Cyber Monday might not be as fun this year, since we’ve all been shopping online all year, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some seriously steep discounts available on everything from new gear to new tech. Tackle your holiday shopping list or just treat yourself to something new with this list of discounts every veteran needs.
Clothing and Apparel
Cozy up with new jeans, sweaters or socks to keep you warm through the long winter. Or, treat yourself to a new gym outfit so you don’t feel too guilty about that second slice of pie. Round out your shopping spree with a new pair of sneakers or dream big and buy a pair of heels for when the world reopens.
New Year, New You deserves new gear! Grab a subscription to Audible and get the latest books delivered right to your device. Crush your at home workout goals with a set of weighted bangles. Step up your steps with a new Fitbit. Then, when you’re ready to relax, snuggle in with a weighted blanket while your new air purifier makes the air crisp and clean.
Cyber Monday is all about the tech deals, and with good reason. This year, retailers are offering everything from steep discounts on gaming consoles to laptops. Work from Home just got a whole lot better with a brand new device. Speaking of devices, Verizon is offering crazy good deals on Monday on all of their phones and tables. Check out their website for full details.
Listen, condoms will save your life. You may not believe it, but the condom is a multipurpose force multiplier that does more than protect one’s little trooper from NBC threats during unarmed combat. The idea of having condoms isn’t even all that new, so this may be old news to many readers. Even the Army’s official survival handbook lists condoms as a necessary item for survival kits.
The reasons are many, and I’m going to list them without a single dick joke. Sorry.
Water is the number one reason you should carry condoms in your survival kit as a U.S. troop. Water is the number two reason you should carry condoms in your survival kit as a civilian. Condoms, of course, are designed to keep fluids in – and they are really, really good at it. When properly handled, a condom can carry two liters of water. Just tie it off with a stick and wrap it in a sock, and you’ve got yourself a durable water container.
You should probably use non-lubricated condoms for this purpose.
I don’t mean you should be using condoms just for the Tinder dating app (although you should definitely be using condoms if you’re on the Tinder dating app). A condom can carry a lot of flammable material and – as I mentioned – the condom is totally waterproof so it will keep your cotton, newspaper, Doritos, whatever you use as tinder, dry.
Also, be advised that a condom will go up in flames faster than you’re going to be comfortable watching. You can use them as tinder themselves and will even start a fire.
Turns out condoms are good at protecting a rifle and a gun, whether you’re fighting or having fun. This is actually a fairly common use among survivalists who spend a lot of time outdoors. You may see (again, non-lubricated) condoms over the barrel of a weapon to keep mud, dirt, and water out. They even make little condoms for this purpose.
If you haven’t noticed by now, the condom’s greatest strengths are its elasticity and waterproofing. You can use the condom as a crude tourniquet in case of injury, but you can also use it as a rubber glove to protect both yourself from blood-borne disease and protect your patient from whatever muck is on your grubby little hands.
In 2015, a new generation of lieutenants arrived at Army units. They arrived unannounced with no notice to their receiving commands. These officers are technology-based, possess an innate ability to find information, and are closely aware of the geopolitical environment. While this surge of new thoughts and ideas could be invigorating to the organization, it is more likely that these generational differences will create personality conflicts between senior leaders and these new officers. Some senior officers may not recognize their inherent strengths and only highlight their reliance on social networking and lack of concrete experience.
While academic research continues to explore the impact of differences between the societal generations, it is possible to understand how generational divides have influenced the Army’s officer corps. Due to the strict hierarchical structure of the Army and “time-in-grade” requirements for promotions, the officer corps naturally segregates along generational lines. These prerequisites produce officer cohorts that often share similar societal experiences and may develop similar personality traits.
Currently, there are four generations operating in the Army, individually banded to a specific set of ranks. Each of these generations has different and specific perspectives shaped by their generational experiences. For example, some current general officers tend to strongly value organizational loyalty, colonels and lieutenant colonels prefer to empower junior officers and NCOs, majors and captains are comfortable with change, and the new lieutenants have vast digital networks that help them gain context within the strategic environment.
Acknowledging that there are fundamental personality differences within the entire chain of command is important to create an atmosphere that enables trust and growth. In order to optimize effectiveness, officers must accept that generational differences exist in the Army, understand how those differences currently influence officer interactions and recognize how to leverage the strengths of each generation of officers.
Generational Differences in the Army
A generational label is a brand given to a societal cohort born between a set of birth years. Since these generations experience the same social influences, successes, tragedies, and technologies during the formative years of their lives, they often develop a shared societal personality and view of the world. How old someone is when he or she experiences a key national event can have a profound impact on their personality.
Current studies in neurodevelopment show that visual and emotional experiences during the teenage years are molding and shaping neural brain connections (Hensch, 2016). When the events of World War II, Kennedy’s assassination, and 9/11 happened, teenagers observed and processed them much different than their parents and grandparents. The summation of these events shapes and influences each of these cohorts into a shared identity and culture. It becomes so pervasive, that psychologists label these cohorts by both birth year and personality type, and thus the terms Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials become common societal lexicon.
Without analysis, one might assume that the Army avoids societal generational issues within the officer ranks. With the physical, mental, and societal requirements needed for admittance into the US Army, less than 30% of American youths are eligible for military service (Christeson, 2009). Given these limitations, less than 0.03% of the US population will wear a US Army uniform, and only about 15% of that small amount will become an officer (Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, 2015).
The military’s strict admission standards suggest that the officer corps does not represent a cross-section of society, and in turn, a cross-section of societal generations. In 2000, Dr. Leonard Wong conducted extensive interviews of the officer corps and noted that “distinctions between Boomers and Xers are not as glaring because self-selection into the Army serves to homogenize the population.”
However, Dr. Wong (2000) did find that generational differences still emerged. Due to the hierarchical structure of the Army, officer’s promotions are based on performance and time of service. These factors sectionalize the Army’s leaders by age and band them to a specific set of ranks. While a civilian organization may hire a Millennial to serve as a manager of Generation X subordinates, the Army will not directly hire someone to serve as a senior officer. Based on these formal personnel practices, the current Army typically has Baby Boomers as senior generals, Gen X-ers as lieutenants colonel to two-star generals, Millennials as captains to lieutenants colonel, and the iGeneration as cadets to lieutenants.
Impacts of Generations on the Officer Corps
After recognizing that generational differences permeate the force, it is important to understand how these differences influence officer behavior. The effects of generational personalities ripple through the officer corps as each level of command interacts differently with those above and below. Due to the hierarchical structure of the military and the low speed of change, programs enacted by senior leaders can prevail for decades. In fact, aspects of programs implemented by officers born in the 19th century still persist in the Army today. Therefore, in order to capitalize on the strengths of each generation, there should be a better understanding of how the officer corps evolved over the years. While there are currently four generations of officers serving in uniform, a review of the earlier officer generations helps fully understand the rolling ebb and flow of the officer corps.
Lost Generation to Silent Generation
The first major influence on the US Army officer corps was the Lost Generation. These officers were born from 1883 to 1899 and were lieutenants and captains in World War I, field grades in the inter-war period, and general officers during World War II and the Korean War. As children, these officers lived through a period of economic and political reform as the United States struggled with worker strikes and intense political corruption. As lieutenants, they experienced the brutal battlefields of World War I and returned disillusioned from the horrors of the war. Their disillusionment colored their experiences so strongly that Ernest Hemingway labeled the generation as “Lost” because the veterans seemed confused and aimless (Hynes, 1990). In the interwar period, these officers witnessed the 1920 National Defense Act cut the Army to a skeleton shell (U.S. Congress, 1940). With little to no troops in their commands, they focused on education and broadening opportunities. The best of these officers attended the prestigious Command and General Staff College and Army War College (Yarger, 1996). As general officers, these officers quickly mobilized a large US Army, developed new combined arms doctrine, and ultimately won a protracted war across two fronts (House, 2002). Ultimately, these officers witnessed the brutality of war on all its fronts and responded to the call to rid the world of great evil. These officers primed America to move into a new era of development and safety. Their new problem, it seemed, was constraining their overly ambitious G.I. Generation subordinates.
The G.I. Generation, also known as the Greatest Generation, was born from 1900 to 1924. These officers were lieutenants and captains in World War II, field grade officers in Korea, and generals during the Vietnam Conflict. As children, they received an increased emphasis on education and were members of the newly formed boy scouts, learning “patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred values” (Townley, 2007). Their civic-mindedness bloomed during “The Great War” and they steeled their resolve through the Great Depression. As young officers during World War II, they saw the might of collective organization and teamwork; leading to their mantra of “bigger is better” (Howe and Strauss, 2007). Leaving the war victorious, these officers learned that with tenacity and teamwork, anything is possible. When these officers entered the battlefield of the Korean War, they were ready for the same audacious fight they won five years earlier. However, they commanded battalions that were undermanned and under-equipped for a protracted war on the austere Korean peninsula (Fehrenbach, 1963). These officers arrived home with no fanfare for their sacrifice, a stark contrast to their arrival home from World War II. While these officers sought to understand their Cold War role, their civilian peers flourished in America’s economic boom. By the arrival of Vietnam, the GI Generation occupied the senior positions within the Army, and they disliked the lack of civic support from younger generations (Howe and Strauss, 1992). They believed that their hard work and struggles paved a golden path and the public critique and disobedience from subordinates only disgraced their sacrifice.
The Silent Generation was born between 1925 and 1942. These officers were lieutenants and captains in the Korean War, field grade officers during Vietnam, and generals during the Cold War. As children, this generation saw their parents struggle through the Great Depression and then depart for World War II. In college and the workplace, they found that the returning G.I. Generation veterans received preferential treatment and immediately assumed leadership positions in organizations. As lieutenants during the Korean War, they performed admirably on the tactical battlefield. However, the war’s stalemate and lack of homecoming contributed to these officer’s feelings of being part of the “forgotten war” (McCraine and Hyer, 2000). Due to the shadow of their G.I. Generation leaders and the rejection from the Korean War, these officers valued inclusion, acceptance, and conformity (Howe and Strauss, 2007). This was most poignant when Silent Generation officers became field grades during the Vietnam Conflict. As mid-level leaders, they were inclined to mediate between some overbearing G.I. Generation generals and some radical Baby Boomer company grade officers. Ever the peace-maker, the Silent Generation officer worked to appease both sides and succeeded in appeasing neither (Howe and Strauss, 2007). Having to define their own boundaries and identity in a G.I. Generation world, the Silent Generation officer became masters of a process-driven society. Showcased with the Total Quality Management program, these officers strove to maximize efficiency from the grandiose system they received from their G.I. Generation leaders (Department of Defense 1988). As general officers, they struggled to understand why Boomer field grade officers did not appreciate or understand their process-driven approach to problem-solving and leader development.
Baby Boomer: Current 3 and 4 Star Generals (tail end of the generation)
The Baby Boomer officers, or Boomers, were born from 1943 to 1960. These officers were company grade officers during the Vietnam Conflict, field grade officers during the Cold War and Desert Storm, and generals during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. As children, Boomers received the windfall of economic growth in America (U.S. Department of State, 2011). While the radio and television brought the horrors of the Korean Conflict to their living room, their parents shielded them from the reality of this war (Spock,
1946). As Boomers became teenagers, the nation emerged into an age of optimism. They watched as their parents placed men on the moon and witnessed women and African Americans fight for equality. Early-stage Boomer lieutenants left to fight a war in Vietnam and came back disgruntled and unappreciated (Karestan, Stellman J., Stellman S., Sommer, 2003). They returned to a nation that cursed their service and devalued their participation in an unpopular war. As field grades in the post-Vietnam era, they witnessed their Army bottom out on readiness and give way to the arrival of zero defects, careerism, and new heights of micromanagement into the military (Jones, 2012). However, with the election of President Reagan, this same army rapidly grew and modernized. Vowing to learn from the failures of Vietnam, early Boomer colonels and brigadier generals helped write Air Land Battle Doctrine and tested its tenants at the newly formed National Training Center (Meyer, Ancell, Mahaffey, 1995). Their hard work paid off during Operation Desert Storm when Boomer officers led the battalions and brigades that routed the 4th largest army in the World (Hoffman, 1989). At the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, senior Boomer officers had the ability to see the fight unfold and talk to the tactical officer on the ground. Often their tendency to micromanage proved too great, and junior Generation X officers rebuked their tinkering at the tactical level.
Generation X: LTC-2 Star General
Generation X officers were born between 1961 and 1980. While some of these officers served in Operation Desert Storm and Grenada, most were company grade officers during Bosnia and the initial phases of OIF and OEF. As children, Generation X felt the impact of a divided Boomer household. Due to an increase in divorce rates and dual working parents, they were generally independent and self-supporting early in life (Zemke, Raines, Filipczak, 2000), also known as latchkey kids. As teenagers, they experienced social failure on multiple fronts between Presidential resignation, economic crisis, and the Challenger Explosion. When Generation X officers entered the Army, a majority of them did not share the same work ethic as their Boomer field grade officers. These junior officers often failed to adapt to the 24/7 work attitude of their leaders, as many felt the Army was simply a way to make a living and not a lifestyle (Wong, 2000). In the mid-1990s, their perspective was reinforced when a downsizing Army laid off many Boomer and Generation X officers. As the Army entered direct combat engagements in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, their experience and commitment to the organization grew. Their independent personality thrived as they controlled large sections of the battlefield and even served as interim mayors of towns (Crane Terrill, 2003; Cerami Boggs, 2007). However, as Generation X officers occupy the senior ranks, they struggle with how to connect to the Millennial junior field grade and senior company grade officers that work for them.
Millennial: CPT- new LTC
Millennial officers were born between 1981 and 1993. These officers were lieutenants and captains in Iraq and Afghanistan and sustained a bulk of their leadership development during these conflicts. As children, Millennials experienced a resurgent focus on family values and a rebuking of the divorce culture their parents endured (Amato Keith, 1991). A key moment of their cultural development was the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center Towers, as many were teenagers during this attack (Ames, 2013). They watched the terror live on television and then witnessed America and the World band together to take action. While in high school and college, Millennials experienced the rapid growth of the internet, instant reporting, and the birth of social media. When they entered the military, these officers found an Army that was fighting two protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As currently serving company commanders and junior field grades, Millennials have a direct impact on the newest generation of officers.
A typical iGeneration officer was born after 1993 and started to arrive at U.S. Army units in 2015. When these officers were born, home-based internet became mainstream and connected people through email, chat rooms, and websites (Coffman Odlyzko, 2001). This invention influenced the way they learned, processed information, and even interacted (Anderson Rainie, 2010). As an adolescent, they watched the 9/11 attacks unfold live on television and struggled to understand the fear and uncertainty that gripped the nation in the aftermath (Ames, 2013). As teenagers, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites were mainstay hangouts among their friends. Due to witnessing a terror attack, financial ruin, and world power plays, they are naturally guarded and more pessimistic about America and the future (Doherty, 2105). With the invention of smartphones, information was instantly available and they had the ability to answer any question, interact online with any number of their social circles, and enjoy constant streaming access to world news and current events. With this capability also emerged an environment where companies were marketing to them around the clock. One side effect to this is their inherent distrust of the ‘corporate narrative’ and they prefer to follow the advice and recommendations of the ‘average person’. This is evident in the explosion of YouTube stars that do videos of unboxing, product reviews, movie recaps, and even video game players. Technology is second hand to these officers and through social networking or data mining, they possess an innate ability to find or crowdsource information. Even with unprecedented access to information, these instant updates on world events may also lead to a false t awareness of the strategic environment.
Leverage the iGeneration
Understanding the context and dynamics of the officer corps creates an atmosphere of growth and development. With context, officers understand why Boomer generals value organizational loyalty, Generation X senior field grades and generals prefer to “power down,” Millennial officers are comfortable with change, and iGeneration lieutenants that possess a natural ability to build large social networks to gather information and learn. Ultimately, self-awareness is a leader’s ability to understand their own personality, the personality of others, and most importantly, how their personality affects those around them. Based on the cohort study analysis above, officers should have an insight of themselves, their leaders, and their subordinates. This collective self-awareness is a vital recognition of strengths and weaknesses. The average age for an Army officer is currently 35 years old. This age is the border period between a Generation X officer and a Millennial officer. In the next five years, approximately 15% of all officers will be an iGeneration officer and nearly 65% of the officer corps will be of the two youngest generational groups (Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Military community and Family Policy, 2015). Given these demographics, the force is primed for institutional changes that maximize the iGeneration lieutenant’s strengths while leveraging the experience and knowledge of the Boomer and Gen X senior leaders. The context in which an iGeneration lieutenant developed influences how they learn. Between social media, Youtube, and video games, these officers are comfortable with reading, watching, and even interacting with history, science, and current events in an online environment. This information access developed a cohort of officers that have little concrete experience in the world, but an ability to virtually mine anything they need to know. What they lack, however, is the critical analysis needed to filter and understand this information. Leaders should recognize these dynamics and present their experiences in a way that appeals to this new generation. New lieutenants will best learn by observing, researching, and collaborating. This style is less receptive to directive orders and more motivated through senior mentorship. This does not mean that these officers are not effective followers. Instead, they prefer to take the problem at hand, brainstorm ideas, and view it from multiple perspectives to gain consensus on the best solution.
Leaders at the tactical to strategic level should consider these traits while developing organizational programs. Tactical commanders can use the iGeneration’s unique learning style to develop critical analysis by encouraging these officers to critically think and write. Likewise, senior Army leaders could consider expanding the acceptance of more junior officers into information operations and operational support career fields. Operating in these functional areas will leverage these officer’s strengths and can promote and grow the Army capabilities as a whole. Overall, the inclusion of these new officers in multiple arenas of the US Army will promote growth and development for the ability to fight on a twenty-first-century battlefield.
There are currently four different generations of officers within the Army and these generations arrange themselves across the Army’s hierarchical rank structure because of “time-in-grade” requirements for promotions. Leaders should understand that these generational differences impact those around them. Over the last seven generations of officers, these differences often perpetuated a cycle of misunderstanding. Recognizing how these misunderstandings can occur, officers should be aware of personality traits and how leaders and subordinates will interpret these traits. Leaders should also recognize that a new generation of lieutenants is arriving in the Army. These officers are technology-based and have a vast social network that can span various nations and cultures, granting them a unique perspective into the strategic environment. They possess an unparalleled ability to virtually mine the internet but lack the critical analysis to understand it. With proper self-awareness within the officer corps, leaders can effectively develop programs for this emerging generation of lieutenants. Senior officers should develop more programs that develop the critical thinking and analytical abilities of these officers while leveraging their strength and understanding of technology and social networking. By better understanding the Army’s generational divides, officers can ensure that the Army remains on the leading edge of technology, leadership, and war-fighting capability.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a combat Marine or Soldier who doesn’t have wear-and-tear injuries from their deployments and training. U.S. Marine veteran Scot Knutson is no different, but it was during his tenure in Explosive Ordinance Disposal where he received his most significant injuries.
In 2012, blast exposure from IEDs gave Knutson a concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal stenosis (compression in the spine), and pulmonary edema caused by trauma to the lungs. When he returned home from his deployment in 2013, he was placed on a non-deployment status to heal — and he was given Oxycodone for the pain.
Like many veterans, Knutson developed an opioid addiction until he was finally hospitalized in 2017 after an overdose.
He received a 30-day in-patient treatment program followed by a 60-day out-patient program to help detox, but he credits THC and CBD products for helping him remain off narcotics ever since.
CBD Treatment Program
“Start low. Start slow.” That’s the advice Knutson has for anyone looking into medicinal cannabis to help treat pain and PTSD. As a Federal Schedule 1 controlled substance, many doctors are prohibited from recommending CBD or THC to patients.
As states begin to decriminalize marijuana, more and more people are gaining access to medicinal strains, but anyone who has jumped right in to an edible knows they can be potent.
When Knutson began his CBD program, he’d been prescribed Ambien for sleep and Prazosin for PTSD-related nightmares. With proper timing and dosage of CBD, along with occasional microdosing of THC, Knutson no longer needed the Ambien for sleep (though the Prazosin, which is non habit-forming and a non-narcotic, continues to help with nightmares, a common side-effect of PTSD).
There really is a difference between the marijuana trips of 70s and the use of medicinal cannabis today. For Knutson, THC in the form of a liquid deliverable (for example, in a sparkling water) will begin to treat pain in 10 minutes. The same dose (5-10mg) in an edible might take 1-2 hours to provide relief.
As for vaping or smoking, Knutson avoids them altogether to protect his lungs.
Knutson Brothers – (Left) Scot, retired Marine and Keef VP of Operations, (Middle) Kelly, co-founder, (Right) Erik, co-founder and CEO.
The Cannabis Industry
Knutson’s transition into a career in the cannabis industry was a slow one. His brother started a cannabis company in 2010 (ironically around the time Knutson was getting his Top Secret clearance background check…) but it wasn’t until after he separated from the Marine Corps in 2014 that he decided to join the industry professionally.
He now helps lead a thriving and award-winning cannabis company, Keef Brands, which is designed with the health-conscious consumer in mind. Through his company, he’s been able to help place other veterans into jobs and security positions within the industry.
When I asked how the Department of Veterans Affairs can better accommodate the needs of veterans, Knutson was pretty straight-forward: “Cannabis needs to come out of the shadows and be talked about so there can be education about how to properly use it. It’d be helpful if the VA would be able to talk about it with veterans so they could receive the treatment they need — and also so they can prevent abuse.”
Over the last month, the United States (and parts of the world) erupted in protests after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmuad Abery. While their deaths drew the ire of many Americans, they set off an angry and passionate reaction to the bigger problem of police brutality and systemic racism.
Unfortunately, protests can be marred by people taking advantage and the marches that have occurred in all 50 states have seen some people take to rioting and looting. While the vast majority of protests have been peaceful, the magnitude of people on the street and looting caused some states to activate their respective National Guard units.
Director and Army Veteran Robert Ham was able to link up with National Guard Chaplain Major Nathan Graeser who was part of a California National Guard Unit that was assigned to downtown Los Angeles. With the noise of protestors in the background demanding reform of police and the end of the systemic racism that plagues this country, Graeser talked about why the National Guard was there and the mood of the troops. When asked about the atmosphere in the area Graeser said, “Seeing this today, I kept thinking to myself… this is what makes America great.”
In addition to being an Army Chaplain in the California National Guard, Nathan is also a social worker. He is an expert on programs and policies that support service members transitioning out of the military. Nathan is an advocate for veterans and leads multiple veteran initiatives in Los Angeles. He has spent thousands of hours counseling veterans and their families to deal with the challenges of service and returning home.
Graeser talks about the disconnections we have with one another, exacerbated by COVID-19 and how those disconnections flared up in the wake of these deaths. He knows, because he sees the same disconnection with his soldiers and with veterans as they themselves struggle to connect to the community they took an oath to serve.
But, Graeser said he sees the similarities between the young soldiers and young protesters, “These 19 year olds,” referring to the guardsmen, he said, “They are thoughtful, they are kind, even their interaction with the looters is as gentle as can possibly be.”
While the riots have been waning, the cries for action have not. What does the future hold for the rest of 2020 and beyond? We can only guess at this time.
But there is hope in what Graeser sees.
“We are out here to see what the next chapter is,” he shared. “One thing I know is wherever we go, we are going to need everybody.”
Cats are apt to perch wherever they please — on your keyboard, atop the refrigerator, or squished into a box. But a cat on top of a submarine is unexpected, to say the least.
Military Giant Cats (@ GiantCat9 on Twitter) is a bizarre Twitter account that’s exactly what it sounds like — photos of giant cats on top of, playing with, or stalking various militaries or weapons systems.
The account’s creator, a person who identified himself as Thomas, told Insider, “I started this weird account because I love the absurdity of [the] internet, I love the cats, I worked several years in the defense industry.”
“A lot of people send me [cat] pics in the DM,” Thomas told Insider via Twitter direct message. He then Photoshops the cats onto airplanes, submarines, battlefields, and tanks, much to the delight of the account’s 29,000 followers.
Take a look at these felines on fighter jets in the next slides.
Tony Garcia knew he was in trouble. He was diagnosed with PTSD and was starting to understand why he was feeling disconnected and depressed – but he was still feeling alone in his experiences as a Vietnam War veteran.
“We were trained to be a sharp blade for fighting,” Garcia said, “but we were never shown how to come back home. I felt like nobody understood me.”
The years of silently dealing with his time in Vietnam as a soldier had nearly caught up to Garcia when he started attending weekly group counseling sessions at the newly established VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System in 2011. He and 10 other veterans were some of the first veterans to meet in the new space in Harlingen, Texas, and the more his fellow veterans shared their experiences the more he recognized the similarities in their struggles.
It’s this group of veterans, and the stories they shared with each other at VA, that Garcia credits with changing his outlook on life and giving him new purpose.
Guardians of the Flag: Veterans honor legacy of Vietnam War
“That gave me the tools I needed to keep moving forward,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for the VA and the therapy – I would still be lost in my depression.”
It was during one of his group meetings that Garcia learned of a special piece of history that somehow found its way to South Texas.
One of the veterans began talking about his experience at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon before it fell to North Vietnamese forces in April 1975. The Marine and Rio Grande Valley native recalled how in the middle of trying to evacuate the compound he encountered two employees trying to destroy the ceremonial flag in Ambassador Martin’s office. According to the story, the veteran approached the men who were apparently angry that they would not be evacuated and wrestled the flag from them before they could further damage it.
The veteran, who asked Garcia to keep his identity private, took the flag home with him to South Texas and kept it in his home for about 30 years. After his wife asked him to get rid of the tattered flag, the veteran gave it to a friend in a neighboring town with instructions to pass the flag along to another veteran should he ever need to part with it too.
“I couldn’t believe what they were telling me,” Garcia said. “I couldn’t believe the flag had made it all the way here and it was in somebody’s garage.”
At that time, it was an amazing story that piqued Garcia’s interest. He felt a connection to the flag even then, but he wouldn’t get to see or hold it until a few years later when his fellow veterans asked if he would take it.
“They didn’t know what to do with the flag, so they offered it to me,” Garcia said, “and immediately I said I would take it and care for it.”
Tony Garcia (left) and his fellow Warriors United in Arms members move the ceremonial flag in Brownsville, Texas.
Garcia, who had recently founded a veterans organization with several of his friends, decided the flag would not be hung up on a wall in his home or stay in storage. As the Warriors United in Arms of Brownsville, the group would find a way to protect, display, and tell the story of the flag they all felt a deep connection with.
“I really do believe this flag represents the American fighting man in Vietnam,” Garcia said. “This flag represents everything we went through as Vietnam War Veterans. Like the flag we all went and did what Uncle Sam wanted, and like the flag we were disrespected when we came home . . . I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t forgotten.”
Today, the ceremonial flag is encased and held in the main vault at the IBC Bank in Brownsville, Texas. Garcia and his fellow warriors frequently take it to local schools, businesses and events. They tell the story of how the flag founds its way to them, and they explain why it’s such an important symbol.
On 2019s Vietnam War Veterans Day, the group will display the flag at the VA clinic where Garcia first heard its amazing story. The goal, Garcia said, is to help Vietnam War veterans and show them that they are not alone.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
During WWII, women were tasked with an overwhelming number of expectations. In many cases, it was females who were left to fill jobs of manual labor. With so many soldiers fighting in the war, there was a huge void in the workforce. Women filled in, taking over jobs that were once only suitable for men to do. However, for military spouses, the expectations were far different. With a husband at war — or at least in the military in a time of war — women were expected to hold down the home, and then some.
Compared to today’s norms, however, spouses of the 1930s and 40s had far different tasks assigned to them. Take a look at what it was like to be a spouse during WWII and how their expectations differ from military spouses today.
You served as a wife and mother
In all public cases during WWII, military spouses were females. That meant women married to a male service member, the most common enlistment and commission circumstances at the time. While women could serve in the military, it was simply less common than it is today.
Then, the woman was expected to work in her own home. Not in a home office, but as a mother and wife. Her roles were to cook for her family, clean the home, and ensure the kids had when they needed. And for the cherry on top, she was expected to dress up and look nice while doing it. Heels and all.
You wrote long, detailed letters
If your spouse was at war, this meant the only form of communication was the written word — delivered via snail mail. Letters took weeks to land at their intended destination, and soldiers relied on long, hand-written letters to update them on everyday events and their family’s well-being. It was the spouse’s job to inform her husband and let him know how the family was doing. It was often frowned upon to write too much bad news and to keep soldiers’ morale up through descriptive, positive words.
You got married young
With soldiers who were likely to be shipped off soon after graduation, couples often married early. Highschool sweethearts rushed to the alter in order to wed before their man was shipped to war. This also meant young pregnancies, and young widows who were left alone if their spouse was killed at war.
You might be a “war bride”
War bride is a term describing women who met American men during their time overseas and got married. It’s estimated that 20,000 Germans and 15,000 Australians were brought to the United States during WWII after they married a soldier and transitioned to being an American citizen. There was also an influx in brides from France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Philippines, Japan, and China.
You had multiple children
It was common for military spouses to have many children during the war for several reasons. One, women were more likely to get pregnant when their husband was home on leave — whether they were trying or threw caution to the wind — stats support this, including the baby boom. In addition, Army families received more money if they had more children. With the passing of the Servicemen’s Dependents Allowances Act, families earned $40 for the first child and $10 for each subsequent kid.
You ran a tight ship
Military spouses were expect to keep their homes in tip-top shape. From a home that was clean at all times, to home cooked meals, to having snacks and coffee at the ready for unexpected guests, military spouses were essentially profesional hostesses during WWII. She often served her husband and other male guests who might have been visiting.
Chances are standards laxed some while the husband was at war, but records don’t differentiate either way.
You relied on one another
With a spouse overseas and plenty of children to handle all on your own, women made due by relying on one another for help. Most notably, they traded babysitting services, taking kids while the other mother could run errands, or even while working a part-time job. Military spouses made fast friends and trusted the next woman with her kids.
You had to wait — long waits
In WWII, you didn’t know how long your husband would be gone … or when (and if) he would come home. For the spouse, that meant waiting, and more waiting. Waiting for letters, hopping a service member didn’t knock on your door, and more waiting for your beloved to come home. In fact, some soldiers were gone for multiple years, until the end of the war, when they were allowed to return home.
You didn’t talk about the war
In most cases, wives had no idea what their husbands were dealing with, or any specifics of the war. They didn’t talk about specifics because they didn’t have any. Without the ability to talk on the phone, details were left to letters — which were read and scanned for any key details. In fact, they might not even know where their loved one was stationed at the time. This certainly kept the mystery alive, but left women unable to speculate about the nitty-gritty stuff.
You might’ve traveled to see your husband
As soldiers prepared to ship off, they were moved from town to town to complete different trainings, receive medical care, etc. However, there was a population of women who left alongside them in order to sneak time away with their spouse. Known as “wandering wives,” these were usually a younger, childless crowd who were able to pack up and move from town to town.
Military spouse norms have come a long way in the last several decades. And while these stereotypes weren’t a rule, they were expectations that were followed by many women of the time.
Green Berets rely on their problem-solving abilities to survive in combat. Much of SF selection seeks to assess this talent. The Special Forces qualification course itself develops and improves creativity. Many times, military problems must be solved with the application of force. Green Berets are not afraid to get their hands dirty, but they understand the power of working with and through others.
There is a story that has been told in the SOF community for years. I don’t believe it is factual, but there is a lot of truth in it. The story goes like this:
The new Secretary of Defense had been confirmed and was touring the Pentagon, taking briefings on the capabilities of his forces. He had a well-deserved reputation as a no-nonsense guy. After a briefing on Special Operations Forces, he was escorted to lunch by a Green Beret officer.
The Secretary’s confused look did not bode well as they walked through the E ring. “I understand how SOF is different from conventional forces, but the Rangers and Green Berets seem just alike to me. You have a Special Forces Tab and a Ranger Tab. What’s the difference?”
“The units are very different, sir. While both units are composed of very capable soldiers, selected for intelligence and fitness, Rangers attack the enemy directly, while Special Forces work by, with, and through indigenous forces to accomplish tasks far beyond their numbers.” The Green Beret secretly hoped he would not be pulled into the eternal Ranger versus SF discussion for the 10,000th time. He prided himself in his teaching abilities, but this guy was being obtuse.
“They dress just alike, they are both ARSOF units, and they both have direct-action capabilities. How are they so different?” It seemed the Secretary was going to force this. The next four years of Special Forces missions hinged on the new Secretary’s understanding. As they walked through an area of temporary construction, the Green Beret had a flash of inspiration.
“Sir, humor me here; let’s do a little demonstration. Rangers are highly aggressive. They pride themselves on their toughness and discipline. They follow orders without question. Do you see that huge soldier with a tan beret? He is a Ranger.”
As the Ranger approached, the Green Beret called out, “Hey, Ranger! Come here.”
The Ranger moved toward them, sprang to attention, and saluted. “Rangers lead the way, sir. How may I be of assistance?”
“Can you help us here for a moment? This is the new Secretary of Defense. He wants to know more about the Rangers. Will you help me educate him?”
Pointing to a new section of hallway, the Green Beret officer said, “Ranger, I need you to break through that wall.”
“Hooah, sir. Would you like a breach or complete destruction?”
“A man-sized breach would be fine.”
With that, the Ranger removed his beret and assumed a three-point stance six feet from the wall. With a grunt, he launched himself into the wall, punching his head and shoulders right through the drywall. Hitting a 2×4 on the way through, he was a little stunned, but he continued to work, smashing a hole wide enough for a fully kitted Ranger to pass through. Staggering to his feet with a trickle of blood running down his face, he appeared a little disoriented.
“Thank you, Ranger. Great job. You are a credit to the Regiment. You need to go to the aid station and get someone to look at that cut.”
The Secretary was incredulous. He had never seen such a display of pure discipline and strength. “That was astounding. What could Special Forces possibly do to match that?”
The Green Beret was also impressed, but not surprised. “The Rangers are highly disciplined sir, but Special Forces selection and training also produce strong, disciplined soldiers. We deploy older, more mature soldiers in very small numbers. They understand that they are a valuable strategic resource, and are selected for their advanced problem-solving abilities.”
The secretary seemed displeased. “Frankly, that sounds like bullshit. It seems that these Rangers are the finest soldiers in the Army. What could Special Forces do that the Rangers cannot?”
As he spoke, a Green Beret Staff Sergeant walked by. Not as young or lean as the Ranger, he had a commanding presence and a serious look filled with confidence. The Green Beret officer called him over.
“Hey Mike, can you help us here for a moment? This is the new Secretary of Defense. He wants to know more about the Special Forces; will you help me educate him?”
The staff sergeant shook the secretary’s hand and introduced himself. “How can I help you, sir?”
Pointing to an undamaged section of the hallway, the Green Beret officer said, “Mike, I need you to break through that wall.”
“No problem. Would you like a breach or complete destruction?”
“A man-sized breach would be fine.”
The staff sergeant removed his beret and stood for a moment in silent thought six feet from the wall. He scanned the area and smiled broadly as he found the perfect tool for the job. “Hey Ranger,” he said, “Come here.”
Know your abilities, learn your environment, and use your resources deliberately. Green Berets know that finding just the right tool can be the most important part of the job. The Ranger in the story can take down a wall. The Green Beret can take out walls until he runs out of Rangers, and then one more.
As a force multiplier in the real world, the Green Berets can enlist large units with local knowledge to fight beside them. A single 12-man A-Team can train and employ a 500-man infantry battalion. That is a significant return on investment for the taxpayer.
Value yourself, and use your rapport skills to build partnerships. Many hands make light work; don’t do everything yourself. Green Berets know that there is no limit to what one can do if other people are doing the work.
At least 14,000 years ago in one of the most fascinating (and adorable) evolutionary events, dogs diverged from their wolven ancestors. The details of the domestication process are still hazy, but the results have changed our relationship with dogs completely. Working dogs even save lives.
While most of us view dogs as lovable family pets, they’re much more than that. Dogs have much of the same biological advantages as their evolutionary predecessors, including intelligence and a remarkably keen sense of smell. They’re also highly trainable, making them perfect candidates for jobs that are beyond human capabilities- including jobs in the military.
Military working dogs have been serving the US for over 100 years.
In the earliest years of our country’s history, dogs were out on the battlefield alongside their companions. Come World War II, the first formally trained military working dogs were deployed- over 10,000 of them. They’ve played a role in every war since, with some studies estimating that more than 10,000 human lives were saved by working dogs in Vietnam.
Not all breeds are suited to being military working dogs.
No offense, but a Shih-Tzu is better designed to be a pillow than a working dog. Many breeds have been used over the years, including Dobermans, Boxers, Rottweilers, and different types of terrier. In recent years, the staple breeds have leaned towards German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois. Why? These breeds are fiercely loyal, loving, and obedient, with an insanely powerful bite. Perfect.
These special pups take on several essential, life-saving roles in the field. These are some of the most common.
Trained to work silently, patrol dogs search for snipers and alert troops of possible ambushes. Having them around is a powerful deterrent to enemies. Because they’re so good at what they do, soldiers are often more at ease in their presence.
Sentry dogs are most often used to detect approaching enemies at night. The Coast Guard has even used them to alert ships of enemy submarine activity.
Messenger working dogs are trained to carry messages from one handler to the other. At times, they carry sensitive information through enemy territory, so they must travel as quietly as possible.
Bomb dogs start training when they’re just a year and a half old, and they’re practically made for the job. Their noses have 300 million olfactory receptors compared to just six million in humans, and over a third of their brain is used to process smells. These finely-tuned sniffers learn to detect the presence of dozens of chemical ingredients. When they recognize an ingredient, they’re trained to sit- can’t have a puppy pawing at TNT, can we?
The most heartwarming of all military working dogs are the ones who literally save lives. Their incredible sense of smell enables them to find injured soldiers in locations a human would never be able to guess. Armed with protective gear and tiny cameras, the dogs scout the scene to lead their human partners to critically injured companions.
After the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, over 300 search and rescue dogs helped out at ground zero. They sniffed out several injured civilians buried under feet of rubble. Rescue workers were so impressed by one dog that they saved his DNA. A few years later, they made five little casualty dog clones!
These dogs aren’t tools of the trade. They’re partners.
Ask any military dog handler, and they’ll tell you that working dogs are more than military assets. They work alongside their human companions with every bit as much loyalty and brotherhood as any other service member, except on four legs and with a much better schnoz. Their comparatively short lifespans make their devotion even more poignant; they truly dedicate most of their lives to saving ours.
They may not be able to read or speak, but they live up to their unofficial pledge with their actions:
“My eyes are your eyes. To watch and protect you and yours. My ears are your ears. To hear and detect evil minds in the dark. My nose is your nose to scent the invader of your domain. And so you may live, my life is also yours.”
Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrating (fill in the blank). No, seriously this is a quiz. We’re guessing you were likely too drunk to remember what one of your most loved holidays is actually about… aside from celebrating tequila and tacos with your favorite group of friends. This year, with Corona (not the beer) in the way, it’s looking more like “Cinco de solo”. But fear not, we’re here to ensure your celebration is just as awesome with these handy at home hacks.
Not all tacos are created equal. They come soft, hard, and even puffy (we’re being totally appropriate here). It’s time to step up your taco game and step out of your comfort zone. Considering the fact that there’s literally nothing else to spend your money on, go big and get multiple styles to create a taco spread that’ll make your homies seriously jealous.
Do the salsa
We’re not talking about the dance… although, why not? Another crucial component of your feast is getting the delicious dip just right. And you’ve got options. Tomatillo, poblano, ancho are all words you need to get familiar with if you’re going to go all in. Feeling fruity? (again, completely appropriate) Try going for a pineapple-mango combination. Whatever you do, don’t you dare cheap out on a jar of pre-made tomato sauce masquerading as salsa.
Should you cut the cheese?
Good question. Research has shown us that this is a highly debated topic that is actually dependent upon what you’re stuffing your taco with. Queso fresco, cotija, queso de Oaxaca, or your standard-issue cheddar all have variations of saltiness, creaminess, and melt factor. One could even go as bold to say “no cheese” and bank heavy on your flavor profile.
Friends don’t let friends…
Friends don’t let friends drink solo on Cinco de Mayo. Yes, this applies even to social distancing parties. In case you live under a rock, there are plenty of apps for you to connect virtually and make it work. Do us a solid and let us know how you got creative with distance drinking games.
Step up your game bro
The stocks may be down, but alcohol sales sure are solid. By now you’ve likely demolished that “emergency stash” and shifted way into the realm of stay-at-home-mom level drink making. Now is your time to shine cupcake. With your designated set of friends, take the time to get creative and conjure up some amazing cocktail recipes for everyone to tray and vote on this holiday. Try setting some ground rules and a pre-set shopping list for everyone to grab beforehand. Take turns making each other’s cocktails and vote on the best.
Make it weird
If it were normal again, this day would be full of crazy taco creations to try at restaurants all across the land. Doing something “weird” is even better when it’s in the privacy of your own home. Cue the next few suggestions: radishes, nopales, fruit, kimchi, and the dessert taco. What we’re saying is- make it a competition between friends and make your best “take”, then deliver one to each of your friends and facetime everyone at dinner time to vote on who did the best.
Whatever you do, do it with as much humor and delicious new methods as humanly possible. It’s a heavy world out there and at least for 24 glorious hours, we can all have a little fun celebrating the Mexican army’s victory over the French empire. Cheers.
You may have noticed a recent addition to the Air Force Portal homepage. A logo depicting a warrior looking over his shoulder with a fighter jet above him. It’s the face of the Blue Grit podcast. The podcast is the brainchild of Maj. Anna Fedotova, Los Angeles Air Force Base psychologist. The first of its kind in the Air Force, Blue Grit features conversations with current and former military leaders, mental health experts, elite athletes, veterans, and other individuals who have overcome significant adversity.
The idea for the podcast first occurred to Fedotova in 2017. On a daily basis, she was humbled and inspired by the stories of resilience and strength she heard from patients and colleagues.
“The idea of growth and perseverance has always been captivating to me. My job is to ask questions and listen, so why not try a podcast?” she said.
The fact the she had no funding, official support, experience or equipment didn’t deter her from pushing forward with her podcast. Looking back, she laughs, “in retrospect, it was the ideal beginning for a podcast about grit. There was only one way – up!”
Eight months later, with the podcast off and running, Fedotova found herself briefing Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, about her podcast.
Blue Grit logo.
(U.S. Air Force graphic)
“I didn’t do it alone,” she is quick to add. “My leadership supported me from the beginning and there have been a hundred helping hands.”
Her guests have included author and speaker retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro, who suffered burns over 80 percent of his body from a roadside bomb blast but continues to serve, and Dr. Gary Percival, whom many consider to be the father of survival, evasion, resistance and escape psychology.
“Blue Grit guests had included several former prisoner(s) of war, mental health practitioners and guests such as Maj. (ret.) Kat Portello, who in the blink of an eye went from a being a competitive bodybuilder to being a quadriplegic,” Fedotova said. “All of my guests have had unique experiences, but I continue to be surprised at how simple and consistent their techniques are for developing grit.”
Blue Grit is not only an opportunity for Fedotova to share techniques, tactics and procedures for developing grit. She also views it as a venue to have a broader conversation about mental health.
“I wanted a platform to steer the conversation from mental illness towards mental health,” she said. “I’m not implying happiness-ever-after. Mental health is about living a meaningful life, having an impact, deliberate practice, discomfort. That is grit.”
Everyone gets that “2:30 feeling.” Military personnel happen to get it at all times of day. Maybe you’re on mids. Maybe you’re in transit from Afghanistan to Japan. Or maybe you’re being punished for doing something stupid. It happens. But we don’t always have access to Five Hour Energy shots, and sometimes coffee isn’t cutting it. The best thing to do is give in: have your battle cover you while you rack out for a few minutes.
Or maybe fifteen? A half-hour? A full hour? How long is the proper power nap? Thanks to NASA, we have the answer.
“We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t… what? We can? Oh, thanks, NASA.”
There’s no shame in needing a little afternoon siesta. Anyone who swears by the power nap will tell you that nodding off for a few minutes can revive them for hours. Just don’t let the First Sergeant catch you. But if you can get away with it on duty, you (and your coworkers) will be grateful to find you more productive and operating at a higher level. It’s a natural part of human circadian rhythm, you’re going to be intensely sleepy twice per day. You can’t stop it, none of us can.
So stop blaming the turkey already.
NASA’s research showed that naps really can fully restore cognitive function at the same rate as a full night’s sleep. The space agency found that pilots who slept in the cockpit for 26 minutes showed alertness improvements of up to 54 percent and job performance improvements by 34 percent, compared to pilots who didn’t nap. But 26 minutes might be a little long.
“Napping leads to improvements in mood, alertness and performance [such as] reaction time, attention, and memory,” according to Kimberly Cote, Ph.D, Professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brock University, who co-authored a similar study with researcher Catherine Milner. “Longer naps will allow you to enter deeper sleep, which will contribute to the grogginess — also called sleep inertia — experienced upon awakening and disrupt nighttime sleep.”
The worst part is when you wake up and you’re still in Afghanistan.
Cote and NASA suggest taking power naps between 10 and 20 minutes long. You’ll get the most benefit from a sleep cycle without any of the grogginess associated with longer sleeping periods. You don’t need to get through all five sleep stages, just the first two. Even just getting to stage 2 sleep for a few minutes will revive a napper enough to give him or her a new outlook on the day.
So get cozy and rack out for a few. It’s actually better for everyone.