There are a lot of factors to consider when you’re trying to determine if any single place is the very best at something. However, when it comes to small towns supporting their troops, Bangor, Maine holds the distinction of very best. They are known for their willingness to make it to the airport and shake the hands of nearly every post-9/11 troop who’s gone from stateside to overseas, at all hours of the days, no matter what.
To be fair to every other patriotic town in America, plenty of Bangor’s ability to show it’s patriotism stems from its location. Since most military flights leaving the continental U.S. towards Europe and Southwest Asia fly through Maine, past Greenland and Iceland, and refuel somewhere in Ireland or the U.K., Bangor is usually the first and last U.S. stop most troops see before and after a deployment.
Where Bangor shines is within the Maine Troop Greeters. Beginning in May 2003, a small group of Bangor-area residents gathered to meet troops at the Bangor International Airport. Since then, they have greeted well over 7,600 flights and over 1.5 million troops. Rain or shine, day or night, and nearly everyday, they’re out there. With a town population that could easily fit into the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, one of the smallest NCAA football stadiums, the Maine Troop Greeters of Bangor are still over 600 strong. From older veterans to soccer moms with kids to pretty college girls, everyone in Bangor comes to see the troops.
It’s far more than just a “thank you for your service” from a random stranger. They provide snacks, meals, and use of their cell phones to outgoing and incoming troops. In return, many troops have given them small tokens of gratitude. Troops give them things like challenge coins, combat patches, and even uniforms out of appreciation. In response to this patriotic exchange, they’ve created a museum to honor every troop that walks through their line of handshakes and hugs.
Their museum to the troops has over 5,500 unique challenge coins, over 1,800 patches, and many photos. There are also two books: One log book that troops can write in and another dedicated to each troop who died in combat. Soldiers have written countless thank yous over the years to the people of Bangor.
Hans Island is a tiny speck of rock that lies almost exactly halfway between Canada and Greenland in the Nares Straight, a thin body of Arctic seawater between the two countries. Denmark and Canada both claim the island as sovereign soil.
For over 95 years, they’ve been fighting the world’s most gentlemanly military struggle by sending their navies to claim the island using sarcastic signs, national flags, and bottles of Danish brandy and Canadian whisky.
The island was mapped in 1920 and has been a spot of contention between between Canada and Denmark ever since. Since the .5-square-mile island has no resources, inhabitants, wildlife, and hardly any soil, the island has limited value in itself.
But, its location makes it a prime spot for managing sea traffic going into and out of the Arctic, something that is becoming more important with each bit of sea ice that melts. So, the two countries sat down and settled most of their border disputes in 1973 but were unable to come to terms on Hans Island.
Sometime in the 1980s, the bottles began appearing on the island. Denmark upped the ante sometime in the early 2000s when they placed a large flag on the island and a sign that said, “Welcome to Denmark,” with the liquor. Canada answered back with its own flag, sign, and liquor in July 2005.
The conflict has edged into more serious territory a few times. A visit to the island by the Canadian Defense Minister in 2005 drew angry comments from Denmark as did a 2004 increase in Canadian defense spending increase that cited Hans Island as a factor.
Want to get the hottest ticket this summer without standing in line?
NASA is inviting people around the world to submit their names online to be placed on a microchip aboard NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission launching in summer 2018. The mission will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions — and your name will go along for the ride.
“This probe will journey to a region humanity has never explored before,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This mission will answer questions scientists have sought to uncover for more than six decades.”
Understanding the Sun has always been a top priority for space scientists. Studying how the Sun affects space and the space environment of planets is the field known as heliophysics. The field is not only vital to understanding Earth’s most important and life-sustaining star, it supports exploration in the solar system and beyond.
Submissions will be accepted until April 27, 2018. Learn more and add your name to the mission here.
The spacecraft, about the size of a small car, will travel directly into the Sun’s atmosphere about 4 million miles from the star’s surface. The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles. The mission will revolutionize our understanding of the Sun, where changing conditions can spread out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds.
To perform these unprecedented investigations, the spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the Sun’s heat by a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield, which will need to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft that reach nearly 2,500 F. This state-of-the-art heat shield will keep the four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind at room temperature.
The spacecraft speed is so fast, at its closest approach it will be going at approximately 430,000 mph. That’s fast enough to get from Washington, D.C., to Tokyo in under a minute.
“Parker Solar Probe is, quite literally, the fastest, hottest — and, to me, coolest — mission under the Sun,” said project scientist Nicola Fox, of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. “This incredible spacecraft is going to reveal so much about our star and how it works that we’ve not been able to understand.”
Honoring a science legend
In May 2017, NASA renamed the spacecraft from the Solar Probe Plus to the Parker Solar Probe in honor of astrophysicist Eugene Parker. The announcement was made at a ceremony at the University of Chicago, where Parker serves as the S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
This was the first time NASA named a spacecraft for a living individual.
NASA missions are most often renamed after launch and certification. In this case, given Parker’s accomplishments within the field, and how closely aligned this mission is with his research, the decision was made to honor him prior to launch, in order to draw attention to his important contributions to heliophysics and space science.
In the 1950s, Parker proposed a number of concepts about how stars — including our Sun — give off energy. He called this cascade of energy the solar wind, and he described an entire complex system of plasmas, magnetic fields and energetic particles that make up this phenomenon. Parker also theorized an explanation for the superheated solar atmosphere, the corona, which is — contrary to what was expected by physics laws — hotter than the surface of the Sun itself. Many NASA missions have continued to focus on this complex space environment defined by our star.
Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with a Star Program, or LWS, to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. LWS is managed by the NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, in Laurel, Maryland, manages the Parker Solar Probe mission for NASA. APL is designing and building the spacecraft and will also operate it.
Long after around 7,800 soldiers died in the three day battle of Gettysburg, tourists and ghosts hunters claim to encounter the fallen.
The remote village offers over ten different ghost tours that run year round for guests to get a glimpse of the supernatural at several prominent sites from the battlefield. People report the sunken gut feelings along with hearing faint echos of the battle that occurred.
The site of the infamous downhill bayonet charge at Little Round Top is a common location for sightings of energy balls (or will-o’-wisps) spiraling around the forests. Captured on photo, many believe it to be enough proof that they need.
Another hot spot for spirits in Gettysburg is Sach’s Bridge. The 100-foot expanse not too far from the battlefield is frequently covered in fog.
A group of paranormal investigators went to the bridge to try and get photos or EVP recordings. While there, the fog came back in. They say that they saw lights, heard the sounds, and claim shadowy figures rushed past them.
And then there’s the graveyard.
Visiting the graveyard at night is can be unsettling. The fog returns and ghost hunters say that the ghosts want them to leave. The wind ‘pushes’ the visitors away from the grave stones.
Now, there is a perfectly logical reason for all of these. The will-o’wisps of Gettysburg could be floating dust and pollen, since most sightings of “orbs” come during the spring time. There’s nothing supernatural about fog appearing before sunrise and lingering throughout the day. And even in the final picture, snow melting from the gravestone first isn’t unique.
Skeptics can poke holes in nearly everything about the paranormal activities in Gettysburg as being hyped by the locals to keep tourism up. Still, nothing takes away the gut feeling of being on the hallowed grounds of the most pivotal battle in American history.
Around the world, nations like Canada and Russia take a similar tack while Ukraine and others go with a quieter ad that focuses on the individual soldiers.
1. The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command
The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command keep it simple when making their commercial in 2013. It’s just a few simple, repeating music notes and a highlight reel of cool stuff they do, from rappelling out of planes to violently ending hostage standoffs.
2. The Swedish Military
Sweden wants you to know that their military may not dominate feature a lot of awesome special effects, but they have some great careers where you get to make a difference. It’s shockingly honest. Wanna bet Swedish soldiers still complain about their recruiters lying to them?
3. The Ukrainian Armed Forces
Ukraine is recruiting soldiers while fighting a much larger and more powerful military. Their commercial reminds Ukrainians that troops come from all backgrounds but come together to defend their people from violence.
4. The Russian Navy
The Russian Navy commercial is pretty high-speed, but features a few unexpected scenes like when the naval gun turns towards the camera at 1:50 with the barrel covered. Of course, the glimpses of sailors working out shirtless around the 2:00 mark were expected.
Sure, you can have a normal job instead, but Finland wants their potential recruits to know that they could have a range target as a resume, an armored vehicle for their drive to work, and have their trade secrets protected by thick steel doors. It’s a quiet but poignant ad.
6. Australian Army
The Australian Army commercial feels more like the opening to a new TV show than a military recruitment ad. It features photogenic troops in parades and hangars while zero people fire a weapon. It also mentions the surprisingly small number of troops they field, less than 45,000.
7. Japanese Army
The Japanese Army walks a fine line. Japan became a relatively un-military country after World War II (by design) but is expanding military programs in response to Chinese expansion and terrorist threats. Their recruiting ads reflect this fine line, using innocuous graphics and pink backgrounds right after showing troops on the march.
As an overseas hub for U.S. military bases, Okinawa, Japan is known among troops for its beautiful coastline, hot and humid weather, and a unique fusion food simply referred to as TRC.
“Tacos had already been introduced to Okinawa by the Americans, but it was more like a snack – not very filling for Americans. And it was something you couldn’t find at a restaurant,” Parlor Senri restaurant’s Sayuri Shimabukuro Shimabukuro told Stripes Okinawa. “Matsuzo decided to substitute the taco shell with rice, which is relatively faster to cook and also filling. Parlor Senri’s customers were 100 percent Americans, and in order for the wait staff to explain the dish, he named it taco rice.”
TRC, or “Taco, Rice, and Cheese,” — a Mexican-Japanese fusion dish that exists only because of the U.S. military presence on the island — is most simply put, a giant taco salad with rice instead of the taco shell. First introduced on the island in 1984, it’s now a staple among U.S. service-members stationed there.
The dish is so popular among troops that most shops that serve it are literally walking distance from the base gates. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to it.
There’s considerable debate among shop owners as to who came up with TRC first. According to Stripes Okinawa, multiple shops in Kin (the town outside Camp Hansen) claim it was their idea. But while we’re trying to figure out who cooked it first, you can always make it yourself at home.
Travel — it either makes your heart do a little pitter-patter or fills you top to bottom with dread. Traveling does not have to be stressful, and using a few time-tested hacks is guaranteed to make your life easier.
Before you go
Scan a copy of your passport, driver’s license and any trip itineraries or reservations that you have and save them to your phone outside of e-mail. Depending on location, service might be spotty and you never know when you may need to access your records offline.
Vacation can be exciting, but packing is the pits. To maximize suitcase space:
Roll thin clothing (t-shirts and dresses) and fold heavier clothing pieces (jeans and sweaters) and utilize packing cubes to organize
Stuff socks into shoes
Insert a rolled-up belt into a shirt collar to maintain the collar’s shape
Prevent fragile makeup from cracking by inserting a cotton ball in the compact
Cover shoes in a hotel shower cap to avoid having dirty soles touch the rest of your suitcase
Utilize what you have
Did you forget your phone charger at home? Plug your phone into a hotel television. Don’t panic if you have left your wall plug-in at home. Most televisions now have USB connectors on the back or side panel. Take a peek and use your connection cord to seamlessly charge your phone.
Leave the camping lantern on the counter? Not a problem. Strap a headlamp to a water bottle to create an instant illuminated “lantern.”
Google’s offline tools
Heading out of the country or simply beyond service? Be sure to download Google Maps to use offline. While connected to WiFi, download the city or territory maps you might need for the duration of travel and access them later — no connection required.
Like Google Maps, Google Translate is usually needed when there’s no WiFi available. Convenient, huh? Before you go, download the Translate app, and choose ‘Offline Translation’ in Settings. Here, you will be able to download different languages.
Pack a clothespin … or two!
A vacation seems like a weird place for a clothespin, but this handy accessory is ideal for keeping headphone cords from getting tangled, propping up a toothbrush in the bathroom, clipping hotel curtains closed for rooms that will not get dark enough or hanging up laundry to dry.
There’s an app for that
It seems like there is an app these days for everything, and traveling is no different. The following cell phone apps are handy for travel purposes for everything from airport navigation to Wifi passwords.
Foursquare is a collection of city guides, but it’s notoriously great for tipping off visitors to connection spots by suppling local Wifi passwords.
Stuck in an airport without easy access to a USO? LoungeBuddy takes all the guesswork out of where travelers can relax by providing comprehensive guides to airport lounges around the world.
Headed on a long-haul journey with multiple connections? Download FlightAware to track flights online, see a live map of flight routes and be alerted to cancellations, delays and gate changes.
Timeshifter is working to banish jet lag for good. Using extensive research studies on sleep and circadian rhythms, the app helps in-flight travelers determine when to nap, seek light, eat and more based on gender, age and typical sleep patterns.
Whether you are planning a trip or daydreaming about your next destination, tuck these travel hacks away for the next big adventure to save yourself time, your sanity…or both.
If you’re looking to take your family to absorb some military values or just want to bask in the history of American infantrymen, make your way down to Columbus, Georgia to visit the National Infantry Museum. The museum has something for everyone, from families with kids to history buffs to new infantrymen to those wishing to pay respect to fallen comrades.
For the children, there’s an area dedicated to the sacrifices of our nation’s Blue and Gold Star Families. The Family Gallery pays respects to the vital role that families play in supporting their troops overseas. Kids can learn how difficult it was for children to reach their parents during earlier wars. It also takes an in-depth look at how to cope with the downsides of being a kid in a military family and highlights what’s awesome about it.
While there, kids can play with a miniaturized version of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle turret and try on uniforms from throughout the ages.
To get to the historical side of the museum, you must first walk over The Last 100 Yards Ramp (a play on the Infantryman’s duty to own the last 100 yards of the battlefield). On the ramp, infantrymen are shown fighting at Yorktown, Antietam, Soissons, Normandy, Corregidor, Landing at LZ X-Ray, and the ongoing wars.
Exhibits include “The International Stage,” which details the Spanish-American War and life in the trenches during the “War to End All Wars.” The largest portion is dedicated to the “World at War.” In this exhibit, spectators tour the vehicles, weapons, parachutes, and uniforms of the Greatest Generation — including Audie Murphy’s service ribbons. Next is “The Cold War” that takes you through a recreation of a Korean War bunker, the jungles of Vietnam, and portions of the Berlin Wall. Finally, you explore “The Sole Superpower” exhibit in honor of the infantrymen from 1989 through to today.
The National Infantry Museum also houses the “Halls of Honor,” dedicated to all the Infantrymen who’ve received the Medal of Honor, Rangers who’ve gone above and beyond, and the distinguished officers who’ve gone through the Fort Benning Officer Candidate School. The museum also has the distinction of having the largest movie screen in the region, on which it shows historical films, 3-D recreations of famous wars, and even fun films for the children.
Finally, outside the museum stands a 3/4-scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. that once toured the country to give vets a chance to visit without going to the capital. Recently, they also dedicated the new Global War on Terrorism Memorial to all the troops that have lost their lives in combat since September 11th, 2001. To learn more about the new memorial, watch the video below.
The Eager Lion exercise doesn’t have the long history of Cobra Gold or Team Spirit, nor does it have the immense scale of RIMPAC. But is still important, particularly with the Syrian Civil War raging – not to mention having to deal with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
According to a CENTCOM release, 21 countries, including the United States, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and Poland are invading Jordan for the Eager Lion 2017 exercise.
“As brothers in arms, we fully understand how much our nations have paid in blood and treasure over the years to address security, particularly in this region,” Maj. Gen. William B. Hickman, deputy commanding general of operations for U.S. Central Command, told reporters at a press event launching the exercise. “For much of the past two decades our militaries have operated in the grey zones of military confrontation … where misunderstanding and miscalculation can easily escalate into a larger conflict.”
Here are some photos showing just what is going on with this friendly multi-national invasion:
1. They travel there by sea and air
It is said that half the fun is getting there. It’s a safe bet that the CO of USS Bataan (LHD 5) got tired of hearing 2,000 Marines ask, “Are we there yet?”
2. The gear gets set up
Exercises like Eager Lion are not thrown together on a whim. Support troops like these help make the multi-national wargame run smoothly.
3. They prepare for the worst
This includes being sure that the medevac people are fully spun up in case there is an accident during the training. Hopefully, they are very, very bored during Eager Lion 2017.
4. They hit the ground running
Fast-roping from helicopters helps to secure the LZ.
5. They move out to their objectives
Now that their way out has been secured, the troops are off to happily go about the day’s work of dropping tangos.
6. They achieve the objective…
…Which is for the last thing the bad guy sees to be something like this:
Mary Ryan has been the curator at the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum since October 2010. As curator, she leads the museum’s exhibit program, shapes the artifact collection, and connects the public to the museum’s rich subject matter. Mary has worked for 15 years as a curator, interpretive planner, and exhibit developer creating exhibitions and interpretive plans for museums and historic sites across the country. She earned her Master’s Degree in History Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Cooperstown, New York, and completed her undergraduate training in science and anthropology at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
WATM: How did you decide to become a curator and a steward of our Nation’s history?
I discovered the museum field at a crossroads in my life, shortly after deciding not to attend medical school. I was immediately drawn to curatorial work — it’s intellectually challenging, always interesting and artifacts and exhibits have such power to tell meaningful stories. After completing a museum internship with an excellent mentor, I earned my graduate degree in history museum studies in 2008 and have worked as a curatorial and exhibit developer ever since.
When I joined the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum staff as curator in 2010, I didn’t know how much I would come to love the subject matter — the history, science, innovation and human ingenuity of the undersea communities is fascinating. I’ve met the most incredible people working here. It’s a privilege to do this job and serve these communities.
WATM: The U.S. Naval Undersea Museum was closed for COVID; what can attendees expect on their tour as it reopens?
We’re thrilled to share we reopened on May 24! We are excited to welcome visitors back to the museum. Initially, our open hours will be 10 AM to 4 PM on Monday, Wednesday through Friday, with weekend hours to resume as state and federal guidelines continue to expand.
Because the safety of our visitors, volunteers and staff is our top priority, we have implemented extra safety measures at the museum. We will be using a reservation system to ensure capacity stays within state guidelines (visitors can make a reservation here), disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces and limiting group sizes to 10 or fewer people. And for the short term, our exhibit interactives have been converted into touchless experiences. As always, there are no admission or parking fees to visit!
WATM: What virtual content do you have available?
We have a mix of virtual content for different ages and interests! We post social media content several times a week on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts — lots of “this day in history” posts, sailor profiles, artifact features, STEM activities, behind the scenes content. In the past five years, our virtual community has grown to more than 20,000 people across our platforms.
Our virtual 3D tour lets anyone explore our exhibit galleries from any location. Having a virtual tour became an invaluable resource while we were closed during the pandemic. Now that we’re reopening, it makes the museum accessible to many people who can’t visit us in person. A handful of our artifacts have been turned into highly detailed, interactive 3D models by The Arc/k Project, and more than 500 artifacts are digitized on our Flickr page.
WATM: What are some upcoming virtual events readers shouldn’t miss out on?
This past February we staged our biggest education program of the year, Discover E Day, entirely online. Following up on that success, our educator has teamed up with several local Navy groups to offer two virtual Navy STEM summer camp sessions July 13–15 and August 10–12. Families of local kids who will be in grades 3–8 this fall can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to register; it’s free and all learning will happen via Zoom.
I would definitely encourage readers to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — we’re most active there and always posting new content! Keep an eye on our website, too, as we’re developing a new online collections page that will share digitized documents and finding aid for archival collections.
WATM: How can the public support the museum on its mission?
Our mission is to connect people to the U.S. naval undersea experience. Anyone who engages with our subject matter by learning about naval undersea history, technology, operations and people — whether through us or on their own — is supporting our mission.
As a federal organization, the museum is supported by a non-profit foundation that raises funds for education programs, new exhibits and artifact care and conservation. Their support allows us to take on projects that aren’t or can’t be funded by federal funding. Members of the public can support the museum by making a donation or becoming a foundation member.
We are lucky to have wonderful public support from the local community. Our volunteer corps includes more than 50 veterans, retired Navy civilians and community members that give generously of their time and expertise. Their contributions are almost immeasurable, and include greeting visitors, giving tours, operating the museum store, working with artifacts, supporting education programs and helping to build and install exhibits. Locals who are interested in joining our volunteer corps can learn more here.
WATM: Do you have anything you would like to say to the veteran and military audience?
Sharing the stories of undersea Navy veterans is an essential aspect of our work! There’s a lot we can’t say as a Navy organization because it’s not publicly cleared, but that just means we work harder to amplify the stories we can share.
We meet so many veterans at the museum and it’s an honor to be a place they can reminisce or show their families more about what they did in the Navy. To all the veterans out there, please come say “hi” if you visit the museum! Many of the volunteers who staff our lobby are veterans themselves. And if there is any way we can be of assistance, please reach out anytime!
WATM: What is next for you and the museum?
Every summer we host a popular education program called Summer STEAM, which offers hands-on science, technology, engineering, art and math activities for kids. Summer STEAM will be back this July and August with a twist: this year families can pick up activity kits to take home! Our educators and volunteers have been hard at work assembling kits to make this possible.
And coming next spring, we’ll open a new temporary exhibit called “Giving Voice to the Silent Service.” It’s an inside look at the strong collective identity that submariners share. While it centers on the submarine community, many of the ideas will resonate with anyone who served. This was one of the most interesting and fun exhibits I have ever developed and I can’t wait to see it come to life in our exhibit galleries!
In a U.S. territory half a world removed from the continental United States, what does it mean to be American? To find out, Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl shipped off to the far reaches of Pacific Micronesia, to Guam.
Guam is a tiny island with a full dance card of seemingly competing cultural histories. Its indigenous people, the Chamorro, called it home for 4000 years, but after the island was “discovered” by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, it experienced several centuries of European colonization, capture, and rule that heaped Spanish, Catholic, American, and Japanese cultural influence atop the foundations of its identity.
But where other territories with similar fraught histories stumble through the modern era in crisis and without a firm sense of collective “self,” Guamanians wove themselves into the fabric of democratic and multicultural America. They celebrate their 21st century hybridity with exuberance, with fervent patriotism and military service, and with a food culture so funky and delicious, people travel from all over the globe to get in on it.
Why choose? (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
In Guam, you find patriotism in its purest form, animated by gratitude for life. Guamanians have earned a deep understanding of how precarious human existence can be, whether it’s an island in the middle of the ocean or an oasis in the heart of the desert or a small, blue planet in the void of space.
Guamanians don’t just feel gratitude, they act on its behalf. As a people, they serve in the U.S. military at a higher rate than any of the 50 states.
When the Americans came and liberated us, they became family. That patriotism from our ancestors or those even living today, it continues on. And that’s an honor to be part of a nation that gives freedom, to be part of something greater than this tiny island…that’s what makes us American. —Sgt. Joleen Castro, U.S. Air Force
Their service reflects their dedication to the American ideal, yes, but it’s also an expression of inafa’maolek, or interdependence, the core value of the Chamorro people. Guamanians, at the deepest level of their tradition, celebrate collective prosperity, unity and togetherness. They celebrate the good.
Unsurprisingly, they throw incredible parties. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)