Concluding its third year in November 2018 and set to occur for a fourth year in 2019, the annual Gold Star Hunt gathers Gold Star children, their Families, active-duty service members, and retired service members to hunt for game on and off post.
Gold Star Families are those Families who lost a military service member during a period of conflict, and the hunt is coordinated by Mark Moore, a retired command sergeant major and now operations chief for Installation Management Command at Fort Benning.
“These Families had a soldier who was lost, but these Families are still a part of the Army for life, as far as we’re concerned,” said Moore. “I think it’s important to continue to reach out to the Families to let them know that the Army still cares about them.”
Moore was a command sergeant major of U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning and deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He feels a personal obligation to Gold Star Families.
Moore became interested in forming a Gold Star Family hunt after meeting with the son of a military service member who, like Moore, was browsing the hunting section of a large retail store. Their mutual interest in hunting led Moore to conceive the weekend hunt idea.
“A lot of the people that volunteer for the program, especially myself, have lost soldiers in combat, and it’s important for us to be able to give back to those Families who have lost a soldier,” he said. “There’s goodness in it in both directions. One, the Family has a good time. The kids gets to experience something that dad would have wanted to do if [he] were here. And the soldiers and retirees are able to give back after experiencing loss themselves.”
In this file photo from 2016, volunteers present hunting gear to children of fallen service members during the inaugural Gold Star Hunt at Uchee Creek at Fort Benning, Alabama.
(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)
Moore coordinated volunteers, on-post organizations and off-post corporate enterprises to deliver this weekend event. He reached out to the local offices of Survivor Outreach Services of Morale, Welfare and Recreation to get in touch with Gold Star Families to determine whether the Families were interested.
Megan Baumgartner, Benning’s SOS coordinator, commended Moore’s dedication.
“Mark pours his passion of hunting and heart for mentoring Gold Star Children into every detail of this event,” said Baumgartner.
Alonzo Stewart, a financial counselor with SOS, said he has seen the positive impact the hunt has had in the lives of its participants.
“To partner with a person like Mark Moore and the different retirees and active-duty soldiers, to see the need to support these kids, is just great,” said Stewart.
In addition to coordinating with SOS, Moore also reached out the MWR to reserve cabins at Uchee Creek on the Alabama side of Fort Benning. Corporate sponsors provided funding for the event to get the Gold Star children a hunting kit, which includes rifle, ammunition and more. Local restaurants donated food to the event. The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, a tenant unit of Fort Benning, zeroed the rifles and provided a shotgun demonstration for the Families. And volunteers from units across post took part in the hunt with the children. Gold Star Family members who do not take part in the hunt get to visit the 34-foot towers at Eubanks Field on main post, thanks to volunteers from the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
The first year in 2016, the hunt had six children participating. The second year, it was 10. So, in addition to the hunt on post at Fort Benning, there was an additional hunt that took place at Iron Horse Farms in Marion, Alabama.
The children hunt deer and feral pigs on post. Moore said the hunt was a success as most of the participants were able to bag a deer or pig. He also said the hunt was successful as far as gaining community support.
“We’ll do it as long as we have support to execute the hunt for Gold Star kids as long as we have Gold Star kids out there,” said Moore.
My grandparents valued our nation’s history, and they did everything they could to ensure they passed down their knowledge and understanding of that history to the next generation. So, each summer from 5th Grade through my freshman year of high school, they took my cousins and I on road trips across the United States. Every trip ranged from two weeks to a month, traveling everywhere from the old Civil War battlefields in North Carolina to the cobblestone roads of River Street in Savannah, Georgia.
Even though we were just kids, we soaked up every bit of information we could about our nation’s convoluted and conflicted history. We learned to value our past, and the men and women who made our nation what it is today. For me, those trips laid a foundation I wouldn’t come to fully appreciate until years later … riding shotgun through Afghanistan.
My Grandfather was born in September 1939, too young for World War II or Korea, and too old for Vietnam by the time it came around. Grandpa was a model American though, at least as far as I was concerned. He worked a 30-year career with the phone company, raised three beautiful children, and married his high school sweetheart. He was eventually diagnosed with throat cancer; within a few years of diagnosis they removed all the cancer cells as well as his voice box.
But that didn’t stop him from doing what he thought was right.
Speaking with a mechanized voice box, he told his kids — including my mom — that he wanted to take the grandkids on a road trip to travel and explore our nation that summer. That led to many days and late nights in the passenger seat of my grandparents’ motorhome holding a Rand McNally road atlas while listening to my grandpa speak about his family’s legacy of military service with genuine admiration.
Grandpa told us about his oldest brother — they called him C.F. — who was an Infantryman that stormed Normandy’s beaches on D-Day. His brother Byron drove a tank through Italy, France, and Germany before almost being sent to Okinawa after the war in Europe had ended.
Against all odds, they somehow stumbled across each other during the war. Bryon was sitting on his tank as C.F. walked by with his unit; they were shocked at the sight of each other and took a moment to shower each other with questions before saying their good-byes and good lucks. That story stayed with me for a long time.
And then there was grandpa’s brother-in-law, Curtis. He rode on horseback behind enemy lines to establish communication lines in France during the war.
My grandpa spoke briefly but highly of his father-in-law — my great-grandfather, saying he served in World War I as an artilleryman. He struggled with shell shock; we call that PTSD these days. He’s standing next to an artillery cannon in France in the only picture we have of him.
My mind was doused in imagination; these men … these giants were the igniter. I had known them as kind, old southern gentlemen my entire childhood; my grandfather’s stories forced me to re-envision them as gigantic, unstoppable figures who changed the course of the world. These men were my heroes.
I still cherish every moment we spent together on the road discussing how our robust nation came to fruition, how our 16th President is revered as one of the best Presidents given the circumstances, and how FDR handled one of the greatest conflicts the world has ever experienced. My grandfather spent the waning years of his life passing down this historical knowledge to my cousins and me, and for that he will always be my hero.
From a very young age, I understood that our nation and livelihood was only attainable and sustained because of men like my relatives. Whether it was the moment Japan bombed Pearl Harbor or when Wilson brought us into WW1, these men answered the call willingly and selflessly. They understood what needed to be done to keep our nation’s virtues safe and guarded.
I was born in 1989, so a world-changing event like Pearl Harbor wouldn’t come into my life until a fall morning in 2001. I was in my 7th grade social studies class. Our teacher frantically rolled in the television and turned on the news. We sat as a class and watched one of the two towers burn in front of our eyes. A second plane came into frame, flying directly into the second tower. The gasps and cries in the room that day have never left my mind.
After about thirty minutes, the principal came over the intercom and cancelled classes for the day. I rushed to my bicycle, unlocked it, and pedaled home as fast as I could while images of the second plane crashing into the building devoured my thoughts. The front door of my house didn’t stand a chance; I unlocked it faster than I unlocked my bike, turned on the news and didn’t leave the living room until my mother got home from work.
She asked me if I’d been watching the tragic news all day. “Of course,” I told her. “If whatever happens is still happening when I turn eighteen, then I’m going to go and fight.” It was 2001 and 18 (the minimum age to go to war) was so far off in the distance that my mother didn’t argue. She knew I had a passionate love for this nation and respected the military tradition that our nation, and our family had cultivated.
Time went by. Days became months, months became years, and 2001 became 2005. My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the same time my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. On October 31, 2007, Julean Hatcher, my beloved grandmother who was the rock for all of us, passed away.
My life had not amounted to anything by that point. I wasn’t actively trying to pursue college … or anything to better myself for that matter. I finally held myself accountable for the oath I made to my mother as a 7th grader in 2001 and signed a contract with the Marine Corps. On Mother’s Day 2008, I left for Parris Island, South Carolina to begin my journey toward becoming a U.S. Marine.
Over the course of recruit training we were told numerous times we weren’t going to go anywhere, that we would go to Iraq if we were lucky. Would I follow in Grandpa’s footsteps and miss the war?
The war in Iraq was nearing its end (or so we thought), but what no one saw coming was President Obama taking office and ordering 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. That changed my life and the course of hundreds of thousands of lives. From my great-uncles to my great-grandfather, to every single man and woman that ever served this nation prior to this moment, I could feel our history was about to be written.
In January 2010, I was sent to Afghanistan as a combat replacement to Route Clearance Platoon 2. I spent the next four months operating in and out of Marjah, Afghanistan looking for and disposing of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Department of Defense
In April 2011, we deployed again to Helmand Province. But this time we were pushing into the now-infamous Sangin Valley, where we met heavy resistance. I spent so many days covered in a salt stained F.R.O.G. top wondering if my lineage would be proud of what we were doing, if they would be proud of the men and women who came after them to fight the good fight. I guess I’ll never truly know, but I’m confident they would be proud of every single one of us who raised our hands, recited that oath, and waved goodbye to family members as we loaded busses headed for war — just like they did.
I spent many days and late nights in the vehicle commander’s seat of a 4X4 MRAP truck building overlays on my map, marking the IED hits, SAF locations, and crater positions for hours on end. I sat there, navigating our platoon all throughout our area of operations, while reflecting on the times I spent with my grandfather learning about C.F. running through a curtain of steel while fighting his way up the Norman beaches. Thinking about Byron maneuvering his tank in just the right way to survive in the throes of battle. Imagining Curtis on horseback, evading the Nazis while setting up communications.
And my great-grandfather in France fighting against some of the worst evil the world had seen.
I couldn’t help but draw inspiration, motivation, and reasoning from my family’s history while fighting my generation’s war. They pushed me to excel and pursue becoming the type of American that might be somewhere … anywhere near the caliber of men they were.
I will always admire my grandfather for teaching me and captivating me with these stories of giant men and women who made a real impact on the world with their actions, all while leaving an impact that resonated to my core, shaped my thought process, and guided me to where I am today. We stand on the shoulders of giants, becoming giants for our children and their children to climb.
Veterans who have been in the service a while know that the exact dates and times of the biggest operations are typically classified until just before they pop off. But the troops have found ways of knowing what’s coming because the command can’t quite keep everything to “business as usual” while also preparing for a big push.
Here are six signs that sh*t’s about to get real:
Lt. Col. Matthew Danner, battalion commander of Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, inspects a rifle aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex during a regularly scheduled deployment of Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th MEU, July 31, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francisco J. Diaz Jr.)
The commander shows up to inspections
In theory, the commander cares about all inspections, but he or she typically leaves the actual inspecting to their noncommissioned officers and platoon leaders. After all, company commanders and above have a lot to keep track of.
But sometimes, the first sergeant and commander are involved in more inspections than normal, and are checking for more details than normal. It’s a sign that they’re worried weapons, vehicles, and troops will see combat soon, making an untreated rash or rust damage much more dangerous.
Soldiers training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, undergo a CS gas attack simulating an attack with a worse chemical agent.
(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Hannah Baker)
Low-level, constant exercises or operations suddenly stop
When a force is built up for a potentially big fight, the commanders have to keep everyone razor sharp and focused. If the troops aren’t in regular combat, this is typically accomplished via small exercises and large drills.
But, if the fight is about to start, the higher-ups want to ensure that everyone gets a little rest before going into the big battle. So, leaders get word from their own bosses to cease unnecessary training and operations the days immediately preceding the fight, and troops may even get official confirmation 24 hours out along with orders to rest up.
All the headquarters pukes are suddenly mum, or are talking in whispers in corners
But of course, not every low-level soldier can be kept out of the loop. Someone has to look at where the moon will be on different nights, cloud cover, whether the locals will be outside or in their homes during normal patterns of life. Someone has to move the right equipment to the right spots, and someone runs the messages between all the majors making the plans.
So, those people are all low-ranking, yes, but they’re also in the know. They’ll respond in one of a few ways, usually spilling the beans to close friends or cutting themselves off from everyone — which are dead giveaways in their own right. If the intel guy who typically wants to talk to everyone is suddenly mum or will only talk in whispers to close friends, get ready for a fight.
Marines deliver an M777 howitzer via MV-22 Osprey slingload during training in Australia in 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)
A whole bunch of fresh supplies arrive
Here’s a little secret: For as much as all the troops complain about always having to deal with old, hand-me-down gear, the U.S. is actually one of the best-supplied militaries in the world, if not the best supplied (we’re certainly the most expensive). But all of those supplies are typically sent to top-tier units or units about to go into the fight.
So, if you’re not in a Special Forces unit but the supply guy shows up with a ton of useful, new gear — especially batteries —that your unit has been asking for — and failing to receive — then you might be going into combat. Get to know the equipment quick.
Pizza Hut shows up at the Marines’ base just before the invasion of Iraq begins in ‘Generation Kill,” a mini-series based on a journalist’s account of the invasion.
A sudden, seemingly unprompted, nice meal
As odd as it sounds, an unexpected nice meal is a dead giveaway that troops are about to experience something rough. If you’re a soldier in the middle of a huge force, it’s a good bet that the “something rough” is the planned operation.
This sometimes comes up in movies and TV, like in Generation Kill, when 20 cars showed up at the wire filled with Pizza Hut while the Marines were waiting for the invasion of Iraq to begin. Driver and comedian Ray Person immediately calls it,
“Sh*t is on. Has to be.”
Marines communicate with family and friends on new morale internet lines in 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan.
(Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs)
Of course, the officers typically want to tell all their troops what’s going on and get them mentally prepared for the fight, but there’s a big step they need to take to make sure word doesn’t leak out: a communications blackout. Internet and phone access to the outside world is cutoff so no one can send an errant text home and let the enemy know the invasion is coming.
So, if the morale lines suddenly cut off, go ahead and report to your platoon, because word is coming down that something has happened or is about to.
Having a cough has never been more nerve wracking than during the current pandemic. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a cough. Needing to go to the doctor for any reason can send a quick thought of panic, due to current protocols. Needing something as simple as a prescription refill suddenly got complicated.
But fear not, military families! There is an easier way. Thanks to ongoing efforts to increase the logistics of telemedicine and over-the-phone appointments, Tricare beneficiaries can video chat with their doctors to receive a quick fix to many questions or prescription needs.
This includes video calls, but will not include phone calls or texts.
If you or a family member is in need of a non-urgent appointment, you can call your normal doctor’s number and ask what their options are for telehealth appointments.
If you or a family member has an upcoming appointment scheduled, you’re likely to be contacted about rescheduling or moving the appointment to your phone. Services covered include:
Mental health services (individual psychotherapy, psychiatric diagnosis interviews/exams, and medication management)
In addition, from March 31 through May 31, Tricare has announced they will also cover telehealth services for “applied behavior analysis (ABA) parent or caregiver guidance services under the Autism Care Demonstration.”
Don’t skimp on important healthcare appointments just because you can’t be seen in person. These distancing appointments allow Tricare patients to get the care they need, without risking germs. Additional distancing measures have been put into place on military bases, such as drive-through pharmacies, or in-vehicle triage.
Talk to your healthcare team to see if telehealth is available at your base.
Airmen from the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing delivered more than 100,000 pounds of cargo to the most northern permanently inhabited place in the world, Sept. 26 to Oct. 4, 2019, as part of a joint operation with the Canadian Armed Forces.
Twenty airmen from the 109th, based at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, New York, flew seven missions to Canadian Forces Station Alert as part of the twice a year effort to supply the station.
The resupply mission is known as Operation Boxtop and takes place in the spring and fall.
“The US Air Force’s New York Air National Guard is uniquely qualified to help us apply practical lessons from decades of successful Antarctic operations to the Arctic environment,” said US Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Vaughan, the deputy commander for the Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command Region.
New York Air National Guard airmen from the 109th Airlift Wing and Royal Canadian Air Force airmen from 8 Wing, who teamed up to resupply Canadian Forces Station Alert as part of Operation Boxtop, in front of a New York Air National Guard C-130 at Thule Air Base, Greenland, Oct. 3, 2019.
(Canadian armed forces/Leading Seaman Paul Green, 8 Wing Imaging)
The station, located on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut — 490 miles south of the North Pole — is home to around 55 Canadian Forces military and civilian personnel year-round.
Canadian Forces Station Alert, built in 1956, maintains signals intelligence facilities to support Canadian military operations, hosts researchers for Environment and Climate Change Canada, and plays a key role in projecting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.
A C-130 assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing with cargo at Thule Air Base, Greenland prior to being flown to Canadian Forces Station Alert on Ellsmere Island, Nunavut, September 30, 2019.
(Canadian armed forces/Leading Seaman Paul Green, 8 Wing Imaging)
The wing, which flies the largest ski-equipped aircraft in the world, teamed up with the Canadian Armed Force’s 8 Wing, based in Trenton, Ontario to conduct the mission. 8 Wing is the higher headquarters for the Alert station.
The Canadian Forces asked specifically for funded the 109th’s participation in accomplishing the resupply mission as part of broader bi-national Arctic Force Package initiatives, according to Vaughan.
“Beyond operating the amazing LC-130 aircraft, the men and women of the 109th Airlift Wing are polar execution experts,” Vaughan added.
David Jacobson, US ambassador to Canada at the time, in front of the CFS Alert welcome sign, April 19, 2010.
The mission profile called for one C-130 from the 109th to fly to Thule Air Base in Greenland, the northernmost installation operation by the US military, and then fly cargo from there to Alert. The 109th personnel included two full crews of six airmen, for a total of twelve, and eight maintenance personnel.
The 109th Airlift Wing carried bulk cargo which allowed the Canadian Armed Forces, which employed a C-130J and C-17 cargo plane, to focus on carrying fuel for generators and heating, explained New York Air National Guard Major Jacob Papp, an aircraft commander.
The three aircraft flew missions around the clock to supply the Alert outpost.
A south-facing view of Canadian Forces Station Alert, May 30, 2016.
(Kevin Rawlings/Wikimedia Commons)
The conditions in the Arctic this time of year can be less than ideal, Papp said. The crews experience freezing fog, low visibility and high winds, making approaches and landing difficult at times. Despite the weather, the 109th Airlift Wing crews were able to complete 37.4 hours of flying for the operation, he added.
“It was great to get out there and use the skills that we train for all the time, to land on a really short strip given the conditions and unimproved surface.” Papp said. “We look forward to working with them (Canadian Forces) again.”
The 109th Airlift Wing has a long history of operating in the Arctic in support of American and Canadian operations. In 2014, 2015 and 2016, the 109th Airlift Wing participated in Operation NUNALIVUT, an annual Arctic operations exercise.
A C-130 flown by airmen from the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing takes off from Canadian Forces Station Alert on Ellsmere Island, Nunavut, after dropping off supplies on Sept. 30, 2019.
(Canadian armed forces/Leading Seaman Paul Green, 8 Wing Imaging)
“Operating in the polar regions has been a 109th Airlift Wing core competency for the better part of 50 years, so assisting in this year’s Operation Boxtop is most definitely in the 109th wheelhouse,” said Major Gen. Timothy LaBarge, the commander of the New York Air National Guard.
“As we continue to demonstrate our collective abilities and competencies in the polar regions, I believe this effort by the 109th tangibly illustrates our ability to operate and project power in the High North,” La Barge said.
A CC-130J Hercules aircraft prepares to depart Canadian Forces Station Alert in Nunavut to bring more fuel to the station while another CC-130J Hercules approaches its parking spot to deliver fuel during Operation Boxtop, April 21, 2015.
(Canadian armed forces/Cpl Raymond Haack)
This historic resupply mission was conducted relatively late in the fall to help prove that science, logistics and other objectives in the Arctic can be met, according to Vaughan.
“This late season resupply of Canadian Forces Station Alert, the most northern military outpost on Earth, further demonstrates US-Canadian resolve in protecting the Arctic environment,” Vaughan said.
The Canadian NORAD Region works with the Continental United States NORAD Region to provide airspace surveillance and control for both countries.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
For a man who is 95 years old, Marv Levy has an ambitious drive that is inspiring. He’s thinking of his next literary challenge, with an eye on writing another novel.
“But I’m not sure what it is,” the celebrated NFL coach said in a recent interview. “I keep telling myself I’m going to sit down and plot out what it will about. I’ll figure it out.”
Levy, who earned a master’s degree in English history at Harvard University, has been busy since retiring from coaching in 1997. He has authored a children’s book, “Go, Cubs, Go,” about his hometown Chicago Cubs winning the World Series in 2016; a memoir titled “Where Else Would You Rather Be,” about his nearly five-decade coaching career, which is most remembered for his Buffalo Bills reaching four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s; and a novel called “Between The Lies,” a New York Times bestseller about a coach who cheats to win the Super Bowl.
`The greatest generation—a title deserved’
He has also written a book of poems, one of which he recited during a recent ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of V.J. Day, the Japanese surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, that ended World War II. Speaking by Zoom to “Friends of the National World War II Memorial,” Levy recognized the significance of that day:
“World War II is over, at last it was done. Oh, how we celebrated, was it ever fun. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in our spiffy dress uniforms flooded the scenes. Pretty girls wearing gloves and cute little hats, in high-heeled shoes rather than flats, greeted us now wherever we’d go, in the streets or in bars, or at the USO… I’ll remember all of those with whom I served. The greatest generation—a title deserved.”
Enlisted right after high school
Levy served during World War II at the Army Air Field in Apalachicola, Florida. He enlisted right after graduating from high school in 1943 and wanted to be a pilot in the Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force. A sergeant refused to let him in the air corps because he lacked 20/20 vision, but he managed to train on the base.
“The sergeant found out I was dating his sister in high school,” Levy remembered. “He said, `I’ll let you in. But after basic training, you won’t be able to go to pilot school.’ So I became a meteorologist. I was a meteorologist at Apalachicola and one or two other bases. But most of my time was at the Apalachicola base.”
Just as Levy’s unit was to deploy to the Pacific theater, the war ended. He said he felt terrible that he couldn’t be a pilot but remains proud to have served. Three of his high school classmates and one from grade school were killed in the war.
A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Levy explained why World War II struck an emotional chord with him. He had a grandmother who was born in Russia and immigrated to the United States but left behind four brothers who were doctors and college professors. They were among the more than 30,000 Jewish people who were massacred at Babi Yar near the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, within a two-day span in 1941 when the city was under Nazi occupation.
“World War II has tremendous meaning for me,” Levy said. “I have high regard for the people with whom I served. Our cause was essential because of Nazi Germany, in particular.”
Years later, Levy coached the Bills to Super Bowl appearances in the 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 seasons. The Bills lost each one, but Levy is still the only NFL head coach to ever take a team to four straight Super Bowls. He compiled a 154-120-0 record (.562 winning percentage) in 17 NFL seasons and is enshrined today in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
World War II a `must win’
At a press conference before his final Super Bowl, a reporter asked Levy if he considered the game a “must win.”
“I said, World War II was a must-win,” Levy remembered. “The media were all there, so it came out. The next day at the hotel where we were staying, a man in a restaurant called me over and said he heard my comments and admired them. He told me how meaningful they were. That was a huge compliment for me because I knew and admired him.”
That man was Andy Rooney, the renowned radio and television writer who was best known for his long-running weekly broadcast on the CBS News program “60 Minutes.” Rooney was also an accomplished war correspondent during World War II.
“Serving in World War II was what I wanted to do,” Levy said. “The whole country was totally immersed in the war. Most of us wanted it to be over with. It was quite a day when it ended.”
This can be a hard time of year. The holidays are over, and we’re ready for spring — but it’s still winter. For many people that means not leaving the house, or the couch, until the middle of March. But let’s face it, there are only so many shows you can binge watch on Netflix and Hulu. You need to get outside, breathe in the cold air, let the sun shine on your pale face, put the snow or cold earth between your fingers, and get the blood pumping through those stiff muscles.
It may seem like a chore to get up and moving, but you won’t be sorry. From exploration to exercise, a lucrative side hustle to just kicking back and relaxing with friends in a shanty, there are plenty of things to do during these final months of winter.
The author snowboarding at Monarch Mountain, Colorado.
(Photo courtesy of Michael Herne.)
1. Skiing or Snowboarding
As soon as the first snow of the year begins to fall, my mind immediately goes to the slopes. Skiing and snowboarding are two of America’s most popular winter sports, and for good reason. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie who wants to see how fast you can bomb a double black diamond or a beginner on the bunny slope, you’re going to get some great physical exercise. No slopes? No problem.
2. Cross-country Skiing
This type of skiing can be done on flat land — all you need is a set of skis and some motivation. Similar to hiking with skis on your feet, you use your own locomotion to traverse the snow-covered countryside. It requires a bit of skill and practice, but it’s a great introduction to its downhill counterpart and will get your blood pumping.
A rainbow trout caught while doing some winter fishing in Colorado.
(Photo courtesy of Michael Herne.)
Riding a snowmobile — also known as a sled or snowmachine, if you’re from Alaska — is an absolute thrill and a great way to get an adrenaline boost. Many current stock machines boast speeds of 95 to 125 mph, raw power at the squeeze of the throttle. If speed isn’t your thing, they’re also a great way to get out and tour the countryside. Many towns in the northern states have groomed trails that allow you to ride from town to town and even to restaurants and bars. Don’t have a couple grand to drop on a seasonal vehicle? Many places offer snowmobile tours and rentals. Get out and shred!
4. Hiking and Shed Hunting
No, I’m not talking about raiding your neighbor’s shed; shed hunting refers to antlers. Every year from January until about March, members of the deer family shed their antlers. Why go out in search of cast antlers in the winter? A matching pair of freshly shed antlers from a big whitetail can be sold for over 0 if you find the right buyer. Their value decreases after they’ve laid in the woods for a while and become bleached from the sun. Shed hunting also gives you a reason to get outside and hike! A great place to start when searching for these elusive bones is along fence rows, as antlers will sometimes fall off from the force of a deer jumping the fence. Make sure you have permission from landowners and check your local and state regulations.
The author’s view while searching for shed antlers in western Nebraska.
(Photo courtesy of Michael Herne.)
5. Ice Fishing
Most people think of warm, sunny days as ideal fishing weather, but ice fishing provides the perfect excuse for getting outside and relaxing with your buddies. For those who haven’t experienced it, you just need to find some safe ice — at least 4 inches — drill a hole, and drop a line with either bait or a jig on it. It can be as comfortable or as rugged as you make it. We usually take popup shelters, heaters, and a cooler full of our favorite beverages and snacks, then spend the day catching fish and bullshitting. By the time we’re done, we usually need to call someone to come get us — but that’s half the fun!
Like hiking, snowshoeing is a beginner-friendly sport. You already know how to walk, so there is no need to learn a new skill, just adjust your stride to accommodate the oversized snowshoes. Snowshoeing can allow you to access areas that are crowded by tourists in fair weather by allowing you to move on top of the snow. It’s also inexpensive compared to many other winter activities — all you need to be on your way down the trail are warm winter clothes, snowshoes, and poles. Though not hard to learn, snowshoeing will definitely elevate your heart rate!
Jocko Willink’s podcast “Jocko Podcast” hits hard, talks openly and bluntly about real topics and is unapologetic for every bit of it. These are the stories that need to be told and heard, especially by the military community. Tuning in requires headspace because the content flowing through your ears is so completely captivating that the monotonous life dragging on the other side of your ear buds becomes unimportant.
With well over 200 episodes, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Instead of going for an all-time must listen to list, we opted for our top five out of our recent listening history.
#221 Jonny Kim
In this episode, Jonny Kim — United States Navy lieutenant, physician and NASA astronaut — tells story after story, unimaginable events that are scattered throughout his young life that had every right to break him but didn’t. Kim’s outlook on these pivotal moments are completely inspiring, humbling and exactly why he’s accomplished all that he has.
He talks eloquently and intelligently through failed endeavors and perspective gained that we’re sitting here wondering how in the world he doesn’t have his own book already, let alone motivational speeches written from his comments.
Another unbelievable point in Kim’s story is the unplanned paths that led him to become a Navy SEAL, Doctor and Astronaut. Instead, he speaks clearly on specific events that shaped his journey and have led him to the next chapter in an already remarkable life.
#219 Ruth Schindler
Stories of the Holocaust are fading in both media, airwaves, and from the survivors themselves as time passes on. In this episode, like many others, Willink reads excerpts from the guest’s book and discusses passages in depth. Ruth Schindler’s book, “Two Who Survived” is the dual story of both her and her husband’s separate experiences as Auschwitz Holocaust survivors.
Reminding ourselves of both the magnitude and depth of the horrors experienced less than 100 years ago is critical to ensure nothing remotely close ever occurs again.
#118 Dan Crenshaw
Texas Congressman and former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw’s interview details a lot about the grit and determination of a warrior. From losing an eye in combat to running a successful first-time congressional campaign on a shoestring budget, this man knows how to push ahead.
Fun fact, Willink was one of Crenshaw’s BUDS instructors and the two discuss the dynamic in this episode. The interview goes on to discuss the differences in each’s paths to becoming a SEAL and how each approached life before and after. He’s on in episode #222 too.
#192 Sean Parnell
Leadership. Willink wrote an entire book dedicated to its ins and outs. This episode with Sean Parnell, author of “Outlaw Platoon,” talks a great deal about various seasons and types of leadership as the book is read throughout the episode.
Combat forges men in ways known and unknown to those undergoing its transformation. Who emerges on the other side says a lot about what’s in a man’s heart, in his soul. Jarring experiences and the forging of a seasoned soldier make up quite a bit of the air space in this episode. It’s a long talk, but well worth every minute.
#115 Dakota Meyer
Like we said up top, make headspace when you’re listening. The reading from Dakota Meyer’s book “Into the Fire” is emotional and vivid. There’s a refreshing amount of honesty going on when Meyer discusses his separation from the Marine Corps, PTSD and finding a new path after service.
This episode tops a lot of charts for good reason. Meyer’s book describes events surrounding a single choice- the choice to head in the direction everyone was trying to escape to look for his team. Revisiting the events of a single day in such detail will have you holding on to every word, analyzing every detail alongside Willink and Meyer in awe.
Honestly, there’s no wrong choice when listening. Pick up anywhere and you’ll find motivation, strength and zero bull. It’s American, it’s raw, it’s real.
Humans in the military rely on doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to take care of them while they’re on the job. Military working dogs need someone to look after them, too. That job falls to military veterinarians. Military veterinarians provide medical and surgical care to all kinds of military working animals, but their responsibilities go far beyond that of a normal veterinarian.
What the job entails
The primary role of Army veterinarians is to provide care for animals- both for working animals and for military family pets. While on active duty, however, their responsibilities vary from mission to mission. They are highly involved in supporting public health and humanitarian projects, like creating vaccines and developing strategies to prevent the spread of animal-borne diseases.
They’re also in charge of inspecting food sold to service members to make sure it’s safe for consumption. They may even perform audits of major manufacturing plants to confirm that they’re following food safety protocols; think Coca-Cola and Ben & Jerry’s.
Things to know before you try it
After education, it’s basically an eight-year commitment. Most military veterinarians go through the Health Professionals Scholarship Program. The HPSP contract stipulates a minimum three year commitment to active duty, plus five years of reserve duty. While vets are rarely called upon during the five years on “inactive” duty, it’s always a possibility.
Veterinarians typically enlist as officers, not soldiers. When you become an Army veterinarian, you’re not signing up to fight. Instead of Basic Training, you attend a Basic Officer Leadership Course for a few months. It’s not as physically tough as the boot camp designed for soldiers, but you still have to be in decent shape. New veterinarian officers also attend a one-year internship program which doesn’t count toward your active-duty requirement.
Being involved in combat is always a possibility. While your job description is to care for animals and assist with humanitarian efforts, danger isn’t off the table. Most Army vets never see combat, but it has happened. If you’re sent to a combat zone, you will carry a weapon and should be prepared to fire it. Most missions are fairly low-risk, but veterinarians HAVE been wounded or killed on the job. Veterinarians are never assigned combat-related tasks, but if you’re in the vicinity of an unexpected attack, anything can happen. In other words, if you want a risk-free gig, this isn’t it.
Travel is part of the job description. Military veterinarians can be assigned to missions anywhere in the world. This is a pro and con in one. You get the opportunity to see amazing places. If you become a Special Forces vet, you can work on serious international animal health projects. The Navy’s marine mammal program is another option.
Regardless, you’re going to be moving around while on active duty. Family members and pets may be able to join you on some missions, but that’s not always an option. If you do have pets or children with you, you’ll need to make arrangements for their care while you’re working long shifts or overnight. If you’re on a combat mission, it’s important to have a network of friends and family to care for your pets while you’re away.
The options for advancement are appealing. If you’re considering a long-term career in the military, there’s a program for that. The Long-Term Health Education & Training program will cover the cost of veterinarians to continue their education in a number of specialties, like pathology, emergency/critical care, radiology, and surgery. After retiring from the military, veterinarians often start their own private practice or transition into teaching- all while receiving a hefty pension!
The pay is nothing to laugh at. The pay and benefits are very good compared to our civilian veterinary colleagues. When I started out four years ago at an assignment in the U.S., I was making about $75,000 a year. Now while assigned in Europe I am making about $100,000 a year. It can be kind of tough to calculate the exact salary because of all the different types of special pay, housing/living allowances, etc, and that stuff changes depending on where you are located.
You’re a veterinarian, but you’re also a military professional. This one bears repeating. While military veterinarians are there to care for animals, they’re also committing to serving the US Army. During your years of service, the army will decide where you work, when you work, and what your job entails. That might mean getting deployed to a combat zone even though you’d prefer to work on the home front. If you’re a leader who likes to carve your own path, you’ll probably be disappointed.
If you’re passionate about animals and interested in serving your country, becoming an Army veterinarian is probably a great fit. The benefits don’t hurt, either!
Steps to becoming a military vet
The U.S. Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program is usually the first step to becoming a military veterinarian. You’ll have to convince the military that you’re worth the investment, but if you get the scholarship, the program covers your tuition while you earn your D.V.M. Alternatively, the Health Professions Loan Repayment Program can help those who have already completed school. Your military committment doesn’t begin until you’re done with school. At that point, you complete Basic Officer Training and an internship before beginning active duty. After three years of service, you can join the Army Reserve. There, you’re welcome to run your own practice. To get started, learn more about the process here or contact a recruiter. If you want to hear a first account of what it’s like becoming an Army Veterinarian, Elliot Garber can tell you all about it.
Being in the military is a physically demanding job. If you want to enlist, you can’t be weak, slow, or easily fatigued. There’s an enlistment age limit for that very reason; it’s safe to assume that most 60-year-olds don’t have the endurance or strength they did when they were 24. However, the times, and the people living in them, are changing.
While obesity and sedentary lifestyles are impacting American health more than ever, people today are decidedly capable of remaining strong and healthy well into middle age and beyond. Because of improvements in our understanding of nutrition, fitness, and healthcare, we can continue to physically kick butt far longer than our predecessors.
The Federal Law was recently changed to allow for older first-time soldiers to join, but some branches are tougher nuts to crack than others.
Before 2006, the maximum age for first time enlistment was 35. Then, the Army requested that Congress elevate the age limit to 44. Congress wasn’t fully convinced, so they compromised and changed the maximum enlistment age to a middle ground of 42. Each branch has the option of setting stricter standards, however, and many do.
The current age limits organized by branch are as follows:
Active Duty Army – 42
Army Reserves – 42
Army National Guard – 42
Air National Guard – 40
Active Duty Air Force – 39
Navy Reserves – 39
Coast Guard Reserves – 39
Air Force Reserve – 35
Active Duty Navy – 34
Marine Corps Reserves – 29
Active Duty Marines – 28
Active Duty Coast Guard – 27
Logically, the branches that are the most physically demanding have lower enlistment age limits.
Special Operations branches have stricter age limits for the same reason. Still, if a 38-year-old wants to give back to his country through military service, it’s now well within his reach to do so. In some cases, you can be well into your 40s and still serve- if you have what the military needs, that is. Age waivers are occasionally offered if you have critical skills or experience that’s in short supply, but the commanding officer or community manager will have to approve it. Medical and legal professionals, plus religious officials, are the most likely to get approval.
Joining, or re-joining, the military might be the best decision of your life.
When Pfc. Russell Dilling started basic training, he was about twice the age of the young men training beside him. Most of them were 21, while Dilling just met the age criteria at 42. He had always wanted to join the Army, and he finally had his chance when the age limit was raised. He quickly proved he deserved to be there as much as anyone else. Only 12 out of 60 recruits qualified for a rifle certificate on their first try, and he was one of them.
While Dilling barely met the age limit for first time enlistment, prior service members can reenlist later in life. Some do so with great enthusiasm. Staff Sgt. Monte L. Gould reenlisted in the Army Reserve after a 10-year break. After a decade devoted to raising his family, he was ready to return to service in hopes of giving back to the next generation of soldiers. The retirement eligibility didn’t hurt, either!
Gould was especially excited to show the world what “old” men are capable of. He practices jiu-jitsu and runs seven miles a week with a 50-pound rucksack; living proof that becoming weak and tired in your 50s isn’t inevitable.
While critics have suggested that more young people should be enlisting, the evolving age limit and physical requirements are evidence that the US military is keeping up with the times. To answer the question “how old is too old”; it depends on the person. Americans are living longer, healthier lives. If they’re fit and healthy, they can serve their country longer, too.
So you need a cup of coffee. Often, we rush into the store, grab the brand that we are used to just because we recognize the name. How often have you just stopped for a minute to take a look at the label? Where was it made? Is it caffeinated or decaf? Dark roast or medium?
And, one question you should be asking: Is this company veteran owned?
For veteran-owned coffee businesses, it’s more than just a cup of coffee, it’s the story behind the brand. So many of the businesses were created in order to maintain and create that sense of community instilled in the service; they wanted to keep the bond that they shared over that hot cup of Joe. What a better way than to think outside of the box, away from that field coffee, and make it into something much tastier.
Here are four small veteran owned coffee companies that need to be shared with the world. Read their story, support their mission and never look at your coffee the same again.
Ryan Hunt (Mountain Up Coffee)
Mountain Up Coffee is roasted in Chicago and the beans come from around the world. Ryan Hunt, Founder of Mountain Up, created the brand in 2016 while he was still on active duty. Mountain Up is inspired by military past, present and future. The brand, which encompasses both Mountain Up Caps & Coffee, is founded in patriotism, adventure and giving back to the community as a whole. Get your roast on at www.mountainupcoffee.com and use MIGHTY10 at check-out for 10% off.
Ryan served for over 20 years as both an enlisted Soldier & NCO and later as an officer. His Army journey started as a fire support specialist (13F) and as an officer, served first as a Field Artillery, then as a Multi-functional Logistician (90A) and later as a Simulation Officer (57A). During his Army journey, he spent time at the 10th Mountain Division, 1st Infantry Division, 1st Armored Division, the National Training Center, Cadet Command and a few other places doing a lot of different and awesome things. He deployed to Iraq three times and the Former Yugoslavia. His main reason for serving for over two decades was the horrible events of September 11, 2001.
In 2015, during a TDY to JBLM in Washington, Ryan felt a calling and inspiration to start Mountain Up. He said, “In reality, the inspiration came from a combination of the power of mountains and the spirit of the 10th Mountain Division. But my brand is more than it, it’s about the veteran community as a whole past, present, and future”
Carrie Murray Beavers (Scars and Stripes Coffee)
U.S. Army 1991-2001
Carrie was born on Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, adopted at birth and raised in Illinois. Unfortunately, Carrie’s trauma began as a young child.
She has lived a life of uncertainty and confusion as she tried to navigate through her childhood trauma, sucide attempts and then her military sexual trauma all by the age of 18. She used self-medication, alcohol and experimentation with drugs to numb the pain she had been suffering and to escape from the feelings about what had happened to her.
Through Carrie’s self healing journey, she has come to terms with living with PTSD, depression, anxiety and Borderline Personality Disorder. She has not let that define her and has become an advocate for those suffering as she was. She has since joined the nonprofit ‘We Got Your 6’ and has helped veterans as part of a suicide intervention team.
In November 2019, she joined Scars and Stripes Coffee. She is the Squad Leader for the Northeastern United States and was quickly placed on the leadership team after she shared a vision and strategy for market placement. She has been given the opportunity to lead a team of veterans that she gets to empower.
Jose was born and raised in San Antonio by Jose Sr. and Anita Rosa Treviño Alaniz. Growing up in a military family, he felt the strong desire to follow in the footsteps of his father and uncles who served in the Air Force during Vietnam and WWII.
While the Air Force had a hiring freeze in 1989, Jose ran into a Navy recruiter who sold him on all the things that he wanted to hear. Jose left for basic in March of 1990 after being in the delayed entry program since graduation. He served 4 years and 9 months on active duty and then got out.
Jose’s turn of events led to alcohol, drugs and food addiction. He experienced both lows and highs in his family life and marriage.
In 2014, Jose made the trip to New Zealand to see his grandson who was just born. During this trip he visited Australia and had fresh-roasted, made to order coffee for the very first time. When his father passed from lung cancer, Jose surrendered his life to Christ.
In 2017, his family traveled to Italy and Greece to visit places that his father had taken pictures of in the 50s and it was this trip that solidified his passion for coffee. Jose started roasting coffee off of an open-face steak grill in the backyard and just kept trying new things until one day, he discovered the journey he felt he was supposed to be on.
Third Day Coffee Seguin exists to create the opportunity and ability to do ministry in local communities. Jose feels like God is leading him to offer Christ as an option for people to heal their lives with. He has witnessed many of his friends and veterans living off of pills just to function daily. He feels like God is leading him to sell enough coffee to support a full time ministry to address issues like this within the community for all that are suffering. His current plan and dream is to own a brick and mortar shop to continue his new mission and journey in life.
Adam Bird, founder and CEO of Heroes Media Group LLC, is a seasoned, serial entrepreneur with a passion for serving what he calls the “Heroes Community.”
Bird’s career has been centered around serving America’s Community Heroes for more than a decade, including military, veterans, firefighters, first responders, law enforcement, educators, medical professionals and clergy.
While he has primarily focused his attention on HMG’s media platforms, Bird saw an opportunity to expand into the beverage market this year. For the past two years HMG had a coffee blend called Heroes United. This blend was created as a collaboration with Rick’s Roasters Coffee Company.
When Bird saw an opportunity to leverage these products as a way to give back, he launched an entirely new business venture. HMG Beverage LLC launches in November 2020, the week of Thanksgiving. Starting with five blends, they plan to carry more at the start of the new year; shortly after will be other beverage options, with a portion of every purchase donated to charity.
On this week’s episode of Borne the Battle, Tanner Iskra interviews guest Todd Boeding, who shares his past, present and future as a Marine Corps veteran, as well as his involvement honoring veterans through Carry the Load.
Born and raised in Texas, Boeding was always known to take unorthodox paths in life. He dabbled in college, left for the Marine Corps seeking structure and discipline, and eventually returned to finish up his degree at The University of Texas at Dallas.
Since leaving the Marine Corps in 2003, Boeding discussed the hardest part of the transition back to civilian life: finding a sense of belonging. Boeding was able to find his purpose of being part of something bigger through Carry the Load.
September 11th Volunteer Opportunity with Carry The Load
Carry the Load offers opportunities to learn how to care again and to do it in a way that meaningfully impacts the families who lost their loved ones. Currently, Carry the Load is partnering with the National Cemetery Association on Sep. 11, 2019, to help maintain the dignity of cemeteries.
Victor Medina has an actual video of the moment that changed his life forever. One day, his unit in Iraq was forced to take a detour around its planned patrol route. It was June 29, 2009, and Sgt. 1st Class Medina was the convoy commander that day. After winding through alleyways and small villages around Nasiriyah, his convoy came to a long stretch of open road. That’s when an explosive foreign projectile struck the side of his Humvee.
He was evacuated from the scene and diagnosed with moderate traumatic brain injury, along with the other physical injuries he sustained in the attack. It took him three years of rehabilitation, and his wife Roxana became a caregiver – a role that is only now receiving the attention it deserves.
The footage of the attack in the first 30 seconds of the above video is the moment Sgt. 1st Class Medina was hit by the EFP, a rocket-propelled grenade. There just happened to be a camera rolling on his Humvee in that moment. The TBI that hit Medina affected his balance, his speech, and his ability to walk, among other things.
“It’s referred to as an invisible wound,” Victor says, referring to his traumatic brain injury. “In my case, you can’t see it, but I feel it every day.”
Since 2000, the Department of Defense estimates more than 383,000 service members have suffered from some form of traumatic brain injury. These injuries range in severity from ones caused by day-to-day training activities to more severe injuries like the one suffered by Sgt. 1st Class Medina. An overwhelming number of those come from Army personnel. Of the 225,144 traumatic brain injuries suffered by soldiers, most are mild. But even a moderate injury like Victor’s can require a caregiver for the veteran.
This video is part of a series created by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, highlighting veteran caregivers and the vets they care for. AARP wants to let families of wounded veterans know there are resources and support available through AARP’s Military Caregiving Guide, an incredible work designed to start your family off on the right foot. Some of you reading may not even realize you’re a veteran’s caregiver. Like Victor Medina’s wife Roxana, you may think you’re just doing your part, taking care of a sick loved one.
But like Roxana Delgado, the constant care and support for a veteran suffering from a debilitating injury while caring for the rest of a household, supporting the household through work and school, and potentially caring for children, can cause a caregiver to burn out before they even recognize it’s happening. It took Roxana eight months to realize she was Victor’s full-time caregiver – on top of everything else she does. It began to wear on her emotionally and strain their relationship.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Roxana Delgado and Victor Medina before his deployment to Iraq in 2009.
With AARP’s Prepare to Care guide, veteran caregivers don’t have to figure out their new lives on their own. The guide has vital checklists, charts, a database of federal resources, including the VA’s Caregiver Program. The rest is up to the caregiver. Roxana Delgado challenged her husband at every turn, and he soon rose to the challenge. He wanted to get his wife’s love back.
Before long, Victor was able to clean the house, make coffee in the morning, and generally alleviate some of the burdens of running their home. After 10 years in recovery, Victor Medina has achieved a remarkable level of independence, and together they started the TBI Warrior Foundation to help others with traumatic brain injuries. Roxana is now a health scientist and an Elizabeth Dole Foundation fellow. AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation are teaming up to tell these deeply personal stories of caregivers like Roxana because veteran caregivers need support and need to know they aren’t alone.