Incredible Military Stories
249th Birthday of the U.S. Army

249th Birthday of the U.S. Army

June 14, 2024, marks a significant milestone as we celebrate the birthday of the United States Army. This day is an opportunity to reflect on the rich history, bravery, and enduring spirit of one of the most storied military forces in the world. The U.S. Army has played a crucial role in shaping the nation's history, defending its freedoms, and promoting peace globally. Historical Beginnings of the U.S. Army The United States Army was officially established on June 14, 1775, by the Continental...

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The German Wehrmacht and U.S. Army Fought the Nazi SS Together at Itter Castle

The German Wehrmacht and U.S. Army Fought the Nazi SS Together at Itter Castle

On May 3, 1945, a Yugoslavian handyman walked out of Nazi Germany's Itter Prison on a 40-mile trek to Innsbruck (in what is today Austria). His mission was to find any American troops he could and get them back to the castle. Itter Castle was a prison for the Reich's most high-value prisoners, including the sister of Gen. Charles de Gaulle and former French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier.  The Imminent Threat to Itter Castle With the end of the war soon coming, the prisoners had taken...

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Service Reflections of Lt. Col. Ryan Rowe, U.S. Air Force (1995-2021)

Service Reflections of Lt. Col. Ryan Rowe, U.S. Air Force (1995-2021)

PRESERVING A MILITARY LEGACY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS The following Reflections represents LT COL Ryan Rowe's legacy of his military service from 1995 to 2021. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on Togetherweserved.com (TWS), the leading archive of living military history. The following Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to...

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PFC Jerome Silberman (Gene Wilder), U.S. Army, 1956-1958

PFC Jerome Silberman (Gene Wilder), U.S. Army, 1956-1958

In the glittering world of Hollywood, Gene Wilder remains an iconic figure, celebrated for his comedic genius and unforgettable performances. From his iconic roles in classics like "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" to his collaborations with Mel Brooks in uproarious films like "Young Frankenstein" and "Blazing Saddles," Wilder's legacy is etched in the hearts of movie buffs everywhere. Yet, amidst the laughter and applause, there exists a lesser-known chapter of his life – his service...

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1SG Randy Taylor, U.S. Army (2002-2023)

1SG Randy Taylor, U.S. Army (2002-2023)

What was your favorite piece of military equipment – firearm, apparel, vehicle, aircraft, boat, etc. – and why? What was your least favorite?:

The Mighty Woobie and the faded ACU

The mighty poncho liner or “woobie” as we called it has always been my most favorite piece of military equipment. It kept me warm in the field during patrol base operations, during deployments and even when lounging at the house. I always kept it towards the top of my rucksack, in my wet weather bag just under my spare socks, t-shirt and boots for easy access. I remember using it all the time even in warmer temperatures and often rolled it into a small burrito to function as a surprisingly decent pillow. It provided comfort in austere environments, and I believe I shared in this perception amongst my peers and leaders alike. Now that I reflect on it, there were many times a group of my peers would be huddled with woobies wrapped around our shoulders like cloaks, smoking and joking around the burn pit between missions in Iraq. We considered ourselves professional homeless bums, but we did so in a uniformed manner which always was our stance when criticized by my leadership. I still use my woobie to this day and have been for the past 22 years or so. I also enjoyed my field jacket liner as well; it was a defeated feeling I had turning that in, as well as the rest of my equipment to CIF as I was wrapping up my Army career to a close. When I reflect on it, I had so much sentimental value attached to this gear as it all served its purpose and accompanied me with all my shared hardships.

On the reverse side considering when the Army transitioned from Desert Camouflage Uniform (DCU) to the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) in April of 2005. I was initially excited for a fresh new digital look but after acquiring my first pair I was so thrown off from its light color scheme. It appeared as if every bit of dirt and oil was attracted to the fabric. The uniform would fade significantly after several washes, turning an almost pinkish hue around the reinforced fabric at the elbows and knees. This ACU introduced the zipper which would break if not properly cared for and the Velcro added a whole new layer of accountability as Velcro became more and more unbound from the uniform with use/ washing. Nametapes and shoulder patches frequently went missing as they fell off when wearing the IBA or brushing shoulders against other soldiers. I remember seeing so many patches and nametapes in the Motor pool, Barracks and around the installation. There were even stressful and embarrassing moments associated with loose Velcro, I can recall going a whole day without a nametape until I realized it was missing as I was washing my hands in front of the mirror in the bathroom before the end of the day close-out formation. I can say that the introduction of his uniform was quite possibly one of my least favorite uniforms I have owned during my tenure in the Army on Active Duty.

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AE1 John Gorman, U.S. Navy (1969-1976)

AE1 John Gorman, U.S. Navy (1969-1976)

What was your favorite piece of military equipment – firearm, apparel, vehicle, aircraft, boat, etc. – and why? What was your least favorite?:

It’s difficult to pick a single favorite piece of equipment. The SH3 SeaKing and the USS America are two of my favorites. I enjoyed flying in that helicopter. I was an AE and Aircrew SAR. Stationed in Quonset Point, RI and having been on the Intrepid before it became a museum, it was impressive to see the differences on the USS America. During flight ops, one of the ships’ officers exclaimed “That is one big mother”. That moniker soon became the unofficial name in several squadrons henceforth. On one occasion, our bird landed on the angle deck. Rotors were still turning, and I was troubleshooting with a shipmate. I reached the island to retrieve an item when there was an accidental catapult launch that tore away the right pylon and landing gear and the bird simply keeled over sideways like it was a cow tipping event. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries. My shipmate made a smart decision to stay put by the open cargo door as the bird angled over on top of him! Years later, every time I watch the Pixar movie “Cars” and see tractor tipping with Mater and Lightning McQueen, I just laugh and think about that time. Perhaps because the America met an early fate and didn’t become a museum, the memories are that much more significant.

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IT2 Teresa Reeder, U.S. Navy (1984-2002)

IT2 Teresa Reeder, U.S. Navy (1984-2002)

What was your favorite piece of military equipment – firearm, apparel, vehicle, aircraft, boat, etc. – and why? What was your least favorite?:

Lucille Ball Fun with Radio Equipment Rock N Roll. As a Radioman, we could have plenty of I Love Lucy moments with the equipment. The “I love Lucy” moments for me involved the TTY (teletype for you non RM types). We had to change the paper often. If you are a brand new Radioman and you have to install the paper for the first time, you will be in for a treat. I did not have this issue, but I knew some people who did. They would install the paper wrong. They would take the carbon side and somehow have it on the outside side vice the middle where it should be and install it that way. How did that RM do it? They believed another RM who told them to separate the paper from the middle and install it that way. Watching someone painfully unrolling and rolling the paper back together is priceless. Then some Naval words would come out of their mouths while trying to install it that way. Too funny. Then the person who started the joke would tell the junior RM it was a joke. Then the junior RM would laugh too.

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AME2 Nevin Cumpston, U.S. Navy (1983-1991)

AME2 Nevin Cumpston, U.S. Navy (1983-1991)

What was your favorite piece of military equipment – firearm, apparel, vehicle, aircraft, boat, etc. – and why? What was your least favorite?:

My favorite piece of military equipment is the F-14 fighter aircraft. Having had the privilege of working on them in VF-41 onboard the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in the mid 1980s as an AME (Aviation Maintenance Equipment) is among the best honors and memories I have of my US Naval service. Working a 12-hour shift, day in and day out, while at sea was my favorite part. Knowing that I had performed maintenance on an aircraft, and watching it be shot off the deck to go perform a mission, was a moment of pride for all of us to see. Becoming turned qualified and being a CDI inspector made it all the better, being able to start the aircraft and help other shops perform their maintenance tasks was the thrill of a lifetime.

Watching the F-14 take off at night in full afterburner while you are standing (kneeling) right next to it was so exhilarating an experience. Feeling the vibrations of the aircraft as the power radiated through the deck to your body, the heat, the sounds, the smell of burning JP5 in the air. Seeing the Jet blast deflectors come up, you knew things were about to become exciting. Feeling the tiny specks of the deck flying through the air and hitting you in the face as the aircraft powers its way down the catapult. Seeing how dirty we were after a day of being on the deck as a final checker or mechanic was also, in a way very cool, it made us feel like we accomplished something.
Having a flight schedule so busy that we only got time to eat box lunches, the bologna sandwiches, chips, and a piece of fruit were certainly welcome during the brutal schedule of flight ops.

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SPC Troy Zastrow, U.S. Army (1989-1992)

SPC Troy Zastrow, U.S. Army (1989-1992)

What was your favorite piece of military equipment – firearm, apparel, vehicle, aircraft, boat, etc. – and why? What was your least favorite?:

When thinking about my favorite piece of military equipment, my mind initially went to the obvious ones like my M16A2, Kevlar helmet, or M109A2 155MM Self-Propelled Howitzer because each was essential for my job and protection. However, upon further reflection, I believe my entrenching tool and shovel from my artillery piece are my favorite pieces of military equipment. During Operation Desert Storm, they became vital as they were used for digging foxholes and digging in our track vehicles due to engineer’s inability to get to our location. I served in the 1st Brigade during Operation Desert Storm, which was comprised of my unit – the 2nd Armored Division, 1st Marine Division, and the 2nd Marine Division. We were located in a forward area where engineers were focused on building berms and clearing ground, so we could breach safely in the 100-hour war. My unit’s leadership erred on the side caution as they decided we would dig in by hand for our 26 ton howitzers and our 26 ton field artillery ammunition vehicles. It was grueling work due the size of the holes and the stifling temperature. Initially, I thought this was crazy, but I remembered a quote that served as my mantra for my time in service. The quote was Socrates’, “As for me, All I know is that I know nothing.” My interpretation of the quote is that my time in service would involve a lot of learning, and the knowledge gained was going to make me stronger and provide me safety. Open-mindedness was essential for this stage of my life. I needed to trust the individuals who were making decisions. As it turns out having the track vehicles dug in was extremely smart and was an effective strategy that did in fact, protect us.

As for my least favorite piece of military equipment, I really don’t have one, because everything issued to me was necessary and purposeful. If there was an item that I feel could be improved on slightly, it would be the ruck sack. The ruck sacks we used during Desert Storm had limited carrying capabilities. A present modification I see on ruck sacks now is having Molle straps that facilitate the ability for more attachments. The additional carrying capability would have been beneficial during Desert Storm.

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SSG Victoria Ryan, U.S. Army (1973-1988)

SSG Victoria Ryan, U.S. Army (1973-1988)

What was your favorite piece of military equipment – firearm, apparel, vehicle, aircraft, boat, etc. – and why? What was your least favorite?:

Pants suits for women soldiers. The most logical, practical, and ingenious Class A uniform that the US Army adopted in the mid-1970s.

I reenlisted for West Point, NY, and arrived in November 1976. As luck would have it, the winter of 1976-77 was one of the snowiest and coldest in recent memory for that area.

I worked in the Corp of Cadets in Washington Hall, which was located across an expansive parade ground, and adjacent to that was the general parking area for Washington Hall. The only way to reach the building was to traverse the parade ground. Enlisted women soldiers who were assigned to work there were authorized to wear black civilian knee-length boots during inclement winter weather – thankfully. Otherwise, our military-issue shoes would have been drenched and damaged, not to mention if we could have made it across without a potential injury from a fall.

The women’s Class A uniform at that time consisted of a skirt, jacket, and a short-sleeved cotton-blend white shirt. We were issued an overcoat to wear over the Class As during winter weather. But even with the outerwear, it was still a very cold trek to and from the auto to the building every day.

Imagine my overwhelming delight when news arrived that the permanent party female soldiers assigned to West Point had been designated to “test” the new pantsuits being considered optional wear.

The pants were the same shade of green as the current Class A jacket, so they could be mixed and matched. They were paired with a pale green long-sleeve knit mock-neck sweater that was machine washable and dryable. The comfort and warmth these garments provided were amazing.

All in all, over time, the Army adopted and issued the pants for all female soldiers; however, they did not permanently adopt the sweater, much to my dismay. At least the pants provided extra protection when outdoors during the winter months. The pants became my favorite uniform item, which I wore daily at my assigned post.

There was a mimeograph machine at my first assignment at Ft Dix, NJ to make offset copies of forms. You had to pour purple or black ink into the receptacle and turn the lever to move the ink around inside the unit so it would adhere to the exterior of the drum. Then you would have to place the typed form (special double-sheet paper) onto the drum – that was always tricky to do, then load the paper in a tray and manually crank the drum and rotate it so that the copies would spit out from the form on the drum – a very rudimentary process.

The greatest downside to this procedure was that if you got the ink on your clothes, they were trashed because the ink was permanent and would not come out. It was not the best way to perform an administrative task wearing a Class A summer uniform. You would, however, invariably get ink on your hands, so making a beeline to the restroom to wash was imperative. Hands down, this was one of the worst pieces of equipment utilized by the Army and my least favorite. Fortunately, copy machines came into use shortly after that. That was proven to be another cumbersome process, but a story for another time.

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US Navy Sailor Tattoos and Their Meanings

US Navy Sailor Tattoos and Their Meanings

Sailors have probably been getting tattoos since landlubbers could become sailors. Many cultures have used tattoos as markings for warriors since even before the Roman Empire’s heyday. Pope Hadrian the First ended the practice in the West when he outlawed tattoos in 787. US Navy Sailor Tattoos found a rebirth in the 16th Century, however, and have been popular ever since.  The Significance of Sailor Tattoos Sailors tattooed themselves for many reasons. Tattoos were used as...

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VA Updates: Keep Your Life Status Current With the VA

VA Updates: Keep Your Life Status Current With the VA

Many monetary benefits administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) depend on your life status. This is defined as the Veteran's marital status and the number of dependents in the family. To ensure you receive the correct payment – no less or no more – it is essential to have this information accurately reported to the VA at all times. Failure to do so can have consequences that can cause financial hardship for the Veteran. An example demonstrates this. Marriage and Its Effect...

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Soldier and Writer
Lt Col Michael Christy (USA) Ret.

Many articles contained in this Blog were written by Together We Served’s former Chief Editor, Lt Col Michael Christy, and published in TWS’s Dispatches Newsletter.

Lt Col Christy’s military career spanned 26 years, beginning in 1956 when he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. Following two years active duty, he spent another two years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. In 1962, he joined the Army National Guard and in 1966 was called up for active duty with the U.S. Army. After an 18 year distinguished Army career, Lt Col Christy retired from military service in 1984.
Lt Col Christy saw action in Vietnam with Special Forces Units, including the renowned Delta Force, and was awarded two Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars (three with Valor), and two Purple Hearts.
As a military consultant and accomplished writer, Lt Col Christy has contributed to several TV military documentaries, including those found on the History Channel, plus significant military history publications, including Vietnam Magazine.