If you’ve ever deployed to the Middle East, then you’ve probably experienced a few explosions here and there, heard a firefight once or twice, and smelled some pretty nasty sh*t burning nearby.
Well, that burning sh*t is either the bad guys torching tires as a signal to warn others that allied forces are in the area, or it’s the smell of a burn pit coming from a military base.
For years, troops serving on the frontlines have burned their unwanted trash, either in barrels or in large burn pits, set ablaze with diesel fuel.
Since burn pits are the primary avenue through which troops discard their waste products, plenty of items get thrown into the pits that shouldn’t be near an open flame — like the following.
1. Unspent rounds
It’s common for troops to experience a misfire when discharging their weapons for various reasons. After they clear the chamber, they either let the unspent round fall to the ground or, sometimes, they get tossed into a burn pit.
That’s a bad idea. Bullet projection is based on igniting the gunpowder inside the shell as a propellant. No one wants to get shot by a burn pit.
Just because the primer was struck and nothing happened doesn’t mean the round is dead — it’s still alive. Sort of like a zombie.
2. Human remains
This is just nasty. Who wants to smell a bad guy’s leg roasting over an open flame in the burn pit? On second thought, please don’t answer that.
Various types of batteries will explode if exposed to intense heat. No troop wants to get hit with shrapnel during a firefight, let alone get blasted by battery fragments while inside the wire.
On July 31, 2020, the town of Stockton, California held a drive-by birthday celebration for a distinguished resident of The Oaks at Inglewood assisted living facility. A parade of local residents and first responders turned out to greet Marine Maj. Bill White a very happy 105 birthday.
Maj. White in January (Pegasus Senior Living)
“Feels just as good as it did at 104,” Maj. White said.
The outpouring of fanfare and support were a testament to Maj. White’s positive spirit and service to the nation. For his family members, who haven’t been able to visit him much because of the coronavirus pandemic, the celebration was a touching display.
“It’s very heartwarming and very just—it does get to you that there are so many people that love him and appreciate him for his service,” said Maj. White’s daughter Mary Huston.
Maj. White enlisted in the Marine Corps in October 1934. Before the outbreak of WWII, he was stationed in Shanghai. During the war, he fought on Iwo Jima where he earned a Purple Heart for wounds suffered from a grenade. Maj. White continued his service after the war, spending 30 years in the Corps.
Maj. Bill White in his Marine dress white uniform (Bill White)
Maj. White’s dedication to service continued after the military. He served as a police officer and started a family. One of his favorite hobbies is scrapbooking.
“This started way back,” Maj. White said. “My mother, parents taught me to conserve and observe memories as much as possible.”
Maj. White made headlines back in February when he put out a call asking for Valentine’s Day cards to add to his collection of memories. He launched “Operation Valentine” the month before with a goal of 100 cards. By the end, Maj. White’s call had gone viral on social media and he received more than half-a-million cards and gifts from around the world including a special note from NASA and President Trump.
Like any good Marine, Maj. White keeps his uniform in good order and likes to wear it for special occasions. Looking sharp in his dress blues, Maj. White revealed that the secret to his longevity is keeping his mind sharp by reading. “Right now I’m trying for 106,” he said. “One at a time.”
Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are in the lead for Task Group Tinian, consisting of several hundred service members belonging to each branch of the U.S. military. The joint force, led by U.S. Marine Col. Robert “Bams” Brodie, is executing crisis-response in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s efforts to assist the U.S. citizens of Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, recover from Super Typhoon Yutu, Nov. 3, 2018.
Military members from across the Indo-Pacific region, spearheaded by the 31st MEU and Combat Logistics Battalion 31, began arriving here en masse on Oct. 29, 2018, four days after the historic storm swept directly across the isolated island, to enable the Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission here. Led by FEMA officials and partnering with local government leaders and local law enforcement, the 31st MEU began categorizing urgent needs and establishing a base of support for partner and military units, including the U.S. Navy’s Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 and the U.S. Air Force’s 36th Civil Engineer Squadron, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
The dock landing ship USS Ashland sits idle off the coast during the U.S. Defense Support of Civil Authorities relief effort in response to Super Typhoon Yutu, Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Nov. 3, 2018.
(Photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)
“We have effectively opened the door and laid the groundwork for long term forces of military members and federal aid workers to continue helping the Americans here on Tinian,” said Brodie, commander of the 31st MEU. “I am incredibly proud of the work these Marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers have done in such a short time — it is incredible seeing the progress in only four days.”
Marines with the 31st MEU, U.S. Navy Seabees with NMCB-1 and 36th CES completed several imperative projects beginning Oct. 29, 2018, including purifying and distributing over 20,000 gallons of water; clearing two public schools, government buildings and the municipal power facility of downed trees and debris; and restoring emergency services’ capacity to respond to medical emergencies. All efforts lay the groundwork for the arrival of the dock landing ship USS Ashland, which arrived today with a well-equipped force of Marines belonging to CLB-31 and additional Seabees to augment existing capabilities already at work here.
Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 31 walk along a cleared road during the U.S. Defense Support of Civil Authorities relief effort in response to Super Typhoon Yutu, Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Nov. 3, 2018.
(Photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)
“With the arrival of the Ashland and all its embarked Marines, sailors, heavy equipment and supplies, we can continue building our support capacity for both FEMA and local leaders’ priorities, not the least of which is helping establish temporary shelters for displaced families who lost everything to Yutu,” said Brodie. “This storm is historic — it had devastating effects on this island — but the people of Tinian are resilient and we’re glad to lend a hand to help them get back on their feet.”
During DSCA operations, the U.S. military provides essential, lifesaving and preserving support to American citizens affected by declared natural disasters. Led by FEMA, the U.S. Government’s domestic emergency response agency, the 31st MEU continues to partner with both local agencies and FEMA to address critical shortfalls of material and supplies to support the people of Tinian. The next steps include re-establishing semi-normalcy on Tinian, including set-up of temporary FEMA shelters for families with homes destroyed by Yutu.
“We are working with the Tinian Mayor’s office and FEMA to prioritize which families will receive temporary shelters because their homes were destroyed just more than a week ago,” said Brodie. “The 31st MEU’s Marines and Navy Seabees of NMCB-1 are the muscle for this important work, and we’re honored to work hand and hand with the resilient and courageous Americans on Tinian.”
Before he was teaching folks how to paint beautiful landscape sceneries, the late artist Bob Ross served in the U.S. Air Force. In fact, it was where he gained his inspiration for future paintings.
While working as a first sergeant at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, Ross is said to have been acquainted with snow-capped mountains that made regular appearances in his paintings. He began painting them during work breaks, where he was able to create a fast technique that allowed him to make art, even with little downtime.
One of the things Bob Ross is known for is his calm and quiet demeanor. This can also be traced back to his time serving in the military. He said, with his role of keeping others in line, he had to be mean. “[I was] the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work.” Because of this, he vowed to raise his voice once retiring from the military. This, of course, led to his signature of speaking softly.
The beginning of a military career and a love for art
At 18 years old, Ross enlisted. It was 1961 and after basic training, he was given a job as a medical records technician. He served for 20 years, retiring as a master sergeant.
After going to a U.S.O class in Anchorage, Ross began painting as a hobby. However, he soon found that his style differed from his instructors, who were more apt to create abstract pieces. He later found a television show called The Magic of Oil Painting. The show’s unique style, led by Bill Alexander, a German painter, taught Ross to paint quickly. The method is commonly known as “alla prima” or “wet on wet,” allowing the artist to create an entire painting in 30 minutes. This is the same method that Ross would become famous for in his own right.
With the help of the show, Ross studied the technique and began adding his own skills, creating an entire style of landscape painting. He began selling his paintings and quickly found success, even making more from his paintings than he did from his Air Force salary.
In 1981, he retired from the service and turned to painting full time. Ross soon returned to his home state of Florida and joined his mentor, painting coach Bill Alexander, as a salesman and tutor for his brand, Alexander Magic Art Supplies Company.
Eventually, Bob Ross founded his own painting company.
Bob Ross Inc. incorporated his signature permed hair into its logo. Because of the popularity, Ross kept his permed hair going forward. Through the company, he was able to gain popularity and star in The Joy of Painting, which aired for 12 seasons on PBS from 1983-1994. The show allowed Ross to teach his own style of painting, narrating how to achieve certain results while using the wet-on-wet technique. His son, Steve, also appeared on the show and eventually became a Ross-certified painting instructor.
Ross passed away in 1995 from complications of lymphoma, leaving behind a $15 million business in art classes and painting supplies. His shows still air on PBS reruns, continuing to teach the masses his landscaping techniques. To see him at work, check out the following video:
Civilians and members of other military branches might have been surprised to see Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drinking from a fountain during World War I commemoration ceremonies in France. Well, it wasn’t just a case of Marines being Marines at any rank — that fountain is a part one of the Corps’ most time-honored traditions.
Veterans Day 2018 was the centennial anniversary of the end of World War I. The day before it was the Marine Corps’ 243rd birthday, that’s when Dunford and retired-Marine-turned-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walked the grounds of the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, where nearly 3,000 U.S. troops are buried – many of those interred there are Marines killed at the WWI Battle of Belleau Wood.
You might have heard of it — the Germans sure did.
Marine Corps lore says the brutal fighting against the Germans at Belleau Wood is where the Marines earned the nickname “Devil Dogs” from the German enemy, who sent wave after wave of infantry attacks into the dense wood in an attempt to take it from the U.S. Marines, to no avail, of course.
German high command, flush with a full 50 fresh divisions from the east after the capitulation of the Soviet Union, planned to overwhelm the Entente powers on the Western Front. They wanted to end the war before the United States could bring the full power of its men and materiel to bear. By May, 1918, it was too late. The Germans were facing American units in combat already. By June, 1918, five German infantry divisions faced off against the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Brigade and the Marines’ 4th Marine Brigade.
The Marines stopped the German advance and forced them back into the Woods. To follow them meant facing thousands of entrenched and hidden veteran German troops. The battle lasted a full month and was defined by bloody slaughter, using everything from poison gas to hand-to-hand combat and featured some of the Corps most legendary names, like Capt. Lloyd Williams, Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daley, and future Commandant of the Marine Corps, John Lejeune.
Lance Cpl. Seth H. Capps, a member of the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, drinks out of Devil Dog Fountain following the 93rd anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood May 30, 2010.
(Photo By Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough)
As one might imagine, winning a battle that couldn’t be won against all odds is going to be remembered as one of the most heroic feats in Marine Corps history. France later renamed the forest Bois de la Brigade de Marine and, according to lore, the name the Germans gave the Marines – Teufel Hunden or “Devil Dogs” – is how bulldogs became the Corps mascot.
For Marines, a visit to the battlefield and the cemetery is a pilgrimage, a rite of passage. This trip includes a visit to the nearby village of Belleau and its bulldog fountain, continuously spitting water from its mouth. Marines like Dunford and Gen. Robert Neller all the way down to the lowest Lance Corporal will drink from the fountain to remember the Battle of Belleau Wood and the Marines who never left.
Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert B. Neller, gets water from the Devil Dog fountain after the American Memorial Day ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Memorial Cemetery, Belleau Wood, France, May 29, 2016. Each Memorial Day weekend, U.S. Marines, French service members, family members, and locals gather to honor the memory of the Marines killed during the battle of Belleau Wood.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Gabriela Garcia)
It seems like everything on the Korean Peninsula is going well. Rumor has it that US troops will be pulled out of South Korea if the negotiations are a success. So, get all of your soju-fueled bad decisions out of the way now before you get reassigned stateside.
Before you know it, it’ll be too late to get NJP’d for belligerently screaming, “Merica!” at the DMZ. So, make the most of your OCONUS duty station while you can.
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
It’s been right in front of our eyes this entire time.
Dennis Rodman used to be a spokesman for McDonalds. Rodman visits Kim Jong-un in North Korea. Under a year later, he opens his country. It all makes perfect sense now.
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Salty Soldier)
(Meme via USAWTFM)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)
(Meme via Air Force Nation)
(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)
(Meme via Five Bravo)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
Cover: Anything that won’t be penetrated by small arms fire. Concealment: Anything that can obscure the enemy’s vision of you. This: None of the above.
It’s like this dude never played a video game in his life.
U.S. and coalition forces have increased airstrikes and artillery fire against Islamic State fighters in support of Operation Roundup, a new offensive aimed at defeating the terrorist group in eastern Syria.
Syrian Democratic Forces have resumed offensive ground operations against the remaining concentrations of terrorist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on the eastern side of the Euphrates River, British Army Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney, deputy commander of strategy and support for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters at the Pentagon on May 8, 2018.
In the first phase of the operation, the SDF is securing the southeast portion of the Syrian-Iraqi border, “eliminating ISIS resistance and establishing defensive positions” in coordination with the Iraqi Security Forces, operating on Iraq’s side of the border, Gedney said.
Since May 1, 2018, U.S. and coalition forces have carried out 40 strikes against ISIS targets, he said.
“Coalition forces are supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces maneuver by conducting air, artillery and mortar strikes against ISIS targets,” Gedney said, describing how the increase in strikes have destroyed “eight ISIS-held buildings, six logistical assets, two explosive factories and two weapons caches.”
Gedney said it is difficult to estimate how many ISIS fighters hold ground in eastern Syria, but said it is “too many.” He also could not estimate how long Operation Roundup would take to complete.
“It is absolutely clear that those final areas are going to be a difficult fight,” he said, adding that “we are going to continue our aggressive pace of operations in our own strikes” until the areas are cleared.
There are signs that the new offensive is already having a “devastating effect on ISIS,” Gedney said.
“Observations from eastern Syria suggest that morale among ISIS fighters is sinking,” he said. “Frictions are mounting between native and foreign-born ISIS fighters as ISIS’ privileged leadership continues to flee the area, leaving fighters with dwindling resources and low morale.”
Despite the progress that has been made east of the Euphrates, coalition officials are concerned that ISIS fighters seem to have more freedom of movement on the western side of the river, which is under the control of pro-Syrian regime forces, Gedney said.
“We remained concerned about ISIS’ freedom west of the river Euphrates; it seems they have some freedom of action still because they have not been properly defeated by the pro-regime forces,” he said.
Gedney stressed, however, that the “coalition will relentlessly pursue ISIS, wherever they are, until they are defeated.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
It was 1945, and the world was at war. Charles Hessemer was just 17 years old when he took a drive to Detroit, Michigan with a friend to enlist in the United States Navy. Hessemer’s older brother had already joined and was in Europe fighting. Hessemer gave a wry grin when he admitted that there may have been some fibbing in regard to his age. But he felt called to go. Hessemer had watched so many men that he knew die during that war. He wanted his chance to fight for his country — and those who lost their lives.
Hessemer could never have imagined that joining the Navy would change the course of his entire life. “You are born to do a particular thing and you will do it whether you want to, I firmly believe this. We are guided in what we do,” he shared.
Hessemer dreamed of getting stationed on an aircraft carrier. Everyone he went to boot camp with was being sent to San Diego, which meant action. He had visions of being on a dive bomber and sailing the high seas. As he watched his friends leaving, he was told to go down to the personnel office. Upon arrival, he was told that he had passed a second, more abstract test that all recruits were given. The test didn’t have any wrong answers, but his responses were deeply creative due to his way of thinking. It was those answers that would earmark him for “special” duty, something only five other graduating recruits were chosen for.
But the officer couldn’t tell him what it would be.
Hessemer decided to take it, feeling the pull towards something unique. Although he thought he would ship out soon after accepting the special assignment, he would end up waiting another five weeks. He found out later it was due to his last name – of German descent – which caused in-depth investigations.
For many years, Adolf Hitler’s number two man was Rudolf Hess. Hess would go on to edit Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, and become deputy leader of the Nazi party. Due to the closeness of Hessemer’s last name, the Navy wasn’t taking any chances.
The investigations would span all the way back to his time in grade school, but would finally come back with an approval. The six men selected for the special assignment were then put on a train and took a three day trip to Washington, D.C., still unaware of what they would be doing.
Hessemer and the others arrived in D.C. and reported to the temporary building the Navy was using as the brand-new Navy Department was being built. He shared the story of continually running into a heavily braided admiral in the hallways of that building. The second time Hessemer almost knocked him over, he remembers the admiral saying: “Young man, you and I seem to be having a problem.”
That man was Fleet Admiral Charles W. Nimitz, the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. From the moment he assumed command after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he brought the fight to the enemy and would eventually sign the Instrument of Surrender from Japan. As Hessemer walked away from him, his head was spinning.
Eventually the new building was ready. Hessemer remembers how heavily secured it was, as he had to show his identification three times before he made it into the office where he was assigned to work. The six men were brought to a room and told to pick a desk. He remembers looking around and seeing one by the window, so he chose that one. As he searched the drawers, he found the book that would change his life, “How to Draw the Figure.” Hessemer finally found out what his special assignment was at that desk. He was a secret code breaker.
Hessemer spent three years as a part of the communications annex, breaking codes, and he was sworn to secrecy for life. During this time, he read that book he found front to back and enrolled in art night classes. “That book was just waiting for me. I know it,” said Hessemer.
He began to win awards for his paintings. Hessemer eventually left D.C. after two years to work onboard the famous aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Randolph, anchored in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
He left the Navy in 1948 with an honorable discharge and was accepted into the American Academy of Art in Chicago in 1950. Although passionate about painting, he felt like something was missing. By accident, he tried painting figures with a palette knife – something no one at the time was doing. From the moment he began, he knew he found what he was meant to do for the rest of his life. His favorite thing to say is that, “An artist’s life is a climb up an endless stairway which he must never stop climbing.”
Hessemer would go on to work as an art director for several successful art ad agencies while painting at night and on the weekends. He spent 10 years truly perfecting his palette knife work before he knew in his heart it was beyond good. It was breathtaking.
“Everything has its reason, it just comes to you and you say that’s it – and you do it,” he said. He believes every mistake you make is only a serious mistake if it makes you quit. When Hessemer was asked what he would tell today’s veterans as they leave the service, he implored them to find their passionate purpose and give it everything they have.
These days, Hessemer is retired from ad agency work and spends his days and nights painting alongside his furry rescue dog, Charlie. Hessemer is 92 years old and still living his purpose, every day.
Visit his website to see his incredible palette knife paintings.
Members of the military and veterans the world over have a dark sense of humor. Given the nature of our lives, we can either think about the gravest consequences of what we do or we can choose to laugh about it. We spend so much time joking about dark things, it bleeds into the rest of our lives. For one Irish veteran, it carried on into his death.
Shay Bradley died on Oct. 8, 2019, of a long illness, one “bravely borne” in Dublin, Ireland. Bradley was a veteran of the Irish Defense Forces, the all-volunteer military forces of the Republic of Ireland. He was laid to rest just four days later in a beautiful funeral that would have been at the same time solemn and sad. That’s when someone started knocking on the casket door.
From the inside.
“Hello? Hello. Hello? Let me out!” the funeralgoers heard. “”Where the f*ck am I? … Let me out, it’s f*cking dark in here. … Is that the priest I can hear? … This is Shay, I’m in the box. No, in f*cking front of you. I’m dead.”
Bradley wanted his wife to leave the funeral laughing instead of crying. According to his daughter Andrea, Shay recorded the audio about a year before his passing, knowing full well how his illness would end. No one knew about the recording that would be played at the funeral except Shay’s son Jonathan and his grandson, Ben. Jonathan let the cat out of the bag two days before the funeral, though, telling the immediate family about the recording.
It was Shay’s dying wish to play the prank at his own funeral. His wife was laughing as she left the cemetery, just as Shay had hoped.
“[It was his] way of saying not only goodbye, but to also say, ‘OK the sadness is over now here is a laugh so you can go and celebrate my life with a smile on your face.'”Bradley’s daughter told the Huffington Post. “This prank was one in a million, just like my dad.”
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and select ships from Carrier Strike Group Eight (CSG-8) joined U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps service members Oct. 25, 2018, for the largest NATO exercise since 2015 – Trident Juncture 2018 (TRJE 18).
The U.S.’s 14,000-strong combined force will join participants from all 29 NATO member nations, as well as partners Sweden and Finland. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTCSG) will send aircraft from embarked Carrier Air Wing One (CVW-1) to conduct sorties, both at-sea and on Norwegian land ranges, nearly every day while participating in TRJE 18. Adding to the exercise, the strike group will be conducting high-end warfare training in air, surface and subsurface operations. Through these focused, multi-mission events, HSTCSG will work alongside allies and partners to refine its network of capabilities able to respond rapidly and decisively to any potential situation.
“For nearly 70 years, the NATO alliance has been built on the foundation of partnerships, cooperation and preserving lasting peace,” said HSTCSG Commander, Rear Adm. Gene Black. “Our strike group’s operations in the North Atlantic region over the past several weeks demonstrate our commitment to these ideals, and we’re looking forward to enhancing our cooperation with our allies and partners during Trident Juncture.”
The HSTCSG has spent much of the past few weeks in the North Atlantic refining its skill sets and capabilities in preparation for the exercise. After sailing off the coasts of Iceland and in the North Sea, strike group ships crossed the Arctic Circle and began operations in the Norwegian Sea. For several days, the strike group also operated alongside Royal Norwegian Navy ships in the Vestfjorden — a sea area inside Norwegian territorial waters.
The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman transits the Strait of Gibraltar.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Laura Hoover)
Along with fostering stronger bonds among allies and partners, TRJE 18 is designed to ensure NATO forces are trained, able to operate together and ready to respond to any threat to global security and prosperity.
The exercise will take place in Norway and the surrounding areas of the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea, including Iceland and the airspace of Finland and Sweden from Oct. 25 to Nov. 23, 2018. More than 50,000 participants will be involved in target training events, utilizing approximately 250 aircraft, 65 ships and more than 10,000 support vehicles.
“We’ve been looking forward to participating in this exercise, and it’s a privilege to take part,” added Black. “Trident Juncture provides our strike group another opportunity to work closely with our NATO allies in order to learn together, enhance our capabilities and become stronger together as we work toward mutual goals.”
Currently operating in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations, Harry S. Truman will continue to foster cooperation with regional allies and partners, strengthen regional stability, and remain vigilant, agile and dynamic.
Retiring from the armed forces can be a very stressful transition because there is no magic crystal ball that allows you to see into your future as a civilian. Veterans often have strong networks built over the course of their military service, but as useful as these networks are, they are also apt to keep you from branching out into something new, or taking time off to pursue uncharted possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know, so it is easy to fall into a trap where income becomes the driving force behind career decisions rather than a deep introspective look into what you really want out of life. This leads to a pursuit of employment rather than fulfillment, and ends in a contract that forces you to trade more of your precious time for money. After giving so much to your country, and asking your family to sacrifice just as much or more, taking time to reconnect with them and yourself before a second career is worth your consideration. You might be pleasantly surprised where it will lead.
Consider the following in your calculus:
Military service didn’t leave much room for hobbies and passions. Do you have any languishing in the recesses of your life?
Military regulations and culture compelled you to identify yourself by an all-consuming job title, which in turn suppressed your identity as an individual. You were the Admiral, the Colonel, Skipper, Warrant, Chief, Senior, Top, OPSO, COS, the LPO, the First Sergeant. Do you really know who you are anymore without a job title to define you?
Time keeps ticking, but money comes and goes. Is time more valuable than money when you realize that you can bank one but not the other?
This last thought is the one that gave me the most pause. If you are shackled to a life dictated by consumerism and workism, your “one day” list becomes less and less achievable. This is paradoxical, because chances are you might be making a decent salary on top of your retirement income, but you don’t have time for you, your spouse, your kids, your dog, your forgotten hobbies, or your wild and crazy ambitions. Why? Because your new job might provide a comfortable existence and a title to impress your friends, but it doesn’t guarantee you will have time for anything on your bucket list. How many successful people have all the toys in the world but no time to use them? More than you think. In this article, I will argue that as a veteran, you have been given all the resources you need to thrive in a life of your choosing. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you become completely “checked out” and retreat from society never to work again. Instead, I am advocating for a period of time that prevents you from rushing headlong into a second career. This will give you some “maneuver space” to sort through the stress, the noise, and the pressure that is screaming at you to immediately get a job and keep slogging forward. That space might be a few months, or it might be a few years, but either way, it is time well-spent.
Try this little exercise. Mentally fast forward to the end of your life. You are looking back on your experiences wondering why you worked your whole life, yet missed out on so much living. Maybe you wanted to take a year and surf the south Pacific, or fish the great rivers in Alaska, or hike the Appalachian Trail, or follow the Tour de France, or start a business, or write a novel, or raise alpacas, or sell it all and buy a sailboat…but you didn’t, and now you are too old and tired to do anything but look back with sadness and regret. You realize there was always something standing in the way; there were always reasons why you couldn’t. So, instead of doing, you resigned yourself to watching others as you scrolled through your social media feeds and groused about your boss, staff meetings, the person who chews their food too loudly in their cubicle, the jerk who cut you off on your commute, and the endless mundane aspects of life in “The Matrix.”
As you contemplate those lost dreams, you might be asking yourself with a twinge of frustration, “Why didn’t I go for it? What was I afraid of? What was the worst thing that could have happened to me if I had unshackled myself from the ‘golden handcuffs,’ put down the electronic tether, and lived the life I always imagined?” You might be surprised to learn the worst thing that could have happened was nothing from which you could not have quickly recovered.
Now, rewind to the present. Ask yourself this question, “Have I ever allowed myself to fail?” If you made it all the way through a 20-year (or more) career, chances are the answer is a resounding no! So why do you think you will start failing now? I’ll let you in on a little secret…you won’t. You already know how to succeed. The sad truth, however, is that many of us never take a chance, because we focus on the reasons we shouldn’t…the fears…rather than the reasons we should…the inspiration.
Every military member goes through transition class on their way out of the service. You learn that it is possible to reinvent yourself, but it isn’t easy. You are instructed to make a list of your assets, your liabilities, and any gaps you have in your skill set, then cross-reference it against what you need to break into a sector outside of what you have been doing for the past twenty-plus years. You are told to be willing to move to an area where that sector has a presence, be patient, be willing to evangelize yourself, build a network in your new community, use your hard-earned benefits to get the education or certifications you need to fill in any gaps, and be willing to start at the bottom. If you do these things while exhibiting all the qualities that made you successful on active duty, you will succeed.
What if I told you that same blueprint for reinventing yourself professionally is just as useful for reinventing yourself personally, and going after those “one day” dreams before you blindly (or deliberately) trade one overlord for another. With a little bit of planning and foresight, you can do it, and if I haven’t made my position clear, I think you should. When else will you get a planned break in your professional life to do something crazy?
I started my transition playing by the rules. I spent hours…no, weeks…working on a resume. I went to career fairs. I interviewed for jobs. I received job offers. None of it felt right in my gut. I started terminal leave in June 2018 in a panic-stricken state, grasping for a lifeline. At my wife’s urging I had been exploring the idea of trade school using my GI Bill benefits, but I was afraid to commit. “It’s not what I am expected to do,” was my typical reason, which was ridiculous. I was afraid of the unknown and everything that came with it. That was the truth. I had reached the first portal of fear, and with my wife’s encouragement, I stepped through it.
Once again, I found myself grasping for the familiar and hiding from my fears. I applied for a government job overseas, knowing it wasn’t what I really wanted. A friend was recruiting me to come back to the staff I had left a year and a half earlier, but after I submitted my resume, there were knots in my stomach. “What am I doing,” I asked myself. “Is this what I really want?” I wasn’t ready for staff meetings and point papers again. I wasn’t ready for days when I went to work at dawn and came home after dinner just to get up and do it all over again while my life ticked away a second at a time.
My wife had a dream that we could sell it all and go sailing. I was adamantly opposed. “If there is one thing I learned at the marine trade and technology school,” I joked, “it is don’t buy a boat!” The truth of the matter is I was terrified of selling everything and buying a boat. There were too many voices in my head telling me it would be our ruination…MY ruination. I hid behind my biggest fear – money. We couldn’t afford it. End of story.
But, it wasn’t.
It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. As I tell my children, there is a solution to every problem, we only need to outthink it. So we looked at the problem again and realized we could afford it. But, I still wasn’t ready to commit. I needed a push.
Fate intervened on my behalf. Much to my surprise, my resume never made it through the initial screening for the civil servant position, so I never got the job interview on the staff overseas. Despite my ego being bruised, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I was a free man again. A few weeks later, after some long, introspective conversations with my wife, I agreed to the sailing adventure. Failure had somehow opened a pathway to an outcome I did not think possible. That was in March 2019. Four months later, we would be boat owners after an exhausting push to sell, donate, or repurpose just about everything we owned. Three months after that, we would be getting underway from Hampton, VA for a 1,600 nautical mile ocean passage to Antigua.
How did we go from “normal life” to “boat life” so quickly? We followed the same blueprint I received in the transition seminar. We laid out a plan, prioritized our resources, and focused everything we had on the achievement of our goal. I had already filled in the knowledge gaps by becoming a certified marine mechanic. Anyone who knows boats will tell you that 90% of boat ownership is boat maintenance, so I felt confident I could handle that responsibility with my new skills. I grew up sailing, so that wasn’t an issue, but living aboard a boat full-time was another story. We hired a couple who had twice circumnavigated with their kids as “cruising coaches.” We built a network by talking about our plans with people who could help and guide us. We made sure we were able to fund our dream by paying cash for a boat and living within the means of my retirement income. Using our new and growing network, we found a boat, brokered the deal, and moved aboard on July 31, 2019.
It was not an easy transition from land life to sea life. In fact, it was harder than anything we had ever done. Being a military family, we were used to relocating and starting over every couple years, so we put all that experience to good use. But, this time it was different. It was all on us to get it done. There were at least three distinct points when we wanted to quit. We didn’t, largely due to the encouragement and instruction we received from people who had walked the same path. The rewards for persevering are too many to list. Suffice it to say, I answer to no master. I have learned more about myself and my family in six months than I have in six years. I have swum with a whale in 19,000 feet of water halfway between Bermuda and the Leeward Islands. We have sailed our way through 50-knot squalls and come out the other side stronger and more resilient. I have made lifelong friendships with people I would never have met had I stayed in my “safe” bubble. I have gained valuable perspective by using this time away from the rat race to sort myself; to be a better husband, father, and friend.
A good counterargument to this conversation would go something like this – “My professional stock is highest immediately after I retire. It will be irresponsible for me not to take advantage of that transition point and start building my professional resume in the real world. Statistics support the fact that I most likely will change jobs several times as I find my niche, so it doesn’t matter what I do. The important thing is to get into the ring and make a name for myself.” So you get a job and a fancy-sounding title that you eagerly post on LinkedIn. You beef up your profile with a power photo that has you leaning into the camera with a smile that says, “I’m a go-getter!” You add a description underneath that says something like, “I’m a results-oriented leader with a proven track record of astonishing accomplishments, fiscal maturity, operational prowess, cunning initiative, etc, etc, etc.” It becomes your identity, and it is the right thing to do, isn’t it? I certainly thought it was. But for me, at least, it wasn’t. I am not getting any younger. Neither are you. The counterargument doesn’t hold up, in my opinion. You can always get a job and make money, but you can’t make more time. Another aspect of this counterargument is that your network will abandon you if you take time for yourself and your family. I also believe that this is invalid, and would go so far as to suggest that your network will respect you more for leading in this manner.
We as Americans have it all backwards. We work and work and work until we hit the “golden years,” then we retire with the idea that we are going to take off from our empty nest and explore the world. I have heard so many tragic stories about people who FINALLY get some time to do the things they have always wanted to do only to be sidelined by unexpected health crises that leave them debilitated or worse. Derek Thompson, a senior staff writer for The Atlantic wrote a compelling article in February 2019 titled, “Workism is Making Americans Miserable,” where he argues that work has become, unfortunately, the, “centerpiece of one’s identity and purpose.” It’s an excellent, thought-provoking read.
Work, pay taxes, then die.
As a retiring military member, you have the resources to do what you want – healthcare, education opportunities, steady income, and many more benefits to jumpstart your second life. You only need to face down your fears and embrace the possibilities that lay before you. I am not done working, but I guarantee whatever employment I pursue in the future will be far different than what I thought I had to shoehorn myself into when I first transitioned from service. We have had a lot of people tell us how amazing our life is…how lucky we are…how courageous we are to be out sailing with our kids full time. We don’t see ourselves as different or special. We are just us, living a life of our choosing. We realized in hindsight that fear had been holding us back, not resources. Once we made our decision, we were flabbergasted by how everything suddenly seemed to align behind us. It was all there to begin with, but we were blinded by our fears of the unknown, and therefore too afraid to take a chance.
Fear is paralyzing, and in the weeks surrounding my transition there were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed and face reality. In the middle of those dark moments, a very wise friend of mine asked me to stretch my hands out in front of myself palms up, then she had me clench my fists. She looked at me and said, “There won’t be room for anything new in your life if you are holding onto everything so tightly, afraid to let go. You have to open your hands and be willing to release – toxic relationships, needless possessions, clutter, the wrong career, convenience, the safe and easy path, money. But more importantly, you have to open your hands so what you really want has a place to land.”
I stood there for a moment clenching and unclenching my upturned hands. I am not a particularly spiritual person, but I was shocked at how profoundly her simple exercise struck a chord. “Money comes and money goes, and it should,” she concluded, “but even though we have had our backs to the wall a number of times, we always believed we would be fine because we kept our hands, figuratively of course, upturned and open.” She and her husband are better now than ever after launching their own business nearly twenty years ago. They had been let go from their previous jobs at the same time, when their kids were still young, and their stress levels already high. In that moment of darkness, they chose to open their own business and live life according to their own terms. It wasn’t easy, but looking back, they wouldn’t want it any other way.
In the final analysis, it’s not about how much you have, but what you do with it. Achieving your ambitions means making decisions, prioritizing and leveraging resources, and aligning efforts. Do you want to be linked in right away, or checked out to gain some perspective and clarity? The choice is yours, and it doesn’t matter how big your proverbial or actual boat is. It only matters that you believe in yourself and face down your fears. Trust me, someone always has a bigger boat. You can find dozens of YouTube channels where people are sailing the world on every manner of boat imaginable. I used to watch some of them and say, “Look at their boat. It’s so ugly, or small, or dilapidated.” My wife would answer, “Yeah, sure is…but they are doing it!” How true. Would you rather be sitting in a staff meeting wishing you were doing it, or actually doing it?
I’ll close with this final thought. Many, if not all of us, who are retiring from a career in the service lost shipmates, close friends, and comrades in training and combat. A few years ago, standing on a beach in Italy looking out into the Adriatic Sea, where a friend in Air Wing 17 had perished during a nighttime training flight off the USS George Washington (CVN-73) in 2002, I made a promise that if I somehow made it through my military career, I would not squander the opportunity to fulfill dreams and live an amazing life. I felt like I owed that to those who couldn’t. Life is short, and precious. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let a false sense of obligation keep you from doing the things on your “one day” list. If you do, that list will go unfulfilled.
We keep a sign on our boat that reads, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” It is a constant reminder for us to keep pushing forward. You can, too.
Glenn Robbins is a retired Naval Officer cruising full-time on a 46-foot catamaran named FEARLESS with his wife Andi and their two children, Gavin and Alexis.
On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. with a .44-caliber single-shot derringer pistol to the back of the head. While Booth fled on horseback, the president was rushed to a boarding house across the street to await the surgeon general. Sadly, the 16th president of the United States died the next morning at the age of 56.
The assassination has maintained infamous throughout history for many reasons. First, the attack was public and led to a heated manhunt. Perhaps more significantly, after four years of civil war, Confederate General Robert E. Lee had just surrendered his army only five days before, effectively ending the conflict. Though Lincoln would not live to see his country recover, in death he kept the promise he made to the Union during his inaugural address “to preserve, protect and defend it.”
President Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, were at Ford’s Theater that night to attend Our American Cousin, a comedy. The Library of Congress has preserved the contents of the president’s pockets on his final night. Here’s what he had:
Watch the video above to see details of the items in his pockets, which include a pocket knife and two pairs of spectacles. The president also carried on his person a watch fob and a linen handkerchief, stenciled with “A. Lincoln” in red. While these feel very simple, there are some more curious items as well.
First, the president carried newspaper clippings, including, according to the Library of Congress, several favorable to the president and his policies. It’s almost like the 19th Century version of checking out what Twitter had to say about the administration.
Even more curious was the fact that the only currency Abraham Lincoln carried the night he died was a five-dollar Confederate note in a brown leather wallet. “We don’t know with one hundred percent certainty but just a few days earlier, Richmond had fallen, and Lincoln did actually travel to Richmond and this was likely passed onto him as a souvenir,” shared Clark Evans, Head of Reference Services in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.
After his death, the contents of President Lincoln’s pockets were passed onto his son, Robert Todd, and they remained in the Lincoln family for more than seventy years. They were finally placed on display at the LIbrary of Congress in 1976, where they remain the most favored of all objects within the library’s collections.
A European ally has decided to pull a warship away from a US carrier strike group sent to deter a possible Iranian attack on American interests, according to multiple reports.
The Spanish frigate Méndez Núñez and its 215 sailors are peeling off from the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, a powerful naval force consisting of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, and four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, as well as support ships.
The Spanish defense ministry announced May 14, 2019, that the country had decided to withdraw its warship because the new mission is inconsistent with the initial agreement. “The U.S. government has taken a decision outside of the framework of what had been agreed with the Spanish Navy,” Acting Defense Minister Margarita Robles said, Reuters reported.
The US Navy vessels were recently rerouted to the Persian Gulf in response to “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region,” US Central Command explained.
The USS Abraham Lincoln.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)
The US military has also deployed a bomber task force consisting of four B-52H Stratofortress bombers, a San-Antonio class amphibious transport dock, and a Patriot air-and-missile defense battery to the CENTCOM area of responsibility to demonstrate to Iran that the US is prepared to respond to any attack with “unrelenting force,” as the White House said.
The Pentagon and the White House are reportedly exploring worst case scenarios, which could involve sending as many as 120,000 troops to the region, a force nearly as large as US troops who invaded Iraq in 2003.
Some observers have suggested that this is escalating situation could cause the US and Iran to inadvertently stumble into a conflict, whether they wanted one or not.
The Álvaro de Bazán-class Spanish navy frigate ESPS Méndez Núñez (F 104) pulls into Naval Station Norfolk.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gwendelyn L. Ohrazda)
Spanish media reported that “Spain wants to avoid being involuntarily dragged into any kind of conflict with Iran,” but while the defense ministry has distanced itself from US actions, the ministry did not specifically identify this as a justification for its decision.
The decision was “not an expression of distaste,” the defense minister clarified, adding that the ship will rejoin the US fleet once regularly-scheduled operations resume, Fox News reported. Spain insists that it remains a “serious and trustworthy partner.”
The incorporation of the Méndez Núñez into the carrier strike group was planned over a year ago, and joint operations were expected to last six months. The initial mission was meant to mark a historic seafaring anniversary, the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the world, Reuters reported.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.