Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Weiss, U.S. Navy.

Editor's note: This is the final installation of "Facing the Future: Military matters facing the next president," a five-part series by Stars and Stripes.

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Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

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And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

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Photo from the cover of "Scales on War."

A lot of dire warnings about future threats to the United States center around peer or near-peer adversaries. China and Russia are often cited as boogeymen, especially among those advocating for a larger military. In the next echelon down, there are the less-capable, but fanatical: Iran and North Korea, made even more threatening by their potential nuclear arsenals.

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Photo by Lance Cpl. Laura Y. Raga

In late 2001, I lifted off the USS Bataan in a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter toward Afghanistan as part of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. I was one of the first pilots to push into Afghanistan after 9/11. The trip to the Taliban birthplace of Kandahar meant an arduous flight through the mountains, pushing the 35-year-old “Battlephrog” close to its operating limits and range. We had to make a fuel stop at a remote base in Pakistan followed by a long flight across open desert, often flying on instruments through a sandy haze.

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