Buying a New Car? Should you Buy Used or New? Lease or Purchase?

Buying a new car can be a bit of a minefield. There are so many different options that it’s difficult to know whether to go for something new or used or whether to lease or purchase. Here we’ll take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each, so that you can make an informed decision!

Most of the differences between used and new cars are fairly obvious. New cars are far more expensive than those which are a few years old – this is due to something called depreciation, which we will touch upon later. However, car dealers often offer finance packages to help you spread the cost over time, which private sellers of used cars won’t do. Furthermore, used cars are much more likely to face problems in terms of reliability, as the parts will wear down over time. New cars are usually covered under the manufacturers’ warranties for problems like this, which isn’t the case with used cars – meaning that repairs and maintenance can be cripplingly expensive.

The trouble with cars is that they’re unlike houses, which usually rise in value over time. Cars, on the other hand, are constantly losing value, from the moment you drive them out the parking lot – even while they’re sitting unused in your driveway. This is the aforementioned depreciation, and it’s influenced by a number of factors including fuel consumption. If you choose a gas guzzler, its price will depreciate much more quickly than a car with good fuel consumption, especially if fuel prices rise.

With that in mind, is it best to lease a car or buy one?

Leasing has experienced a boom in popularity in recent years. It’s estimated that one in four cars in the United States are bought using this method. Essentially, it is a long-term rental system where you pay a deposit (usually around the equivalent of three months’ worth of payments), then pay a fixed price each month for a set period of time. This is usually two or three years. At the end of the contract, you hand the car back. It’s as easy as that!

Purchasing a car outright is obviously an arrangement where you pay a set amount each month for a fixed period of time, after which you own the car and can do with it as you please.

In these simple terms, it might sound like purchasing is the best option, however, the monthly payments are usually two or three times the amount that you would pay should you lease a car. With that said, you would pay more each month, but you have something to show for it at the end of the payment period- you have the car, which you can sell and earn some money back (taking into account the fact that its value has depreciated). With leasing, you might pay less each month, but at the end of the two or three years, when you hand back the keys you’re left with nothing.

Regarding the deposit, purchase agreements require a much larger deposit than leasing – it is between 20% and 50% of the car’s price. This can be hefty; the deposit alone can be more expensive than the entire price for a used car! The down payment for leasing a car is much more affordable, though. Typically, it is equivalent to the monthly payments made over three to six months. The fact that it’s cheaper is a benefit in itself, but it gets better. Most lease companies will offer you a choice on whether to put down a bigger deposit. Doing so is a good idea, as it will reduce the subsequent monthly payments for the rest of the contract.

When you lease a car, often there’s an option to add a small extra charge onto each monthly bill, which covers the cost of servicing. This is very helpful, rather than having to pay out one bigger lump sum once a year, as is the case with purchasing a car. However, the warranty from the manufacturer normally covers the period for which you’ll be paying for the car in both the case of purchase and lease, so there is no benefit to be gained in this case from one above the other.

As if all of this wasn’t good enough, one of the most appealing aspects of car leasing is that most of the time, it’s possible to get a car which would generally have been out of your price bracket to be affordable. This is made possible by the set monthly repayments and the fact that you don’t own the car at the end. In addition, every few years you’re able to drive a new model, rather than being stuck with an older model which is constantly depreciating in value and becoming outdated in terms of technology.

It’s clear that there are advantages and disadvantages to all the options, whether buying new or used, lease or purchase. With the lease and purchase options, buying a new car is becoming a lot more affordable nowadays than it used to be. Car leasing is a fantastic option – the only major drawback is that you pay thousands of dollars over a few years, and you’re left with nothing to show for it. This is one of the main reasons why you might want to choose purchase over lease instead. However, for many people, even these options are too far out of reach financially. Sometimes buying used is the only option, and there are still some great deals to be had. Sure, there are more risks, but if you search long and hard you might find a hidden gem. Whichever route you go down, choosing a new car is all about finding the best deal within your price range!

Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps: Part 10

In the tenth and final installment of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the Marine Corps we cover a wide array of foreign military awards that have been presented to United States military units for service in support of their troops. Much like the medals and streamers of the United States Marine Corps, foreign militaries make their awards eligible to American troops for outstanding service. Follow along as we cover six more today to wrap up the series.

Philippine Independence

The Philippine Independence streamer is an award of the Republic of the Philippines military in recognition for repeated participation in Philippine military campaigns, specifically during World War II. In order to receive the Philippine Independence streamer, a unit must first have received the Philippine Defense and Philippine Liberation streamers, which we covered last week. Upon participation in the initial resistance of Japanese invasion as well as the liberation efforts to rid the Philippines of Japanese troops, the Philippine military would award the unit the Philippine Independence streamer to provide distinction for repeated efforts to assist the Philippine military. For individuals who meet the requirements, the Philippine Independence Medal is awarded; the most noteworthy recipient of that award was Army General Douglas MacArthur.

French Croix De Guerre

The French Croix De Guerre streamer is an award of the French military created to recognize French units as well as their allies who served during World War I. After World War II, the Croix De Guerre streamer became known as the Croix De Guerre 1914-1918 streamer. The streamer is awarded for gallantry and at least one mention of gallantry is required for receipt of the French Croix De Guerre.

Philippine Presidential Unit Citation

The Philippine Presidential Unit Citation is an award of the Republic of the Philippines designed to recognize units of the Philippine or United States military who served in either the defense or liberation of the Philippines during World War II. After World War II, the award was given twice more, once for assistance to the Philippines in relief efforts after devastating Typhoons in 1970 and monsoon rains and flooding in 1972.

Korean Presidential Unit Citation

The Korean Presidential Unit Citation is an award of the government of South Korea for units that were individually cited by the President of South Korea for excellence in duty. While this award is still being issued today, the primary issuance of this award was given to United States troops during the Korean War. The South Korean government authorized distribution of the award to every unit of the United States military that deployed to Korea between 1950 and 1954. Since then, awards of this streamer to units of foreign militaries have been sporadic and rare.

Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Meritorious Unit Citation of the Gallantry Cross

The Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Meritorious Unit Citation of the Gallantry Cross is an award from the, now defunct, government of South Vietnam in recognition of valor and heroism during combat with the enemy. Designed primarily for the Vietnamese military, the award was given to every unit of the nations that assisted and supported South Vietnam. Because of the mass issuance, the award lost its prestige somewhat and is now the second most common Vietnamese award given to foreigners.

Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation Civil Actions

The Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation Civil Actions streamer is an award of the former South Vietnam for units that performed outstanding duty in civil affairs. In order to receive the award, the service must be extraordinary to a degree that would warrant the Civil Actions Medal, which is an individual award for outstanding civic action. Units of the Army and Marine Corps received the streamer from the Republic of South Vietnam due to their participation with the local police force and assistance in quelling civil unrest in South Vietnam.

As we conclude our 10 part series, we invite you to browse through our previous editions below.


Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps: Part 9

In the ninth installment of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the Marine Corps, we move forward in time to the present day. The Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns are covered as well as a number of streamers designated for recognition of the United States’ Global War on Terrorism.  Follow along as we take a look into modern campaigns, some of which are still ongoing, before we move on to awards of foreign countries that have been given to the United States Marines in recognition for their service in support of their operations.

Afghanistan Campaign

Established in 2004 by President George W. Bush, the Afghanistan Campaign Streamer is awarded to units in recognition of their service within the borders of Afghanistan. In order to be eligible for the streamer, the unit must have served for a period of 30 consecutive days or 60 non-consecutive days. For units that engaged in combat with the enemy or had personnel wounded or killed, the time requirement is waived and the streamer is awarded. There are five phases in which a unit may be eligible for award of the Afghanistan Campaign Streamer: Liberation of Afghanistan (Sept. 11-Nov. 30, 2001), Consolidation I (Dec. 1, 2001-Sept. 30, 2006), Consolidation II (Oct. 1, 2006-Nov. 30, 2009), Consolidation III (Dec. 1, 2009-June 30, 2011) and Transition I (July 1, 2011-Present). The streamer was first awarded in 2004 and it is still being issued today. 

Iraq Campaign

Established in 2004 by President George W. Bush, the Iraq Campaign Streamer is awarded to units in recognition of their service within the borders of Iraq. In order to be eligible for the streamer, a unit must serve for 30 consecutive days or 60 non-consecutive days. For units that engaged in combat with the enemy or had personnel wounded or killed, the time requirement is waived and the streamer is awarded. Units conducting aerial missions are also eligible for the streamer. Each day spent conducting a mission counted as a day towards receipt of the streamer. The first award of the Iraq campaign streamer was in 2003 and it was awarded to units until the conclusion of Operation New Dawn on December 31, 2011. If a unit conducted a mission within the borders of Iraq after the close of Operation New Dawn in 2011, they were not eligible for the award. There are seven phases in which a unit may be eligible for award of the Iraq Campaign Streamer: Liberation of Iraq (Mar. 19-May 1 2003), Transition of Iraq (May 2, 2003-June 28, 2004), Iraqi Governance (June 29, 2004-Dec. 15, 2005), National Resolution (Dec. 16, 2005-Jan. 9 2007), Iraqi Surge (Jan. 10, 2007-Dec. 31, 2008), Iraqi Sovereignty (Jan. 1, 2009-Aug. 31, 2010) and New Dawn (Sep. 1 2010-Dec. 31, 2011).

 Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary

Established in 2003 by President George W. Bush, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Streamer is awarded to units in recognition of their service while deployed overseas in “direct service to the War on Terror.” Originally intended to recognize service in Iraq and Afghanistan, the streamer was replaced by the aforementioned Afghanistan and Iraq Campaign streamers, therefore the streamer is now utilized for recognition of service in areas outside of Iraq and Afghanistan in support of the War on Terror beginning on September 11, 2001 and running to present day. While the service must be performed outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, it is important to mention that the service must also be outside of the United States in a deployed status.  In order to eligible for receipt of the award, the unit must be deployed in an anti-terrorism operation for 30 consecutive days or 60 non-consecutive days. For units that engaged in combat with the enemy or had personnel wounded or killed, the time requirement is waived and the streamer is awarded. 

Global War on Terrorism

Established in 2003 by President George W. Bush, the Global War on Terrorism Streamer is awarded to units in recognition of service performed during the War on Terror. In order to be eligible for the award, a unit must serve for 30 consecutive days or 60 non-consecutive days between September 11, 2001 and present day on an anti-terrorism operation. For units that engaged in combat with the enemy or had personnel wounded or killed, the time requirement is waived and the streamer is awarded. Initially established for the “Airport Security Operation”, the streamer began to be issued for support activity on anti-terrorism operations, even if the unit did not directly participate. With the streamer being issued for the broad term “support”, the streamer became somewhat of a “blanket award” issued to most units in the armed forces who performed 30 days of duty after September 11, 2001.

Philippine Defense

The first of several foreign military streamers that the United States Marine Corps has received, the Philippine Defense Streamer is awarded to units for their support of the Philippine military during the initial resistance against Japanese invasion between the months of December 1941 and June 1942. In order to receive the streamer, the unit must have participated in “any engagement against the enemy in Philippine territory, in Philippine waters, or in the air over the Philippines or over Philippine waters.” Members of the United States Marine Corps who were captured at Bataan and endured the Bataan Death March received the individual version of this award, the Philippine Defense Medal.

Philippine Liberation

The Philippine Liberation Streamer is a Philippine military award issued to recognize service performed during the liberation of the Philippine Islands. The streamer was awarded to units of both the “Philippine Commonwealth and allied militaries, who participated in the liberation of the Philippine Islands between the dates of October 17, 1944 and September 2, 1945.” In order to receive the streamer, the unit must have performed duty in the Philippines for a minimum of 30 days. Other qualifications for the award include participation in: “the initial landing operation of Leyte and adjoining islands from October 7 to October 20, 1944” as well as “any engagement against hostile Japanese forces during the Philippine Liberation Campaign of October 17, 1944 to September 2, 1945.”

Join us next week as we cover the: Philippine Independence, French Croix De Guerre, Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Meritorious Unit Citation of the Gallantry Cross and Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation Civil Actions streamers. Be sure to check out the previous editions of our 10 part series below as well.


Retirement Planning for the Mid Forties Couple

Retirement Planning for the Mid Forties Couple

For people in their mid forties, financial planning can present a daunting challenge. They are often in a position which they have never found themselves before. Most people who have had children are seeing that their kids will soon be leaving the nest. In theory, this should leave them feeling slightly better off from a financial perspective. However, with only around 20 more years of work left, it can be a challenge knowing how much to save for retirement versus how much to spend enjoying yourself.

With all the recent global economic crises, millions of people are finding money a struggle, and with people living longer than previous generations, working well into old age is a serious possibility for many. Despite this, with careful planning and preparation – well in advance – retirement can be a comfortable, enjoyable experience.

The good news is that by getting started so early, you’re more likely to be able to secure yourself financially than if you wait until the last minute. It’s important to work out how much retirement is going to cost you. Would you like to spend more time traveling? Do you plan to move in with a family member? How much do you need to budget for your food bills so you have lower food bills? Would you like to be self-sufficient, relying on as few people as possible? These are questions which only you can answer. It is essential that you sit down now to work out a plan. If you don’t have an idea of what you will do during retirement, then you won’t be able to plan to achieve your goal properly. It might feel like these are big decisions to make so far in advance – and of course people’s circumstances and wishes do change over time – but if you start out with a general idea then you’re already halfway there.

Once you’ve figured out how much you’re going to have to pay out, turn your attention to how much money you will have coming in. Whether you have a private 401K or a pension plan from you employer, you are able to gauge to a certain extent how much income you will have. Will it be enough to cover your projected costs? If you find that there are shortcomings, meaning your liabilities will be higher than your income, then it is time to focus on putting money into a retirement plan. Now is the time as your income is most likely at its highest. Now is the time to sort out your retirement savings.

Obviously, regular expenses are going to be a weight on your wallet, so try and reduce it as much as possible before you retire. Make a concerted effort to pay off any debts and your mortgage – you may have to make some sacrifices while you tighten your belt now, but it will be better for you in the long run. Your goal should be to not have any financial obligations once you are no longer working.

Start setting aside money to save regularly. Bills have to be paid every month obviously. You have to decide on how much money you can afford to put aside and put it into your savings after expenses have been covered. The idea is to save first and to spend second. You must discipline yourself to stick to your savings plan. You can occasionally treat yourself out to a nice dinner, a new outfit or a night out with your spouse and still stick to your plan. It just takes self discipline and a focus on your end goal, retirement.

Furthermore, make sure that your savings are working as well as they can for you. If they sit in an account with a low interest rate, then you’re not making the most of your money. Seek out the advice of an investment counselor if you don’t wish to manage things yourself. Do yourself a favor however, take the time to educate yourself enough to understand the basics of investing. How often does your account compound interest? What fees will a financial planner charge you? Are you tracking these fees and reading your statements? Never fly blind when it comes to retirement planning. All too often, we place our money in banks, and leave it there for years on end. The rates are always changing and new options are becoming available. It is crucial that you keep on top of these things. Investigate all the different investment options which are available to you, and which one will be most suitable for you and your money. Do not be afraid to ask questions of your bank or financial planner. By staying on top of things, your money will continue to grow and do all the work for you!

Ultimately, this is the time to be sensible with your money. Take it seriously. You are investing in your future. Having financial worries hanging over your head as you grow older can be a real burden. In addition, whatever steps you take now will also benefit future generations, and whoever you decide to leave your money to. There is enough time now to plan a comfortable, enjoyable retirement!

Oops, I Just Tweeted That Osama Bin Laden is Dead!

How Social Media Has Affected the Modern Day Battlefield

With continually developing technology, the ways in which members of the military connect with friends, family and the civilian world are changing. Think back to the days of World War I, where the only means for soldiers to keep in touch with their families was by writing letters. Since the Internet and social media were invented, nowadays communication is a whole lot quicker and easier.

Social Media and Osama Bin Laden

Social media was at the epicenter of the military operation to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden. A coffee shop owner in Abbottobad Pakistan unknowingly tweeted commentary about the sound of the helicopters carrying Seal Team Six operators as they were en route to the Bin Laden compound. Sohaib Athar quite literally broke the first news about the Bin Laden operation when he tweeted “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event)”

The tech savvy Sohaib Athar unwittingly tweeted the Bin Laden Raid! Athar later admitted he didn’t like the moment of fame brought brought about by his tweeting. He later confessed, “I am JUST a tweeter, awake at the time of the crash. Not many twitter users in Abbottabad, these guys are more into facebook. That’s all.”

Email and the Military

In the 1980′s email was introduced to workplaces, and the whole world’s communication changed forever. In those days, information was sent out via email, and it spread only as quickly as people checked their emails (not counting the time it took for dial-up Internet to connect, as well!). Now, with just one click on your cell phone, an enormous amount of potentially crucial information can reach millions of people within seconds.

This has had a tremendous impact on the way the military operates. Social media is not something which can be ignored; the majority of serving members of the military have grown up with social media. It has to be accepted and embraced as it has become such a big part of everyday life. The Department of Defense did exactly that in 2010, making social media accessible to service men and women on work computers.

Dissemination of Official Military Information

The cause for concern comes in where there is such a fine line between what information is official, and what is not. Twenty or thirty years ago, an official statement was made, and that was taken as fact. Fast forward to now, and anyone can post information, thoughts, opinions, viewpoints, experiences, pictures and hearsay, which some people may mistakenly take to be an official statement. This can be damaging, and even dangerous.

Operations Security – OPSEC

As it has become so much easier for information to enter the public domain, soldiers have also been placed at a much higher risk than they were in the 1980s and 1990s. It was much easier to keep details of their locations and operations secret before the days of social media. Information was kept on a need-to-know basis. These days, with the uploading of a single picture or a simple message posted about homecomings, details are put out there which can potentially put soldiers’ lives at risk, if it gets into the wrong hands. Once it has been sent into cyberspace, there is no way to get it back, and even if it is deleted, there’s no way of knowing just who might have seen it or what website archived it. This is one of the major downsides to social media and the military, as it’s so hard to tackle. There are guidelines for service personnel and their families on how to conduct themselves online, but this is certainly something which soldiers of years gone by never even had to think about. Always remember operational security when posting to social media sites.

Whether we like it or not, social media has affected all of our lives. It is something which the military has had to tackle head on, and it definitely has its advantages. On one hand, the ability to release information quickly and easily is a useful tool for the Department of Defense. On the other hand, there are always risks surrounding what information is released and when. Keeping in touch with friends and family is always a plus point, but communicating with potentially dangerous individuals is risky. It seems as though social media has both advantages and disadvantages for the military. It is, however, something that they don’t really have a choice about. Social media is growing exponentially these days, or so it seems. When you consider how far technology has brought us over the last thirty years, where will the next thirty take us?

Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps: Part 8

In the eighth edition of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the Marine Corps, we move forward in time to cover the Korean and Vietnam Wars as well as modern campaigns such as the Persian Gulf War and Kosovo.  Follow along as we delve into each streamer and the qualifications for award.

National Defense Service

Established in 1953 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the National Defense Service streamer is awarded to units that served honorably during a period of national emergency during a time of conflict or war. Designed to be a “blanket” streamer, the streamer was originally issued to units for which there was no official recognition. Currently, the streamer is authorized for award for the following periods: Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War and Global War on Terrorism. Because the Global War on Terrorism is still ongoing, the National Defense Service streamer is still being awarded today to units that serve honorably.

Korean Service

Established in 1950 by President Harry Truman, the Korean Service streamer recognizes participation in the Korean War. The streamer is awarded to units that “performed duty in the Republic of Korea, between June 27, 1950 and July 27, 1954.” There are thirteen official campaigns recognized by the United States Department of Defense in the Korean War and Marines took part in twelve of them. Because of this, the national streamer for the United States Marine Corps is adorned with two silver stars, each representing six campaigns. 

Armed Forces Expeditionary

Established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the Armed Forces Expeditionary streamer is awarded to units in recognition of “any military campaign of the United States for which no other service streamer is authorized.” The streamer acts as a “blanket” award to recognize duty that was performed for which there are no formal awards; therefore, this streamer covers a broad spectrum of duty, however the duty must fall within one or more of three specific categories: “U.S. military operations; U.S. military operations in direct support of the United Nations; and U.S. operations of assistance to friendly foreign nations.” Because the streamer is so broad in its criteria for award, participants in the early years of the Vietnam War were given the Armed Forces Expeditionary streamer instead of the Vietnam Service streamer. When the Vietnam Service streamer was created in 1965, units were given the option to exchange the Armed Forces Expeditionary streamer for it, therefore, some units may have received the award, however it is not adorned on the flag staff because it was subsequently exchanged.

Vietnam Service

Established in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Vietnam Service streamer is awarded in recognition for “military service during the Vietnam War”. In order to receive the streamer, the unit must have “served on temporary duty for more than 30 consecutive days, or 60 non-consecutive days, attached to or regularly serving for one, or more, days with an organization participating in or directly supporting ground (military) operations or attached to or regularly serving for one, or more, days aboard a naval vessel directly supporting military operations in the Republic of Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos within the defined combat zone.” The dates that the service had to be performed between are as follows: November 15, 1961 and March 28, 1973, and from April 29, 1975 to April 30, 1975. The single date in April of 1975 is the historic “Fall of Saigon”, in which the capital of South Vietnam was captured, marking the end of the Vietnam War and the beginning of a reunified Vietnam.

Southwest Asia Service

Established in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush, the Southwest Asia Service streamer is awarded to units in recognition of their service during the Persian Gulf War. In order to receive the streamer, the unit must have served in support of Operation Desert Shield or Operation Desert Storm in at least one of the following areas: Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea from north of 10° N latitude and west of 68° E longitude, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates. The dates that the service had to be performed between are August 2, 1990 and November, 30 1995. Units who served in Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Syria or Jordan in direct support of combat operations between January 17, 1991 and April 11, 1991 are also eligible to receive the Southwest Asia Service streamer.

Kosovo Campaign

 Established in 2000 by President Bill Clinton, the Kosovo Campaign streamer recognized units that performed service in Kosovo between March 24, 1999 and December 31, 2013. In order to receive the award, the unit must be “participating in, or be engaged in direct support of, the operation for 30 consecutive days in the area of operations or for 60 non-consecutive days provided this support involves entering the area of operations.” Award of the streamer can be given in special circumstances for less than 30 days of service, provided one of the following criteria are met.

The unit or a member of the unit must:

“Be engaged in actual combat, or duty that is equally as hazardous as combat duty, during the operation with armed opposition, regardless of time in the area of operations;

While participating in the operation, regardless of time, is wounded or injured and requires medical evacuation from the area of operations.

While participating as a regularly assigned aircrew member flying sorties into, out of, within, or over the area of operations in direct support of the military operations.”

Stay tuned next week as we move forward in time to cover the: Afghanistan Campaign, Iraq Campaign, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary, Global War on Terrorism Service, Philippine Defense, and Philippine Liberation streamers. Be sure to check out the previous editions of our 10 part series below.


Father’s Day for a Military Dad

Father’s Day for a Military Dad

When someone joins the military, it is not just that individual who takes on the military lifestyle, the whole family is affected. There is a huge strain on families who spend so much time apart, especially the children who may be too young to understand why their parents have to leave. That’s why It is so important to make the most of Father’s Day. It is an opportunity for kids to show their dads how they feel, so that they can strengthen their relationship.

It is an all too common sight for military families to have the dad deployed over Father’s Day. This means that not only do the dads and children already feel distanced, but it is even more difficult for the kids to show their fathers love and appreciation, as they’re so far away. It can be an incredibly lonely time for all members of the family. N oone likes to miss those big holidays.

However, It is important to make the most of what you can. Even the smallest of home comforts can make deployments easier for military dads. By sending a special Father’s Day care package, there’s no reason why a deployed soldier can’t experience some Father’s Day love! Pack in special treats from home or homemade gifts from the kids to make it all that more meaningful.

It is true that it may not always be possible to buy the biggest, fanciest gifts for military dads on Father’s Day, especially if they’re deployed. However, it shouldn’t matter. The media tries to make everything so commercial and pushes us into buying meaningless gifts for our dads, that sometimes we forget the real reason for the occasion. Military dads might be away, or they might have to travel a lot, but isn’t that the perfect way to make it really personal? Sure, you might not be able to send some expensive gift like society expects you to, but sending and receiving small, well thought out, handmade gifts will mean so much more to both dads and kids.

For those military dads who are lucky enough to be at home for Father’s Day, feel blessed. Being able to spend quality time together is so special, and it is just amplified on Father’s Day. This is definitely an opportunity to make the most of. Kids, shower your dads with love and appreciation, as that will keep him going while he’s away. Dads, take this chance to make sure your children know how much you love them!

Spending time with family is one of the biggest sacrifices that military dads have to make. They don’t get to spend nearly enough time with their children. Despite this, it is still a time to be embraced and celebrated by all military children, no matter where around the world their dads are. Father’s Day (which falls on Sunday June 15 this year), should be a reminder for military dads that their children love them no matter what. It is been said about lovers and it applies to children and their dads, too. Love knows no bounds.



Go Fast Boots Going Away per AR 670-1

Go Fast Boots Going Away per AR 670-1

There is a new sheriff in town, and their name is Sergeant Major or First Sergeant. Well, in all reality, he or she has been there all along. Times are just changing with respect to Army authorized boots under Army Regulation AR670-1. Let’s be clear though, this topic mainly applies to CONUS based Army personnel.  If you’re down range, we strongly doubt Top is concerned about AR670-1 enforcement. If they are, well, keep on keeping on. The same likely applies to reservists and National Guard. We are primarily addressing active duty Army personnel within the lower 48 states, Alaska, Hawaii and US territories.

We know that not every person in the Army is rucking with a 90 pound pack. The vast majority of people in the Army are either in garrison or doing other tasks that don’t require a set of extra durable boots. In the sandbox, boots are a crucial part of your kit, and you depend on them daily. However, many are now out of theater and back in garrison in the states. The rules have not changed. They are simply being enforced.

AR670-1 Army Boot Regulations

The truth though is that some of the most popular boots for Army personnel are, in fact, unauthorized boots. To qualify as an authorized boot, the following must apply.

  • They must be made from cowhide leather. No synthetic leather is allowed.
  • They must be 8″ tall with no zipper.
  • The boot cannot have a heel or toe cap.
  • The boots must be desert tan.
  • The upper can have nylon but no mesh.

Examples of Boots Not Authorized per AR670-1

Here are some samples of boots that will now be considered unauthorized.

  • Nike SFB – this boot has a synthetic upper.
  • Rocky C4 Trainer – the upper is made from synthetic suede.
  • New Balance OTB – this boot has a synthetic upper.
  • Danner Tachyon – this boot has a synthetic upper.
  • Bates Tactical Sport Desert – Wolverine Warrior leather is not authorized.
  • Tactical Research Flyweight boots – the microsuede is not authorized.
  • Bates Zero Mass – Wolverine Warrior leather is not authorized.
  • Bates GX-8 Desert Composite – Wolverine Warrior leather is not authorized.
  • Under Armour Alegent – the upper is made from synthetic suede.
  • Under Armour Valsetz – the upper is only 7 inches and the upper is synthetic.
  • McRae Temperate Ultra Lightweight – the upper is made from synthetic

This is only a sampling of the most popular boots that would now be considered unauthorized. This is not an all-inclusive listing. If you follow the guidelines outlined above, you will be able to determine what boots are authorized and which ones are not. We’ve also compiled a listing of boots that meet AR670-1 standards. Click the link to see our compilation of Army authorized boots.

Manufacturers Bringing Popular Army Boots into Compliance with AR670-1

Lastly, don’t fret too much over this issue. Many of the manufacturers are in the process of updating your favorite boots so they come into compliance with AR670-1. Here is a short list of boots that are in the process of being updated.

  • Rocky C4 Trainers – they will be manufacturing in leather soon.
  • Rocky C5C – these boots are made of leather now, but the heel extending above the sole makes this boot non-compliant. Rocky is addressing this issue shortly.
  • Nike SFB – this boot will be manufactured in leather as of the August/September shipment this year.
  • Nike Field boot – this boot will be manufactured in leather as of the August/September shipment this year.
  • Tactical Research Flyweight – this boot will be compliant with the late July shipment.

The bottom line is that as ridiculous as this seems, the Army is going to now enforce the rules after letting you wear your favorite boots through multiple deployments and wars. Save yourself some trouble and get into compliance now before the boot police come calling.

Planning a Vegetable Garden for First Time Gardeners

How to Plan a Garden for First Time Gardeners

On the journey to becoming self-sufficient, creating a garden to grow your own vegetables is an essential activity. However, in order to make the most of it, you do have to have a basic understanding of what it takes to be a dedicated vegetable grower. This can be a challenge for those of you who are new to gardening. Without doing proper research and planning, you will end up with too much of certain crops and not enough of others, and in the worst case scenario you may struggle to grow anything at all. Here are some tips to help you grow a successful, thriving garden!

Common Gardening Mistakes

One of the most common mistakes when it comes to starting out with growing vegetables is that people plant too much. It is an exciting journey you are starting, but don’t be tempted to plant every kind of vegetable under the sun. To begin with, just choose your favorite vegetables, or choose those which may be too expensive for your budget. It is always less expensive to grow your own vegetables. Over time, as you grow in confidence and experience, you can add more varieties and a greater number of plants if you wish.

Choosing Vegetables for Your Garden

When thinking about which vegetables to choose, take into consideration how much your household eats. There’s no point in planting several rows of carrots if only one person likes them; equally, it is sensible to grow more of the vegetables that you eat the most. If your family lives off homemade fries and mashed potatoes, then grow more potato plants! That said, if you do get the quantities wrong at first, don’t worry. You always have the option of fermenting your own vegetables or doing home canning in order to preserve your food for longer.

Gardening Layouts

Next you need to consider the type of beds that you would like to use, and their layout. It is easy to think that a large vegetable garden is the best choice, but there may be factors of which you have not thought. It may cut down on your growing space slightly, but having paths in between your beds is a good idea. It will make it easier for you to access all your plants without stepping on any of them. Provided your beds are not too big, paths are also a useful thing to have when you are kneeling down doing the weeding!

Once you’ve decided on how your beds will look and which vegetables you are going to grow, the arrangement of your plants within the garden is the next thing to add to your plan. If you throw all your plants in randomly, you will not get the most out of them. Plant your vegetables according to the conditions that will suit them best.

For example, the plants that need the most sun should be positioned first, so that they can get most of the sun’s rays. These plants tend to be a softer vegetable such as peppers, or fruit such as tomatoes. Next, you should find homes for the plants that send vines out around the garden. These types of plants (including squash, melons and more) tend to have very large leaves, so by placing them at the edges of your garden, they will not cover and hinder any of your other plants. The amount of shade that plants get can also be crucial. If you are planning to plant any vegetables that grow vertically up supports (like peas and beans, for example), you will need to make sure that they will not be casting shade over your other plants. Unless, of course, you have other plants like spinach that enjoy cooler climes. Herbs or plants which you will want to harvest often are best placed as close as possible to your kitchen, so you’ll be more inclined to use them regularly.

Garden Watering and Drainage

At this point, you will also need to look at your irrigation and drainage needs. Certain plants are not suited to dry conditions. You will need to make sure they get plenty of water. Examples of these types of foods include strawberries and onions.

With regards to the rest of your planting, it is not a deal-breaker, but you may want to plan which types of vegetables you plant next to each other. Some plants need to be planted near to others in order to pollinate properly. Examples of this are tomatoes. They require pollination from other plants in order to produce their fruit.

Above all, the biggest trap when planning a vegetable garden, which you should be wary of falling into, is the temptation to overcrowd it. If you plant all the seeds you have, you’ll have gone to all that hard work and effort, only to have to go back later and remove some of your crops to give the rest space to grow. Go easy on your vegetables. You can always add more if you need to, but removing ones that you’ve already planted is a hassle!

Otherwise, you should be good to go. These are not hard and fast rules. Because every garden (and every gardener!) is different, just enjoy the process, and find whatever works for you. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The fun thing about gardening is that if it does not go to plan, you can always take it all out and start again!

Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps: Part 7

As we continue on our journey forward in time, the seventh part of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the Marine Corps takes us up to and through World War II and the awards handed out for service during World War II and immediately following World War II. Because the war took place in a number of different locations, many awards were created to recognize service in differing regions of the world. While World War I was fought nearly exclusively in Europe, World War II had a number of different theaters to include the American Theater, European Theater, and Pacific Theater. Follow along as we cover each theater and the awards associated with service in each.

American Defense Service

Established in 1941 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American Defense Service streamer was awarded to units that “performed military duty between September 8, 1939 and December 7, 1941.” These dates signify the period of World War II in which the United States had not formally participated. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States in the famous Attack on Pearl Harbor. After the attack, the United States became heavily involved in the war and subsequent service streamers were created to commemorate those campaigns.

American Campaign

Established in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American Campaign streamer was awarded to units who served in the American Theater during World War II. The American Theater consists of North and South America as well as the neighboring islands in the region. The vast majority of the action during World War II took place in Europe and Asia; however many well known battles did take place in the American Theater, including the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the Aleutian Islands Campaign and the attacks on Newfoundland. To receive the award, a unit must have served with the American theater between December 7, 1941 and March 2, 1946 and met one of the following criteria:

-On permanent assignment outside the continental limits of the United States

-Permanently assigned as a member of a crew of a vessel sailing ocean waters for a period of 30 consecutive days or 60 nonconsecutive days

-Outside the continental limits of the United States in a passenger status or on temporary duty for 30 consecutive days or 60 nonconsecutive days

-In active combat against the enemy and was awarded a combat decoration or furnished a certificate by the commanding general of a corps, higher unit, or independent force that the Soldier actually participated in combat

-Within the continental limits of the United States for an aggregate period of 1 year

European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign

Established in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign streamer was awarded to units that “had performed military duty in the European Theater (to include North Africa and the Middle East) during the years of the Second World War.” The majority of the conflicts during World War II occurred in the European Theater and US Marines were instrumental in securing victory on the European front. Known as the EAME streamer for short, the award is given to units who served between December 7, 1941 and March 2, 1946 assuming the service took place between the following locations:

-West boundary – From the North Pole, south along the 75th meridian west longitude to the 77th parallel north latitude, thence southeast through Davis Strait to the intersection of the 40th parallel north latitude and the 35th meridian west longitude, thence south along that meridian to the 10th parallel north latitude, thence southeast to the intersection of the equator and the 20th meridian west longitude, thence along the 20th meridian west longitude to the South Pole

-East boundary – From the North Pole, south along the 60th meridian east longitude to its intersection with the eastern border of Iran, thence south along that border to the Gulf of Oman and the intersection of the 60th meridian east longitude, thence south along the 60th meridian east longitude to the South Pole.

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign

Established in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign streamer was awarded to units that “served in the Pacific Theater from 1941 to 1945.” The United States Marine Corps participated in 50 campaigns in the Pacific Theater. Therefore, the streamer is adorned with eight silver stars and one bronze star. Each Silver Star signifies six awards of the streamer and each bronze star signifies an additional award. Some notable campaigns that occurred in the Pacific Theater include the Battle of Midway, Wake Island and Guadalcanal.

World War II Victory

Established in 1945 by an Act of Congress, the World War II Victory streamer was awarded to units “for service between 7 December 1941 and 31 December 1946.” Originally called the “Victory streamer,” the award was issued to units, both active duty and reserve, who served between the dates listed above. In an interesting twist, despite the namesake, some units received the award without actually participating in World War II. This is because President Harry Truman did not declare an official end to war until the end of 1946, even though the war ended on September 2, 1945. Therefore, receipt of the award does not necessarily signify that a unit fought in World War II, but instead was a part of the military at some point prior to December 31, 1946.

Navy Occupation Service

After the close of World War II, much like after World War I, United States troops occupied regions of Europe and Asia to enforce post-war sanctions and ensure stability in the region. While the streamer is a Navy award, it can be “issued to Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard personnel who participated in the European and Asian occupation forces during World War II, and following the close of the World War II.” Because forces occupied regions of Europe and Asia, two service clasps bearing the name of the region are authorized for attachment if a unit served in that region. If a unit served in both regions, both clasps are authorized.

Follow along next week as we move forward in time to cover the National Defense Service, Korean Service, Armed Forces Expeditionary, Vietnam Service, Southwest Asia Service, and Kosovo Campaign streamers. Be sure to check out the previous editions of our series below as well!