In boot camp, recruits spend hours carefully fine-tuning their uniforms, as each is custom to the person who wears it. Each garment is individually hemmed and every medal is measured for absolute accuracy.
To test service members, each branch holds uniform inspections in order to maintain military standards. Although we all learned how to groom our uniform, the uniform inspectors commonly find “hits,” or mistakes, during the inspections.
To help you pass inspection, we’ve put together a list of common hits and how you can avoid them.
1. Fingerprint scuffs on medals and your belt buckle
We continually adjust and readjust ourselves in hopes of getting that perfect inspection score. No one wants to fail because they touched their belt buckle with an oily finger five minutes before standing in formation.
Look into getting thin gloves to use as you adjust yourself and your fellow troops’ uniforms — you wouldn’t want them to fail either.
2. Holes from previous ranks
Lower enlisted (E1-E4) are required to apply their gold ranks on the collars of their white dress shirts. To do so, you must poke two holes in the shirt. Once this soldier becomes an NCO, their rank is no longer displayed on their collar, but rather on their epaulets. Now, the soldier is left with two distinct black holes in the collar — that’s a hit.
When the time comes, you’ll need to dip into your clothing allowance and purchase a new shirt.
3. Clean shaves
In the military, unless your MOS states otherwise, you’re supposed to shave every day. During an inspection, your face is the first thing the inspector looks at. They’ll go in for a closer look to check to see if you cut down every hair on your face.
Some service members have such dark beards that they get 5 o’clock shadows before noon. That could be a hit.
Quick fix: Shave often.
4. Wrong dress socks
You would think that wearing any black dress socks during inspection is okay. The truth is, you have to wear ones that fall within regulation. Inspectors know these regulations inside and out, and they’ll deduct points for wearing the wrong socks.
Quick fix: Keep the right pair of black socks in your polished dress shoes at all times.
5. Those Irish pennants
The threads on our uniforms break often and fall out of line — sticking out like sore thumbs. Those ugly and out-of-place threads are called “Irish pennants.” If an inspector sees one or two, they’ll usually issue an immediate hit. Too many can result in a fail.
Examine yourself and carry a set of small scissors or nail clippers to cut them off before they become a real problem.
A ribbon rack is used to showcase a troop’s accomplishments. The problem is, they’re too straight and don’t conform to the natural contour of a service member’s chest — at all. Typically, the service member will place their uniform on a flat surface and measure the ribbon rack against their chest pocket, if they have one.
The problem is, once the troop dons the uniform, the fabric shifts like any other piece of clothing and all your hard measuring was for nothing.
Quick fix: Have your battle buddy help you properly adjust your ribbon rack before the inspection. That is all.
“Rules of Engagement” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones showed audiences intense military courtroom drama and the unbreakable bond that develops between two Marines in combat.
But it didn’t get everything right. While WATM has picked apart everything from “The Hurt Locker” to “Top Gun,” we figured it was worth digging into the technical errors here as well. There’s plenty this film accurately depicts. These are 35 times where they got it wrong.
1:47 Why does Childers have a smoke grenade right on the shoulder he fires from? You might want to put that on your non-firing side. You can actually see him struggle a bit when he tries to put his rifle into his shoulder.
4:30 After Hodges’ platoon hears enemy fire on Childers’ position, they just stand around in the middle of a swamp. It might be a good idea to get down behind some cover or turn outward to investigate.
(Before we hit the next ones, let’s explain proper radio procedures. When calling up another unit over the radio, the procedure is “You, this is me, here’s what I want to say, over.” Like: “Bravo 6, this is Bravo 2, what’s your position? Over.”)
4:32 Radio operator says, “Delta two, what’s your SITREP over?” Then he says “Delta One, Delta Two, SITREP, over.” In the first transmission, he’s implying he’s Delta One, and asking Delta Two for a report. Then in the next, he calls them Delta One, and he says he’s Delta Two.
4:40 He gets a response back from the other radio operator which explains that Childers’ platoon is Delta Two, and Hodges’ is Delta One: “Two, one, contact, over.” This response also deserves the Capt. Obvious award. The other platoon might want to know where the other platoon is so they can help.
4:48 What’s the deal with this NVA soldier behind no cover in the middle of a firefight, not aimed in, just sitting there? That is up until the last moment when he decides to aim at the Americans and then he gets immediately shot.
5:30 The other platoon has literally not moved from their original position. Cover and/or concealment aren’t really a concern. Then of course, 10 seconds later the NVA starts shooting.
6:22 Hodges picks up the radio, calls no one in particular, then says “Other side of the tree line. I’m in the water unable to withdraw.” There are a lot of trees out there, brah. Can you give us a better description so we can help you?
6:28 He continues: “Unable to withdraw! I’m calling in a fire mission on this position.” Who the hell is he talking to? And how is artillery going to drop when they don’t have a grid, distance, direction, or anything other than “hey I’m by this tree line and there’s water.”
6:35 “Hurry up and drop that f—king arty!” he says, to no one in particular, to whom he’s given no information on where it should be dropped. In fairness, he’s under a bit of stress.
7:11 When Childers kills the Vietnamese radio operator with his 1911 .45 caliber pistol, it makes the same sound an M1 Garand makes when it’s out of ammo. This makes no sense.
9:38 Col. Hodges apparently is like, “screw this. I’m not getting a haircut anymore.”
9:49 Hodges puts on his garrison cap like he’s a private just learning how to wear it at boot camp. Not an officer with 32 years of service.
10:20 Hodges’ marksmanship badges are out toward the sides. They are supposed to be centered over the pocket with only 3/4-inch space between them.
10:37 Pretty much everyone has this problem.
11:12 Col. Childers also hates Marine Corps haircuts.
11:47 Childers retells the story of Marine Lt. Presley O’Banion, which is pretty close to Lt. Presley O’Bannon.
14:30 The 24th MEU is on the USS Wake Island. However, the USS Wake Island (CVE-65) was a World War II escort carrier commissioned in 1943 and decommissioned in 1946.
15:09 The Wake Island’s captain wears a hat that says USS Wake Island (LHA-7). LHA-7, which is the newly-commissioned USS Tripoli, didn’t exist at the time of this movie.
15:16 Col. Childers has a subdued American flag on his shoulder. This is an Army thing. Marines don’t ever wear this (although it’s possible a MEU commander could say otherwise).
15:45 I know this would kill the rest of the movie and courtroom drama, but why is the MEU Commander, a colonel, going on a TRAP (tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel) mission? There’s a captain in charge of the mission who is more than capable.
18:17 The two Marine CH-46 helicopters just turned into Army CH-47 helicopters.
19:19 After hearing the command of “lock and load” in the helicopter, the Marine closest to the camera hits his magazine first on his helmet, then jams it into his weapon, thus perpetuating the myth to future troops that this move is ever acceptable or even necessary.
22:10 Col. Childers is wearing his silver rank centered on his flak jacket under his neck. This isn’t where it is placed, and officers and enlisted alike wear black-colored rank when in the field. Unless they enjoy being shot by snipers. Then by all means, keep it there.
22:22 The Marine Security Guards on the roof are wielding Mossberg 590 Combat shotguns to defend the embassy. What?
27:16 So he’s an ambassador and he likely doesn’t have any clue, but he ends up giving the worst salute ever. And it makes us laugh every time.
29:00 After Capt. Lee and Col. Childers have their disagreement over whether there are weapons in the crowd, Capt. Lee finally relents and orders his men: “Engage! Engage! Open fire!”
They then proceed to all jump out from behind cover, take a knee, and spray and pray all over the place into the crowd. This is seconds after snipers were shooting at them from across the way.
29:42 Col. Childers displays great leadership by example by standing up exposed and yelling to his men, “There may still be snipers out there. Stay down!”
38:57 The general says “we’ve got a trial in two weeks” to Maj. Biggs, although previously, at 36:20, Gen. Perry tells Childers that the court-martial convenes in 8 days.
45:42 Hey, let’s have a meeting to discuss our legal case in a gym where a bunch of Marines are wrestling.
1:35:50 As evening colors begins, a bunch of people are not standing at the position of attention, to include the Marines who are part of the color detail.
1:38:42 When asked about his citation for the Navy Cross, Col. Childers just repeats back what is the typical ending of the award, which tells nothing more of why he received it: “for conspicuous gallantry in the face of great personal danger, reflecting great credit upon himself, the United States Marine Corps and the Naval Service.”
1:58:56 Earlier in the movie, Col. Hodges asks Maj. Biggs what the life expectancy was for a second lieutenant dropped into a hot landing zone in Vietnam in 1968. Biggs guesses two weeks, then at end of the movie he says one week, to which Hodges finally reveals the answer of “sixteen minutes.” Based on Vietnam casualty data, this statistic is not even mathematically possible.
1:59:21 It’s Camp Lejeune. It has big fences around it. So why is there a huge crowd of reporters standing right outside a military courtroom?
2:00:05 Col. Childers goes and walks right between a formation and the platoon sergeant. Thanks a lot, sir!
Men aren’t the only ones lighting up their enemies on the battlefield. These 6 elite military units are staffed entirely by women.
1. Kurdish Women’s Defense Units
The Kurdish YPJ is a female militia that began in 2012 as part of the Kurdish resistance to ISIS and the al-Nusra Front. They’ve fought in numerous battles and have a psychological impact on the men they fight because ISIS fighters believe they can’t go to heaven if killed by a woman.
China has a single female special forces unit. Based in Hong Kong, the unit boasts 50 highly-trained combatants.
4. Russian female airborne battalion
These women train at the Russian airborne academy to become officers in charge of paratroopers. They learn how to conduct an airborne insertion, how best to maneuver as a unit on the battlefield, and how to shoot their enemies center mass.
5. Swedish Women’s Voluntary Defence Service
Commonly called the Lotta Corps, these women are part of the national defense plan for Sweden should it be invaded. They are trained in basic military tactics and strategy, but are a reserve force. Like the U.S. Army Reserves, their primary jobs are combat support or combat service support rather than frontline combat.
6. Libyan “Revolutionary Nuns”
Though it was disbanded following the Libyan Civil War, this elite cadre of bodyguards were key to dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s personal security. They were highly trained in firearms and martial arts. In an attack in 1998, one woman was killed after leaping onto Gaddafi while he was being shot at by Libyan rebels.
One of the habits we develop as veterans is to watch military-themed movies and TV shows and point out everything that is wrong with them, from jacked-up uniforms to what appears to be “STOLEN VALOR!”
But something I have caught myself doing is watching shows that have absolutely nothing to do with the military and point out characters I believe would benefit from heading down to the local recruiting office.
Here are five television characters from the 90s who probably should’ve served in the military.
1. Cody Lambert from “Step by Step”
This guy, it’s the Code man! Of course we all loved him. He was the adorable nephew who lived in a van behind his Uncle’s house. You have to respect his Uncle Frank for allowing his grown nephew to stay there while he was working on a new marriage with 3 new step kids who really didn’t appreciate him.
But Cody, of all people, needs to realize he’s intruding and the lifestyle he’s leading is not a good influence on the six kids in the house. What are you trying to teach them Cody? That it’s perfectly acceptable to live in a van and that somebody will bail you out when you’re older? No, Cody, that’s not what you teach them!
How about you be a better influence? Cody should have signed up for the military and shown them that there are other options in life than what he has been living. I mean, come on, how many “Codys” did we have in the barracks? He would have fit in just fine. Then maybe after his time in the service was done, ol’ Code man could have used that sweet, sweet VA loan to buy himself a little two-bedroom ranch with a little white picket fence.
I’m happy the show stopped when it did because after the influence he was putting on the Lambert family, I would hate to see how those kids turned out. This mainly applies to J.T., of course.
2. Dylan McKay from “Beverly Hills 90210”
Time to trim up those side burns and turn those sexy locks into a high and tight, Dylan McKay. This guy’s life was a mess to start with but I think he had all the tools to make a decent soldier. Dylan was the loner out of those seven featured students from West Beverly High. No I don’t mean loner when he got to school, but in life.
His parents divorced and left McKay by himself to live. After receiving that nice inheritance, Dylan took off to Beverly Hills and lived by himself WHILE IN HIGH SCHOOL! Dylan was winning the war on life. He showed all the Army values before he even graduated high school, but then he became arrogant in life.
This guy, when he should have joined the service, decided to hit the bottle and lose his girlfriend. He then turned into a Blue Falcon and started sleeping with all of his friend’s girlfriends. Not a good move, Dylan, not a good move! I have a feeling that if he would have joined, Brenda would respect his decision and turn into a great military wife and would have ran Bingo games at the local NCO Club.
3. Jazz from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
This guy, more than anything, needed guidance. If you ask me, Jazz was that neighbor that Will just kept around to feel better about himself. Pretty selfish move, Will. In a few episodes, Jazz showed off some serious basketball skills which might have led him to a community college for two years of college hoops but probably not much after that.
Here’s what should have happened: Uncle Phil needed to stop being a bully. As we all know, Uncle Phil felt big and bad throwing poor Jazz out of the house all the time. This isn’t an Olympic sport, Uncle Phil, this is a HUMAN BEING!
Uncle Phil should have taken Jazz to a military career office and perhaps put those basketball skills to use for a military academy. He would have gotten to shine while gaining a military work ethic. He would have then become the man that Hilary needed. I’m putting this one on you, Uncle Phil. Oh yeah, and don’t think we weren’t dumb enough to notice that you switched out wives in the middle of the show. I guess that’s a privilege of being a judge. Shame on you, Your Honor.
4. Six Dorothy Lemeure from “Blossom”
She arguably had a much harder life than everyone else on this list. Six once said that she got her name from the amount of beers that her dad fed her mom to get her pregnant. But that’s not even the worst thing: During the show, Six battled alcoholism, dated a much older man, and even had a pregnancy scare. Sounds like she’s already lived the life of an Army private.
Six had an undying passion for Blossom’s brother, Joey. WOAH! Here’s the thing though, Six. You’re putting your family and friends through stress because of these poor decisions. If you were as passionate about bettering yourself as you are about Joey, you would do just fine in the service and realize that it would be a great decision for you.
5. A.C. Slater from “Saved By The Bell”
So many of you are probably saying it should be Zach Morris and not A.C. Slater. But let me remind you, Zach scored a 1502 on his SAT test (the highest of all of the gang) and he had something special with Kelly. If Zach would have went to boot camp he wouldn’t have been able to keep his head in the game with that beautiful woman back home.
Slater, on the other hand, already lived the experience. He was an Army brat so he was familiar with the lifestyle. He also showed signs of weakness when he decided to attend Cal U. and not attend Iowa (a national powerhouse in wrestling) on a wrestling scholarship. He was a proven leader in a group environment but still needed a little more discipline. The biggest fear, for me, with Slater being in the service is his pride in being a “male chauvinist pig.” He better not call any female service member “mama.”
At the pointy end of the spear (and in the rear with the gear) there are official nomenclatures that you’ll find on procurement documents and supply forms and then there are the names that troops really use to identify something. Here are 37 nicknames that fleet players use to refer to the some of the stuff they use every day:
1. 100-mph tape
Basically, duct tape. Oddly enough, the tape called duck tape, duct tape, and 100-mph tape was supposedly named duck tape by American troops in WWII. When Duck Tape became a registered trademark, the military had to start using a different name for it in manuals and publications. 100-mph tape was substituted, but the actual tape is the same.
2. 30 mike-mike
The 30mm grenade launcher or the ammunition that it fires, most commonly used to refer to the cannon on an Apache helicopter or an A-10 attack plane. Another version of this is 40 mike-mike, referring to a 40mm grenade launcher, like the M320 or Mark-19, or the ammunition those weapons fire.
A large truck used to move supplies and troops. It is commonly misreported that the 5-ton (10,000 lb.) nickname comes from the weight of the truck, but it’s actually the cargo weight the vehicle is rated to carry in off-road conditions. Most of the trucks that have carried the nickname have actually weighed over 10 tons.
The large backpack troops carry in the field. Alice and Molle are both named for the acronym that described a specific generation of the equipment. ALICE stood for all-purpose, lightweight individual carrying equipment. MOLLE stands for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. Ruck is simply short for rucksack.
A military asset with a lot of firepower, generally referring to armored vehicles or tanks.
7. Birth control glasses (“BCGs”)
Glasses given out in basic training that were nearly impossible to look attractive in. Designated the S9, the frames were dropped in 2012 for the 5A, frames with a slimmer, more contemporary look.
A weapon, most commonly an M4 or M16. This nickname is generally used by someone trying to sound stupid for comedic effect.
Camouflage uniform for blending into the environment.
Pronounced “chew,” CHU is an acronym for containerized housing unit. CHUs are shipping containers that are built to be shipped on trains and boats like normal cargo, but can be quickly converted into living areas on arrival at a base.
A truck designed to carry at least 2.5 tons (5,000 lb.) of cargo. The first truck to carry the designation was the GMC CCKW. The current deuce-and-a-half, the M35, is being replaced by the family of medium tactical vehicles. The FMTV has different models, but only one will continue the legacy of the “deuce and a half,” all other variants will carry 5 tons or more.
12. Donkey Dick
A flexible spout that can be screwed onto a gasoline can, especially the 5-gallon jug most commonly carried by military vehicles.
A shovel. The official term for the foldable shovel troops carry is an “entrenching tool.”
14. Fart sack
For Marines and soldiers, this is most commonly used to refer to sleeping bags. The Air Force will also use this term to refer to flight suits.
15. Fast mover
A jet, especially one that is providing close air support.
16. Full battle rattle
All combat equipment assigned to a service member. When troops are told to get into full battle rattle, it typically includes body armor, helmet, knees and elbow pads, ballistic glasses, ear plugs, gloves, weapons, and load carrying equipment.
17. Green Ivan
Pop-up targets used at ranges to test marksmanship. Green Ivans are made of shaped green plastic in the rough shape of a soldier complete with helmet and rifle.
18. Hangar queen
An aircraft in the maintenance area that is being used for parts.
A shelter. While “hooch” is sometimes used to refer to a service member’s room in a building, it is most commonly used to mean a small tent, sometimes improvised from items like tarps or ponchos.
20. Hook-and-loop tape
Commonly called Velcro. Like 100-mph tape, this term is used because Velcro is trademarked. The fasteners work by pushing together two pieces of cloth or plastic tape, one covered in tiny plastic hooks and one covered in tiny loops of thread or plastic. The hooks sink into the loops and hold fast.
Most service members use JDAM to refer to a GPS-guided, large bomb dropped from a plane, but it is more accurately a kit attached to the bomb. JDAM stands for joint direct attack munition, and it is a kit that combines GPS and a inertial guidance systems. The kit is attached to bombs between 500 and 2,000 lb. that do not have built-in guidance systems. The JDAM kit can guide the bomb to within a few meters of designated GPS coordinates.
A utility and combat knife used by service members since WWII, most famously the Marine Corps. “Ka-bar” is used to refer to any knife of the correct style, but it’s most properly used to refer to the original knife made by KA-BAR, a knife company based out of Olean, New York.
23. Kevlar/Steel pot
A helmet. Both nicknames are in current circulation, but U.S. helmets have not been made of steel since the early 1980s. Kevlar fibers were originally used in the PASGT helmet and are still a major component of the current helmet, the advanced combat helmet (ACH).
Nicknames for the M2, .50-cal. machine gun. “Mah-deuce” refers to the M2 nomenclature while “fitty” is a deliberate mispronunciation of the weapons caliber.
A flashlight. This nickname is most commonly used in the Marine Corps.
Gear used to protect troops from chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks. MOPP is an acronym for mission oriented protective posture.
Night vision devices. NOD is an acronym for night optic devices. NVG is an initialism that stands for night vision goggles. The nicknames are used interchangeably by troops.
A derogatory name for flight suits due to the suits’ visual similarity to onesie pajamas. The suits are a single-piece coverall that zips up the front.
Originally referred to the M60 machine gun, a 7.62mm machine gun that served in every branch of the armed forces. It was most famously used by ground troops in Vietnam. The M60 has been replaced by the M240, but the “Pig” is a legend even among troops who have never seen one.
30. SAPI plate
The armored plates that go into modern body armor. SAPI is an acronym that stands for “small arms protective insert.” The plates can stop 7.62mm or smaller rounds but are surprisingly susceptible to damage from drops of even a few feet.
31. Snivel gear
Cold weather gear worn by service members in uniform. Snivel gear is famously issued in a variety of styles with many being banned from wear. “Poly pros” and “waffle tops” are long underwear that, along with gloves, troops are generally allowed to wear. Other items, like most outer jackets, face coverings, or hats, are issued, but troops are seldom allowed to wear them.
32. Canopy/streamer/cigarette roll
A parachute. “Canopy” refers to an open parachute. “Streamers” and “cigarette rolls” are parachutes that have malfunctioned, deploying from the pack but not inflating with air. Senior paratroopers will sometimes refer to a newer jumper’s chute as a streamer or cigarette roll in order to make the jumper nervous by implying that the chute will malfunction.
A mop. This term is most commonly used by the U.S. Navy.
The crash crane on a U.S. Navy carrier to move damaged planes on the flight deck.
35. Tootsie roll
An artillery or mortar round. These rounds are transported in black cardboard tubes that resemble massive tootsie rolls.
36. Water buffalo
A large container for water. Though it is sometimes used to refer to bladders used for water storage on forward bases, the term is most commonly used for water tanks on trailers pulled behind military trucks.
37. Willy Pete
White phosphorous, which can be used for two purposes. First, as a smoke screen to protect friendly troops from observation. Since the smoke is extremely flammable, WP’s second use is to destroy enemy equipment or kill massed troops. Multiple white phosphorous round are dropped in the target area and, once the smoke has spread, a high explosive round is dropped to detonate the white phosphorous. This tactic is referred to as “shake-and-bake” or “Willy Pete plus H.E.” It’s use is limited by international agreements.
When you’re young and living in the barracks, regardless of whether you’re legally old enough, you’re going to enjoy a beer or some hard liquor. Underage drinking in the barracks happens every day. Although we don’t condone the act, there’s not a whole lot for troops to do when you don’t have a car and you’re stationed at a base in the middle of nowhere.
So, if you’re one of those youngsters trapped on base and all you’ve got is a 12-pack in the fridge, then take note, because this article might make you look a lot cooler at one of those barracks parties.
So, let’s get freakin’ lit. But, as always, drink responsibly, people.
The idea of this game is simple. Tape two 40-ounce beers to your hands. Now, don’t remove the tape and free yourself until you’ve consumed the contents of both beers.
If you’re a lightweight and you have to pee just minutes into the game, good luck to you.
This game is played in teams of two or more and with a variety of mixable alcohols. First, one person fills up a cup with their booze of choice. Next, you swap your cup with another contestant. From this moment, they have one minute to move the contents of their cup into another, using a teaspoon. After the minute is up, the player must drink the reminder.
First, split a group up into two equal teams. Line up the teams, man for man, on either side of a table. Set a cup in front of each player and distribute a couple beers. Starting at one end of the table, two opposing players drink the beer in front of them, set the empty cup rim-up on the edge of the table, and attempt to flip it over by tapping the bottom of the cup. After you successfully flip your cup onto its head, the next player in line begins the same process. Repeat this until every player on a team is done.
Now, this game is perfect for playing with four or more players, so get some of your buddies together. Arrange your closest friends around a table and bow your heads. After counting to three, quickly lift your head up and make eye contact with another player.
If you do make eye contact with another player, the one who says “Medusa” last, loses and they have to take a drink. If you don’t make eye contact with another person, well, then, we guess no one wanted to look at you.
When the time comes to get out of the house and hit the road for a few days to reach a safe place, what do you take with you? What if you lived in Washington D.C. and need to get to your cousin’s house in Charleston, West Virginia, among the throngs of frightened masses choking the roadways and buying up all the supplies during a natural disaster? A simple answer is a bug out bag.
Bug out bags are just what the name implies — bags you and your family can grab at a moment’s notice and bug out of the area. A bug out bag can get you through a few days by itself, but it’s a temporary means to an end. The water and food will eventually run out so you have to pack one in a methodical manner that meets your expectations and criteria. When prepping bags, it’s important to keep in mind a few things:
What is the threat? What are you running from? Where are you running to?
What is the environment? A bug out bag for a family living in the Everglades is not going to look much like a bug out bag for a family living in Anchorage. Determine what it is you need the most of — water, heat, food, etc?
How much can you and your family carry? If you’re a big guy and can carry a lot, then by all means find a large rucksack and maximize it. But if you have kids (who should all be carrying their own bags), take their capabilities into account and pack accordingly.
Be redundant. That old cliché “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is very true of bug out bags. Let’s say you and your family are crossing a stream and one bag gets lost down river. If that bag had the only Epi Pen for your allergic son, you’ve just made your situation worse.
I have three kids and packed each of them a bag according to how much they can carry and what they would need to survive in the Northern Virginia area for 5 days with no assistance. Our area has a lot of natural water sources, so I’m not overly concerned with finding water. All three bags have the following basics:
2. Five days of meals
For food preparation, I have included a small folding stove, a canteen cup, and 2 cans of camp fuel or heat tabs is great for boiling water for freeze dried meals.
One set of steel utensils or a multi-use eating tool is a must.
3. Fire making materials
4. Items to keep you warm and dry
6. First aid kit
Make sure you include basic meds and specific meds for each particular person. Each bag has a travel container of Neosporin, Advil, Tylenol, Benadryl, Orajel, Blistex, Dayquil, Nyquil, Gold Bond, insect wipes, sun block, and a protective mask. One of my sons requires an inhaler and an Epi Pen, as well.
Hygiene is more important than you think. Besides fighting off bacteria and infections, a basic cleaning can raise your morale. Each bag should have a small travel pack of toothpaste, toothbrush, body wash, baby wipes, tissues, a cloth, and hand sanitizer. Add other items as needed.
7. Tools and Weapons
A few more miscellaneous things:
Toss in a whistle with a compass, a deck of cards, a notepad, a signal mirror, a signal flag, a NIOSH approved face mask, and a watch that doesn’t need a battery. A small survival manual is a good idea if you can find one.
Include three pairs of underwear and socks per person. If you can fit a change of clothes, do so.
As for basic communications, everyone has a cell phone nowadays, which is good and bad. They provide immediate communications, but the networks they rely on can be knocked out easily. Backup comms are a must. A simple battery operated radio with a limited range in each bag provides short range comms and most importantly, can help avoid family members getting separated.
I keep an IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) on the outside of my ruck so it can be accessed easily. If I’m injured, I want my kids to be able to get to it and treat me without having to dig through the ruck. I also keep my ammo on the outside for easy access.
I carry a small tent and, just to be safe, I put an extra set of my son’s prescription meds in my ruck. I keep my ruck in the car because I’d rather have it with me at work and on vacations than sitting in my basement where it doesn’t do anyone any good. Also, if I find myself in a survival situation (snowstorm, car failure, zombie apocalypse, etc) I’m ready.
There are a lot of companies that sell pre-packed bug out bags that are a great start, but I encourage you to customize them to your situation and environment. I highly recommend my friend Tim Kennedy’s Sheepdog Response website.
Troops come from every walk of life before they serve in the military. Rarely will you find any kind of unifying thread among them like a shared love of American Football. And it’s a service-wide love. Whether the troop was a hardcore fan of their team before they enlisted or it’s just a hobby that they picked up to be part of the conversation, troops love football in all forms.
These are the 4 top reasons why football is the best military pastime.
4. Football as PT
Coming up with an in-depth PT schedule is tricky. You need to balance what makes for a great, full-body workout while also keeping morale up. This is where sports PT comes in.
You’ll see troops who went on a “no ruck march” profile from the doctor earlier in the week be miraculously healed when they hear it’s football day.
How NCOs look trying to catch people breaking profile. (Image via GIPHY)
3. Playing Madden with the boys
After work is done and the lower enlisted go back to the barracks, one of the most common games they’ll pop in the Xbox or Playstation is that year’s edition of Madden.
It’s all fun and games until someone loses and a controller goes through the TV.
But hey! It’s the only way a Cleveland Browns fan can go to the Super Bowl. (Image via GIPHY)
2. Fantasy Football leagues
Every now and then, one of the nerdier troops brings up playing Dungeons and Dragons. They’ll probably get mocked for even suggesting the idea.
But if you change the fantasy setting to “Football” and then add a cash prize and a cheap $20 trophy… all of the sudden, everyone knows every player on every team.
Calvin Johnson gave everyone a reason to watch a Detroit Lions game. (Image via GIPHY)
1. Watching the actual game
While deployed, it doesn’t matter what time it is: If your team is playing, you’re finding a way to watch the game on AFN.
At the end of the day, no matter who you cheer for or whether you watch NFL or NCAA, troops will latch on to their home team and use them as an anchor to their friends and family back home. For a few hours each week, it bonds troops who cheer together and poke fun at fans of the other team — even if they’re sitting right there.
Very little can tip the battle like great air support can, but it takes brave pilots willing to fly into the worst of enemy fire. The pilots below heard the calls for assistance and decided there was nothing that would stop them from saving guys on the ground.
1. Capt. Scott Campbell earned three Distinguished Flying Crosses in just four days
Capt. Scott Campbell was over Takur Ghar, Afghanistan, flying his first combat mission on March 4, 2002.
A group of SEALs had been hit during an infiltration and were stranded on a mountaintop. The Rangers sent to get them were also shot down. The next day, Campbell and another A-10 were sent to the area to provide air support for the troops in contact. Nine years later, then-Col. Campbell described it to an Air Force journalist.
“Troops in contact’ was being screamed over the radio by everyone. We didn’t have anyone telling us who needed help the most, so we had to listen to the radio and whoever was screaming the loudest or sounded like was in the most dire need was who we would support first. For our first real combat mission, it was pretty hairy. It was a good feeling to know that you’re helping these guys break contact with the enemy.”
Campbell began engaging targets with his own weapons and directed the attacks by other air assets. His flight delivered six bombs, 500 incendiary rounds, and an unspecified number of rockets during the 11-hour engagement and was credited with 200 to 300 enemy kills, according to his award citations.
On March 6, he coordinated air assets during a capture and extraction of an Al-Qaeda leader, netting his second award. The next day, Campbell was sent to a firefight in progress during an icy thunderstorm and took over control of air assets, dropped six bombs, and fired 550 rounds from his 30mm cannon, for which he was recognized a third time.
2. Capt. Kim N. Campbell flew into the teeth of anti-air missiles to save ground troops
Air Force A-10 pilot Capt. Kim N. Campbell was assigned to attack a group of tanks being used as a command post in Baghdad on April 7, 2003. That mission was put on hold when a forward air controller with ground forces requested immediate assistance. When Campbell and her wingman arrived on station, they saw friendly troops under heavy fire.
Flying low to avoid the cloud cover, the A-10s began firing rockets and 30mm cannon fire into the Iraqi elements, saving the ground forces but exposing themselves to enemy fire. Campbell’s plane was hit by a missile and suffered a total failure of the hydraulics. She had to fly the A-10 using manual controls, but managed to land and park the jet. She was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
3. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Steven T. Wells flew through the streets of Sadr City under enemy RPG fire.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Steven Wells watched his sister Kiowa helicopter get struck by an RPG on Aug. 8, 2004, and go down hard over Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq. Wells immediately circled back to check on the crew and was engaged by heavy enemy fire. Wells began engaging enemy formations attempting to reach the downed crew, fighting from an altitude of less than 200 feet.
He also made repeated attempts to land despite obstructions on the ground and in the air. He finally manage to reach the ground by cutting engine power to the helicopter blades and using autorotation to reach the ground, landing with less than 10 feet of clearance around the helicopter blades.
Wells also flew his helicopter between the aircrew and enemy fire three times to act as a shield, according to his Silver Star citation. The downed aircrew made it to friendly forces and were evacuated.
4. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher P. Palumbo tried to rejoin the fight after taking 50 hits to his airframe.
On April 11, 2005, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher P. Palumbo piloted a Blackhawk helicopter and dropped off Special Forces soldiers near an insurgent position that had attacked coalition forces in Afghanistan. The enemy force was much larger than anticipated and the troops took two casualties. The ground was too steep for the helicopter to land and pick up the soldiers, so Palumbo and his crew began flying the helicopter between the ground forces and the enemy, taking numerous hits while doing so.
Only after both his fuel cell and his crew chief were hit by some of the more than 50 rounds that struck the bird did Palumbo finally return to base. After dropping his crew chief at the hospital, the pilot refueled, rearmed, and tried to rejoin the fight. His bird gave out though and began spraying gas before it got off the ground. Another bird successfully retrieved the wounded later that day. Palumbo received the Silver Star for his work.
5. Chief Warrant Officer James Woolley ignored the RPG in his Chinook and kept taking on passengers.
In 2009, Chief Warrant Officer James Woolley flew his Chinook into western Afghanistan for a casualty evacuation. They were forced to take evasive action during the approach, but Woolley pressed on to the landing zone.
On the ground, the helicopter immediately started taking fire while five wounded service members were loaded onto the bird. Less than a minute after the helicopter landed, an RPG entered through the nose of the aircraft, passed between the pilots, struck the flight engineer in the back of his helmet, and fell to the ground without detonating. Woolley kept the helicopter on the ground until the wounded could be loaded anyway. After taking that load of soldiers to base, he determined the helicopter was still flyable and returned to the battle to pick up another load of casualties.
6. Capt. Jeremiah “Bull” Parvin and 1st Lt. Aaron Cavazos saved a surrounded group of Marines.
The two A-10 pilots were flying in Afghanistan in 2008 when they got a call to fly 300 miles to Baghdis Province, Afghanistan. Special Operations Marines were in a heavy firefight with insurgents and the air support in the area, two F/A-18 Hornets, couldn’t get below the cloud cover safely to support. The A-10s flew with their own tanker to the fight and began a four-hour support mission, fighting from below 400 feet while under night vision.
The A-10s expended nearly all of their ammunition to get the insurgents off the 17 Marines who had been cornered in a building before the A-10s arrived. One aircraft left with about 100 rounds left in his plane. He took off with 1,350 cannon rounds as well as bombs and rockets. The pilots were awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses in separate ceremonies.
7. Lt. Col. Mike Morgan flew between small arms and RPG fire to protect engineers.
Lt. Col. Mike Morgan was acting as the air mission commander for two OH-58 Kiowa helicopters when they were called to provide support to a route clearance patrol under fire near Kandahar City, Afghanistan, August 24, 2009.
The engineers of the RCP were hit by an IED and then immediately began taking heavy fire as part of an orchestrated ambush. When the OH-58s arrived, the engineers were taking effective fire from RPGs and small arms fire. Morgan piloted his aircraft through the enemy fire multiple times to engage the enemy, destroying their positions and allowing the friendly forces to withdraw. He was awarded the Silver Star in a joint ceremony with Chief Warrant Officer James Woolley, below.
8. Maj. Mike S. Caudle interrupted an Iraqi ambush.
Elements of the 3rd Infantry Division were approaching Baghdad and a flight of F-15E’s were redirected April 2, 2003, to provide armed reconnaissance of the route the ground troops would take. During the recon, a hidden Iraqi force suddenly ambushed the 3rd Inf. Div. soldiers while anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles targeted the jets.
Maj. Mike S, Caudle piloted his jet to cover his flight lead and the two jets began emergency close air support. Caudle and his flight lead began high-angle strafing and bomb runs. They hit the anti-air elements but also struck hard against the Iraqis attacking the ground troops. When the immediate threat was suppressed, the pilots dropped a couple of laser bombs near the friendly forces’ flanks, just to keep the enemy from getting any closer. Caudle received his second Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts. His first was awarded for actions in Desert Storm.
All military working dog (MWD) handlers — no matter what branch of service they are in, go through the same basic handlers course and advanced dog training schools. As a result, all handlers in the military use key terms and phrases that every handler will understand. Here are the most common terms and what they mean.
All handlers will learn how to decoy — aka pretend to be the bad guy — and it’s important they know how to “agitate” properly to provoke the dog to bite them. To do this they need to make noises and watching them scream and grunt for the first time can be hilarious. To make it simple, instructors tell beginning handlers to yell “HOT SAUCE!” very quickly over and over to provoke the dog.
Inverted V (Lackland shuffle)
To conduct a proper detection search, all handlers are taught the “inverted V” method in which the dog detects low, then high, then low again. To do this, handlers must learn to walk backward and beginners move their feet so slow it’s known as the “Lackland shuffle” in reference to the basic handler’s course at Lackland Air Force Base.
The toy used as a universal reward for all military working dogs is the kong. Handlers reward their dogs so much that they call themselves nothing but a kong dispenser.
MWD’s are incredibly strong and athletic and so when the situation calls for a handler to maintain tight control of their dog, they will apply a “short safety.” All handlers use a 6-foot leash and, with the dog on their left, they will hold the end of the leash in their right hand while using their left hand to grab the leash halfway down and wrap it once around their hand to ensure the dog stays close.
When an MWD is released to bite, handlers want them to get a full mouth bite, clench tight, and hold on until the handler gets there so the suspect can’t get away. However, dogs that are not fully confident will not clench and hold and instead will bite, then release, and then bite a different area. MWDs that do this are known as typewriters.
This is when a military working dog runs and hits a decoy so hard that the decoy ends up dazed and confused on the ground, and handlers watching are more than likely laughing their butts off.
This refers to MWD’s whose speed, strength, and bite are a cut above the rest.
These are MWD’s who are so well trained overall, especially in obedience, that they will rarely need a correction, if any.
Change of behavior
When an MWD is trained to detect specific odors it will show a “change of behavior” when it encounters it. Handlers must get to know their dog’s change of behavior so they know their MWD is about to find something.
Reverse. (Not at source. Pinpoint.)
No handler wants to hear “reverse.” When doing detection with their MWD, if a handler hears “reverse” from the instructor, they know they missed the training aid and now must do the embarrassing action of backtracking. Sometimes, a “not at source” or “pinpoint” is added when the instructor notices the dog is on the odor but hasn’t found the training aid yet.
Most MWD’s that defecate in their kennels will simply wait for their handler to clean it up. Unfortunately, some MWD’s like to play with it and spread it every where they can. By the time the handler comes to clean it, the MWD has “painted” the kennel with feces.
Drop the purse
Most novice handlers unknowingly hold the leash up high while their dog is detecting making it look as though they are holding a purse. It is unnatural, there’s no reason for it, and typically it’s a sign of the handler not being relaxed. Instructors will tell them to “drop the purse” so they lower the leash and assume a more relaxed hold of it.
Military working dogs are the world’s most-highly trained dogs and must be controlled or in a controlled environment at all times for everyone’s safety. When an MWD has escaped a controlled environment, handlers will yell “LOOSE DOG!” to alert everyone in the area.
Catch my dog
When a handler asks another handler to decoy for their MWD.
Want peanut butter with that jam?!
MWD’s build up a lot of momentum when they run after the decoy. At the moment of impact it’s important the decoy is not so stiff to allow the dog’s momentum carry through. If the decoy is too stiff, they can jam the dog which can potentially hurt them. The typical response from a handler whose dog was jammed is to ask the decoy if they want peanut butter.
Emotions run up and down leash
Dog teams form a bond so strong that a handler’s attitude will affect the dog’s attitude and vice versa. To keep the dog motivated, it’s important the handler stay motivated.
Trust your dog
This is ingrained in every handler’s head. Dogs who become certified as military working dogs have gone through an extensive selection and training process. They have proven themselves to be the best at what they do. Yet, with the bond a dog team creates and all the training they have gone through, handlers will, at times, doubt their dogs abilities. It’s important to always remember to trust your dog because if there’s anyone who is wrong, it’s the handler because the dog is always right.
In the fall of 2014, HillVets requested nominations for their first annual HillVets 100 award. The HillVets 100 highlights the most influential and impactful veterans, service members and supporters from 2014. Nominations poured in and HillVets compiled a list encompassing individuals from many diverse sectors and areas, including those in the arts, politics, business, philanthropy, and personal achievements.
Though different in their pursuits and contributions, the commonalities we found in the men and women listed as the HillVets 100 were their mission and purpose of giving back to those that have sacrificed so much for our nation. “As an organization that emphasizes networking and empowerment, we thought it would be a great way to create synergy with the amazing work that veterans and supporters are doing across numerous sectors. Imagine the great things that would happen if we get all of these men and women in the same room. We intend to shortly,” said HillVets Co-Founder Justin Brown.
HillVets 100 provided a chance to recognize those who have continued answering the call to serve, and it is a chance to gather and celebrate the successes of so many of our fellow veterans. Abigail Gage, HillVets Director of Operations and Outreach said, “We wish the list could’ve been longer. The selection process was a challenge. The project as a whole was more demanding then we had expected, but it was worth it.” HillVets had an open nomination period. Final selections and summaries were created by a panel of 13 HillVets 100 Committee members; a special thanks to them for their very diligent efforts.
Medal of Honor Category
The Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest military honor, bestowed for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. These veterans and service members’ actions bring veterans and service members into the forefront of the national conscious, and we are thankful for them.
Sergeant First Class Bennie G. Adkins, United States Army
Sergeant First Class Adkins was a Medal of Honor recipient in 2014 for his combat operations at Camp A Shau, Republic of Vietnam from 9 March 1966 to 12 March 1966. Sgt. 1st Class Adkins manned a mortar position while running through exploding mortar rounds and dragging several of his comrades to safety. When the hostile fire subsided, Sergeant First Class Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire and carried his wounded comrades while sustaining injuries. Sergeant First Class Adkins’ extraordinary heroism in close combat against a superior hostile force was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.
Colonel (Ret.) Harvey C. Barnum, Jr., United States Marine Corps
Colonel (Ret.) Harvey Curtiss Barnum, Jr. was born in Cheshire, Connecticut. He was a natural leader, serving as president of his freshman and senior high school classes. He commissioned into the United States Marine Corps officer, and deployed to the Vietnam War, where he earned Medal of Honor. After retiring from the Marine Corps, He continued to serve the military community as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Reserve Affairs, then as Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs). He has also served as a president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
Corporal (Ret.) Kyle William Carpenter, United States Marine Corps
Corporal Carpenter was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2009. During a 2010 deployment to Helmand Province, Afghanistan he threw himself in front of a grenade to protect a fellow Marine. For these actions, he received the Medal of Honor on June 19, 2014. Medically retired, he is pursuing a degree at the University of South Carolina.
Sergeant Santiago Jesus Erevia, United States Army
Sgt. Santiago Erevia was born in Nordheim, Texas, and volunteered for the United States Army at 22 years old. He deployed to the Vietnam War, where he served as a radio-telephone operator. His conduct during a search-and-clear mission eventually resulted in his receiving the Medal of Honor in 2014.
Sergeant First Class Melvin Morris, United States Army
SFC Melvin Morris was born and grew up in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. He enlisted into the Oklahoma Army National Guard, and then went on active duty. He became one of the first Green Berets in 1961 and volunteered for two tours during the Vietnam War. For his actions in Vietnam, Morris received the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama in a March 18, 2014 ceremony at the White House.
Master Sergeant Leroy Arthur Petry, United States Army
MSG Petry was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, enlisting in the Army after high school. He was training to become a Ranger on September 11th, 2001. MSG Petry deployed eight times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in 2008 while deployed to Paktia Province, Afghanistan. Severely wounded during these actions, Petry lost his right arm below the elbow, but returned to service with a prosthetic, deploying to Afghanistan for another tour.
Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts, United States Army
Ryan Pitts was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. He enlisted in the Army, deploying to Kunar Province, Afghanistan in 2008, where he earned the Medal of Honor for his actions as a forward observer. He was medically discharged from the Army in 2009. He now lives in Nashua, New Hampshire with his wife and son. He works in business development.
Sergeant Kyle J. White, United States Army
Sergeant White was born in Seattle, Washington. He enlisted in the army in 2006, and deployed to Aranas, Afghanistan where he earned the Medal of Honor for his actions as a platoon radio-telephone operator. After departing from active-duty, White pursued degree in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina, afterward working as an investment analyst with the Royal Bank of Canada.
Individual Accomplishment Category
These individuals are some of the most exemplary representatives of the veteran community, able to bridge the gap between the veteran and civilian population by educating and increasing the understanding between them. These individuals work to make the veteran experience a reality, and have dedicated their careers to pursuing their goals, achieving great success and recognition in all of their endeavors.
Phil Klay, Author of Redeployment
Phil Klay was awarded with the National Book Award of 2014 for his writing of Redeployment. Though this is a work of fiction, the characters Klay develops are based on the real experiences of this Marine veteran. This work shows the array of emotions and the individuals who make up the Marine Corps.
But perhaps even more important to the veteran community is the picture Klay paints of Marines transitioning from their military service back into the country within their communities. His narrative stays focused on the experience of war and how it can change a person’s perspective. Redeployment shares what it’s like to return to a country full of people who have never experienced the camaraderie, carnage, happy moments and sad times of the U.S. Marine Corps. If you have not read it, do so.
Dr. Nichole Pardo, OB/GYN,Foxhall ObGyn Associates
In March of 2014, Army Veteran Dr. Pardo inspired DC area veterans by taking the cover of the Washingtonian Magazine as a Top Doctor in the DC area; the second time she has made the list.
As a recipient of a Health Professions Scholarship from the US Army during medical school, Dr. Pardo completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. Following residency training in 2002, Dr. Pardo was deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Upon returning to Washington, DC she attained her board certification in obstetrics and gynecology and spent the next 4 years working as an attending obstetrician-gynecologist at both Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center. During this time she was actively engaged in the residency-training program and served as the Chief of the Gynecology Division at Walter Reed. She joined Foxhall ObGyn Associates in 2007 following her nine-year medical career in the US Army.
Mike Viti, Hiking for Heroes
Viti vini vici, Mike Viti walked over 7,000 kilometers during most of 2014 to honor those who have died in the line of duty. For each kilometer, he writes a name on a flag that he carries with him, each the name of a fallen service member. Going 26 kilometers or more a day, he has 14 flags filled with names. Media outlets noticed and took a moment to remind people of the 13 years of war in the Middle East and those Americans who have paid the ultimate price for armed conflict. Local and national media took notice when Mr. Viti felt compelled to raise awareness because he noticed how easy it seemed for many Americans to ignore the war. Viti is inspiring more veterans to take action to remind people of the cost of war, and he is just getting started. He plans to create more projects based on demanding challenges to continue to bring awareness for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Janine Davidson, Senior Policy Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
Dr. Davidson is an Air Force veteran whose post military career has kept her at the vanguard of defense issues. This former combat pilot has received recognition from both the federal government and from the academic world for her work. Her regular blog on defense policy has added to public awareness and the conversation about the true cost of war. While Dr. Davidson’s focus is primarily on contemporary and emerging defense issues, her focus has helped add perspective for the troops on the ground and other geopolitical defense issues. In addition to her regular blog posts, this year her articles were published in The Hill, USA Today, and Defense One to name but a few.
The Arts Category
Those selected in this category have been successful in the art and entertainment sectors. From producing and directing movies that portray the lives of veterans and military service members, to developing programs that allow veterans to enhance their skills and talents, these individuals have pushed the envelope in the industry and have made headway for up and coming veteran artists, actors and entertainers.
B.R. McDonald, Founder and President, Veteran Artist Program
As the founder and President of the Veteran Artist Program, B.R. McDonald has fostered and promoted veteran artists across the nation, successfully bringing thousands of veterans to new careers in visual arts, filmmaking, writing and other performing arts. Mr. McDonald and the VAP is most recognized for pioneering the Pentagon’s first ever, all-veteran artist exhibit, and for its production of The Telling Project, which aims to bring a deeper connection between communities and the veteran experience. Mr. McDonald has ensured that VAP is one of the fastest growing leaders in bridging the gap between the military and the arts.
Mike Dowling served on active duty in the Marine Corps from 2001-2005 and as a mobilized reservist from 2008-2010. He is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran turned actor, author, technical consultant, public speaker, and veteran advocate.
He has also earned notice for his book: “Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between A Marine and His Military Working Dog,” which is a memoir of his time in the military working as a dog handler in the Marine Corps. In addition to being cofounder of VFT he remains highly active in the veteran community working with wounded warriors and on various veteran related non-profits. Mike currently works at We Are The Mighty — the military community’s entertainment and lifestyle brand — based in Hollywood, California.
Kyle Hausmann-Stokes, Director, Producer, Writer
Kyle Hausmann-Stokes is an award winning director and writer based in Los Angeles. Following graduation from the production track at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Kyle founded a production company (Blue Three) through which he has produced a variety of commercial, web, and video content for national television and multi-million dollar ad campaigns. Kyle served 5 years in the US Army’s Airborne Infantry, is a combat veteran of Iraq (Bronze Star), and is one of todays few professional young directors able to bring direct, personal experience and perspective to military/veteran-related projects.
Folleh Tamba, Producer and Director, Documentary Film Maker
Mr. Tamba is a Marine Reserve NCO with a passion for the arts and entertainment. He was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq. Folleh Tamba has showcased his talent and is working for the interests of the veteran’s community through the GI Film Festival and with the release of his two documentaries.
One of these documentaries: Triangle of Death, was picked up by AE. An interesting aspect of Mr. Tamba’s life is his past – he grew up in Liberia, immigrated to America, attended film school and joined the Marine Corps where he fought with honor for his adopted country.
Tim Mike Rauch, Directors
The Rauch Brothers create cartoons, shorts, and animations to bring stories to life in a unique and impactful way. In 2014, they dedicated a large portion of their work to developing three shorts for the project: StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiatives, which had the aim to tell the stories of post-9/11 veterans, service members and their families to others. These pieces of animation told various stories of the war through different perspectives – one about a survivor Marine and another about the relationship between a member of the US military and two Iraqi citizens.
Through their unique broadcasts and animations, The Rauch Brothers have been successful in bringing a better understanding to the lives of the men and women who have served. The Rauch Brothers’ animations are award winning and their creations have been featured on NPR and PBS.
Montel Williams, Talk Show Host, The Montel Williams Show
Montel Williams has a storied career as a US veteran and long-time service member. He is a US Marine and has worked for the veteran’s community for many years. He is recognized as an avid and tireless supporter of veterans’ issues. Most recently, Mr. Williams displayed his commitment to the community by speaking out against the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal, and encouraging a VA Surge of healthcare professionals.
Businesses That Support Veterans Category
The businesses in this category have dedicated a significant portion of their work to ensure that veterans, military service members, and their families have a number of diverse resources and opportunities available to them. These companies recognize the challenges that veterans face during the transition into civilian life, and as such, have created impactful and purposeful programs that provide a benefit to the veteran community. The individuals selected for this category are those that led the charge for these companies in 2014, promoting veteran-specific initiatives that aim to highlight the skills, leadership and experiences of the veteran community.
Marillyn Hewson, CEO, President and Chairman, Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin demonstrates a continued commitment to veterans, service members and military families by following the tenants of their core value: “We never forget who we’re working for.” This phrase has defined the way that Lockheed Martin demonstrates the importance of giving back to the community and supporting the men and women that have sacrificed so much for our nation.
From numerous hiring programs and initiatives that help transition veterans to civilian life to providing rehabilitation programs for wounded warriors, Lockheed Martin is a solid supporter of ensuring that Veterans receive the honor and gratitude that they are owed. Ms. Hewson has maintained the company’s commitment to this charge, and remains to be an influential individual; she was recognized Forbe’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” in 2014.
James McNerney, CEO and Chairman, Boeing
Boeing has made huge strides in helping service men and women achieve success after their time in the military. Through their Wounded Warrior Hiring Program, Boeing has addressed many of the challenges that veterans and military families face in the job market. Boeing has hired over 25,000 veterans, and has solidified their commitment to this effort by offering mentoring, career counseling, and networking opportunities. The company continues to engage with programs that highlight service by developing partnerships with other companies and non-profit entities that have initiatives that support the veteran community.
Wes Bush, CEO, President and Chairman, Northup Grumman
Northup Grumman has made a difference in hundreds of transitioning veterans, service members and their families’ lives through their Operation IMPACT (Injured Military Pursuing Assisted Career Transition) initiative. The program provides support for those who have been injured in the war.
By committing resources and recruitment initiatives to hiring veterans, Northup Grumman has become a force in veteran hiring. As CEO and President, Mr. Bush has led the charge to instill the values of service and giving back to the community throughout the mission of the company.
Jamie Dimon, CEO, President and Chairman, J.P. Morgan Chase
J.P. Morgan Chase recognizes the sacrifices that military members, veterans and their families undergo by offering employment, housing and educational programs to these individuals. As the CEO and President, Jamie Dimon ensures that the company is committed to understanding the challenges that many veterans face during the transition to civilian life. J.P. Morgan Chase is dedicated to helping individual service members and their families find success in their careers and in their plans for the future. In 2014, J.P. Morgan Chase pledged to invest an additional $20 million towards programs and initiatives to build upon the $25 million the company has already provided to military and veteran-based organizations since 2011.
Dr. Timothy P. Novelli, President and Founder, The Patriot Project
The Patriot Project offers free chiropractic care to veterans, military service members and their families. Dr. Novelli began this grass-roots organization in 2012 in North Canton, Ohio, and the project has since spread across the country. The project began when Dr. Novelli recognized that although chiropractic care is included in veterans’ health benefits, it was not easily accessible. There are now over 800 chiropractors that currently that take part in The Patriot Project. Dr. Novelli has set a high goal, however – to have active participation from the majority of chiropractic physicians in the United States, putting chiropractic care in all VA hospitals across the nation. Dr. Novelli has made a huge impact for veterans, and continues to work in advocating for veterans’ access to various health care services.
Businesses Focused on Veterans Category
The individuals in this category are the leaders and founders of businesses created with veterans in mind. They offer services and provide resources and solutions that benefit veterans and military service members. The companies’ efforts work to strengthen the community by directly supporting veterans through unique and diverse initiatives. This category includes the more traditional and long-standing supporters of veterans, to the newer, veteran-founded businesses, both of which are focused on bringing relevant tools and resources to the veteran community.
Josue Robles, CEO and President, USAA
Josue “Joe” Robles is President and Chief Executive Officer of USAA, one of America’s leading financial services companies. The association has been serving military families since 1922 and has become well known for what it offers to its 9.4 million members. In 2014, USAA continued expanding their mission to the military community by offering free guidance and tools that were catered to supporting veterans in their careers and post-military lives. They increased their promotion of veterans’ hiring programs and partnered with other industries to ensure that available jobs were filled by worthy and experienced veterans.
Cutler Dawson, CEO and President, Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal Credit Union is a well-known supporter of the veteran community and specializes in banking and mortgage services for its members. Underneath Mr. Dawson’s leadership, the Navy Federal Credit Union recommitted to their mission of helping young veterans by strengthening the company’s student loan repayment program, which will benefit new enlistees. Mr. Dawson has been President and Chief Executive Officer of Navy Federal Credit Union since December 2004. Previously, Mr. Dawson served as a Navy Federal volunteer official for five years until March 2004, after completing a 34-year career in the United States Navy. He served as Chief Financial Officer of the Navy and a principal advisor to the Chief of Naval Operations.
Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder, ScoutComms
Fred Wellman is CEO of ScoutComms and provides senior level counsel, strategic communications, public relations, social media, media relations and government affairs advice to the company’s clients. He applies his over 25 years of military, government, commercial and non-profit experience to helping clients operate successfully.
Mr. Wellman supports a number of veteran oriented non-profit organizations and efforts. Prior to founding ScoutComms, he was the Vice President of a strategic communications firm in Washington D.C. exclusively focused on the aerospace and defense sector providing management of all of the company’s operations and client services.
Chris Taylor, CEO and Founder, Novitas Group
The Novitas Group’s mission is “helping veterans translate military experience to the civilian sector.” Their highly successful “Vet Connector” is a revolutionary job tool that connects a veteran’s military skills with available jobs in the market. As the Founder and CEO, Mr. Taylor has ensured that the company’s success always benefits members of the military, veterans and their families.
Prior to the Novitas Group, Mr. Taylor spent 14 years in the US Marine Corps. He is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Atlantic Council, and a member of the Board of Trustees at the American University of Afghanistan. He is also an adjunct professor of national security studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
Zach Iscol, Founder and CEO, hirepurpose
Mr. Iscol is a combat decorated Marine Officer, Iraq veteran and entrepreneur. Hirepurpose was developed to address the gaps that exist in the transition from military service to civilian life. Developed by veterans, hirepurpose dives deep into a military service member’s story and life goals in order to help the individuals achieve their purpose and find the right opportunity. Hirepurpose focuses on “matching the right talent with the right opportunities so everyone wins.”
Before founding hirepurpose, Mr. Iscol served as the first officer in charge of Recruiting, Screening, Assessment, and Selection (RSAS) for the US Marine Corps Forces – Special Operations Command. He is also the Executive Director of the Headstrong Project, a non-profit organization that provides cost-free mental health care treatment to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with PTSD and TBI.
James Schenck, President and CEO, Pentagon Federal Credit Union
PenFed President and CEO James Schenck rose through the ranks to become PenFed’s CEO in March of 2014. An Army officer, graduate of the United States Military Academy, and UH60 Blackhawk pilot, it is safe to say that Schenck understands the needs of the service members, veterans, and families that make up the majority of Pen Feds customers. Additionally, the company launched the Military Heroes Fund to provide wounded service members with services that the Defense Department cannot offer due to budgetary and regulatory restrictions.
In his new capacity, Mr. Schenck has maintained Pen Fed’s commitment to the hiring of veterans and the support of military families. In 2014, on numerous instances Pen Fed highlighted, notably and to include Schenck, the hiring of veterans to numerous senior level positions within the organization. Schneck earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and taught economics and finance at West Point. He served on the Army Staff in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, overseeing the Army’s OPTEMPO Budget. His final tour was as special assistant to the Secretary of the Army.
Capitol Hill Staff Category
These individuals are at the helm of forming the policy and legislation for our Nation. Working on Capitol Hill gives a great deal of responsibility and power needed to address many of the problems and challenges that veterans, and our nation, face on a day-to-day basis. The influence that these few have in bringing legitimate change to the veteran community is unparalleled, and their ability to understand the issues and facilitate necessary debate and discussion is recognized and appreciated.
Steve Robertson, Democratic Staff Director, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
In the 113th Congress Robertson oversaw the agenda of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee during one of the most pressing eras in recent memory. With the VA under fire, he was the lead on formulating a political response to address the issues facing the VA healthcare system. Robertson had large influence on what would move forward in conference and what legislation would be considered from the House.
Robertson was Senator Sander’s senior legislative assistant prior to his Chairmanship of SVAC. He also has worked as director, deputy director and assistant director of the National Legislative Commission at the American Legion. Robertson retired after 20 years of military service: 12 years active-duty USAF and 8 years in the DC Army National Guard.
Mike Brinck, Deputy Staff Director, House Veterans Affairs Committee
Mr. Brinck, a former Naval helicopter pilot, is second in command of the House Veterans Affairs Committee under Chairman Jeff Miller. During Mr. Brinck’s tenure, Chairman Miller has lead the way on numerous hearings and investigations surrounding the wait time scandals at the Phoenix VA Medical Center. Brinck, the former Staff Director of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity has been with the committee since 1994 and is well respected by staff from both sides of the aisle, as well as among the many veterans and military service organizations involved with veteran issues. Brinck hails from Iowa and has a B.A. from St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa, and is a graduate of the Naval War College.
Doug Coutts, Chief of Staff, Senator Tom Cotton
Coutts is an Army Veteran that served with Senator Cotton in the infantry, and is now providing the lead role in his office. During Coutts’ time serving as the Chief of Staff, Senator Tom Cotton has become extremely influential, beginning his career as a member of the House of Representatives, and is now a member of the Senate. Mr. Coutts also served as Cotton’s campaign manager, and will continue to play a critical role in an office that consists of and impacts a number of OIF veterans. Coutts taught U.S. History and Government at Orange County Public Schools prior to joining the Army in June of 2003. He received an MBA from American University.
Darren Dick, Republican Staff Director, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
With homeland security, terrorist attacks, and the growing realm of government intelligence, Navy Reservist Darren Dick played an outsized role in providing oversight of the Nation’s intelligence apparatus. His role will likely only continue to grow in the 114th Congress.
Darren Dick served as the Deputy Staff Director for the House Intelligence Committee from January 2011 to July 2013. He is a veteran of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence where he served as Counsel for the Committee and also as Deputy Staff Director. He was previously Senior Manager and Counsel for Government Relations and Public Policy at the EMC Corporation. Darren spent three years in the office of U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) as principal advisor to the Senator on national security issues. Prior to his work for Senator Roberts, he worked as a litigation attorney in Overland Park, KS. From 1992-1996 Darren worked as the Military Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Robert Dole (R-KS). He is an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves and holds a Masters Degree in National Security Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.
Richard Kessler, Democratic Staff Director, Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs
Dr. Kessler, an Army Vietnam veteran and recipient of the Bronze Star, was the lead US Senate staffer overseeing America’s intelligence apparatus. This essentially placed him between House Republicans and the President in consideration of legislation of interest; a position that Senate Democrats will not enjoy in the forthcoming Congress. Nonetheless, it seems that Kessler will continue to be an influential voice on Capitol Hill considering his impressive background and accomplishments.
Dr. Kessler also served as the Democratic Staff Director of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee where he was appointed in 2008. Prior to his work on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dr. Kessler served as Staff Director and Democratic Staff Director for numerous committees and subcommittees. As a Sergeant in the U.S. Army from 1970-1973, Dr. Kessler served in Vietnam where he was awarded a Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the Vietnamese Medal of Honor, and two battle stars.
The tireless work of the foundations listed in this category play an important role in strengthening and empowering the veteran community. These foundations provide direct support to the community through the development of employment initiatives, by providing funding for research on veteran-specific health issues, and by bringing relevant dialogue and educational opportunities to the general public in order to increase the overall understanding of veterans and the military community.
Eric Eversole, Vice President and Executive Director, Hiring Our Heroes, US Chamber of Commerce
Hiring Our Heroes is a grassroots initiative that helps veterans, service members and military spouses find employment across the United States. Hiring Our Heroes is committed to promoting events that will allow the military community to engage with both public and private partners, connecting businesses with future employees. With more than 800 hiring fairs, they have set a goal to make employment commitments to 500,000 veterans and spouses.
He first entered military service in 1994 as an enlisted security specialist in the Indiana Air National Guard. Eversole later accepted a commission in the United States Navy JAG Corps in 1998 and served on active duty until 2001, when he transferred to the Navy Reserve. Mr. Eversole is also the founder of the Military Voter Protection Project (MVP Project)—a program dedicated to promoting and protecting the voting rights of active duty military members and their spouses.
David Hiller, President and CEO, Robert McCormick Foundation
In 2014, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation gave over $12 Million in grants to benefit veteran initiatives and education through their well-known Veterans Program.
The Veterans Program is “committed to investing in, learning from, and implementing models of support to enable veterans to become assets in their local and national communities.” The impactful model deployed by the foundation encompasses plans and programs that make a difference in the daily lives of veterans by investing programs that benefit veteran employment, health and reintegration into a civilian lifestyle. The Robert R. McCormick Foundation has been integral in ensuring that veterans are provided with the resources that they need and opportunities that recognize the service that they have provided to the United States.
Howard Schultz, Founder, Schultz Family Foundation
In March 2014, the Schultz Family Foundation announced their commitment to honoring the nation’s veterans through their Onward Veterans program. Onward Veterans is an initiative that empowers post-9/11 veterans and recognizes their skill sets, work ethic and leadership skills by providing opportunities that utilize these abilities to make our nation better and stronger. This program also focuses on providing funding for research of PTSD and TBI.
The foundation recently released a book: For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us about Citizenship, Heroism and Sacrifice, which allows the civilian population to engage with the military community and veterans. By raising awareness of the sacrifices made by these individuals and increasing an understanding across the broader public, the Shultz Family Foundation works to bring the service member experience closer to home.
Debra Jacobs, President and CEO, The Patterson Foundation
The Patterson Foundation’s Legacy of Valor Campaign is a military initiative that aims to highlight the contributions given by military service men and women. The campaign consists of more than 100 community partnerships and organizations and has the purpose of facilitating events that will benefit and honor veterans and their families. Thus far, the Legacy of Valor Campaign has raised more than $270,000 for non-profits and engaged in more than 200 community events and activities that honored veterans. Most notably, they worked with VA to create Patriot Plaza, a 2,800-seat ceremonial amphitheater at Sarasota National Cemetery that honors veterans, inspires patriotism and embraces freedom. These are only a few of their accomplishments. The campaign hopes that their support of hundreds of grassroots projects will inspire patriotism, and educate communities about the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families.
Deborah Bial, Founder and President, The Posse Foundation
The Posse Foundation celebrated its 25-year anniversary in 2014, continuing its commitment to recognizing scholars around the nation. In 2014, The Posse Foundation expanded its Veterans Program, which supports and helps individuals in achieving his or her goals of receiving Bachelor’s degrees from highly ranked U.S. universities and colleges. The group’s ability to build a community of veterans around educational goals and opportunities makes The Posse Foundation undeniably noteworthy.
Boasting a graduation rate of over 90%, The Posse Foundation has gone above and beyond to ensure that veterans are receiving the best education and experiencing success in reaching their life and career goals. As founder and president, Deborah Bial is an expert in the field of education and leadership development. Her expertise has gained her national recognition in the higher education community in the United States.
Government — Career Employees Category
The individuals in this category have dedicated their lives to public service. In light of the most recent scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the following have given countless hours to bring pragmatic solutions to the most relevant problems, in addition to the positive work that they already do for the veteran community on a day-to-day basis. This category honors those that devote their lives to serving the interests of veterans, and their work is appreciated and recognized by many in the community.
Steven W. Young, Medical Center Director, VA Salt Lake City Health Care System
In the wake of the challenges of the Phoenix VA Medical Center crisis, Steve Young was called in to lead as the interim Medical Center Director. Young continues to be one of VA’s go to leaders in difficult situations, particularly in the Western United States.
He was appointed Director of the Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City Health Care System on June 21, 2009. In this position, he is responsible for executive leadership of the health care system that includes the George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center and clinics located in Utah, Idaho and Nevada.
Holly Petreaus is the Assistant Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs, a government office dedicated to protecting service members and their families from financial predators and pitfalls.
From taking on predatory lenders focused on service members, to making sure that educational institutions are not taking advantage of veterans and their families, Holly Petreaus spent 2014 trying to make the world a better place for troops, veterans, and their spouses.
Dr. Sam Foote and the VA Whistleblowers
Dr. Sam Foote was the initial whistleblower whose actions led to a large-scale shake up of the Department of Veterans Affairs, to include the resignation of Secretary Shinseki and numerous other top VA officials. An emphasis on patient wait-times goals, poor oversight and scheduling practices all led to systematic failure of veterans across the nation. Mr. Foote’s and other whistleblower actions led to the uncovering of these failed systems that resulted in increased Congressional funding aimed at increasing clinical space for veterans, increasing the number of VA physicians to provide care, and providing temporary authorization to receive private care in the event VA cannot provide it or if the veteran does not have easy access to a VA facility.
James Ridgeway, Chief Counsel, Board of Veterans’ Appeals
James Ridgway is the Chief Counsel for Policy and Procedure at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. As a military brat, and one of the most respected veteran benefit attorneys in the nation, Ridgeway continues to be a leader in benefits law. He clerked for the Hon. Kenneth Kramer, an original member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), and was the senior law clerk to the Hon. Alan G. Lance, Sr. for nearly eight years. In between his periods with the CAVC, Professor Ridgway was an assistant state attorney in Chicago for five years. While in Chicago, he taught appellate advocacy at the Loyola University of Chicago School of Law. He is also a Professor of Law at George Washington University.
Mr. Ridgway was the president of the CAVC’s bar association for 2012-13. As part of the Board of Governor’s for the bar association, he published the quarterly Veterans Law Journal, helped found the National Veterans Law Moot Court Competition (NVLMCC), and presents an Introduction to Veterans Law at law schools across the country.
Government – Political Appointees Category
Those that are called to serve carry the responsibility and honor of developing and implementing the President’s agenda. This is no easy task, and the following individuals were integral in making tough decisions, all with the aim of bringing the right solutions and policies to benefit the veteran and military community. The Department of Veterans Affairs were hit with a number of scandals this year, and these individuals took charge of their positions, doing everything possible to make right some of the most immediate problems and prominent challenges for veterans and service members.
Chuck Hagel, Former Secretary of Defense
Chuck Hagel, the 24th Secretary of Defense, is the first enlisted combat veteran to lead the Department of Defense. As a young man, Secretary Hagel volunteered for Vietnam, serving as an infantryman. Wounded during the conflict, his decorations include two Purple Hearts.
Secretary Hagel has been advocating for the veteran community since 1981, when he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to serve as Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration. When elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, Secretary Hagel continued to protect veterans’ rights, adding a focus on international security to his portfolio. He was also one of the leading Republican Senators that advocated along side Senator Jim Webb for passage of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. Secretary Hagel has also served as Co-Chairman of President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board and a member of the Secretary of Defense Policy Board.
Eric K. Shinseki, Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs
The year 2014 will probably not be fondly remembered by the highly decorated Vietnam veteran and former Secretary of the Army. After five years as Secretary, President Obama accepted Shinseki’s resignation as the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, in light of a scandal involving veterans receiving substandard access to care at the Phoenix VA Hospital and the mischaracterization of VA’s performance measures related to access. Despite these challenges, the top three priorities of Secretary Shinseki during his tenure were: increased access to VA healthcare and benefits, ending veteran homelessness by 2015, and eliminating the VA backlog with no claim pending for longer than 125 days. Moving forward it will be interesting to watch how VA under the leadership of Secretary McDonald, reorient their goals.
Sloan Gibson, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Sloan Gibson was appointed to be Deputy Secretary following the departure of Deputy Secretary Scott Gould in 2014. Appointed in February, he had little time to prepare for the VA scandal that rocked VA in May. By the end of the month he was the acting Secretary after Shinseki’s resignation and was a national media focal point as numerous whistleblowers and other VA’s hospitals were found to be fudging their patient wait times. Sloan found himself testifying before Congress and working with VA to formulate an immediate emergency response to veterans that were in need of consistent and accountable healthcare. Prior to his appointment, Sloan was the CEO of USO and a graduate of the 1975 class of West Point.
Robert McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs
When the Phoenix scandal led to Shinseki’s resignation in May 2014, an effective replacement was necessary. Many in the veteran world wondered who would fill the tough shoes of the highly respected Shinseki. The President’s selection, who was the Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of The Procter Gamble Company (PG), has intrigued many. The implication has been that McDonald, a successful businessman, will be able to bring about positive customer-oriented change to VA.
Secretary McDonald is a graduate of the 1975 class from the United States Military Academy. He received his MBA from the University of Utah.
Allison Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits,Department of Veterans Affairs
From the claims backlog, Post 9/11 GI Bill, and VA’s home loan program, General Allison Hickey is the face of VA benefits and services. The claims backlog took a backseat in the VA public limelight to the VA’s recent healthcare crisis. Recent numbers also suggest that Hickey has been effective in leading VA to dramatic reductions of VA claims; though not without controversy.
Nonetheless, General Hickey continues to be a dominant force over the 56 regional offices that give billions in benefits to veterans across the country. She created a strategy that took the VA out of a paper-based system and into an electronic claims processing system. Most seem to be in agreement that there has been substantial improvement in timeliness and the delivery of services. 2015 will be a year to watch General Hickey as VA has suggested for numerous years that they would eliminate the VA backlog. General Hickey is a 1980 graduate of the first Air Force Academy class to include women. She retired with the rank of Brigadier General as the Director of the Air Force’s Future Total Force office at the Pentagon.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden
The First and Second Ladies understand that behind every service member there is a supportive spouse and family that is making sacrifices and serving our country. To support them, the dynamic duo launched an effort entitled Joining Forces: Taking Action to Serve America’s Military Families. In President Obama’s State of the Union he suggested Joining Forces has resulted in 700,000 jobs for veterans and their spouses.
A strong and robust military depends on its people, and its people depend on their families. Ensuring the strength of our military families fortifies the morale of our soldiers, and strengthens their ability to protect and defend our nation.
Maura Sullivan, Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs
In October 2014, Maura Sullivan became the face of VA’s communications as the Assistant Secretary for Public Intergovernmental Affairs.
Following the challenging scandal that rocked the VA in May, Maura’s role is integral to rebuilding trust and transparency with the veterans and families VA serves. Sullivan was a Marine Captain and served in Fallujah in 2005. She came to VA via Pepsi Co. where she was a part of their executive team. She also was previously appointed to the Commission of the American Battle Monuments Commission. She is a graduate of Northwestern (B.A), and Harvard (MBA, MPA).
These military men and women have successfully led the United States Armed Forces during a very challenging and difficult time in our country’s military history. Being involved in numerous wars and conflicts for more than a decade, these individuals have shaped the debate surrounding the duty and the call to serve. With the Middle East continuing to be a volatile environment for our troops, and politicians continuously posturing on positions that take the fight to the enemy, we can only expect that our military will continue to see high ops tempos.
General Martin E. “Marty” Dempsey, U.S. Army
Gen. Martin Dempsey took his unique Jersey City, NJ flavored Irish American wit with him from the West Point Class of 1974, to Chairman of The Joint Chiefs. In a show of his multi-force command demeanor and diplomatic prowess, General Dempsey proved his admirable qualities when he ordered military schools to make sure they were not including anti-Islamic themes in training courses.
Martin Dempsey received his commission as an Army Armor Officer in 1974 when he graduated from West Point. Through his continuing 41-year career and rise to Chairman of The Joint Chiefs, Gen. Dempsey has served in a plethora of joint force, and multinational command elements. His highest level personal decorations include; Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with bronze oak leaf cluster), Army Distinguished Service Medal (with three bronze oak leaf clusters), Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with two bronze oak leaf clusters), Bronze Star (with Valor device and bronze oak leaf cluster), Meritorious Service Medal (with two bronze oak leaf clusters), along with the JSCM, ACM, and numerous AAMs.
General Raymond T. “Ray” Odierno, U.S. Army
Gen. Odierno, currently serving as the 38th Chief of Staff of the Army understands the importance of a strong and well-trained military force. In 2014, he spoke candidly about the need for leadership development in the Army, despite budget cuts and public disapproval of the continuing war. General Odierno continues to embody the tenants and traditions of what it means to serve. He works to bridge the gap between military and civilian life, and create the environment for a greater understanding between the two cultures.
Ray Odierno received his commission in 1976, upon graduation from West Point. He also received an MS in Nuclear Effects Engineering from NC State, an MA in National Security and Strategy from the Naval War College, and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters again from NC State. Gen. Odierno most recently served as Commanding Gen. MNF-Iraq. His numerous decorations include; Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with 3 bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Distinguished Service Medal (with bronze Oak Leaf Cluster), Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with 1 silver Oak Leaf Cluster), Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with 3 bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), ACM, and AAM.
Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond “H.R.” McMaster, U.S. Army
General McMaster is currently strategizing and helping win America’s future wars as the Director of Army Capabilities Integration Center and Deputy Commanding General, Futures, of US Army Training and Doctrine Command. McMaster is known for his pragmatic and no nonsense attitude; on numerous occasions he has spoken out against mistakes made in the war, solidifying his place as a leader of change. He has pinned on three stars in less than six years, and was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.
HR McMaster received his Commission as a US Army Armor Officer after graduating West Point in 1984. He has earned numerous decorations during his career, including a Silver Star for his actions in 1991 as Captain commanding Eagle Troop of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of 73 Easting, where the nine tanks under his command destroyed over eighty Iraqi Republican Guard tanks and other vehicles without loss.
Sergeant Major Michael P. “Mike” Barrett, U.S. Marine Corps
Michael P. “Mike” Barrett enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 17 and has risen to be 17th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. On April 11, 2014, Barrett surprised Congress on the topic of pay when he said, “Marines don’t run around asking about compensation, retirement, modernization…” “That’s not on their mind. As I talk to thousands of audiences, they want to know into whose neck do we put a boot next.”
Sergeant Major Barrett hails from Youngstown, NY, where he enlisted into the Corps at the age of 17 on March 16, 1981. During his 30 plus year rise from Infantry recruit at Parris Island, to 17th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps on June 9, 2011, he has held numerous duty positions, including; Scout Sniper, earning a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a Valor Device for engaging enemy mortar positions with his Barrett M82 sniper rifle in early 1991 during the first Gulf War. His leadership under fire also earned him two Bronze Stars with Valor Device during his 2005 and 2007 deployments to Iraq with the 2/7 Marines.
Christopher Scott “Chris” Kyle, U.S. Navy
Navy SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle had been termed Shaitan Ar-Ramadi, “The Devil of Ramadi”, by those he took aim at, and “Legend” by those whom he protected. After his tragic death in 2013, solidifying his full devotion to protecting Marines from the turmoil of war, Bradley Cooper portrayed Kyle in the film version of his book, “American Sniper,” which has brought his story and the challenge of service into high magnification. With 160 confirmed kills, “America’s deadliest sniper” was known as saying, his targets were, “already dead. I was just making sure [they] didn’t take any Marines with [them]”.
Kyle was born in 1974 in Odessa, TX to Deby Lynn (Mercer) and Wayne Kenneth Kyle. After overcoming medical complications with his arm during his attempted enlistment into the Marines, he was invited by the Navy to attend BUDS, and became a Navy Seal in 1999. Chris served through four combat tours to Iraq where he earned two Silver Star Medals, five Bronze Star Medals, one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.
The media plays an integral part of our political process. In 2014, the following individuals led the way on reporting on VA and the veteran experience. Through their stories, the media has held public and government officials accountable for their actions and promises. The media has also enlightened the public on veterans’ issues and increased their understanding of the sacrifices made by those that chose to serve.
Rick Maze, Editor-in-Chief, Association of the United States Army
Mr. Maze has been a major presence on Capitol Hill for most of his career as a regular contributor on C-Span, recognized for his writing on defense and veterans’ issues. He currently serves as the Editor in Chief of the Association of the United States Army. He has reported on military, defense and veterans affairs for 35 years, and is a nationally recognized expert on these issues.
Many were sad to see Maze’s departure from Gannett, Military Times, as he was rightly credited as the lead beat writer on veterans’ issues for numerous years.
Leo Shane, Reporter, Military Times
Leo Shane is an award-winning Military and Veterans Affairs reporter whose work has drawn national recognition from policy leaders, media peers, and troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of who rely on his insight as an objective voice on issues affecting their lives.
He has worked in Washington, D.C. since 2004, covering Capitol Hill and the White House. His beats include legislation affecting military policy and veterans’ issues. His work also includes overseas coverage of military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chile and Ecuador. He has become a prominent voice on veterans’ issues, chronicling troops’ transition back to civilian life and the challenges facing the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Jon Stewart, Host, The Daily Show
The man, the myth, the legend. Twenty years ago, who could have predicted that a satirist would be considered a bona fide newsman in America? During Stewart’s tenure, The Daily Show went from a barely veiled homage of SNL’s Weekend Update, to investigating and reporting on real news. They have pushed the envelope on many controversial, yet relevant stories.
The Daily Show spent a fair amount of time on Veterans’ issues in 2014, as did a lot of news makers, in the wake of some of the controversy surrounding VA’s handling of patient wait times, but the Daily Show has a history of keeping a watchful eye on veterans’ issues. With so many topics which are not exactly ripe for comedic material, Stuart walks the fine line to highlight important issues and generate interest.
Jacqueline Klimas, Reporter, The Washington Times
Jacqueline Klimas is an award-winning reporter in Washington, D.C. As a Capitol Hill reporter for The Washington Times, she covers veteran’s issues, defense legislation, sexual assault in the military and on college campuses, and how technology is changing elections. Ms. Klimas was on top of all of the major veterans stories in 2014, which highlighted controversial issues and provided a high volume of stories that shaped the narrative and paved the way for passage of the Veterans’ Access Choice and Accountability Act.
Richard Jones, Executive Vice President Chief Veteran Officer, CBS
Richard M. Jones serves as Executive Vice President, General Tax Counsel, and Chief Veteran Officer with CBS. Prior to his role at CBS, Mr. Jones was a noncommissioned officer for the Army…oh yeah, he was also an Army Ranger. As Chief Veteran Officer, Mr. Jones is personally responsible for seeing that veteran’ issues are kept at the forefront of CBS’s news watch. Jones works closely with veterans’ organizations and keeps vigilant in ensuring veterans’ needs are receiving the attention they deserve.
He serves on the Advisory Committee on Veterans Employment, Training and Employer Outreach (ACTVETEO) at the Department of Labor. He also sits on the boards of the Wounded Warrior Project, The Institute for Veterans and Military
Families (IVMF) at Syracuse, The Uniforms Services Justice and Advocacy Group, the Eastern Seals Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services, the Aaron Grider Foundation and is an advisor to Veterans Advantage and Act Today! (Autism Care Treatment) for Military Families.
Most Successful Veteran Entrepreneurs Category
These veterans have taken success to a new level. Their drive, ambition and savvy have allowed them to create extremely successful careers and gain domination within their individual business markets. These individuals started serving their country when they joined their respective military branches many years ago, and since then, have continued to serve our nation with the services that their business provide.
Richard Kinder, CEO, Kinder Morgan
Richard Kinder is a veteran of both the Vietnam War and the energy industry. The former Army Captain was Enron’s President at a time when the company was considered a bastion of integrity, and he left before the company’s challenges. Mr. Kinder emerged as one of the co-founders of Kinder Morgan, now the 4th largest energy company in the country. Forbes listed him among the richest Americans of 2014, and he is poised to remain on that list for some time.
Kinder’s leadership style has been described as meticulous, and he holds his management team to high standards. His nature has also led to a positive and strong workforce environment, and Kinder Morgan was recognized as one of Americas Most Admired Companies by Fortune magazine in 2007.
Jack Taylor, Founder, Enterprise Rent-a-Car
Before Jack Taylor launched what would become the Enterprise car rental company 1962, he was a Navy Fighter Pilot in World War II serving on the USS Enterprise. Enterprise remains family owned and operated, but Mr. Taylor’s military values remain present, and the company takes pride in its military heritage. The company welcomes veterans and their family members into their ranks and offers a Management Training Program, which teaches participants how to run a successful business. In addition, Enterprise has been involved with philanthropy for over half a century. This has led to over $200 million going to thousands of local nonprofits focused on community improvement, education and environmental stewardship.
Rich DeVos, Co-Founder, Amway
Rich Davos is one of the cofounders of Amway and the owner of the Orlando Magic. A World War II veteran who served in the Army Air Corps, the 88 year old is still attending his team’s games regularly.
The American businessman has also authored two books, Compassionate Capitalism and Hope from My Heart: Ten Lessons For Life. The latter was written after a successful heart transplant operation in 1997. He also coauthored a book about his career titled Believe.
John Paul DeJoria, Businessman and Philanthropist, Patron / Paul Mitchell
John Paul DeJoria may be better recognized as a cofounder of the Paul Mitchell brand, but the entrepreneur has a diverse range of holdings including the Patron Spirits Company and the House of Blues.
What many may not realize is that DeJoria is also a Navy veteran. His trek into the Navy would sound familiar to many of today’s service members. As a first generation American, DeJoria began earning money to support his family at the age of nine by selling Christmas cards and newspapers. During high school, he joined the Navy at 17, serving on the USS Hornet. The Navy recently honored DeJoria with the Lone Star Sailor Award in recognition of his success as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a pillar of the business community.
Sumner Redstone, Founder, Viacom
Sumner Redstone is the media magnate behind CBS Corporation and Viacom. The Boston native graduated from Harvard in 1944, and served as a lieutenant in US Army during World War II. Besides building a media empire, Redstone is also an author and philanthropist. It is estimated that Sumner Redstone has donated over $150 million, nearly 1.7 percent of his net worth to various philanthropic causes. In 2014 alone, Redstone donated $10 million to Harvard Law School for public-interest fellowships. The donation was the largest ever to the law school in support of public service.
Non-Profit Innovators Category
The men and women in this category have turned their own first-hand veteran experiences into successful and well-known non-profit enterprises, all of which have the mission of helping service members as well as those within their local communities. These individuals understand the importance of building a strong community and recognize the constant challenges that many veterans and their families face. As such, they have dedicated their life’s work to ensuring that they bring positive and impactful change to those around them, as well as offering relevant opportunities for veterans to find a way to continue their call to serve.
Jake Wood, Founder, Team Rubicon
Jake and Team Rubicon have taken the veterans’ world by storm. What better way to continue using your military skills than redeploying to help when a natural disaster strikes? Since 2010, Team Rubicon has grown immensely, and they even received their own infomercial on the National Mall during HBO’s Concert for Valor. If that doesn’t make you want to tread into hurricanes and earthquakes… what will? In 2014 it was business as usual for Team Rubicon, with hurricane operations in the Philippines, and in assisting in the aftermath of mid-west tornados and flooding across the Nation.
Wood honorably served four years in the United States Marine Corps, deploying to Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2008. He graduated Scout-Sniper School at the top of his class and in 2007 he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with “V” for actions in Iraq. Jake serves on numerous national veteran committees and speaks around the country about veteran issues and social entrepreneurship. In October, Crown will publish Jake’s first book, Take Command.He graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a double major, where he also played football.
Mike Erwin, Founder, Team RWB
Across the nation, veterans, their families, and their supporters are donning red Team RWB shirts. The man to blame: Mike Erwin. Erwin, a Major in the US Army, earned a MS in Psychology from the University of Michigan. He also teaches psychology and leadership at the US Military Academy at West Point.
Team RWB’s fast growing nature seems to be based on a growing trend whereby veterans are interested in coming together and looking for ways to bridge commonalities in a social and empowering manner. Team RWB seems to be at the forefront of this and saw dynamic growth in 2014. From running to rock climbing to other fun and physical activities, veterans are getting out, getting active, and having a strong association with Team RWB in the process.
Chris Marvin, Managing Director, Got Your 6
Got Your 6, under the leadership of Chris Marvin, has made huge headway and come out strong in 2014. From media campaigns to working with their partners on the Concert of Valor, Got Your 6 has been busy “normalizing the depictions of veterans on film and television to dispel common myths about the veteran population.” We are looking forward to see what 2015 brings for veterans on their behalf.
Marvin, a US Army Officer and Blackhawk helicopter pilot, served for more than seven years and was awarded a Bronze Star and the Air Medal. After being severely wounded in combat in Afghanistan, Marvin volunteered as an advocate for other wounded veterans, most prominently as the Director of the Fellowship Program for The Mission Continues. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
Seth Lynn, Founder, Veterans Campaign
After receiving his Commission from the US Naval Academy in 2002, Seth went on the serve for 6 years as a Marine Corps Ground Officer. He then went on to earn a MPA in International Affairs from Princeton University, and after came to DC where he founded Second Service and Veterans Campaign, both of which are aimed at teaching Veterans how to run successful campaigns. Mr. Lynn understood that Veterans were experienced in leadership and teamwork and that they are the ones that could bring solutions and partnerships to Capitol Hill.
In 2012, Seth published In the Shadow of Greatness, discussing his military service and how it inspired him to start his nonprofit organizations. After 4 years of existence, Veterans Campaign, in 2014, has become a prominent catapult in helping Veterans fulfill their call to service in political office.
Taryn Davis, Founder and Executive Director, American Widow Project
The death of Davis’s husband to a roadside bomb in 2007 led her to create the American Widow Project. The American Widow Project is a non-profit organization providing peer-to-peer support to a new generation of military widows grieving the loss of spouses in the United States Armed Forces.
After her husband’s death, Taryn began traveling around the country to hear other women’s stories of love, tragedy and survival. In hearing their accounts, she hoped to learn more about the title that been had given to her – that of a military widow. Inspired by the willpower and strength of the women “in her shoes” she has found that true love is eternal, that the lessons and things her husband said and did still runs through her veins, and mostly that she is not alone.
Chris Brown, Founder and Director, Growing Veterans
Chris Brown has been taking the farming world by storm. What launched as an idea among fellow veterans to learn more about farming, nutrition, and the chemicals that pervade our food supply, Mr. Brown has successfully turned into this group of veterans that are determined to help their fellow vets experience a positive transition. Growing Veterans, moving into its second year, is looking to empower military veterans to grow food, communities, and the relationships with each other. Their organization is part educational, part community, and part agricultural movement. We are looking forward to eating the outcome!
Father Rick Curry, Founder, Dog Tag Bakery
Dog Tag Bakery is a small business run by veterans. Father Curry founded Dog Tag Bakery as a training ground for veterans, giving them a hands-on experience with the tools and resources needed for operating and managing a business. This unique business model has partnered with Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies to offer training offers courses specific to participating veterans’ goals including: accounting, management, communication, corporate finance, marketing, and business policy. The storefront includes a state of the art bakery and kitchen, as well as classroom space to ensure that veterans learn about every aspect of owning and operating a successful business.
Steven Nardizzi, Founder and CEO, Wounded Warrior Project
Wounded Warrior Project continues to make an impact in a growing number of projects and events that benefit veterans. One thing is for certain – Wounded Warrior Project knows what the broader community of veterans wants and needs, and has created overarching and long-term strategies to achieve their goals and benefit the veteran community. Wounded Warrior Project offers a number of programs focused at assisting veterans, as well as advocating for veterans’ issues to Congress and the Administration. Mr. Nardizzi helped found the Wounded Warrior Project in 2003. If the past is any indicator, expect to see more dynamic partnerships and effective programming in 2015.
Non-Profit Traditional Category
This category honors some of the longest standing, non-profit supporters of the veteran community. The continuously show dedicated and committed efforts to bring veteran and service members’ interests to the forefront of national dialogue, which has made them highly influential and powerful forces in enhancing veterans’ needs. The individuals listed below represent the leadership of these organizations, those who reinstated the commitment to veterans in 2014, and who ensured that the veterans’ issues remained prevalent in public discourse.
Verna Jones, Executive Director, American Legion
The American Legion and Verna Jones, quickly found themselves among veteran and public conversations during the VA Healthcare Scandal. The Legion was the first traditional Veteran Service Organization to call for the resignation of highly respected Secretary Shinseki. Ms. Jones was called upon to organize Veteran Crisis Command Centers in Phoenix and numerous other cities to assist veterans in receiving healthcare, benefits, and other services. In November, Ms. Jones was appointed to become the first African-American female Executive Director of the American Legion.
Garry Augustine, Executive Director, Disabled American Veterans
Garry Augustine survived a severe injury sustained by a mine attack in 1970. Since then he has dedicated himself to assisting veterans in numerous capacities. As the Executive Director of the DAV, Mr. Augustine is one of the most respected voices on Capitol Hill. Under his leadership, the DAV has earned a reputation of being approachable, pragmatic, and knowledgeable.
In 2014, he and his team led the way on advance appropriations to ensuring that the VA was properly funded. He also worked tirelessly to get more funding in light of the VA healthcare scandal, and in looking to create a fully developed appeals process.
Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Paul Rieckhoff continues to dominate the airwaves as the “go-to” expert for a number of veteran related topics of the day. In 2014, his team was oriented towards highlighting mental healthcare issues via the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, which aims to help reduce military and veteran suicides and improve access to quality mental health care.
Through Rieckhoff’s efforts, his organization has a sizable team of lobbyists and advocates in Washington, D.C. that continue to focus on finding government solutions to the many challenges faced by America’s veterans.
Bob Wallace, Executive Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars
With 13 years as the Executive Director of the VFW, Wallace is easily the longest tenured Executive Director of the “big three” veteran service organizations: DAV, Legion, VFW. As a combat wounded Vietnam Veteran, Wallace is well known and respected on Capitol Hill, and among the veteran community.
In 2014, his team was largely focused on the challenges presented by the VA scandal that broke in May 2014, as well as on receiving advance appropriations for all VA funded programs to continue improvements to VA claims and appeals processes.
Vice Admiral Norbert Ryan, President and CEO, Military Officers Association of America
Admiral Ryan’s actions continue to lead MOAA to higher plateaus. Largely respected as one of the top military service organizations (MSO), MOAA continues to build its impact and image under Ryan’s leadership. In 2014, MOAA announced that they would take on assisting veterans with their disability benefits. Additionally, they continue to play a key role in the fight to maintain service members’ benefits and pay.
Expect to see Admiral Ryan leading the way in the discussions surrounding the morale and readiness of the uniformed services in 2015, the need for increased pay, the quality and accessibility of healthcare for veterans, and the maintenance of benefits for service members, veterans, and their families.
In 2014, these Representatives were at the front and center on veterans’ issues, or were dynamic veterans themselves. During challenging times at VA, and with more than 10 years in war, these members are on the leading edge of the policies that affect our nation’s service members and veterans.
Representative Jeff Miller
As Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Miller took VA leadership to task as news broke that the Phoenix VA Medical Center had been inappropriately reporting wait times for veteran’s medical appointments. Additionally, Miller played a key role in legislation aimed at ensuring that veterans receive timely healthcare, which included increased funding for VA clinical space, the hiring of physicians and healthcare employees, and the ability to utilize private healthcare in the event that VA is unable to provide services in a timely manner.
United States Representative Jeff Miller also serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He is a former Florida State Representative who attended the University of Florida. Naval Air Station Pensacola is located in his district. He was a strong supporter and proponent of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.
Representative Mike Thompson
Congressman Thompson, a Vietnam Veteran turned vintner, is Co-Chair of the Veterans Congressional Fellowship Caucus. In 2014, Thompson took point with the congressional body for failing to hire veterans. In reaction to the less than 3% of veterans working on Capitol Hill, a number worse than nearly every federal agency, he and Rep. Don Young established the Veterans Congressional Fellowship. The fellowship provides an initial opportunity and training for veterans to get their foot in the door in the Capitol Hill career track. In the summer of 2014, the fellowship hosted the first eight veteran fellows, across numerous offices on both sides of the aisle. The Veterans Congressional Fellowship is expected to host two classes of fellows in 2015. Additionally, Representative Thompson continues to fight for his local veterans leading the way on bringing positive change to the Oakland VA Regional Office; one of the worst in the nation. He has also been a strong proponent of Post 9/11 G.I Bill, the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and TBI/PTSD issues.
In 1990, Thompson was the first Vietnam veteran elected to the California State Senate. He served in combat with the U.S. Army as a staff sergeant/platoon leader with the 173rd Airborne Brigade where he was wounded and received a Purple Heart. He was also an instructor at the Army’s Airborne School.
Thompson is a small vineyard owner and was the maintenance supervisor for the Beringer Winery. He has taught Public Administration and State Government at San Francisco State University and California State University, Chico. He received his Masters of Public Administration from California State University, Chico.
Representative Don Young
Congressman Don Young is the second longest tenured veteran in Congress, second only to Charlie Rangel. Rep. Young is the co-founder of the Veterans Congressional Fellowship Caucus. In 2014, Young took point with the congressional body for failing to hire veterans. In reaction to the less than 3% of veterans working on Capitol Hill, a number worse than nearly every federal agency, he and Representative Mike Thompson, established the Veterans Congressional Fellowship. The fellowship provides an initial opportunity and training for veterans to get their foot in the Capitol Hill career track. In the summer of 2014, the fellowship hosted the first eight veteran fellows, across numerous offices on both side of the aisle. The fellows received extensive legislative and on job training. The Veterans Congressional Fellowship is expected to host two classes of fellows in 2015.
Congressman Don Young was re-elected to the 114th Congress in 2014 to serve his 22nd term as Alaska’s only Representative to the United States House of Representatives. First sworn in as a freshman to the 93rd Congress after winning a special election on March 6, 1973, Congressman Young is today the 1st ranking Republican member and the 3rd ranking overall member of the House of Representatives.
Representative Buck McKeon
In 2014, McKeon chaired the powerful House Armed Services Committee during continued operations in the Middle-East, Afghanistan, and other contingencies across the world. Under his leadership the House renamed the FY2015 NDAA to the Buck McKeon Act that would authorize $600 billion in appropriations. The bill successfully kept the Air Force’s fleet of A-10’s in operation despite best efforts to retire them to save operational funds.
McKeon, a graduate of BYU, retired at the end of the 113th Congress. We suspect he will be spending a great deal of time with his 31 grandchildren.
Representative Dina Titus
Representative Titus actions led to the most controversial Veterans Affairs Committee vote in the 113th Congress. In a Full Committee mark-up she offered legislation that would allow same sex married couples to receive benefits and healthcare from VA. The vote was split on party lines with one Republican voting in favor of the measure. Additionally, she has focused on reducing the claims and appeals backlog, increasing veteran access to National Cemeteries in states that don’t have them, and increasing GI Bill benefits for those pursuing STEM degrees.
Titus, a Georgia native of Greek descent, first came to Nevada as professor of political science at UNLV. She also served in the Nevada Senate.
In 2014, these U.S. Senators were at the front and center on veterans’ issues, or were dynamic veterans themselves. During challenging times at VA, and with more than 10 years in war, these members are on the leading edge of the policies that affect our nation’s service members and veterans.
Senator Tom Cotton
A 2015 dark horse, Cotton had fellow OIF veterans shaking our head in amazement that he had pulled off the win. Cotton enters the 114th Congress as the first Senator to be an OIF generation combat veteran. At 37 he is also the youngest Senator. He continues to employ veterans at a high rate, realizing the leadership skills they bring and that likely contributed to his being the youngest Senate member on Capitol Hill…take note Congress!
An OIF/OEF vet, Cotton attended Harvard (B.A. and J.D.) and was a platoon leader for the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. He is a recipient of the Bronze Star.
Senator John McCain
Senator John McCain continues to offer his own brand of foreign policy and national security. With nearly 33 years of congressional experience in the House and Senate, and a few presidential runs under his belt, McCain continues to be a “go to” for the press on issues such as ISIS, Afghanistan, and other National Security focused issues. He holds the record for Meet the Press appearances for an individual in office.
McCain, a former U.S. Naval aviator who attained the rank of Captain, was shot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam War. He was a POW in the notorious Hanoi Hilton for five and a half years prior to his release. He is highly respected and is a recipient of the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, and the Navy Commendation Medal.
Senator Bernie Sanders
As Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sanders found himself as the gatekeeper between law affecting the Department of Veterans Affairs and a Republican controlled house. As the VA scandals in Phoenix reached the level of a national crisis, Sander’s found himself looking for pragmatic middle-ground as both the public and the nation’s veterans called for immediate action. Sanders played a key role in legislation aimed at ensuring that veterans receive timely healthcare, which included increased funding for VA clinical space, the hiring of physicians and healthcare employees, and the ability to utilize private healthcare in the event that VA is unable to provide services in a timely manner.
Senator Carl Levin
Senator Levin has served as Democratic ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee since 1997, and served as Chairman during the 113th Congress. After his 6th term representing Michigan as the state’s longest serving Senator, Levin delivered his farewell address on Dec. 12, 2014, and leaves behind a truly bipartisan legacy. His time in the Senate was addressed with accolades by numerous members from across the aisle such as, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaking about Levin. “He’s put the country ahead of any partisan politics….working with him on detainees, investigating Abu Ghraib. He has just been a rock-solid chairman of the Armed Services Committee.”
Senator Richard Burr
Senator Burr currently serves the state of North Carolina in his 2nd Senate term as Chairman of Senate Intelligence Committee. Prior to being elected to the Senate, he served North Carolina through five terms in the House. His advocacy for our men and women in the military and their families, and for the growing population of veterans across North Carolina, has earned him a seat on the West Point Board of Visitors.
He carries a great American legacy with him as 12th cousin of Aaron Burr, the former Vice-President, Senator, lawyer, and Continental Army officer known most for defeating Founding Father Alexander Hamilton in an 1804 duel.
Small and Mid-Size Businesses
The veteran community has only grown stronger with the development and progress of these businesses. These small and mid-size businesses are either founded by veterans, or founded with veterans in mind, and they offer insight into the leadership and entrepreneurial talent that exists within the veteran community. As these individual businesses continue to grow, it will mean more opportunities for veterans and supporters to establish themselves within the local community as successful business men and women.
Dawn Halfaker, Founder and CEO, Halfaker and Associates
Ms. Halfaker continues to take the world by storm. “Have a vision. Follow your passion. The money will come,” she says. A West Point Grad, she is the founder and CEO of Halfaker and Associates, a successful, award winning professional services and technology solutions firm founded in 2006. Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, Halfaker and Associates operates worldwide providing cutting-edge, innovative solutions in information technology for government organizations on issues of national and global significance. Under Dawn’s leadership, the Company has achieved extraordinary success and growth and which is fueled by the Company’s vision of “Continuing to Serve.” She is also a Board Member of the Wounded Warrior Project.
Robert Bleier, CEO, Rocky Bleier
As the spokesman of NAVOBA (National Veteran Owned Business Association), Robert “Rocky” Bleier, CEO of Rocky Bleier, Inc. is an accomplished Veteran, who began his service when he was drafted for the Vietnam War. He was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his military service. He moved on to be an extremely successful athlete, mentor and businessman. He is a four-time Super Bowl winner with the Steelers in the 1970s.
Bleier found his calling through motivational speaking. His focus has been to communicate to the broader veteran community, ensuring that veterans understand the importance of sharing and spreading their individual stories and experiences. He is a managing partner of RBVetCo., which works on various VA contracts.
Joseph Kopser and Craig Cummings, Founders, RideScout
When two Army veterans team up, watch out. RideScout originated from imagine this….DC traffic! The idea: what is the quickest way to get from point A to point B utilizing real time data on various available transportation options?Their revolutionary (and genius) tool allows people to search and compare various ground transportation options in real time. RideScout shows a user’s transit, taxi, ride share, car share, bike share, carpool, walking, biking, driving and parking in one view, with transit arrivals and traffic integration.
Word on the street is that they have struck a deal and have or are selling the company to a higher bidder. We will be keeping an eye on these Army Vets and imagine they have more to come!
Top Lobbyist and Influencers Category
The job of lobbying for veterans’ interests brings a diverse selection of individuals for this category. The range of veteran and service member issues is wide and offers a number of perspectives when trying to understand the most relevant problems for multiple generations of veterans. From Vietnam to the most recent Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the individuals listed below represent the most impactful lobbyists and influencers from 2014, those that worked relentlessly to bring positive change to the veteran community.
Rick Weidman, Executive Director for Policy and Government, Vietnam Veterans of America
Rick Weidman continues to be one of the most respected veteran advocates on Capitol Hill. As a co-founder of the Vietnam Veterans of America, and its primary spokesperson in Washington, D.C., Mr. Weidman has long advocated for a host of issues for veterans across the board to include Agent Orange, access to quality mental health care, and employment and small business issues. His efforts have resulted in significant positive results for veterans over numerous decades. Weidman served as a 1-A-O Army Medical Corpsman during the Vietnam War, including service with Company C, 23rd Med, AMERICAL Division, located in I Corps of Vietnam in 1969.
Joe Violante, Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans
Joe Violante, a Vietnam veteran, was appointed National Legislative Director of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) in July 1997. Since that time Mr. Violante has become one of the most respected veteran advocates on Capitol Hill. He leads a pragmatic, solution-oriented team and has gone after many tough issues. His team continues to lead the way on advance appropriations to ensure that the VA is properly funded.
A New Jersey native, Mr. Violante joined the Marine Corps in 1969 and served with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines and Battalion Landing Team 2/4 in Southeast Asia. He was discharged in 1972 with the rank of Sergeant. He attended the University of New Mexico, received a Bachelor’s degree in history and political science, and earned his law degree from the San Fernando Valley College of Law in California. Mr. Violante was a practicing attorney in California before moving to Washington D.C. to work as a Staff Attorney at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Board of Veterans’ Appeals in 1985.
Alex Nicholson, Legislative Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Alexander Nicholson serves as the Legislative Director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). In a short period of time, Nicholson has quickly established himself as one of the leading veteran advocates on Capitol Hill. Armed with IAVA’s strong media presence and strategy, Alex has reinvigorated positive relationships with lawmakers and their staffs on Capitol Hill in an effort to garner positive outcomes on behalf of veterans.
In 2014, his efforts largely focused on introduction and passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act that aims to help reduce military and veteran suicides and improve access to quality mental health care. Prior to joining IAVA, Mr. Nicholson founded and led the advocacy group Servicemembers United.
Mr. Nicholson holds a Bachelors degree in international affairs from the University of South Carolina, a Masters degree in public administration from the University of North Georgia, and is currently completing the dissertation on his Ph.D. in political science from the University of South Carolina.
William Hubbard, Vice President of Government Affairs, Student Veterans of America
As the Vice President of Government Affairs for SVA, Will Hubbard has led the way on veterans’ educational issues on Capitol Hill. With an increased number of veterans departing the military and looking to use their educational benefits, SVA’s role has grown across the nation.
Previously, Will spent several years serving government agencies to include the Department of the Navy, Department of State, and the State of Indiana Department of Revenue. Prior to his career in consulting, he co-founded a successful startup business in the snack food industry, which continues to prosper in the greater Chicago area. He has served SVA at both the chapter and national levels.
Ray Kelley, Legislative Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars
In 2014, Mr. Kelley led the way on Capitol Hill for America’s oldest major Veteran Service Organization – the VFW. He and his team focused on veteran’s issues across all sectors, but were particularly focused on healthcare in light of the recent Phoenix scandal. He also played a critical role in the creation of the Independent Budget, which is intended to inform and educate the public and lawmakers about the most pressing issues affecting VA and veterans.
Formerly the National Legislative Director for AMVETS, Kelley’s credentials as an advocate for America’s veterans are well established. Prior to that, he served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Upon receiving his Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Indiana University, East, Kelley served for three years in the Army Reserve where he conducted over 250 combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
Anu Bhagwati, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Service Women’s Action Network
Bhagwati continues to lead the way on Military Sexual Trauma (MST) reform on Capitol Hill. MST, which has seen continued interest in the media and public, was a large topic of debate in the 113th Congress. Bhagwati was the lead advocate on numerous pieces of legislation that would increase benefits for veterans who have been the victims of MST, while pushing DoD to reform policies to prevent sexual assault in the military and punish those that partake in assaults.
A former Captain and Company Commander, Anu served as a Marine officer from 1999-2004 and was the second woman to complete the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructor trainer school, earning a black belt in close combat techniques. A regular contributor to the media, Anu has been featured on Piers Morgan Tonight, The Situation Room, Fox News, MSNBC, CBS This Morning, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, NPR, BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time and Newsweek and is also featured in the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Invisible War.
Veteran Foundations Category
The individuals in this category have led the charge in promoting veteran-specific initiatives and providing support and funding to improve the quality of veteran and military service members’ lives. These organizations are dedicated to ensuring that the valor and sacrifices made by the men and women in our military are recognized and honored. These foundations’ efforts have worked to bring a number of benefits to veterans, and their commitment to these efforts has increased the overall strength of the veteran and supporter community.
Bob and Lee Woodruff, Founders, Bob Woodruff Foundation
Bob and Lee Woodruff continue to impact the veteran community with their great deeds. Emphasizing rehabilitation and recovery, education and employment, and quality of life, the foundation has provided millions of dollars to entities that are fulfilling these outcomes on behalf of veterans.
In 2014 the foundation provided funds to help veterans to transition into farming, to educating nurses that assist veterans, and to provide programs that reintegrate veterans through a number of physical activities. In 2006, Bob Woodruff was seriously injured by a roadside bomb while reporting for ABC. Since then, he has become a huge advocate on behalf of veterans, service members and those that support them.
Lee Woodruff, as the wife of Bob, has been by his side throughout his recovery. This tragedy that she detailed in her book In an Instant has been the spark that has led to a huge amount of goodwill and assistance to those that serve our Nation.
Marie Tillman, Co-Founder, Tillman Foundation
The number of Tillman Foundation scholars continues to rise, and their accomplishments do not fail to amaze both the veteran community and its supporters. Founded following the death of Pat Tillman, the foundation has changed over the years into an entity that assists veterans in realizing their dreams through educational scholarships.
Marie Tillman has led the way in turning tragedy into a legacy, one that continues to honor Pat’s life, as well as honoring Marie as a survivor, who has found an impactful purpose in enriching the lives of veterans through education.
Kenneth Fisher, Vice Chairman, Fisher House Foundation, Inc.
Ken Fisher continues his family tradition of providing an amazing “home away from home” when veterans and service members are receiving treatment at facilities across the nation. In 2014, sixty-four Fisher Houses served more than 25,000 families in 2014.
When he is not helping service members and their families, Kenneth Fisher is a senior partner at Fisher Brothers, based in New York City, and is part of the third generation of leadership, overseeing the leasing, management and marketing of more than five million square feet of class-A commercial space in Midtown Manhattan covering the Park, 6th and 3rd Avenue corridors and 1.5 million square feet in Washington DC.
Michael Focareto, Founder and CEO, Veteran Tickets Foundation
A U.S. Navy veteran with a long lineage of military service, Focareto found inspiration in helping disabled veterans attend socially interactive events. In 2014, the Veterans Ticket Foundation gave away nearly a half-million tickets. Focareto views social events as a great way to bring veterans families together, while also allowing veterans to socially reintegrate.
HillVets is a bipartisan organization focused on empowering veterans through networking, education and community service. HillVets strives to increase the number of veterans working in government and in business in the Washington DC area. Through various initiatives and events HillVets works to promote and connect veterans to each other and to the broader community. Learn more at: www.HillVets.org.