definitely not built by the VC. They looked centuries old. The two men cautiously climbed down the stairs, guns drawn, when they came upon another tarp.
Cautiously, the Rats moved the tarp with their pistols and fixed their flashlights on 10 or so Vietnamese people, dressed as VC, but with blank faces looking into space, bodies rocking back and forth, eyes a solid color. The men waved their flashlights and weapons in their faces but nothing stopped their rocking motion. Their now-rusted weapons were in a pile in the corner. At the head of the room was a golden icon of a naked woman, except the lower half of her body featured eight tentacles instead of human legs.
The men were tempted to touch the icon, but instead decided to rig the entrance with C4 and bail as fast as possible. As they were leaving, a woman’s voice called out to them. Read the rest of the story on Reddit.
A veteran comes home
On a Notre Dame alumni website, on alum remarks about his chance encounter with a guy he had known since grade school. He was working a construction job in 1967 and was on his way home after work one night. He was coming around the corner when he walked by an old funeral parlor. He noticed the man was his old friend Jerry, a guy he hadn’t seen in two years. The construction worker was tired and not really in the mood to rehash old times, so he put his hat down and walked by his old friend unnoticed.
When he got home, his mother was on the phone, talking to one of the construction worker’s friends. She immediately stopped her son to tell him that his old friend Jerry had been killed in Vietnam and his body was at the funeral parlor down the street.
Ghouls of the jungle
Marines in Vietnam would often try to recruit locals to help guide them in their area of operations. In some areas, however, the locals were fearful of going into the densest, darkest parts of the jungle. The reason, they found, was the local superstition that phantoms, called ma, occupied the trees there. Montagnards warned the U.S. troops that reanimated corpses awaited them in the trees. The Marines, of course, shrugged the stories off as folklore.
Starting in 1965, it became very real. American troops in the jungles of Vietnam began reporting ghostly figures moving supernaturally through the trees. Others reported fanged creatures with black eyes that would try to kidnap and consume unsuspecting troops. In one encounter, the beasts were found to be bulletproof. It didn’t matter what time of day it was, the corpses lived by both day and night. Since the triple canopy jungle kept the sunlight from hitting them, the military’s top brass decided to get rid of it.
That’s the real reason the military developed Agent Orange and napalm. The Marines would then roll in with flamethrowers to finish the job.
Before you read any further, the lesson here is don’t listen to anyone with an opinion about your VA benefits. Even when the Department of Veterans Affairs makes a “final” decision on your case, you can still appeal. So, don’t listen to your Staff Sergeant. Anyone still wearing a uniform is not an expert on your personal VA claim.
Unfortunately, this happens a lot more frequently than you might think. That’s where Moses Maddox comes in. Maddox is more than just a veteran who advocates for his fellow vets. For almost a decade, the former Marine has built a career in helping other veterans with personal, academic, financial, and success counseling through various organizations.
Maddox talked to us about finding your veteran community, managing our veteran ego, and how to thrive in your post-military life. He talked to David Letterman about his experience, so we’re grateful he took a moment to sit down with us on the Mandatory Fun podcast.
Maddox believes we’ve come a long way and the military is getting better at preparing us for our post-military lives. The problem in his mind is that the military is designed to weed out the weak among us and the weakness in ourselves, a necessary process to prepare military members for what they may have to do. But once you’re out, that process proves detrimental – the perception that mental issues are weaknesses is what keeps us from addressing those problems.
The greatest challenges he faced when transitioning out of the Marine Corps stemmed from his admitted lack of planning. He set a countdown to his EAS date and was excited as the day approached. When it came, he felt nothing. He was so fixated on getting out that he didn’t have a plan for what he was going to actually do when the day came.
Over the course of two months, he went from handing out millions in humanitarian aid to handing out gym memberships at an LA Fitness.
“The nothingness and monotony of civilian life has just as much potential to beat you down as war did,” Maddox says. It’s a refrain he tells to many transitioning veterans. When the military is gone, the silence is the biggest hurdle.
But all that changed. One day, Maddox drove to the VA to see if they could help him. When he was there, a Vietnam veteran saw the despair in his eyes — and told him that the feeling was normal. No one had ever told him that his struggles were normal and treatable. So, armed with this knowledge, Maddox took care of it.
Now he advocates for veterans in many areas of post-military life. He looks back on his service fondly, but acknowledges that the Marine Corps was not the only thing he had going for him. Helping people is his passion, helping veterans is now his life’s work.
Learn more about Moses Maddox and how he discovered his “new why” on this episode of Mandatory Fun.
Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
“It was like walking onto the surface of the moon,” Graham Elwood says of his first experience walking off of a C-17 in Afghanistan.
His experience was not unlike many of our own first times deploying to a far-off edge of the world. We take a long, long C-17 (or god help you, C-130) ride for seemingly endless hours. There are no windows. The plane is packed. Forget about an in-flight movie or looking out the window. And when you walk off, it’s invariably the middle of the night and you and the hundred or so people you’re with walk off the flightline in a single file.
From there, who knows? There’s a good chance the “hurry up and wait” has just begun. For civilians visiting war zones for the first time, it’s no different – except they have no idea how to speak the acronym language.
“They said ‘When your bird hits the LZ, find your POC, they’ll take you to the MWR tent then you can go to the DFAC,'” he jokes. “It’s like… what are you saying to me right now, man?”
Elwood is a Los Angeles-based comedian with appearances in comedy clubs across America, on college campuses, and even CBS’ Late Late Show. He’s also a veteran podcaster with shows like Comedy Film Nerds, and The Political Vigilante, and he’s a co-creator of the Los Angeles Podcast Festival.
None of that prepared him for performing for U.S. troops deployed in combat zones. His first documentary, Laffghanistan: Comedy Down Range, is about his first time volunteering to go do just that. It’s amazing how fast you can go from playing the Hollywood Improv to playing Bagram Air Base.
Elwood’s film documents his personal journey from the sunny beaches of Southern California to the sun-baked moonscape of Afghanistan, where the military’s Department of Morale, Welfare and Recreation enlisted him to entertain the troops. Elwood’s psychedelic travels through a war zone are simultaneously hilarious, harrowing, and heartbreaking. His journey becomes unpredictably personal, creating a documentary that no one expected, least of all Graham.
For someone who admits he’s pretty far removed from the Global War on Terror, it all came home to him when went around the small firebases of Afghanistan. It was his first time in helicopters, driving in unarmored vehicles on the ground in Afghanistan, and seeing minefields. It got real for him for him real fast.
“What was said to me and what I’ve said to other comedians,” he says. “Well don’t go over there if you don’t want to be changed. It will change you. You have no idea. This is no joke.”
Now that Elwood has done a number of these shows and tours around deployed military bases, he looks back at his first experience in this episode of Mandatory Fun.
Nothing could adequately prepare him for performing a comedy act in Afghanistan. All the dive bars and sh*t holes he played as a young comedian is the best thing he could do to prepare. He was still freaking out but couldn’t help but put himself in the shoes of young troops.
“I’m here for two weeks,” Elwood says, “and MY family is freaking out. Imagine them and their families and how much they’re freaking out.”
But they quickly realized that they need to be the comics. They were there for a reason: to give American troops fighting overseas a few laughs, a taste of a normal night, and a show to help ease their tension, even if it was only for a short time.
Mandatory Fun guest: Graham Elwood has been a stand-up comic for over 20 years working comedy clubs, colleges, TV shows, Holiday Inn Lounges, war zones, dive bars, and one time on the top of a double-decker tour bus in Chicago (not joking) . You’ve probably seen him on the TV as the host of the socially relevant game shows “Cram” (GSN) and “Strip Poker” (USA), along with making the world a better place by appearing on shows like “Best Bodies Ever” on VH1. Don’t forget the time when he told jokes on “The Late Late Show” (CBS). He has also starred in the theatrical plays Speed the Plow, Light Sensitive, and Cash Flow, and co-wrote the one act play Brothers. Learn more about Elwood:
Hundreds of heroes have emerged through the ranks of all service branches with remarkable stories of courage and selflessness.
And while some stories are well known, the ones we talk about in this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast are seldom told. You’d think these stories are made up, like the tale of airman “Snuffy,” or propaganda ploys to recruit more troops. Either way, every service member should know about these Air Force legends and their badassery.
Here’s a brief description of our heroes for reference:
1. Col. Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr., the Tuskegee airman who almost shot Muammar Qaddafi. Chappie was already a legend before calling out Qaddafi in 1968, having served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
2. Sgt. Maynard “Snuffy” Smith, the original airman Snuffy. Despite being an undisciplined slacker avoided by everyone, Snuffy rose to the challenge in the face of certain death to save his crew.
3. Douglas W. Morrell, the combat cameraman who lived the entire history of the Air Force.
5. Eddie Rickenbacker, the race car driver-turned airman who broke all of the Air Force’s records.
6. Charlie Brown, the B-17 Flying Fortress pilot who was spared by German ace fighter pilot Oberleutnant Franz Stigler. These two rivals became close friends after meeting in 1990.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and Chase speak with stand-up comedian Mitch Burrow about what simple luxuries we wished we had while on deployment.
Mitch is a Marine Corps veteran that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He then started a career in manufacturing before realizing that it sucked. Now, Mitch has found his true calling in acting silly on a stage in front of strangers on a nightly basis.
Being forward deployed without the amenities that service members are used to from back home can suck. While some military branches have chow halls with an all-you-can-eat menu, others are forced to eat highly-processed foods from heavy duty plastic bags — a.k.a. MREs.
Although we wish for the most part that our livelihood will remain the same while on deployment, it’s the simple things service members miss the most.
This month is Mental Health Month, so we sat down the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Director of Innovation and Collaboration for the VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Dr. Wendy Tenhula. The good doctor was very outgoing in explaining how to spot trouble signs of mental health issues and answering our podcast listeners’ burning questions about the use of recreational drugs to treat PTSD.
The VA healthcare system is the largest in the United States. The Department of Veterans Affairs is the second largest cabinet-level office in the U.S. government — just behind the Pentagon.
Those of us who require the services of the VA healthcare system know that navigating it can be a daunting task. Do you need a psychiatrist or a psychologist? What’s the difference between the two? Which is better for your situation? Do you have to take drugs? Do I even have a choice?
The answer to the last question may surprise you: yes, you do.
But first it’s important to realize if you have a mental health condition. Or perhaps you see problems in a loved one that didn’t exist before their deployment or separation from the military. It’s harder to recognize a mental health condition than it is to recognize a physical condition. Everyone is different and the unique ways in which we internally respond to external problems makes it difficult to categorize ourselves. How do you know when you have a mental health issue and when you’re just having a bad day?
“If it’s getting in the way of your life,” says Dr. Tenhula. “Things like going to school, getting a job, maintaining relationships — then that’s a clue that you may have a mental health condition. It’s not necessarily a bad day.”
If identifying that you have a problem is the first step, where do we go from there?
There are a number of specialized, professional counselors that can help with your specific condition. But where the VA has started truly innovating is through the use of peer specialists — veterans who have had mental health struggles of their own. They know, first-hand, what a returning veteran is going through and they know the system.
Mental health treatments can often take time and some individual sessions can make veterans feel worse than when they came in. Treatment for post-traumatic stress often requires painfully and honestly revisiting traumatic experiences — and that’s hard. The VA’s peer specialists are also there to keep vets from getting discouraged.
(VA photo by Tami Schutter)
There is always more than one treatment option available and veterans have a choice to make — but it takes work, honesty, and a real partnership with your practitioner.
For more about the VA’s renewed push to reach more veterans through Mental Health Month and its Make the Connection campaign, listen to this episode of WATM’s Mandatory Fun podcast. Then, check out the Make the Connection website.
Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
Green on blue attacks — used to describe attacks by Afghan soldiers on Coalition forces — are one of the many dangers our troops in the Middle East face every day.
These deadly morale-sapping attacks are difficult to predict and leave lasting negative trust issues between the locals — and American forces. As many as 91 incidents resulted in 148 Coalition troops killed and as many 186 wounded between 2008 and 2015.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Marine infantry officer turned Army Green Beret Chase Millsap, and our Navy corpsman smartass Tim Kirkpatrick share their experiences working with the locals. Millsap with the Iraqi Police and Kirkpatrick with the Afghan National Army. As you’ll listen, their experiences differ.