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Halfway Heroes: ‘Near Veterans’ Seek Recognition For Almost Serving In Military

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File: A US Army recruiter speaks with an near-veteran hoping to eventually convert him into full-veteran status.
A US Army recruiter speaks with an near-veteran hoping to eventually convert him into full-veteran status.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Jody Siever spends his Friday nights like so many American servicemen and women, mingling while kicking back drinks at a local bar. Recognizing the giveaway military haircut of a fellow patron, he approaches with an arm extended.

“Welcome home, soldier.” Smiling, though apparently puzzled, the stranger returns a firm, brief handshake.

“Thanks, but I’m in the Navy. And I haven’t been anywhere—I’m in Nuke School,” he replies, referring to the Naval Nuclear Power Training Center in Goose Creek, S.C.

“That’s cool,” Siever says. “I almost thought about joining the Navy for a while, but if I did join the service, I would have gone into the Army. I’m just kind of hardcore like that. Shooting bad guys in the face—that’s the life for me. If I wanted it.”

Siever, you see, never actually enlisted.

Veteran servicemembers often find it difficult to relate their experiences in the military to friends and family back home, but a new civilian organization is working to expand that exclusive brotherhood. The Bros Before Joes campaign, established in 2011, seeks to legitimize the efforts of people like Siever, whose commitments to serving in the military range from the hypothetical to the nearly realized.

“We’ve got guys from all over the spectrum here. Some of our members, they merely thought about joining the Army a few times, or took the ASVAB in high school to get out of first period,” explains BBJ founder Trent Bower. “Other guys though, they got as far as making appointments to go to MEPS [Military Entrance Processing Station], but then something important came up.”

A near-Marine himself, Bower recounts his own brush with fate:

“I talked with a Marine recruiter a few times in high school, even attended a couple of pool functions at the recruiting office. It got to the point that I was there so often, the recruiters even started calling me ‘Boot.’ They were practically begging me to enlist, but I always knew I was meant for something more meaningful.”

Bower, a 31-year old assistant manager at a successful pizza delivery franchise, started the Bros Before Joes campaign in his spare time, seeking to bring recognition to others who share his story. For Siever, and thousands of almost-soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines like him, the organization is a long-overdue ray of hope.

Says Siever, “It’s great, you know, to finally be able to reach out and connect with others who share your non-experiences. After giving so much, dedicating so much time and energy to thinking about enlisting, it just feels like we’re finally getting the thanks we deserve.” And recognition has been swift in coming.

Thanks to a successful joint-lobbying campaign with the Almost Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a bill is now before the Senate to approve Veteran’s Affairs benefits for BBJ and AIAVA members. The resolution received overwhelming bipartisan support in a House vote earlier this year from a majority of US Representatives who are themselves non-veterans.

Regarding the passage in the House, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) released this statement:

“This isn’t a Red-or-Blue, liberal-versus-conservative issue. It’s about giving near-veterans like me and many of my constituents the recognition we’ve been denied for far too long.” Currently, 345 out of 435, or roughly 80% of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, have no recorded military service.

As the bill nears the Senate floor, however, some opponents are voicing concerns. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a Navy veteran, held a press conference outside his home in Phoenix on Tuesday, calling the bill “a mockery… of all that I hold dear.” He also stated that he would “rather tongue-kiss Jane Fonda” than vote to approve the measure. Before he could take questions, he had to be ushered away for medical treatment when blood began seeping from his clenched fist — reportedly from clutching his Silver Star too tightly.

And he’s not alone. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) is an Army veteran of World War II and presently the only serving member of Congress to have earned a Congressional Medal of Honor. When presented with the bill’s full text, Sen. Inouye declared it “a perversion of our American values,” and refused to touch it, even with his prosthetic arm. Said Inouye, “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.”

Despite these protests, the bill has mass appeal with civilians and near-veterans on both sides of the aisle. Arguments will begin in earnest when the Senate reconvenes next January. Until then, it’s a long wait for near-heroes like Siever and Bower.

Asked if he would do anything different given the opportunity, Bower harkens back to his non-Marine days:

“I just couldn’t leave all of this behind. I miss those pool functions, though. They were good times; some of the best times of my life. You just… you go through something like that, almost sacrificing so much, with such a close group of guys, and it really makes you brothers, you know? I even think I still have some recruitment brochures around here, somewhere.”

Miscellaneous

ISIS leader has volunteers for suicide bombings but no one will read his screenplay

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HAJIN, Syria – In the last 6 years, ISIS leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi has called for jihad, death to westerners, and martyrdom, but al-Baghdadi now faces his most ambition request so far: notes on his new screenplay, sources confirmed today.

“A Terrorist and a Gentleman” is al-Baghdadi’s first attempt at writing drama. He describes the work as a struggle between the experiential and narrative self that asks “what does it mean to be a terrorist in the 21st century?” He called his work the “‘Casablanca’ of the Arab world,” in an online video.

Unfortunately, that claim has gone unchallenged. After widespread calls for followers to take up 180 pages of heavy dialogue and exposition, al-Baghdadi has not received a single call or email.

“I haven’t read it,’ said a new recruit who asked not to use his name. “I’m not saying I won’t, I just don’t know if I’m going to have time between now and killing myself.”

“Come on just read it,” replied al-Baghdadi when asked for comment. “Seriously, I can take it. I know its good, so you’re not going to hurt my feelings. Just please read it?”

Several ISIS prisoners were offered time outside and extra rations on the condition that they provided constructive criticism. All prisoners responded with name, rank, service number and date of birth.

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Duffel Blog Presents

Duffel Blog Presents: 5 tips for a killer beach body

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Winter can be full of holiday parties, lazy snow days on the couch, and a few too many glasses of eggnog. Don’t get too comfortable, though, because spring is just around the corner! Are you ready for sand and sun? As you get ready for that big trip to Normandy or Tarawa, Duffel Blog is here to help you with 5 great tips for getting a killer beach body.

  1. Massing Firepower

Workin’ it is more fun with friends! When you hit that beach, your kill count will be higher with an array of direct and indirect fires. Give that killer beach body the love it deserves with a classic crew-served weapon like a sleek ma deuce. Suppressive fire is a great warm up for closing in and destroying your enemies in close contact.

  1. Battle Drill 1A

There are a lot of fancy sounding boutique exercises out there, but when getting ready for an action-packed day on the beach, you can’t do better than getting back to basics with battle drill 1A. Movement to contact or deliberate hasty assault? Either way you’ll be ready for anything by keeping it tight with actions on the objective. Get it together with eight of your hottie friends and make everyone in the amphibious assault jealous of your #SquadGoals.

  1. A Grappling Hook

Nonstop cardio will only get you so far. For the rockiest outcrops, try a large grappling hook. Postcard beaches may be smooth and sandy, but Pointe Du Hoc looks like a rock climbing gym without the crag bunnies to belay. Not only is this a killer core workout, there’s also a machine gun nest full of krauts at the top to neutralize. Not enough? Look into a Bangalore torpedo to kick your landing up a notch.

  1. Have a goal in mind

Getting a killer beach body is easier if you have a role model. Find someone you idealize, like Pvt. Carlton W. Barrett, who was forced to wade ashore in neck deep water on D-day and returned to the beach repeatedly to assist causalities to an offshore boat and help others to shore while floundering in the rough surf–all while being pinned down by German mortar and machine gun fire. Paste a picture of Barrett to the inside of your gym locker, and before every workout say, “today’s time on the elliptical is dedicated to your coolness and natural leadership under direct fire.” Look at yourself in the mirror while you’re lifting, and say, “Looking more like Carlton every day.”

  1. Dehumanizing the enemy

You can be physically fit, but making that toned body a killer body is all about the mindset. One helpful tip is to dehumanize the enemy. Practice these visualization drills on your landing craft: see your enemy in an exaggerated, mutated form, then give them a callous nickname. Remember, a killer beach body takes some work, but you can’t argue with the results.

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News

Army leadership calls for “disruptive thinkers” to step forward so they can be more easily liquidated

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FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — Senior Army officers and enlisted service members called for “disruptive thinkers” to come forward, so that they can more easily be identified and marginalized or even murdered, sources confirmed today.

In the “Disruptive Thinkers” seminar, a select group of senior non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers of all ranks listened to Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army, address the crowd and speak about the importance of identifying disruptive thinkers.

“It’s of vital importance to identify you and the others among our ranks who have a good idea about how better to manage our promotion systems, our tactical doctrine, our technical training, and even the way we interact with the other instruments of government power,” said Milley, nodding curtly to the back of the room.

His personal security detail then locked the doors to the room and began the slaughter.

Other senior leaders, both currently active and retired, applaud the Army’s efforts to identify disruptive thinkers.

“I myself made a great effort to identify those officers in my command who were disruptive,” said retired Brig. Gen. William King, who before retiring led 20th Support Command ALL BY HIMSELF!

“It’s crucial to winnow the chaff from the wheat and then make sure the wheat gets cut down and made into white bread,” he said. “That’s the whole reason I was such an effective leader that I managed to disseminate anthrax and ricin to the general public over fifty times!”

Reached for comment, spokesmen for the Army general staff confirmed that disruptive thinkers are indeed a critical asset who must be quickly identified and disposed of, otherwise the Army might start winning wars, and nobody wants that.

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Marine Corps

Camp Lejeune residents invoiced for any superpowers developed after water poisoning

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SMALLVILLE, Kansas — Past residents of Camp Lejeune were recently sent invoices for any superpowers they may have developed from a series of incidents starting in 1953 that led to the toxic contamination of the drinking water supply in base housing, sources confirmed today.

The invoices arrived after the Department of Veterans Affairs received several reports of superpowers concerning an aging population that was living on base at the time. The exact source of the contamination was never determined, but rumors link it to a combination of fuel farm leakage, off-base dry cleaning mismanagement, and runoff from excess motivation of second lieutenants.

The Beckett family received invoices in the mail for a combined total of $45,000. Stephanie Johnson and her husband Glenn, 65 and 68 respectively, developed their superpowers about 10 years prior.

“I can understand billing my husband. He got teleportation,” Stephanie said. “But all I got was an enhanced sensitivity to race relations. What am I supposed to do with that? I’m a Republican!”

The controversy has increased over the years as various internal investigations have cleared the U.S. government of accountability while some whistleblowers still insist that base officials were aware of the problem and attempted to cover it up. One retired service member said he submitted an official report — which showed water toxicity levels up to 3,400 times over the recommended safe amount — to the base commander.

The commander “crumbled up the documents, stuffed them underneath his shirt, and pretended they were boobies,” the service member said.

James Holder, another local resident, received an invoice for $8,000. At first, he attempted to contact Defense Financing and Accounting Services to negotiate payment, but after being routed through several different departments, he was told that since he directly benefited from the contamination the U.S. government was entitled to reimbursement and garnishment of his disability payments if necessary.

“I guess the laser eyes aren’t that bad,” Holder said. “I can’t look in the mirror anymore or gaze lovingly into my wife’s eyes, but hey, at least I don’t have cancer.”

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Air Force

After North Pole moves, NORAD assures Eric Trump it can still track Santa

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Department of Defense officials assured Eric Trump that a natural geologic shift of the magnetic North Pole would not jeopardize Santa Claus, his toy workshop, or Trump’s chances of receiving Christmas gifts, sources confirmed today.

Trump expressed concerns about observations that the magnetic north pole is drifting, which he believed could interfere with Santa Claus’s navigation capabilities or prevent the U.S. Northern Command (NORAD) from using its famous “Santa Tracker” to monitor Saint Nick’s’ toy deliveries on Christmas Eve. Either situation, according to Trump, would constitute “probably the biggest national security issue of the entire world. Like, ever.”

Trump’s concern stemmed from recent news reports that the Earth’s magnetic north pole is moving from the Canadian Artic towards Russia at 34 miles per year. Magnetic north normally moves slowly over time due to energy from the planet’s core. The current drift is significantly faster than in the past and requires updates to navigation systems.

With no official role in the White House, Trump leveraged his father’s influence and convened an emergency meeting to review the situation.

Using a model of the Santa’s workshop made from legos, Trump declared that navigation issues for Santa or a gap in NORAD tracking abilities presented a national security crisis “every bit as real as the emergency on our southern border.”

Based on the pole’s drift towards Russia, Trump was particularly concerned that Vladimir Putin is “stealing” magnetic north.

The attending CIA representative stated that the intelligence community has no evidence linking the drift to Putin or any of the “bad guys” that Trump suggested as Putin’s accomplices – Boris Badenov, Natasha Fatale, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Dr. Evil, or the Hamburgler.

“Not a chance sir,” said the CIA representative, “pretty much because they’re all fictional characters.”

Trump replied that he “totally knows” that the Hamburgler is not a real person, saying “that costume is an obvious cover disguise. Duh.”

The staff duty officer at NORAD drew a picture that depicted the drift of magnetic north and placement of NORAD sensors with the words “really big antennas here,” which eventually reassured Trump.

Trump said that he is committed to be “really really super good” in 2019 to give Santa extra incentive for overcoming the magnetic shift.

As the meeting convened, attendees overheard an Air Force representative tell Trump that NORAD “should probably get a couple of billion dollars for sensor improvements, just to be safe.”

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Army

E-4 accidentally joins actual mafia in mix-up

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JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. — In an effort to join the E-4 mafia, a local soldier has instead joined the actual mafia, sources confirmed today.

Newly-promoted Spc. Rafael Hernandez first realized something was amiss when, according to his testimony in court, he stuck a hastily-constructed shiv into the base of an old Italian man’s skull.

“This just didn’t seem to be in line with the Army Values,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez attempted to establish contact with the E-4 mafia in the traditional way, according to witness testimony. He placed an all-day appointment on his calendar, indicating that he would not be available for any additional duties. Then, Hernandez stood in front of a bathroom mirror and recited the words “I don’t know anything about that, sergeant,” three times. According to urban legend, after doing this, a specialist passes out and finds himself sleeping in the back of a vehicle in the motor pool while the lower-ranking enlisted do all his paperwork.

“I really thought it was going to be that easy,” Hernandez said. “I mean, nobody ever told me outright how you join the E-4 mafia, but I’ve heard stories. It made perfect sense to me at the time.”

Instead of passing out, however, Hernandez was met by a man in a seersucker suit who kept adjusting his tie as he looked at himself in the mirror. He wore an unbuttoned striped coat, and did not meet Hernandez’s eyes. The man asked him if he’d be willing to give an “associate” of his a “very close shave.”

“Seemed normal,” said Hernandez when asked how he felt about the approach. “I thought maybe it was one of the specialists from medical hinting that he could write me a shaving waver. I always wanted a beard.”

As it turned out, it meant slitting someone’s throat.

“Shit, I thought ‘these E-4 fuckers are hardcore,'” Hernandez said. “But alright, whatever it takes to get out of KP duty I guess.”

“Normally it starts with small tasks, favors, stuff like that,” FBI Agent Tricia Patel, head of the Newark Organized Crime Unit, explained in an interview after the trial. “But in this case Hernandez just went right for murder. It got him fast respect, and respect is the only currency these guys deal with.”

The spree that followed involved three bank heists, two more murders, and one extremely complicated case of horse theft involving swapping a prize racehorse with a Shetland pony wearing stilts. Hernandez rose through the ranks of La Cosa Nostra in mere days, catapulting himself to lieutenant of a smaller capo.

“I thought the people calling me lieutenant were being cute,” Hernandez said, “you know, because LTs don’t do any work either, right? I guess I was wrong.”

Hernandez was finally arrested not by local authorities, but by army MPs, after it was discovered that he had missed a mandatory urinalysis appointment.

“What’s funny is that I was actually peeing at the time anyway,” Hernandez said. “Just not in a cup.”

Hernandez is currently out on bail and sleeping in the back of a vehicle in the motor pool.

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News

Leaked: Fortnite revealed to be Ender’s Game

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PENTAGON — Much like the search for the golden ticket in Willy Wonka, the country has erupted into a sweet Fortnite gaming sesh that doubles as real world operation to select the leader of all U.S. forces, sources confirmed today.

Billed as a battle royale video game, Fortnite has players vie to prove themselves worthy of being stolen by the government and raised as the next general to represent the U.S. in the current and future conflicts.

“This was never supposed to get out, but we’re pretty desperate here in the back rooms,” revealed Col. Graff, a Space Force official. “So we decided to just copy the book ‘Ender’s Game.’ ‘Or The Last Starfighter.’ Whatever. We’re going to try anything.”

The reveal shocked Americans when it was leaked last week, but the public has recovered from the potential moral implications — mostly because there’s a prize. Parents are encouraging their children to play Fortnite more, and reports show some actively forcing their children to leave school, imprisoning them in much the same way the children hope to be imprisoned if they win the competition.

“We figure the wars will keep going, and we’re going to want to win eventually,” stated Graff. “Why wait for the next general to be hopefully good enough to win this thing when we can raise a kid on Mountain Dew, pit him against other children, and remove his moral core until he’s ready to take wield the full power of the United States military?”

The leaks have contributed to the government’s efforts. Fortnite players are on the rise, and most are looking forward to being launched into space with multiple children saying “that’d be pretty sick.”

The military’s effort to find the next strategic military genius are still ongoing.

“Do we have one picked out?” Graff replied. “Well, we have a few. Our number one choice murdered another child in the showers, and we thought that was sort of badass. So he’s totally the top contender.”

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News

Taliban assure negotiators they’ll totally stop fighting after the US leaves

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DOHA, Qatar — Chief U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad repeated assurances today he received from the Taliban that they are “totally going to lay down their weapons and become peace loving, democratic civilians as soon as American forces leave.”

American representatives have been engaged in talks with Taliban leaders in hope of a diplomatic resolution to the 17-year conflict that has rocked Afghanistan.

“I asked them point blank if they were willing to lay down their arms the moment U.S. troops left the country,” Khalilzad said. ”And they all looked at each other for a second and then began nodding.”

“I don’t understand why anyone thinks we’d do otherwise,” a Taliban delegate said. “Our whole mission this entire time has been to rid our great country of foreign soldiers. All those attacks on civilians and Afghan soldiers was to throw you off the scent, and all that militant Islam is just motivation for boots.”

While no details of the peace framework have been released, multiple sources said it involves top Taliban commanders pinky swearing with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to cease fighting once the last U.S. troops leave.

“Of course I am going to put down my weapon as soon as I can,” another delegate said. “I’ve been fighting in these mountains, living off of bits of rice and goat since I was twelve years old. I’ve had enough. Partial victory is fine. I want to open a falafel shop or maybe run for office like my commander.”

Taliban leaders expressed hope that they would soon be able to travel their country without fear of violence.

“I’m looking forward to visiting Kabul,” Lajbar Mohammed, a high-ranking Taliban delegate said. “I want to see the place where we hung [former Afghan dictator] Dr. Najib’s corpse after we gave him a pardon then tortured and murdered him back in 1996.”

A key piece to the framework is assurance the Taliban will not harbor Islamic terrorists such as Al Qaeda — a point the Taliban delegation said was moot.

“That was the nineties man,” Mohammed said. “Everyone did crazy stuff back then.”

Meanwhile at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, aircrews were seen putting grip on the skids of multiple helicopters.

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