Think Hall of Fames are regulated just to sports? Turns out that’s not true. In fact, there’s a Robot Hall of Fame in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York, and a Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana. Those HOFs sound like fun but are also a little quirky. The Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame used to be a little quirky, too. Until 2017, it existed only online. Now, the Arkansas HOF is safely nestled inside the State Capitol Building in Little Rock.
A New Kind of Military Veterans Hall of Fame
The Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame is unlike most military HOFs around the country. Most only include veterans who have served overseas. But the one in Arkansas is different. ThiS HOF also includes veterans who have served in domestic capacities – so a deployment isn’t necessary to be nominated.
Colonel Conrad Reynolds founded the Arkansas Military Veterans HOF. He served as a military intelligence officer for 30 years and when he retired knew exactly what he wanted to do. He wanted to make a place to honor all veterans, no matter how they served. So far, 10 cohorts have been inducted to the HOF. All of their stories are also told on the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame website.
All Veterans Calling Arkansas Their Home Can Be Nominated
Every year, the Hall of Fame inducts a maximum of 15 new Arkansas veterans. What’s really exciting is the exhibit at the Capitol building in Little Rock has lots of space. Enough space, in fact, to house another 30 years of veteran inductees! Anyone can be nominated by filling out a form on the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame’s website. With around 50 nominations annually, a committee then narrows it down to just 15. What a difficult task that must be.
The Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame is a non-profit with one goal: to honor the extraordinary veterans who call Arkansas their home. Eligible nominees include those born in Arkansas, those having lived in Arkansas for at least eight years, or those having entered military service from Arkansas.
An F/A-18F Super Hornet, from the “Mighty Shrikes” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 94, launches off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the North Arabian Sea on January 9th.
Nimitz, the flagship of Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and Pacific through the Western Indian Ocean and three critical chokepoints to the free flow of global commerce. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cheyenne Geletka/Released)
One of U.S. Special Forces’ most legendary figures died suddenly and tragically on April 29, 2019. Eldon Bargewell, a 72-year-old retired Major General, was killed after his lawnmower rolled over an embankment near his Alabama home. His 40-year military career saw him serve everywhere from Vietnam to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and probably every hotspot in between.
Bargewell as an enlisted recon troop in Vietnam.
He first joined the military in 1967, going to Vietnam for a year, going home, and then volunteering to return to Vietnam – in the same recon outfit he left a couple of years earlier. He was working areas outside of Vietnam, technically in Laos, monitoring NVA supply routes.
In an action for which he received the Distinguished Service Cross, he was hit by an AK-47 round in the side of his face but still managed to carry on the fight. Deep inside enemy territory, his unit was hit with two RPG rounds as a hail of enemy bullets overcame them. In minutes the entire recon team was wounded. Bargewell, carrying a Russian-made RPD machine gun (because he wanted to ensure he killed the enemies he shot), broke up an onslaught of charging NVA soldiers, numbering anywhere from 75-100 men.
“Very few people come through the path Eldon Bargewell did,” said Maj. Gen. William Garrison, commander of the Special Forces effort to capture a Somali warlord in 1993. “Starting out as a private, working his way as a non-commissioned officer, and then getting to the highest levels of leadership. Very few people can do that. He is the type of man, soldier, leader that we all want to be like.”
Major General Eldon Bargewell, U.S. Army.
The NVA sent wave after wave of men toward the Army Special Forces’ perimeter, and each was gunned down in turn by Bargewell and his 7.62 RPD. With the dead and wounded piling up, including Bargewell himself, the Americans needed to get out of the area in a hurry. They anxiously awaited the helicopters that would lift them to safety. When they finally arrived, Bargewell refused to be evacuated.
“He wouldn’t go up,” said Billy Waugh, Bargewell’s then-Sergeant Major. “He had the weapons that was saving the day… he was the last out and that’s what saved that team.” And it really was. Bargewell went through half of his 1000 rounds protecting the perimeter and defending his fellow soldiers as they boarded the helicopter. That’s when 60 more NVA bum-rushed him.
Bargewell went up with the next helicopter.
“His selfless sacrifice touched so many,” said Lt. Gen. Lawson MacGruder III, one of the Army Rangers’ first commanders and a Ranger Hall of Famer. “In just about every conflict since Vietnam.”
After returning from Vietnam, he went to infantry officer candidate school, earning his commission. From there he commanded special operations teams in Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, the Middle East, El Salvador, Panama, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, and Afghanistan. In his last deployment, he was the director of special operations at Headquarters Multi-National Force-Iraq in Baghdad. He retired in 2006, the most decorated active duty soldier at the time.
World War II was so large and all-encompassing that one could spend a lifetime researching and barely scratch the surface of stories to tell. James Shipman, Amazon best-selling author of several historical fiction books, knows this and has a knack for picking interesting stories from this timeframe.
His latest book, Task Force Baum, is no exception as it tells a not very well-known story from the waning days of the war. I conducted an interview with the author of the book so he can talk about his latest offering.
This interview has been lightly edited for formatting and presentation purposes.
Hi, James! Thanks for taking time to talk to us today. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello. It is such an honor to be able to contribute to this site dedicated to our military and families. I’m a historical fiction author published by Kensington Publishing. I have five historical novels. My most recent title, Task Force Baum, is the subject of this interview. This book was published on November 26, 2019, and is available on Amazon.com, Barnes Noble, and other book sites. Hudson Booksellers, with stores in most of the airports in the United States, has a special paperback edition that is part of their great reads program.
As for me, I’m an attorney and mediator. I live in the Pacific Northwest, north of Seattle, with my wife and our blended family of seven (yes, that’s seven) kids. Most of them are away at college. I’m a lifelong student of history and the military. My books have covered the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the American Civil War, and my last three books have all taken place during World War II.
Given your occupation as a lawyer, what prompted you to choose historical fiction over mysteries and/or legal thrillers?
I have a degree in history. I constantly read history, particularly military history, and that’s what I have a passion for. When I write, I’m able to dig much deeper into the thoughts and experiences of the people I’m writing about. It’s a delightful process, and I love doing it. The last thing I want to do is write about the legal world. That would feel like I’m working twenty-four hours a day!
Could you briefly tell our readers a bit about the historical ‘Task Force Baum’ and what happened?
Task Force Baum was an unauthorized raid ordered by General Patton late in World War II. He sent three hundred men and a handful of tanks fifty miles behind enemy lines to liberate an officer’s POW camp. LTC Abrams wanted to send an entire Combat Command, but Patton overruled him. The raid was thrown together with no air support and limited intelligence concerning enemy strength, roads and bridges available, and the location and number of prisoners at the POW camp.
Coming close to the end of the war, this seemed like a rather obscure military action. When did you first hear of it, and what drew you to tell a dramatic version of this story?
I came across this reading, John Toland’s The Last 100 Days. I’d never heard of this raid before and decided I had to write a book about it. I was in the middle of another project, and I set that aside and wrote this book instead.
Reading this book, it really did not feel like a ‘war’ book as much as it felt like a book about the people fighting this war. Was this your intent?
Yes. I think the one advantage of historical fiction over narrative non-fiction is the chance to see and feel the events as they unfold, rather than just reporting them. I also like to place imperfect people into the story and see how they act and react as the story moves along. I do not take liberties with real people. For example, Major Alexander Stiller and Captain Abraham Baum are depicted as the brave and hard-working men they were in reality.
One thing I was surprised about was I came away thinking this book was as much about Hauptmann Richard Koehl of the Wehrmacht fighting the Americans as it was about the rescue mission. What were your thoughts on giving his story as much attention as you did?
I like to dig into the Germans as people. I think it’s a mistake to paint the Nazis as simple two-dimensional monsters. People are so much more complex than that. Some people are merely doing their duty. Others are acting one way and intending to do something entirely different. I’m sure members of your site who served overseas in wartime experienced that very thing when interacting with the communities and even the enemies they had to deal with.
What was one historical detail you learned in your research about Task Force Baum that surprised you?
I was surprised at how fiercely the Germans were still fighting on the Western Front in late March 1945. The narrative so often is that after the Bulge and particularly after we moved over the Rhein, German opposition collapsed, and the enemy focused on trying to hold back the Russians while surrendering to the English and the Americans.
I noticed two of your previous works were set in World War II. Is there something about that era which speaks to you specifically as a writer?
World War II is fascinating because it is so easy to see this as an epic battle of survival between right and wrong. Germany in World War II was fighting a war of aggression and perpetuating a massive genocide. This also was the only modern war we’ve fought where our own nation was in significant jeopardy (although more from the Japanese than the Germans).
If there were one era of time and/or specific event you would like to write about, what is it? Why?
I’d like to interview some Vietnam veterans and write either a historical novel or a narrative non-fiction book about that conflict. There is some great work out there already about the Vietnam war, but compared to World War II, I think there is so much that hasn’t been covered.
Looking forward, could you share with us anything about your next project?
My next book, which will come out in December 2020, is about Irena Sendler. Irena Sendler was a social worker living in Warsaw, Poland, during World War II. She was the leader of a cell that smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto and hid them with Polish families during the Holocaust. Almost all of these children survived the war while their families were killed at Treblinka and Auschwitz.
Task Force Baum is now available for purchase with book retailers everywhere.
At age 83, Marine Corps veteran William Cox stands and walks with the help of a cane. But for one day in November, 2017, he stood for hours without it, wearing his old uniform. It was the last act of a promise he made in 1968 to his best buddy in Vietnam. That buddy, James Hollingsworth, was laid to rest that day.
Cox is a Vietnam War veteran and retired Master Sergeant. It was New Year’s Eve and he and retired First Sergeant Hollingsworth were fortified down in a bunker in the Marble Mountains, just south of Da Nang. From above them, the Viet Cong were raining explosives down on their position. Rockets, mortars, whatever the VC could find. As fiery death pelted their position, they made a promise to each other.
“Charlie was really putting on a fireworks show for us,” Cox told the Greenville News. “If we survived this attack, or survived Vietnam, we would contact each other every year on New Years.”
And they kept the pact they made in that bunker every year for 50 years. Cox, who lives in Piedmont, S.C., visited Hollingsworth at his Anderson County home just under 20 miles away. But it was another promise Cox made to Hollingsworth that was finally fulfilled one day in late November, 2017 — the retired Master Sergeant stood guard at his longtime friend’s funeral as he was laid to rest.
He then delivered his eulogy.
That was also a promise kept, but not one made in Vietnam. When Cox found out his buddy was terminally ill, he made a visit. That’s when Hollingsworth made the morbid request of his longtime friend. The two had known each other long before spending that explosive New Year’s Eve together in 1968. Their bond as Marines kept their friendship for the rest of their lives.
Hollingsworth, a helicopter mechanic, and Cox, an ordnance chief, served in a helicopter squadron together. At the end of each mission, Cox would deliver Hollingsworth a line he delivered one last time at the end of his best friend’s eulogy.
“Hollie, you keep ’em flying, and I’ll keep ’em firing.”
Every Monday morning in the United States Army, companies gather around their battalion motor pool to conduct maintenance on their vehicles. On paper, the NCOs have the drivers of each and every vehicle perform a PMCS, or preventive maintenance checks and services, to find any deficiencies in their Humvee or LMTV. In reality, the lower-enlisted often just pop open the hood, check to see if it has windshield-wiper fluid, and sit inside to “test” the air conditioning.
Not to rat anyone out or anything — because basically everyone with the rank of specialist does it — but there’s a legitimate reason the chain of command keeps it on the schedule each week, and it’s not to kill time until the gut truck arrives.
It’s then on the mechanics to handle the serious problems. And trust me, mechanics are rarely sitting on their asses waiting for new vehicles to fix. They’ve got a lot of actual issues to worry about.
The biggest reason why the troops need to conduct a PMCS is to help the mechanics in the unit determine which vehicles need repairs. A platoon of mechanics can’t honestly be expected to monitor and address each and every fault across a 200-plus vehicle motor pool. Sharing the responsibility among all troops in the battalion means that more attention can be given to the problems that need them.
If there is a deficiency found within a vehicle, then it can be brought to the mechanics. If it’s something simple, like low fluid levels, the mechanics can just give the troops the tools they need to handle the minor things.
If it’s leaking, well, at least let the mechanic know before you make a made dash for the gut truck.
(Meme via Vet Humor)
Say a vehicle does eventually break down (which it will — thank the lowest bidder), the mechanics are the ones taking the ass-chewing. Sure, whoever was assigned that vehicle may catch a little crap, but the the mechanic is also taking their lashing — all because someone else skimmed through the checklist and said it was “fine.” So, if you don’t want to blue falcon your fellow soldier, do your part.
Having a vehicle deadline is terrible — but having a vehicle break down in the middle of the road is much worse. If you want to be certain that the vehicle is operational, you should probably give it a test drive around the motor pool to check the engine and brakes. If you can’t take it out for a spin, there are a number of major issues that you can see just by opening the hood and kicking the tires.
Even if you’re strongly opposed to putting in extra effort, the two costliest defects can be found just by looking around the vehicle. If you’re going to sham, at least check to see if there are any fluids leaking or if the tires are filled.
If silver screen legend James Dean hadn’t died in a 1955 car accident, he would be 88 years old, much too old to portray a Vietnam War-era soldier in the upcoming film Finding Jack. But he did die in that car crash, and he’s not actually being resurrected to star in the new movie – but his image and likeness are.
Set against the background of the Vietnam War, Finding Jack is about Fletcher Carson, a volunteer troop in the U.S. Army who lost his family and his will to live back home. He joins, hoping to lose his life in combat. Instead, he gains a Labrador Retriever who helps nurse him back to physical and emotional health. When it comes time for the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, the dogs are declared surplus equipment and are destined to be left behind. Carson, like many troops, wasn’t willing to part with his new battle buddy.
The story is based on the real events surrounding the withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam. The Nixon Administration really implemented this policy as a cost-saving measure. Thousands of military working dogs who helped American forces in the Vietnam War really were left behind at war’s end, their fate (like many Americans, POWs, and MIAs) would forever be unknown.
An estimated 10,000 dogs were left behind in Vietnam.
The legendary actor, who originally died at age 24, has been cast in the film adaptation of the book. The production company producing the film got the permission of his family before casting the star of Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden. Dean will star as a secondary character named Rogan in the film.
“We searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan, which has some extreme complex character arcs, and after months of research, we decided on James Dean,” Anton Ernst, one of the directors, told The Hollywood Reporter.
While Finding Jack will be a live-action film, James Dean will be reproduced through the use of computers, using actual footage and photos. His voice will be dubbed by another actor. So far, Dean is the only known cast member of the film.
A well-made whiskey cocktail is a nice reward at the end of any day. But sometimes classic cocktails are too much. For one thing, unless you’re a seasoned drink-slinger, many whiskey cocktails are often too complicated — or intensive — to whip up at the end of a long day (Hey if you want to shake the hell out of that classic whiskey sour, go right ahead). For another, the alcohol content of one concoction can quickly equal that of two or three regular drinks. Sometimes this is great; other times, not so much. Because while we’d like this to not be the case, “falling asleep in the chair” is not really a regular item on the nightly to-do list.
That’s what inspired this list of one-shot whiskey cocktails. They’re all great to sip at the end of the day but won’t put you on your ass — or require four kinds of hooch and one of those hilariously long copper mixing spoons. They’re simple, refreshing, and very drinkable. What more do you want from a summer cocktail?
What is it? The Blinker is a simple, refreshing drink made with grapefruit juice and rye whiskey. While they might not seem like the most obvious combination, one sip and it might just become your new summer go to.
Try it with: Michter’s Rye. It’s bold enough to shine through the intensity of the grapefruit tang.
How to make a Blinker:
2-3oz fresh grapefruit juice
1oz raspberry syrup
Instructions: Shake over ice and strain into a coupe glass.
2. Bourbon and Georgia Peach Coca-Cola
What is it? A way better version of the classic whiskey and Coke.
Try it with: Knob Creek. The strong vanilla notes compliment the peach flavoring.
How to make a Bourbon and Georgia Peach Coca-Cola:
1-2oz Knob Creek Bourbon
4-6oz Georgia Peach Coca-Cola
Garnish with a fresh slice of peach
Instructions: Fill a highball glass with ice and add all the ingredients.
What is it? It’s just an Old Fashioned made with Scotch instead of rye or bourbon. The Old Fashioned is a perfect cocktail and normally we don’t like to tinker with perfection. But, variety is the spice of life and Scotch is, and always will be our first love.
Try it with: Ardbeg 10. This single malt adds a big peaty smoke as well as a touch of salt and pepper for a more layered drink.
How to make a Single Malt Old Fashioned:
1-2oz Single Malt Scotch
2-3 Dashes of bitters
1 Tsp of simple syrup
Top with 1oz club soda
Orange peel for garnish
Instructions: Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add the ingredients.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
At the end of 2019, BMC Toys responded to 6-year-old Vivian Lord’s inquiry as to why there are only green Army men by designing some green Army women with 15 different poses. Now the toy designer is expanding the set to include military working dogs and their handlers, as well.
“[Please] can you make army girls that look like women,” Vivian wrote. “I would play with them every day and my [friends] would [too]!”
Jeff Imel, the owner of the Pennsylvania toy company, launched a Kickstarter campaign with a simple premise: “Customers asked for Plastic Army Women. The story went viral. So, now I’m making them.”
The campaign was such a success that BMC Toys unlocked stretch goals that upgraded the set to 36 figures in with six additional poses:
Light Machine Gunner
By Dec. 17, 2019, even more stretch goals had been unlocked, which added the Medical Team and the K9 Team to the set.
“Why do you not make Girl army men[?] My [friend’s] mom is in the army [too]!” wrote Vivian, voicing the concerns that many veterans have asked over the years. Introducing young girls to military toys that include them will help shape their ideas of what they can achieve in their lives.
BMC Toys recognized this fact and set to work, hiring a sculptor for their first prototype.
The BMC Female Combat Soldiers, which are marketed as “real American Made plastic heroes, meant to be set up, knocked down, picked up and played with for years to come” are in development for production and will become available in October 2020.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist, and storyteller.
Being the unit’s cartoonist is an incredible responsibility. For one, you have to decide what will live on in the annals of history and two, you have to find stories that are funny. A gift that has come to me throughout my life. Yes but a gift… or a curse?
I was approached on so, so many occasions by a chuckling brother to the effect: “Geo! ha ha ha, hey listen, ha ha ha, how ’bout you do a cartoon of Bob spilling his juice in the chow hall and all the guys are saying, like: ‘awww man… you spilled your juice!” ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
The inherent humor in Bob spilling his juice is debatable at best, but let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s there. The narrative of the man’s snappy comeback… not so funny. I had two choices in the matter strictly from my perspective:
1. Let the man down gently: “Man, I’m really sorry, but that scenario just doesn’t pass the acid test, my brother. Look, it has nothing to do with you personally; it’s really just a business decision, a very difficult business decision. I got mad love for you my brother, but I have a reputation to maintain here in the Unit. I’m sorry, but my hands are tied.”
2. Freakish exaggerations are the very core of the power of the cartoon. I can take the pallid tale of Bob spilling of his juice coupled with the vapid remarks from the men and wildly exaggerate the whole scenario to make it so ridiculous as to be funny.
I can show a dozen men being washed out of the chow hall door by a flood of red liquid (Bob’s juice), with men donned in various levels of gear associated with waterborne operations and perhaps one man yelling: “Hey, do we get paid dive credit this month for this?!?
Not really funny? I feel you, dawg. There isn’t a set “formula” for hilarity, but two variables that help are mistakes and commanding officers. The poor Commanding Officer of our squadron had been out on the flat range one day with a new assault rifle in an effort to adjust his gun sites for accuracy. In some cases, new gun sites can be wildly off the bull’s eye.
(Outdoor shooting flat range where the distance to the target is Known Distance, or KD)
His first mistake, well… his ONLY mistake, was to guest himself onto a range where the boys were already conducting *Blaze Ops. There are always those occasional line-walkers that feel the urge to stroll the target line to see how those around them fair in accuracy. Well, a brother noted that the boss’ cupboard was bare; he had slick paper with no bullet impacts on it. The launch sequence was initiated; the man couldn’t get to me fast enough to tell me all about how the boss himself had flown all of his rounds off his target:
“Ha, ha ha… Geo, you could show — ha, ha, ha, — the boss with a clean target — ha, ha, ha, — and the guys could all be saying, like, ‘Hey there boss… it looks like you missed your target!’ — ha, ha, ha!”
“Yeah, man… that’s a total riot — I’ll get right to work on that.”
Hence the morass (morass is what you use when you don’t have enough ass). I didn’t think it was necessarily funny that the boss had rounds off paper, but if anyone else had done that his chops would have been busted. I couldn’t let the boss off the hook so easily. I ginned up ideas that came to mind.
What is generally said to a person who launches with poor accuracy whether it a gun or a rock or a baseball? One of my more obscure phrases is: “He couldn’t hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle,” said during WWII of the inaccurate pilot of a dive bomber.
(American SBD Dauntless dive bomber. It was this same bomber that sank all fourJapanese aircraft carriers during the pivotal battle of Midway.)
Ok then: “He couldn’t hit the side of a barn.” That nicely anchored the theme: Everyone’s target is the usual half man-sized cardboard target on a plank, with the boss’ target being an entire barn facing sideways… silo and hay loft… the nine yards. Then I added a Range Safety Officer in the parapet calling out the disposition of the bullet strikes to the men at the firing line.
It was a done deal. All that was left was to jones over that future moment when the boss and I would inevitably pass each other in the hall, just he and I… awkward!
Marines never change. We’re simple creatures. Whether it’s in the air, on the land, at sea, or in the outer reaches of space, we’re going to find a way to restrict everyone’s liberty by doing what we do best: getting drunk and fighting things.
Any place we go, you’ll know we were there. Not just because of the trail of destruction and bodies we leave in our wake, but because we’ve found a way to distinguish ourselves by looking and acting like the most primitive humans to ever exist in the modern era.
This type of thing will not change in space, no matter how far we go. Here are a few things that Marines will still do, even if we’re in the Andromeda system:
1. Get married to an alien stripper in their first month
Once we establish colonies on other planets, you know there will be tons of alien strip clubs and tattoo parlors set up just outside the gates of any military installation — and you know where they’ll get their business? The Space Force Marines. One of the FNGs is bound to fall in love with an alien stripper and marry it within a month of arriving on station.
It’ll become a competition to see who can hit someone on a planet’s surface from orbit.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
2. Throw space rocks at each other
When Marines get bored of waiting, they end up finding rocks to throw at each other. No, I’m not kidding. This is a popular pastime among Marines.
This won’t change, even if they’re in space. If anything, the lowered gravity will only make this more enjoyable.
We might even try to eat it.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
3. Find dangerous alien creatures to interact with
If you’ve ever been in a desert with Marines, then you know we’ve got some uncanny ability to find rattlesnakes and scorpions to play with. Here’s what would happen in the Space Force: Marines arrive on a new planet and find some kind of acid-spitting alien creature and decide it would be a good idea to pick it up and keep it as a pet.
Pro-tip: Don’t touch anything you aren’t familiar with.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
4. Eat strange, alien plants
There’s always that one Southern guy in your platoon who, while in a jungle, will just rip moss off trees and drink the water from it — or they’ll see some leafy plant and chew on it when they run out of tobacco.
Chances are, they’ll do the same on some distant planet.
The Mars rover already did it, but it lacked a human touch.
The military community is rallying around LeahAnn Sweeney, United States Marine Corps veteran and Pin-Ups for Vets Ambassador, as she battles breast cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sweeney was a Motor Transport Operator in the Marines and served with the San Diego County Sheriff Department before volunteering at veterans’ bedsides with her fellow pin-ups; now, the single mother of three could use a little help of her own.
Her family has created a Meal Train, where people can make a monetary donation or sign up to bring a meal to LeahAnn and her family.
Sweeney served four years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps, operating motor transport tactical wheeled vehicles and equipment that transported passengers and cargo in support of combat and garrison operations. As a 3531, she also performed crew/operator level maintenance on all tools and equipment for assigned vehicles. Throw in her career as a Deputy Sheriff and I think it’s safe to say we’ve got a certifiable badass on our hands.
Spotting an active member of the local Southern California community, Pin-Ups for Vets (an organization dedicated to helping hospitalized and deployed service members and their families) invited Sweeney to become part of its 2020 fundraising calendar.
“It brings a sense of gratitude and joy to be able to bring a smile to those who have proudly served our country. I am especially fond of visiting the few remaining World War II veterans and hearing their stories, as I have a personal family history of those who served and sacrificed during that wartime era,” Sweeney has said of the non-profit organization.
LeahAnn Sweeney in the 2020 Pin-Ups for Vets fundraising calendar.
“LeahAnn has led a life of service, from doing four years in the Marine Corps as a Motor Transport Operator, to getting out and working for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy Sheriff, to doing ‘service after service’ as a volunteer with our non-profit organization,” remarked Gina Elise, the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets. “As long as I have known LeahAnn, I have had so much respect and admiration for her. When she says she is going to be there, she is there, always willing to lend a hand where it is needed. She has been incredible with the patients at the VA Hospital, providing her beautiful smile to brighten their day and an ear to listen to their stories. My heart goes out to her and her family. As they say, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine’ so I know she will be able to fight this. She knows that her fellow Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors will be there as her support network.”
Her spirit of service and generosity have spurred a movement of those willing to show their support.
“As a single mother of three children, the need to feed her family doesn’t stop, but she’ll only be able to leave her home for mandatory tests and treatments during this quarantine. Providing basic groceries and meals are a vital part of her family’s care and her personal recovery,” said the Meal Train organizer, Lindsay Hassebrock.
Anyone who wants to mobilize and show support can share this article or links to the Meal Train, donate right here to help, or even sign up to cover a dinner for the Sweeney family.
And LeahAnn, if you’re reading this, just know that your military family has your back. Semper Fi.
Featured Image courtesy of United States Marine Corps and Marie Monforte Photography
As the holidays are upon us, finding happiness in the midst of a pandemic has been challenging. One Army couple is using music to heal, connect and bring joy to veterans and military families around the world.
When retired Army Sergeant 1st Class Jose Pomales enlisted at 17 years old in 1997, it wasn’t to become a member of the Army Field Band. Although he was an accomplished piano player growing up in Puerto Rico, he became a combat medic. He would serve as one during and after the attacks on the World Trade Center, deploying multiple times. In 2005, to the surprise of many, Jose made the decision to leave his MOS and return to his first passion: music.
“When you join after high school, you are just a kid. You sort of grow up in the Army. I had to grow up fast,” Jose explained. “Changing into music, everyone looked at me like ‘Why are you doing that?’ I saw a pianist playing with the [Army Field Band] and that was it.” Once Jose realized that he could apply to be part of the music program, he dove in – ready to make a difference in another way. He was able to deploy with the Army Field Band all over the world, bringing music to troops and boosting morale.
For Army Staff Sergeant Megan Pomales, music was always for her. A “choir kid” growing up and avid piano player, she knew she wanted to continue with it. But she also felt a calling to serve, joining the Army Reserves after graduating college in 2008. “I was working for Universal Music Group in New York for a record label… But when I saw the road it would really take for me to dedicate my life to music in the record label industry, it just wasn’t for me,” Megan said.
Megan also took a leap of faith, diving into active duty with the Army by serving in their music program. In 2011, she found herself at Fort Bragg in the Army Ground Forces Band as a vocalist and keyboard player. Later on, she made her way to Fort Eustis in Virginia where she met Jose. “I walked in and saw him and was like, ‘What is happening…’ – I avoided him like the plague,” she said with a laugh.
It wasn’t long before the two soldiers became good friends and began dating, eventually marrying. Although they both have a very different background before joining the Army, their passion and belief in the power of music connected them right away. “I know I am very privileged with my position in the Army because I know Jose sees things from a very different world view with his combat medic experience,” Megan said.
Jose retired from the Army in 2018 and Megan began singing the lead with the Six String Soldiers in 2019. Although the Army Field band is known for doing traveling shows and their well-received holiday shows, COVID-19 has greatly changed the way they deliver music. This year, they wanted to go the extra mile to bring holiday cheer. Megan received a message from a fellow soldier and producer sharing that he wanted her to sing ‘Christmas 1914’ for the 2020 Holiday Show. “He sent it to me as a YouTube video and I listened to it and was completely undone,” Megan shared.
Written by Catherine Rushton in 2004, the song is an emotional and haunting walk down the experiences of ground troops fighting during World War I. In 1914 the Pope suggested a truce for Christmas. Taking the suggestion to heart, the Germans and allied troops entered into an unofficial cease fire. Tales were told of Christmas carols being sung and words of goodwill echoing through the night. The lyrics of the song tell a story of the beauty of Christmas and the reality of war that followed the celebration: For three days we played football, three nights we drank and sang, ‘til it came time to say farewell. Then we went to ground; each side fired three rounds. And just like that we all were back in hell.
Never again would a war fully pause, but the memory of it lives on.
Not only did Megan take on the historic lyrics for the Sound The Bells show, but the Army also granted approval to record a music video to accompany the powerful song. Set in a church built before World War I, it was a fitting setting. Megan admits it was an emotional song to sing and there were definitely times it was difficult for her not to show it. It is her hope that the spirit of the song will hit home and remind people of possibilities, especially as the world continues to battle the pandemic.
Jose and Megan share a deep love of purpose and giving that they are able to bring to fellow soldiers, veterans and military families through music. Knowing that they can create a connection, smile or bring peace as they serve their country is the reward of a lifetime.
Happy Holidays! We Are The Mighty has proudly produced a holiday musical with the US Army Field Band, titled Sound the Bells. This excellent family entertainment will air multiple times on FOX BUSINESS and FOX NATION from 12/23 to 12/26.