The Force Awakens star Adam Driver enlisted in the Marine Corps after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, as a Mortarman (0341) until he was medically discharged in 2004 at the rank of Lance Corporal.
So if we have fun with this and re-imagine his most iconic character, Kylo Ren, with that Terminal Lance mentality.
It’s already a perfect match. He worships Vader like every Marine does Chesty Puller, totally has a thing for the girl from another service (hey Air Force, how you doing?), and he’d still be “that guy” to have ‘Jedi’ on his dog tags.
#1. He would force choke anyone who said “Chocolate peanut butter is better than Jalapeño Cheese.”
The real fight in the Marines isn’t just between Island and Hollywood Marines. It’s between which MRE spread is better — Chocolate Peanut Butter or Jalapeño Cheese.
Kylo Ren wouldn’t have time for anyone who spreading such blasphemy and choke the sh*t out of them.
#2. Kylo and the Knights of Ren would be why everyone is restricted to Starkiller Base
Kylo and his boys, the Knights of Ren, are probably responsible for the destruction in the new trailer and why Luke Skywalker goes into hiding.
If they were in the Corps and kept that sh*t up, their asses would be restricted faster than you can say “Ninja Punch.”
#3. He could probably make NCO, if he didn’t get NJP’d so many times.
Everyone is just kind of used to Kylo screwing around that when two Stormtroopers are walking by they don’t even react.
If he was a Lance Cpl., his ass would standing in front of Captain Phasma every single time. Only thing stopping them from kicking him out is how valuable he is to the First Order.
#4. Kylo would viciously mock the POG Stormtroopers.
Kylo is constantly out on missions. He’s infantry as f*ck. So much so that Adam Driver hates joyful hugs on set.
Not all Stormtroopers are infantrymen. There has to be some support guys back on base, like how Finn was janitorial duties before becoming a traitor. Expect Lance Cpl. Ren to remind them of how “useful” they are every single day.
Dos Equis’ old ads featuring “The Most Interesting Man in the World” were supposed to be hilarious and ridiculous at the same time. But it left many thinking of people they knew who really might fit that man’s mold. I would like to submit the argument in favor of 81-year-old Army veteran, actor, and musician Kris Kristofferson.
You might know him from his acting work – most recently portraying the most hardcore President of all time, Andrew Jackson, on the History Channel miniseries Texas Rising. Or maybe you know him as “Whistler” from the Blade movies. Older folks know him as the songwriter behind Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” and as a country music performer in his own right. In 2003, he was presented with the “Veteran of the Year” Award at the 8th Annual American Veterans Awards.
While his father wanted him to continue the family’s military tradition, even he would have to admit that Kris has a pretty great resume. But there are a lot of music stars turned movie stars. It’s what he did before achieving stardom that makes him The Most Interesting Man in the World.
He was a Golden Gloves boxer.
The Golden Gloves meant that Kristofferson was a talented amateur boxer. But to add to his tough-as-nails persona, he also was skilled at rugby and track, and was even featured in Sports Illustrated for his natural talent playing American football.
He had two hobbies that just let him punch people in the face.
He was a Rhodes Scholar.
While studying literature at Pomona College in California, he was selected for a Rhodes scholarship to study literature at Merton College. While there, he continued boxing, performing at the highest levels. Remember: there’s no shame in getting knocked out by Kris Kristofferson. It doesn’t matter if he’s 18-years-old or 81-years-old.
Kristofferson goes Airborne.
He earned a Ranger tab.
The younger Kristofferson was the son of an Army Air Forces officer who went into the service himself as an officer. He was a helicopter pilot who also finished Ranger training and Airborne school. He opted to get out of the Army in lieu of taking an assignment to teach at West Point.
He moonlighted as a janitor… while working on oil rigs.
Kristofferson would sit on oil rigs, flying workers around in Louisiana one week. Then the next week he would moonlight as a janitor in Nashville recording studios so he could drop demo tapes on unsuspecting country music artists like June and Johnny Cash.
In one interview, he recommended having patience if you’re pursuing a career as an artist. Sweeping floors at age 30 might not seem glamorous for a former Army Ranger officer, but ask Kris Kristofferson if it was worth it.
Unfortunately his boozing is what led to him no longer working the controls of helicopters.
All that and he fought forest fires.
One of Kristofferson’s most often-offered pieces of advice is writing from your own experience. As if football, rugby, being an Airborne Ranger, and working on oil rigs weren’t manly enough, he also worked in construction and fought wild fires in Alaska.
The real James Bond is finally revealed: A few years ago Larry Loftis decided to stop publishing legal articles and work full-time on researching and writing the story of Dusko Popov, the daring World War II double agent who worked tirelessly to keep the Nazis off guard about the upcoming D-Day invasions.
1. Popov was captured by the Nazis before he became a spy.
Dusko Popov was a student in Germany as the Nazis took power and began to persecute the German Jews. No fan of the Nazis, Popov thumbed his nose at the thugs who came to intimidate patrons of Jewish businesses. He was quickly visited by the Gestapo, who imprisoned him and tortured him for information.
He was able to escape Germany because of his family’s connections. Hermann Göering ordered his release to Yugoslavia.
Johann-Nielsen “Johnny” Jebsen
2. He was recruited by his best friend.
Johann-Nielsen Jebsen – known as “Johnny” – went to school with Popov. But Jebsen is from a very wealthy European family with German roots. They met each other at the university of Freiburg but where Popov was expelled from Germany, Jebsen, as a German citizen, was forced to join the Nazi war effort. He joins the Abwehr (German military intelligence) as a spy recruiter.
His first recruit is Dusko Popov and the two both became double agents for the British.
3. He warned the U.S. about the attack on Pearl Harbor
Popov warned the FBI on Aug. 18, 1941, that the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor. Popov and his MI6 supervisor met FBI officials at the Commodore Hotel and for three hours laid out the entire plan. Popov was in the country to set up a spy ring in New York and recon the defenses at Pearl Harbor.
The attack was supposed to be a repeat of the British attack on the Italian fleet at the defended port of Taranto in 1940. The Japanese wanted to know how they could be as successful as they enter the war against the Americans. The reason President Roosevelt never saw the information will enrage you.
Check out the book (or finish this podcast) to find out!
4. He was critical to the success of D-Day.
The British determined that the best way to keep the Germans off guard on D-Day was to convince them that the invasion would come at Pas-de-Calais, not Normandy. At the risk of his life, with interrogators who were convinced that Popov was compromised by the British, Popov returned to Germany.
He gave the Nazis the false information the British wanted them to believe during multiple, marathon interrogation sessions that lasted for hours at a time over a series of days. Popov was the only spy who was interrogated by the Nazis about D-Day.
Simone Simon in 1942’s “Cat People.”
5. His real-world girlfriend was a movie star.
Just like his silver screen counterpart, James Bond, Popov had a slew of women he used for various reasons as a undercover agent for two opposing countries. But his heart belonged to just one – and she was as glamorous as the rest of his World War II life: Hollywood movie star Simone Simon.
Larry’s next book will be The Courier: The True Story of World War II’s Most Highly Decorated Woman, about the World War II spy heroine Odette Sansom and Captain Peter Churchill. Learn more about Larry, The Courier, and Into the Lion’s Mouthat Larry Loftis’ website. You can also follow Larry Loftis on Twitter and Facebook.
President Donald Trump signed legislation Saturday that will broaden options for troubled veterans in the legal system and expand a home renovations grant program for disabled and blind veterans.
The new Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act directs the Justice Department to support the development and establishment of veterans treatment courts at the state, local and tribal levels.
At more than 400 veterans treatment courts across the U.S., vets with substance abuse issues or mental health conditions who commit nonviolent crimes may enter court-supervised medical treatment and get access to veteran-centric services and benefits in lieu of going to jail.
The law will encourage the development of a grant program to expand these courts across all 50 states.
“We’ve wanted this for a long time. They’ve been trying to get it for a long time, and now we have it,” Trump said after signing the bill, proposed in the House by Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., and in the Senate by Martha McSally, R-Ariz.
“With this new law, thousands more veterans across the country facing the criminal justice system will have an alternative to jail time, ensuring they get the treatment they need,” Crist said in a statement following the signing ceremony.
“These courts have turned veterans’ lives around in Arizona, and now they will be able to do the same for veterans across our nation,” McSally said, also in a prepared statement.
The first veterans treatment court was established in early 2008 in Buffalo, New York. After noticing an increase in the number of veterans appearing in the city’s drug and mental health treatment legal programs, Judge Robert Russell brought in veterans and Department of Veterans Affairs advisers to help create the specialty court.
Since 2011, the Justice Department has supported the development of veterans treatment courts, providing more than million to states and localities.
Trump on Saturday also signed a law that will give more veterans access to VA grants to renovate their homes to accommodate their disabilities.
The Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Act of 2019 expands the program to include blind veterans and raise the maximum funding veterans can receive from ,000 to ,000. The bill also will let eligible veterans access the funds six times, instead of three, and gives them access to the full amount every 10 years — a provision that will let them change residences as their needs change.
At the start of the president’s press conference Saturday, Trump sowed some confusion about which bills he had just signed, referencing two he often mentions in stump speeches: the VA Mission Act, which he consistently refers to as “VA Choice,” and the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which became law in 2018 and 2017, respectively.
“Before we begin, I’ve just signed two bills that are great for our vets. Our vets are special. We passed Choice, as you know — Veterans Choice — and Veterans Accountability,” Trump said before extolling the benefits of those laws.
“We passed Choice … they’ve been trying to get that passed for decades and decades and decades, and no president has ever been able to do it. And we got it done so veterans have Choice,” he said. “And now you have accountability — that if you don’t love your vets, if you’re in the VA and you don’t love the vets or take care of the vets, you can actually get fired if you don’t do your job.”
The president then went on to talk about the treatment courts and adaptive housing laws before moving on to other subjects.
Trump consistently refers to the VA Mission Act as VA Choice — the program established in 2014 by President Barack Obama to widen veterans’ access to health care treatment from non-VA providers.
The legislation, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act, was created in response to a nationwide scandal over delays veterans encountered when making medical appointments — for months and sometimes years — and secret waiting lists kept by some VA facilities to hide the scope of the problem.
The VA Mission Act, signed by Trump in 2018, replaced the Veterans Choice Program and gave more veterans access to private health care paid for by the VA.
The legislation also broadened the VA’s caregiver program to include disabled veterans who served before Sept. 11, 2001 — an expansion that will begin in October — and ordered the department to inventory its 1,100 facilities with an eye to closing or selling outdated or excess buildings.
At the end of Saturday’s press conference, a reporter asked why Trump “keeps saying [he] passed ‘Veterans Choice,'” when it was “passed in 2014.”
Trump told the reporter she was “finished,” and he abruptly ended the press conference.
It’s a reality no one likes to face: accidents happen in wartime, and sometimes the wrong people get killed. Once the fog of war is lifted, someone has to sort out what happened and why, no matter how much the truth hurts. There are many infamous, tragic examples of the U.S. military losing good people to friendly fire, the most well-known perhaps, being the story of ex-NFL star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman.
Friendly fire incidents are not unique to the United States military. Notable examples of casualties inflicted by friendly forces can be found all the way back to the ancient Greeks. An Austrian army even fought a full-on battle against itself on one occasion. The fog of war can be thick and pervasive.
Tillman was killed in Afghanistan while attempting to support his own unit.
In the wake of a friendly fire incident, especially a public one, even if it’s not as well-known as the Tillman incident, there must still be accountability. Friendly fire, it should be noted, is a distinctly different event from a fragging, as far as the Army and the Uniform Code of Military Justice are concerned. A friendly fire incident involves the killing or wounding of friendly forces while engaging with what is thought to be a hostile force. “Fragging” is simply premeditated murder. An investigation of the incident will reveal who is at fault for which potential offenses. When a troop or unit is found to have committed a friendly fire incident, depending on the severity, the investigators will first look into the type of error committed.
The two offenses most likely to be charged in such an incidence are involuntary manslaughter or the lesser charge of negligent homicide. For the involuntary manslaughter charge to stick, investigators have to prove “a negligent act or failure to act accompanied by a gross, reckless, wanton, or deliberate disregard for the foreseeable results to others.” Pointing a pistol believing it to be unloaded and firing it accidentally killing someone is an example of involuntary manslaughter. For a negligent homicide charge, all the prosecution has to prove is negligence, even a simple failure to act that resulted in the death of another.
During Desert Storm, 77 percent of American vehicle losses were attributed to friendly fire.
Dereliction of duty is another charge that could be levied in a friendly fire investigation. This would mean the accused knew he or she had a duty to perform and willfully neglect to perform them or knowingly underperform them without a reasonable excuse – though ineptitude is a defense against this charge.
While these are the most common charges for those accused of friendly fire incidents, in the U.S. military, few of these -charges ever go to a court-martial and those that do usually result in an acquittal. The reason for this is not a failure to respond to the issue of friendly fire, friendly fire incidents have been around since the beginning of war and will continue to occur in wartime. It is simply difficult to prove that negligence or wanton disregard was at play for troops who had to make split decisions in combat situations. Even the best troops can make bad decisions with tragic consequences when bullets start to fly.
During World War II, the US accidentally bombed neutral Switzerland more than once.
Even when charges aren’t pursued by courts-martial, troops are still able to be punished through non-judicial punishment. Career-ending letters of disapproval can be written, troops can be put behind desks, pilots can be grounded. The difference is in proving negligence.
In the case of Pat Tillman, his fellow Rangers saw movement and muzzle flashes from Tillman’s position while they were being attacked from the surrounding areas. Since they reasonably believed they were firing at the enemy, it did not meet the charges of negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter. While none of the soldiers involved were criminally liable, seven received non-judicial punishments for various offenses, including dereliction of duty.
Troops die in battle — it’s an unfortunate fact, but it’s the nature of the job. Countless men and women have sacrificed themselves to protect their fellow service members, their friends and family back home, and the lifestyle we enjoy here in the U.S. “Battlefield crosses” were created to honor the fallen. A deceased troop’s rifle is planted, barrel-first, into their boots (or, in some cases, the ground) and their helmet is placed atop the rifle. Like all things military, this cross is part of a long-standing tradition — a tradition that has evolved since its first use on the battlefields of the American Civil War.
Despite the fact that it’s called a cross, there’s no single religious ideology attached to the practice.
The tradition of marking the site where a troop met his end began in the Civil War. Historically, large-scale battles meant mass casualties. After armies clashed and the smoke settled, bodies were quickly removed from the field to stop the spread of disease. Blade-cut, wooden plaques were placed at temporary grave sites so that others could pay respects.
It wasn’t until World War I, when troops were issued rifles and kevlar helmets, that these wooden blocks were replaced with the crosses as we know them. To many, it was the equipment that made a trooper, so creating a memorial from that same gear was poignant.
In World War II, dog tags were standard, making troop identification easier. The tags were eventually placed on the memorials, giving a name to the troop who once carried the gear on which it was draped. When available, a pair of boots was placed at the bottom of the shrine, too.
A pair of boots, a rifle, a helmet, and some identification — there’s something eerily, symbolically beautiful about the battlefield cross, composed of the core components of a troop.
Today, given the technology, photos of the fallen are also sometimes placed near the memorial. These crosses help give troops closure and a way to pay their respects to their brothers- and sisters-in-arms.
In the United States, we enjoy a good amount of federal holidays, during which many employers give their employees a paid day off. During these breaks, which sometimes result in a three- or four-day weekend, everyone can take some time to relax with friends and family — maybe even enjoy a barbecue.
Everyone, that is, except the troops deployed to combat zones. On these days, troops will (sometimes) get a slightly nicer meal served by their chain of command before they return to the grind.
To celebrate the troops that are in harm’s way and the sacrifices their families make, we have today, October 26th, the oft-forgotten Day of the Deployed. Despite the fact that it’s officially recognized by all 50 states as of 2012, you’ll likely see far more people posting things to their social media account about National Breadstick Day, which, this year, happens to share the date.
While the holiday doesn’t necessarily call for huge, elaborate celebration, officially recognizing it as a federal holiday during times of ongoing conflicts would go a long way. Hear us out.
Lt. Col. Honsa’s cousin worked to give him a nationally recognized holiday while he was deployed… The rest of our families need to step up their care package game…
Of the ten holidays observed by the federal government, two of them directly honor the military: Memorial Day, for fallen troops, and Veterans Day, for the living. There’s also Armed Forces Day, which honors the current, active duty military, but that holiday is rarely recognized outside of the military community.
The Day of the Deployed is similar to Armed Forces Day, but it specifically honors the troops who are currently deployed. The holiday first began in 2006 when Shelle Michaels Aberle approached North Dakota Governor John Hoeven to officially proclaim a day to specifically honor the troops out there fightin’ the good fight. The date October 26th was selected in honor of Aberle’s cousin, Lt. Col. David Hosna — the birthday of a soldier who, at the time, was deployed.
When Hoeven became a senator, he sponsored S.Res.295 on October 18th, 2011, to designate October 26th as the “Day of the Deployed.” It was approved unanimously and without any amendments. Since then, all 50 states have officially observed the holiday.
Six years later and the holiday is nothing more than a footnote at the bottom of calendars, found by those looking for wacky holidays — and that’s a shame. A day to commemorate the heroic acts of the troops fighting on the front lines does not deserve to be on the same level as Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day.
Federal recognition of the day would put it in league with the holidays that people get an extended weekend to celebrate — you know, the ones people take seriously. For this to make most sense, we’d need to make a couple of changes:
First, it should become a floating holiday — this year, it falls on the last Friday of October. In our opinion, that’s the perfect place for it. Not only would that mean a three-day weekend, it also means it could incorporate Remember Everyone Deployed Fridays in an official capacity, which gives people a way to celebrate.
And with the way that the postal system works for outlaying combat outposts, the care packages would arrive just before Christmas!
(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Matthew Stroup)
On this newly upgraded National Day of the Deployed, everyone would wear red as a symbol and, as an action, they’d send care packages out to those on the front line. Hell, even if only a tiny fraction of the American population actually sends care packages, that’d be a huge windfall for the troops.
A day to remember the troops deployed overseas is an objectively better reason for a four day weekend.
(U.S. Army photo by CPT Jarrod Morris, TAAC-E Public Affairs)
Now, let’s take a look at the competitors. There are already three holidays that fall around(ish) the last Friday of October: Halloween, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day.
On Halloween, children enjoy a day of free candy and dressing like princesses and superheroes while adults awkwardly party while disguised as various pop-culture references. An extended weekend around that time would be very welcomed by the public — it wouldn’t hurt to give people a day off and let them know they have the troops to thank for it.
Earlier in the month, there’s Columbus Day, a federal holiday that’s becoming less relevant and more contentious by the year. As time goes on, evidence surfaces that suggests that Columbus, as an explorer, never stepped foot on American soil. He wasn’t the first person — or even the first European — to get here, and whether we should celebrate beginning of harsh times for American Indians is hotly debated. A 2014 report from Rasmussen showed that only eight percent of the U.S. population even believes that the day is even important. Honestly, we can’t see there being much push-back if we nixed Columbus Day in favor of Day of the Deployed.
It’d also never leave the American public’s mind that our troops are still not home to enjoy the little things — like paid time off.
(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Lauren M. Gaidry)
Finally, on the other side of October, we’ve got Veterans Day. If Day of the Deployed were to become a floating holiday, it’d fall somewhere between eleven and eighteen days before Veterans Day.
If the final Friday of October happened to be the 31st, that means the country would enjoy back-to-back three-day weekends. If it fell on the 25th — the longest possible gap — that’d mean people could enjoy a total of eight days off and ten days of work between two holidays honoring the troops and what they’ve given this great nation of ours.
Give people that kind of time off and the freedom to enjoy themselves a bit, and you’ll truly drive home the point that brave men and women are out there sacrificing so that we can enjoy the liberties we do.
The Memphis Belle has received a lot of attention over the years. In 1944, this Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber was the subject of a documentary, entitled Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, that followed an aircrew as they completed their 25th and final mission. Today, we now know that the Memphis Belle was actually the second choice for that documentary — the first was shot down in battle.
Nonetheless, the Memphis Belle was thrust into notoriety and had a place in the public eye. Then, in 1990, that documentary was dramatized and turned into a film, titled Memphis Belle, starring Harry Connick Jr.
Now, you can see the famous bomber itself at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The bomber’s display was formally opened on May 17, 2018, which marked the 75th anniversary of the plane’s 25th mission. But this B-17 bomber endured a long journey before finally arriving at the museum.
The Memphis Belle being restored at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. In the background is Swoose, another historic B-17.
Still, 55,000 hours is a long restoration period — what took so long? Well, the experts weren’t interested in plastering on a pretty paint job and calling it done. Instead, they wanted this iconic plane to look exactly as it did when she flew that famous 25th mission. That was no easy task. One of the hardest parts was finding authentic parts for the plane, or at least period-accurate parts.
The Memphis Belle as she appeared during World War II.
The Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress, was able to carry as many as 17,600 pounds’ worth of bombs and was equipped with as many as 13 M2 .50-caliber machine guns as well as a single .30-caliber machine gun. It had a crew of ten, a top speed of 325 miles per hour, and a maximum range of 4,420 miles.
Of the over 3,400 B-17Fs built, only three survive today — the Memphis Belle is one of those.
Israeli pop star Noa Kirel made a controversial television commercial just after she was drafted. (YouTube screenshot)
Imagine a world where 18-year-old music sensation Billie Eilish, fresh off her six Grammy wins in February, had to report to boot camp at Fort Benning, Georgia, in March. How would the Army handle the media glare, and how would her fellow recruits react?
That’s the situation in Israel right now. Noa Kirel has been famous since age 14 for her YouTube videos that led to stardom on reality television, teen dramas and TV commercials. She recently signed a multimillion-dollar recording contract with Atlantic Records.
The Washington Post reports that Kirel, now 19, has been drafted into the Israeli Army to fulfill her required service under the country’s mandatory conscription law. Noa will serve at least two years before she can return to her career full time.
Some of our readers are old enough to remember Elvis Presley’s Army service 60 years ago. A lot has changed since then, and the Army didn’t have to deal with a pack of paparazzi and a bottomless appetite for gossip on social media at that time.
Things in Israel have not gotten off to a great start. Kirel pissed off the brass by making a commercial for Israeli streaming service Yes+ that has her playacting in American fatigues in a fake boot camp. She’s singing “Let the Sunshine In” from “Hair,” a show that even Israelis remember for its anti-war sentiments.
“Wonder Woman” actress Gal Gadot also did her Israeli military service, but she had yet to launch her acting career at that point. Still, she was already famous as the winner of the Miss Israel pageant, but local media insist that Kirel’s current fame dwarfs Gadot’s at that time.
Kirel may be causing chaos, but she chose to fulfill her obligation even though she could have opted out because she’s got only one kidney. Her commitment to serve no matter what counts for a lot in Israeli society.
“I felt that, because I was famous, I had to serve to set an example to others,” Kirel said. “I know people abroad will probably not understand this, not understand why I have put everything on hold, but it was clear to me that I had to do this.”
Kirel represents the first wave of a new problem facing the Israeli military. The modern definition of fame is changing, and there are dozens of Israeli youths becoming popular solely through their social media profiles on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.
Making an exception for one big star might be a challenge that the Israeli Army is prepared to meet, but what happens when you’ve got a whole platoon of teenage celebrities reporting to boot camp?
That’s not a problem we’re likely to face anytime soon. It’s not likely the USA will have compulsory national service in the near future. We can’t even convince people to wear a mask over here.
Some people go skydiving or do other extreme sports to get their adrenaline fix. Troops, on the other hand, get into gunfights. Celebrated war correspondent, Sebastian Junger nails this phenomenon in his 2014 Ted talk about why soldiers miss war.
While thrilling, the downside to any gunfight is getting shot. This video reveals five random facts about gunshot wounds you probably didn’t know. (For instance, did you know that women are more likely to survive than men? What does that do to your “women in combat” matrix?)
The months following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, would forever shape the way the military does business.
In an effort to provide some sense of comfort to the families of those who perished that September day, the US Army Human Resources Command established the Joint Personal Effects Depot at present day Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Virginia.
Its close proximity to the Pentagon made Arlington the perfect area to account for and process personal items of fallen warriors, return them to the families, and help provide closure.
But as America’s resolve strengthened, the young men and women of this country took up arms to defend the freedoms of its citizens against an unconventional new enemy in a war against terror thousands of miles away.
With the possibility of a rising number of casualties stemming from this new war, America’s military was faced with a new challenge — how to care for its fallen?
As the war on terror intensified, the need for an expanded personal effects facility soon became evident and the JPED was relocated from Arlington to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
Working out of old and sometimes dilapidated World War II era warehouses, workers at the JPED ran an assembly line operation without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer until 2005, when the decision was made to consolidate the Joint Personal Effects Depot, along with the services’ mortuary, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
“I was assigned to the depot in Aberdeen as a mortuary affairs specialist with the Army Reserve and I can say it was less than ideal conditions to work in,” said Nelson Delgado, JPED operations management specialist and retired Army Reserve master sergeant.
“Back then, everything was moved from station to station,” he said. “It was cramped and there was too much room for mistakes. One day, General Schoomaker (retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker, 35th Chief of Staff of the US Army) showed up and asked us what we needed.
“That’s how we got to Dover.”
In March 2011, construction of the current 58,000 square-foot state-of-the art facility was finally completed by the Philadelphia District Corps of Engineers at a cost of $17.5 million. A few months later in May, the first personal effects processed there.
Staffed by a mix of active and Reserve component Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines, as well as a handful of Department of the Army Civilians and contractors, the JPED, along with the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations facility provides dignity, honor, and respect for the families left behind.
When Soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice in theater, their personal effects are inventoried, packed, and rushed to the JPED, usually within five days.
“If it comes through the front door, it has to be accounted for by us and sent to the family,” said Delgado. “We don’t throw anything away.”
“Sometimes, what might seem insignificant to you and me may, in fact, be very important to the families. We’ve actually had instances where families have called back asking for something like a gum wrapper that was given to the service member by a child,” he said.
As items arrive at the depot, they are carefully x-rayed and screened for unexploded ordnance in a blast-proof corridor before they are ever brought into the main facility.
From there, items are brought into an individual cage where they are inventoried and packed for shipment to the service member’s primary next of kin.
“All the preparations are done, from start to finish, in one single room,” Delgado said.
“We ensure there are two Soldiers present in the cage at all times in addition to a summary court martial officer. This gives us a system of checks and balances and also reduces the risk of cross contamination of items,” he added.
Each cage is equipped with photographic equipment, washers and dryers, and cleaning materials. As items are inventoried, they are carefully inspected and then individually photographed. Soldiers go through great pains to ensure each item is soil-free and presentable for the family members.
“We want to make sure everything that the individual service member had with them in theater is returned to the family,” Delgado said. “What we don’t want to do is make a difficult situation worse.”
“If an item is soiled or bloodstained, we will stay here as long as it takes to get it clean so it can be returned. Besides memories, this is all the families have of their loved ones,” he said.
After items are cleaned and inventoried, they are carefully packaged into individual plastic foot-lockers.
Each item is pressed and folded. They are placed neatly in the containers, and wrapped tightly with several layers of packaging paper and bubble wrap. Smaller items, such as rings, watches or identification tags, are placed into small decorative pouches, inscribed with the service member’s individual branch of service.
Items such as Bibles, flags, or family photos are placed at the top of the first box, so that they are the first things the families see upon opening it.
“We emphasize box one, because that is usually the box the families will open first. But that doesn’t mean we neglect box two, or box six, or even box 10,” Delgado said. “We treat each box the same way because we really want the families to know we care about their loved one.”
“That’s why we take our time and make sure items are neat and presentable, not just stuff thrown in a box.”
After the items are finally packaged and sent to the transit room, Soldiers scour the cage one last time and sweep the floor before exiting. Great attention to detail is given to make sure everything is accounted for and nothing is overlooked.
Soldiers at the JPED are meticulously screened for duty fitness by HRC’s Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division before they are ever assigned there.
Assignments at the JPED can be emotionally taxing on the Soldiers working there.
Soldiers regularly attend resiliency training to help them cope with the tasks they are asked to perform. The JPED chaplain is as much there for them as he or she is for the grieving families attending dignified transfers.
“This is a job that not a lot of people want, or can do, but at the same time, this can be the most rewarding job you will ever do,” Delgado said.
“Taking care of the personal effects is the last part of the process. This is what helps bring some sense of closure to the families. The families don’t see what goes on here, but we get to know the service members and their loved ones by working here. We develop a closeness and connection with them,” he added.
For Delgado and others working at the JPED, that connection sometimes hits close to home.
“Sometimes you see kids as young as 19 years of age coming through here,” he said. “I have a 19-year-old kid at home. Sometimes it hits a little too close to home. I don’t know anyone working here that hasn’t cried at one time or another.
“I spent 23 of my 25-year Army Reserve career as mortuary affairs and I was blessed to get assigned to the JPED. This is our way of giving back to the families of the fallen. It’s an honor to do this.”
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.
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
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.”
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.
“We are supposed to have our PCS Move in a couple of months and have not heard anything. We are still PCSing, RIGHT?!”
Your neighbors and peers are getting assignments left and right. Every time you hear of a new assignment drop, you can’t help but judge their next base.Regardless if it’s a dream location or one that you would like to avoid, there is a sense of jealousy for the fact that they at least KNOW where they’re going.
That’s when it happens. You get the phone call, email, tap on the shoulder, whatever it is, that you have been (im)patiently waiting for.
“Congratulations! Your next assignment is ___________.” Is this a joke? There’s actually a military installation there?
I’ve only ever heard it referred to as the location that you spend your whole career trying to avoid. I’ve heard others even console themselves after receiving a less-than-ideal assignment by saying, “well at least it’s not ___________.”
What do you do in this situation?
I’ll tell you what you do.
You hold your head high and hope for the best. Chances are, you only have a split second to figure out your emotions before people start looking for your reaction.
And guess what? Your reaction to this news is what sets the stage for the rest of your move.
Everyone puts together a “dream sheet” of assignments, whether actually written down on paper or just in your head. You imagine all of the amazing places the military could send you.
It’s time to let go of all of that.
Your past wishes and desires for assignments don’t matter anymore (at least not right now). Turn your new assignment into your first choice and make yourself believe that it’s what you have wanted all along.
Our very first assignment drop was a public event. My husband stood in front of a room full of people as he was told where he would be going next, while I sat in the audience.
We were waiting to hear whether we would be living on the East Coast or West Coast. When my husband was told that we would be moving across the globe to a remote island, my world was rocked.
Everyone around me immediately turned to see my reaction, mouths wide open. Someone asked, “Is that what you wanted?” I was numb and don’t even know how I managed to get any words out, but I responded, “It is now.”
I have tried my best to keep this mentality EVERY time we move. I try to get excited for any assignment and research everything I can about our new “home.” It’s not always easy, especially when you are leaving a fantastic place for the unknown, but it sure makes moving a lot easier when you’re looking forward to the place you’re going.
2. Go Straight to the Source
Most of what you have probably heard about this new location is hearsay. You’re likely hearing rumors from people that have NEVER been there before. Before you get all riled up, try speaking to people that have been there recently, or better yet, are currently there.
One of the best resources I have found for gathering intel on a new duty station has been social media. Simply type your new duty station into the search bar of Facebook and you will probably find a number of informational pages.
Join the local classifieds pages, spouse pages and activity pages. Here you will be able to ask any questions you might have and receive up-to-date answers.
3. Debunk the Rumors
Each duty station has a number of rumors associated with it, whether good or bad. Try to figure out why your new assignment has a bad rap and focus on the positives. Here is an example for our current assignment:
“There is nothing to do.”
“Think about all of the family time we will have. We can go camping, hiking, horseback riding, check out local farms and attend rodeos.”
There will always be something to do and places to explore, but you have to actively search for them.
“It’s in the middle of nowhere.”
“We can do road trips on the weekend and see parts of the country we’ve never seen before.”
Attempt to find the silver lining to each of the negative statements. Maybe even make it a challenge to dispel each of the rumors during your time at your new location.
4. It’s Only Temporary
Do you remember how quickly your last assignment flew by?
Be prepared for that to happen again.
Three years (plus or minus) is not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things. Make the most of your assignment and get to know a new part of the country (or world!) in the short time that you are there.Make a point to visit that local landmark, attend the parade downtown, see the state park and just go for a drive.
Immerse yourself in the local culture and get to know your new home. If you’re not careful, it might be time to move again before you even got to know this new town.
5. Remember that Attitude Is a Choice
You, and only you, can decide how you feel about something. You can make the choice to be excited about a new assignment, or you can choose to dread every minute of it.
Don’t be tempted by those around you trying to bring you down.
When you tell people where you are going next, you might hear, “I’m sorry” or, “Maybe you’ll get a good assignment next time.”
They might be trying to be sympathetic, but in a sense they are peer pressuring you into feeling lousy about your assignment.
You still have a choice. You can still choose to look forward to your move. You can still choose to stay positive.
Finally, appreciate the fact that you have been given the opportunity to experience a place that you most likely would not have lived had it not been for the military.
I am often told by civilians that I am “so lucky” to move every three years and travel the world. Even though PCSing most definitely has its ups and its downs, I do try to remind myself that we REALLY ARE lucky.
I have made friends all over the world.
Ihave artifacts from each of our assignments proudly displayed in our home.
I have lived in the Deep South, the West Coast, a foreign country and the Great Plains.
I have a greater understanding and appreciation for new people that I meet.
The military has provided me with wonderful opportunities to try new places and has really shaped me as a person. I am more resilient, more patient and more curious than before.I have to remember that each assignment, no matter where it is, is simply adding to my life experience.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.