7 Ways Donuts Changed The Military Forever

History
Full Metal Jacket

It's National Doughnut Day! Yes, it's a made-up holiday. But for doughnuts! Doughnuts for service members! Do you not like donuts? Oh, are you one of those "WARRIOR FOOD" types? Good for you. But you should know that National Donut Day (either spelling works, and I'm lazy) actually is a military holiday, and for good reason: The modern-day U.S. national security complex would look dramatically different, if not for deep-fried sugar dough.


Let us count the myriad ways that the modern revolution in donut affairs has transformed the armed services:

1. How did donuts even get to America? By helping the U.S. Army win World War I.

Seriously! My colleague Sarah Sicard literally wrote the story on it: Volunteers for the Salvation Army traveled to the Western Front with the U.S. doughboys in 1917, "and together they rolled crullers by hand to give to homesick soldiers." Like, as many as 9,000 donuts a day for soldiers overseas.

Once victorious and back stateside, the vets' hunger for fried sugar was so great that it led New York City's Adolph Levitt to develop the first doughnut machine in the United States.

By 1938, the Salvation Army "lassies" and their donuts for GIs became such a big deal they actually formed the basis for National Donut Day, which, again, is the pseudo-holiday today that I'm using as an excuse for this post. Time is a flat circle.

2. You can't have a warrior ethos without picking on sugary "weakness."

Have you seen "Full Metal Jacket"? Ha ha ha, just kidding — of course you have. So you know the power of a jelly donut to motivate a drill instructor... and a recruit platoon.

As the German idealist philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel notes in his "Phenomenology of Spirit," a master-slave dialectic describes the groundwork for self-identity through the negation of another's identity; in other words, you are hard because the world's Pvt. Pyles are soft stacks of digested jelly donuts. You are proud because you are not him. You are enjoying the jelly donut by not enjoying a jelly donut. Congratulations, warrior!

3. You can't have a senior enlisted corps in the Navy if you don't have donuts.

Pretty sure it's in the regs: You can't make chief if you're not hitting your donut quota. Your detailers have all the necessary admin on this; there's a tracker sheet to fill out.

Fortunately, this lesson has percolated down to the Navy's junior officer training:

Because every butter-bar division officer needs to understand how chiefs tick, in all their Boston cream-swilling, gigline-busting glory.

4. Also, they're not donuts. They're SWOnuts.

Get it right. SWOnuts. This is important. It is an indelible reminder of the special bond between a black-shoe shipboard sailor and a dunkable chunk of carbs to go with the morning joe.

Slight digression: Here's a video that comes up when you search for "Navy donuts" on YouTube. I don't know what's going on, but it's a Navy veteran, and there are donuts, so enjoy.

5. Donuts help bring gender parity to the ranks.

What is a female service member supposed to do to keep long hair off the uniform collar, while still getting a cover to fit smartly? Enter the donut bun:

This changes everything. Don't @ me.

6. Donuts cement bonds between service members and civilian neighbors.

Perhaps you've heard that from the late 1990s until very recently, there were no Dunkin' Donuts in California. That wasn't entirely accurate. Like the conquistadores of old bringing the Gospel and the power of empire to the New World, the Marines brought Dunkin' with them to Camp Pendleton. For a few years beginning in 2012, Pendleton's was the only DD store in California, a state with the world's sixth largest economy.

And judging from the Yelp comments, the locals greeted the donut-bearing Marines as liberators.

7. The struggle for free donuts mirrors vets' struggle for service-connected benefits.

If you don't give vets their donuts, they will hate you forever. Just ask the Red Cross. NPR explains:

The story starts when Russ Roberts, a George Mason University economist, started hearing about how veterans don't like the Red Cross. That struck him as odd, and when he asked about it, he always got the same answer: the doughnuts.

"And I thought, the doughnuts?" Roberts says. "What could that be?"

Go to any VFW hall, even today, and you'll get the same story: During World War II, the Red Cross had comfort stations for soldiers overseas, with free coffee and free doughnuts. Then, in 1942, the Red Cross started charging for the doughnuts. Soldiers have held a grudge ever since.

The crazy thing is this policy lasted, like, a couple years tops — "for most of the last 70 years, Red Cross doughnuts have remained free — but veterans haven't forgotten," NPR adds. But veterans have a long-ass memory for the wrongs committed against them. Don't mess with their bennies. And definitely don't gouge 'em on the donuts.

Nothing says joint force battle management like a ride-sharing app. (Task & Purpose photo illustration)

The Air Force's top general says one of the designers of the ride-sharing app Uber is helping the branch build a new data-sharing network that the Air Force hopes will help service branches work together to detect and destroy targets.

The network, which the Air Force is calling the advanced battle management system (ABMS), would function a bit like the artificial intelligence construct Cortana from Halo, who identifies enemy ships and the nearest assets to destroy them at machine speed, so all the fleshy humans need to do is give a nod of approval before resuming their pipe-smoking.

Read More
The newly painted F-15 Eagle flagship, dubbed the Heritage Jet, was painted to honor 1st Lt. David Kingsley, the namesake for Kingsley Field, and his ultimate sacrifice. (U.S. Air National Guard/Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar)

An F-15C Eagle is sporting a badass World War II-era paint job in honor of a fallen bomber pilot who gave everything to ensure his men survived a deadly battle.

Read More
The wreckage of a U.S. Air Force E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft is seen after a crash in Deh Yak district of Ghazni province, Afghanistan on January 27, 2020 (Reuters photo)

A U.S. E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft crashed on Monday on Afghanistan, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has confirmed.

Read More
In this June 7, 2009 file photo Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) points to a player behind him after making a basket in the closing seconds against the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals in Los Angeles. Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. He was 41. (Associated Press/Mark J. Terrill)

Beloved basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday. Two days earlier, Army Spc. Antonio I. Moore was killed during a vehicle rollover accident while conducting route clearing operations in Syria.

Which one more deserves your grief and mourning? According to Maj. Gen. John R. Evans, commander of the U.S. Army Cadet Command, you only have enough energy for one.

Read More
Jessica Purcell of St. Petersburg, a captain in the Army Reserve, was pregnant with son Jameson when she was told at a MacDill Air Force Base clinic not to worry about lumps under her arm. She now is diagnosed stage 4 cancer. Jameson is 10 months old. (Tampa Bay Times/Scott Keeler via Tribune News Service)

Jessica Purcell, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, was pregnant with her first child when she noticed a swollen lymph node in her left underarm.

Health-care providers at a MacDill Air Force Base clinic told her it was likely an infection or something related to pregnancy hormones. The following year they determined the issue had resolved itself.

It hadn't. A doctor off base found a large mass in her underarm and gave her a shocking diagnosis: stage 2 breast cancer.

Purcell was pregnant again. Her daughter had just turned 1. She was 35. And she had no right to sue for malpractice.

A 1950 Supreme Court ruling known as the Feres doctrine prohibits military members like Purcell from filing a lawsuit against the federal government for any injuries suffered while on active duty. That includes injury in combat, but also rape and medical malpractice, such as missing a cancer diagnosis.

Thanks in part to Tampa lawyer Natalie Khawam, a provision in this year's national defense budget allows those in active duty to file medical malpractice claims against the government for the first time since the Feres case.

With the Department of Defense overseeing the new claims process, the question now is how fairly and timely complaints will be judged. And whether, in the long run, this new move will help growing efforts to overturn the ruling and allow active duty members to sue like everyone else.

Read More