Editor's note: this story originally appeared in 2018
How you die matters. Ten years ago, on Memorial Day, I was in Fallujah, serving a year-long tour on the staff and conducting vehicle patrols between Abu Ghraib and Ramadi. That day I attended a memorial service in the field. It was just one of many held that year in Iraq, and one of the countless I witnessed over my 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Like many military veterans, Memorial Day is not abstract to me. It is personal; a moment when we remember our friends. A day, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth."
The spectacle of hundreds of thousands of motorcycles roaring their way through the streets of Washington, D.C., to Memorial Day events as part of the annual Rolling Thunder veterans tribute will be a thing of the past after this coming weekend.
Former Army Sgt. Artie Muller, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran and co-founder of Rolling Thunder, said the logistics and costs of staging the event for Memorial Day, which falls on May 27 this year, were getting too out of hand to continue. The ride had become a tradition in D.C. since the first in 1988.
"It's just a lot of money," said the plainspoken Muller, who laced an interview with a few epithets of regret over having to shut down Rolling Thunder.
When an Air Force major called J.J. completed a solo flight in the U-2 in late August 2016 — 60 years after the high-flying aircraft was introduced — he became the 1,000th pilot to do so.
J.J., whose name was withheld by the U.S. Air Force for security reasons, earned his solo patch a few days after pilots No. 998 and No. 999. Those three pilots are in distinguished company, two fellow pilots said this month.
"We have a pretty small, elite team of folks. We're between about 60 and 70 active-duty pilots at any given time," Maj. Matt "Top" Nauman said during an Air Force event at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City.
"We're about 1,050 [pilots] right now. So to put that in context, there are more people with Super Bowl rings than there are people with U-2 patches," Nauman added. "It's a pretty small group of people that we've hired over the last 60 to 65 years."
Natalie Henry-Howell, mother of Riley Howell, receives his flag from a military honor guard during a memorial service for Riley Howell in Lake Junaluska, N.C., Sunday, May 5, 2019 (Associated Press/Kathy Kmonicek)
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. -- Brilliant sunshine, a gentle breeze, boisterous songbirds, a cavernous and rustic chapel on the edge of an idyllic lake — it was, nearly everyone would have to agree, the perfect setting from which to say goodbye to a young man who will forever be known as a hero.
As more than 1,000 people filed reverentially into Stuart Auditorium on Sunday afternoon, they were greeted by the face of that hero: Riley Howell, who died in the UNC Charlotte shooting just five days earlier after pinning the gunman down and thwarting attempts to kill more of his classmates. (One other student was killed and four more were injured, but police have repeatedly asserted that Howell ensured there wasn't further violence.)
On the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Army Col. Andrew Morgan will leave the Earth for the International Space Station. And even though it will be Army surgeon-turned-NASA astronaut's first time in space when he breaks through the atmosphere on July 20, he says it was his more than two decades in uniform that prepared him most for the upcoming mission.
"I chose to start serving my country when I was 18 years old," Morgan, who will blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft alongside his two fellow crew members from Italy and Russia, said during a call with reporters on April 19. "I've been doing that for 25 years. This is a continuation of that service."
Jackie Huber was one of the few, but she never felt particularly proud as a woman Marine.
She spent 20 years in the Marine Corps, from 1984 to 2004, and rose from the enlisted ranks to chief warrant officer. She worked in MISSO, the Manpower Information System Support Office, entering data about service members at installations on the East and West coasts. She volunteered for the same duty in Somalia as part of Operation Restore Hope and lived in a sand-filled camp that smelled of dirt and death.
Huber said it wasn't cool to be a Marine during most of her tenure, which was before the days military members were thanked for their service. Some of the men she worked with made it clear they looked upon women as more trouble than they were worth—unless they needed someone to sleep with, Huber said.
"We were treated like second-class citizens, and we had few rights and fewer advocates," Huber said. "That's why I didn't want anyone to know what I had done. I didn't wanted to be treated like that anymore."