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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.”

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“The VA is doing a great job” finds joint study by prescription drug, alcohol industries

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WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs received high praise from a study commissioned by the pharmaceutical and alcohol industries published today.

“The VA is doing an exceptional job providing just the right level of care and shouldn’t change a thing,” according the study. The findings stands in direct opposition to earlier criticism from veterans, congress, and anyone else who has ever interacted with the VA for any reason.

The report cites as evidence the number of veterans not receiving care despite their experiences, injuries, or requests to receive care.

“These are heroes who have served their country honorably, so, obviously, if they really needed care, the VA would get it for them,” stated Pfizer spokesman Tom Schnettler. “The fact that so many don’t receive care clearly shows how good the VA is at determining they don’t need it.”

The report also outlines how effective the VA is at managing the delicate transition soldiers have to make from active duty — where trauma is managed via Motrin and beer — to veteran status where pain is managed with opioids and also beer.

The majority of negative sentiment about the VA comes from haters and losers who would rather troops do lame, commie stuff like yoga, according to the study.

“If these fine American’s want to enjoy powerful prescription meds, whiskey, and UFC pay-per-views at many times the national average, they’ve earned that right,” said alcohol executive Nickolas Plum.

The study notes all numbers are normalized to remove accounting for individuals who served but now smoke marijuana on occasion as they are snowflake traitors to the nation and not true veterans.

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Chelsea Manning comes out as cisgender, asks Trump for clemency

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Chelsea Manning has come out as a heterosexual man and is asking President Donald Trump for clemency, sources confirmed today.

Manning, who once orchestrated the largest intelligence breach in U.S. military history, is currently in federal custody for refusing to testify against WikiLeaks and the recently arrested Julian Assange.

“As we know, Chelsea is a tremendously courageous person,” said Manning’s lawyer Mena Finelli. “But right now, he is the only straight man in a jail full of women. Can you imagine? It’s unconscionable.”

Speaking at a rally in Lima, Ohio, Trump indicated he would not entertain Manning’s latest request.

“Only an idiot or a traitor would get involved with WikiLeaks. Trust me, I know,” the president told his supporters amid chats of “lock her up.” “And besides, Chelsea is locked up with a bunch of women. What is there to complain about?”

Meanwhile, the public reaction has been every bit as fluid as Manning’s gender.

Joshua Shleemi, a former pro-Manning activist, expressed doubts about Manning’s sincerity.

“We stood with Chelsea from the very start when she first betrayed her country,” he said. “But we never thought Chelsea would pull a stunt like this just to appeal to the president. She turned her back on us, her allies. Chelsea is a traitor! A gender traitor!”

The military community has expressed similar sentiments.

“That traitor doesn’t know the meaning of sacrifice or selfless service,” said Michael Polk, who recently separated from the Marine Corps after failing a drug test during boot camp. “She never stood for anything, never risked anything for what she believed in.”

While it is anyone’s guess what trouble or gender will befall Chelsea Manning in the future, one thing is abundantly clear — everyone now agrees she is a traitor.

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Retired General Quixote warns of threat posed by windmills of mass destruction

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NEW MADRID, Mo. — Retired Lt. Gen. Donald Quixote urged the Pentagon not to underestimate the emerging new WMD threat — windmills of mass destruction, in a statement to reporters today.

Quixote thanked the president for bringing attention to the national security threat and expressed hope that the international community would condemn the blatant proliferation of windmill technology to nation states known to cause instability in their respective regions.

“Evidence of recent windmill construction in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria is incontrovertible,” Quixote said. “I myself have read the reports and seen the aerial surveillance. It’s clear that even North Korea has availed themselves of this dangerous technology.”

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in a rare display of coherence urged caution in universally condemning windmill technology.

“People said I wasn’t quote unquote ‘qualified’ to be secretary of energy, but under my leadership, Texas became one of the world’s largest wind energy producers in the world. Are they suggestin’ there’s something wrong with Texas?”

After being assured that nobody in his vicinity cared about Texas, Perry clarified that he fully supports the president and that his remarks were being taken out of context.

“It is clear that detractors and doubters of the WMD threat know little of the true ways of the world,” added Quixote. “Our steadfast commitment to peace and global good shall prevail over evil, if only we continue to support leaders who have the stomach for it!”

NATO member states responded that they literally could not even.

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Army

Command and General Staff College ranked among nation’s top 500 community colleges

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FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. – Faculty and staff at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, known as CGSC, are celebrating the school’s debut appearance on the U.S. News and World Report list of the nation’s top 500 community colleges, sources confirmed today.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our professors, students, and alumni,” said Army Combined Arms Center Commander Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy. “We almost beat Webster University, and we tied with the University of Phoenix Junior College. Even better, none of the other service staff colleges made the list!”

Lundy directed his staff to apply for regional accreditation last year as part of the Army’s broader effort to translate military skills into civilian credentials. After receiving a community college charter, the school began offering associate degrees in operational planning, business micromanagement, and reimagining historic military treatises.

Alumni have long considered CGSC the “Harvard of mandatory professional military education” due to its selective acceptance, rigorous curriculum, and near 100% graduation rate.

The school’s curriculum is designed to prepare senior captains and junior majors to become operational level staff officers by teaching them to skim or ignore volumes of doctrine, overanalyze simple problems, and brief senior officers while nursing crippling hangovers.

To many students, it is no surprise the institution was rated the 492nd best community college in the U.S.

“Yup, sounds about right,” said Maj. Joe Muto, a former Rhodes Scholar and current CGSC student. “I’m often stunned by the level of intellect and depth of my peers and instructors. Honestly though, I couldn’t think of a better way to train a few top performers on how to lead an inept staff through military planning for a pointless operation. It would be brilliant if I actually believed they planned it that way.”

At press time, sources heard Lundy calling the other service staff college leaders to console them and wish them better luck in 2020.

Duffel Blog reporters W.T. Door and Lieutenant Dan contributed to this article.

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Marine Corps

Recruiters hate him! Marine finishes four-year contract in eight months with one simple trick

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TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — Pfc. Patrick Boyd is being hailed as a genius after finishing a four-year contract in just eight months

His peers are beyond jealous at Boyd’s amazing feat.

“Boyd and I went through boot camp and ITB together,” Pfc. Hector Gomez said. “Then, we both got orders to 2/7 (2nd Battalion 7th Marine Regiment). I’d also thought we’d EAS around the same time. Now, he’s back home, and I’m stuck in the middle of the desert with my head shaved bald screaming ‘aye lance corporal’ at a bunch of dudes with no combat experience who are like six months older than I am.”

One of those Marines tormenting Gomez is Lance Cpl. Brad Williams. Williams never thought much of Pfc. Boyd while serving as his team leader. But, this turn of events has left him in awe.

“It normally takes four years to fulfill a four-year contract, but the other day I saw Boyd walk by in civvies with his DD-214,” Williams said. “He must be some kind of prodigy.”

Staff Sgt. Jose Ramos, the unit’s substance abuse control officer, was also impressed.

“The Marine Corps considers a urine sample with 100 nanograms of cocaine per milliliter to be positive,” he said. “Pfc. Boyd tested at 1400 ng/mL. He must’ve been railing lines of coke off the top of the urinal while he was pissing. It’s truly motivating to see a Marine so determined to go above and beyond the standard.”

Outside the small rowhouse in Allentown, New Jersey, where Boyd now lives with his parents and younger sister, a line of Marines snakes around the block. All are there to learn how they too can cut their contracts down to a quarter of their original lengths. They’ve drained their leave balances to come speak with a man who’s quickly becoming a prophet-like figure in the lance corporal community.

Boyd doesn’t understand their admiration.

“I went out there yesterday and told them I got an other than honorable discharge, and now I’m going to spend the rest of my life living at home and working at a gas station,” Boyd said. “They still just wanted to know how I got out so quickly.”

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Air Force

Fans excited for final season of Afghanistan

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BAGRAM, Afghanistan — Fans of Afghanistan, already America’s longest running drama, are excited for the premier of the final season of the conflict, whenever that may be.

A media darling at launch, Afghanistan has suffered from low viewership since the first season but remains a powerhouse moneymaker with an annual budget of almost $45 billion. Producers initially promised large, exciting battles and decisive story lines but thus far have had issues delivering consistently. Fans of the show place the blame for many of those issues on producers insisting the show split air time with spinoff drama Iraq.

Despite the small TV audience tuning in, a large number of Americans (about 14,000 at present) physically attend the conflict every year hoping to take part in events as they unfold.

However, many of these participants express discontent over the direction the show has taken and feel the program has been dragging for the last decade or so.

“I was skeptical at first because there had been a Russian drama about Afghanistan, but in the first few seasons, this felt very different. And when they surprised everyone by killing off Bin Laden in season 10, that was amazing,” said Capt Mike Watt, currently deployed to Sharana. “But l feel like lately it’s been the same story line every season. Just lazy writing all around.”

A quick audit of recent years supports Watt’s argument. Plot devices like COIN, blue on green insider attacks, and meeting with local leaders that end up accomplishing nothing have become repetitive. Despite these issues, there remain a strikingly large number of subplots and unanswered questions. So many in fact, that writers and executive producers have expressed that they can’t imagine wrapping this up even if they have 10 plus more seasons.

Regardless, fans remain excited for the final season whenever that may be. An online poll among attendees on who will end up on top received hundreds of thousands of votes and came back with a landslide victory for write in candidate “I don’t give a fuuuuuuck.”

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Army

Army leaders channel wrong Clausewitz in Pentagon seance

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WASHINGTON — In a bizarre Pentagon ritual, Army leaders accidentally summoned the wrong spirit when attempting to channel famed Prussian military theorist Maj. Gen. Carl von Clausewitz to help them counter growing threats from China and Russia, sources confirmed today.

“Complex problems require creative ideas,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. “It turns out we liquidated most of our out-of-the-box thinkers during the last NCO and officer retention boards, so we had to reach deep into our past military geniuses to come up with solutions.”

Recent Chinese threats in the South China Sea and Russian threats in Ukraine and the Baltics forced the hand of Army strategists to come up with unique ways to justify the Army’s growing budget. To counter these challenges, the Army gathered a panel of soothsayers, mystics, and government-funded think tanks to divine the way ahead for future ground combat. Army leadership ultimately chose to hold a seance to channel the long-dead Clausewitz, the father of modern Western military strategy, in an attempt to glean workable solutions.

Eyewitnesses claim the group of officers was successful in channeling a spirit, though not the one they intended. After asking the Ouija board how Clausewitz reconciled his principle of the culminating victory, the strategists were confused at his answer, “I reconcile culminating feels better.”

In an embarrassing turn of events, the group had been seeking advice from Pvt. Chadwick “Chad” Clausewitz, a Civil War deserter from the 56th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Pvt. Clausewitz was executed in 1863 for abandoning his sentry post after he was caught masturbating to a tintype of a woman’s bare ankles.

“I knew something was wrong when the spirit told me to ‘talk it off,’” said Pentagon psychic Gwendolyn Mabry. “After we continued to pump it for answers, the spirit covered our group with a large amount of what appeared to be ectoplasm.”

Milley was last seen wiping his face and grumbling to a subordinate that they would probably have to consult the think tanks for a solution.

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Air Force

Service chiefs really tired of this Congressional committee’s crap

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The military’s service chiefs have been tired, but never tired like this. (Source: National Guard Bureau)

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department’s service chiefs are massively weary of this stupid Congressional committee hearing, sources confirmed today.

Although the hearing on force readiness in the mid-term began moments ago, it has “nose-dived faster than Congressman Schiff’s reputation,” according to a military legislative affairs officer. 

“I put on a service dress uniform for this?” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein asked his peers, apparently unaware he was wearing a hot microphone.

The Committee chairwoman — no one knows her name because she did nothing notable before Democrats took control of the House —asked Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley for his assessment of Navy readiness.

Milley appeared confused by a question on a separate service and paused before saying, “I would like to respond by stating that the readiness of Congress to hold this hearing is a complete shit-show, ma’am.”

Rep. Slay Z. Lewks (D – possibly Queens but she doesn’t know) followed with a freshwoman attempt at putting the hearing back on track by asking about mold in military housing. The chairwoman informed Lewks the topic was not related to force readiness.

“Then what about mold readiness in the mid-term?” Lewks asked.

Rep. Sea H. Ag (D – San Francisco) then interrupted Lewks to repeatedly stammer over the word “the.” She finally finished her question on the best place in D.C to meet sailors, which was met by the audible sighs of the testifying service chiefs.

Before Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson could wipe the stunned look off his face, Ag told him “I’m a cougar, John, in case you didn’t notice, John — rawwr.”

The chiefs then appeared to be studying their notes, but they were actually playing sudoku on sheets in their briefing books, except for Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller. 

“He doesn’t know how sudoku works,” says a Marine Corps public affairs office. Neller instead repeatedly snapped a can of Copenhagen under the desk while glaring at Lewks and anyone else who lewks at him for more than a second.

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