Generally, American presidents feel an obligation to see situations firsthand when they commit troops to war. To wit, here are 27 times commanders-in-chief left the White House and headed for combat zones:
1. FDR visits Casablanca as Allied forces assault Tripoli, January 1943
2. FDR visits the Mediterranean island of Malta to confer with Winston Churchill, February 1945
3. Roosevelt meets Stalin and Churchill at Yalta, February 1945
4. Ike goes to Korea, December 1952
5. LBJ stops in Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, 1966
6. LBJ returns to Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, 1967
7. Nixon visits in Saigon, South Vietnam, July 1969
8. Reagan stops at the Korean DMZ for lunch, November 1983
President Reagan in the food line during his trip to the Republic of Korea and a visit to the DMZ Camp Liberty Bell and lunch with the troops (Reagan Library photo)
9. Bush 41 drops in for Thanksgiving with U.S. troops during Desert Shield, 1990
10. Clinton with U.S. troops at Camp Casey, South Korea, 1993
11. Clinton visits U.S. troops in Bosnia, January 1996
12. Clinton returns to Bosnia in December 1997 to visit NATO and U.S. troops
13. Bush 43 grabs chow with the troops in South Korea, 2002
14. Bush 43 surprises troops in Iraq, November 2003
15. Bush 43 returns to South Korea, Osan Air Base, 2005
16. Bush 43 visits Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, March 2006
17. Bush 43 visits troops in Baghdad, June 2006
18. Bush 43 visits Al-Anbar province, Iraq, September 2007
19. Bush 43 returns to South Korea, August 2008
20. Bush 43 makes one last stop in Iraq, December 2008
21. Obama stops in Iraq to see the troops, April 2009
22. Obama stops into Osan Air Base, South Korea, November 2009
23. Obama makes his first stop at Bagram Air Base, December 2010
24. Obama visits the DMZ, South Korea, March 2012
25. Obama makes his second trip to Afghanistan, May 2012
26. Obama visits Yongsan Garrison, South Korea 2014
27. Obama makes what could be his last trip to Afghanistan, May 2014
At the heart of Arlington National Cemetery lies one of our nation’s most magnificent displays of honor and respect to our fallen troops. Three unnamed graves are tended to by some of the most disciplined soldiers the military has to offer. The soldiers tirelessly guard the monument. Every hour (or half hour, during the spring and summer months), the guard is changed with an impressive, precise ceremony.
Each year, these three fallen soldiers receive up to four million visitors — but it’s not about honoring the specific individuals contained within the tomb. In death, these three fallen soldiers have became a symbol, representing each and every troop who gave their last breath in service of this great nation. Every step taken by the sentinels, every bouquet of flowers offered, every wreath laid, and every flag placed is for every American troop who has fallen.
This is exactly what was intended when the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated almost one hundred years ago, on November 11, 1921.
The King of England is also the head of the Church of England, so he chose to place the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, where all future kings and queens would be crowned, married, and buried.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The tradition of honoring a fallen but unknown troop actually originated as a joint effort between France and the UK.
In 1916, David Railton was a chaplain in the English Army serving on the Western Front of World War I. Near Armentières, France, he discovered a rough, wooden cross planted in the middle of a battlefield. It read, simply, “an unknown British soldier, of the Black Watch.”
David Railton would go on to join the clergy after the war, but the image of that cross never left his mind. It took years, but after many attempts, he finally got the ear of Bishop Herbert Ryle, the Dean of Westminster. Railton wanted to repatriate the remains of this fallen soldier and give him proper honors, despite not knowing his identity. Bishop Ryle was moved by Rev. Railton’s passionate words and went directly to King George V with his proposal.
“How that grave caused me to think!… But, who was he, and who were they [his folk]?… Was he just a laddie… . There was no answer to those questions, nor has there ever been yet. So I thought and thought and wrestled in thought. What can I do to ease the pain of father, mother, brother, sister, sweetheart, wife and friend? Quietly and gradually there came out of the mist of thought this answer clear and strong, “Let this body – this symbol of him – be carried reverently over the sea to his native land.” And I was happy for about five or ten minutes.”
The soldier was buried at Westminster Abbey, London on November 11, 1920, thus creating what’s now known as The Tomb of The Unknown Warrior.
It’s fitting that the Arch built in honor of the French victory in WWI would also be the final resting site for her unknown soldier.
(Photo by Jorge Lascar)
Meanwhile, across the English Channel, in France, a young officer in the Le Souvenir Français, an association responsible for maintaining war memorials, had better luck. He argued for bringing an unidentified fallen soldier into the Pantheon in Paris to honor of all fallen French soldiers from the Great War — and his proposal garnered support.
Both England and France decided to share the honors. They buried France’s Unknown Soldier underneath the Arc de Triomphe on the same day as The Unknown Warrior was laid to rest at Westminster.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Cody Torkelson)
The next year, as the United States began the process of repatriating remains from the European battlefield, plans for an American Tomb of the Unknown Soldier began to take shape. The originator of the idea remains unknown to history, but the selection process was public. On October 24, 1921, six American soldiers were asked to come to Châlons-sur-Marne, France. Each soldier was a highly decorated and highly respected member of their respective units. They were selected to be pallbearers for the remains as they made their way back to the States.
While there, the officer in charge of grave registrations, Major Harbold, randomly selected one of the men. He gave Sgt. Edward F. Younger a bouquet of pink and white roses and asked him to step inside the chapel alone. There, four identical, unmarked coffins awaited him. He was told that whichever coffin he laid the roses on would be laid to rest in the National Shrine.
Younger said of the event,
“I walked around the coffins three times, then suddenly I stopped. What caused me to stop, I don’t know, it was as though something had pulled me. I placed the roses on the coffin in front of me. I can still remember the awed feeling that I had, standing there alone.”
The remains were brought to the Capital Rotunda and remained there until November 11th, 1921. President Warren G. Harding officiated a ceremony in which he bestowed upon the Unknown Soldier the Medal of Honor and a Victoria Cross, given on behalf of King George V.
Since that day, the entombed soldier has been guarded every moment of every day, rain, shine, hurricane, or blizzard.
In October of 1983, a team of North Koreans bombed the Martyr’s Mausoleum in Yangon, Burma in an attempt to assassinate South Korean President Chun Doo-Hwan. The president survived, but 21 others were killed, including 17 South Koreans and important members of the South Korean government.
Although the South publicly denounced North Korea for its actions in the United Nations, privately, the country vowed revenge and began to train a team of special operators to infiltrate North Korea to inflict biblical retribution.
South Korea, one elderly veteran says, had been training commandos for such missions since the North attempted to assassinate the South’s president at the Blue House in 1968. That mission was called off, but the Republic of Korea trained thousands of secret specialists in case a mission was necessary.
In response to the Yangon Incident, the South Korean military decided to destroy some of North Korea’s most significant landmarks, like the Tower of the Juche Idea and the Pyongyang Central Broadcasting Tower.
Training began immediately after the future commandos were selected. But they weren’t picked from the regular army or even the South Korean Special Forces. They were recruited from the civilian population with the promise of overwhelming sums of money given to them or their families, should they not survive the mission. The South Koreans allegedly preferred to get young single men with no parents for the training.
For basic training, these civilians were forced to run at least 8 miles per hour while carrying 19-pound rucksacks and 3-pound weights on each ankle. The idea was to be able to stay ahead of North Korean special forces once their missions were complete. One trainee remembers his rucksack caused his back to bleed, created a giant blister, and soon turned his back into a giant callous.
The trainees also needed to learn how to charge through barbed wire and iron fences at top speed, search for booby traps and evade them, all so they could make it to the North through the demilitarized zone.
Once in North Korea, the operators would have to survive far from civilization, hiding out in the mountains and evading the Korean People’s Army. To do so, they learned to survive by eating rats and snakes in the south. Once in a major city, however, things could go wrong very fast.
The trainees learned to be North Korean soldiers, use North Korean weapons, and wear North Korean uniforms. Despite successive presidents calling off major retaliation against the North (including the bombings of prominent landmarks after the Yangon Incident), Southerners still made thousands of incursions across the DMZ.
In the days before satellite imaging, the only way to get intelligence and imagery across the border was to actually go there and snap photos. Retaliatory attacks were made, but if the North Koreans cared, they didn’t share it with the world.
Thousands of South Koreans were trained to go north, and thousands went. Thousands also did not return. Those who did were sworn to secrecy. What is known about the infiltrators only comes from the son of one of them, who overheard things his father would talk about while staring into space, drinking a soju.
As the sun went down leaving a peach hue above the Baltic Sea, U.S. soldiers, partner, and ally countries prepare weapon systems that would soon be shot off into the night sky.
Soldiers with C Battery, or the “Catdogs”, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment participated in the multinational air defense night fire exercise June 18, 2019, Utska Poland. The night fire is part of Tobruq Legacy 2019, Tobruq Legacy is a 21-day exercise that focuses on multi-national partnerships with shared understanding and demonstration of Air Defense capabilities by the United States Army and 11 different partner and allied countries.
The silence of night was broken as the Slovakian army fired missiles into the sky leaving behind a trail of fire and smoke. The U.S. Forces waited to the east of the firing line eager to demonstrate the capabilities they bring to the table. During the night fire U.S. soldiers showed mission readiness by demonstrating the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger Missile System and the FIM-92 Stinger Missiles.
U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, prepare to fire the FIM-92 Stinger missile system as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
The Avenger Missile System is a rugged camouflaged military vehicle whose stature can be imposing with 4 missile ports in each of the two guns fixed to the turret. The AN/TWQ-1 Avenger Missile System has been around for many years, while the FIM-92 Stinger Missile system is fairly new technology. This was the first live test for the FIM-92 as firing teams took turns engaging moving targets.
U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, radio in that the final missile was fired from the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger missile system as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
“Firing the missile is probably the greatest feeling there is,” said Spc. Matthew Lashley, an Avenger crewmember in C Battery. “Once you pull the trigger everything goes away with a loud bang, and it’s just a great experience shooting a live missile.”
U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, are smothered with smoke as they fire the new FIM-92 Stinger missile system as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
The FIM-92 is a handheld weapon system commonly used to engage aircrafts and it proved itself to be an adequate weapon system throughout the day and night, as it was visibly more effective than the Avenger system.
U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, work to fix the missile control apparatus for the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger missile system as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
The goal for the exercise is to work side-by-side with partner nations and find a way to utilize all of the technology and fire power available should these countries have to partner to defend against an attack from potential adversaries.
U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, work to fix the missile control apparatus for the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger missile system as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
“It should make our potential adversaries nervous,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Bryan, a 1st platoon squad leader and team chief. “If I saw multiple nations coming together in a huge exercise that was successful such as this one, I would be nervous, because it shows we have the capabilities and firepower to do what we need to do.”
U.S. Army Soldiers from C Battery, 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, watch as the missile they fired from the FIM-92 Stinger missile system flies towards their target as they participate in a Short Range Air Defense Night Fire Exercise as part of Tobruq Legacy in Utska, Poland, June 17, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
The exercise was able to demonstrate how effective and devastating ADA can be as missiles engaged targets hundreds of meters away lighting up the night sky. The final missile burst over the Baltic Sea as the last vehicle for the night drove off the range in the early hours of June 18, 2019, and zipped down the road back to the Logistics Support Area where the vehicles were staged for the next day.
In August 1942, Joseph Kennedy, Jr. died aboard a B-24 Liberator loaded with explosives – and almost nothing else. He was part of Operation Aphrodite, an all-out effort to destroy reinforced Nazi weapons bunkers. But there was one bunker in particular that appeared to resist every Army Air Forces bombing attempt. This one was critical because it developed off the merciless V-2 and maybe even V-3 rocket programs that terrorized London – and the United States thought it would be the delivery agent for a Nazi nuke.
It had to go – but to do that required a developing technology and a lot of bravado. More airmen than Nazis would die trying.
These things were built to last.
For months, the Allies worked to destroy the bunker, called the Fortress of Mimoyecques, that might be developing the V-3 rocket, one that was possibly capable of guiding a nuclear weapon over London. Time and again, the United States would conduct a massive bombing operation over the site, but like clockwork, the resupply trains would be back the very next week. It seemed like nothing could be done using conventional explosives. So the USAAF turned to the unconventional. It turned to Operation Aphrodite.
The plan was for a remotely operated, obsolete bomber to be packed with the bare minimum of machinery and equipment necessary to get the craft over the target. The rest of the plane was filled with high explosives. While nowadays drone technology is pretty par for the course, back then it was something entirely different – not quite as reliable and it required a crew to get a plane up in the air, two at the bare minimum. So two men would be aboard a ticking time bomb as it took off for enemy territory and would have to bail out shortly after.
The men were supposed to get the plane off the ground then bail out over the English Channel to be picked up. Then the plane would be guided using cameras on the instrument panel and the view ahead of the plane via remote control. Once at the target the plane would be flown into whatever was too protected for a conventional bombing run. The volunteer who wanted to fly the plane that was destined for the Fortress of Mimoyecques was none other than Lt. Joseph Kennedy Jr., brother to future President of the United States John F. Kennedy and son to prominent businessman Joseph P. Kennedy.
Unfortunately for the Kennedy family, the B-24 Liberator bomber Kennedy and his wingman Lt. Wilford J. Willy flew took off from RAF Fersfield in England, bound for the bunker complex in Northern France. The 20,000 pounds of Torpex explosive the B-24 was carrying ignited from an electrical fault in the plane shortly after takeoff. The resulting explosion was the largest conventional explosion in history at the time. Kennedy and Willy were likely vaporized instantly.
Luckily for the Allies, the Aphrodite plan for Mimoyecques would be unnecessary. Canadian D-Day invaders reached the complex site on Sept. 4, 1944. What they found was not the vast underground death factory planners assumed was below the surface. It turned out the heavy bombing campaign – especially the use of Tallboy earthquake bombs – was enough to disrupt work at the complex. Hitler just kept sending fake resupply trains to the site in order to keep the Allies bombing a disused factory instead of massing German troops elsewhere in Europe.
It says a lot about a Britisher to even be considered for the title of “classiest,” but Maj. Robert Cain should definitely be in the running. He took on six Nazi tanks by himself while holding off the rest of the coming German onslaught. In the end, he was forced to retreat, but only because he ran out of ammunition. Before he did, however, he stopped killing Nazis long enough to take a shave. Only after he was properly clean-shaven did he make his retreat.
Classier than most of you are, anyway.
Cain was an officer of the British 1st Airborne Division during Operation Market Garden, the World War II Allied invasion of the Netherlands. British and Polish forces were to be dropped near Arnhem to advance on the city over three days. Cain was to lead his men in the first lift over Nazi-occupied territory, but the disastrous operation was flawed from the start, especially for Cain. Because of a technical snafu, he had to wait until the second day. It would prove fortuitous for everyone in his periphery.
When Cain landed, he and his men were sent forward into the city, where they unexpectedly encountered heavy enemy armor. The only thing they had to fight back against these defenses were small anti-tank weapons and mortars. The anti-tanks were not enough to penetrate the armor, and they were soon forced to fall back.
The small PIAT anti-tank weapon used by the British at Arnhem.
Many British troops were forced to surrender. Others who managed to fall back did so in complete disarray, low on ammunition and unable to take out the approaching armor. Cain and the rest of the British were eventually forced to retreat to nearby Oosterbeek, where they formed a perimeter and tried to protect the howitzers that would be catastrophically destroyed if they fell back further. Cain was in command of forward units, who were digging in a populated area, trying to hold the armor back.
After one of his men was killed by a tracked, armored vehicle with a mounted heavy gun, Cain picked up the anti-tank weapon and poured round after to round into the tank until it was disabled. His PIAT anti-tank weapon eventually exploded from overuse, incapacitating Cain for a half hour. When his vision returned, he went back to work with whatever he could use. When he ran out of anti-tank weapons, he used a two-inch mortar.
Major Robert Cain was fighting these. By himself.
Cain fought off Tiger tanks, flamethrower tanks, self-propelled guns, and even Nazi infantry in an effort to maintain his position in the village of Oosterbeek. He personally was responsible for destroying six armored vehicles, four of which were Tiger tanks. The Germans were forced to fall back this time, but the British were in no condition to pursue them. They made an orderly retreat across the river but, before they did, Maj. Cain took a moment to shave his face (he had been fighting for a full week by then) for a proper appearance. When he returned to the British Army that day, his commanding general commented on it.
“There’s one officer, at least, who’s shaved,” said Gen. Philip Hicks. To which Cain replied, “I was well brought up, sir.”
The respect of his fellow officers wasn’t the only thing he won that day. Cain was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry.
An Army astronaut on a six-month mission in space recently shared her experience, saying she still leans on her military training while aboard the International Space Station.
Lt. Col. Anne McClain, a former helicopter pilot who has flown over 200 combat missions, blasted into space on a Russian Soyuz rocket in early December 2018 to serve as a flight engineer for her crew.
“I spent my whole career working high-risk missions in small teams in remote areas, which is what we’re doing right now,” she said in an April 24, 2019 interview.
McClain, 39, is one of five soldiers in the Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s astronaut detachment. Its commander, Col. Andrew Morgan, is slated to launch July 20, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
During her stay, McClain has been able to complete two spacewalks — both about 6.5-hours long — for maintenance outside the space station, which is about the length of a football field.
Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain is pictured in the cupola holding biomedical gear for an experiment that measures fat changes in the bone marrow before and after exposure to microgravity.
On March 22, 2019, she and another American astronaut replaced batteries and performed upgrades to the station’s power system. Then on April 8, 2019, she and a Canadian astronaut routed cables that serve as a redundant power system for a large robotic arm that moves equipment and supports crews while outside the station.
When she first started to train for spacewalks back in Houston, McClain said it reminded her of being an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter pilot on a scout weapons team.
The spacesuits, she noted, are like small spacecraft that need to be constantly monitored in order for their occupants to stay alive against the extreme temperatures and vacuum of space. Suits have their own electronics, power and radio systems — similar to components helicopter pilots often cross-check while remaining focused on the mission.
Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain works in a laboratory inside the International Space Station Jan. 30, 2019.
Then there is the buddy team aspect of both operations.
“Up here on a spacewalk, that’s the other astronaut that’s outside with you,” she said. “On the ground, that was the other helicopter that I was flying with.
“Most importantly, you have to be able to work with that other person and their system — their spacesuit, their helicopter — in order to accomplish the mission,” she added. “It was actually amazing to me how many of the skills kind of carried over into that environment.”
Unique from her Army days has been her participation in scientific experiments on the station, the only research laboratory of its kind with over 200 ongoing experiments.
An upcoming experiment, she said, is for an in-space refabricator, a hybrid 3D printer that can recycle used plastic to create new parts.
“That’s a really exciting new technology to enable deep-space exploration,” she said.
Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain, wearing the spacesuit with red stripes, and Air Force Col. Nick Hague work to retrieve batteries and adapter plates from an external pallet during a spacewalk to upgrade the International Space Station’s power storage capacity March 22, 2019.
In December 2018, NASA announced plans to work with U.S. companies to develop reusable systems that can return astronauts to the Moon. Human-class landers are expected to be tested in 2024, with the goal to send a crew to the surface in 2028.
What’s learned in these missions could then help NASA send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s, according to a news release.
While currently in low Earth orbit, McClain explained that resupply vehicles can come and go. Beyond that, crews would need to be self-sustained for longer periods of time.
“We’re using the space station as a test bed for some of the technologies that are going to enable us to work autonomously in space,” she said, “and hit some of our deep-space exploration goals.”
As with other astronauts, McClain has also become a guinea pig of sorts in human research tests that study how the human body reacts to microgravity.
Anne McClain, now an astronaut and lieutenant colonel, stands next to a OH-58 Kiowa helicopter.
One experiment she has been a part of is monitoring airway inflammation up in space.
With a lack of gravity, dust particles don’t fall to the ground and will often be inhaled by astronauts. The tests measure exhaled nitric oxide, which can indicate airway inflammation, she said.
This research could be important if astronauts are sent back to the Moon, which is covered with a fine dust similar to powdered sugar, she said.
“If that’s in the air and we’re breathing that for months on end, if we’re doing extended stays on the lunar’s surface,” she said, “we need to understand how that affects the human body.”
While there is no typical day in space, McClain said their 12-hour shifts normally start with a meeting between them and support centers in the U.S., Russia, Germany and Japan.
When not helping with an experiment, astronauts do upkeep inside the station that includes plumbing, electricity work, changing filters, checking computer systems, or even vacuuming.
Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain uses the robotics workstation inside the International Space Station to practice robotics maneuvers and spacecraft capture techniques April 16, 2019.
The best parts of her day, she said, are when she gets the chance to peer down on Earth. Every day, the station orbits around the planet 16 times, meaning astronauts see a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes.
“One of the cool things about going to the window is if you’re not paying attention, you don’t even know if it’s night or day outside,” she said. “You could look out and see an aurora over the Antarctic or you could look out and see a beautiful sunrise over the Pacific.”
After seeing Earth from above with her own eyes, McClain has come to realize people there are more dependent on each other than they may think.
Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain poses for a photograph with her 4-year-old son before she launched to the International Space Station in early December 2018.
“You get this overview effect where you realize how small we are and how fragile our planet is and how we’re really all in it together,” she said. “You don’t see borders from space, you don’t see diversity and differences in people on Earth.”
Those back on Earth can also gaze up and enjoy a similar effect.
“Sometimes we focus too much on our differences, but when we all look up into space, we see the same stars and we see the same sun,” she said. “It really can be unifying.”
Whenever she glanced up at the stars as a young child, she said it was a magical experience and eventually sparked her interest in becoming an astronaut.
Her family supported her dream and told her she could do whatever she wanted as long as she put in the work.
The Pentagon has announced that President Donald J. Trump will present the Medal of Honor to the family of Army Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins, an infantryman killed in action on June 1, 2007, when he wrenched a suicide bomber away from his troops and absorbed the blast with his body, saving his men. The presentation will take place on March 27.
Atkins had previously received the posthumous Distinguished Service Cross for his actions, but the award has been upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He was a member of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
His other awards include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal with four Bronze Service Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Valorous Unit Award with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Air Assault Badge.
During the morning of June 1, 2007, Atkins and his squad were conducting route security near Abu Samak, Iraq, when a squad member spotted two possible insurgents attempting to cross the route. One of the soldiers ordered the men to stop, and they complied but were acting erratically and seemingly preparing to flee.
Then-Sgt. Travis Atkins poses with battle buddies in Iraq, 2007.
(Photo courtesy of the Atkins family)
Atkins moved up in his vehicle and then dismounted with his medic to interdict and search the men. One of the men began resisting the search, and Atkins realized that the man was wearing a suicide vest. They wrestled for control of the detonator, but the insurgent gained ground against Atkins
Atkins then wrapped up the bomber and pushed away from his men who were standing a few feet away, attempting to open up space. He pinned the insurgent to the ground and, when the vest detonated, Atkins absorbed the brunt of the blast.
Atkins was mortally wounded by the blast, but his actions saved others. Now, his son will receive his father’s posthumous Medal of Honor.
Soldiers kneel to pay their respects to Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, who was killed, June 1, 2007, by a suicide bomber near Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq, at a memorial ceremony held, June 7, 2007 at Camp Striker. Atkins was on a patrol with his unit, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., when they detained men who were wearing suicide vests.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Chris McCann)
Before the fateful day on June 1, Atkins joined the Army on Nov. 9, 2000, and attended basic infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and deployed with them to Kuwait in March 2003. He took part in the invasion of Iraq later that month before leaving the Army in December 2003.
After attending college and working as a contractor, Atkins returned to the Army in 2005 before deploying to Iraq in 2006.
If the idea of spending 12 weeks in boot camp is what keeps people from joining the Marine Corps, they should be thankful that it’s only that long. It could always be worse — like in the French Foreign Legion’s four month basic training.
The first four weeks are an introduction to military life. They train at the 4th Foreign Infantry Regiment near Castelnaudary, a country town in Southern France. They also call it “The Farm.”
At the end of this, recruits receive the iconic white Kepi hat that is synonymous with the Foreign Legion in a special ceremony. But basic is far from over. From there, they move on to field training for three weeks, both in and out of the barracks. New Legionnaires spend a week in mountain training as well, high in the French Pyrenees.
Next, the newly-minted Legionnaires will finish a final 75 mile march that must be completed within three days. From there, they take basic educational courses and learn to drive military vehicles. On top of the rigorous training schedule, the non-French speakers will also have to learn basic French every day during training.
As far as the physical demand, the Legion’s rigorous training schedule can take its toll on a recruit. One Quora user, Kjell Saari, who joined the Legion in 1993, said he lost 22 pounds at the Farm, even though he had just been in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets — and he wasn’t eating much there.
“I was at the farm during the late fall/ early winter you realize that hell did freeze over and you died and ended up in hell. I like everyone else got sick as hell well guess what too damn bad, get up and become what you signed up for,” he wrote.
Mentally it can be just as rigorous. Due to the international nature of the group, few of the recruits can communicate at first — and forget about communicating with the instructors. But a “slap in the head makes you remember 100% of the time.” Former Legionnaires say it is important to not give up on yourself and to remember why you came to the Legion in the first place.
The Legion does not get hung up on the things people argue about in the U.S. military. Their tattoo policy actually welcomes tattoos. The only forbidden tattoos are Nazi and other racist art, as well as anything “stupid on your face.”
They don’t care if you’re gay or straight, trans, or married. They don’t care about your race, education, or religion. They don’t even care if you speak French. Once you’re in and past basic training, you can expect that food, clothing, and shelter will be provided, along with a salary on par with American soldiers and 45 days of leave per year.
From there, Legionnaires are shipped off to join the 8,000-plus others deployed throughout France, Africa, Afghanistan, and the Balkans to finish their five-year contract.
The FFL has its own culture — not French culture, Legion culture, as Saari puts it.
“Being in the legion was like being bipolar for 5 years,” Saari says. “Wild highs and bottom of the sea lows. Oh you better like to drink and you better be man enough to get your ass up the next morning and do what’s expected of you no matter how hung over or still drunk you are.”
Arab armies have never had good luck fighting Israel. Israeli independence should have been a long shot in the first place, but they were just too good for the neighboring Arab countries. In 1967, when Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran, a move Israel flat-out told Egypt would cause a war, Egypt was ready for Israel – on paper, anyway. That war lasted six days. Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq together could not bring the IDF down.
But in 1973, they were going to try again and this time, it was going to be a surprise.
Even though the Egyptians experienced initial successes, the real surprise would be getting their asses handed to them.
Israel was largely unprepared for two-pronged invasion through the Sinai from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria for many reasons. Israeli intelligence knew about troop build-ups but wrote them off as training maneuvers. It was the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, after all. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir ignored a warning from King Hussein of Jordan, the IDF ignored the fact that Soviet advisors left Egypt and Syria with their families, so when Yom Kippur, the holiest day for the Jewish religion, came around, the Israelis let their guard down.
That’s when the Arabs attacked.
Some 100,000 Egyptian troops crossed the Suez Canal with 1,300 tanks and 2,000 artillery guns, all protected by an umbrella of surface-to-air missile batteries to keep the Israeli Air Force – the reason the Arabs lost the Six-Day War – at bay. Facing the Egyptians were only 290 Israeli tanks housed in a scattering of fortresses along the canal, inadequate defenses to hold the Peninsula. Luckily for Israel, the Egyptians seemed to slow down when they approached the end of the SAM batteries’ range. This lull would prove critical to the Arab defeat.
The Israelis at first concentrated on the Syrian invasion, considering it posed a much more vital threat to Israeli heartland, while the fighting with Egypt remained largely in the Sinai Peninsula. Once the Syrians were forced back and were on the defensive, the IDF was able to turn its attention to the Egyptian invaders. The Egyptians had just attempted to advance beyond their SAM shield by throwing a thousand tanks at reinforced Israeli defenses. Its losses were mounting and the time was right for a counterattack. It turns out the surprise that had allowed for Egypt’s initial successes was also the reason for its eventual defeat.
With so many Israelis at home for the holiday, the roads were remarkably clear, making it so much easier for Israeli reserves to activate and get to where they needed to be. After detecting a gap in the Egyptian lines, the Israelis planned their counterattack. Once the Israeli reserve forces were in place, they waited for a way to reduce Egypt’s armor strength before pouring through the gap and invading Egypt across the Suez. When Egypt threw its armor at Israeli defenses, that gave the IDF the chance it needed.
Israeli tanks crossing the Suez in a surprise move of their own.
Commandos and tanks started striking surface radar and SAM sites, allowing the Israeli Air Force to operate with greater impunity. Instead of standing their ground, the Egyptians withdrew their SAM batteries, leaving their forces defenseless from the air. Israeli troops began to flow across the Suez Canal, hitting artillery positions, defensive fortifications, and even driving on major cities. The IDF advanced within 100 kilometers of Cairo before a UN-imposed cease-fire took effect, occupying 1,600 square kilometers of Egypt’s territory, and no defenses standing between the IDF and the Egyptian capital.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Third Army was completely cut off from resupply and surrounded, surely to be annihilated if the fighting continued. The Arab armies were humiliated by Israel once again, in just two short weeks. This time, however, would be the last time. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter successfully negotiated an end to hostilities between Egypt and Israel, an accord that has never been broken and may not ever have happened without the surprise defeat of Egypt in 1973.
Professional wrestling is a crazy world of gimmicks, pageantry, and explosions, and only that last one fits in with most people’s view of the military. However, wrestling caters to a very patriotic crowd and this, obviously, goes hand-in-hand with the armed services.
WWE has honored the United States Military on many occasions, giving back to the troops through multiple charity efforts. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make up for these five stupid storylines, which mocked the military far more than they paid tribute.
5. Corporal Kirchner
After future WWE Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter left for the AWA in the mid 1980’s, WWE hoped to mimic his success by creating a new military character in Corporal Kirchner. The blatant Slaughter knockoff claimed to be a former member of the 82nd Airborne Division and a present member of what they called the “3V Division,” standing for vigilance, vengeance, and victory.
Kirchner showed up covered in lame camouflage and used the word patriot repeatedly (as if that made him one). The combination of an actual army division with something so patently cartoonish and made-up made a joke of the military instead of paying tribute.
4. Sgt. Craig Pittman and Cobra
WCW used to compete with WWE tooth-and-nail and they had their share of stupid military references as well. WCW’s first military gimmick was Sgt. Craig Pittman, an angry drill sergeant-type bad guy, who feuded with Cobra. Cobra was one of Pittman’s apparently rankless and nameless fellow soldiers, who Pittman abandoned in the Gulf War before joining the ranks of professional wrestling.
The two wrestled a quick match at WCW Fall Brawl 1995 and both disappeared shortly thereafter. While the other items on this list may actually offend real servicemen, this one just leaves us scratching our heads and wondering what the point was. The idea of a sergeant abandoning his men at war is too serious of a crime to be tossed off and forgotten.
3. The Misfits in Action
While minor stars, like Sgt. Craig Pittman, appeared on WCW Saturday Night for years, the military appeared as a centerpiece in WCW storylines when Hugh Morrus turned into Hugh G. Rection and formed the “Misfits in Action” along with Booker T, Chavo Guerrero, and a few others.
The actual military influence of the gimmick was relegated to the M.I.A. wearing fatigues and the wrestlers being renamed with silly, offensive stereotypes (Guerrero became “Lt. Loco,” Booker T was “G.I. Bro,” and do we need to repeat, “Hugh G. Rection?”). Like many things in WCW, this not only managed to offend the military crowd to whom it was supposed to appeal, but found shocking new ways to offend people completely unconnected to it in any way.
2. The Steiner-Nowinski Iraq War debate
The War in Iraq has always been highly controversial — especially closer to its inception. A very popular notion in the United States at the time was to support the troops, but not the war. Although a sensible and understandable position for many conflicted over a war with no clear end in sight, Vince McMahon and WWE felt otherwise, vehemently supporting the war effort at all costs.
Although their hearts were likely in the right place, this particular attempt at sharing their patriotism has got to be ranked as one of the lowest moments in the history of WWE Monday Night Raw. A debate was held over the merits of the war, between actual Harvard graduate Christopher Nowinski and actual walking-billboard for steroid abuse, Scott Steiner. In the most poorly thought out part of their plan, Steiner was arguing for the War and was expected to get cheered, despite the fact that his “arguments” seemed to imply he didn’t know which war they were talking about.
Flustered, Steiner resorted to screaming nonsensical Rambo quotes, threatened to beat up the Dixie Chicks, and then told everyone who disagrees with him to go to France. It made WWE and anyone who supported the war effort look like a misinformed blowhard, probably the exact opposite of their intention.
1. Sgt. Slaughter turns traitor on America
Sgt. Slaughter is a WWE Hall of Famer, and his stern, drill-sergeant character reached beyond the squared circle and into pop culture history by appearing on G.I. Joe. His patriotism and military service were always the focus of his character, leading to immense popularity in the 1980’s.
Unfortunately, the peak of Slaughter’s fame was a short-lived turn as an Iraqi sympathizer in 1991. Teaming with former enemies, Colonel Mustafa (The Iron Sheik) and General Adnan, Slaughter turned his back on America and vocally supported the efforts of Saddam Hussein, winning the WWE World Championship shortly after doing so.
Everyone knows pro wrestling is just entertainment, but rumor has it this move actually lead to Bob Remus, the real man behind the character, receiving death threats. Of course, we don’t support that, but it isn’t super surprising — having a lifelong patriot become an actual traitor is a bit much, even for wrestling.
A North Korea-linked hacking group has been tied to a series of cyberattacks spanning 17 countries, far larger than initially thought.
A new report by McAfee Advanced Threat Research found a major hacking campaign, dubbed Operation GhostSecret, sought to steal sensitive data from a wide range of industries including critical infrastructure, entertainment, finance, healthcare, and telecommunications.
Attackers used tools and malware programs associated with the North Korea-sponsored cyber unit Hidden Cobra, also known as Lazarus, to execute the highly sophisticated operation.
Servers in the US, Australia, Japan, and China were infected several times from March 15 to 19, 2018. Nearly 50 servers in Thailand were hit heavily by the malware, the most of any country.
McAfee researchers noted many similarities between the methods used in Operation GhostSecret and other major attacks attributed to the group, including the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures and 2017’s global WannaCry attack.
(Flickr photo by Blogtrepreneur)
“As we monitor this campaign, it is clear that the publicity associated with the (we assume) first phase of this campaign did nothing to slow the attacks. The threat actors not only continued but also increased the scope of the attack, both in types of targets and in the tools they used,” Raj Samani, McAfee’s chief scientist, said.
The report indicates North Korea has been expanding its cybercrime beyond its usual focus of stealing military intel or cryptocurrency that can be used to funnel money to the heavily sanctioned government.
North Korean groups have been tied to increasingly high-stakes attacks in recent months.
The attack was attributed to the Lazarus group, which has been conducting operations since at least 2009, when it launched an attack on US and South Korean websites by infecting them with a virus known as MyDoom.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.