“The military community just gets me. It’s like no other. Military spouses have a special bond. You don’t get it unless you’re a part of it.” I’m sure we’ve all heard these statements before, and some of us may have even said them. Yes, the military community is special, but there are other communities out there who do understand us, who do get us, who do have a similar sister/brotherhood.
One of those communities is CrossFit. Yes, please keep reading, I promise this is not all about the workout of the day and how much we can lift. CrossFit has a community; it’s one of the things people like most about it. The CrossFit community and the military community have so much in common that you find a lot of the same people in both. Here are some of the ways they’re the same.
When you show up to a new duty station as a military spouse, you start making friends before the boxes are unpacked. Within the first week, you have a hairdresser, a babysitter, at least one invitation for Thanksgiving, and some emergency contacts. When you walk into a CrossFit gym, you receive a similar welcome. You’ll meet new people immediately, they’ll start asking you questions, figure out what else you have in common, what mutual friends you have and you’ll be part of the group before the workout starts.
2. They show up for each other.
In the military community, we show up for each other day in and day out. Your neighbor will snag your kids off the bus if you’re not home or show up with dinner that night you are going to lose it. CrossFit friends are the same. One CrossFit friend, who works as a labor and delivery nurse, showed up to deliver her fellow athlete’s baby because of the bond they created at the gym. Sounds a lot like that military spouse who drove you to the hospital and held the camera so your spouse could watch the delivery downrange, right?
3. They cheer you on, even when they’re suffering.
There is nothing as heartwarming as watching a military spouse who just sent their spouse off on deployment excitedly holding the hand of their friend who is welcoming their spouse home. Being happy for our friends is what makes friendships rock-solid. In CrossFit, we can do the same. We cheer on new personal bests while we beat ourselves up for not going harder. We celebrate wins as a team, always.
Everyone needs that friend who tells you when you have spinach dip in your teeth, and you’ll find that friend in a CrossFit gym and the military spouse community. The one who texts you at 4:45 a.m. and says they’re picking you up on the way to the gym. It may even be the same one who comes over and sits you down on the couch with your six-month-old while they fold your laundry, so you finally rest. They know what you need, and they make sure you do it.
5. They are truly a family.
From coffee groups to impromptu backyard barbeques, military spouses cling to each other when they live far from family. They put up with the good, the bad, and the screaming toddler while you’re trying to finish book club. CrossFit friends do the same thing. They hold your toddler so you can finish the workout, they tell you when to take a break and rest, they support you in every part of your life. Family comes first, and if you are a military spouse who CrossFits, you have two awesome families.
We see this in CrossFit affiliates and among the top athletes. Just like we see military spouses rally around the brand-new spouse while simultaneously showing up for the seasoned spouse. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen athletes cross goals off their list while competing against each other on an international level. We’ve seen tears of joy and frustration. We’ve seen pranks and fun head-to-head matchups, even one that took place at the US Army Warrior Fitness Center at Fort Knox.
BLUF: Community is everything. Find your people. Hold on tight.
The holidays are great occasions to build family memories and connect with loved ones. The foods served often connect us to special memories from the past. But, did you know that people over 65, children, and pregnant women are at higher risk for food borne illness? To ensure that your holidays are merry, here are some tips to help prevent food borne illness from crashing your party:
Wash your hands prior to starting food preparation, making sure to wash all surfaces of the hands and nails for at least 20 seconds. Singing “Happy Birthday” is a good way to ensure you have washed long enough.
Rinse fresh produce under running water prior to prepping these items.
Use separate cutting boards for produce, meat, shellfish and eggs to prevent cross-contamination. Wash cutting boards in warm soapy water after prepping each food item.
(Photo by Caroline Attwood)
When baking with little kitchen helpers, teach children not to eat batter or dough with raw eggs.
Reused sponges and towels are a harbor for harmful bacteria. When you have multiple hands in the kitchen, paper towels can be safer.
Avoid leaving food out on the counter to defrost. The only safe ways to defrost foods are in the refrigerator, cold water, or the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or the microwave should be cooked immediately.
A thermometer is a great tool to make sure you fully cook hot items. Be careful not to place cooked meat on the same plate that previously held raw meat.
Avoid rinsing meat or poultry, as this can spread harmful bacteria.
Don’t stuff your bird! Instead, cook your stuffing separately. If you choose to stuff your bird, the stuffing must meet an internal temperature of 165°.
When sending family members home with leftovers, keep the following tips in mind:
Discard perishable food items that have been at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Remember, you can’t tell if an item is bad by taste, smell, or appearance.
Use shallow containers to store leftovers to allow for quick cooling.
Reheat any leftovers to a minimum temperature of 165°.
For additional information check out the CDC’s information on food safety and this advice for holiday cooks. If you are interested in learning more about preparing healthy and safe holiday foods this season, contact your local VA to learn more about the Healthy Teaching Kitchen program, or to meet with a PACT dietitian to help adjust some of your family’s favorite recipes to meet your health goals.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff laid out the process for military support to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during a discussion with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy Nov. 5, 2018.
The U.S. military has stepped out smartly to support DHS, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said. There are now 5,200 active-duty personnel helping Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest border.
The chairman spoke of the process solely from a military perspective. The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency have the mission of securing the borders. DHS officials have said that they are worried that caravans of Central American asylum-seekers pushing up from the south may overwhelm CBP personnel. DOD was tasked to provide logistical and medical support.
Homeland Security told DOD in writing what capabilities they needed, Dunford said. DOD officials studied the request and proposed what is being deployed now. This includes logistical support, specifically to harden points of entry.
“There are soldiers on the border putting up concertina wire and reinforcing the points of entry,” the chairman said.
DOD personnel are also helping with movement and providing trucks and helicopters. DOD is also providing some medical support.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discusses the U.S. military’s support to Customs and Border Protection with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy in Durham, N.C., Nov. 5, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“There is no plan for U.S. military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry into the United States,” Dunford said. “There is no plan for soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or reinforce the Department of Homeland Security as they are conducting their mission. We are providing enabling capabilities.”
The military is following an order from President Donald J. Trump to support the Department of Homeland Security, the chairman said.
From a military standpoint, he said, he asked a number of questions. The first was, “Do we have unambiguous directions on what the soldiers … have to do?”
The answer is yes, Dunford said, and what’s more, the soldiers understand what is expected of them.
“Number 2: ‘Is this legal?’ And the answer is, yes,” Dunford said. “And three, do they have the capability, the wherewithal to perform the task we’ve asked them to accomplish?”
The service members on the border “know exactly what they are doing, they know why they are doing it and they have the proper training and equipment to do it,” he said.
We live in a world full of uncertainty. This has always been the case. But when you have kids, that uncertainty becomes less abstract and action is required. It needs to be met with the understanding that it’s on you to take the proper precautions to protect your family when shit hits the fan. There’s truth in that saying “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” There’s also truth in the saying “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” The act of preparing helps you feel a bit less worried about hurricanes, floods, super viruses, and other such events. You can’t control anything; but you can control how ready you are.
One way to ensure you’re ready: prepare an emergency kits or go-bag. Companies like Uncharted Supply Co., Echo-Sigma, and Emergency Zone have made small fortunes in recent years selling premade emergency kits for this very reason. Affordable, portable, and packed with short-term survival essentials, their sole purpose is to arm people with the gear they need to get out of town should a life-or-death situation unfold right before your eyes.
Emergency kits are also commonly known as bug-out bags. Borrowing military terminology, the moniker refers to when U.S. troops were directed to retreat (or “bug out”) with their vital survival gear during dire situations in the Korean War. Some other common nicknames used today include the battle box, 72-hour kit, go-bag, and INCH bag, the latter of which stands for “I’m Never Coming Home”.
Not necessarily intended for long-term survival, the modern-day bug-out bag emphasizes being ready to go with everything you would need should an unforeseen emergency evacuation arise. And while the concept of proactively preparing for a worst-case scenario can seem like a daunting task, it’s also incredibly important.
“Natural disasters and society disasters such as a loss of power are not going to stop happening — we all know there will be something happening again sooner or later,” says Stroud. “It takes such little effort to prepare, yet the payoff can be very profound, and even save lives.”
Stroud, true to his reputation, doesn’t believe in taking the easy way out and is not a fan of the one-size-fits-all, ready-made bug-out bag. Why? For the simple reason that the hands-on nature of putting one together yourself makes you aware of its contents. “People must become comfortable making their own bug-out bags through research and learning,” he says.
“There is no shortcut here, and there is no company that is going to put together a grab-and-go kit that is going to work for your own family’s individual needs,” Stroud adds. “Most people will purchase such a kit and never open it or go through the contents to make sure they all work well.”
So what does the proper bug-out bag contain? While an emergency kit for single guy in his 50’s will vary significantly from the contents of one prepared by parents evacuating with a newborn, there are certain items both need to contain..
Now, it’s important to keep in mind that you aren’t planning for a glamping vacation or a weekend family escape to the woods. These evacuation essentials are geared toward survival purposes. They’re intended to keep you covered during the first 72 hours after an emergency strikes. You’ll want to source items that are easy to carry, durable in unpredictable conditions, and most importantly, useful in keeping you and your family safe.
Here, with Stroud’s help, are some of non-negotiables that need to be included in a bug-out bag
What to Pack in a Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag
Water purification pump:The LifeStraw Mission, a gravity water purifier, weighs a little more than a pound but has the capacity to purify 12 liters of water per hour
There’s no shortage of online communities and websites completely dedicated to survivalism and preparedness. Popular digital destinations like The Ultimate Bug Out Bag Guide, The Prepared, and Ready To Go Survival are teeming with resources related to the topic, ranging from how-to-videos to in-depth gear reviews.
All of these sources keep updated master lists of everything you could possibly need in a bug-out bag. And a simple Google search for “bug-out bag essentials” will instantly return millions of results. But at the end of the day, only you can ultimately decide what needs to be included in your family’s survival kit. Personalization is paramount.
Stroud even brings it a step further, advising that every family member takes ownership of preparing for their specific needs.
“I recommend one bug-out bag per person,” he says. “Each family member, including all adults and any children capable of carrying, should have their own bug-out bag — personally designed — that they are familiar with.”
In addition to the general must-have survival elements, what should parents evacuating with kids in tow bring? Consider the below list a starting point. While there’s bound to be some crossover in the lists below, use your best judgement when curating each bag. Include any additional items that you feel would be absolutely necessary, and engage your kids in preparing their own bags so they’re familiar with the contents.
Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Babies
Diapers: Diapers are so lightweight, it’ll be easy to bring enough to last a 72-hour period. The absorbency of diapers also helps them come in handy as cold or hot packs when emergencies strikes.
Dry formula: Even if your baby is still breastfeeding, you’ll want to make sure to keep a healthy supply of dry formula packets on hand, just in case.
Bottle: Bring a bottle should you need to resort to using dry formula (plus, you can use the nipple as a pacifier, or store other items inside the bottle for extra protection).
Pacifier: Because a pacified baby beats a crying baby.
Antibacterial wipes While these can be used for the whole family, they’ll come in handy for a quick baby bath or other sanitation purposes.
Baby carrier You’ll want to be able to use your hands and carry your baby comfortably.
Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag Essentials for Children Ages 3-6
Snacks: Food may be scarce, so be sure to bring some of your kid’s favorite snacks along. Bonus points if the snacks also pack a jolt of energy or nutrition.
Oral hygiene supplies: keeping to some routine habits, even in extreme situations, can help instill a sense of normalcy and independence―plus, healthy oral hygiene habits never hurt.
Multivitamins: your child’s diet can be severely challenged in an emergency, so stash a daily vitamin supplement in their bag.
Study walking shoes: terrain may be rough, so plan to pack a durable pair of walking shoes (that fit their ever-changing foot size) which can stand the conditions you may face.
Thermal blanket: A light, metal-coated space blanket is ultra-lightweight and designed to retain heat in colder temperatures. It can even be used as a make-shift shelter.
Ear plugs: depending on the scenario, ear plugs can help drown out frightening noises during the day and ensure a more sound sleep at night.
Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Children Ages 6+
Gum or hard candy: Whether they’re leveraged as an energy-booster or a pick-me-up when morale is low, you’ll be glad you brought a handful of sweets.
Pedialyte powder: Children aren’t the best at communicating when they’re thirsty, so avoid dehydration with a few packets of this electrolyte-infused powder.
Books: we’re not talking heavy, hard-cover books, but the mind can weaken faster than the body in times of stress―so keep a favorite paperback close by.
Other mind-occupiers: should boredom set in, it’s not a bad idea to have a deck of cards, coloring book, or other such extras on hand.
Emergency whistle: Kids six and older can let curiosity get the best of them, so arm them with an emergency whistle in case they get separated from the family.
Walkie-talkies: When whistles won’t cut it, or the family is planning to temporarily split up, a pair of walkie-talkies will definitely come in hand.
Additional Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag Items to Keep in Mind
Power bank: pack a fully-charged power bank or two to keep cell phones and other necessary electronics charged. Ideally, you want a solar-powered bank that can be refueled via sunlight.
Document protection: during periods of uncertainty, it’s imperative to keep your family’s important documents (like birth certificates, social security cards, and passports) with you at all times, so invest in a waterproof document pouch for when you’re on the go.
Super Glue and duct tape: in an evacuation scenario, you never know when you’ll need to take a page from the MacGyver playbook (plus, Super Glue and duct tape can be used in a range of medical emergencies).
N99 masks: These face masks are effective at filtering out 99 percent of non-oil-based airborne particulate matter, including most pollution, bacteria, and viruses.
Extra money: In emergency situations, cash is king. Five-hundred dollars in small bills is a good amount.
Sunscreen: Because sun exposure is likely in emergency situations.
This covers the basics. The point here is to get you thinking about preparing and taking an active role in considering the worst. Luck, they say, is where preparation and opportunity meet. While it’s good to hope that the opportunity never arises in this case, you’ll be thankful to have prepared if it does.
Trying to deadlift a weight that is entirely too heavy for you is a great way to start demonizing the deadlift. Take your time in progressing to heavier weights. There’s no rush; you literally have the rest of your life to get to a three times bodyweight deadlift.
Maybe you did manage to get the weight to the top of the rep. This is not the time to lose tension; a weight that causes you to lose tightness at the top will make you regret picking it up on the way down.
This is where most of you will find the answer to your pain.
Your lats aren’t firing. Watch the video to learn how to turn on those lats with every rep. You’ll stop putting extra stress on your low back if you are properly engaging your lats.
Even though the deadlift is considered a pull, there is still a push aspect to it. Spend some time actively pressing your feet through the floor in your next session. You will immediately notice the difference as well as a relief in your low back.
The deadlift is a hip hinge movement. It isn’t a squat. Learn how to hip hinge using the drill in the video above. It will prevent the bar from getting in your way during the deadlift and causing extra stress on the low back as opposed to the glutes where you should be hinging from.
You’re so special that maybe the conventional deadlift isn’t good enough for you. If you have a hard time getting into position in the straight bar deadlift try another variation. The trap bar can be your friend here, as can a kettlebell.
If your shoes have the word “air” in their name, or the word “comfort” anywhere in their product description take them off when deadlifting. The cushion creates an unstable base that your body needs to compensate for. That compensation takes away from your form and can cause pain in the low back.
90% of people are in flexion (see #2). The rest of you may be in hyperextension at the top of the movement. If that’s the case, check out the video and learn how to wake up your glutes so that you can engage them instead of throwing all of your weight into your low back.
Here’s the full video to correct all potential low back issues in the deadlift. Get in the gym, apply your fix, and keep training!
Earlier in October, the Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard worked together to save the life of a 73-year-old mariner in the Pacific Ocean.
In the morning hours of October 2, the Lady Alice, an 84-foot commercial fishing vessel sent out an emergency message. It was sailing approximately 150 miles east of Hawaii when one of its crew got sick. The victim’s fellow sailors notified the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, that the 73-year-old man was suffering from what appeared to be a stroke.
Despite administering medication to the victim, his shipmates were concerned that his situation might deteriorate. It was then decided that a team of Pararescuemen would jump next to Lady Alice and provide emergency medical care to the man.
A few hours later, three PJs from the 129th Rescue Wing jumped with their gear from an Air Force HC-130 Combat Talon II and then boarded the fishing vessel. Upon assessing the patient, the Air Commandos determined that he needed more advanced care and that a medical evacuation was necessary. The Navy was then called in, and an MH-60 Seahawk chopper from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 37 transported the patient directly to the hospital.
Pararescuemen assigned to the California Air National Guard 129th Rescue Wing transfer a patient from an HH-60G helicopter to land-based medical facilities. This image shows an older rescue by the unit (U.S. Air Force).
“One of the greatest difficulties when dealing with cases in the Pacific is distance,” said Michael Cobb, command duty officer for Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu in a press release. “This is why partnerships with our fellow armed services are so important out here. The Coast Guard, Navy, and Air Force all have different capabilities and through teamwork, we were able to aid a mariner in need.”
Throughout the operation, a Coast Guard HC-130 from Air Station Barbers Point provided regular weather updates and general support.
The 129th Rescue Wing is part of the California National Guard.
This is another successful non-combat rescue operation for the Air Force’s Pararescuemen. Recently, and in two separate incidents, PJs saved a man and his daughter and a teen hiker who had gotten lost in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.
This rescue operation showcased the interoperability between the three services, an interoperability that becomes ever more relevant and important. Great Power Competition (GPC) is the era of warfare, in which Russia, in the shorter term, and China, in the longer term, are the main threats to U.S. national security.
China currently fields the largest navy in the world. Although the U.S. Navy is aiming at a 500-ship fleet by 2045, it will be some time before that strategic vision turns into an operational capability. As a result, inter-service cooperation and interoperability are of the essence to enhance the overall effectiveness of the military.
The victim was the master of the Lady Alice. In a ship, a master is responsible for navigation. The rank used to exist in the Navy as well (it was a warrant officer position) but has long been replaced by the currently active rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade.
The rank of Master also appears in the popular film “Master and Commander,” starring Russel Crowe which takes place in the Napoleonic Wars. That version of the rank, which was between the rank of Lieutenant and Post Captain, was active in the Royal Navy during the Age of Sail and was given to officers who commanded a ship not large enough to merit a master or a captain (in rank).
As a U.S. Navy messman, Doris “Dorie” Miller, a Black 22-year-old sharecropper’s son from Waco, Texas, was restricted from handling any weapons. His duties included serving the officers’ mess, collecting laundry, and shining shoes. Despite the institutional racism built into the Navy at the time, Miller found success as the boxing champion of his ship, the battleship USS West Virginia. Still, he was segregated from his white shipmates in both his duties and berthing. However, Miller and the Navy would soon learn that hostile fire doesn’t discriminate.
On December 7, 1941, Miller woke at 0600 to serve the breakfast mess. Afterwards, he proceeded to collect laundry. At 0757, a torpedo dropped by Lt. Cdr. Shigeharu Murata of the Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi struck West Virginia—it was the first of nine torpedoes that would eventually sink the mighty battleship. General Quarters was sounded and Miller made his way to his battle station, an anti-aircraft battery magazine located amidships. Upon finding the position destroyed, Miller proceeded to “Times Square”, a central location where the fore-to-aft and port-to-starboard passageways crossed, to report himself available for other duty.
The COMMO, Lt. Cdr. Doir Johnson, recognized Miller’s powerful boxer build and ordered Miller to accompany him to the bridge to help him move the ship’s skipper, Cpt. Mervyn Bennion, who had taken a piece of shrapnel to the abdomen. Miller and Johnson were unable to remove Bennion from the bridge and instead moved him from the exposed position where he was wounded to a sheltered spot behind the conning tower. Bennion refused to abandon his post and continued to fight the ship, issuing orders and receiving reports from his officers.
A cartoon depicting Miller’s action at Pearl Harbor (Charles Alston—Office of War Information and Public Relations)
After moving the captain, Miller was ordered to accompany Lt. Frederic White and Ens. Victor Delano to load the number 1 and 2 M2 .50-caliber anti-aircraft machine guns which sat unmanned aft of the conning tower. Since he had no training on the weapon system, White and Delano instructed Miller on how to load and man the guns. Expecting Miller to feed ammunition to the gun, Delano was surprised to turn around and see Miller firing one of the guns. White loaded ammunition into the guns and Miller continued to fire until the ammunition was expended. Miller’s actions with the captain and the machine gun have become well-known thanks to their depiction in Hollywood films; most notably, Pearl Harbor where Miller was portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr.
What is less known are Miller’s actions after he ran out of ammo. Lt. Claude Ricketts ordered Miller to help him carry the captain, now only semi-conscious and bleeding heavily, up to the navigation bridge and out of the thick oily smoke that had begun to engulf the ship. Cpt. Bennion succumbed to his wounds and died soon afterwards. For his actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Miller proceeded to pull injured sailors out of the burning mix of oil and water and was one of the last men to abandon West Virginia as she sank. Afterwards, Miller continued to rescue his fellow sailors from the water and move them to safety.
Adm. Nimitz pins the Navy Cross on Miller at a ceremony aboard the USS Enterprise at Pearl Harbor on May 27, 1942 (U.S. Navy)
While it’s unfortunate that Miller’s actions after his gun ran out of ammo are lesser known, it’s tragic that Miller’s actions during the attack initially went unrecognized. An official Navy commendation list of outstanding actions during the attack did not bear Miller’s name and only listed “an unknown Negro sailor”. The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the leading Black newspapers at the time, didn’t think this was enough. “It made two lines in the newspaper,” said Frank Bolden, war correspondent for the Courier, in an interview before his death in 2003. “The Courier thought he should be recognized and honored. We sent not a reporter, we sent our executive editor to the naval department. They said, ‘We don’t know the name of the messman. There are so many of them.'” The Navy’s apathy didn’t deter the Courier though.
Hoping to undermine the stereotype that African Americans couldn’t perform well in combat, the Courier was determined to identify the unnamed Black sailor and properly recognize him for his actions. “The publisher of the paper said, ‘Keep after it’,” Bolden said. “We spent ,000 working to find out who Dorie Miller was. And we made Dorie Miller a hero.”
After Miller was identified, the African-American community swelled with pride. Amidst the shock and sorrow that gripped the country following Pearl Harbor, they had a war hero that represented them. Initially, however, the Navy only awarded Miller a letter of commendation. It took a campaign by the Black press and a proposal from Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific fleet, to President Roosevelt for the commendation to be upgraded to the Navy Cross, the third highest honor for valor at the time.
Miller continued to serve in the fleet aboard the USS Indianapolis and was advanced to Messman First Class in June 1942. Later that month, the Courier started a campaign for him to return home for a war bond tour alongside white war heroes. As part of the campaign, the Courier published a photo of Miller next to a photo of a Sgt. Joseph Lockard receiving an officer’s commission for sounding a warning that went unheeded before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The photos were captioned, “He Warned…Gets Commission. He Fought…Keeps Mop,” highlighting the disparity in the treatment of white and colored servicemen.
The recruiting poster was designed by artist David Stone Martin (U.S. Navy)
The campaign succeeded and Miller returned to Pearl Harbor in November. He went on a war bond tour that included Oakland, Dallas, and his hometown of Waco until he reported to Puget Sound in May, 1943. He was advanced to Cook First Class on June 1 and reported to the escort carrier Liscome Bay. That year, Miller was featured on a Navy recruiting poster called “Above and beyond the call of duty.” At the Battle of Makin, Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese submarine on November 24, 1943. Miller and two-thirds of the crew were listed as presumed dead. His body was never recovered.
Since his death, Miller has had schools, streets, community centers, and a foundation named after him. A memorial in his hometown of Waco, Texas features a nine-foot bronze statue of Miller. While the Navy named a Knox-class frigate after him, the remainder of Miller’s naval dedications are quarters, galleys, and a housing community—until now. On January 19, 2020, the Navy announced that CVN-81, a future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, would be named the USS Doris Miller. The Doris Miller is scheduled to be laid down January 2026, launched October 2029, and commissioned in 2030. She is the first supercarrier to be named for an enlisted sailor and the first to be named after an African American.
Miller’s niece, Brenda Haven, and her family react after the unveiling of a framed graphic commemorating the future USS Doris Miller at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (U.S. Navy)
The fight to honor Miller continues though. Since the Navy announced that a carrier would bear his name, efforts to upgrade Miller’s Navy Cross to a Medal of Honor have been renewed. The man who was told he could not handle a weapon but still defended his ship and rescued his shipmates will have his name on one of the Navy’s mightiest ships. Doris Miller will be listed alongside names like Gerald R. Ford and John F. Kennedy. If he is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, it will mark the final victory in the fight to properly recognize Miller for his courage, valor, and dedication to duty.
We all have that friend who marches to the beat of their own drum. The one who challenges the stereotypes of how the world has always been or, even scarier, doesn’t care. These are the friends who don’t follow normal routines, who see life not just as doing work but as a chance to build something bigger than themselves. They are seemingly fearless.
For me, that friend is James Brobyn.
As a “Mustang,” a prior enlisted Marine, who worked his way to the Naval Academy and then into leading Marines in combat as an infantry officer, James has always taken risks. Even after he took off the uniform, he continued to pursue challenges that seemed too risky to consider, even for the most battle hardened. He helped the Travis Manion Foundation grow from a small family-led nonprofit into a nationally recognized powerhouse. He’s started businesses, closed businesses and started them again. James’ battles can be scary both to your health and to your finances but I’ve learned that my friend is not fearless. Instead, he finds his strength in a single word that defines who he is at his core: INTEGRITY.
In ancient Rome, the Legionnaires, not unlike Marines today, would conduct inspections before battle. Paramount in this ritual was their breastplate, the armour that protects soldiers from enemy arrows or swords. Legionnaires would spend countless hours polishing their breastplates and tightening straps. Not a single crack or chip was permitted. When a soldier passed inspection, he would pound his fist into the metal and yell, “Integritas,” (Integrity) for all others to hear. This was not only an affirmation that the armour was sound but also that the heart and soul it protected was of whole, pure character — ready to take on any challenge in battle.
James has called me into his battles both figuratively and literally many times over the last two decades. We served together in the Marines and deployed together to Iraq. He’s been my boss twice. He fired me once only to hire me back 10 years later. Another story for another time but I am grateful for everything he has taught me. Above all else, James is not afraid of hard work. In between these battles, James would disappear for a few months and then reappear with a phone call. Even to this day, he still starts each conversation with my callsign from Iraq, “White 1.”
Not long ago, James called me again. “White 1, I got something for you.” He paused. “I’ve started a cannabis company and I want you to come see what we’ve built.” Of course, I was intrigued but also weary. Cannabis is an industry tied with all kinds of risk. It’s legal in some states, not in others. It’s celebrated by some of my friends (especially veterans) and hated by others, including my own family. There is a stigma that cannabis is the Wild West, a gold rush of former drug dealers and shady investors trying to get rich in the grey area. It’s a world of multiple tribes jockeying for power. Honestly, it felt a little like James was asking me to go back to Iraq. I stuttered, “Is this legal?”
My friend could only laugh, “Yes, we’ve built our business with integrity from the ground up.” Two days later, I was on a plane to a cannabis farm in Michigan. What I saw changed my entire view of both James and the industry.
The American Fiber Company (AmFI) is a multistate cannabis brand that delivers pharmaceutical grade products directly to consumers and wholesalers. It is also the result of a three year journey that took James and his team from Colombia to Canada to the United States. AmFi operates three dispensaries in Michigan; they’re the first company approved to import FDA certified 100% organic CBD oil into the United States and they’ve partnered with world class research facilities to ensure their products maintain the highest safety standards. My first question to James: “How the hell did you build all this?”
James reminded me, “We did the hard work. We built the framework. We run it the right way with Integrity.”
I recently chatted with James to understand more about his journey from combat to cannabis.
James: White 1.
WATM:Blue 1. (James’s callsign from 2006). Boom. All right. Comms are up. So here’s my thought and you tell me what you feel comfortable with. I would really like to focus on your journey from combat to the cannabis industry as well as some of the crazy things that happened along the way.
James: Ok. So before I answer that, what is your goal with the article?
I think to myself, “Dammit. How did he turn that one on me so fast?”
WATM:Good question. I like to highlight influencers in our space that are at the top of their game. It’s a series of interview questions so people can get to know others that are making moves in our world. So are you making moves?
James: (He laughs). Yeah, ok, I think that makes sense. So I guess from my standpoint, I’m most excited about how the journey got me to this point right now. Honestly, every skill from the Academy to leading Marines in combat to the Travis Manion Foundation are all being used to build something.
All those core values that we learned and were beat into us. Do hard work with integrity, do it the right way. That’s what’s really neat about it. When you put those principles to work every day and you teach people to abide by them, you build your own tribe and it works. People want to be a part of something. And that’s what’s kind of cool about this. That’s what’s really been the neatest part about the cannabis industry. It’s a rich kind of this weird, you know, fraternity that lets in all types of people, which is great.
WATM:When was the first time you got introduced to cannabis?
James: My God, I was a teenager. I grew up in Philly in the 80s and 90s. At 15, 16, 17, it was part of the culture. Honestly, it wasn’t about weed. I was just trying to fit in with the local friends. Normal teenage stuff. And I wanted to keep up with my older brothers but I made bad choices and eventually my dad kicked me out of the house.
WATM:Kicked you out?
James: Yep, at 19, but honestly he should have done it earlier. In hindsight, I just wanted to find my tribe and the outcome was partying. I had it in sports, but, you know, as soon as you start getting older and you leave high school you lose the camaraderie. A lot of people do. So I made bad decisions. We’ll leave it at that.
WATM:What about the decision to join the Marine Corps?
James: When I was at boot camp, I was like, what the hell did I do? I thought that, like, every day. But I think most people do. When I got my aircrew wings, it was scary to be Lance Corporal, but I had two pilots in my squadron that I flew with consistently. They told me about a program for helping enlisted Marines get into the Naval Academy. They changed my life.
WATM:Why do you think they focused on you?
James: In so many ways, they took an interest in me and my long term well-being. Not short term, not as some piece of equipment, but in me as a person. Once word got around that there was traction on my application, honestly, I had half the squadron helping me out. I even had Staff NCOs that were taking me on ridiculous runs to train me to get ready to go to the Naval Academy. I mean, I think they just saw I gave a shit. I showed up every day.
WATM: Is there anything about your time at the Academy that stands out? Any major lessons learned that you still use today?
James: You learn how to win there. I believe it. It comes down to two things. First is the honor code. I think you see it with Captain Crozier (USNA ’92) and the recent situation on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Your integrity is what you have. If you give it away, then you have no foundation. Nothing to build from. It’s a house of cards. Secondly, the Academy teaches you that you can do more than any other person out there. Without a doubt. I mean, you know, the amount of stuff you can get done in 24 hours there is ridiculous. I keep those lessons with me daily.
James with the Marines of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Iraq, 2006
Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn
WATM: You graduated in 2004, and we deployed to Iraq together not long after. What is there about leading Marines that stands out?
James: I loved my dudes. 2006 and 2007 were hard times to be in Iraq. We were given a mission to provide security for 30,000 people and not much more resources than what we had. That pretty much looks like a small business to me. It was the best entrepreneurship training that I’ve had. Honestly, combat is the closest thing to running a business in the cannabis industry. that I have found. You have to be nimble, understand uncertainty, take a look at risks and act. But at the end of the day, your plan never survives first contact. All you can do is surround yourself with good people.
WATM: How do you make the leap from combat to cannabis?
James: At first, I was just following cannabis related to veterans. There are a lot of positive benefits outside just the medical aspects. First off, dudes drink less, eat better and lose weight. There are multiple levels of benefit but I hadn’t thought about the business side of things until I met Dan Tobon, a former Army Sniper and Iraq veteran. We became fast friends. Dan had just started working on a project in Colombia where his family is from called NuSierra Holdings.
Colombia had approved export of cannabis products and it was anticipated at that time Canada and Australia would be able to import them, even THC products. So it was a big rush to get out of Colombia and go out to the commoditized cannabis world. Then we met John Leja, founder of PharmaCannis, who understood the retail side of the business and was trying to establish a packing facility in Toronto. I met John and Dan at a bar in Philly and they asked me, ‘Will you help us out?‘ I didn’t know much about cannabis but I knew we had supply and distribution so I said, ‘Sure. Let’s figure this out.’ I was on a plane to Toronto the next day.
WATM:There are so many stereotypes associated with cannabis, do you have a hard time getting over the stigmas or comparisons to a gold rush?
James: I learned alot from John and Dan about how to stop thinking of cannabis as a shiny object of gold that’s going to make everyone rich but as a commodity that’s going to be turned into an amazing consumer product. If you reframe cannabis that way, you can start thinking about designing a strategy where you can gain footholds into different parts of the supply chain that are completely compliant, legal, and then allow us to really take a good market share of the industry.
James and the Author in a American Fiber Company grow facility
Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn
WATM:Was this venture your training for the American Fiber Company and setting up a cannabis business in the U.S.?
James: 100%. In 2018, it felt like every state was its own country when it came to cannabis. Some were recreational, others were medicinal only and others, it was flat out illegal. We had a plan for how to set up a multi-state operation but it’s hard to work because every jurisdiction has its own rules. And you literally have to go into jurisdictions. You have to work with the locals. You can’t just pop in your model and make it work. You have to build from the ground up and it all came back to finding the right people. People with integrity. American Fiber established our first operations in Southwest Michigan.
WATM:You’ve mentioned integrity a lot. What does integrity really mean to you?
James: It’s not about just telling the truth. It’s about following through. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do. Doing it the right way. Even if it’s hard — especially if it’s hard. That’s the key here because that’s how you normalize the industry. We work with the state and federal regulators to do the hard work that people don’t want to do.
WATM: Like becoming the first company in the U.S. to legally import full spectrum CBD oil?
James: That’s just one example. We never set out to be the first company in the world to import full-spectrum CBD oil out of Colombia into the US, but we figured out how to get it compliant with Customs and Border Protection. But we’ve also taken on other challenges that are just as hard. We’ve built a research partnership in Delaware with Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biology so that we can figure out how to start collecting real data on health benefits so that we can go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, get approved by the FDA on certain products and continue to provide safe quality, cannabis products to our consumers. And that’s why it’s a long game.
The American Fiber Company Team in Michigan
Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn
WATM: Is the long game paying off?
James: I think so. Take the current COVID-19 restrictions for example. Every state that had medicinal and recreational policies deemed cannabis business essential. I mean, yeah. Our team in South Michigan is out there every day serving patients curbside, delivery, and hopefully drive-through soon. We’re moving into a post-prohibition world right now and now it’s pretty exciting.
WATM: Where do you see American Fiber in that world. Maybe 5 years from now?
James: Oh, my God. That’s like 50 decades in this industry. Well, let me tell you what the ultimate goal is, and it’s how we’ve always tried to build a company. I always felt that we built a company that we could take public. Ultimately, I want American Fiber to be synonymous with all the values that make our people and country ready to face whatever challenge comes ahead. Hard work, commitment and integrity.
This is an emotional realization for the whole family. Having grandma or grandpa move in isn’t a simple transition for all parties. It involves issues of space, money, privacy, freedom, and ego. There’s resentment with, “I didn’t ask for this,” and all opinions would be living under the same roof. And parents who want to start the discussion are in the middle, their folks on one side; their spouses on the other.
“It’s a tricky position, especially if there’s tension and conflict,” says Megan Dolbin-MacNab, associate professor of human development and family science at Virginia Tech University.
It certainly is. Before you start feeling disloyal to anyone, remember that this isn’t an inevitable event. It’s just a possibility, one that requires assessing and playing the scenarios. Before you start reconfiguring the house, it starts with a conversation about having your parents move in. Well, two actually.
Talking to Your Spouse About Having Aging Parents Move In
When deciding whether or not grandparents should move into your home, the first conversation should be at home, with your partner. This needs mutual buy-in, regardless of how dire the situation might seem.
When you start exploring the alternatives, you’ll see where moving in ranks and that can help make a decision. As you proceed, the main thing is to ask your spouse questions and listen — truly listen — to the answers, keeping in mind the essential fact that you’re making a big request, Satow says. Ask two fundamental questions. “How do you think this would work?” and “What would we expect from them?” This will get you thinking about everything from space allocations to sharing of bills to things you didn’t even consider.
You can’t nail down every detail, but you’ll get an outline and more comfort with the idea. You also want to ask your spouse, “What are your concerns?” Listen again without quickly reacting. You want your partner to be able to express reservations, even anger, and do so early in the process, because things won’t magically work out without intention.
“If you don’t talk about stuff, it festers and then it explodes,” Dolbin-MacNab says.
It’s important to also ask: “What can we do for us if this happens?” Kids already changed your relationship. Grandparents moving in will do it again, Satow says. You might not have any couple time now, but giving the two of you focus amid this discussion will again help with the consideration.
But don’t focus solely on concerns, by also examining, “What’s the upside?” There’s the potential for help with chores and childcare, maybe you two get a night out regularly, and there’s the chance for your folks and kids to deepen their relationship. Considering the positives gives a fuller picture.
Talking to Aging Parents About Moving Into Your Home
This issue may have never been broached before with your parents. If so, it’s not an easy topic to raise. If there’s the slightest opening, some show of worry, use it to start a conversation when you’re not all rushed and the kids are engaged with something else. Acknowledge the awkwardness, Dolbin-MacNab says, and approach it, like with your spouse, as not a done deal. This is not the time for foot-stamping declarations of “You’re moving in.”
Ask your parents, “What are you feeling and what do you want?” It’s their decision as well. As the conversation moves forward, you want to be clear with concerns and expectations, and that honesty might be a new dynamic for all of you, and just setting that standard might be the biggest component, Dolbin-MacNab says.
Ask them, “What do you expect?” as it relates to childcare, bills, household chores and time together. Let them give a sense of how it would look, then give them the picture of your day and your approach to parenting – awake by 6 a.m., no snacks after 5 p.m., we try not to compare the kids to others – and ask, “Do you think you could fit into that?”
Remember: If you’re asking them for something, you need to offer them room to make it their own, and that requires prioritizing what really matters and not caring so much about the rest, Dolbin-MacNab says.
But there’s no need to address every potential conflict. They’ll happen and are best handled in the moment. You’ve set the overall framework and the precedent of talking. Let them know that will continue where everyone can share how it’s working and what needs addressing, Dolbin-MacNab says.
And ask them, “What do you see as the benefits?” It’s a hard time for them. This may be a loss of everything from social networks to furniture and they may feel embarrassed, but getting them to consider the upsides might reduce the sadness and bring in the idea that something different is also something new.
Even when it’s just a potential, it’s easy for you and your spouse to see it as a burden and undue stress. But it’s not what anyone drew up. As much as it’s possible, try to approach it like a team by finding consensus, looking for solutions, and where.
As Dolbin-MacNab says, “We’re all working toward the same goal and we could make our lives easier.”
Paulette Fryar was named the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year on May 7th, 2020. It was the first time in the award’s history that it went to a Coast Guard spouse and the excitement over her win reverberated loudly throughout the military spouse community. The next day, the joy and excitement over her honor would be muted.
Her cousin committed suicide.
David Heathers was a Marine veteran of the Iraq war. After leaving the service and returning home, he suffered from debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder. Living through the effects of that diagnosis in the midst of the isolation of COVID-19, would ultimately take his life. Fryar comes from a long line of family members who have served, but had not yet truly been touched by devastating impacts of war, until now.
“I had no idea how bad it was for my cousin David until it was too late. If there is something I can do to bring more awareness so that other families don’t have to go through this, I want to,” Fryar said.
Although her initial platform of serving young military spouses and families had garnered her the title of Military Spouse of the Year, this deeply personal experience shifted things for her. Fryar has become very vocal about discussing the impacts of trauma and PTSD. She wanted to do something to combat the issue.
The Million Mile project was born.
In collaboration with the 2020 branch and base winners of the Military Spouse of the Year award, she approached Armed Forces Insurance to help sponsor the project. They immediately said yes. The goal was to unite the entire military community, as well as any patriotic supporters in raising suicide awareness. The participants would do this through logging miles for 22 days, to remember and honor the veterans lost to suicide.
“I knew I wanted to start a campaign to bring attention to this issue and provide some resources in hopes that other families would not have to experience this kind of loss,” Fryar explained.
The project began on August 15th, 2020 – which would have been her cousin’s 39th birthday and was the day in which is family held his celebration of life. This day was also significant because it was exactly 22 days before suicide prevention week would begin in September.
“One reason I wanted to start this Million Mile Project is that losing my cousin to suicide really opened my eyes to how awful this issue of military and veteran PTSD and suicide is. Once I saw it, I couldn’t turn a blind eye or look away,” Fryar said.
Studies have shown that up to 20% of veterans who have served since 9/11 are diagnosed with PTSD. Suicide has also been on the rise according to the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. Medical professionals are now on alert for increased rates of suicide due to the isolation and stress that COVID-19 is placing on veterans in particular.
Fryar and the other 2020 branch winners created a Facebook group for The Million Mile Project and it has over 6,000 members and continues to grow. The unique miles project allows members to log their miles in almost any way. Participants can walk, run, bike, swim or even skateboard for the suicide awareness project.
The parents of Fryar’s cousin have joined the project and have expressed their deep appreciation for the love and support they’ve received. It is their hope that through creating events like The Million Mile Project, they can reach people contemplating suicide and show them they matter and how important they truly are.
It is their hope that their story will show that life isn’t better without them.
“As the 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year, my main quote is ‘Together we are stronger’ and I feel it applies to the Million Mile Project so well,” Fryar explained. She continued, “Working together on a campaign like this is so important! I want people suffering from the loss of a loved one or possibly a veteran struggling with PTSD or suicide ideation to know that they are not alone, that they are needed and loved deeply.”
Ron Rosser was a patriot and a hero. The Medal of Honor recipient who reenlisted in the Army to avenge his brother, died in August at the age of 90.
Army Master Sgt. Ron Rosser served for three years in the post-World War II Army in Japan and Germany and then reenlisted in June 1951 with a single purpose in mind: revenge for the death of his younger brother Richard, who was killed in action in Korea.
Rosser was sent first to Japan. He then volunteered for combat and fought with his command to get a place at the front, eventually landing a spot with Company L, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division.
In an oral history recording for Arlington National Cemetery, Rosser said that Big Army couldn’t understand his motivation for demanding to go to Korea. “I made up my mind that you can’t kill my brother and get away with it,” Rosser said.
Company L participated in both Bloody Ridge and the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge. Bloody Ridge lasted over three weeks, and there were an estimated 2,7000 casualties. The Battle of Heartbreak Ridge was a month-long battle in the Korean War and was one of several major engagements in the hills of North Korea, just a few miles north of the 38th Parallel.
Then, Company L was ordered to take a hill occupied by the Red Army near the town of Ponggilli. Rosser reports that he estimated at least three battalions on the hill, all in heavily fortified positions. The battle began with only 170 men from Company L. Shortly after maneuvers began, the temperature dropped to 20 degrees below zero.
The Red Army was completely dug in, and they had the advantage. Rosser gave his radio to another soldier and decided to charge alone to the Red Army front line. He stopped at an outcropping to assess the situation.
Recorded as part of the oral history for Arlington, Rosser said that he considered how much trouble he’d been through to reach that point and that there was no use wasting the day. “I let out a war whoop and jumped in the trench. I just charged straight into them,” he said.
Rosser was armed with only a carbine and a grenade, a fact that’s noted on his Medal of Honor citation. He gained the top of the kill, killed two enemy soldiers, and then went back into the trench. He killed five more enemies as he advanced, often relying on hand-to-hand combat at times.
But Rosser kept advancing, sometimes relying on his rifle as a club. When he ran out of ammunition, he returned to his position to reload. Rosser said that all he was trying to do was protect the men he was responsible for in his unit. He worried that if he didn’t attack, the Red Army would charge down the hill and decimate Company L.
Of the 170 soldiers in the unit, 90 were killed, 12 were captured, and 68 wounded. As Company L retreated, the Red Army didn’t fire any shots at them.
On his Medal of Honor citation, it states that he killed “at least 13 enemy,” but Rosser counts the number as more than 40.
“The purpose of me doing all that crazy stuff was trying to stop them,” he said in the oral history.
Rosser was awarded the Medal of Honor in a June 1952 ceremony at the Rose Garden in the White House. After President Truman read the citation, he turned to Rosser and said, “Personally I’d rather have [the medal] than be president.”
Once pinned, someone told Rosser that now not only did all officers have to salute him, but so too did the president. He was sure someone was pulling a fast one on him. While not an official regulation, it’s a time-honored custom that shows respect, whether or not the Medal of Honor recipient is in uniform.
Rosser was in the Army until 1968. He repeatedly volunteered several times for combat following the death of another brother, who was killed in action in Vietnam. The Army denied Rosser’s request for combat. He retired as a Sgt. First Class but was later promoted to Master Sgt.
Of being a Medal of Honor recipient, Rosser said it could have been awarded to anyone he served with. “I didn’t do anything they didn’t do. I was just lucky enough to survive it.”
We’ve all had that item we wanted to buy but maybe couldn’t quite justify or afford, but figured out a way to make it happen. For Air Force veteran David it was a 1971 Rolex Cosmograph Oyster. He appeared on Antiques Roadshow this week to tell his story and to have the watch that he so desperately wanted, but ultimately didn’t wear, appraised.
David entered the Air Force in 1971 with a draft number of seven.
He was stationed in Thailand from 1973-1975. While he was there, he flew on Air America and Continental and noticed that the pilots wore Rolex watches. “I was intrigued,” he told appraiser Peter Planes.
At his next duty station, Planes started scuba diving and found that the Rolex Cosmograph Oyster was a great resource to have underwater. He ordered one from the base exchange in November of 1974. With his ten percent military discount, it cost him 5.97. Making only 0 to 0 per month, that was a big buy. When he got it, it was too beautiful to wear. David put it in a safe deposit box and has kept it there since he bought it, only taking it out a few times to admire it. With all his original paperwork and the watch in pristine condition, David fell on the floor when Planes told him the value of the watch.
See his reaction and how much the watch is worth now: