Beards in the Military Historically: Fear the Beard

It’s no secret that members of the Armed Forces have to follow a strict set of guidelines about how they present themselves. This includes facial hair, although the rules have changed over time, and they differ around the world. The ability to grow a beard is often considered a sign of masculinity and strength, which are terms often associated with members of the military, but how does this fit in to the military way of life?

During the 18th and 19th Centuries, beards were commonplace in militaries around the world. Find any picture of an American Civil War General, and chances are he’s sporting some rather impressive whiskers. The existence of facial hair even went as far as having shaving above the top lip banned for British soldiers after the Crimean War, which effectively made mustaches compulsory.

It wasn’t until the First World War that beards in the military became much less common, and for good reason. With the advances in chemical warfare, facial hair presented a very real risk to lives, as it could have caused gaps in the seals on gas masks. It was at this point that beards were prohibited.

This ban still applies for many forces around the world. It was briefly abolished in 1970 for acting U.S. Navy personnel by Elmo Zumwalt, who was Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) at the time. According to Zumwalt, ‘we must learn to adapt to changing fashions. I will not countenance the rights or privileges of any officers who enlisted men being abrogated in any way because they choose to grow sideburns or neatly trimmed beards or moustaches or because preferences in neat clothing styles are at variance with the taste of their seniors’. As accommodating as this was, it seems a little liberal and at odds with the strict guidelines in place today which promote discipline, uniformity and camaraderie. Incidentally, the ban on Naval beards was reinstated fourteen years later by James D. Watkins, who had taken over the CNO position.

Despite beards not being permitted in many countries’ militaries, the rules have been relaxed in certain situations. Troops from many countries, including the United States, Britain and Denmark, have been allowed to grow facial hair while on operations in Afghanistan. This is a tactical move in order to grow relations between the Armies and the local Afghan people, where beards are seen as a sign of power and masculinity.

Furthermore, several groups within the U.S. military have been permitted to grow beards while on home soil, as well. This includes men who need to grow beards for medical or religious reasons, although it is not a blanket rule; each person needs to apply individually and it is reviewed on a case by case basis. If a man has a skin condition which is aggravated by shaving then he may be granted leniency, as would Sikhs, Muslims, Rabbis, and members of other religions who grow facial hair. In the case of Sikhs, they have also been permitted to leave their hair ‘unshorn’, as long as it is covered by turbans; other religions can request to wear other items of clothing in the same way, if it is for religious reasons.

These guidelines vary around the world. In some countries such as India and Spain, beards and moustaches are permitted, but in others (including the United States and England), members of the Armed Forces are required to be clean shaven. Within the military, the beard has had a colorful history, from the flamboyant sideburns and handlebar moustaches from centuries gone by, to the neatly trimmed beards which are only occasionally allowed today. There’s no question that being clean shaven makes our troops look smart and like a cohesive team, but it would be a shame to see originality in the form of facial hair disappear from military history altogether.


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.


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.


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 4

We continue in our journey through American history towards present day America in the fourth installation of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the Marine Corps. In this edition, you’ll learn that the early Marines not only fought against foreign military aggression, but also against pirates and rebels within our own borders. As you’ll see, it is very clear why the Marine Corps is recognized as a Department of the Navy. An overwhelming number of early Marine campaigns were under the direction of the Navy and fought at sea. 

Operations Against West Indian Pirates

In the early 1820’s, the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico was infested with pirates accountable for almost 3,000 attacks on merchant ships. Having caused significant financial loss while also frequently murdering and torturing their victims, the pirates were ruthless in their attacks on commerce. Fed up with the incessant pillaging of merchant ships, the Navy created the West India Squadron in 1822. Led by Commodores James Biddle, David Porter and Lewis Warrington, the squadron was tasked with eliminating piracy in the area. The mission was a dangerous one for a number of reasons aside from the inherent danger of fighting pirates, often in close quarters. The sailors were frequently exposed to brutal storms, blistering heat, yellow fever and malaria. Despite the dangers, the Navy squadron, assisted by the Marines, relentlessly defeated the pirates over a period of 10 years. By the early 1830’s piracy in the Caribbean was nearly non-existent and the sailors returned home having completed a rigorous mission that made essential shipping lanes once again safe for all nations. 

Indian Wars

It is no secret that the United States military fought several wars against Native American Indians. Many, however, many do not know that the United States Marine Corps also fought in some of the campaigns. Beginning in 1811 in Florida, the Marines assisted with operations against Indians. The Marines took part in the Battle of Twelve Mile Swamp, where a group of Indians ambushed a convoy of wagons being escorted by the Marines. One Marine lost his life and was the first killed in the line of duty since 1806.  By 1836, the Marines had been involved in a number of battles against the Indians, including the Creek Indian War, the War against the Seminoles and the Battle of Hatchee-Lustee. The Marines also patrolled the coasts of southern and eastern Florida as well as the Everglades. These patrol groups were known as the “Mosquito Fleet” because of the dense mosquito population in the areas in which they worked. 

Mexican War

In 1845, the United States annexed Texas, making it a state and infuriating Mexico, as they believed Texas was part of their territory and did not rightfully belong to the United States despite the Texas Revolution in 1836. In 1846 tension between the United States and Mexico boiled over and the Mexican War was underway. The Navy’s Pacific Squadron, assisted by the Marines, successfully blockaded Mexico’s eastern and western coasts and also captured many of Mexico’s vital ports. After completing the blockade, Navy troops entered from the Gulf of Mexico and fought their way up the rivers to capture other Mexican forts and supply lines. Attacks then shifted from the east to the west where the Navy successfully captured California. They then began to work from both the east and the west to squeeze Mexico into surrender when Mexico City was captured. As part of the treaty, the Rio Grande was established as the border between Mexico and Texas and the agreement still holds true today.

Civil War

During the civil war, a key to the northern victory was the Union Navy’s blockade of the southern coast. Spanning more than 3,000 miles from Virginia to Texas, the blockade cut off the supply lines, effectively crippling the confederate economy, and also prevented foreign countries from intervening. Most Marines in the Civil War served as “seagoing detachments” on the ships of the blockade squadrons. When the Marines did participate in attacks on land, they were primarily amphibious based attacks that led to landfall under the direction of the Navy. For example, the Marines were instrumental in the sinking of CSS Alabama and the seizing of Mobile Bay in 1864. Other Marines were tasked with searching the seas for Confederate ships that were raiding commerce. Many Marines also served on the Mississippi river in gunboats, patrolling the waters and maintaining the Union blockade on Confederate commerce.  The defining characteristic of the early Marines was their penchant for battle on the water as a department of the Navy.


Marine Corps Expeditionary

Established in 1919 and first awarded in 1929, the Marine Corps Expeditionary Streamer is issued to a unit that “engaged in a landing on foreign territory, participated in combat operations against an opposing force, or must have participated in a designated operation for which no other service medal is authorized.” When representing the Marine Corps as a whole, the streamer is adorned with twelve silver stars, four bronze stars and one silver “W.” The stars represent the roughly 76 expeditions in which the Marine Corps participated and the silver W is in recognition of the defense of Wake Island during the dawn of WWII.


Spanish Campaign

In 1898, long-standing tensions between the United States and Spain reached a breaking point when the American ship USS Maine was sunk by a Spanish explosion on February 15th. The vast majority of the crew on board the ship perished in the strike. Emotions from the tragedy led to a quick and resounding victory for the United States Navy, assisted by the Marine Corps. On May 1st, the Pacific Squadron of the Navy destroyed the entire Spanish fleet in Manila Bay of the Philippine Islands. Less than two months later, the Navy completed a resounding victory over the Spanish outside of Santiago, Cuba; which was at the time a Spanish colony. The Marines also executed beach landings in Cuba and Puerto Rico, another Spanish colony, during this time, in collaboration with the Army. The streamer was originally issued to any unit of the Navy or Marine Corps who “had served in the Philippine Islands between the dates of May 1st and August 16th, 1898.” Those serving in the West Indies (Cuba and Puerto Rico) were awarded the West Indies Campaign streamer. In 1913 it was discontinued, and the Spanish Campaign streamer was awarded to “any member of the Navy or Marine Corps who had served on active duty during the Spanish American War.”

Stay tuned for next week’s edition of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps. We will move forward in history to cover the: Philippine Campaign, China Relief Expedition, Cuban Pacification, Nicaraguan Campaign, Mexican Service and Haitian Campaign streamers. Also be sure to check out our previous editions of the series below!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Protect Your Wallet and Your Eyes: Edge Eyewear Safety Glasses

Whether you’re looking for a stylish pair of sunglasses or something to protect your eyes during work, Edge Eyewear has something to offer for you. With a wide array of styles and colors to choose from, you’ll be on the ‘cutting edge’ with Edge Eyewear. Designed to be durable and built to last, every pair of Edge Eyewear’s glasses meet high velocity and high impact safety standards. Durable frames allow for extended use without the fear of breaking or cracking while the lenses are specially designed to be scratch resistant. While most safety glasses are expensive and boring, Edge Eyewear has designed a product that is both affordable and stylish, while achieving the same safety protection as the rest of the competition. Don’t be left behind with other brands, get on the ‘cutting edge’ and pick up a pair of Edge Eyewear’s safety glasses today!

Check out some of the most popular styles from Edge Eyewear at Patriot Surplus:

Baretti Safety Glasses:

With lightweight polymer frames and tough polycarbonate lenses, these glasses are both comfortable and durable. Built in temple vents and soft Megol material in the nose and temple regions allow for comfort even in hot or wet conditions. The lenses are coated in an anti-fog and anti-scratch material to prevent distracting marks on your glasses throughout extended usage.  As is the case with every Edge Eyewear product, the Baretti Safety Glasses are fully compliant with ANSI Z87.1 2003 safety standards for high mass impact, ball drop impact, and high velocity impact. By blending style, comfort, and durability into one pair of safety glasses Edge Eyewear surpassed expectations!

Ossa Over-the-Glasses Safety Glasses:

Wearing safety glasses can be a hassle if you depend on regular eyeglasses for clear vision. With the Ossa Over-the-Glasses safety glasses your problems are solved! Designed to fit over top of standard eyeglasses, the safety glasses can be worn at the same time as your normal glasses. Even though you’re wearing two glasses at the same time, bulkiness won’t be an issue because these glasses are designed to be lightweight with polymer frames. Not only are they lightweight, but they are durable as well. Tough polycarbonate lenses provide protection and durability. An anti-fog and anti-scratch coating on the lenses prevents pesky scratches from developing over time. Of course, the glasses also pass all ANSI Z87.1 2003 safety standards as well. If you’re looking for an affordable pair of safety glasses that can be worn with standard eyeglasses, these are the ones for you!

Golan Low Profile Vented Safety Goggles:

If you’re looking for goggles that are both affordable and functional, Edge Eyewear’s Low Profile Vented Safety Goggles fit the bill. Aside from providing excellent protection from both the elements and projectiles, the goggles offer side vents to provide breathability for moist conditions. Rest assured that your eyes will be protected because the goggles comply with all ANSI Z87.1 2003 safety standards. Whether you’re playing airsoft, working in dusty conditions, or hitting the ski slopes, these goggles will not just meet your needs, they will exceed them!

With great deals on hot styles like these Edge Eyewear Safety Glasses, there’s no better time to log on to Patriot Surplus!

Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) Apparel with a Mission

The world we live in has become polarized in recent years thanks to a never ending assault on our civil liberties by politicians.  Notice I don’t take a position left or right, liberal or conservative.  Both of the majority parties in my opinion are bought and paid for by big corporate lobbying.  But I digress.  My point is, these are some pretty nerve wracking times my friends.  We’ve got school shootings, theatre shootings and pressure cooker bombs at marathons.  The bottom line is that we are living in a violent society.  Sadly, like many others, I won’t enter a mall or theater anymore without my legally obtained and licensed concealed weapon.  As a concealed weapon license holder, that is my right.  The 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution affords me that right.  No matter what any bought and paid for politician tells us through the bought and paid for main (lame) stream media. I have a right to bear arms.

Now that we’ve established that right, I also have a responsibility that comes with that right.  I must train regularly.  My weapon must be an extension of my instincts and I must be able to discharge it when needed without causing undue harm to the innocent bystanders.  Along with that, I must conceal my weapon so that it doesn’t scare the hell out of someone when I show up to buy lunch at a local eating establishment.  As much as I know I am safely carrying my concealed weapon, there are always those who hate guns and will assume I am a lunatic for carrying one.  So how do we go about concealing my weapon yet still have quick and easy access to it when the situation arises?

We have tested and identified a few of our favorite pieces of apparel that in our opinion address the two key points of CCW, “concealed” and “carry” of a weapon.  When carrying our weapon, the obvious point is to keep the weapon concealed.  So this means, safely holstering the weapon and disguising the sillouhette of the weapon.  The last thing you need is to walk into a restaurant and have someone notice your Glock 22 protuding from your hip or bulging out from your shoulder holster. Today I will review the holster shirt from 5.11 Tactical and the button up Concealed Carry Shirt from Propper.

Before writing this article, I tested and wore both pieces of apparel so I had first hand knowledge of the items I was going to review. I typically conceal carry using a kydex holster inside the waist of my pants.  I tend to carry on my right hip Because I am right handed and can easily access my weapon that way.  Thus style of carry requires me to typically wear a longer shirt untucked to cover my weapon of choice, the Glock 22.  It is a large framed gun and in certain situations, it is not the most practical way to conceal carry.  I was anxious to test out the holser shirt because it allowed me to carry a weapon without a bulky holster.

The holster shirt has a soft harness style “holster” built right into the moisture wicking 5.11 Tactical Holster Shirtspandex style shirt.  Essentially, there are two pockets under each armpit that will accomodate a large frame weapon.  The 5.11 Holster Shirt™ is designed to carry a compact handgun and associated equipment such as magazines, handcuffs or speed loaders. Worn under the 5.11 Covert Casual shirt or the Propper Independent Button Up Shirt, the two concealed compartments are even more accessible when it’s time act.  You won’t be caught off guard with this great system.

At first, I found the shirt to be rather tight fitting to my frame and thought I should perhaps go up a size to give me some “wiggle room”.  So I wandered down to the warehouse and grabbed an extra large.  I tossed on the shirt and it felt a lot better.  I grabbed my Glock and put it in the holster pocket.  I immediately understood why I had made the wrong choice.  The larger size felt less restrictive, but my weapon was sagging forward under my button up shirt.  You could see the sillouhette of the gun pretty easily.  So, I tossed the large holster shirt back on, stowed my weapon and threw on the button up.  No weapon sag. The shirt is intentionally tight to prevent weapon sag.  Apparently the holster shirt’s designers did understand a few things about CCW.

The holster shirt breathes well and wicks moisture away from your body.  Additionally, the weapon pocket is waterproof from the inside out, preventing a wet slippery weapon from perspiration. This feature allowes the shirt to serve double duty as a great workout shirt. With its two carry compartments you can put your keys in one pocket and your mp3 player in the other. You won’t have to worry about sagging or bouncing as the mesh shoulder yolk and spandex fabric keeps the entire shirt and its contents close to your body under any type of activity.

Propper Independent Button Up CCW Shirt

Propper Independent Button Up CCW Shirt

Since warm weather is upon us, shorts and short sleeves are the name of the game in apparel.  When you head out for a night on the town in warm weather, you’ll want to conceal carry, stay cool and stylish whiloe remaining functional should the need arise to access your weapon.  This is where the Propper Independent Button Up shirt fits the bill.  Lightweight, stylish and functional, this shirt will be an excellent addition to your arsenal.  With this shirt, you’ll blend in with the crowd without giving up your edge. The PROPPER Independent Button Up masquerades as a casual plaid shirt but offers you the full tactical advantage. With hidden quick-access features like a false-button closure, tear-away side seams and dual chest pockets with quiet magnet closure. Some of the features of this economically priced feature rich shirt are:

  • Comfortable twill fabric for a casual appearance
  • Snap front closure with false-button cover for quick CCW access
  • Easy-access dual chest pockets with quiet magnet closure
  • Tear-away side seams for quick side-arm access
  • Underarm gusset allows greater range of motion
  • Pen pocket on chest and sleeve
  • Small, covert zip pocket for secure storage of accessories

I initially tested the button up while utilizing the holster shirt.  My personal opinion is this is a fantastic summer setup.  You can combine this stylishly with a pair of jeans or cargo shorts for a night out on the town with your lady (or man… props to our concealed carrying women!) After wearing this setup several times I found it to be comfortable however, wearing that holster shirt for an entire day felt a little restricting.  I fly a desk these days people.  With four monitors.  Yep, its a dangerous lifestyle but someone has to do it!  So, I started wearing my inside the waistband kydex holster with the button up shirt and a standard tshirt.  The extra length of the button very adequately concealed my large frame Glock.  It was comfortable and I didn’t look like I was trying to be “high speed” in a civilian world.  All in all I really like this shirt.

In conclusion Patriots, the right to bear arms is your constitutional right.  The responsibility that comes along with that right is yours to maintain and exercise.  Why not be stylish and functional while you do both? Carry on Patriots!