The Depot

What Qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal Veteran?

The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA), as amended (38 U.S.C. § 4212), prohibits discrimination against protected veterans. Under VEVRAA, a veteran may be classified as a “disabled veteran,” “recently separated veteran,” “active duty wartime or campaign badge veteran,” or “Armed Forces Service Medal veteran.” These classes of veterans are known as protected veteran status.

What qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran?

Most recently in 2020, the Department of Defense announced the approval of the award of the Armed Forces Service Medal to eligible military personnel for qualifying coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) operations and activities. The period of the award is from Jan. 31, 2020 to a date to be determined.

Prior to those dates, the Armed Forces Service Medal had been issued several times dating back to 1992 for operations in Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Haiti, and other locations both overseas and domestically. Award of the medal granted veterans who earned it protected status. What qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran?

An Armed Forces Service Medal veteran is defined as a veteran who, while serving on active duty in the U.S. military, ground, naval or air service, participated in a U.S. military operation for which an Armed Forces Service Medal was awarded pursuant to Executive Order 12985, Establishing the Armed Forces Service Medal, Jan. 11, 1996.

Veterans unsure of their status as a protected veteran might ask what qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran? The best place to start is with a veteran’s DD Form 214. Any awards that have been earned while on active service will be listed on the 214.

The Armed Forces Service Medal is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who participate as members of U.S. military units in a military operation that is deemed significant by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and encounter no foreign armed opposition or imminent threat of hostile actions, so that might answer the question what qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran? But for the sake of granularity, the Armed Forces Service Medal is presented for participation in peacekeeping operations, prolonged humanitarian operations, and U.S. military operations in direct support of the United Nations or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and for operations of assistance to friendly foreign nations.

What qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran? Active duty, reserve and National Guard personnel are eligible for the Armed Forces Service Medal as outlined in DoD Manual 1348.33, DoD Manual of Military Decorations and Awards — Campaign, Expeditionary, and Service Medals. The military department secretaries ordinarily determine eligibility for award to service members in his or her respective military department based on DoD award criteria. The chief of the National Guard Bureau determines eligibility for National Guard members who do not fall under the purview of a secretary of a military department. But what qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran or a protected veteran is determined by first earning the award.

Why do Navy Seals Use a Sig P226?

The M1911 .45 caliber handgun is more than 100 years old and U.S. military personnel carried the firearm in several different U.S. conflicts to include World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Grenada and of course the Cold War. It was the standard-issue sidearm from 1911 to around 1986.

A favorite of troops who carried it because of its reliability and stopping power, the M1911 became of victim of government bureaucracy with many uniformed admirers wondering, if it wasn’t broke, why did the U.S. military try to fix it?

The Beretta 92FS, also known as the M9 in the U.S. inventory, entered the picture as the heir apparent of the M1911’s legacy. With the M9, the U.S. military promised an easier to shoot and maintain handgun that had more ammo capacity, but for those who had the privilege of shooting the M1911, there was no comparison.

In the mid-1980s all uniformed services would adopt the M9 as their primary handgun. But within the U.S. Navy SEAL community, because the M9 had some mechanical and performance issues during testing, the SEALs decided to go their own way and find a handgun that would work in their operational world. What they eventually found was the Sig Sauer P226 and for more than three decades SEALs have carried the P226 into battle in Panama, Somalia, Haiti, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Why do Navy Seals use a Sig P226? First, a little about its history. The P226 was developed by Sig Sauer as a replacement for the M1911, however by the end of the competition with other arms manufacturers, the P226 came in second place to the Beretta M9. The P226 was a variant of the P220, the sidearm of many militaries worldwide and it was run through extensive testing to ensure that the performance problems discovered with the M9 would not occur with the Sig.

Sig (Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft) Sauer was founded in 1853 in Switzerland. In 1976, Sig’s firearms division partnered with Sauer & Sohn, Germany’s oldest firearms manufacturer at the time, founded in 1751. The rest is history, as they say. The P226 became the Mk. 25 to Navy SEALs and they went into service in 1989. But why do Navy Seals use a Sig P226? We’re getting to that.

The P226 has a shorter barrel than the M9 and for warriors who sometimes fight in close quarters, that matters. The P226 slide is made of stainless steel for increased strength which prevents mishaps and failures like the ones that happened during M9 testing. The slide is also corrosion resistant due to ferritic nitrocarburizing, a treatment that helps protect against corrosion which is critical given SEALs are often immersed in saltwater. The P226’s chamber and barrel are chrome lined which is also a plus for those who operate in wet or dusty environments. The P226 weighs just shy of two pounds with a loaded magazine whereas the M9 weighs in at 2.5 pounds. A lighter weapon makes for a more agile warrior. So those reasons might answer the question, why do Navy Seals use a Sig P226? But there are more reasons to love this handgun.

The P226 is a single- or double-action pistol, depending on the shooter’s preference and it has a decocker much like the M9, that releases the hammer without firing a round. Unlike the Beretta, it has no manual safety. However, there are safeties designed into the weapon that prevent accidental discharge. The P226 has fifteen round capacity, night sights and a Picatinny rail so warriors can customize their weapon. And of course, the handgun has an anchor on the slide denoting that it is the chosen firearm of Navy SEALs. Why do Navy Seals use a Sig P226? For many of the reasons listed above. It was a weapon that they tested and modified specifically for their missions.

But like the M1911, all good things must come to an end. In 2015, the Glock 19, a compact 9 mm, was added to the SEAL handgun inventory. The SEALs plan to eventually replace the P226s with the newer Glocks.

For now, the M9 continues to be the primary sidearm for U.S. uniformed personnel worldwide and the P226 continues to be the primary handgun of the SEALs.

Why do Navy Seals use a Sig P226? The simple answer is the weapon has proven itself in service for more than 30 years.

The History of Women in the U.S. Coast Guard

“How many females are in the Coast Guard?” That question usually leads to the discovery that few know very little about the Coast Guard, much less about the gender composition of its ranks. But the question remains, how many females are in the Coast Guard which encouraged us to explore women in the Coast Guard.

Women have made considerable strides in the U.S. military in the past few decades gaining access to once male-only occupational specialties, but more than 200 years ago, women serving in what would eventually become the U.S. Coast Guard blazed a trail into American history that few know about. I doubt back then anyone was asking how many females are in the Coast Guard?

In the English colonies, many women worked with their husbands and fathers to keep lighthouses operating for mariners. Many of these women worked the lighthouses themselves when their husbands left for the Revolutionary War and if they served as militia.

During the 1830s, according to the U.S. Coast Guard history office, women were first officially assigned as keepers in the Lighthouse Service (a predecessor of the Coast Guard). Civilian women continued as lighthouse keepers until 1948 when Fannie Mae Salter, keeper of the Turkey Point Lighthouse in upper Chesapeake Bay retired from active service. This ended nearly 150 years during which women were employed as keepers of United States’ lighthouses.

In 1918, the U.S. Navy assigned twin sisters Genevieve and Lucille Baker of the Naval Coastal Defense Reserve to the Coast Guard. They became the first uniformed women to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard.

During World War II, the Women’s Reserve of the U. S. Coast Guard Reserve (officially nicknamed the “SPARs”) was first established in 1942. If anyone asked “how many females are in the Coast Guard” they would likely be told that there were more than 900 female officers and 11,868 enlisted women serving in the SPARs during World War II. The program was dissolved in 1947.

The Women’s Armed Services Act of 1948 integrated women into the regular Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. However, the legislation did not mention the Coast Guard likely because the service fell under the Department of the Treasury. Nonetheless, the Coast Guard made its way and by 1956 there were nine enlisted women and 12 female officers in the Coast Guard.

The 1970s saw tremendous broadening of opportunities for women in the Coast Guard. It was almost as if someone asked how many females are in the Coast Guard? And then the Coast Guard started taking steps to open opportunities to women.  The first women’s Reserve Enlisted Basic Indoctrination classes were established in 1972 and four ratings were made available: yeoman, storekeeper, radioman, and hospital corpsman.

In 1973, congressional legislation ended the Women’s Reserve and women were officially integrated into the active-duty Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Reserve. The ratings offered were limited to yeoman, storekeeper, hospital corpsman, photo-journalist, dental technician, and musician. Also, in 1973, the first non-SPARs women since 1945 were admitted to officer candidate school and Chief Warrant Officer Alice T. Jefferson became the first woman commissioned officer to be sworn into the regular U.S. Coast Guard.

In 1973, officer candidate school graduate Vivien Crea as a lieutenant commander became the first Coastie, and the first woman from any uniformed military service, to serve as the presidential military aide, carrying the nuclear “football” for President Ronald Reagan for three years. In 2000, Crea became the first active-duty Coastie female to achieve flag rank and second after Coast Guard reservist flag Mary O’Donnell. In 2006, Crea became the 25th vice-commandant of the Coast Guard and she was the first woman to hold the second highest position in the Coast Guard or in any military service and, while serving as acting commandant, she was the first woman in U.S. history to oversee a uniformed military service.

In early 1974, the first group of women enlisted as “regulars’ reported to recruit company Sierra 89 which was made up of 33 women in an all-female recruit company. Thirty of these women graduated. After Sierra 89, recruit companies were mixed-gender. Also in that year, Karen F. Rovinsky became the first woman assigned to a patrol boat and Eleanor L’Ecuyer became the first woman on active duty promoted to captain (O-6) since World War II.

In 1975, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy announced that women would no longer be barred from applying to the academy. In February 1976, the Coast Guard Academy announced the appointments of female cadets to enter with the Class of 1980. The Coast Guard Academy becomes the first of the largest federal service academies (Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard) to offer academy appointments to women. Thirteen women would eventually graduate from the academy in 1980. Later that year, Debra Chambers Buchanan and Debra Lee Wilson became the first female coxswains in the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard aviation saw a first in 1977 when Janna Lambine became the first woman designated as a Coast Guard aviator. In August 1978, the Coast Guard announced that all personnel restrictions based solely on sex would be lifted. Thereafter all officer career fields and enlisted ratings were open to women.

Beverly Kelley became the first female commanding officer afloat in U.S. history when she took command of the Cutter Cape Newagen in 1977.

Lt. Colleen Cain became the first woman killed in the line of duty in 1982 when the HH-52 she was co-piloting crashed during a search and rescue mission. In 1981, she had become the first female to qualify on that helicopter and the third female Coast Guard aviator ever

How many females are in the Coast Guard in 1983? There were 129 women officers in the Coast Guard, 35 were serving aboard seagoing vessels and five were aircraft pilots. Female enlisted strength in the same year rose to 1,747, including 85 enlisted women at sea.

In 1998, there was only one female Coast Guard flag officer. By 2013, there were four and today there are seven serving up to the three-star rank.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, Lt. Holly Harrison became the first Coast Guard woman to command a cutter in a combat zone. 

In 2011, Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz assumed command of the U. S. Coast Guard Academy and became the first woman superintendent. She was also the first woman to command any U.S. service academy. Stosz also happens to be the first female graduate of the academy to reach the flag rank.

How many females are in the Coast Guard? Today nearly 6,500 women serve out of a total number of 42,000 active duty service members, or approximately 15 percent of the Coast Guard’s active duty personnel.

How To Display Military Medals in a Shadow Box

Serving in the U.S. military is not about the individual. Our men and women in uniform perform their duty for many reasons. Some are patriotic and serve because of love of country. Others feel that their duty is to care for the person standing to the left and right of them in the ranks. And some feel an obligation, a debt, to give back to the country. Whatever the reason for their service, one thing is certain, those who serve do so unselfishly, putting the needs of the nation, the service branch and their units before their own.

Once a military member hangs up his or her boots, many veterans capture and preserve their military service by creating a shadow box or having one ordered. Shadow boxes capture a unique period in a person’s life and unlike the selfless military duty that the contents represent, shadow boxes should be customized and personal, regardless of whether you put them together yourself, or allow a professional to assemble it for you.

There is no incorrect way to display your service pride in a shadow box. What goes into a shadow box is completely up to the individual whose service is reflected in the box. While military medals are for most veterans the primary items that are encased in a shadow box, it isn't uncommon to see ka-bars displayed alongside of military medals in shadow boxes, dog leashes and collars sharing a shadow box with military medals and even an old c-rations can that had a piece of shrapnel in it, proudly displayed alongside of military medals, patches, pins and stripes. Each shadow box is unique to the individual it represents because each person’s military experience is so unique to them.

For many, shadow boxes include a veteran’s rank, earned badges, professional designations and qualifications, and of course military medals, awards and decorations. Some believe that because the military is a place of order and discipline, that a shadow box has to be structured accordingly. Not true. If an individual wants his shadow box to only include his Purple Heart, dog tags and his Zippo lighter, then his or her shadow box should only include those items. If the veteran does not want the rest of their military medals included in the box, they’ve earned the right to determine what is best reflective of their military service.

However, if a veteran decides to display medals and ribbon racks, then it is advisable to place the medals and ribbons in order of precedence according to the veteran’s military branch. This not only shows respect for the services and the awards and decorations, but also to the millions of individuals who might have earned the military medals.

Ranks, if included in the shadow box, should probably go in order of precedence as well just to make it easier to explain to individuals who are unfamiliar with military service.

The bottom line is that there is no limit to what can be included in a shadow box. Flags and photographs can also be included along with other mementos from a veteran’s military service, as well as military medals. What goes into a military shadow box and how it is arranged is completely up to the veteran.

2021 Guide to the U.S. Coast Guard Festival

Since 1924, U.S. Coast Guard personnel have descended on Grand Haven, Michigan, affectionately known as “Coast Guard City, USA,” to participate in the U.S. Coast Guard Festival that honors the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard. It is a badge of honor for the small Western Michigan city which earned the designation officially from the U.S. Congress on November 13, 1998.  

The yearly event began as a picnic when a Michigan Coast Guard station held rowing competitions for those stationed in Grand Haven. The picnic, over the years, transformed into the U.S. Coast Guard Festival (around 1937) that provides family friendly activities with a focus on the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard serving in the West Michigan area, and celebrating the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.

These days, the U.S. Coast Guard Festival has an attendance of more than 350,000 people, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Coast Guard leaders also attend the multi-day event.

Grand Haven was the first city to be designated as “Coast Guard City, USA” by an act of Congress that was signed by President Bill Clinton on November 13, 1998. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 28 cities now share that designation, but only Grand Haven is host to the U.S. Coast Guard Festival.

In 2020, due to COVID-19, the U.S. Coast Guard Festival was cancelled, but ordinarily there’s a long list of stuff to see and do.

First, who doesn’t love a parade? If you’ve got kids, be sure to check the Kids Parade that includes families, children’s organizations, and marching bands, to name a few. If you’re really a parade fan, then be sure to catch the Coast Guard Grand Parade, one of the largest and most popular parades in Michigan. Nearly 100,000 people crowd downtown Grand Haven to show their appreciation for the men and women of the Coast Guard. It is one of the major draws of the U.S. Coast Guard Festival.

Is all that parade watching making you hungry? Well, there are a lot of opportunities to eat at the U.S. Coast Guard Festival. There’s a variety of food and it’s a lot like visiting a carnival midway. Plus, local eateries are all welcoming and entice you with their bill of fare.

Once you’re done pigging out, work off that elephant ear by running in the annual Coast Guard Run. The race route is beautiful offering incredible views of Lake Michigan and the Grand Haven pier and lighthouse. Not a big runner? No worries, the course lengths vary from a mini obstacle course to one mile, 5K and 10K routes. You can also just cheer on the runners as you slurp down a beverage of choice.

After you’ve cooled off from your run (or from your cheering), check out some of the Coast Guard ships which are available for tours free of charge at the Grand Haven pier. When you’re done chatting with the crews, you can stroll down the street to Grand Haven’s Central Park and visit the hundreds of crafters at the Coast Guard Craft Fair which is an outdoor marketplace of handcrafted goods by some of Michigan’s best craftspersons.

If you didn’t run the Coast Guard Run, try the Walk of Coast Guard History, created to recognize the history of the U.S. Coast Guard and the City of Grand Haven. Each year a historical location is chosen by the U.S. Coast Guard Festival committee and a brass Coast Guard seal is installed at the historical site. The sites are located throughout Grand Haven.

Once the sun goes down, Washington Street in downtown Grand Haven is closed so festival attendees can dance in the street. All types of music can be heard. Lastly, look towards the night sky because the U.S. Coast Guard Festival’s fireworks display is bound to please.

Whether you are in the Coast Guard, celebrating someone who was in the Coast Guard or if you’re just interested in attending a great summer-time event that has something to offer the whole family, make the U.S. Coast Guard Festival a must-see event.

The National Guard Birthday

The National Guard turns 384 years old on December 13 celebrating the service and sacrifices made by its men and women in communities, states, territories and around the world. The National Guard birthday marks a significant milestone in the nation’s development of military forces.

“The Guard,” as it is affectionately known to many in uniform, has served in all U.S. wars, responded to state and national emergencies, and they are usually one of the first entities to enter natural disaster areas in the aftermath of flooding, hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, earthquakes and other tragic events. In June 2020, nearly 84,000 guardsmen were engaged in domestic efforts involving natural disasters, COVID-19, counterdrug missions and responding to civil unrest across all states and territories and the District of Columbia, according to the Defense Department. As we prepare to celebrate the National Guard birthday, they are still on duty all around the world.

The missions the Guard performs today are far more complex than the role they served centuries ago, but at their core, they are the same in purpose. The Guard supports its local communities no different than the early American militias supported their villages in Colonial America. Like today, militiamen responded to emergencies whenever their towns called them to muster.

Historians in the National Guard Bureau and the U.S. Army Center of Military History claim that the Army National Guard can trace its lineage back to 1636 when English colonial militias were formed to fight against the Pequot tribe in Massachusetts. However, other historians, including the Florida National Guard historian, have argued that the oldest European militias with lineage to current American military forces are the Spanish militias which are a part of the Florida National Guard’s history dating back to 1565 when Spanish militias first mustered in St. Augustine, Florida. Some historians, including some in the National Guard, believe that Spanish Black Legend may have influenced the National Guard Bureau’s 1950s decision to credit Massachusetts militias as the first European militias to muster in North America.

While the date of the National Guard birthday can be debated, the fact that the National Guard is nearly 140 years older than the U.S. Army is a point of pride for the National Guard. In 1636, the first Anglo-Saxon militia regiments in North America were organized in Massachusetts based on an order of the Massachusetts Bay Colony General Court.

The militia was organized into three regiments to defend the colony. The descendants of those first regiments, the 181st Infantry, 182nd Infantry, 101st Field Artillery, and the 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, are considered by the National Guard Bureau to be the oldest units in the U.S. military and some of the oldest military units in the world. December 13, 1636, the date those three militias mustered, marks the National Guard birthday, according to the National Guard Bureau and the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

What colonial militiamen called a “muster,” National Guard personnel now call “drill.” The English militias first mustered in Salem, Massachusetts, three months after the general court had ordered their assembly and that date is now known as the National Guard birthday by the National Guard Bureau.

According to National Guard historians, the militia concept was one used by the Romans. The Spanish used militia, or “milicia” in the 1500s when they explored the world more than 70 years earlier than the English. Citizens were responsible for organizing themselves into military units and providing their own defense against threats. There weren’t uniforms or even uniformity of weapons and supplies.

When conditions for the Revolutionary War began to form, the English militias switched flags, like the colonial citizenry, and they became American militias. It was colonial militia at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts that fired the first rounds in the War of American Independence against British troops in April 1775. Those English militia turned American militias would join the newly formed Continental Army and serve alongside of the newly minted national army which had formed in June 1775. This distinction is often justifiably celebrated during the National Guard birthday.

The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and it created a new nation. Colonists once former British subjects, became Americans. The new American nation, as a whole, did not claim its lineage and birthdate to those first Anglo Saxons who arrived in the 1600s because those English colonists were still subjects of the British crown. America used July 4, 1776 as its birthday. However, the National Guard Bureau aligns its military lineage with the English colonial militias and not April 1775 when the English colonial militias officially took up arms against the British crown and they became American militias. The National Guard Bureau does not recognize April 19, 1775 as the National Guard birthday.

The National Defense Act of June 1916, signed by President Woodrow Wilson mandated use of the term “National Guard,” a term which had been used by New York’s militia before the Civil War. The law expanded the size and scope of the network of states’ militias and it defined the National Guard’s role as a permanent reserve force to augment active forces. The law also brought the militias under greater federal control and gave the president authority to mobilize National Guard forces for national emergencies.



The National Guard birthday is separate from the birthday of the Air National Guard which is September 18, 1947, the same as the birthday of the U.S. Air Force. On this date, the National Security Act of 1947 authorized legislation for the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard. National Guard Army Air Forces transferred to the Air National Guard as a reserve component of the Air Force.

The oldest Air National Guard unit is the 102nd Rescue Squadron of the New York Air National Guard. This unit was originally organized in the New York National Guard as the Aero Company, Signal Corps, on Nov. 22, 1915. The oldest Air National Guard unit in continuous service is the 109th Airlift Squadron of the Minnesota Air National Guard. It was organized as the 109th Observation Squadron Jan. 17, 1921.

The Armed Forces Medley

The Armed Forces Medley, sometimes known as the Armed Forces Salute, is the collection of the official songs of the six military uniformed services of the United States performed in order of precedence. The U.S. Space Force does not yet have a song, but the other songs, when played as a medley, are usually played in this order: Semper Paratus,  Space Force Song (unnamed as of today), The U.S. Air Force, Anchors Aweigh, the Marines’ Hymn and The Army Goes Rolling Along. 

U.S. Coast Guard
According to U.S. Coast Guard history office, no one seems to know exactly how Semper Paratus was chosen as the Coast Guard’s motto. However, there is no doubt about who made the motto into music. In 1927, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Francis Saltus Van Boskerck wrote the music of what would become the Coast Guard song on a dilapidated piano in Alaska that belonged to the wife of a fur trader, likely the only piano on the Aleutian Islands. 

The current verse, as well as a second chorus, were written by Homer Smith, 3rd Naval District Coast Guard quartet and Lieutenant Walton Butterfield in 1943. In 1969, the first line of the chorus was changed from “So here's the Coast Guard marching song, we sing on land and sea” to “We’re always ready for the call, we place our trust in Thee.”

These are the lyrics to the truncated version of Semper Paratus which is usually performed with the Armed Forces Medley.

We’re always ready for the call, we place our trust in Thee.
Through surf and storm and howling gale, high shall our purpose be.
“Semper Paratus” is our guide, our fame, our glory, too.
To fight to save or fight and die, aye! Coast Guard we are for you!

U.S. Air Force
In 1938, Liberty magazine at the urging of the Army Air Corps leaders, decided to have a song-writing contest and offered $1,000 prize to the winning composer if they penned a song about the U.S. Army Air Corps. More than 700 compositions were received but it was Robert MacArthur Crawford who wrote the winning song in 1939.

Adopted in the late 1940s, the song is often referred to as the Wild Blue Yonder, but it is officially called, The U.S. Air Force. Crawford originally named the song “Army Air Corps” but during World War II, the service was renamed “Army Air Forces” and the song title was changed. In 1947, when the Air Force became a separate service, the song was retitled, The U.S. Air Force.

Crawford during World War I attempted to become a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Service but was found to be underage. During World War II, Crawford flew for the Air Transport Command of the U.S. Army Air Force. 

These are the lyrics to the truncated version of The U.S. Air Force which is usually performed with the Armed Forces Medley.

Off we go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder, at ‘em now, give ‘em the gun!
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under, off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey! Nothing’ll stop the U.S. Air Force!

The song in May 2020 went through its final rewrite to make the song gender neutral.

U.S. Navy
Anchors Aweigh is the fight song of the U.S. Naval Academy as well as the song of the U.S. Navy. It was composed in 1906 by Charles A. Zimmermann with lyrics by Alfred Hart Miles. When he composed Anchors Aweigh, Zimmermann was a lieutenant and the bandmaster of the U.S. Naval Academy Band. Miles was a midshipman at the academy, a part of the class of 1907. Miles asked Zimmermann to help him compose a song for his class. Another academy midshipman, Royal Lovell would write the third verse.

These are the lyrics to the truncated version of Anchors Aweigh which is usually performed with the Armed Forces Medley.

Anchors Aweigh, my boys, anchors aweigh!
Farewell to foreign shores, we sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay;
Through our last night ashore, drink to the foam,
Until we meet once more, here’s wishing you a happy voyage home!

U.S. Marine Corps
According to the U.S. Marine Band, The Marines’ Hymn is the oldest service song in the nation. The music to the hymn is believed to have originated in the opera Geneviéve de Brabant composed by the French composer Jacques Offenbach. Originally written in 1859, Offenbach revised the work and expanded it in 1867. The revised version included the song “Couplets des Deux Hommes d’Armes” and is the musical source of The Marines’ Hymn.

The author of the words to the hymn is unknown. In 1929 the commandant of the Marine Corps authorized the following verses of The Marines’ Hymn. These are the lyrics to the truncated version of The Marines’ Hymn which is usually performed with the Armed Forces Medley.

From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country’s battles in the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom and to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title of United States Marine.

U.S. Army
According to the U.S. Army Band, The Army Goes Rolling Along was originally written by field artillery officer Edmund L. Gruber while stationed in the Philippines in 1908. Interestingly, according to the U.S. Army Band, one of Gruber’s relatives wrote the holiday classic, Silent Night.

Gruber initially titled the Army song the Caisson Song. Years later, the Army song was adapted into a march by John Philip Sousa and renamed The Field Artillery Song. During World War I, more than 750,000 copies of the song sold and Gruber eventually cashed in, demanding Sousa pay him a portion of the royalties since he was the original author.

In 1956, Gruber’s song became the official song of the Army and it was retitled, The Army Goes Rolling Along. The lyrics were rewritten by Harold Arberg who was a music advisor to the Army’s adjutant general. These are the lyrics to the truncated version of The Army Goes Rolling Along which is usually performed with the Armed Forces Medley.

First to fight for the right and to build the Nation’s might,
and the Army goes rolling along.
Proud of all we have done, fighting till the battle’s won,
and the Army goes rolling along.
Then it’s Hi! Hi! Hey! The Army's on its way.
Count off the cadence loud and strong.
For where ever we go, you will always know, that the Army goes rolling along.

When the Armed Forces Medley is played, veterans of the services and current active duty and National Guard and reserve members, whether or not they are in uniform are asked to stand as their service song plays.

Today in Marine Corps History

If you’re a Marine or just a big fan of Marines, here’s some information to help you recognize their major milestones over the course of American history.

November 10, 1775: The Continental Congress passes legislation that two Marine battalions be raised for service as landing parties in the Continental Navy. The Marines served throughout the Revolutionary War, but in 1783 at the end of the war, they were completely disbanded. In 1798, 15 years later, they would be formed again. Despite the break in service, Nov. 10, 1775 is still considered to be the “birthday” of the U.S. Marines Corps. So, today in Marine Corps history marks the birthday of the Marine Corps.

March 3, 1776:  Today in Marine Corps history, the Marines descended on Fort Nassau in the Bahamas. The British military had been storing munitions in the Bahamas for use against the colonies in the Revolutionary War. Initially, more than 200 barrels of gunpowder were moved from Virginia to the Bahamas by the British. Learning of the cache, the newly formed Continental Marines sailed to the Bahamas with 235 Marines and captured not just full stores of gunpowder, but also other weapons. The British surrendered within minutes after the Marines came ashore.

April 27, 1805: Today in Marine Corps history the Battle of Derna began. There are a lot of misconceptions from this battle, but what isn’t up for debate is that it was a decisive victory. The battle was led by U.S. Army Lt. William Eaton who helped organize a mercenary army which included eight U.S. Marines under the command of U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Presley Neville O’Bannon. Pirates were raiding ships off the Barbary Coast so American forces were sent to protect American ships. The eight Marines who fought there wore high leather collars with their uniforms to protect against saber cuts, hence their nickname, “leathernecks.” The force landed and after recruiting a multinational force which included Greeks and Arabs, they marched 600 miles to Derna, Libya where they fought. They also rescued the crew of the USS Philadelphia which had been held hostage. The victory helped secure trading areas and protected U.S. ships. It was the first victory for the Marines on a foreign land and the first time U.S. forces, albeit a tiny force, fought on foreign soil.

Sept. 13, 1847: Today in Marine Corps history the Battle of Chapultepec was fought as part of the Mexican American War. More than 7,000 U.S. Army soldiers, including Ulysses Grant, George Pickett, James Longstreet, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, and 400 U.S. Marines fought their way into the Palacio Nacional. Accounts vary from those who were there, but about 40 Marines participated in the storming of the castle. Marines suffered a 90 percent casualty rate. The battle would earn a place in the Marine Corps Hymn as “The Halls of Montezuma.” The palacio is still used today by the Mexican government. Marine Corps tradition maintains that the red stripe is worn on the trousers of the dress blues uniform, known as the blood stripe, to show respect for the Marine non-commissioned and commissioned officers who died while storming Chapultepec, even though iterations of the stripe predate the war.

June 7, 1918: Today in Marine Corps history, outside of Paris in Belleau Wood, the 4th Marine Brigade fixed bayonets and charged at the enemy. They endured low supplies, heavy casualties and blistering enemy fire. After 20 days of intense fighting against the Germans, the Marines won the battle and the Germans labeled them “Devil Dogs” for fighting so tenaciously.

Feb. 23, 1945: Today in Marine Corps history the Marines were sent in to capture airfields on Iwo Jima. The battle lasted 36 days and the Marines struggled with high casualties, terrain that was full of tunnels (and enemy), and a relentless Japanese military that would die rather than surrender. Early in the battle, a group of Marines raised the flag over Mt. Suribachi as a way to encourage Marines below to keep fighting. Later, Marines returned to that summit and replaced the flag with a larger one. The iconic moment was photographed and is likely the most known image of World War II.

Nov. 27, 1950: Today in Marine Corps history, at the Chosin Reservoir, the 1st Marine Division found itself surrounded and outnumbered 8 to 1 by the Chinese Army. Without air support, the Marines were cut off and were forced to fight in temperatures reaching -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Nonetheless, the “Chosin Few” as they would be called, killed 10 Chinese divisions and fought their way back to the sea as UN forces retreated.

March 2, 1968: Today in Marine Corps history, after 33 days of fighting in what is considered the longest and bloodiest battle of the Vietnam War, outnumbered Marines fought a vicious battle in Hue City against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces. The battle started with the Tet Offensive on the first night of the Vietnamese lunar new year and hundreds of attacks were launched across the country. In the end, after block by block fighting, the Marines retook the city.

Jan. 17, 1991: Today in Marine Corps history, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, a coalition of international forces launched Operation Desert Storm to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Marine aviators used airpower to help destroy Iraq’s air and naval forces, antiair defenses and missile launchers. The 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions attacked through Iraq’s southern border while 8,000 Marines kept the Iraqi army distracted in the north. The ground war lasted less than 100 hours.

Nov. 25, 2001: Today in Marine Corps history, just two months after the 9-11 attacks, about 1,000 Marines were the first major conventional ground force in Afghanistan sent to fight Al-Qaeda. In 2004, Afghanistan held its first elections. In June 2010, the war in Afghanistan became the longest war in U.S. history. The war is still being fought and more than 114,000 Marines have served in Afghanistan. Two Marines, Dakota Meyer and Kyle Carpenter earned the Medal of Honor in Afghanistan.

March 19, 2003: Today in Marine Corps history, the U.S. military launches the invasion of Iraq first by air, then by land as Marines fight in Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein. While they served in many roles and in many fights, their most known is Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah in November 2004. The majority of Marine battles were fought in urban environments making the fighting challenging because of booby traps and an enemy that often used remotely detonated weapons to fight. Jason Dunham was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq.

Celebrities Who Served in the Military

Whether they are sports legends, movie stars, artists, or musicians, there are numerous celebrities who served in the military and have worn the uniform. Some of these celebrities who served in the military spent a few years in the ranks, others didn’t last that long, and just a few made a career out of it.

I can’t write about all of them, but here is a list of celebrities who served in the military, two celebrities for every branch.

U.S. Army
Pat Tillman was a National Football League (NFL) player who felt compelled to serve after the 9-11 attacks. Once he completed his 2001 season, he left his sports career and a $3 million yearly contract and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2002, eventually becoming a Ranger. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and he was mistakenly killed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2004, according to the Army. His death and the Army’s attempt to cover it up was controversial. According to those who served with him, Tillman was a popular soldier and he exemplified the Ranger Creed. Tillman was the first professional football player to be killed in combat since Bob Kalsu who was killed in the Vietnam War in 1970.

James Earl Jones is known for his voice and his commanding presence on the movie screen, but he is also one of our celebrities who served in the military. Jones attended the University of Michigan where he was a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1953 and he completed the Infantry Officers Basic Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. He later attended Ranger school. His immediately recognizable voice is due in large part to the fact that he is the voice of Star Wars villain Darth Vader for the first movies in the series. He is also the voice who tells news viewers that they are watching CNN and many adults once knew him when they were children as the voice of Mufasa in Disney’s animated film, The Lion King.

Other famous celebrities who served in the military are Army veterans singer/actor Elvis Presley, rock star Jimi Hendrix, singer/songwriter/actor Kris Kristofferson, television host Pat Sajak, baseball player Jackie Robinson, actor/comedian Mel Brooks, cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, rapper/actor Ice-T, actor Mr. T, and crooner Tony Bennett.

U.S. Marine Corps
Bob Keeshan enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1945 hoping to get into the fight against the Japanese in World War II, but he never made it overseas. He did earn his Eagle, Globe and Anchor. After the Corps, Keeshan went on to create Captain Kangaroo, an immensely successful television show for kids which aired from 1955 to 1984 and rivaled the success of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Keeshan died in 2004.

Actor Adam Driver, is the second Marine in our list to be a Star Wars villain. He played Kylo Ren and has seen great success as a movie star after he left the Marine Corps where he was discharged after almost three years of service for an injury that he received mountain biking. Since leaving the Corps, Driver studied acting at the Juilliard School, has been on Broadway and in numerous films and he founded Arts in the Armed Forces, a non-profit that brings arts programming to service members and veterans around the world free of charge.

Other celebrities who served in the military are Marines actor Gene Hackman, actress Bea Arthur, rapper Shaggy, comedian Drew Carey, actor George C. Scott, television host Montel Williams, comedian Rob Riggle (who retired from the USMCR), actor Harvey Keitel, actor Lee Marvin, and actor Steve McQueen. 

U.S. Navy
NFL legend quarterback Roger Staubach graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1965. According to the Navy, as a midshipman, Staubach earned college football’s top honor, The Heisman Trophy and after graduating in 1965, Staubach served four years of active duty service in the Navy, including one year of overseas duty in Vietnam. Staubach played in the NFL for 11 years with the Dallas Cowboys and led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories. He was elected into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1985.

Film legend Paul Newman was known for his many movies like Cool Hand Luke, and his voice work as Doc Hudson in the Disney animated movie, Cars. He was also an avid car racing buff and his philanthropic work with his food line, Newman’s Own is still contributing to many charities. But Newman was also a decorated Navy seaman who served in the Pacific theatre during World War II as a gunner on an Avenger torpedo bomber. He served from 1943-46. He was fortunate once when his plane was grounded due to a pilot’s ear infection. The ship he was supposed to be flying to, the USS Bunker Hill, was sunk by a kamikaze bomber and Newman’s unit suffered major casualties. He died in 2008.

Other celebrities who served in the military are Navy veterans actor Jason Robards, jazz great John Coltrane, rapper MC Hammer, actor Humphrey Bogart, television host Johnny Carson, actor Kirk Douglas, television host Bob Barker, actor Henry Fonda, pro-wrestler Jesse Ventura, and baseball great Yogi Berra.

U.S. Air Force
James Stewart the actor from the holiday film classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, became the first American movie star to enlist in the U.S. Army to fight in World War II in February 1941. He applied for an officer commission and as a college graduate and a licensed pilot he was commissioned into the Air Corps. During World War II he would hold a variety of positions, including service as a unit commander. He flew 20 missions as a bomber pilot and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and the Croix de Guerre. After World War II, Stewart remained in the Air Force Reserve and he ascended to the rank of brigadier general. His last combat mission was in 1966 over Vietnam as a non-duty observer in a B-52. He retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1968 after 27 years of service and after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60. He died in 1997.

Before he was the man in black, Johnny Cash enlisted in the Air Force in 1950 attending basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Cash would become a Morse code operator charged with intercepting Soviet army transmissions. He left the Air Force four years later in July 1954 as a staff sergeant. A year later, Cash recorded his first rockabilly style songs and thus began his epic music journey which made him a music legend. He died in 2003.

Other celebrities who served in the military are Air Force veterans painter/television host Bob Ross, writer Michael Blake (Dances with Wolves), actor/martial arts badass Chuck Norris, actor Morgan Freeman, comedian George Carlin, television host Sunny Anderson, comedian Flip Wilson, Olympian Louis Zamperini, singer Mel Tillis, and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

U.S. Coast Guard
Actor Jeff Bridges served as a boatswain’s mate from 1967-1975 and left the Coast Guard Reserve as a petty officer second class. Bridges has made more than 70 movies, including Iron Man and True Grit, but he achieved a cult-like following as the White Russian-drinking, pot smoking, bowler, The Dude, in the 1998 movie, The Big Lebowski. His father and brother, also actors, both served in the Coast Guard Reserve and Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Alex Haley enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939 after attending college. Haley enlisted as a mess attendant third class since the mess attendant and steward’s mate ratings were the only ratings in the Coast Guard open to minorities at that time, according to the Coast Guard. He saw service in the Pacific Theater in 1944 and he made money with a side hustle penning love letters for his shipmates. He also freelanced and submitted articles about war duty and sea service for Coast Guard publications. At one point, Haley became the only chief journalist in the Coast Guard, serving as the assistant public affairs officer at the Coast Guard’s New York City headquarters. In 1959, he retired from the Coast Guard after 20 years of service to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time writer. Seventeen years after his retirement, he published the international best-seller, Roots: The Saga of an American Family in 1976. The book was later made into a television mini-series. Haley died in 1992.

Other celebrities who served in the military are Coasties actor Lloyd Bridges, hockey legend John Mariucci, boxing great Jack Dempsey, actor Chris Cooper, actor Beau Bridges, golf great Arnold Palmer, film maker Blake Edwards, actor Buddy Ebsen, actor Cesar Romero, and news broadcaster Charles Gibson.

U.S. Space Force
Steve Carell served as a general in the U.S. Space Force. Okay, just kidding, that’s a television show, but maybe right now in the Space Force ranks there is someone who might become a famous celebrity after wearing the Space Force uniform.

For now, the newest branch of the U.S. military is too new to have anyone to have served and gone on to earn fame.

The Army National Guard Flag

Drive through any town in the United States and in addition to the U.S. flag you might see a service specific flag mounted on a front porch alongside of Old Glory. Veterans like to show their service pride. It isn’t uncommon to find an Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard or Space Force flag flying on the home of a veteran.

When I was in the Army National Guard, some of my fellow Guard personnel flew an Army National Guard flag on their drill weekends as a way to let their neighbors know that they were on duty for their community and country. They also posted the Army National Guard flag when they went away for training or when they were on their annual training orders, and when they got mobilized to serve overseas in America’s war on terror.

Flags have their roots in military history. They were initially used to signal forces on the battlefield. China is credited for having the first flags that represented a ruler. Today, there is an international maritime flag signal code still in use, but the bottom line is, if you fly a particular flag, it conveys a message about who you are and what you believe.

The Army National Guard flag is easily identifiable. It has a Revolutionary War minuteman holding a musket on it, but in case someone doesn’t recognize the flag, “Army National Guard” is emblazoned on the seal. But while the Army National Guard flag might be easily recognized, the purpose and mission of the National Guard remains a mystery for some Americans, much like military service.

Americans know that there are military people who respond and help during natural disasters and civil unrest. Some of those people might know that the uniformed personnel are from the National Guard, but ask them to offer some details about the National Guard and most will answer with a shrug.

According to National Guard historians, the National Guard traces its lineage to English colonial militias that were formed to combat Native Americans in 1636. Some states, like Florida, claim that their military heritage dates back farther than 1636. The Florida National Guard, for example, traces its heritage to 1565 when Spanish colonial militias first mustered. These militias required all able-bodied men to keep a musket and to muster as needed to defend the colony. The militias were usually under local control and led by a leader elected to the position.

In the 1700s, the militias continued defending their colonies as colonial expansion provoked Native Americans to fight, but the militias fought other nations as well to control interests in America. Eventually, the English colonial militias became American militias when they took up arms against the British Empire in the Revolutionary War. Since its inception, the National Guard has fought in most American Wars and it has responded to many domestic emergencies.

During peacetime each state, the district of Columbia and three U.S. territories, have a National Guard that is led by an adjutant general who reports to the governor. During national emergencies, however, the U.S. president can mobilize the National Guard, putting them in federal duty status. Governors can mobilize their National Guards domestically for emergencies.

According to the National Guard, “Even when not federalized, the Army National Guard has a federal obligation (or mission). That mission is to maintain properly trained and equipped units, available for prompt mobilization for war, national emergency, or as otherwise needed.”

The Army National Guard’s state mission is perhaps the most visible. National Guard units respond to wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms, pandemics or other emergency situations, including civil unrest.

Yet, despite its high visibility missions, the Army National Guard has struggled with brand recognition. The Army National Guard's logo, which has been used since the 1950s, does not resonate with Americans of military service age. The Minuteman logo, as it is often referred to, is not reflective of a modern Army. The Minuteman logo is on the Army National Guard flag.

A few years ago, the Army Marketing and Research Group (AMRG) studied the Army National Guard’s logo and concluded that “The Minuteman, an image revered by many in the ARNG [Army National Guard], was not well understood or recognized in testing,” according to the 2019 Army National Guard Branding Guidelines. “Department of Defense research has not found that a service’s history is a strong motivator for youth to consider military service; as such, ARNG does not plan to use the Minuteman in its recruiting efforts.”

The National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2017 directed the Army National Guard to merge its marketing activities with the AMRG. The directive ordered the Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard to consolidate into a single organization, all marketing functions to ensure unity of effort and cost effectiveness. This congressionally mandated change came from 2015 recommendations of the National Commission on the Future of the Army.

In December 2018, the Army National Guard introduced its new brand and branding guidelines for all U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia. The most noticeable change was removal of the minuteman from the Army National Guard flag and the use of a new logo. The minuteman is no longer used for external marketing.

The new logo includes a gold star on a black background and the words “Army National Guard” emblazoned on a shield-like shape, using gold and white lettering. The name of the state, territory or district is included on the new logo. The new Army National Guard logo closely resembles the Army’s logo.

Army officials have said that the goal of the rebrand was to show that the Army National Guard was an important part of the Total Force and that the Army National Guard works in harmony with its Army Reserve and active Army counterparts.

Another goal of the Army National Guard’s rebrand was to make the service more appealing and reflective of a modernized military to help align local and national marketing efforts. The hope is that the strategy will better communicate the Army National Guard’s mission and make the brand more recognizable at a local level by tying it to the larger Army.

“The logo-specific research involved several potential logo options, color schemes, shapes, and elements reflecting ARNG [Army National Guard] legacy imagery such as the Minuteman and a stylized flag,” the 2019 Army National Guard Branding Guidelines states. “For every option tested, a State-specific version was also tested. The approved logo performed best among prospects and influencers. Data analysis did not find significant regional differences in logo preferences. The Minuteman, an image revered by many in the ARNG, was not well understood or recognized in testing.”

I asked the National Guard Bureau (NGB) and the Army’s Center of Military History earlier this year if they believed that aligning the Army National Guard’s lineage to the English colonial militias was socially responsible given the English militia’s violent past against Native Americans, and given the social justice current in American society. They never responded directly to the question.

“The Center of Military History currently has no effort underway to evaluate the lineage and honors of units and determine whether the members of any particular unit might have been involved in a human rights violation,” U.S. Army Center of Military History Chief Historian Jon Hoffman said.

While NGB and the U.S. Army Center of Military History will not revisit the Army National Guard’s historical alignment, the AMRG’s study on the Minuteman logo captured how some in American society feel about what the era of the minuteman represents.

“In each focus group location, the Minuteman drew some negative reactions from participants due to an association with eras in American history that were not empowering for women and people of color,” The Army’s Branding Guidelines say. “Due to the significance of the Minuteman in the proud history of the Guard, and the youth market’s general disinterest in history as a motivator to consider ARNG [Army National Guard] service, HRR does not recommended use of the Minuteman in recruiting.”

The Army National Guard has said the Minuteman logo will continue to be used internally. On the National Guard’s website the Minuteman logo is still displayed and used prevalently as a symbol to represent the broader National Guard, which includes the Air and Army National Guards. There is no firm deadline as to when the Army National Guard will stop using the Minuteman logo.

The minuteman Army National Guard flag, like flags of old, signals a message. It communicates, but what it conveys depends on who is looking at it.