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Sonoran Desert Institute

All the Latest News, Reviews and Developments happening with the Sonoran Desert Institute!

SDI Celebrates Armed Forces Day

In case you missed the memo, there are a lot of military-themed holidays in May.

There is V-E Day, the day marking the anniversary of the Allies’ defeat of Nazi Germany, and Memorial Day, a time set aside to honor our fallen heroes. So, what’s Armed Forces Day?

I’m so glad you asked! Armed Forces Day serves two purposes: Firstly, it is meant to replace the separate Army, Navy, and Air Force Days. Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day on August 31, 1949,  just a little under two years after the creation of the Department of Defense, according to the official Armed Forces Day website. The idea was that each service’s branch would come under the umbrella of the Department of Defense and signal unity under the new overarching headship. The Marine Corps League declined to drop support for Marine Corps Day, but they do support Armed Forces Day, as well.

Secondly, and more importantly, Armed Forces Day takes note of all the armed forces do for us as organizations to help keep our country safe.

“Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20, 1950, marks the first combined demonstration by America’s defense team of its progress, under the National Security Act, towards the goal of readiness for any eventuality. It is the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense,” President Harry Truman said of the first holiday.

It is, essentially, an event that showcases what we at SDI already know: Our armed forces are awesome, and the men and women that serve within them deserve respect for their work.

The day can come with some pretty serious celebration, too. As the Armed Forces Day website reports:

The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated by parades, open houses, receptions, and air shows. In Washington D.C., 10,000 troops of all branches of the military, cadets, and veterans marched past the President and his party. In Berlin, 1,000 U.S. troops paraded for the German citizens at Templehof Airfield. In New York City, an estimated 33,000 participants initiated Armed Forces Day “under an air cover of 250 military planes of all types.” In the harbors across the country were the famed mothballed “battlewagons” of World War II, the Missouri, the New Jersey, the North Carolina, and the Iowa, all open for public inspection. Precision flying teams dominated the skies as tracking radar were exhibited on the ground. All across the country, the American people joined together to honor the Armed Forces.

So, what do we do now?

That one’s made easy by the world in which we all currently live. Celebrations of all stripes are being trimmed down, postponed, or cancelled, and Americans are being encouraged to stay at home. Our scope for celebration is somewhat limited, but our do-gooding is not.

Thank someone serving, if you know one. If you know more than one, thank them all. Donate to those organizations that help our guardsmen, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines do what they need to do. The USO and Fisher House Foundation are excellent examples, and they aren’t the only ones. In fact, SDI just donated $5 for every active duty military member we currently have in our student body in honor of the holiday.

Thank a veteran. Helped our armed forces community. Celebrate Armed Forces Day with us!

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26 Inspirational Quotes to Set the Tone for Your Military Appreciation Month

There aren’t enough words in the English Dictionary to properly describe how Americans should feel about the men and women that serve the United States in the Armed Forces.

May is Military Appreciation Month, and we thought it appropriate to take a moment and honor those who have served and/or currently serve with a collection of military quotes to share. We’d keep the list tight, but with all we feel for our soldiers, guardsmen, sailors, airmen, and Marines,we struggled to hold the list below 30. Therefore, without further ado, here are 27 quotes that help us to say how much we appreciate our heroes:

  1. “The soldier is the army. No army is better than its soldiers. The soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.” — Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

  2. “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” — Elmer Davis

  3. “Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations, that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided Republic.” — John A. Logan

  4. “He loves his country best who strives to make it best.” — Robert G. Ingersoll

  5. “On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind.” — Dan Lipinski

  6. “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” — Cynthia Ozick

  7. “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.” — John F. Kennedy

  8. “No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.” — Gen. Douglas MacArthur

  9. “The brave die never, though they sleep in dust: Their courage nerves a thousand living men.” — Minot J. Savage

  10. “The veterans of our military services have put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms that we enjoy. They have dedicated their lives to their country and deserve to be recognized for their commitment.” — Judd Gregg

  11. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams

  12. “There is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.” — Gen. James H. Doolittle

  13. “No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.” — Gen. Douglas MacArthur

  14. “When the will defies fear, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns to compromise with death — that is heroism.” — Robert Green Ingersoll

  15. “Word to the nation: Guard zealously your right to serve in the Armed Forces, for without them, there will be no other rights to guard.” — President John F. Kennedy

  16. “We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us.” — Winston S. Churchill

  17. “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight — it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” — Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

  18. “I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.” — John F. Kennedy

  19. ”Heroism doesn’t always happen in a burst of glory. Sometimes small triumphs and large hearts change the course of history.” — Mary Roach

  20. “Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste death but once.” — William Shakespeare

  21. “It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.” — General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

  22. “We must never forget why we have, and why we need our military. Our armed forces exist solely to ensure our nation is safe, so that each and every one of us can sleep soundly at night, knowing we have ‘guardians at the gate.’” — Allen West

  23. “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” — G.K. Chesterton

  24. “It is a proud privilege to be a soldier – a good soldier … [with] discipline, self-respect, pride in his unit and his country, a high sense of duty and obligation to comrades and to his superiors, and a self-confidence born of demonstrated ability.” — George S. Patton Jr.

  25. “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure.” — Colin Powell

  26. “The hand of the aggressor is stayed by strength — and strength alone.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

Who else do you know that needs to see this list? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

Quote sources: University of Southern California,, and Everyday Power

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Military Spouse Appreciation Day Highlight: Andrew and Cassidy Presmyk, Double Military Spouses

Andrew Presmyk is a graduate of SDI and a four-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served as a fire direction control man for field artillery.

All of our students face challenges along the course of their academic career, but Presmyk’s path was even tougher to travel than many. In addition to attending SDI full time, working full time, and taking care of two toddlers, his wife, Cassidy, was not around – a veteran herself, she was deployed overseas while Andrew furthered his education. They both deserve recognition for their sacrifice as military spouses.

He recalled the struggle: “With my wife being deployed overseas while I was still attending SDI full time, working full time on the night shift, and having two sons under the age of three, it was difficult to balance it all and still be able to complete all of my school work. It took many late nights of staying awake after I got my kiddos to bed!”

Luckily for Andrew, he’s got a great supporting cast, including some long-distance support from his wife and family.

“I was able to balance work, life, and school with the help of my mom who watched my kids when I needed to sleep after work,” Andrew said. “My wife also encouraged me from across the world! I had a lot of help and support from my family along the way.”

Andrew and Cassidy’s support for each other is all over their respective Instagram pages for the world to be inspired by. Andrew supported her by taking care of their children and making posts supporting her deployment, letting her know how much she is loved by them.

Cassidy preempted and exceeded Military Spouse Appreciation Day by a country mile – she showed her support by encouraging him from afar and, when it came time to graduate, surprised him with one of the most delicious cakes we’ve ever seen.

For those who take care of our veterans while they serve here and abroad, and for those who take care of our veterans once they’ve come home, thank you. Today’s for you.

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Medal of Honor Highlight: James Hendrix, the Second Miracle of This World

The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest, most prestigious decoration awarded to those servicemen and women for gallantry and bravery in combat above and beyond the call of duty. Fewer than 4,000 individuals of the millions who have served between its inception in 1863 and today have received it, and a great many of them received it posthumously.

This is one of their many stories. All information provided in this article is provided by Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty by Peter Collier.

James Hendrix was a private when he earned his Medal of Honor. Drafted in 1944 at the age of 18, the young man had spent his formative years working for his sharecropping father – he didn’t advance beyond a third-grade education before quitting school.

Hendrix became a member of an armored infantry battalion – he was a bazooka man whose primary job was to knock enemy armor out of the fight. During the first days of the invasion of Normandy, he and his unit were anchored, waiting for a beachhead to be secured.

Once that was accomplished, Hendrix joined General George Patton’s Third Army as it pushed through France and into Belgium in the hopes of keeping allied momentum alive straight through to Germany.

As we all know, however, that was not to be. The German Siegfried Line, while not quite as famous as the French Maginot Line defeated by the Germans at the outset of the war for France, was far more effective.

With the invasion stalled, for the time being, Nazi Germany saw its moment to counterattack and possibly bring the Americans to the negotiation table for a more attractive peace deal – it sounds far-fetched, but at the time American logistics were severely stretched, and the seizing of a crucial allied port (Antwerp) would have been a major blow to allied efforts.

It was Germany putting all of its chips into the kitty, and it was where Hendrix would cement himself into American military history.

For the first time, anyway.

Hendrix was a part of General Patton’s relief force for the encircled American troops in and around Bastogne. Near the town of Assenois, just a few miles away, Patton’s drive stalled, much to the general’s consternation.

Hendrix dismounted his half-track with his bazooka, to see what was the matter, only to find that a German Tiger tank was blocking the road.

No problem for Hendrix.

He ran into a building flanking the tank and fired on its turret from a second-story window, disabling it.

That’d be a pretty good day in and of itself, but Hendrix’s tour de force was only just beginning.

Sure enough, Hendrix’s actions were able to get the column moving again, but only for a short time. The column fell under a massive artillery barrage, which would cost Hendrix his bazooka. The half-track he was riding in was hit, and Hendrix dashed out of it with nothing but a rifle.

As he was sprinting to find cover, he found two 88 mm field guns set up to block the American advance. He moved on them – largely to avoid more artillery fire, and ended up behind their position. He waited for them to pause their firing, then came out roaring, demanding they surrender to him. Of the fourteen present, thirteen surrendered. The last Hendrix was forced to kill.

His day is now halfway done.

He returned to his column, only to come under fire again. With the help of an American tank, Hendrix took out two machine-gun emplacements. On the way back, he found an American half-track on fire. Despite exploding ammunition within the vehicle and sniper fire without, he dragged the burning American soldier he could rescue out to safety.

Patton himself recommended Hendrix for the Medal of Honor, which he received on August 23, 1945, from President Harry Truman.

That’s not the last time that Truman and Hendrix would meet, either.

Hendrix figured, rightly, that he made for a pretty good soldier, and opted to spend a career in the military. A few years after his famous exploits, he was jumping to qualify for the United States Airborne when his parachute failed. He fell better than a thousand feet, inexplicably without serious injury.

Nearly as unlikely, President Truman was there, reviewing the troops. He was told about the incident and naturally wanted to see the man who fell a thousand feet and walked it off.

“That was the second miracle of this world,” the president reportedly told Hendrix.

Hendrix asked what the first was.

“That I ever got elected president.”

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Veterans Day Thank You

This Is How We Can Celebrate Our Veterans Today

If you count all of its various iterations, Veterans Day has been a portion of the American pantheon of holidays for 101 years.

How is it, then, that so few of us, veterans included, know how to mark the holiday?

We’ll talk about what veterans can do in a second. For civilians, this is a serious issue.

First and foremost, we need to acknowledge a reality — a massive segment of civilians on Veterans Day, not unlike Memorial Day, really don’t know what to do during these holidays. Many have a portion or the whole of a day off of work. Many don’t really plan to do anything on that day. While breaks are nice, that’s not really what Veterans Day is about.

So, what do we do?

First, we can thank a veteran. Second, we can thank the legion of waitstaff and customer service personnel who make all the discounts and free meals available to veterans on their day possible. Those are pretty easy, and even if you thank 10 veterans, the combined efforts have taken us about 15 minutes.

Veterans Day wouldn’t be a holiday is the appreciation of our men and women in  uniform was meant to take 15 minutes.

I recently spoke with the Dean of the School of Firearms Technology at SDI, Wes Lemay, who served in the Army for some time, and he answered that very question.

His answer was simple: be better today.

To be better today, Wes outlined a few action points:

  1. If there’s a veteran-recognizing event today, be a part of it.
  2. Donate. As you are able, donate resources to veterans in need. There are a number of charities that would love your help. A few of my personal favorites are the Wounded Warrior Project, Freedom Service Dogs of America, the Gary Sinise Foundation, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, and the Semper Fi Fund. SDI has donated to the Fisher House Foundation.
  3. Fly the American flag, and do it respectfully and correctly. You can research proper flag display procedure here.
  4. Ask a veteran about their service, and don’t press into topics that appear sensitive.
  5. Write a letter to a service member.
  6. If you’ve got a VA hospital near you and there are people that can and will accept visitors, go and visit. Make someone’s day.
  7. Take advantage of the opportunities veterans sacrificed for.

Americans have fought and died for your freedom. They’ve sacrificed time. They’ve sacrificed sweat. They’ve sacrificed whole portions of their lives in the pursuit of your life and liberty.

If you can complete that list, you’ve lived Veterans Day to the fullest.

Now, for our veterans on Veterans Day: relax. this day is for you.

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