From simple stars to elaborate medallions, here are 12 of the world’s ultimate civilian awards in all of their splendor.
Kazakhstan’s Order of the Golden Eagle
The medal shimmers with gold, diamonds, and rubies.
The award has been given to more than a dozen foreigners, but only two Kazakh citizens have received it: Nursultan Nazarbaev and Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, the only two presidents of Kazakhstan.
Order of the Star of Romania
The medal comes with the unusual reward of a free burial site and a military salute when the recipient dies.
Hero of Ukraine
In 2017, Belarusian Mikhail Zhyzneuski posthumously became the first foreigner awarded the title. Zhyzneuski was shot dead in 2014 during the Euromaidan protests. Many countries’ medals come with miniature versions of the honor (seen here on the right) that can be pinned to clothing.
The United States’ Presidential Medal of Freedom
The medal rewards Americans, and occasionally non-Americans, for “exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Hero of the Russian Federation
This award is usually bestowed for “heroic feats of valor.” Two recent recipients were the Ural Airlines pilots who in 2019 guided their seagull-stricken passenger aircraft into a cornfield. There were no fatalities or serious injuries among the 233 people aboard.
Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun
The handmade medal represents a dawn sun made from a polished garnet stone surrounded by a star made of gold and enamel which is suspended from the leaf of a Paulownia tree.
Order of New Zealand
The number of ordinary awardees is limited to 20 living people. After a holder of the medal dies, the badge must be handed in and it is then “passed to another appointee to the order.”
The United Kingdom’s George Cross
Among the hundreds of recipients of this award “for acts of the greatest heroism,” perhaps the most unusual is the island of Malta, which was awarded the cross in 1942 for “heroism and devotion” during the Nazi/Italian siege of the British colony in World War II. The cross was later incorporated into the top left corner of independent Malta’s flag.
Order of Pakistan
This award is usually announced each year on August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day. The latest recipient of the award was St. Lucian cricketer Darren Sammy for his “invaluable contribution to Pakistani cricket.”
Bulgaria’s Stara Planina
The spiky medal was previously reserved for foreign dignitaries but is now also awarded to Bulgarians who have given “outstanding services” to their country.
Jewel of India
The platinum-rimmed medal is in the shape of a leaf from the Bodhi tree — the same type Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment under. The Hindi script says “Bharat Ratna” (Jewel of India). A maximum of three people receive the award each year.
Albania’s Honor of the Nation
This medal is awarded by Albania’s president to Albanians or foreign nationals “as a token of gratitude and recognition for those who by their acts and good name contribute to honoring the Albanian nation.”
Chaplains do a lot for the troops they serve during war, whether it’s bringing comfort to a badly wounded soldier in their last moments or helping guide a troop through rough, emotional times. A chaplain may be of just about any religion, but no matter which he’s chosen, he’s there for all troops.
There was one instance where four chaplains proved exactly that. In the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 1943, John P. Washington (Roman Catholic), Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), George L. Fox (Methodist), and Clarke V. Poling (Reformed Church of America) would go down in history as “The Four Chaplains.”
These men came from a variety of backgrounds. According to ArmyHistory.org, Fox was already a hero of note – a Silver Star and Croix de Guerre recipient from his service as a medic during World War I. Washington had survived a BB gun accident that nearly blinded him and had cheated on a vision test to serve in the Army. Goode followed in his father’s footsteps to become a rabbi and had shown a talent for bridging religious divides. Poling’s father had been a prominent radio evangelist. Washington and Goode, coincidentally, had both been rejected by the Navy.
However, all four of these chaplains would soon meet their end at the hands of a German U-boat and, in doing so, would become known for their extreme bravery and poise.
When torpedoes from the German submarine U-233 hit USAT Dorchester, it triggered a calamity. The stricken transport developed a sharp thirty-degree list, rendering a number of lifeboats unusable. Over a third of the personnel on board were quickly killed and many of the survivors were panicked.
The four chaplains took control of the situation, passing out life jackets to the troops who needed them. At one point, a navy officer went looking for a pair of gloves when Goode stopped him, handing over his own gloves, claiming he had an extra pair. Another soldier began to panic about not having a life jacket and Fox was heard saying, “Here’s one, soldier.” A survivor witnessed Fox giving the panicking soldier his own life jacket. The official summary of the statements by survivors noted merely that the chaplains on board had a “calm attitude” throughout the Dorchester’s last moments.
All four chaplains perished in the sinking of the Dorchester. They received Distinguished Service Crosses and the Purple Hearts posthumously. Their heroism, though, will live on.
The video below is part of the 75th-anniversary tribute to these men:
The Purple Heart is the U.S. military’s oldest medal — but it’s more than just a medal. It’s a symbol of a sacrifice made on behalf of a U.S. troop for his or her unit, mission, and country. It represents a tangible, physical offering — a risk to life or limb. An officer can’t write themselves a Purple Heart package with some fancy wordplay. To get one, a military member must be wounded or killed in action against an enemy. There’s a reason people, veteran and civilian alike, take notice when they see it — it always means something.
So it’s nice to know that those who made such a sacrifice get a little bit extra.
President George W. Bush awards a Purple Heart medal and citation to U.S. Navy sailor Jefferson Talicuran of Chula Vista, California, on Thursday, July 3, 2008, at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
(White House photo by Eric Draper)
1. Medical Priority Upgrades at the VA
The VA prioritizes veterans into eight categories, ranging from Group 1, those with a 50-percent military disability rating or higher, and Group 8, veterans who have no service-connected conditions and are ineligible for medical care. A Purple Heart recipient will automatically be placed in at least Group 3, so they’re never responsible for a copay for medical treatment.
2. The Forever GI Bill
In order to qualify for GI Bill benefits, most troops must serve at least 36 months on active duty. Purple Heart recipients will get full benefits no matter how long they spent on active duty — and they get the full benefits offered in the bill.
President Barack Obama awards Sgt. James N. Rowland, a Rohnert, Calif. native, the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. The ceremony was held in Al-Faw Palace on Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq on Apr. 7, 2009.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kimberly Millett)
3. Preferential hiring in government jobs
When applying for a federal government job, all honorably discharged veterans who served active duty get hiring preference over non-veterans. Vets get five-point preference if they served during a war, served during a campaign for which a campaign medal was created, or served during certain periods or for certain lengths of time.
Ten-point preference is given to veterans who have a service-connected disability — including Purple Heart recipients.
4. Commissary and MWR access
The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act makes Purple Heart recipients eligible for on-base shopping and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation area use starting in 2020.
President Trump shakes hands with U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Alvaro Barrientos, after awarding him with a Purple Heart, with Tammy Barrientos at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, on Apr. 22, 2017 in Bethesda, Maryland.
5. State Benefits
Many states offer some sort of extra benefit to Purple Heart recipients. In Arizona, in-state university tuition can be waived for Purple Heart recipients. In South Carolina, children of Purple Heart recipients are eligible for free in-state university tuition. Check with your state VA to be sure — individual states offer property and income tax breaks that you may never hear about in a national discussion.
The increase in rates of sexual misconduct at the military academies detailed in the Defense Department’s annual report of sexual harassment and violence are “frustrating, disheartening, and unacceptable,” the Pentagon’s director of force resiliency said.
Rates of sexual crimes continue to be high, particularly against women, and rates of alcohol abuse by cadets and midshipmen continues to be a concern, Elise P. Van Winkle said.
Navy Rear Adm. Ann M. Burkhardt, the director of DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office; Nate Galbreath, SAPRO’s deputy director; and Ashlea M. Klahr, DOD’s director of health and resilience, briefed Pentagon reporters on the department’s report to Congress.
The survey covers the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y,; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Midshipmen walking to class at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.
Van Winkle and Burkhardt stressed that addressing sexual harassment and violence at the academies is a leadership problem. Both said solutions require changing the culture at the academies.
“We know it takes time to promote and sustain a culture free from sexual violence,” Van Winkle said. “Our cadets and midshipmen must model the ethical behavior we demand of our future officers. But it is leadership’s responsibility to ensure they have the moral courage to demonstrate this behavior.”
Burkhardt stressed that cadets and midshipmen must promote “a climate of respect, where sexual assault, sexual harassment and other misconduct are not condoned, tolerated or ignored.”
The report noted that the prevalence of unwanted sexual contact increased from the 2016 report, while the rate of cadets and midshipmen choosing to report has remained unchanged.
“Leadership establishes culture,” Burkhardt said. “Leaders enforce standards, and leaders ensure the safety of those entrusted to their care.” The survey shows that cadets and midshipmen have great confidence in senior leaders, but that they have less confidence in their peer leaders, she said. “This is an area we must improve,” the admiral added. “These are our future leaders. We must instill in them the responsibility to intervene and prevent this type of behavior.”
Past initiatives made short-term progress, but that progress could not be sustained. “We are looking at the entire life cycle of our cadets and midshipmen from acceptance into the academies to entrance into the active force,” Van Winkle said.
Basic cadets run on the U.S. Air Force Academy’s terrazzo in Colorado Springs, Colo., July 12, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Darcie Ibidapo)
Alcohol abuse is clearly a factor in sexual harassment and violence. The survey found that 32 percent of men and 15 percent of women had five or more drinks when drinking. Twenty-five percent of women and 28 percent of men said they had memory loss from their binges, Galbreath said.
The overwhelming majority of cadets and midshipmen understand the special trust placed in them and the responsibility they bear to behave honorably to all. The military must get rid of the bad apples that poison the barrel, Van Winkle said.
“We will not waver in our dedication to eliminate sexual assault from our ranks, nor will we back away from this challenge,” she said. “Our commitment is absolute. While we are disheartened that the strategies we have employed have not achieved the results we had intended, we are not deterred.”
The service academies mirror what is happening in the greater American population. The last time there was a comparable survey for colleges, the service academies were doing better than their civilian counterparts, Van Winkle said.
When Japanese President Shinzo Abe addressed a packed audience at the Eastern Economic Forum in September 2018, held in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok, he had a direct message for his host.
He appealed to Vladimir Putin, like he does every time the two leaders meet, to help expedite the signing of a treaty that would formally, and finally, end World War II.
A little later, Putin turned animatedly to Abe. “You won’t believe it, but honestly, it’s a simple thought, but it came to my mind just now, right here,” he said. “Let’s sign a peace agreement by the end of the year,” he told Abe, “without any preconditions.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese President Shinzo Abe.
The room erupted in applause, and Russian state media hailed the offer as a breakthrough. “This is a sensation,” gushed a Rossia-24 presenter covering the event. “Unbelievable progress has been reached.”
But as Putin and Abe prepare for talks in Moscow on Jan. 22, 2019, a territorial dispute that has remained unresolved since the war continues to stall efforts toward a Russo-Japanese peace deal, and analysts say there is little indication the latest round of negotiations will change that.
‘Inherent part of Japan’
For the past 70 years, Japan has waged a dogged diplomatic campaign to reclaim what it calls its Northern Territories, a handful of islands off the coast of Hokkaido, its northernmost prefecture, that the Soviet Union captured in the final days of World War II.
Today they are referred to by Moscow as the Southern Kuriles, an extension of the archipelago that extends southward from Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.
Japan established sovereignty over the islands in dispute — Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and a group of islets known as Habomai — in an agreement with the Russian Empire in 1855. They are still considered by Tokyo to be an “inherent part of the territory of Japan.”
“There’s a historical and ancestral aspect to this discussion from the Japanese standpoint,” says Stephen R. Nagy, an associate professor with the department of politics and international studies at International Christian University in Tokyo. “Many feel they have left the lands of their ancestors.”
For Russia, the Kuriles provide its naval fleet with access to the Pacific, and serve as a symbol of the Soviet role in the World War II victory.
Following the war, the two countries failed to sign a peace treaty, although the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration of October 1956 formally ended hostilities and opened diplomatic relations between the two sides. The declaration also annulled previous Soviet claims of war reparations against Japan and provided for two of the disputed territories — Habomai and Shikotan — to be returned to Japan following the conclusion of a formal peace treaty.
When Putin and Abe followed up on their Vladivostok meeting with talks in November 2018 in Singapore, they agreed to use the 1956 agreement as a foundation for further discussion. But that leaves Putin’s offer of “no preconditions” in question.
What comes first?
After talks in Moscow in January 2019 between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, Moscow made clear that Japan must accept Russian sovereignty of the disputed territories before any peace treaty is signed. “Questions of sovereignty over the islands are not being discussed. It is the Russian Federation’s territory,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.
And there have been key developments since 1956: namely, the deepening of the U.S.-Japanese alliance, and more recently the decision to station a U.S. missile-defense system on Japanese territory. The Japanese press has reported that Abe assured Putin no U.S. bases would be built on the islands once under Japanese possession, a fear that Russia has voiced many times. But Japan’s partnership with the United States remains a sticking point.
Artyom Lukin, an international-studies expert at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, says there is little reason to believe a treaty will be hammered out immediately.
“I don’t think that anything substantive, anything which could be pronounced publicly, will come out of this meeting,” Lukin says of the Jan. 22, 2019 talks. “They may make a tentative, preliminary agreement, but because the issue is so complex they’ll need more high-level meetings before the issue is settled. My guess is that we’ll see no public announcement until Putin’s planned visit to Japan in June.”
Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia In Global Affairs, says that Putin’s statement in Vladivostok was blown out of proportion. In fact, Lukyanov argues, the Russian president was just reiterating a long-held stance.
“The Japanese position is the territorial issue first, and then, after having settled that, we can discuss the peace treaty,” Lukyanov says. “And the Russian position, strongly supported by Putin in that speech, is just the opposite — first normalize the relationship and then maybe we can discuss this issue.”
Lukin agrees. “I wouldn’t read too much into Putin’s statement in Vladivostok,” he says. “I think we should pay much more attention to Abe’s statement in Singapore, when he said that Japan was ready to negotiate on the basis of the 1956 declaration. For me this basically means that Japan is ready to accept the fact that it can’t get from Russia anything more than Habomai and Shikotan. So the question is, how much and what will Russia demand from Japan in exchange for those two islands.”
Generosity not popular
At a press briefing in Tokyo following Putin’s appearance with Abe in Vladivostok in September 2018, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga insisted that Japan’s position remained that “the Northern Territories issue is resolved before any peace treaty.” But few expect Russia to yield.
An opinion survey carried out in November 2018 by the independent pollster Levada Center found that only 17 percent of Russians support the handover of the disputed territories to Japan in exchange for a peace deal to end World War II. Almost three-quarters were against the idea.
Russian Protesters Decry Possible Territory Handover To Japan
Russian state media has helped keep those numbers up. On Jan. 13, 2019, flagship news program Vesti Nedeli dismissed the Japanese suggestion that the islands be returned before a treaty is ratified.
“We have the hypersonic Avangard rocket, we have the hypersonic Kinzhal,” host Dmitry Kiselyov said, referring to two nuclear-capable weapons ceremoniously unveiled by Putin during his state-of-the-nation address in March 2019. “We don’t need anything from Japan…. And how can we politely explain that one should behave politely?”
In November 2019, the independent Russian daily Vedomosti wrote in an editorial that “much time has been lost” in settling the Kuriles question. “The Kremlin has succeeded in reviving imperialist passions,” it wrote. “Any territorial concession after the annexation of Crimea will damage Putin’s image as a gatherer of Russian lands, and will raise the level of discontent among his traditional support base.”
Lukyanov says that Putin is aware of Russian public opinion and unlikely to advance such a controversial cause at a time when his approval ratings are already slipping.
“Any territorial concession in any country is a very unpopular move, and to make it, a leadership should be in a strong position,” he says. “Theoretically, I can imagine that something like this would be doable immediately after the Crimean takeover five years ago, but now the situation is different, and the whole atmosphere in the country is much less optimistic, because of economic and other problems. And in this situation, to give such a juicy piece to opponents, to accuse Putin of unpopular territorial concessions, that’s certainly not what he needs right now.”
In recent weeks, several rallies have been held across Russia to protest the possible handover of the islands. On Jan. 20, 2019, some 300 nationalists and members of the Russian far right gathered in central Moscow, chanting slogans including “Crimea is ours! The Kuriles are ours!” and “We won’t return the Kuriles!”
In its bid for a diplomatic breakthrough, the Japanese leadership has suggested that Russia’s cession of the islands would open up trade with its Asian neighbor at a time of debilitating Western sanctions. But Lukyanov describes as a “primitive interpretation” the notion that Russia might relinquish the Kuriles because it needs Japan for its economic development.
“Russia’s real calculation is much more geostrategic,” he says. “Because Russia’s drift toward Asia is inevitable and will continue, because the whole of international politics is shifting to the East, and to Asia.”
The Russian leadership is aware of the risk of becoming overly dependent on China, he adds.
“For Russia, strategically it’s much more important to have a stable and constructive relationship with the big powers in Asia — South Korea, Japan, India, and Indonesia — all those that might play a role as counterweights to China. And this, to me, is the only reason why the whole discussion [about the Kuriles] is still going on.”
Care packages are how troops stay connected with the ones they love back home. Most troops will have their family send them little trinkets or mama-made cookies to make things better while troops without families have their day brightened by a sweet, heartfelt thank-you card sent by a grade schooler.
These packages are the one constant that every troop, regardless of where or when they served, can depend on. But on January 21st, 2018, the shipping costs for postage to and from all APO/FPO/DPO addresses increased substantially. Thankfully, this increase can be reverted and the rate for shipping can be permanently fixed, benefiting the troops.
Nothing can bring joy to troops like a care package from home.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)
The increases in shipping costs to APO/FPO/DPO addresses were part of an overall increase in the price for all mailing services, across the board. Rates for APO/FPO/DPO mailing addresses were hit hardest — almost doubled. In the defense of the United States Postal Service, the APO/FPO flat-rate box was only increased by five cents and they’ve always supported the troops, but a recently proposed bill can take that support further.
If there were a separate, fixed rate for all postage going to and from troops at APO/FPO addresses, it would be classified as Zone 1/2 postage from any CONUS location. Meaning, that if you were to ship a big ol’ care package not in a APO/FPO flat-rate box, it would cost the same as sending a letter to a soldier stationed in Germany.
But mainly, you don’t want to screw over the nice people who just want to help support the troops.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot)
In addition to offering a single, fixed rate for those who want to send a care package abroad that might not fit within a fixed-rate box, this could also open up companies to more readily offer online shopping opportunities to deployed troops.
This also means that troops would be more able to ship things from deployed environments back to the States. So, a deployed parent could pick up souvenirs at a local bazaar for their kid while crafty troops could ship certain personal belongings home before they return stateside so don’t need to wait for the connex to return months later.
The bill would apply to all troops everywhere, even if they’re sailing in the middle of nowhere.
(U.S. Navy photo by Lorenzo J. Burleson)
The bill that includes this fixed cost, H.R.6231 – Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018, has been introduced to Congress by Rep. Thomas MacArthur. It would permanently establish a single rate for mail and packages being sent to and from at APO/FPO/DPO addresses.
Congressman MacArthur has championed veteran issues since his assignment to the Armed Services Committee and its two subcommittees, the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces and the Subcommittee on Military Personnel. He also introduced the Veterans’ Mental Health Care Access Act, which would have allowed veterans to access any mental health care facility and eligible for reimbursement — but it failed to garner approval.
To help make sure that this bill makes it through Congress, contact your representative and let them know how you feel. Let them know that this bill will greatly benefit the morale of our fighting men and women. According to Skopos Labs, the bill only has a 3 percent chance of being enacted, so if you feel passionately about it, don’t wait; act.
If you’re unsure of who your representative is, you can use this tool right here and let them know you support H.R.6231 — the Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018.
A U.S. Army sniper takes aim while wearing a ghillie suit (U.S. Army photo/Released)
The two men crawl stealthily through the Panamanian jungle. Their faces are painted with hues of black, brown and green. Their bodies are covered by the burlap strands and interwoven foliage of their ghillie suits. The sniper and his spotter reach a vantage point overlooking the village and search for their target, a Panamanian rebel leader. Camouflaged against the jungle by their ghillie suits, the two men spot their target. As the rebel leader bites into his apple, a single shot pierces the stillness of the jungle and a 7.62x51mm NATO round pierces his heart.
One shot, one kill.
Alerted to the threat, the rebels frantically spray the jungle with automatic fire. Unable to see their enemy, they fire their weapons haphazardly and pray not to be the sniper’s next victim. Invisible to the rebels, the sniper ejects the spent cartridge from his M40A1 rifle and hands it to his spotter. As civilians in the village take cover, the rebels continue to pour gunfire into the jungle with no specific target. When no shots return from the trees, they cease fire. Still unseen, the sniper and his spotter melt back into the jungle and disappear. The only evidence of them having been there is the dead body of the rebel leader, a single hole through his heart.
Sniper and spotter take up an overwatch position (Credit TriStar Pictures)
The 1993 film Sniper, starring Tom Berenger as the titular and aforementioned sniper, introduced many viewers to the ghillie suit. An integral part of a sniper’s kit, the ghillie suit allows the sniper to blend in with their surroundings and evade detection. This is key to accomplishing their mission since a sniper’s primary functions on the battlefield are conducting covert reconnaissance and delivering precision fires.
A ghillie suit is typically made of a net or cloth garment and covered in burlap strips, cloth, or twine. It has an irregular shape which breaks up a sniper’s outline and makes them more difficult to spot. Additionally, snipers can weave local flora into their ghillie suit in order to better blend with their surroundings. If done properly, this additional camouflage will even sway in the wind to match the environment it is replicating. Today, ghillie suits are used by snipers all around the world in foliage, sand, and even snow. Their origin, however, can be traced back to the game attendants and folklore of the Scottish Highlands.
Scottish ghillies in Highland Perthshire. (Photo from tour-scotland-photographs.blogspot.com)
Derived from the Scottish Gaelic word “gille,” meaning lad or servant, a ghillie (the English misspelling) is a man or boy who serves as a game attendant and specializes in fishing, stalking, and hunting. In Scottish folklore, the Gille Dubh was a timid but wild male fairy who roamed the Highlands. Like the suit that bears his name, the Gille Dubh was clothed in leaves and other vegetation which allowed him to camouflage in the Highlands and evade capture.
Lovat Scouts wear two variations of the ghillie suit. (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)
Scottish ghillies created the ghillie suit in the turn of the 20th century as a wearable hunting blind that would allow them to more stealthily stalk and hunt their game on the Highlands. These first ghillie suits were made primarily of burlap which were irregularly torn and cut to break up the ghillie’s silhouette. Almost immediately, the ghillie suit saw military application with the British Army during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). The Lovat Scouts, the British Army’s first sniper unit, were initially recruited from Scottish Highland estate workers. This included the ghillies who brought their burlap camouflage suits with them.
Two British snipers during a demonstration for Their Majesties in May 1944. (Photo from captainstevens.com)
The ghillie suit went to war again in WWI where other nations took notice of its effectiveness and adopted it for themselves. As a concept, the ghillie suit has remained largely unchanged since its inception. One notable upgrade came in June 2003 when the U.S. Army introduced a new ghillie suit made of a lightweight, fire-resistant, and self-extinguishing fabric instead of the heavier and flammable burlap.
A U.S. Army sniper wears the Flame Resistant Ghillie System. (U.S. Army photo/Released)
Today, snipers around the world continue to carefully craft their ghillie suits in order to camouflage themselves and evade detection by the enemy. Meanwhile, in the Scottish Highlands, professional ghillies continue to preserve their legacy as gamekeepers. They cull game herds and lead hunting expeditions, sometimes with the added camouflage of their iconic burlap suit.
Those who consider the military always have a reason for joining. Whether to continue a family tradition of service, or to see the world, the decision is life changing.
“I remember growing up and seeing Nicaraguans killed, or jailed for protesting against the government. At that time it wasn’t a safe place to be,” said Staff Sgt. Orlando Alvarez, a parachute rigger assigned to the Group Support Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). “Deciding to leave was the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life.”
“I also knew what I was leaving behind, in the end, it would be so I could have something more in the end. The U.S. military provided me the opportunity my country could not. If I had to do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat,” said Alvarez.
“When I left Nicaragua and inquired about joining the military, people said it would be hard and near impossible,” said Alvarez. “But, I didn’t give up.”
In 2013, while speaking very little English, Alvarez moved with his wife, Lucila, to the United States, and joined the Army.
His main reason for joining was to eventually be in a position to give back to the country that took him in as a refugee, while affording him freedoms that he enjoys today.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Orlando Alvarez, attached to 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), poses for a portrait on Fort Bliss, Texas, Nov. 19, 2018.
After five years of service in the U.S. Army and since being assigned to 7th SFG(A), Alvarez was promoted several times and attended a variety of military schools, to include the Special Operations Combative Program.
Although he joined later in life, his goal is to serve 20 years in the military and retire.
“You cannot be afraid to follow your dreams,” said Alvarez. “If I had let what people said discourage me from joining the military and coming to America, I don’t know where I would be today. I don’t even know if I would be alive. But, I am thankful for what the Army has afforded me, and I will continue to serve my country proudly.”
Alvarez’s journey from Nicaraguan refugee to U.S. soldier is his American dream. He plans to continue his life of service while setting an example for his children.
“This country has provided my family with many opportunities,” said Alvarez. “I am grateful for that, and I am willing to fight and protect it. One day, I hope my children will do the same.”
Soldiers from 9th Hospital Center, 1st Medical Brigade provided lifesaving medical intervention to casualties involved in an accident on July 10, 2019.
9th Hospital Center soldiers were conducting convoy operations along one of the post’s isolated training areas when they noticed a dark, brooding cloud of towering smoke from a rolled over truck.
As the convoy got closer to the smoke, they noticed an accident that involved two vehicles and one casualty on the road.
“When we got closer, we realized the extent of the accident,” said Cpt. Jillian Guy, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 11th Field Hospital. “Everyone quickly realized that we were the first responders. Our main priority was to move the first casualty away from the burning vehicle and save his life.”
The convoy made a hasty stop and the soldiers quickly approached the first casualty bystanders had removed from the burning vehicle.
“My thought running up to the scene was to get him away from the burning vehicle as soon as possible and to control the bleeding,” said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Newell, acting first sergeant for 11th Field Hospital. “I was also thinking that we didn’t know if he had injured his spine, so I knew we needed to use cervical spine precautions as soon as we got to him before we could move him.”
Medics took the lead relocating the casualty further from the burning vehicle using cervical spine precautions. Shortly afterwards, the vehicle’s fuel compartment exploded.
Once the casualties were removed from immediate danger, medics began providing aid to the more severely injured casualty.
“Soldiers swiftly delivered care to the first casualty applying a tourniquet for open bilateral femur fractures,” Guy said. “I saw the second casualty walking around disoriented so I grabbed two medics to help treat him.”
Medics applied tourniquets to the first casualty proficiently to control the bleeding and provided airway management and trauma care. The second casualty suffered from a suspected traumatic brain injury and facial trauma. The medics treated and stabilized both casualties until the emergency medical services arrived.
Soldiers from 9th Hospital Center, 1st Medical Brigade provide lifesaving medical intervention to casualties involved in an accident on July 10, 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Yaeri Green)
Even after the EMS arrived, Newell, Sgt. Eric Johnston, combat medic team leader and Sgt. Mariela Jones, platoon sergeant, remained and continued to provide help.
“We were starting fluids, bandaging the wounds and placing the casualty on a spin board,” Newell said. “Once he was on a spin board, Sergeant Jones moved to provide airway until he was placed on a helicopter.”
The intervention did not stop until the casualties were evacuated. The first casualty was air evacuated by Baylor Scott White, and the second was taken to Carl R. Darnell Army Medical Center by the EMS.
“The medics from three different companies quickly became one cohesive unit,” Guy said. “I have never been more proud of everyone on scene. Even the non-medical MOS soldiers did an amazing job with crowd control, driving vehicles safely to the scene and comforting others who had seen the trauma.”
When soldiers came across a situation that needed immediate aid, they reacted expeditiously and saved the lives of those casualties. Military police and EMS commended the Soldiers for their quick reaction, professionalism and proficient medical skill set.
9th Hospital Center soldiers are prepared to provide expert medical care at moment’s notice and they will continue to train in order to stay ready.
“Tragedy can happen at any time and you need to be prepared,” Johnson said. “It was an eye opening experience that nobody was expecting.”
A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon was hit by a weapons-grade laser during a routine patrol above international waters on February 17, 2020. The incident happened in the Philippine Sea approximately 380 miles west of Guam, where it was targeted by the laser belonging to a People’s Liberation Army Navy’s destroyer with hull number 161, according to the official statement, which should be the Type 052D Destroyer “Hohhot”.
The laser was not visible to the naked-eye and was detected by the Poseidon’s sensors. The P-8A, assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 and based at NAS Jacksonville (Florida), is currently deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations and operates from Kadena Air Base (Japan). No damage or injuries to the Poseidon and its crew were reported.
The U.S. Navy deemed the destroyer’s actions unsafe and unprofessional, adding also that this incident violated the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), a multilateral agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea, and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between U.S. Department of Defense and the Ministry of National Defense of the PRC regarding rules of behavior for safety of air and maritime encounters.
People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Type 052D Destroyer “Hohhot”.
The official statement didn’t provide much details about the laser, other than noting it was weapons-grade and not visible to the naked-eye. However, it is worth noting that the Chinese military is developing multiple laser systems for various applications. In particular, the PLA Navy was testing last year the prototype of a tactical laser system intended for land applications and for use aboard the new Type 55 destroyers for both for air defense and close-in defense, as alternative to the HHQ-10 surface-to-air missile. China didn’t release details about the system, other than showcasing it on the national TV channel. However, the system bears some resemblance to the AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System or XN-1 LaWS, developed by the U.S. Navy and tested in 2014 aboard the USS Ponce.
The LaWS is designed to work against low-end asymmetric threats with scalable power levels up to 30 kW. While working at low power, the laser can act as an Active Denial System (ADS), a non-lethal system for area denial, perimeter security and crowd control, while in high power mode it can be used to disable sensors and engines and also detonate explosive materials. During testing, the laser was directed by the Phalanx CIWS (Close-in Weapon System) Fire Control Radar and successfully hit targets mounted aboard a speeding small boat, a Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and other moving targets at sea.
Similar incidents happened also in the last two years, however this is the first time the incident is directly attributable to the Chinese military. Back in 2018, a U.S. C-130 Hercules was targeted by a visible laser while the aircraft was flying near China’s Djibouti base, resulting in minor injuries to two pilots. In 2019, Australian Navy helicopter pilots flying from the HMAS Canberra were hit by lasers in the South China Sea during a cruise from Vietnam to Singapore, requiring them to perform a precautionary landing.
Every single day, service members head down to their personnel office to pick up the most important document they will ever hold, second only to their birth certificate: a DD-214.
But, before they can obtain that beloved document, they must first get signatures on a checkout sheet, officially clearing them of debt of any kind, including owed gear or monetary debt.
Unfortunately, some troops may not have had the most positive experience serving and rush through the checkout process, skipping or side-stepping essential aspects to quickly get out the door.
It happens more often than you’d think.
These service members-turned-veterans end up regretting not taking the time to navigate through the process correctly. Since going back in time is impossible, we’ve created a list of things you should not skip in hopes that the next generation of veterans don’t find themselves in a world of hurt.
Here are the six steps troops shouldn’t skip before getting out of the military.
6. Hitting up dental
Until the day you get out, the military pays for all of your medical expenses. So, don’t skip out on getting all those cavities filled or those teeth properly cleaned before exiting.
That sh*t gets expensive in the real world.
5. Attending TAPS
The term is really ‘TAP,’ but most service members add the ‘S’ on for some reason. Anyways, the term means, “Transition Assistance Program.” This is where service members gather the tools to help with their transition out of the military. Some branches require taking this course, while others just recommend it.
Every service member should take advantage.
4. Openly talking about future plans with others
A lot of exiting troops don’t have a realistic path for their future, they don’t like to talk about it. The problem of not talking to others about your plans is, you never know what opportunities or ideas may arise from a simple conversation.
So, be freakin’ vocal!
3. Updating your medical record
Every medical encounter you’ve been involved in should be documented. From that simplest cold you had three years ago to that fractured bone you sustained while working on the flight deck — it should be in your record.
2. Getting your education squared away
If you plan on going straight to school when you get out, then hopefully you’ve already been accepted. Gather up all your training documents and school papers from your branch’s education archive. You could also save a lot of time by avoiding classes you don’t need if you have that sh*t squared away ahead of time.
Plus, the government is paying you to go to school, but don’t expect that first paycheck to be seamless — prepare for it to be late.
Remember when we talked about getting your medical records up-to-date? You’ll get a sh*tty disability percentage your first time up anyway, but having your medical record looking flawless will help your case in getting that much-earned money — and we like money!
Dean Ivan Lamb was many things in his life, but first and foremost, he was an accomplished aviator. Having (more or less) dueled one of his best friends in the world’s first-ever dogfight during the Mexican Revolution, he went on to serve in many more air forces in his time behind the stick.
But his most lasting contribution to the world has a little more kick – the Pisco Sour.
Dogfighting in these would make anyone thirsty.
Lamb had been flying almost as long as men had invented heavier-than-air flying machines, attending an aviation school in 1912, less than a decade after the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Before he even graduated, he made his way down to Mexico as an airman for hire, coming into the employ of Mexican General Benjamin G. Hill. He was ordered to take down the opposing pilot, another American mercenary airman named Phil Rader. This was the first-ever dogfight between planes, but the men didn’t really try too hard to kill each other, eventually both made their ways back home. But Lamb continued the aviator-for-hire business, making his way to England in time for World War I.
In the Great War, Lamb allegedly performed wonders for Britain’s Royal Flying Corps, becoming an ace before the war’s end. After the war, he started running letters for the post office by airmail. But postwar life was a little boring for Lamb, as it can be for many veterans, so he went down south. Way down south. To South America.
Dean Lamb traveled around the continent, helping establish the Air Force of Honduras and flying missions in conflicts in Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay in his time there. From Panama to Bolivia, the southern hemisphere knew the name of Dean Ivan Lamb. But his most enduring accomplishment has nothing to do with war or death, unless you have too much. Lamb, it turns out, was an avid drinker.
The pilot enjoyed good ol’ American whiskey and fine French champagne when it was available in mass quantities. He loved rum and cokes at a time when Coke was something entirely new, and he always sampled the local liquors. Ten-year-old tequila was his favorite in Mexico, in Brazil it was cachaça, and in Lima, he drank Pisco. He may not have created the Pisco Sour, but he certainly helped it find an audience in the United States.
Which should include everyone.
When the skies were too overcast to take to the air, Lamb would take to the bar. The bar serving the strongest Pisco Sours in Peru, the honor of which belonged to a place called Morris’ Bar in the Hotel Maury, according to Lamb’s autobiography, The Incurable Filibuster: Adventures of Col. Dean Ivan Lamb. The cocktails at the Hotel Maury – especially the Pisco Sour, where the drink was first created – were allegedly so strong the bartenders weren’t allowed to pour more than one for anybody. When Lamb argued his way to another round, he got so belligerent he had to leave Peru the next day.
“I have hazy recollections of an argument about another one, something of a fight in a Chinese restaurant, police, soldiers, more battles and crowds of people waking in the hotel with a guard of soldiers holding off people with bills for damages,” he wrote.
And with that, Lamb was on his way back to the United States, fueled by a drink that can only get you kicked out of the Peruvian Air Force.
World War II saw the decline of the battleship, the rise of the aircraft carrier, and the maturation of the destroyer and submarine. However, there was another type other major combat vessel in that conflict that often goes ignored: the cruiser. This ship was arguably very important for several reasons.
First, for the initial part of the war, cruisers served as heavy escorts for a carriers against surface threats. Battleships were often too slow to keep up with the carriers and destroyers packed a potent anti-ship punch in the form of torpedoes, but they couldn’t take much punishment. Cruisers were the perfect match.
USS Galveston (CL 93), one of 27 completed Cleveland-class light cruisers. She packed 12 six-inch guns and 12 five-inch guns.
Second, cruisers also were able excellent for maintaining a presence at sea. It took fewer personnel to fully crew a cruiser and they were comparatively cheaper to build than other major vessels. Despite their lower cost, they were still deadly vessels, equipped with either six-inch guns (on light cruisers) or eight-inch guns (on heavy cruisers).
Third, cruisers also fought it out when other options weren’t available. For example, during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, a force of two heavy cruisers, a light cruiser, two anti-aircraft cruisers, and eight destroyers were led by Admiral Daniel Callaghan and took on two Japanese fast battleships, a light cruiser, and a number of destroyers. Callaghan’s outnumbered ships managed to turn away the Japanese force, leaving the fatally wounded Hiei behind.
While it’s best known for being sunk by a Japanese submarine in 1945, USS Indianapolis (CA 35) also served as the flagship of Admiral Raymond Spruance.
Fourth, cruisers could serve as flagships. The Portland-class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA 35) was the flagship for Admiral Raymond A. Spruance during the Central Pacific offensive in 1943 and 1944. It was also common for Japanese admirals to choose heavy cruisers as their flagships in surface engagements instead of battleships when they had the option.
While all of the major powers had cruiser designs, the most successful was the American Cleveland-class light cruiser. There were plans to build a total of 52 of these vessels. Of those, 27 were completed. The others were either cancelled or converted into light cruisers. Other notable cruiser classes include Japan’s Mogami-class heavy cruisers and the British County-class heavy cruisers.
Other powers in World War II operated cruisers, too. HIJMS Atago served as a flagship in several engagements, including her last one at Leyte Gulf.
(Imperial Japanese Navy)
With the end of World War II, cruisers began to fade away, especially as guided missiles emerged and submarines became more of a threat. Today, the United States Navy has the most of these vessels, with 22 Ticonderoga-class vessels in service.
Though the cruiser’s heyday has come and gone, there’s a chance they’ll make a comeback. The United States Navy intends to replace the Ticonderoga-class ships with a new, modern class of cruiser.