This soldier illustrates his struggles and those who support him with vivid tattoos - We Are The Mighty
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This soldier illustrates his struggles and those who support him with vivid tattoos

Ryan La Ve puts art on his body to illustrate significant people and moments from his life. He deployed to Iraq as a Military Policeman while serving in the National Guard. He made it back home from the war, but not everyone returned with him.


war ink


He took his experiences, his ongoing sleepless nights, his pain and frustration and put them into the artwork adorning his body — a gas mask, a broken robot in need of repair, a spider trapped in its own web.

La Ve’s story is part of a video series presented by We Are The Mighty. War Ink: 11 for 11 features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. During the series, 11 different tattooed veteran shared their incredible stories with us.

war ink

Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.

You can watch the full-length video on Facebook, along with the other videos in the series. Video Credit: Rebecca Murga and Karen Kraft

 

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43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

Croaker, Virginia is America’s version of Easter Island. In the grassy field that belongs to a farmer named Howard Hankins sit the crumbling heads of 43 U.S. presidents.


The heads are eighteen- to twenty-feet tall, remnants of President’s Park, an open-air kind of museum. First opened in 2004, the Mount Rushmore-inspired park was the product of Everette Newman, a Virginia native, and Houston-based sculptor David Adickes. It cost $10 million to open the park and a lack of visitors caused its bankruptcy six years later.

Read the whole story about the 43 giant presidents’ heads here.

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This Korean War plane was notoriously difficult to fly

The Vought F4U Corsair was one of the best planes that took to the air during World War II. It also saw action in the Korean War and in the 1969 Soccer War. But while the plane took out a ton of Axis thugs and Commies, it also took out more than a few of its own pilots.


This is because the Corsair was quite…tricky to fly. It had the nickname of “Ensign Eliminator” due to the difficulty many new pilots (usually with the rank of Ensign) had landing it on a carrier. The Grumman F6F Hellcat had almost as good performance – and it was a much more docile plane. So, the Navy passed the Corsair on to the Marine Corps.

In World War II, the plane also saw action with the Royal Navy and Royal New Zealand Air Force, while France bought Corsairs after the Second World War.

 

This soldier illustrates his struggles and those who support him with vivid tattoos
A Vought F4U Corsair fires rockets at ground targets on Okinawa. (DOD photo)

Hundreds of pilots did learn to fly the Corsair safely, though. Some even racked up high scores, like Gregory Boyington, who would be the top all-time Marine ace with 28 kills. For every Corsair lost, it shot down 11 enemy planes. That’s not a bad ratio. Eventually, the United States Navy would operate the Corsair off carriers to protect the fleet from kamikazes.

The plane was the “star” of the 1970s TV series “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” in which actor Robert Conrad portrayed Major Boyington in a highly fictionalized VMF-214. The dogfight scenes from the TV movie pilot, and the episodes following, are impressive to watch.

This soldier illustrates his struggles and those who support him with vivid tattoos
F4U Corsair flying over U.S. Navy forces during the Inchon landing, (Photo: US Navy)

The film below gives would-be Corsair pilots a rundown on how to fly the plane. Handling the plane takes some learning, and some of the procedures are intricate, but as the narrator points out, “There is nothing about the Corsair that good pilot technique can’t handle.”

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This is one of the largest indoor oceans ever built

Holding over 12-million gallons of water, the “MASK” — which stands for “maneuvering and seakeeping” — is one of the largest man-made indoor oceans in the world. It is located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Maryland.


The massive water containment measures 240-feet wide and 360-feet long and houses the ability to recreate real oceanic-like characteristics to help design future Naval vessels.

The facility can custom manufacture mini-ships for on-site testing. (Images via Giphy) 

Related: This is how Naval officers conduct a man overboard drill on a ‘killer tomato’

With the ability to create a variety of ocean waves, the researchers can conduct numerous tests on new ship designs at the facility before the larger version is eventually produced.

“We can do a lot of different types of testing here, everything ranging from energy efficient testing to operability,” Dr. Christopher Kent explains.
A depiction of testing video compared to operational. (Images via Giphy)
“As long as we’ve been building ships and boats, we really only started to understand how they work about the last 100 years,” naval engineer Jon Etxegoian states. “And we’re still not there yet.”

The center’s design experts work directly with Naval officials to produce the most advanced ships known to man before the blueprint is sent to the manufacturers.

Also Read: Aerial footage of the Abraham Lincoln super carrier drifting

Check out Department of Defense‘s video below to watch this man-made ocean test the Navy’s newest technologies.

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This is why everything about history’s most infamous assassination was dumb

The dark and mysterious Black Hand gives weapons and aid to a small group of revolutionaries. One of these men — with two shots — kills two people to set off the powder keg that forever changed the world.


This is history-book speak about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. To be fair, the gravity of the aftermath is immense. However, everything from the preparation, the target, the assassin, the attempts, the killing, and the initial response of Austria-Hungary was very stupid.

The Preparation

Captain Dragutin Dimitrijevic, also known as Apis (after a sacred bull worshiped in Ancient Egypt), led the secret military society known as the Black Hand. Years prior, the group had organized the May Coup in Serbia in an attempt to unify the ethnic Serbian territories free from the other Balkan states.  Within years, they had become the most feared terrorist organization in the region.

This soldier illustrates his struggles and those who support him with vivid tattoos
Apis of the Black Hand. (Photo via Wikimedia)

Apis greenlit the operation to assassinate the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. He gave the mission to a smaller group within the organization, Young Bosnia. He did this without the sanction of the full Executive Committee and then left for Sarajevo to meet all the conspirators.

When they arrived, they sat around for about a month. This was because they couldn’t get the weapons, explosives, suicide pills, or funds. They scraped together six grenades and four FN Model 1910 pistols. They would use what little ammunition they had to practice with…in the middle of a city park.

The Target

The first target was Oskar Poiorek, the governor of Bosnia. They scrapped this because of the lack of weapons. (Spoiler alert: Poiorek would ride in the same car as Ferdinand that fateful day and would make it out unharmed.) So they turned their attention to Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

This soldier illustrates his struggles and those who support him with vivid tattoos
The Archduke of Austria Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo moments before their assassination. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

He was not popular as a political leader. He was extremely prejudice against Hungarians, viewed Slavs as “less than human,” and called Serbs “pigs.” Yet, he felt that autonomy for the Czechs in Bohemia and the southern Slavic peoples in Croatia and Bosnia would strengthen the empire.

He had goals of turning the Bipartite state of Austria-Hungary into a tripartite state to include the union of the Slavic peoples. Franz Ferdinand was also absolutely against any confrontation with Russia and helped maintain peace between the two nations.

The Assassins

Coordinated by Danilo Ilic, the group Young Bosnia consisted of ten members who thought they were ready. None of them had formal training and they all had faulty gear — if they even had gear. The leader constantly bickered with Apis of the Black Hand.

This soldier illustrates his struggles and those who support him with vivid tattoos
Group Photo of Young Bosnia. Most would die by execution or in prison. But not the guy in the top right. That is Ivo Andric. He would later win a Nobel Prize for Literature. (Photo via LSE Blog)

Young Bosnia largely consisted of young men with diseases who weren’t afraid to die. They were all ready and willing to die during their missions, or even  take cyanide pills to prevent capture and execution. Too bad the pills were expired…

The Attempts

On Sunday, June 28th 1914, the Archduke and his wife died by an assassin’s bullet. But the events that lead up to Princip pulling the trigger were ridiculous.

First, Ferdinand’s car overheated. He said, “Our journey starts with an extremely promising omen. Here our car burns and down there they will throw bombs at us.” Which they did.

Assassins lined the bridges the Archduke was sure to cross. The first attempt on the his life was by Nedeljko Cabrinovic. He threw a grenade at the vehicle as it toured the city for their wedding anniversary. The grenade had a ten second delay, causing it to roll off the hood and explode under another car wounding bystanders, but not the royal couple.

Cabrinovic took one of the cyanide pills and jumped into the river below to ensure his death. The pill expired the month before and only got him sick. Also, the river was only about 4 inches deep.

He was immediately detained by police.

This soldier illustrates his struggles and those who support him with vivid tattoos
Arrest of Nedeljko Cabrinovic (Photo via Smithsonian)

Franz Ferdinand was to leave Sarajevo but changed that plan in order to visit the people wounded by the first attempt. General Potiorek urged that if they were to go, they should take a different route to arrive safely. No one told the driver, so they went down the same route that the assassins were still on.

Gavrilo Princip, who left his post to grab a sandwich, noticed the vehicle with the Archduke of Austria and the Duchess of Hohenberg.

And it stopped.

Five feet away from where Princip was eating.

He pulled out his pistol and took two shots. One hitting Franz Ferdinand in the jugular. The second shot, intended for General Potiorek, hit Sophie in the abdomen. They both died shortly after.

The Fallout

Princip attempted suicide, but he, too, had an expired cyanide pill. He then tried to shoot himself, but police wrestled the pistol from him before he could do it.

Both Princip and Cabrinovic refused to speak, but Ilic, the leader, cracked. Ilic told authorities everything about the operation and gave up everyone else involved. Both men active in the assassination were too young to die by execution according to Habsberg law. Instead, they did from tuberculosis while in prison.

They feared Princip’s bones would become relics of Slavic nationalists, so they buried him in an unmarked grave. A Czech soldier assigned to his burial gave the location away, and the remains were then placed beneath a Sarajevo chapel “to commemorate for eternity our Serb Heroes” in Sarajevo.

This soldier illustrates his struggles and those who support him with vivid tattoos
An actor reenacting the assassination in front of Princip’s statue in Sarajevo unveiled on the 100th anniversary. So as you can tell, not making him a martyr totally worked… (Photo via Baltimore Sun)

The nation honored the one man who called for peace with Russia by launching a chain of events that started the first World War.

To learn more about the assassination and World War I, check out the series “The Great War,” which details week by week the events of the first World War as it occurred one hundred years later.

(YouTube, The Great War)

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Watch this huge guided missile destroyer turn on a dime

The Arleigh Burke class of guided-missile destroyers is huge – and they are some of the most powerful ships in the world.


These 9,000-ton ships are armed with a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 vertical-launch systems (with 90 to 96 cells), two triple 324mm torpedo tubes, and a 20mm Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System. Some even carry two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.

This soldier illustrates his struggles and those who support him with vivid tattoos
USS Gonzalez at a more sedate pace. (US Navy photo)

But sometimes, the firepower ain’t the solution. Far from it, in some cases. Say the Iranians are up to their usual… antics. That is when the destroyer will need to move.

The ship can go fast – over 30 knots, thanks to her gas turbine propulsion. She also can turn – and for a ship this big, she turns on a dime.

This soldier illustrates his struggles and those who support him with vivid tattoos
USS Farragut (DDG 99) comes out of a high-speed turn. (US Navy photo)

Do those turns matter? You bet they can. The fast turn can help avoid one of those “fast attack craft” the Iranians use. If a torpedo is fired, the turn can also buy time once the ship’s AN/SLQ-25 Nixie goes off.

Torpedo seekers do not have a long range, so the turn at high speed can allow the ship to escape an attack.

This soldier illustrates his struggles and those who support him with vivid tattoos
What can happen when a torpedo hits: South Korean and American officers walk past what os left the ROK Navy corvette ROKS Cheonan (PCC 772). A non-contact homing torpedo or sea-mine exploded near the ship March 26, 2010, sinking it, resulting in the death of 46 ROK Navy sailors. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jared Apollo Burgamy)

You can see the destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) make one of these high-speed turns in this video below. Making such a turn does take practice – mostly because if the gear ain’t stowed right, there is likely to be one hell of a mess. But a mess to clean up is much better than a torpedo hit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Vih4tGmqjs
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This is where drill instructors come from

Drill Instructor School is tasked with training the Marines that make Marines.


Lasting 11 weeks, the school is considered to be 10 times harder than boot camp. Each training class starts with 60 students, but there is a 15 to 20 percent dropout rate — mostly due to injuries.

Those that complete the grueling process are granted the 0911 MOS, and will go on to serve in one of the most legendary jobs in the U.S. military…as well as the nightmares of more than a few recruits.

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Here’s the non-eco-friendly way the Navy got rid of sodium after the war

After World War II ended, the fighting forces had to figure out what to do with surplus military goods. Ships were scrapped or sunk, vehicles were sold at auction, and surpluses were sent to warehouses or auctioned out to resellers.


The Navy had a large supply of sodium that it had to get rid of. During the war, sodium was used to assist in the liquid-cooling process of large engines, in the manufacture of rocket fuel, and to purify molten metals like the steel used for Navy ships.

While most people think of sodium as something to worry about in their daily diets, it is actually a dangerous and explosive element when it’s not bonded with something else. That being the case, the Navy decided to get rid of it by dumping it into lakes.

This soldier illustrates his struggles and those who support him with vivid tattoos
GIF: YouTube/markdcatlin

The chemical reaction between the sodium and the water releases a lot of hydrogen gas and heat. (You may remember hydrogen gas from the Hindenburg disaster.) The gas is then detonated by the heat of the reaction, causing a massive explosion.

See the intense results in the video below:

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9 military ‘ghost bases’ you’ve probably never heard of

During the Wild West, many towns popped up along the trail and eventually went on to become ghost towns. Military bases, though, have sometimes become “ghost bases” – abandoned and left to rot.


Some of these ghost bases are near cities like the Big Apple. Others, like Johnston Atoll, are pretty far off – a nice getaway spot, if not for the history of being used as a storage center for Agent Orange and other interesting stuff.

This soldier illustrates his struggles and those who support him with vivid tattoos
Barrels of Agent Orange being stored at Johnston Atoll. (U.S. government photo)

The climates can be very different – from the burning sands of Johnston Atoll to the frozen flatlands of North Dakota, where America briefly operated a ballistic-missile defense system known as SAFEGUARD.

One base in Croatia that once was home for almost 50 fighter jets was abandoned during the Yugoslav civil war of 1991 – and the wrecks are mostly used by folks seeking some adventure. That base still gets “official” use for law enforcement training.

A damaged runway at the Zeljava Air Base in Croatia. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

You can even check out one abandoned facility that will soon fall into the Pacific. No, not Johnston Atoll (it was a re-claimed coral atoll built over the years long before China did the same thing in the South China Sea), but instead the Devil’s Slide bunker on the California coast. A lack of maintenance and the natural process of erosion will eventually send this coastal-defense bunker tumbling from commanding heights and into the Pacific.

But if you want one “ghost base” that has captured imaginations worldwide, you can go to either the Ukraine or Siberia to see the Duga Radar Array – an early-warning system meant to detect American missiles. Or just pick up the video games “Call of Duty: Black Ops” and “Stalker” to see representations of the array used.

This soldier illustrates his struggles and those who support him with vivid tattoos
The Duga Radar Array near Chernobyl. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

So, take a peek at this video that tells more about these and some other “ghost bases” – and tell us which “ghost base” you would like to know more about.

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Watch this stunning video of Danish F-16s intercepting a low-flying Russian bomber

The Danish Royal Air Force posted a video on August 22 of two of their fighter jets intercepting a Russian bomber, Newsweek International first reported.


The video shows two Danish F-16s flanking a Russian Tu-95 on both sides, and one Danish pilot signaling towards the bomber, near the island of Bornholm, which is between Poland and Sweden according to Newsweek.

The Danish Air Force posted the video on Facebook, but did not detail when the incident took place.


(Danish Royal Air Force | Facebook)NATO fighter jets also intercepted Russian IL-20 reconnaissance planes over the Baltic Sea three times last week, according to the Baltic News Network.

Aircraft intercepts between the west and Russia have increased since 2014, as relations between the two sides have deteriorated largely because of the conflict in Ukraine.