Top 5 American WWII Weapons

It’s no secret that technology and weaponry have made huge advances in the past 30 years.  Let’s take a look back at some of the best American WWII Weapons that led to many of the modern weapons that the US uses today.

WWII Weapons American Soldiers Used

The weapons used by the American troops that served in WWII were instrumental in bringing peace and freedom to the US and hundreds of other countries in the world. Below is a list we’ve put together of the top five WWII Weapons used during the war by American soldiers:


  1. M1A1 Bazooka/Rocket Launcher

The list has to begin with one of the original bazookas most commonly used by US troops during WWII. The M1A1 bazooka accounted for destroying multiple German tanks.

When the M1A1 was first introduced, it had far more reliable ammunition firing than the previous M1 and was particularly effective against pillboxes and concrete bunkers. However, due to extremely high casualty rates, the bazooka fire team was not a coveted spot during the war. The team often had to expose their bodies in order to obtain a clear field of fire against any armored targets.

 2.  M3 Submachine Gun

This machine gun is more commonly referred to as the “Grease Gun” or even “the Greaser” because it looks very similar to a greaser tool that a mechanic would use. This gun has been used in countless WWII movies and documentaries, including Band of Brothers, The Dirty Dozen, and Inglorious Bastards.

The gun was a replacement for the M1 Thompson sub machine guns and provided a lighter and more accurate weapon. This was one of the more popular ww2 American machine guns.

 3.  M1 Carbine Rifle

This rifle was one of the most commonly used American weapons during WWII and was a part of the standard issue to the American troops. Because of how lightweight and easy it was to use, the M1 carbine was used by the US in the Korean and Vietnam wars as well.

Many troops who were unable to use a full-size rifle as their primary weapon effectively used the M1 Carbine. The M1 carbine was the first carbine rifle to be developed under the naming system the US started in 1925. That naming system is still used today.

 4.  Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR)

The Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) was also a part of the standard issue and was the sole automatic fire support for an eight-man squad. The BAR was difficult to master since it had a strong recoil spring and an open bolt, but all men in the squad were trained on how to operate and fire the weapon at a very basic level in the event that the designated operators were unable to fire.

The BAR was most commonly fired from a bipod but also had the capability to be packed on the shoulder of a troop and fired on the move.

5.  M2-2 Flame Thrower

The portable M2-2 Flamethrower was commonly used during WWII, but was quickly phased out with the technological advances of tanks and their firepower. The M2-2 Flamethrower had a reach of approximately 20 meters and a burn time of approximately 7 seconds. The WWII flamethrower models featured hourglass frames and hexagonal gas caps.

The weapons developed during the WWII period helped protect the lives of those who used them and lives of those they were fighting for.

Since WWII, US military weapons have seen incredible advancements, but many of the weapons used today can trace their beginnings back to these top-of-the line historic weapons. Because of an intense focus on creating the most cutting-edge tech, WWII caused a bigger jump into future weaponry than any war before it.

At Low VA Rates, we have nothing but the utmost respect for the men and women of the US military and the advancements they’ve made in protecting the freedoms we enjoy every day. In fact, we make it our business to give them the VA home benefits they deserve.

To learn more about military weapons and Low VA Rates, visit other articles on our blog. And if there are any other American WW2 Weapons that you think should be added to this list, please comment below!


Top 50 Military Blogs

military blog

Every country needs the support of a strong military to protect its rights and citizens at the same time. In order for that military to thrive though, it needs the support of its country in return. The internet may seem like a silly place to find encouragement for the armed forces, but there is an entire community of military bloggers who are trying to help in whatever way they can. We have put together a list of military blogs that we think you will enjoy.  The following list contains 50 top-quality military-related blogs written by soldiers and the people they fight for.

Note that these blogs are not ranked by importance. Each site has its own merit and value on the web.

Army Blogs

  • Army Live: This is the “official blog of the United States Army,” featuring late-breaking news, leadership tips, training guides, and more. It also includes a gallery of army photos so families can view their loved ones overseas.
  • Armed with Science: This blog is designed to inform people about the latest innovations in military technology and scientific discovery.
  • Defense Centers of Excellence Blog: This is part of the DCOE website, which helps soldiers who have suffered from traumatic brain injury and psychological health issues.
  • Military Health Systems Blog: A general health resource center for soldiers with medical concerns.
  • From the Green Notebook: This blog is written by an Army Major who covers everything  from values to leadership to professional discourse.
  • Bouhammer’s Afghan & Military Blog: A retired Army First Sergeant writes about military operations in the Middle East in this blog. You’ll also probably read a bit about security and politics here.
  • Army Strong Stories: This is a portal for people to share stories about their experiences in the army or with a soldier in the family. Consider it a giant support group on the web.
  • My Army Reserve: This is a blog for the citizen soldiers still living and training in the U.S.
  • Highlander’s Post: This blog features articles written by and for soldiers stationed in Iraq.

Navy Blogs

  • Navy Live: This is the official blog of the U.S. Navy, featuring photos, training tips, and fun facts related to this branch of the armed forces.
  • Naval History Blog: This blog goes over the history of the navy and how it came to be.
  • Navy Cyber Space: This is a general blog that features great news, links, and information related to the Navy.
  • Navy Girl: This blog is dedicated to the women in the Navy.
  • Wharf Rat’s Home – A Shipmate Who Never Made It to Sea: This blog covers Navy news, including port changes and posts of ships.
  • The Stupid Shall Be Punished: This blog is run by a naval officer who focuses every post specifically on submarine activities and developments.
  • Eagle Speak: This blog is written by a veteran Navy Reserve Captain and Attorney. You’ll read about issues in the Navy and various security over waters.
  • Steeljaw Scribe: This blog is run by a former naval flight officer who spent 26 years on the force.
  • Doc in the Box: This blog is run by a navy corpsman just voicing his opinion about the world.
  • The Goatlocker: this blog is run by a Chief Petty Officer who offers a range of interesting information on the navy.

Marines Blogs

  • Actions Not Words: This blog is run by Dakota Meyer, a former marine who was awarded a Medal of Honor in 2011.
  • Small Wars Journal: This blog is run by a group of marines who talk about news, current events, special stories, and more.
  • The Sandgram: This blog is run by a marine officer with more than 26 years of service under his belt.
  • Information Dissemination: This blog is designed to help members of the marines discuss strategies with one another.
  • Leatherneck: This blog provides news commentary and posts on Marine events.
  • The Thunder Run: This blog goes over important information about the U.S. Marines right from the home front.
  • Write on the Right: This blog is run by a marine officer who’s just voicing his opinion to the world.

Air Force Blogs

  • Air Force Live: This is the official blog of the U.S. Air Force, posting important news, dates, and success stories related to the military.
  • Air Force Magazine: This magazine blog will tell you everything you ever want to know about the Air Force and the latest news.
  • Air Force Aid Society: This site is the official charity for the Air Force. It helps provide aid and educational assistance for families in need.
  • Air Force Association Blog: This blog is run by a non-profit organization that discusses the importance of aerospace power in the U.S. National Security.
  • Alert 5: This blog is all about military aviation news.
  • The Air National Guard: This site tells everything you need to know about the Air National Guard.
  • Air Force Voices: This is a general opinion blog related to (but not affiliated with) the U.S. Air Force.
  • The Mudville Gazette: This blog is run by an air force officer and his wife.
  • Emily Roe: This blog is about the general events in the Air Force, written from the perspective of a soldier’s wife.
  • The Air Force Pundit: This blog is run by a captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command.

Other Military Blogs

  • DOD Live: This is the official blog of the Department of Defense, providing information about all branches of the military.
  • Mil Blogging: This is a giant index of military blogs to read.
  • Argghhh!!!: This blog is run by former armed forces officers who provide funny but valid opinions about the wars in the world.
  • Semper Gratus: This is a site about American pride, meant as a form of support for the troops.
  • The Unknown Soldiers: This site tells the valuable stories of soldiers who aren’t represented in the media.
  • This Ain’t Hell: This blog is run by three people who have served in several facets of the armed forces. It’s slogan is “This ain’t hell, but you can see it from here.”
  • Texas Fred: This blog showcases one man’s opinion about military news and events.
  • Danger Room: This blog discusses important events in national security.
  • In from the Cold: This is a longstanding military blog that goes over anything and everything related to the armed forces.
  • Mountain Runner: This is a blog about public diplomacy that is designed to educate and empower the public.
  • Military Mortgage Center: This is our very own Low VA Rates military blog having to do with all things military and VA mortgage benefit information.
  • United We Are One: This site is dedicated to all military service members and first responders.

D Day 2016: The 72nd Anniversary

D Day: A Great Crusade

D Day 2016 Facts and Historical EventsJune 6, 1944 marked the beginning of the end of World War II. What made this one day so pivotal? Find out why D Day became a deciding event in of this world war, and why it ultimately changed the course of history.

On that summer day of 1944, Allied Forces banded together and invaded France in an extreme effort to liberate the country from Nazi Germany rule. By the end of that first day of invasion, over 164,000 Allied troops successfully stormed the beaches of Normandy, organizing the largest amphibious assault in military history. So, why Normandy? First, this area was not as heavily defended, and second, air cover was only a short distance away. In total, 39 divisions of Allied Forces participated in the battle, and this number was made up by 22 American divisions, 12 British divisions, 3 Canadian divisions, 1 French division, and 1 Polish division. On D Day, over 4,000 troops died, and thousands more had gone missing or were heavily injured.

Initially, President Dwight D. Eisenhower selected June 5th as the original day of invasion, but intense weather conditions prompted him to postpone the invasion for 24 hours. Upon launch, he remarked to the soldiers, “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.”

The eyes of the world certainly were upon the soldiers that day, and each year on June 6th, the world still remembers the incredible unified planning of several countries in the Allied forces and the sacrifices that every one of those troops made that day and throughout the war. This battle was crucial in liberating Northern Europe and eventually bringing about an Allied victory.

What Does the “D” in D Day Stand For?

Several people (including historians and others) have insisted over the years that the “D” in D Day stands for disembarkation, death, decision, departed, or even doom. Others have probably thought of even more names to add to this list of “d” words. However, most historians and military personnel can agree that the “D” simply meant day. D Day was a military term that described the day an attack would happen, and a similar term, “H Hour,” described the hour of the attack. This proved useful in military operations because when a person used plus or minus a given number after the D in D Day and H in H Hour, this would indicate the number of days and hours before or after a planned attack. As an example, “D-4 Day” would indicate a date four days before an attack.

This terminology was used throughout the military, and the day of the first Normandy landings was not the first or only day to receive this name. In fact, there were many battles in WWII that were called D Day, but the starting battle of the Normandy landings was the only one to maintain the nickname.

D Day Code Names

The Normandy landings – series of landings that occurred in Normandy following D Day

Operation Neptune – the role of seapower in bringing troops into Normandy

Operation Overlord – the entire invasion of Normandy

Operation Bodyguard – deceptive plan to protect Operation Overlord

Operation Fortitude – a part of Operation Bodyguard

Utah and Omaha –  two beaches in France where the U.S. landed

Juno – beach in France where Canada landed

Gold and Sword – beaches in France where the British landed

D Day Anniversary

ED Day 72nd Anniversaryach year on the anniversary of the invasion, demonstrations and other events commemorate the attack and all those who fought.  In 2014, part of the commemoration included parachutists landing on Sword Beach and
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra playing a tribute. In 2015, among the usual ceremonies, there was also an airshow and a military vehicles parade. The year 2016 is the 72nd anniversary of D Day, and commemorations will include Wreath Laying and an official ceremony at the German military cemetery. Historical images will be played on a giant outdoor screen, and there will also be fireworks with music. At any other time of the year tourists can visit several museums and memorials that are located around the area.

At Low VA Rates, we know how important it is to remember these important historic moments and the brave men and women who sacrificed on those days. We try to help our veterans every day of the year, and you can visit our site at to learn more.

Women Who Fought in the Civil War

During the American Civil War, women weren’t allowed to join the battles, but many weren’t content to stay home while their fathers, brothers, husbands, cousins, uncles, grandfathers, and other loved ones went off to fight.

Instead of staying behind, hundreds of women disguised themselves as men and changed their names in order to fight for their country with their families. Find out more about the brave women who took drastic action to be able to serve in their military and fight for their country.

The First American Women in the Military

Because many women were able to keep up their disguises until the end of the Civil War, the exact number who Learn About Some of the First Female Soldiers in America, Women Who Fought in the Civil War.fought is unknown, but it is estimated that around 400-750 women served alongside the men.

The motivations that drove women to disguise themselves and fight in the Civil War were similar to the motivations of the men who fought. Soldiers were fighting for a cause they believed in, whether that was the union of the existing United States or the independence of the Confederate States. In addition to fighting out of patriotism, women and men would have known that joining the war efforts promised a steady wage. Plus, some women were hungering for adventure.

Below, we’ve written about three of the many stories of the brave women who fought in the Civil War.

Sarah Edmonds Seelye

Sarah Edmonds Seelye is one of the courageous women who went to war, but that wasn’t her first experience disguising herself as man. When Sarah was young, she lived in Canada with her abusive father. At just 16 years old, she ran away and worked in a small Canadian town for a year.

Living in constant fear that her father would find her, Edmonds decided to leave to seek refuge in the United States. In order to make it across the border, however, she would need to be accompanied by a man (which she didn’t exactly have handy). So she disguised herself as one and changed her name to “Franklin Thompson.”

Once in the US, Edmonds worked as a Bible salesman, but she wanted to do something more when the Civil War broke out. She became Franklin Thompson once again and went to war on the Union side. While in the Army, she served as a medic, a mail carrier, a spy, and a soldier. She suffered many injuries during her service, but she never sought medical attention for fear that she would be discovered.

In 1863, Edmonds applied for furlough so that she could return home and get treatment for her injuries. Her request was denied, causing her to abandon her post as a Union soldier. Franklin Thompson was charged with desertion.

Once she returned home, Edmonds wrote a book about her time as a disguised soldier, which helped clear her military record. She became the only woman to receive pension and military awards for her service in the Civil War.

Jennie Hodgers

Jennie Hodgers was born in Ireland, but few things are known about her life before she joined the war. A detailed history of her life begins on August 6, 1862, when Jennie enlisted in the Union army with the name “Albert Cashier.” She served for three years and fought in over 40 battles before she was released from duty in 1865.

However, Jennie wasn’t content to leave behind the benefits of being a man. Instead of revealing her true identity, Jennie continued to live as Albert so that she could receive her pension and vote in government elections. While disguised as a man after the war, Jennie held odd jobs like working as a farmhand, a lamplighter, a janitor, and a cemetery worker.

When Jennie died in 1915, she was buried in her military uniform and her grave stone was marked with her alias, Albert Cashier. Fifty-five years later, a gravestone with her given name was placed next to the original marker.

Sarah Rosetta Wakeman

Like Jennie Hodgers, Sarah Rosetta Wakeman’s life before enlisting in the Union army is relatively unknown. She was born and raised the oldest of nine children on a farm in New York. When she was 19 years old, she didn’t have any prospects or plans for marriage, and she knew her family was in debt.

Instead of going to work as a domestic for slim wages, she decided to disguise herself as a man to find work that paid better. While she was working on a coal barge, she learned that she could earn far more if she joined the Army. So she enlisted as Lyons Wakeman.

Sarah wrote many letters to her family, and they saved every one of them, giving historians an interesting insight into the life of a female soldier of the time period. Sarah served on guard duty in Virginia and Washington DC before she was transferred to another regiment where she fought in many battles.

In 1864, after only two years serving in the army, Sarah died from an unidentified disease. As far as anyone knows, her true gender was never discovered, and her male alias was the name placed on her grave marker.

History of Women Who Serve in the Military, Past and PresentWomen Who Serve: A Legacy of Bravery

Although they don’t have to disguise themselves to serve in the United States armed forces anymore, women still exhibit courage by enlisting in a military that has only recently officially opened its doors to them.

Low VA Rates is honored to serve the brave women and men of the military by helping them secure VA home loans. To get more information about a loan or to contact us, please visit our website at

Blue Water Vets and Agent Orange

Agent Orange Effects on Vietnam Veterans

Agent Orange: a harmful combination of herbicides 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D first used by the British in the Malayan Agent Orange Effects in VietnamEmergency. When Operation Ranch Hand was put into effect by the U.S. in Vietnam, Agent Orange was again pulled out of reserves, with consequences just as harmful and just as extensive.

The Geneva Disarmament Convention of 1978 prohibits any country from harming forests and jungles, but an exception specifically states that any vegetation can be harmed if military combatants use these natural areas as cover in any way.

It was under these very circumstances that Agent Orange (AO) was used during the Vietnam War. The U.S. military dropped millions of gallons of Agent Orange over massive expanses of vegetation on Vietnam to eat away at the leaves of trees and bushes, thereby exposing the enemy. That was the objective of Operation Ranch Hand—to get the enemy out into the open.

But if AO could eat away at all of these plants, you can only imagine what it does when it comes in contact with human flesh. This isn’t to mention the lasting health effects of this poisonous herbicide. With so much of this concoction being sprayed over the land, it was inevitable that Vietnamese and American troops alike would be exposed to it.

Agent Orange Affects Blue Water Vets

Agent Orange Exposure in Vietnam Agent Orange affects the benefits of thousands of blue water vets. The Department of Veterans Affairs has listed 14 presumptive diseases on their site that are conditions assumed to be associated with exposure to Agent Orange, including several life-threatening cancers.

Certain birth defects in children of affected veterans also qualify as presumptive diseases, and more research is being done by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) all the time to investigate other possible diseases.

The VA offers several benefits to affected veterans that mainly include health care and disability compensation. Originally, the Agent Orange Act of 1991 stated all Vietnam vets were eligible to receive these benefits if they had been affected by Agent Orange. However, a provision in 2002 altered specifications, excluding thousands from benefits that they should have had the right to obtain.

The biggest issue argued over today is that veterans who were located out in the deep waters of the sea near Vietnam are not considered eligible to receive benefits if they never set foot on Vietnamese soil or traversed Vietnamese rivers. These “Blue Water” veterans have been fighting for their rights for a long time—which is really put into perspective when you think about the fact that the Vietnam war ended forty years ago, and these vets are still suffering without aid.

Organizations have claimed in the past that there was insufficient evidence to support the fact that these veterans were adversely affected by Agent Orange, or even that they came in contact with the stuff in the first place.

However, the IOM has come out with new evidence that argues this is not only perfectly possible, it’s even likely. Thousands of veterans are suffering from diseases related to Agent Orange exposure, but they are not receiving any benefits as a result. These soldiers have served our country to the best of their abilities regardless of home obligations, and yet they are not shown the same amount of dedication and respect that they gave.

So many veterans are already being compensated for these adverse effects. Why exclude the Blue Water Navy veterans who were also exposed? Colorado has recently started taking action by passing a resolution that supports the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2015, which will get these veterans the help they deserve. A few other states have also shown support for this act, and it’s expected that more action will start to unfold in the very near future.

Agent Orange: The Fight for Benefits Continues

Stay tuned to the issue. Keep up with our blog and keep your eyes on the news to stay in-the-know about legislation happening today. Every American should know about the veterans – the heroes – who aren’t getting the benefits they deserve. Share this article to spread the word.



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Stars and Stripes

The Army Dress Uniform: Dressing for Success

It was 1778. The colonists living in America had just entered a war against Great Britain and were amassing an army to battle their sovereign nation.

At first, the ragtag group of soldiers did not resemble an army in the slightest. They were not only untrained and unorganized, but each was wearing a medley of clothes from his previous occupation as a farmer, preacher, or tradesman.

George Washington, general of the Continental Army, was asked by Congress to create a uniform for the soldiers. A year later, after consulting Thomas Webb’s A Military Treatise on the Appointments of the Army for ideas, Washington directed his soldiers to wear blue coats with various coverings for the different state troops.

The blue Continental Army uniform became the first Army Service Uniform. Find out how it formed the basis for the “Class A” Dress Uniform used by the army today.

Origins of the Dress Uniform’s Style and Appearance

Army Dress Uniform EvolutionThe early uniforms were heavily influenced by the British and French militaries. They consisted of a simple dark blue coat with cuffs.

However, a shortage in blue cloth in 1812 forced the army to start experimenting with white, tan, and green uniforms as well as the traditional blue. Trousers were also added to the uniform in the 1820s. They were made of a wool cloth called kersey, which was coarser and cheaper than the cloth used in the uniform coats. Therefore, when the uniforms were dyed, the trousers were always a lighter shade than the jacket.

From Combat to Ceremony

During Washington’s lifetime, the Army Service Uniform was used as both a dress uniform and a combat uniform. However, as new specialized field uniforms were created that were better suited for combat, the uniform became more ornate. Various patches and badges acquired during service were added to the uniform jacket, and other accessories like gold cuff links and white dress gloves were used.

Eventually, the Army Dress Uniform was restricted to formal use and nowadays is worn primarily at public and official functions.

Back to Blue

In 1950, the military wore green service uniforms in order to differentiate themselves from the civilians using surplus Army uniforms from World War I. These dress uniforms were criticized as looking un-military and suit-like in appearance. The army responded to the input and in 2015, brought back the blue dress uniform, reminiscent of Washington’s original design.

For men, the modern dress uniform consists of a blue coat, trousers, a long-sleeved white shirt, and a black tie. Women in the military wear a blue coat, a long- or short-sleeved shirt, a neck tab, and a skirt or slacks. Like the original blue uniforms used by the Continental Army, the new uniform jacket is a deeper blue than the trousers, or slacks.

History of the US Army UniformThe Army Dress Uniform’s Legacy

The Army Dress Uniform is not an inconsequential set of embellished clothing; it is a symbol of the determination, bravery, and sacrifice of the active military members and veterans who have served our country. It is a reminder of the cause great enough to prompt impoverished colonists to join together and fight against a seemingly insurmountable force.

Furthermore, it is a call for citizens and military alike to return to our national roots and band together despite differences in race, religion, or political opinion. The next time you see a soldier wearing the Army Dress Uniform, remember the uniform’s legacy and make an increased effort to exemplify the qualities it represents.

About Low VA Rates

Low VA Rates is a company dedicated to honoring veterans and active military members who wear the Army uniform by helping them save money with a low rate on a VA home loan. For more information, visit our website or give us a call to talk to a representative today.

The 21-Gun Salute

Chances are you’ve probably heard of a 21-gun salute.  Maybe you’ve even seen it in person or on television. However, you might not know what it is or where the tradition comes from. Find out where the 21-gun salute began, and why it still matters today.

What is the 21-Gun Salute?

21-Salute and Other Types of Salutes


First, don’t confuse the 21-gun salute with the three-shot volley, which is fired with rifles at military funerals.  A 21-gun salute is a ceremonial gun salute performed by firing artillery or cannons to show military honor. According to the Army’s website, this salute is “fired in honor of a national flag, the sovereign or chief of state of a foreign nation, a member of a reigning royal family, and the President, ex-President and President-elect of the United States. It is also fired at noon of the day of the funeral” of these presidential figures. It is even fired on Memorial Day to honor fallen soldiers and on George Washington’s birthday.

Origins of the 21-Gun Salute

Gun salutes have their origin in the Middle Ages. Back then and for many centuries afterward, they represented placing oneself in an unarmed position to show peaceful intent. The cannon salute originated in the 14th century as a defeated enemy’s custom of emptying their cannons to render them ineffective. This originally consisted of seven shots for naval salutes, which some believe mirrors biblical symbolism, though it’s more likely this was simply because seven was the standard number of cannons on a warship. Since more gun powder could be stored on land, forts would fire three shots for every one shot fired from sea. Hence, the number 21. Ships later adopted the 21-gun salute as gun powder quality improved.

During the colonial period and early years of the United States, the gun salutes consisted of one shot for every colony or state and were fired at each military installation both on Independence Day and whenever the President visited. This changed over time. In 1842, a 21-gun salute was adopted for the Presidential salute, and regulations in 1890 designated it as the “national salute.”History of the 21-Gun Salute

Other Common Gun Salutes

The 21-gun salute is a revered ceremony, but it is not the only ceremonial salute performed at military events or honors. The three-volley salute and the Salute to the Union are other common salutes that are fired on specific occasions.  

Three-Volley Salute

As mentioned earlier, the three-volley salute is often mistaken as a 21-gun salute. This volley is fired at military funerals and consists of rifles shooting three times to honor the dead. It is usually accompanied by the playing of taps as a United States flag is given to the next of kin. The three-volley salute originated with the custom of ceasing fire during battle to remove the dead and wounded from the field. Once the bodies were removed, each side would fire three shots, or volleys, to resume fighting.

Salute to the Union

As in earlier years, the Salute to the Union consists of one shot for each state. This is fired by military installations on Independence Day and is usually accompanied by a 21-gun salute from naval vessels.

Ceremonial salutes are strong traditions rooted in history and are a special part of the United States military. It is almost certain that you will witness a salute several times in your life. Remember the meaning and the honor that they bestow.  

At Low VA Rates, we recognize and appreciate the honored traditions of the military and seek to contribute to its cause in whatever way we can. Now let us salute you. Call us today to receive all the benefits you deserve with your home.

Army Rangers Lead the Way

Becoming a ranger is one of the hardest things anyone can do. It’s a supreme understatement to say that a lot goes into the program. From Ranger School to the field, rangers constantly push their minds and bodies to their absolute limits.

Picture plunging into a pond from a 70-foot height or doing chin-ups from a dead hang. Helicopter extractions, parachute jumps, etc. It’s all part of the process, and rangers have to perform these tasks with perfection. Find out what these men and women go through to become the elite warriors America depends on and earn the title of Army Ranger.

Army Ranger Training and Qualifications

Surviving School

Although rangers have technically been around for a few hundred years, Ranger School didn’t start until 1950.

All students volunteer for this, but they must meet several requirements before they can even be considered for admission. Just one requirement is that the applicant must be actively serving in some branch of the military already. Through the program’s rigorous, eight-week training, these elite soldiers learn all forms of combat.

Soldiers are led through three different phases of training: Benning, Mountain, and Florida. These phases used to be titled “crawl, walk, and run” respectively but then recently changed to reflect the locations of each phase. Since Ranger School began, 27 people have lost their lives there, and when you read about all the obstacles the students go through in those two months, it’s not hard to see why. The hardest part for some is just staying awake, since they only get about four hours of sleep each night.

A Motto to Lead Them All

The motto “Rangers lead the way” was coined in 1944 by General Norman Cota and is still used today.

The Ranger Creed

The Ranger Creed is created using the word “ranger” as an acronym. Just reading the creed can give you goosebumps and help you understand how prepared, powerful, and dedicated these rangers are. “Surrender is not a Ranger word” proves that they have the mental strength to push through to the end.

But the last line, the ending “R” in RANGER, is truly profound: “Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor.” Everything they do and everything they are revolves around being mentally, emotionally, and physically elite. It’s not about being the best they can be; it’s about being the best anyone can be. It’s about rising up to any challenge, no matter the cost.


Army Ranger School Program and PhasesIn training, rangers go through intense operations to prepare for anything they might encounter out in the field. Some of the obstacles they go through are well known by civilians and military alike. Ever heard of the worm pit? This is a shallow but muddy obstacle where the rangers must crawl on their stomachs and backs underneath knee-high barbed wire. Easy, right?

Outside of school the rangers as a whole have led numerous important and renowned missions since their founding hundreds of years ago. A few of these include:

Operation Eagle Claw (1980)

Operation Urgent Fury (1983)

Operation Just Cause (1989)

Operation Enduring Freedom (2001)

We at Low VA Rates appreciate and revere these dedicated warriors. Thank you for doing what no one else can. 

US to Negotiate Peace with Taliban?

White House officials, after months of private talks and negotiations, just announced its support of direct talks with the Taliban aimed at ending the 12-year-old war that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist political movement that ruled in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. The Taliban state was recognized by only three countries and was condemned worldwide for its brutal treatment of women, its strict interpretation of religious law, and its destruction of anything seen as a Western (read corrupting) influence.

If peace talks happen, they could lead to a reduction in fighting across Afghanistan, according to a senior Afghan official. “We hope that the attacks carried out by the Taliban in Afghanistan will reduce while we talk peace; there is no point in talking if the bombs continue to kill civilians,” he added.

The US announcement followed Afghan President Karzai’s announcement in Kabul that negotiations would take place. The agreement to seek peace talks came on Taliban leaders agreed that Afghanistan would no longer be a safe haven for groups planning or conducting terrorist attacks against the United States or its allies, said senior White House officials.

Can the Taliban Divorce Itself from Al Qaeda?

One has to wonder if it is even possible for the Taliban to divorce itself from al Qaeda. I mean, Taliban leaders can say what they want, even perhaps believe that they want such a separation. But how do they divorce years of soldier-to-soldier relationships and enforce such separation? These people live in some of the most remote and unserviceable areas anywhere in the world. Saying it is one thing, doing it will prove to be quite another.

For the moment, don’t expect the Taliban to boot al Qaeda from the wagon train. The tribal relationships and intricate societal demands in Afghanistan make this a lot more complex than just getting people to agree. In fact, getting agreement may be the easy part. Actually putting in place policy that everyone will follow seems almost impossible at times, given the serpentine complexities of the region.

“We’ve long had a demand on the Taliban that they make a statement that distances themselves from [international terrorism], but made clear we didn’t expect immediately for them to break ties with al Qaeda, because that’s an outcome of the negotiation process,” said one White House official. He added that today’s action should be considered a first step and nothing near what the US will be requiring of them by the end of the process.

Karzai also announced in Kabul on Tuesday that Afghan forces are assuming the lead for security nationwide from the U.S.-led NATO forces. The U.S. and NATO mission is slated to wrap up by December 2014 though the White House and Pentagon have made clear there will be some forces remaining behind to continue support of the Afghan military.

Will the Afghan security force be able to enforce the law and keep the country secure? That remains to be seen. But the size of the Afghan National Security Forces has dramatically increased as it nears taking over national security. Just six years ago Afghan security forces numbered 40,000 men and women; today they are about 352,000.

Coalition troops are scheduled to move to an entirely supporting role—mostly training and mentoring. In emergency situations, the contingency plan is for US troops to provide backup to the Afghans in combat, mostly in the form of airstrikes and medical evacuations.

The question just about everyone is asking themselves is whether these security forces will remain loyal to the Karzai government. I can’t imagine any way to know other than waiting and see.

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Redux: Mr. Obama and Guantanamo

Oh! The power of a hunger strike. Take note: If you don’t like something just threaten to stop eating over it and watch how the round pegs start falling into the square holes after all. Maybe you missed it—news that the prisoners at Guantánamo are on a hunger strike. They are not happy. Their lives are not good in prison. Suddenly something is all wrong.

It’s amazing, really, that with a decade passing we have forgotten how we first felt about these self-declared enemies of the United States. It is remarkable how a people, attacked in cowardly and indiscriminate acts of terror—directed unapologetically at civilian targets—could so soon forget its collective outrage.

Twelve years or so ago there was a unified voice and it wanted justice over the events of 9/11. All of America wanted these people found, whoever they were, wherever they were, and wanted them put to justice. Those short years ago people weren’t clamoring about the “rights’ of these criminals and they really didn’t care whether they rotted in some prison for what they did. In those days there was a consensus that having them under special guard and under special circumstances was a good idea because it was our best chance to understand exactly what happened, who these enemies were, and to put an end to it. One people came together in this resolve to justice – above issues of race, religion, political leaning, or any other divisive demographic. We were bloodied then and our conviction was that having these terrorists in a military prison was just.

What Does it Mean to Close Guantanamo?

And today we are talking about closing Gitmo. The Boston Globe noted in a recent editorial that Obama could close Gitmo all by himself with a “national security waiver.” Our president has the power to transfer prisoners using the national security waiver. What our President does not have is courage to stand up to Congress on Guantánamo.

Despite his longstanding rhetorical commitment to closing Guantánamo, Mr. Obama has not seriously addressed the issue since 2009. The president has shown no resolve to keep his campaign pledge of his first term—that of closing Gitmo. Now that his second term is underway, and now that the bells are ringing about a hunger strike at Guantánamo, he is saying “I’m gonna go back at this.”

In his comments to the press, President Obama noted we have many convicted terrorists in maximum security prisons throughout the United States, many serving life sentences, and we have had no problems with those arrangements to date. He told those present that Guantanamo is a stain on national honor that requires action. We have to ask, “why now…especially since this has been a completely forgotten issue on his part for more than three years? Does the hunger strike really change anything substantive?

“I’ve asked my team to review everything that’s currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively, and I’m gonna re-engage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interest of the American people,” he said. “It’s not sustainable. I mean, the notion that we’re going to continue to keep over 100 individuals in a no man’s land in perpetuity, even at a time when we’ve wound down the war in Iraq, we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan, and we’re having success defeating Al Qaida core.”

These enemies of the United States are on a hunger strike. Evidently our President feels like the hunger strike changes everything. Does it change everything? Does their hunger change anything? The neat thing about justice is it is just. And these enemies to our nation have their just condition for the ideology they profess and the actions they have pursued. These prisoners say they are suffering in their military prison. I ask, “what’s wrong with that? Wasn’t that the idea in the first place?”

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US Army Pulls the XM25 ‘Punisher’ from Action

The U.S. Army has halted operational testing of its shoulder-fired, 25mm airburst weapon after a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan suffered minor injuries when the weapon malfunctioned.

“An XM25 experienced a double feed and an unintentional primer ignition of one round,” Army spokesman Matt Bourke stated in a March 7 written release, describing the Feb. 2 incident. “The Army subsequently removed all XM25 prototype weapons and ammunition from the theater for a root cause analysis and corrective action.”

If you don’t know much about the XM25, its official name is the Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) system, better known by its field name “the Punisher.” The term “counter-defilade” means this weapon system targets enemy fighters hiding behind walls, cars, small mounds, or other obstacles.

The XM25 fires radio-controlled smart bullets, which are more like grenades. The rounds explode when they have traveled a programmed distance, detonating in a lethal spray of shrapnel. The XM25 is a shoulder-fired semi-automatic weapon. A soldier sights the distance to the target through an attached laser rangefinder; he can then add or subtract up to three yards as he dials in the exact distance for the round to explode. This means that a round can be fired to explode directly over enemy troops that are entrenched or hiding in a room or behind an obstacle.

The 25mm round contains a chip that receives a signal from the gun sight as to the exact moment of detonation. Military experts familiar with the new weapon and its capabilities have called it a “game-changer” because it allows infantry to clear sniper sites and other trouble spots without having to call in artillery or an airstrike. The precision of the XM25 is expected to greatly reduce the collateral damage of modern warfare.

The XM25 already completed one 14-month battlefield assessment in Afghanistan and was in the early stages of a second assessment when the double feed and primer ignition occurred during a live-fire training exercise. Army regulars who fired the XM25 in combat say it is effective against enemy forces hiding behind the short mud walls commonplace across Afghanistan.

Army spokesman Bourke added that the actual XM25 round did not detonate because of safety features designed into the weapon. He reported the gunner involved in the mishap received superficial injuries, was medically evaluated, and returned to duty. The malfunction did ruin the weapon.

According to Army officials, the XM25 will continue through its current second phase, with the system being further tested, evaluated, and improved. The XM25 was originally thought to be field available by 2012. Its current schedule anticipates field availability in the fall of 2014.

With the latest “sequestration” cuts affecting the military, one can only wonder if this weapon will make it past the chopping block and into the military theater. The XM25 is not cheap, with an estimated per-weapon price tag of somewhere between $25,000-$30,000. The Army’s original intent was to purchase 12,500 of the weapons.

The XM25 already has its detractors who claim the five-shot, 14-pound weapon is more of a burden than a benefit to combat units. Ranger units using the XM25 reportedly found it heavy and cumbersome for the battlefield. They were also concerned that the limited basic load of 25mm rounds was not enough to justify taking an M4A1 carbine out of the mission, particularly the newer model, which has a fully automatic setting.


Is a New Future in Store for the Draft System?

In a bipartisan effort that has drawn little national attention, two members of Congress have created legislation that would do away with the Selective Service System (SSS), the independent federal agency that manages draft registration. Did you catch that? Representatives Mike Coffman (R) of Colorado and Peter DeFazio (D) of Oregon don’t want to just get rid of the draft; they want to get rid of the federal agency that manages the draft—the SSS.

The congressmen claim the millions budgeted to the SSS each year is wasted money. Citing Pentagon sources to support their case, the two representatives say the military have had so much success raising an all-volunteer force that there is no need to return to conscription.

On the other side of the fence is the agency’s director, Lawrence Romo. His take on things is that the SSS is like “an inexpensive insurance policy.” According to a recent AP story, Romo was quoted as saying “We are the true backup for the true emergency.”

The law currently states young men between the ages of 18 and 25 must register with the SSS. The agency’s 2012 Report to Congress showed a compliance rate of 91%. Anyone failing to register with the SSS can be charged with a felony—although the Justice Department has not prosecuted anyone for that offense since 1986. A conviction could mean a fine of up to $250,000 and a prison term of up to five years.

Several states have added additional penalties for those who fail to register. The bottom line is Selective Service registration is still the law. Even if you have heard that nobody is being prosecuted for failing to register, there are real penalties in place for not doing so.

A young man who does not register for Selective Service also becomes ineligible for:

  • Student financial aid.
  • US citizenship (if the man arrived in the US prior to his 26th birthday).
  • Federal jobs and job training

What about Women?

Which leads us to an interesting question: now that women are eligible for combat roles, will a requirement to register for the Selective Service also fall to them? That appears unlikely for the time being.

You could argue that when the then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta signed a memorandum in January of 2013 that ended the 1994 ban on women serving in combat situations, he also effectively opened the door to their selective conscription under the right set of circumstances. Women currently make up approximately 12% of active duty military.

US women in the military are not new to the dangers of war. More than 800 women have been wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan— more than 150 have been killed. Even before the official policy change for women in the military, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have brought more and more women into the line of fire. Women have participated in convoys, accompanied infantry troops, served as intelligence officers and medics, and searched civilians. All of these duties have placed women in harm’s way and in combat situations.

President Obama’s newly appointed defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, said at his confirmation hearing: “I will work with the service chiefs as we officially open combat positions to women, a decision I strongly support.”

Time will tell just how many U.S. men we will need in active military roles and whether the needed numbers can be sustained by an all-volunteer force.

Time will tell just how many U.S. women will receive combat assignments. There is a sense of evaluating as we go forward with the new policy. As yet there has been no real talk of conscripting women into military service.

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The Toughest Special Forces in Military History

The concept of highly trained military units being capable of performing unconventional missions dates back to the 11th century B.C. with Chinese military strategist Jiang Ziya. In his treatise “the Six Secret Teachings,” he described the need to recruit motivated warriors for specialized elite units.

In the centuries that followed, numerous countries employed specialized units in different unconventional roles, including reconnaissance, surveillance, sabotage, and counter-insurgency operations.

Ancient Warriors

Roman fleets utilized small, camouflaged ships with handpicked crews that performed scouting missions and commando-style raids. Muslim forces were specially trained to pass as Crusaders to gather intelligence, capture vessels and launch raids. In turn, the Knights Hospitaler, a group of warrior monks, were formidable on offense and stalwart in the defense. Japanese ninjas were used for espionage and as assassins or bodyguards.

Modern Special Forces

In the 19th century, nations began to deploy formalized units, such as the British Army’s Gurkha Scouts.

The Second Boer War saw the creation of the Lovat Scouts, excellent sharpshooters who wore camouflaged ghillie suits that have become the staple of snipers everywhere.

The evolution of special forces took a dramatic step forward during World War II. In addition to airborne and glider forces, specialized units that made their mark include British Commandos and Special Air Service, American Rangers, Italy’s Decima Flottiglia MAS, and the German Jager Battalion. These units conducted reconnaissance missions and raids deep behind enemy lines.

Today’s Elite Soldiers

After WWII, new organizations, such as the American Green Berets, Russian Spetsnaz, and Israeli Unit 101, were created to meet their country’s military needs. The U.S. Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams from World War II have been transformed into today’s elite SEAL teams. Other units like the Special Air Service will likely take on more roles as warfare continues to evolve.

American War History at a Glance

The United States has faced many wars. We’ve seen some of our brave soldiers return home in good health, some come home with physical or mental injuries, and some never return at all—lost to threats we’ll never know. Whatever the situation, each veteran who serves honorably is forever changed.

Veterans Day is a day dedicated to remembering those who have sacrificed so much on behalf of our great country. It’s a day where we should all take the time to express gratitude for the men and women who have served.

We hope the infographic below helps you remember our veterans on this special day—or any day, really. We at Low VA Rates encourage you to make plans to do something for a veteran, whether that’s donating to an organization that focuses on those who have served or just making a veteran smile.

Let us know what you think in the comments!

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The History of American Wars - Veterans Day Infographi
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Military Tattoos – Showing Your Pride And Patriotism

Did you know that the origins of military tattoos in Western culture can be traced all the way back to the Roman age? At that time, according to Veterans of Foreign Wars, tattoos were used to identify soldiers and show what unit they were in. Tattoos first showed up in the US military during the 1800s, when Civil War soldiers were often tattooed.

Today, tattoos are seen throughout the major branches of service in the US military and often serve as a reminder of experiences with the military, such as places served, servicemembers who were lost, dates of service, and others. For more on military tattoos, check out the graphic below. Feel free to share it with veterans or other loved ones!

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Military Tattoos - Show Your Pride And Patriotism
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Remembering Pearl Harbor

Sixty-nine years ago tomorrow, just before 8 O’Clock in the morning our history will be forever impacted by the actions of the Japanese task force Pearl Harbor. This fatal bombing caused a devastating blow on our own US armed forces stationed in Hawaii. However, this surprise attack on US soil woke the “Sleeping Giant” that was and is the United States of America, and we officially entered the war with the intention to end it. Ultimately that’s exactly what we did. But this day, December 7th, 1941 will live on in infamy.

Many lives were lost throughout that dreadful war and they should never be forgotten. WWII is a dark part of our world’s history, but it did happen, we can’t forget that! The day we deny or forget that World War Two happened is the day we are forgetting and denying the thousands of men and boys who gave their lives to fight the threat of Communism and save the lives of millions worldwide. Let’s all take some time to spend with our families tomorrow and talk together about the sacrifice that these soldiers made in the 1940’s as well as the soldiers who are making the same sacrifices now. These men and women are heroes and give so much hope and freedom to people they have never met.

As many of us spend this week, and in particular this coming Tuesday December 7th, reflecting on the attack on Pearl Harbor, we here at Low VA Rates thought it would be appropriate to provide some information on the event of that day, December 7, 1941. Below is an infographic that shows the timeline of the attack that morning; facts on the battle that took place; and info on the memorial that is open to the public on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. If you ever decide to visit Pearl Harbor on the Island Oahu  you need to visit the memorial. There you can still see the remains of the USS Arizona below the surface in the clear calm water, A stark contrast to the events of that fateful day. Enjoy the Image below and feel free to share it with others!

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Remembering Pearl Harbor Infographic


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WWII Aircraft Pin Ups and Nose Art

Nowadays, vintage is the new black! Pin-up girl hairstyles, swimsuits, and dresses are all the rage. Everyone loves the classy look of a pin-up girl, and vintage is definitely in.

It’s neat to see WWII art making a comeback. What makes you feel more American than a WWII cartoon of Uncle Sam or the old pin-up girl postcard? And don’t forget about Rosie the Riveter or a fighter plane with a fantastic mural on it. These things remind us of America’s history during wartime, or, as Dickens said, “The best of times and the worst of times” in America.

During many wars of the past, our nation was united against a common cause, and patriotism ran through the veins of American culture. With the return of all things vintage, let’s bring back the “vintage” attitude of patriotism and respect toward the veterans who sacrifice daily so that we can keep the freedoms we enjoy and take for granted every day.

Origins of Pin-Up Girls and Aircraft Nose Art

The term “pin-up girl” was first used in the early 1940’s during WWII. Also during WWII, the armed forces allowed the decoration of the noses of their fighting airplanes with paintings, posters, and other forms of art.

There were four main types of nose art, including pin-up girls, comic strips, Hollywood icons, and Disney art pieces, but the pin ups quickly became a favorite.

We can sit here and talk about how classic WWII art was and how amazing the airplanes looked with their noses painted, but even better than reading about the WWII era is being able to see historical pictures of the classic pin-up girls and other vintage nose art.

We hope you enjoy the image below, and please feel free to share it with your friends. Like we said, vintage is the new black!

A Visual Overview of WWII Pin Ups and Nose Art

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WWII Aircraft Pin Ups and Nose Art

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The Evolution of the War Rifle

From the Brown Bess to the FN Scar, war rifles have been used for many years. Some rifle names are well known, such as “Winchester” (as in the famous “Winchester Ghost House” in California), while others are less commonly known.

Love them or hate them, each of these weapons has a significant place in our country’s story. They have been used in many wars, whether to fight against other countries, battle terrorism and oppression, or even confront our own compatriots. Below, you’ll find an infographic we’ve created that highlights a few of the war rifles used throughout history.

We wouldn’t be where we are today in the beautiful US, the Land of the Free, without rifles. They’re a powerful weapon—no doubt about that—but the real honor has nothing to do with a piece of wood (or resin) and metal. The true heroes are the resilient men and women of our military, whether veterans or active duty, who wield these guns to help keep us safe and free.

It takes a lot of courage to put your life on the line, but that’s what our veterans have done over the years and our active duty servicemembers do every day. Learning about these rifles should help us remember their sacrifices.

Below, we’ve listed guns that were popular during different war periods. Pick a favorite and share it with us in the comments below. Or, if you know about one that is not listed, leave a comment about that too—we want to hear from you!

See the evolution and history of the war rifle via the image below.  View the full-size image here: Evolution of the War Rifle.

Continue reading “The Evolution of the War Rifle”

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