(As featured on MSNBC)
God Bless America and Thank Heaven for Little Girls—especially Jersey Girls! Military Spouse Magazine names its spouse of the year.

HuffPo article

Military Spouse Magazine
The ladies have a table of their own today at Nathan’s hot dog eating contest on Coney Island
Sonya Thomas, the Black Widow, is a Korean star of competitive eating

(As featured on MSNBC)
Sells bracelets with portraits of Roman Catholic saints associated with the military—the larger your wrist the more saints you can wear.
“We are a family run organization with strong ties to the military. Currently, we have a son, three nephews and two nieces in the military representing four of the five services. Our goal is to support the troops while they fight and help provide needed resources when they return.

Our organization is much more than a business to us – it is a heart-felt effort to help our troops in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy and Marines. It is a cause we experience and feel every day as we pray for our family, friends and all the armed forces in harm’s way. We thank you for your support and participation in the Battle Saint™ project!

By donating a portion of each battlesaint.com sale to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, your purchase helps support the Center for the Intrepid, a physical rehabilitation center at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas and the National Intrepid Center of Excellence for the treatment of traumatic brain injury located on the Navy campus in Bethesda, Maryland.”
Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund

(As featured on CNN)
Primarily U.S. military—but that homecoming feeling is universal
“Regardless of political stance, no one can deny the joy felt upon seeing loved-ones return home safely -- WelcomeHomeBlog.com is a site celebrating that amazing feeling. Visit daily for heartwarming stories, videos and pictures of members of our courageous armed forces returning home to their families and friends...”
Army dumps beret as official ACU [Army Combat Uniform] headgear

Army Times

My generation is conflicted: John Wayne in the movie Green Berets versus Brigitte Bardot in a Frenchie beanie-beret cooing “Love is a broken gas main.” “Airborne soldiers from the sky…” versus some Pernod-sucking Gauloises-puffing thin-mustachioed denizen of a dark Parisian café.

During my ‘Nam era ROTC/Ranger training they literally dangled a black Kangol beret in front of our noses—or as our noses were usually buried in mud, at least held it where we could see it—to encourage, um, morale. I along with many other military history buffs knew about British and Commonwealth berets. Whether the beret tipped to the left, right, or just sat there flat as a pancake with a tassel on top was a test of international military knowledge as essential as recognizing other uniforms items or rank insignia.  

I bought into the beret big time. Shaping it wet onto an upside-down bowel the size of your head is an art—they pre-shape now. Knowing how to place the beret’s front edge straight across your brow, tug on the back edge, then tug on the right tip so the flash stood straight is part of the initiation rites into an elite unit. Donning one changes your life. Of course—like Indiana Jones’ hat—it looks better on some people than it does on others. I still have my “morgue photo” studio picture for back-page article which would have been titled: Local area man killed in (fill in the blank). Long since bald with a grey fringe I fondly recall having to push my dark curly locks from my forehead up under the beret’s front edge before the shoot.

Later when I was on the Philadelphia Crime Commission, Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels turned loose on urban streets guys—and gals—sporting red berets. The gals, including his then-wife Lisa who I met in New York City, sold the look. Other fashion statements by rockers, hipsters, models, and ethnics were often dubious and less successful

Then came the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the whole US Army is wearing berets. Ex-NFL football player Pat Tillman, in a publicity still taken before he was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan, is shown wearing the tan beret that replaced the Ranger black beret when the black beret went force-wide. For better and worse it became the signature headgear of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT)—or whatever it’s now called—as recognizable as the French Foreign Legion kepi. As US fortunes rose and fell over the past decade the popularity of the beret with the troops, such as it was, seems to have dissipated.

(For details and photos see Wikipedia article)

I close with the sage words of a Green Beret major and my CO [commanding office] (who also had SAS [Special Air Service—“sand-colored” beret] training in Malaysia) that the only thing a beret is good for is keeping the tip of one ear warm! But I still consider the military beret classic, even iconic.

Huffington Post www.huffingtonpost.com is running a series of articles on the military and veterans, focusing on military families. Mostly positive, feel-good pieces with useful information and links to worthy organizations. But there’s some “downers” too.

I specialized in national defense while working for a public policy/current events database for over 15 years. In that time I covered, among other topics, Agent Orange, PTSD, Gulf War Syndrome, the VA, and veterans who are homeless and unemployed. As the chasm between our all-volunteer armed forces and civilians widened, I was curious about Want Ads with the phrase “JMO (junior military officer) preferred” I telephoned the company or agency concerned. The conversation usually went like this: do you have a veteran’s preference policy? do you hire many veterans? is the boss a veteran? are YOU a veteran? do you know any veterans? It was ugly.

Then came 9/11 and the GWOT. Now a quick internet search lists many sites offering job searching services targeting JMO’s which may in fact be legitimate. Same for vets employment services in general. But veterans’ preference points don’t mean much when government agencies aren’t hiring. And in a “down” economy veterans are all too often lumped-in with the general public. If your MOS was Mortarman you’re likely in for a rough ride; but here’s a former US Navy medic:

Out of War, Out of Luck: For Veterans, Skills Learned In Service Don't Translate To Employment

 Chinese man arrested for creating fake Army unit in scam

Before Rudy Giuliani, America’s Mayor, turned Times Square from “Slime Square” to family-friendly Disney-icky, there were several establishments that purveyed counterfeit identification cards. My fav on “The Deuce” (W. 42nd St.) was a Vietnamese refugee-run “variety store” located where the Conde Nast (infested by “Condie Nasties”) building now stands on 7th Ave. between 42nd & 43rd.  Want a “certain government agency” ID? NYPD Detective? No problem GI. Illegal keys (wink, wink)—see Our Good Friend the Shah’s former Iranian SAVAK lads across from Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT not PABR: Pabst Blue Ribbon beer). And the tokens from Triple Treat (adult) Theater and peep show worked fine in my Hells Kitchen barrio laundromat. Glory days.

Even after 9/11 websites and mail order catalogs, of dubious provenance, offer fake IDs. “Wannabes”—phony military veterans are excruciatingly irksome. Soldier of Fortune magazine
www.sofmag.com highlights this issue, as do many books, articles, websites, and even legislation. During my travels in Southeast Asia, Mexico, Central America, and assorted hot zones, I often wore genuine U.S. surplus rip-stop fatigue shirts, with cammie name strips to thwart local laundresses—but also jeans and indig hats. Good gear—and I didn’t want to be mistaken for a troopie by either good or bad guys. American tourists often mistook me for a Peace Corps volunteer. Good cover.

What I find curious about this tale—how did this guy get away with it? Parading around in paramilitary uniforms? Bay of Pigs and the CIA Cubans? Black Panthers and (alleged) jeep-mounted M-106 recoilless rifles? Timmy McVeigh and the OK City bombings? I see illegals exploited all the time in NYC: cab drivers, pizza delivery guys, whatever. This is not good.

Last summer a former business partner, who now lives in Las Vegas, and I pub-crawled Times Square. Las Vegas has changed too—in weird and wondrous ways. As we leaned against the statue base of Father Duffy, of the Fighting 69th, my friend looked about (if unfocused) and said: “Yup, Las Vegas!”
World War II: China-Burma-India Theater

Barber, Michael. “Everything ventured, everything gained: as a woman, Jane Hanks ’37 Lib wasn’t supposed to major in political science, study in China, or join a covert World War II operation; but she never let society’s restrictions stop her from living an adventurous life.” The Penn Stater March/April 2010.

Article by the author of a forthcoming biography of Emma Jane Foster Hanks. She was the only registered nurse to serve with the American Volunteer Group (AVG), the Flying Tigers, commanded by Claire Chennault during the air war against the Japanese in Burma and China in 1941-42. A political science major at Pennsylvania State University “enduring resentment from male students and faculty for treading on a field they felt was a man’s turf,” her father persuaded PSU to allow her to participate in an exchange program in China previously not open to women. She later studied nursing at Yale and worked in a settlement house as a visiting nurse. From there she was recruited into the AVG.

Known as “Red” because of her red hair she met and married John “Pete” Petach, a Curtiss P-40 fighter pilot in Kunming, China in early 1942, became pregnant, and was widowed when her husband was killed on a combat mission. Active in teaching, public service, politics and amateur athletics, she later remarried, and attended annual Flying Tigers reunions. Members of the original AVG unit were recognized as military veterans in 1995. Jane Hanks also received a Bronze Star for meritorious service.

For the “Weekend Warrior” this is good Vietnam era gear. One troopie can carry a six-pack of 16 oz. Budweiser: one can in each top pocket and two cans in each waist pocket. Another guy carries the Slim Jims and cheese stix.

M-1965 field jacket
Quoted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
M-1965 field jacket in ACU pattern. Note
the lack of shoulder epaulets, but Velcro
rank slide on the storm flap to take its place.

The M-1965 Field Jacket, also known as the M65, is a popular field jacket designed for the US military.[1] It was introduced into US military service in 1965 to replace the M-1951 field jacket still preferred by US Troops, an improvement on the M-1943 field jacket of Second World War design.[1] The M-1965 had a built in hood that rolled up and fit into a pouch on the back of the neck as opposed to the separate hood that attached to the M-1951. The M-1965 also had Velcro fasteners on the cuff.

The M-65 field jacket was widely used by United States Forces during the
Vietnam War in which the jacket became useful for troops serving in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam, as well as keeping a soldier warm from the cool weather conditions that came after monsoonal rains.[2]

Originally introduced in olive green shade 107, it is now produced in a variety of patterns including Woodland camouflage, "chocolate-chip" desert camouflage, Tigerstripe, black, navy blue, Universal Camouflage Pattern, and the Australian Disruptive Pattern Camouflage.[1] The frontmost portion of the jacket has two large hip pockets and two medium-sized breast pockets.[3] The rearmost neck portion and collar of the jacket features a zipper which houses a protective hood.[1]

The M-1965 field jacket can be combined with a button-in insulated lining for cold weather wear.

U of P Undercover  

HER alias is “Constance” but she’s anything but constant. She survives firearms training with a semi-automatic handgun but is barely able to manage not shooting herself—or her partner—me. Aware of her inconstant temper (ment) I try to avoid bringing her up to speed, but am ordered to do so. I prefigure the headline: “Man shot (one round less than the clip capacity) times by madwoman” figuring her first double-action round would go high and wide: BANG-oops. BANG! BANG!! BANG!!! Etc.

If I’m going to die I’ll die happy. She’s a Grace Kelly-esque tall slender blue-eyed ice-blonde. Valerie Plame isn’t our only good looking blonde spy. And they’re both smart too. The choice a man has in this situation is to die for a woman, over a woman, or by a woman. That’s a constant. She wants to go undercover; I want to go under-covers.

We get our chance: a suspected embezzlement case at the University of Pennsylvania. They need a discreet private investigation and turn it over to our organization. After developing a few leads into what seems to be a group of co-conspirators we target a young couple living in a rambling old Victorian-style house with a veranda-like porch in west Philadelphia that’s been subdivided into several apartments. One of them is vacant and we rent it and move in.

We pose as a couple—thank-you lord and there’ll be a little something extra in the collection plate Sunday morning. She’s given a cover assignment working as a receptionist in the Ombudsman’s office. I’m to fake a shoulder injury and hang out at the house. I have my left arm in a sling that allows me to hide a small camera to snap photos of people coming and going. Not original but effective.

One of the main principles of undercover work is constancy. Develop consistent stories habits and routines—then don’t change them. Soon enough you’ll fade into the background and be able to go about your business unsuspected and unchallenged. Above all don’t draw unwanted attention to yourself. And pray you don’t get inquisitive—or worse—overly friendly neighbors.

There are complications: a social-worky-type couple living across the hall from us. The distaff side is always at the door and in our place, which means we have to keep surveillance materials hidden. Good tradecraft in any circumstance but this is Constance’s first undercover assignment and of course there’s no such thing as perfection in any human endeavor.

Our first slip-up is smoking. I’m supposed to be spending a lot of time out on the front porch surveilling, “healing” my bum shoulder, and smoking my cigars. The cover story is that my ever-loving spouse won’t let me smoke in our apartment, so I’m banished outdoors. Fine. So far.

But dear Constance picks the worst possible moment to decide to quit smoking herself. The time to work on changing bad habits is NOT when you’re undercover. The stress of being covert is enough.  In fact a few bad habits can help you in certain situations.

She falls off the wagon and lights-up inside the apartment. I walk into the hallway from the porch with our neighbor gal and immediately smell cigarette smoke. Her husband abstains as does she. So I open the door to our apartment and blue haze billows out. The whole stakeout is now on the line due to inconstancy! So I stalk in and in totally fake outrage pull her over my knees and spank her bottom. Try that again sister! Please… After that incident she tells our neighbors that if they ever catch her smoking to notify me immediately—and I will take appropriate measures!

But she didn’t shoot me.

The case develops apace and in a few weeks we’re ready to wrap-up the undercover phase of the investigation, pack-up, and fade away into the night.  Then a snag. The city District Attorney is now involved and we have to stay in-place a little while longer. Not that I’m complaining. But Constance is getting bored and I’m getting on her nerves. I’m one of those guys who’s housebroken but not domesticated.

Our neighbor lady is yet again in our place and Constance and I are having a real-life fuss-fuss cat-spat about something-or-other-totally-not-important. I decide to “go macho” sweep her up into my arms and, as the English say, “interfere with her person” just to impress our neighbor with my affection and esteem for my, at least for the moment, partner.

I manage to maneuver her onto her back onto the sofa and proceed to molest her. She feigns interest in my attentions. Then the phone rings. She so offhandedly leans over to pick-up the receiver—that she totally spoils the mood and my nefarious intentions.

Blown cover.

But she didn’t shoot me.